When we were at Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site in Cambridge, MA we were helping Mona McKindley, the gardener at the site, install the poultry/wire fence around the perimeter of the garden. We helped her with this project because she told us that there are rabbits eating the flowers in the garden. This is important because there are many historic varieties of flowers and roses in the garden that Alice Longfellow had planted. Mona told us that in the past she has used plastic fencing, but rabbits still persisted! We installed wire fencing that was about 3 feet tall and also buried the bottom part of the fence in a trench to make sure that rabbits cannot dig under the fencing. Before getting to work with some recently fallen snow we were able to walk around the house grounds to identify rabbit prints. Mona was teaching us how to identify different tracks like rabbit, birds, and dogs. She also taught us how to identify two different types of rabbits that are commonly found in Massachusetts. The first is the Eastern Cottontail. This species of rabbit can be found in southern Canada to South America. It eats different plants like grasses, clover, fruits and vegetables, but in the winter it eats the woody parts of the plants like twigs and bark of brambles. Mona also identified what some of this rabbits markings look like and how it differs from the New England Cottontail, another rabbit commonly found in Massachusetts. The New England Cottontail lives in New England and New York. It primarily eats herbaceous plants like leaves, stems, wood bark, flowers, fruits, and seeds from grasses. It also eats woody plants during the winter. We could understand why Mona wasn’t sure about which rabbit was eating the plants in the garden.
This is a photo of the Eastern Cottontail:
New England Cottontail:
To start this project first, Mona pre-dug a trench along where the new fencing would be installed. In the meantime, the ambassadors laid out the fence and folded up the bottom 8 inches so the fence would be in an “L” form. After folding the bottom we then rolled the fence up again to then all help to put in place out near the garden. It took our whole group passing the fence to each other at different points. After we spread the fence we then attached to rebar stakes using zip ties. Without all the people and hands this would have been a difficult project for Mona to accomplish on her own. Our team was on point! Everybody was responsible for the job they were doing, people were communicating and the team was on task. It felt good to finish this project because we understand the importance of protecting the historic flowers and want park visitors to be able to see the garden and all the different types of flowers in the spring and summer time.
This project was challenging because the first day we worked it was in the rain and it was cold. We had to layer up in jackets, hat, and gloves. The second day of this project it had snowed 8 inches so we needed snow boots and it was hard to find the trench. But we accomplished the project as a team and had a great time visiting a new park and working with Mona.