Mrs. Petunia Porcupine has lived in Ballymore for ten years. She arrived
with her husband, Peter, when they heard that Ballymore needed a bakery.
Both she and Peter were excellent bakers, and the residents happily
welcomed them. Unfortunately, Peter passed away five years ago, which
left Petunia alone. She was not alone for long, though, as the residents
provided much support and friendship. With the help of the squirrels and
others, she kept the bakery open, which was good for everyone.
Mrs. Porcupine’s garden and orchard were the largest in Ballymore. She
supplied the all the residents’ needs in these regards, also.
Her cottage sat on the northwest corner of the pond. As with most of the
homes, the beavers built it with stones from the creek just to the
southeast of Ballymore. How the stones were moved to the building site
is a tale for later.
The cottage had a parlour, bedroom, guest room, and large kitchen. The
parlor was used frequently as she had many visitors. She needed a large
kitchen in which to bake all of the pies, breads, and cookies. As
mentioned above, her bakery products were well loved. She rarely had
anything left at the end of the day. Her specialty was lemon meringue
pie. Unfortunately, she couldn’t offer it as often as she would have
liked because lemons were not always available. She had many fruit trees
in her orchard but not a lemon among them. Lemons must be located by the
swans and flown into Ballymore. It was not clear how or where the swans
obtained them. Actually, it was not clear how or where the swans
obtained anything for the residents.
Petunia was a very neat housekeeper and had the cleanest cottage in
Ballymore. Every morning after breakfast she swept and washed the floor,
cleaned the kitchen, and polished her shoes, which she rarely wore. All
of that took her only about an hour.
This morning, when Petunia got dressed she put on her new pink overalls
that Reginald made. She walked into her kitchen, and was shocked to see
two parallel trails of ants winding from her cupboard to under the back
door. One trail was incoming and one outgoing. The outgoing ants were
transferring her sesame seeds to who knows where. Her resulting scream
was probably heard on the other side of the pond. In any event, she
quickly shooed the ants out the door with her broom. This was only a
temporary solution as everyone knows that ants don’t give up easily.
Mrs. Porcupine was a kind soul and knew that the ants needed food like
everyone else, so she had to think of a better answer than the broom. A
compromise was needed. She decided to place a small amount of sesame
seeds on the back porch that evening. The seeds would be covered by an
overturned dish so that only the ants could reach them.
Having dealt with that unexpected matter, she could finally have
breakfast and do her cleaning. Afterwards, she decided to take a short
rest prior to beginning the daily tending of the garden. She also needed
to rest because she had not yet settled down from the ant invasion.
It was a beautiful late May morning. Petunia strolled to a small field
behind her cottage. Tufts of grass blanketed the uneven turf. Dandelions
poked their bright yellow heads everywhere above the slender green
blades. The delicate, white petals of daisies with small, yellow centres
were generously scattered throughout. Ever so slightly, the flowers
stirred in the gentle breeze. Sunlight, out of a cloudless, blue sky,
glistened off dew drops and illuminated the scene into a living
This serenity was exactly what she needed, and Petunia sat on her
favorite rock for several minutes until her peace was interrupted by
She turned to see Finnilly (Finn) Frog coming through the field. He was
dressed in his usual pullover jeans. Finn lived on the other side of the
pond. He was a “Tom Sawyer” kind of frog, if you know what I mean. He
loved adventures and thought there might be one brewing when he heard
what sounded like a scream come from across the pond. He came to
investigate or just be nosy, whichever you prefer.
“Hi, Mrs. Porcupine,” Finn said. “A little while ago, I thought I heard
a scream from over this way. I came over to see if everything was all
right. Did you hear anything?”
“Hello, Finn,” said Petunia. “No. I mean yes.”
She corrected herself as she remembered her initial reaction to the
ants. Then, she told Finn about the ant encounter and her planned peace
offering. That interested Finn greatly, and it sounded like a good
adventure with which to get involved. Petunia knew Finn well and knew
exactly what he was thinking. His involvement would not be good for a
situation that required some delicacy.
Changing the subject, Petunia asked, “Would you help me bring some water
from the pond to the garden, please?”
That was not the kind of adventure for which Finn had been looking but,
being a helpful frog, he willingly obliged.
