12. Escape from deadly predators!

IMAG2796IMAG2797The rain made the creek run! Even though it was only 5.5mm the previous precipitation must have soaked the country enough for this fall to make it flow. It was so momentous that Frankie insisted that we walk down to have a look at it. Despite the relative sparsity of the rain the water was flowing out to the sides of the bed we had previously walked, its shallowness belying the actual quantity. When it flows, Wintinna Creek empties into Lake Eyre, a vast expanse of water in this desert. These vast lakes in this arid wilderness is what we were seeing when we flew in over Western Australia which, considering our altitude, must have been massive as well. Not the ‘water holes’ I thought they were! There is a Great Artesian Basin under a large part of this Red Centre of the country which is accessed by the many and varied depth boreholes on the stations. Fortunately, water is one thing to which Wintinna has access, albeit deep underground. The windmills at every tank and in the yard act as the pumps and deliver an adequate supply, provided the hoses for the grass seed aren’t left on overnight!

IMAG2802IMAG2803Whilst Katy and Lee got settled in Roger and I went to the wood pile to collect more fence posts to make some raised beds in the side vegetable garden. We’d rather be victims of our success at outdoor jobs than indoors like decorating. We needed to get 21 x 6-7 feet long (literally, my booted foot) posts so made quite a significant raid on the pile. We had been warned to beware of lifting anything off the ground, checking under it first and preferably wearing gloves. The woodpile would be a potential haunt for snakes so we made lots of noise and climbed around on the wood, rattling it as we went. We hadn’t seen any sign of anything threatening on any of the previous visits but this time, on retrieving our final post we unearthed a scorpion! Not the biggest or most threatening, I must admit, but still not one we were prepared to mess with. Strangely enough, whilst we were watching it (do nothing) a beetle with a big yellow X on its back came ambling along and walked right over the top of the scorpion without it even flinching never mind attacking. Perhaps it was in winter hibernation before we disturbed it and hadn’t fully woken but at least our first contact was uneventful, not in a boot in the morning in which a foot had been sleepily inserted.

The area around the fruit trees needed clearing of weeds, it is going to be an orchard. Despite significant assistance from the loader (Lee is a big digger driver) there was a lot of manual weeding to be done. Frankie and Katy had started it whilst we were still constructing the raised beds adjacent to this area but then had gone off to do a bit more of the tour. I noticed Julio playing with something over where they had been weeding and when I went to investigate found him shredding a brown snake! Possibly the one I’d seen on our first day. This was his first trophy catch so we all made a big fuss of him and then I chucked the three, still pulsating! pieces into the burn bin. I wonder what roast snake smells like?

Before

Before

After

After

With the culprit vanquished we set to on the rest of the weeds the following day. Some of it was quite woody so needed to be separated from the greener stuff which could do well on the new compost heap. There is only one wheelbarrow so whilst Katy and Frankie were filling that with woody waste (Lee was somewhere in the loader and Jake and Roger were building the crush in to the yard) I picked up a big pile of green weeds to take across to compost. A movement caught my attention out the corner of my eye and there was a 2 foot long snake wiggling across the newly cleared area to the refuge of the long grass on the other side. I had been told to kill any snakes seen anywhere near the house (and we’d been quizzed as to why we hadn’t killed the scorpion even though it must have been over a kilometre away) so shouted to Frankie as I don’t think that the pile of weeds on my hands would do much damage. I’d had potentially vicious instruments nearby or even in my hand all the rest of the morning but not at that particular moment. I decided to follow it to show the others where it had gone but they are very fast, even though there is much wasted lateral movement, the forward trajectory is quite a decent pace. It reached the long grass just as Frankie arrived with a hoe (for decapitation) and my pointing with 2 hands full of weeds was not specific enough for her to see where it went before it had disappeared but we know its still there!

IMAG2814IMAG2813In the evening we went on shooting practice, to refine our aim for getting rid of dingos, the serious predator on livestock in these parts and not even good to eat! Jake had a selection of guns for us to try out, I thought that the 303 seemed rather large for me, particularly and despite th fact that you had to rest it on something. I was debating whether to opt out of this round when my concerns were confirmed by Roger giving himself a ‘Wetherby Brow’. This is caused by having one’s face too close to the sight therefore not allowing for the kickback from the sight, even though it was covered in rubber. So he has had his initiation now but we have no idea where the ‘Whetherby’ bit comes from. Whilst most of the dangerous creatures in Canada were big and a firearm would be needed to defend oneself against the likes of bears, wolves, mousse or cougars, here in Australia the meanest things are fairly small so the guns are required for other purposes. Common sense is required to outwit these ankle high nasties but I don’t think we Brits actually have this ‘common sense’ naturally. Australians are brought up with the safety measures so assume it is normal but it is surprising how quickly you learn!

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2 Responses to 12. Escape from deadly predators!

  1. Jill Harrison says:

    Oh dear looks like you may end up with a nasty bruise there, your target practice looks a bit more adventurous than Roy with his airgun shooting at pigeons. You seemed to be discovering a lot about the outback in the short time you have been there but you look like you are enjoying yourselves.

  2. Tim says:

    Ouch Roger, bet that made your eyes water. Best not mention snake slaying as its illegal :

    It is an offence under the National Parks and Wildlfe Act to kill or remove a snake from its environment, with fines of up to $10,000 and two years imprisonment enforceable.

    You can kill a poisonous one if your life is at risk.

    http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2014/01/28/3933383.htm

    Mind how you go. Cheers Tim

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