One day The Man and I are out contemplating our apples – more about that later – when something moves under our gigantic bay tree. I’m pretty short sighted, so my first thought – it’s a creature! – is replaced by my second thought – it’s a pile of bark, don’t be silly.
But it is a creature, a yellow-bellied wallaby, resting on the ground, not moving when we come to look down at it, only metres away. That’s strange. We move closer, and it gets up painfully and limps a little way, dragging its right back leg, then sits down again, further off.
The dogs are ambling around the house – elderly and short sighted as they are, it’s better not to tempt them with easy prey, so I shut them both inside. The wallaby’s backbone and ribs stick out from its humped body – normally they’re fat little hoppers, like lively dowagers. I ring WIRES, the wildlife rescue people.
“Right,” says the woman “so it’s a ‘euthanase’ situation.”
“Well I wouldn’t necessarily say that,” says me, “I couldn’t get a good look. Maybe you can save it.”
“Maybe,” she says, “We’ll be round there in an hour.”
So for an hour I keep checking on this little wallaby, who’s now hiding in our front garden, eating the flowers. Can an animal who hoes into bulbs so enthusiastically really be unsaveable?
Turns out, yes. The wildlife rescue man takes one look ” he’s been sick for weeks, by the look of it..” and gets his gun. I’ve never seen anything shot before, never even seen a gun fired. It gives me the shivers. He drags the poor little thing’s body down out of dog-reach, and leaves us some medication for the wombats down in the gully (who’ve caught mange from the foxes and wild dogs). I wish myself luck catching them.
So that’s a sad day. As The Son points out, nature is not kind. We don’t usually see the suffering of a wallaby dragging a swollen leg around for weeks until it dies of starvation or is torn apart by predators – but it goes on, every day, all around us. On the bright side, the wildlife man says, “he must have felt safe, near the house. He must have known you wouldn’t harm him.”
Back to the apple trees. These, neglected, have grown to monstrous proportions (not that it puts off the bats, birds, possums and such like). It’s impossible to keep these apple-eating predators away because you literally can’t fit a net over the tree, unless you want to try flinging one from a helicopter. Anyway, armed with a chainsaw and a ladder, the Man has pruned them down so hard you could now fit a tea strainer over the top (note – a slight exaggeration). Sink or swim.
I haven’t been (entirely) idle – I’ve been mulching and snipping, including a really messy experiment with a bag of old papers I got from a client. When spring comes we’ll see what happens…
The Man has got his work cut out – for instance, this enormous gum tree has carked it (next to its twin, still alive and rooting). It will probably, in the fullness of time, fall down (either on me, as I sit in the shed next to it scribbling, or on some unsuspecting roo). Some guy got killed a few months ago in The Village, trying to solve just such a problem – now that’s cheerful!
And finally – it looks lovely and warm, but it’s not. In about half an hour the sun will start to go down and the temperature will nose dive to around zero.