After more than four weeks away from our Tasmanian property, we were greeted with a few surprises on our return just after Christmas. The long forsaken vegetable garden (already overgrown as evidenced by the previous photos) was now thigh deep in weeds and grass; the ample Spring rains had also prompted previously unnoticed thistles to push upwards and outwards into an unrestrained burst of growth. The juncus across our wetland areas had multiplied and was now densely packed, tall, toughened reeds. All remaining grassed areas across the 5 acres (bar the choice spots that the Pademelons like to graze) were now think and lush. The delicate flower heads of the grasses had shot skywards, effectively further doubling the height, giving the appearance of a shimmering ocean of pink with the seed heads bobbing in the gentle breeze. And the blackberries? I shudder at the thought of the task ahead of us.
Looking back at that last photo of the vegetable garden it’s pretty difficult to even see what infrastructure might already exist under all that growth but, after tackling some of the other priorities first and having waved goodbye to visiting family, we were left with a couple of days to see what potential treasures could be unearthed. I’d hoped we’d be able to have the paths carved through between the beds so that I could at least access and work on individual beds so ‘Mr Sarah’, dressed with gauntlets and gumboots, boldly set-to with a whipper-snipper.
The process, pretty difficult through such dense growth, started slowly but uneventfully. But not for long……
Kerthwack. Thump. Splat.
I was summoned to inspect a casualty. A juvenile White Lipped Snake, of about 35cms had apparently been minding its own business in the undergrowth and got whipper-snippered up. It was beheaded in one stroke, with a further two body pieces being unceremoniously flung from the head of the machine.
A cut snake indeed. But cut so quickly that he didn’t even have the opportunity to get mad. I inspected the head and saw that the eyes were still wide open and staring at me accusingly, and a past experience compelled me to utter some sort of apology for contributing to his death.
No, it’s not the first time I’ve found myself apologising to a snake. Last Easter, on the other side of Bass Strait at our residence in Victoria, Mr S was dismantling a pile of logs at the base of one of our magnificent old eucalypts when he unearthed a slumbering tiger snake.
The autumn weather was already pretty chilly and the Tiger Snake had probably settled in for the coming winter, not expecting to be so rudely awoken. Being so close to our front door we hoped to encourage him to move on to a more suitable spot – we’re just metres away from the boundary of Monument Hill Reserve, with just a road width between us, so Mr S hatched a plan to encourage him to shift. We set up an artificial rain shower and, from a safe distance, aimed the hose at him, just a very gentle shower at first, then turning into the equivalent of heavy rain. It took about an hour of ‘heavy rain’ to actually get him to move, and then he was only game to slither into the relative safety of a few nearby shrubs, still in our yard.
Over the next few days I’d just keep an eye open as I moved between the front door and my van, and sometimes I’d even acknowledge our resident tiger snake with a few words of greeting, even though he remained hidden in the shrub, unseen. I somehow knew he was still there and I became quite accustomed to knowing he was close at hand – I was always alert, but not alarmed.
One sunny day, seated at the computer, I happened to catch sight of a car as it drove past our house. It went past, but then reversed back into my field of vision, the driver winding down his window, looking straight down at the bitumen, before moving forward again and driving off. As I raced out into the road, I already knew what I’d see, before I’d even reached the spot. Yes, it had finally been a warm enough day for our tiger snake to seek out a better home, but not quite warm enough to enable him to move swiftly enough to evade harm.
Yes, he’d been run over (and the driver was clearly amazed to find a snake crossing the road so late as at the end of April), and when I reached the snake he was just hanging on to his last moments of life. Just enough time for me to look him straight in the eye and offer a heartfelt apology before he died.