The trip from the pond to the garden was about a hundred and fifty feet
and slightly uphill. Petunia always used two small pails and a cart to
transport the water. The pails were emptied into a trough next to the
kitchen. From there the water would be distributed as needed. The amount
of water required varied depending upon how much it had rained and how
much baking had to be done. Today, she needed ten trips worth of water.
Usually, Sofie or Seely Squirrel helped her cart water, but neither were
there yet. The two squirrels have been assisting Petunia since Peter
passed. They mostly handled distribution of the bake goods but also
worked in the kitchen and garden.
As Finn helped haul the water, he was trying to figure out an easier way
to bring water to the garden. A scheme popped into his head.
“Mrs. Porcupine, I have an idea about the water,” Finn said with great
“What is that?” she asked. She was glad he was thinking about water and
“We could dig a ditch from the pond to the garden, and the water would
flow automatically to where you want it. It would save a lot of
She thought about the idea for a while. Finally, she said, “I certainly
like the idea of having the water come to the garden, but I don’t like
the idea of having a trench in my yard. Someone might fall in it.”
Finn said, “Hmmm. Okay. There must be a better way.”
“I’ve got it," he said excitedly. “We can dig UNDER the pond.”
“What! Whatever do you mean?” she blurted.
“First, we dig a hole near the garden. Near the bottom of the hole, we
can dig another hole that will run to the pond. Water would flow through
the hole to the garden. Then, you could scoop the water out and use it
as needed. Hurrah!”
Finn was almost jumping out of his jeans with excitement.
“Your idea certainly sounds interesting but complicated. Who would dig
these holes?” she asked.
Finn answered instantly, “THE MOLES.”
“Let me think about it a little longer,” said Petunia. “It will work! It
will work!” said the frog, repeating himself. Now, he was excited! This
was the kind of adventure he liked. “I’m going to talk to the moles
Off he hopped as fast as he could.
Petunia thought of getting Bartholomew’s opinion on the project, but she
knew he was very busy with building the new boat. She smiled and
wondered what would become of all this.
It was only about a five minute hop south from Mrs. Porcupine’s cottage
to the moles’ cottage.
The moles’ cottage had only one room. That is, it had only one room
above ground. That was the parlour and was for receiving guests. In the
floor was a lockable trap door that opened to a narrow passage, which
sloped downward, and led to the rest of the rooms. Not many other
animals were small enough to use that passageway.
You will not be surprised to hear that the moles’ primary occupation was
tunnelling. The children, Merwin and Melrose, were still learning the
When Finn arrived, the brothers were out in the front yard digging a
hole. The three had played together for years and were good friends.
“Hi, guys,” he said.
“Hi, Finn,” they replied in unison.
Finn told them of his water project, and the moles were very interested.
They had never done a project on their own. This was an opportunity to
prove themselves to their parents. From that point of view, it was
obvious that they would agree to get involved and they did. Finn and the
moles headed towards Mrs. Porcupine’s cottage to study the situation in
more detail. On the way they took a detour so that the moles could show
Finn the family’s latest tunnel project. It was a very complicated job
and needed the full attention of their parents.
Shortly after Finn left, Sofie Squirrel came to open the bakery counter,
and Petunia began her gardening.
Petunia’s garden and orchard were extensive, covering almost three
acres. The garden was closest to the cottage. She grew lettuce, corn,
beans, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, strawberries, and more. The orchard
had apple, plum, and cherry trees. It also had one very old and very
large oak tree. The first time she saw it, ten years ago, she named the
tree ‘Old Seth’. It was her favourite.
The day was just right for gardening, mild with a light breeze. She
concentrated on the never ending task of weeding and debugging. Weeds
were predictable. They popped up at regular intervals almost everywhere
in the garden. The soil was well cared for and quite soft, so the weeds
were easy to remove.
Bugs were another matter altogether. They attacked in waves at
unpredictable intervals. She picked them, stomped them, shooed them, and
sometimes bribed them away. It was a battle of wits. Petunia won most of
the time, but the bugs gobbled their share of fruits and vegetables. The
garden and orchard were large enough so that there were plenty left for
the Ballymore residents.
It was lunchtime when Finn returned with the moles. Their timing was
good as everyone knew that Petunia Porcupine served the best lunch in
Ballymore. They had spinach salad with Russian dressing, egg salad on
hot rolls, and vegetable soup. For dessert there was strawberry
shortcake with whipped cream.