STORIES FROM THE BUSH

Lynn Takayama
Retired

Although the mornings are still cool — it was 3 degrees this morning — the days warm up quickly and for the past week or so it has been as warm as 21 degrees during the day.

I’ve had serpents at the back of my mind since the warm days began. It’s said that one conjures up one’s fears merely by thinking about them. I’ve thought that there might be some subtle truth in this axiom but generally felt it was New-Age pseudo-psychobabble. I’m not sure now, however, because I had my first-of-the-season snake experience today. Did the snake appear because I’d had the thought of them in the back of my mind?

I feel a bit ripped off, actually. Snakes should still be hibernating. They hibernate in winter, don’t they? Even though it was the last day of winter, it was still winter, wasn’t it? I felt entitled to some more snake-free peace of mind time. But there, on that last day of winter, was the snake. I don’t think I conjured it up just thinking about snakes.

It was a brown. A big one. In the chook-house, stalking a rat. I got quite a start, I can tell you. My heart was racing and my hands were shaking.

At just the right moment the Cowboy came past and gave me a comforting hug of reassurance. Despite this I still had to go back to the homestead, have a cup of tea and try to recover my equilibrium.

I’ve been regularly checking the water level of the tank on the hill that we fill with river water. We’ve had a leak in our reticulation system of poly pipes and haven’t been able to locate it.

It’s difficult to find leaks because most of the piping is underground, and as the system was well established before we bought this place we don’t know where most of the pipes are buried.

Yes, we know we should be looking for green spots around — a sure indication of a leak — and we have been doing so. We’ve checked out all the green spots visible and there’s still a leak.

We fill the tank up (5000 gallons — not an insignificant amount of water) and within two days the tank is empty. Very frustrating. Eventually we will put in a whole new reticulation system but we’re not at that point yet.

In the interim, we’ve adopted the process of turning the valve at the tank off and only turning it on when we want to use river water — for the washing and for the garden.

Last week we came across a leak that we hadn’t previously been aware of and were excited to think that this might be The One. To test this, we’ve left the valve on the tank open and I’ve been checking the water level several times over a 24-hour period.

Yesterday, after the snake fright, I was at the tank (about 150m up the hill from our house) checking the water. Maggi was very interested in something on the other side of the fence about 50m further up the hill.

I usually take notice of what Maggi’s interested in, and I did this time. When I checked it out there was a young cow down — in labour and in big trouble.

The Cowboy was out in the back paddock so I raced back to the house, tied the dogs up (Ruby, too) and sped on my quad as quickly as I could in search of him. Luckily I found him straightaway and we both sped back to the cow.

The Cowboy was able to assist with the birth (stillborn calf), but the cow was weakened and couldn’t stand up. It was touch-and-go all afternoon, with one or both of us monitoring the cow’s progress. It had to get up or it would die.

We were hopeful of a recovery but by dusk she was still on the ground and the crows were trying to pick out her eyes. Brutal, I know, but this is the natural world in action.

David Attenborough once said that people thought some aspects of his programs were too brutal and his only regret was that he could not show nature at its most brutal. Viewers do not wish to see the raw harshness of the natural world.

Meanwhile, we couldn’t do any more for the cow and we couldn’t allow her to be slowly tortured to death by the crows so the Cowboy put her out of her misery. The whole thing was very distressful. Putting the cow down not only cost us emotionally, it cost us financially since we lost a good breeding cow, and we lost the calf.

All in all, the last day of winter was eventful — just a little bit more eventful than I would like. And now, and for a while, I’m walking around on tenterhooks thinking that every small stick is a snake.