STORIES FROM THE BUSH

Lynn Takayama
Retired

All of my formative years were spent in circumstances where the only water supply we had was harvested rainwater, and we took care of our own waste management (including human waste), and where, indeed, for some years we had no electricity supply at all, and therefore no refrigeration or any of the other conveniences that come with electric power. I think that my lifelong “early to bed early to rise” regime comes from that time in my childhood when we went to bed with the sun and got up with it.

I used to be rather envious when, on the odd occasion, I visited a school friend who lived in the small town that was the hub of that community, and I noticed the flush toilet arrangements in her house. This seemed the height of sophistication to me — even though I didn’t know what sophistication was (and still don’t, some might say!). Even the primary school I went to also had drop toilets, so flush toilets seemed very exotic.

None of those things seemed unusual to me or to my siblings, or to anyone in our community. It was just the way our life was.

So when I realised that living in close proximity to rodents was going to be part of my life here, why was it a shock? I don’t remember having rodents as neighbours during my childhood but I know that we must have had. It has taken me a couple of years to accept that rodents (natives and immigrants) are part of the natural world, just as I am, and fighting a constant war with them over territory here is going to be a part of the rich tapestry of life for us in our bit of paradise.

A philosophical and stoical outlook on life is all very well on paper but what about when I recently went to fire up our beloved Weber barbie, which had been undercover for a couple of weeks, to discover not only a large amount of more or less evenly-distributed rodent droppings but also that the foil tray that captures the fat residue from barbecuing meat had been chewed to smithereens?

There was not much philosophy or stoicism floating around at that time. In fact, I had my city girl reaction: “Oh, that’s gross!”

“Come on! Get over yourself”, says me. “This is just another experience to add to my already extensive accumulation of country girl experiences and, anyway, we had frequent visitations from rodents at our house in the city.” But somehow the city rats didn’t seem part of our lives — they seemed more like interlopers that had nothing whatsoever to do with me.

Perhaps this is another example of how disconnected from much of the natural world my attitude had become after several decades of living in an urban environment. I notice now, though I didn’t notice it at the time, that there always seemed to be an unspoken yet deeply felt sense that someone else would take care of stuff for me: NRMA for flat tyres and flat batteries; council for waste removal and rodent problems; state or local government for water provision, etc. The Cowboy commented upon this attitude in the first flush of our relationship. I, of course, thought that he was just a country bumpkin.

A by-product of that life and thinking was that I became deskilled in things that I used to be able to do, or unskilled in things that I never learned how to do.

Out of necessity many country women know how to change a tyre and replace a flat battery, as well as to knock up a batch of scones and a plate of pikelets. These are skills not to be scoffed at.

Unfortunately it’s a bit late for me to master the skill of changing a flat tyre: my strength levels are just not up to it. But, as I’ve already boasted, I can knock up a mean batch of scones and I have now demonstrated to myself that I can, with pride and efficiency and without much squeamishness, accept that rodents are part of the natural world and I am willing and able to do battle with them.

On another matter, although we’d decided to hold all our calves until the spring, we received an offer for our nine steers and so we sent them off to market last weekend. I helped the Cowboy muster them into the yards and I noticed how far I’ve come in that particular skill. I’m finally beginning to think like a cow.

The transport driver and the stock agent congratulated us on the quality of the beasts and we got a reasonably good price for them in this depressed market. The Cowboy is chuffed about that and, although I experienced some sadness and regret at the sacrifice those beasts that had been born and raised here were about to make, I accepted that if people (including me) insist on a carnivorous diet the only way it can be satisfied is by the death of a beast.

I must be off now: the chooks are calling out to be fed, the dogs are ready for their run and the horses are hanging out for their daily carrot.