I get the appeal of an adventurous leap between disparate lifestyles + locations but part of me is thankful I already have the lay of the land to which the G.O. and I are headed; not so much tree-sea changing our life from city to country-coast but evolving via steady steps of progression… alleviating the possibility of transplant shock.
Later this year the G.O. and I will have owned together our house at Taylors Arm for a decade. I grew up in the country but lived in urban environs all my adult life. My rural village experiences haven’t been quite as were depicted in the U.S. TV series Green Acres but the weekends and holidays we spend at Taylors Arm give me the opportunity to reacquaint myself with the vagaries of country life prior to leaving the city to reside there permanently.
Our house was empty for some time before we took possession and it was in need of a good clean. We were up for the job but after having spent our first hot summer day in situ scrubbing dirt off the surfaces and onto ourselves, we were also up for a cold beer and a hot shower. As it does from time to time, the electricity cut out, minutes before we were about to jump in the shower.
As the house water is supplied via rainwater tanks fed by an electric pump, no power meant no water. The electricity came back on in the early hours long after we’d half filled the bath via saucepans of water obtained in a trickle from the sole outside garden tap and heated on an ancient gas fuelled camping stove. At least the beer was cold.
The first Christmas is etched in our memory as being hot as hell; 40+ degrees Celsius (104 F) on Christmas Eve as I was trying to roast a turkey in a too-small electric kettle barbecue under the back awning of the house. To make it fit, the G.O. flattened out the turkey in the manner of Portuguese style chicken, to be forever remembered as the year of ‘roadkill turkey’.
Since then we’ve installed roof insulation, whirlybird roof vents, ceiling fans and window awnings; making the summer months much pleasanter. And we’ve reverted to more manageable roast chicken and cold ham for Christmas lunch.
Resident fauna don’t care whose name is on the deeds, or who does the work. They come with the house as a package deal. I’m not overfond of bats to say the least but have become accustomed to sable microbats at dusk flitting past, darting into almost imperceptible cracks in the house’s structure.
Over the years we’ve been friendly with neighbouring turkeys, geese, chickens and cows. We’ve had visiting wallabies, goannas, ducks, dogs, cats, snakes and a fox. Also, we aren’t the only inhabitants of our house. Fortunately George the carpet python moved on from our roof space but making themselves at home in addition to the bats we have; birds, frogs, lizards, mice, a bandicoot and the biggest mangiest meanest old possum I’ve ever encountered. Its traverses of the roof sound like not just a single creature but an army.
The G.O. wasn’t convinced of the possum’s notoriety until one summer evening he decided see for himself what was on the awning roof near the big bottlebrush tree. The G.O. climbed the ladder he’d used for cleaning the guttering, strolled across the roof expecting to encounter one of the neighbour’s cats enjoying the last of the warmth… but was instead met then pursued by an aggressive arboreal marsupial displeased the G.O. was interrupting its constitutional. The G.O. didn’t bother with the ladder beyond the first rung down, leaping to the safety of the ground as the possum growled its disapproval at the invasion of its space. Possum 1: G.O.: Nil.
I have a horror of dead things, so the G.O. and I have an arrangement. I deal with live things -except snakes which we tend to just leave alone- and he deals with the demised. That means particularly incursions of spiders and mice are my domain. To the G.O.’s frustration I usually let the spiders be -even if it means showering in their proximity- but if pressed I will corral them into a plastic tub and release them into the garden, usually too close to the house to suit the G.O. but I refuse to walk for miles to appease him.
I also employ the same technique for evicting mice. The G.O. doesn’t have the aversion to rodents he does to spiders but after umpteen rounds of the kitchen in fruitless pursuit of Taylor’s Arm’s own Speedy Gonzales, the G.O. paused long enough for the mouse to jump up on the table to assess the worthiness of its opponent, and I swear I saw it laugh. After being bested the G.O. no longer deigns to participate in their contests. Mouse: 1. G.O.: Nil.
My own mouse-keeping efforts haven’t been without glitches. I learned the hard way after scooping them up mice aren’t as cute as they look, and their teeth are sharp. Still merciful I tossed the ungrateful bitey little bugger -alive- over the fence into the back paddock. Our neighbour’s grey cat showed me the error of my ways by returning it -dead- to the back step. And looking at me as if to say there, I’ve avenged you, remember the lesson. Mouse: Nil. Grey Cat: 1.
The rainbow lorikeets act out their own colourful version of Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Birds, stalking us demanding a feed. When service has been too slow coming, they’ve followed me door to door around the verandah, and set up a stakeout at the door en route from the kitchen to the garden. Unlike their demands on the neighbours at least they haven’t come inside our house. Yet.
Local knowledge is gold, and the G.O. kindly and wisely pre-warned me about frogs who know no boundaries. Leroy, the main-man of our green frog gang has no respect for personal space. He’ll springboard off a back or… his claim to fame is attaching himself to the nether regions of an earlier-era female houseguest as she sat on the toilet resulting in her panicked flee to the hilarity of the assembled company. As a child I admired green frogs, from a distance, in their ability terrorise my aunts. Now I enjoy how they casually hang out with us, like we’re part of the furniture in their house.
Visitors sometimes look askance at our tap water. Because the aforementioned bottlebrush tree overhangs a lot of the water collecting area of the roof, our water may be tinted an interesting shade of tan. Fortunately bottlebrush trees are also called “tea trees” and “frequently used in teas… has antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant properties”. Although the colour takes a bit of getting used to, there’s no taste or harm to it.
At a time before we’d installed gas appliances and a wood burning fire we’d been supposed to take a winter holiday in Queensland, however the G.O.’s boss vetoed the time off so we settled for a long weekend at Taylors Arm, but Mother Nature intervened causing us to spend a cold early-winter week flooded in, several days of it without electricity. The experience wasn’t quite camping, nor was it glamping.
To underline the lesson, once the power came back on the TV advertisements teased us with “Queensland… Beautiful one day perfect the next“. Taylors Arm might not quite live up to that but writers have long waxed lyrical about bucolic pleasures…
“There is virtue in country houses, in gardens and orchards, in fields, streams, and groves, in rustic recreations and plain manners, that neither cities nor universities enjoy.” ~ Amos Bronson Alcott
“Transplant shock is a term that refers to a number of stresses occurring in recently transplanted trees and shrubs. It involves failure of the plant to root well, consequently the plant becomes poorly established in the landscape. New transplants do not have extensive root systems, and they are frequently stressed by lack of sufficient water. Plants suffering from water stress may be more susceptible to injury from other causes such as the weather, insects, or disease. When several stresses are being experienced, the plant may no longer be able to function properly.”
Another ‘branching out’ story inspired by comments to my Out on a Limb post.