I think we have long memories for weather events if something especially meaningful to us happens during that time.
I will always remember deep, heavy snow in December of 1980 when we lived in Battleground, Wash. Do you think that if I hadn’t been nine months pregnant with our daughter, knowing we couldn’t get to a hospital if I went into labor, I would remember that? Not in a million years.
I bet that 5 years from now many of you will remember that December 2013 was so icy that many churches canceled services the week before Christmas. Or maybe the holiday gathering you worked so hard to prepare for had to be called off or postponed.
My point is that we tend to remember an occurrence and link it to the weather that was the instigating factor.
I think the 2014 event I am going to remember is the loss of my burning bush. I haven’t lost it yet but I fully expect that it will not bud out in the spring.
If that’s the case, then for many years to come when I see the place the bush used to be I will remember the winter of 2013-2014.
You might think that the ice that encased it may have done it in, or snow and ice falling from the roof onto it might be the cause of its demise. You would be wrong. I expect that the bush may be a goner because cottontail rabbits have stripped most of the bark from it.
Cottontails are crepuscular foragers; they eat mostly at dusk and dawn. During daylight hours cottontails are usually hidden in brush piles, hollow logs, or in dense stands of shrubs or trees to avoid predators. When they feel threatened or sense danger, they freeze in place or dart away at speeds up to 18 mph.
We are still checking the yard for rabbits and skunks before Ollie goes out at night. When rabbits are in the back, I may get as close as six yards away, shooing them ever so politely, before they bolt. Dogs, humans, foxes, hawks and owls are the most significant predators of the cottontail rabbit.
I have to add here that I don’t begrudge the rabbits their burning bush feeding station.
Spring, summer, and fall, the eastern cottontail rabbit feeds on green plant materials, mostly grasses, but also wild berries, clover, and of course our vegetable gardens when they get the chance. During the winter months, the cottontail, which does not hibernate, forages for woody plant parts like twigs, buds, and bark. This year those have been harder to come by.
My burning bush has been in a sheltered bed next to the house for five years and has never been nibbled on before. But in these five years the ice has not been thick on exposed shrubbery, or covering 12 inches of snow, making it dangerous to walk on, difficult to shovel a path through, and I imagine tough to tunnel through when foraging.
Maybe those weather conditions did exist and nothing significant enough occurred to me that makes me remember, but I will remember this winter as the one when the rabbits ravaged my burning bush.
Jolene Wallace is the horticulture program assistant for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. Contact her at 561-7450 or email@example.com.