STORIES FROM THE BUSH

Lynn Takayama
Retired

We seem to have gone from winter straight into summer this year. We’ve already had several 30 degrees days, and many days with hot, gusty westerly winds — the scary ones that make you think of bushfires. Yesterday the sky was grey with smoke. There was a fire somewhere but not so close that its smell was predominant. The thought of bushfires here is a nightmare. We are surrounded by flammables and this house is more than 100 years old, built in the days when bushfire-safe house technology was not available. In fact, it is built mainly of cypress pine timber (milled from trees on the property), which is highly flammable.

The early warm weather has also brought snakes out sooner than usual. I’ve already seen three snakes (two browns) in the paddock and we had a large brown under the house a few days ago. I didn’t see that one but was told about it. I’ve been nervous walking around the yard ever since. I have my dogs running around with me while I’m working in the garden and they usually see anything that’s around before I do. That gives me a great deal of comfort.

I’ve developed something of a phobia about snakes in recent years. I grew up in the bush of south east Queensland and my brothers and I ran around bare-footed and played in the bush every day. Our parents told us to be mindful of snakes (browns, blacks and pythons) and I remember that I was afraid of them but not phobic. It’s a disability here since snakes are an important part of the natural world and I’m glad that there are plenty of them around, but….

It’s also very dry here at the moment. We’ve had no significant rain events for a couple of months. The dams are holding up well, and the river is flowing but it is very low. Despite the dryness, it is an achingly beautiful time of year. This is the kind of wild bush and beauty I yearned for during the 13 long years I spent living in the northern hemisphere. Though it’s hot during the days the night air is crisp and cool. The mornings verge on chilly and on these sharp, bright mornings it’s a joy to watch the sun rise slowly over the eastern hills.

All of this beauty takes my mind off my snake phobia. It also allows me some respite from my concern for the country under the current conservative governments. I fear for the environment and our communities under what appears to be pro-development, anti-environment, compassionless governments. If you believe in the democratic ideal, however, you must believe that we get what we vote for. It seems, though, that the democratic ideal is corrupted when a Motoring Enthusiast person can be elected on what we’re told was 0.5 per cent of the vote. That’s another story and is being addressed in other places.

I let the seven new chicks and their mother out to roam yesterday. I took a chance that while I was in the house cleaning the chicks would be safe from hawks, snakes and other chick-eating monsters. They were all still intact when I came out several hours later. That very same afternoon, the other young hen appeared with her own three newborn chicks.

One unexpected consequence for me of the change of season combined with the dryness has been a return to hay fever attacks. I’ve been a lifelong sufferer of hay fever but because of effective medical intervention 25 years ago I have been free of it since. However, I seem to have returned to the bad old days with frequent serious hay fever episodes. I am told it is the combination of the dryness and the spring pollen in the air. Whatever the reason, I now have to be careful of dust and dust mites, as well as different pollens — particularly when I’m cleaning the house!

We have my ex-husband staying with us at the moment. For seven years the Cowboy and I shared a house with him in Sydney and even in the inner-city, Big City, where “anything goes” people considered the arrangement unusual. Imagine, then, how Country Town Australia is finding it.

By the way, thanks to all those people who have offered creative suggestions about how to train dogs not to attack chooks.