from stories of flowers and critters
The house was uninhabited by humans for many years but it wasn’t uninhabited. There were tiny bats living in the chimneys, possums in the roof, bees in the walls, termites in some of the flooring, wasp’s nests under the window canopies, assorted spiders, and a small wallaby was an occasional visitor. Surprisingly there didn’t seem to be any snakes.
On Saltbush and the Soil
Off I went with great enthusiasm, planting, planting… Just as I had done with previous gardens. But too many plants were dying. Even the indigenous ones I had carefully purchased for this area.
In an excess of enthusiasm, one day I purchased a whole lot of native plants from a Melbourne nursery. And one of them really thrived. I took cuttings and they too flourished. It took rather too long I now confess for me to realise why. Of course. The answer lay in the common name for the plant. It was a saltbush. The soil was clearly highly alkaline.
An Onionweed Meadow
The whole front apron of the house opening onto the river-flat was covered in onion weed. The thought of removing it was daunting. So I wondered if a bit of re-framing would be a more positive way to go. The plant has a bright green leaf and lime-yellow little flowers in spring. What if I simply declared it a meadow planting…
I was told the possums that lived in the walls and the roof space should be shot. But that’s illegal. It was clear, however, that something needed to be done. They were weeing profusely through the ceiling and partying at all hours.
Well – you could try catching them in a trap, I was told. You have to take them across two rivers or they’ll just return next week this local expert added. (I wasn’t told that, while this wasn’t strictly illegal, the possum would either still return within days or die. Very territorial, possums.)
I was offered a trap. And, after living there for about 6 years I finally did it. I actually trapped one and dutifully drove it about 20 kilometres away to let it out. The trap was carefully placed on the ground and the door opened. I’d like to be able to say that the possum jumped out gratefully and ran up the nearest tree. But it didn’t. It just sat there, looking at me. In the end I was in tears, imploring it to go. Now I realise it must have recognised my voice. We had lived together for 6 years after all.
The current strategy is to provide possum boxes and encourage them to prefer these. And stringing the trees they really like to eat with solar fairy-lights to keep them off. (Yes, urine was tried, until a group became over-enthusiastic about this and killed my favourite Red Oak). So now the property looks a little like Christmas every night.
Is it working? Well – no.
I think the possums enjoy seeing what they’re eating.