Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Death doesn't become her

On the weekend I realised that my life is decidedly less glamorous than it used to be when my hobby was being a freelance features and beauty writer for Vogue Australia.  I realised this while standing in my herb garden with sprigs of french tarragon in one hand and a slug in the other.  I was perturbed about the fate of the slug, indeed I had occupied a good deal of my mental energy for the morning pondering humane slug eradication.

To date my slug strategy has been one beer trap nestled amongst the sage. I was comfortable with the thought that the slugs would exit the world in a beer haze. Surely not a bad way to go?  Then I read something about slugs laying eggs and realised that multiplying tribes of slugs may be happily munching their way through my precious herbs. As the beer in the traps evaporates quite fast and I'm not keen to donate more of my weekly alcohol budget to non-sentient beings, and as my low-intervention philosophy means that I'm also not keen on poison pellets, I decided that my new plan was to assiduously remove each slug as I came across it.

I was quite happy with this plan until I stood slug in gloved hand and realised that I wasn't sure what should happen next. I am squeamish so squashing the slugs is out of the question. I decided that perhaps drowning them the best option so cut the top of a plastic bottle, filled it with water and dropped the slugs in.  Dear reader, now imagine a bottle filled with slugs jostling to crawl up the sides out of the water before being knocked back down with a piece of bark. Dear reader, now imagine a bottle filled with fermenting slugs that I know I'm going to have to dispose of this weekend.

My neighbour Matt not very helpfully suggested throwing salt on the slugs. This sounds cruel to me. He then even more unhelpfully suggested that perhaps I could treat the slugs like lobsters by freezing them to death in my freezer. This is definitely not an option.  My friend Hayden unhelpfully suggested driving them down the road and freeing them on someone else's land. He somewhat more helpfully suggested building a platform on top of a pole and leaving the slugs there for the Kookaburras to eat. I quite like this option as it means that the slugs are fulfilling their role in a natural cycle.  But of course, it means another slew of tasks for my to-do list including erecting platforms and figuring out how to stop the slugs from making a bid for freedom over the side. You would be surprised at how fast they can move.

If you have any better ideas let me know. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fallen trees, chainsaw wounds and urban hippie madness

It was Saturday morning and I was bent over in my bottom paddock working among the scattered branches of the fallen tree, hauling them into a pile ready for loading onto a trailer. 

The noise of the chainsaw accompaniment to the work stopped and my neighbour Matt, who was cutting the branches I was gathering, said 'Suze, I've cut myself.'

This land is nicknamed 'blue gum country' in honour of the mighty trees like the one we were working on. They stand in the green paddocks on the hills where thousands more of their ilk must have been felled to clear the land for the cows that graze it now.  They are hundreds of years old and taller than I can measure accurately with my eye, with trunks that I couldn't get my arms even halfway around if I was in the mood for a tree hug. I don't have a good photograph of one on my land, but here are some on a property down the hill.

 Many of the trees are getting to the age where they are starting to rot and fall.  When I bought my six acres, one had toppled over in my bottom paddock and the wood had been bulldozed - knitting, it's called - into a pile to burn. It seems to me disrespectful to the tree and to the environment to burn and waste so much wood, so I had it un-knitted. It has been lying strewn across my paddock and to-do list for three years.

I swear that it was just last week that it crossed my mind that I should do a first aid course. Matt said that he thought the wound needed stitches. He was holding together his gashed and now bloodied jeans along with the skin underneath.  I sprinted up the hill for the first aid kit. Then ensued the dilemma of what to do with his jeans. We were both worried, me secretly and him openly, about me being confronted by the wound. I hacked the leg of his jeans off and we timed him letting go of the wound and jeans while I placed a pad on it and bandaged his leg. I did have to look. It wasn't pretty. But I didn't faint!

Then 2 hours waiting at the medical centre until he was seen and stitched (nine). He was lucky; the wound was clean, it didn't hit bone and he managed to miss any tendons and muscles. His pride had taken the worst shredding, mine was actually enhanced as the doctor had commented on my good first aid.

By the time we got back, my trusty mowing man Ken, had arrived and was hard at work with his chainsaw. I made him and Matt lunch, sent Matt home, then spent 4 hours working with Ken. It was the last thing that I felt like doing, but winter is approaching and if I want to get the job off my to-do list this year I only have a couple of weeks while the ground is still hard enough to get the tractor up and down the hill.

 Because my aim is not to waste any part of the tree, the work entails cutting off the leaves and twigs for shredding for mulch and cutting up the small and medium branches for providing heat for the house. My plan for the pieces too big to cut is to drag them into various scenic positions around the garden to use as seats.

By 6pm with darkness falling and standing under my earmuffs in the exhaust of the shredder I engaged in a muttered dialogue with myself about what kind of urban idiot indulging her tree-hugging inner hippie would be so stupid as to not just burn the hell out of that bloody pile of tree and buy in her firewood like every other sensible farmer in the district.

We stopped when it got dark. Matt came over to report that he was OK. In good Australian fashion we eased the stress of the day by getting drunk. Ken is coming back next Saturday for us to continue the job. I feel tired at the thought of it.

 This photograph is of part of my fallen tree. It was taken by my friend Jacinta.