Possum Wrangling

Having lived in Possum Valley for 42 years now and I  can say, without undue modesty, that I am expert in the art of possum wrangling.  It is an arcane skill which, alas, has little commercial value in the wider world’s job market.  Indeed, it is a skill few of you will have occasion to use.  Perhaps some future guest will recall my words of wisdom when dealing with a kitchen invasion.  Please bare with me, oops Freudian slip, please bear with me, as every man likes to boast of his achievements.  However slight.  

First thing to realise is that possums are not basically carnivorous in that they don’t hunt other animals.  They certainly will eat meat raw of preferably cooked and possibly will kill and devour wounded or dead animals.  As will many animals when the opportunity arises.  A few days ago I heard a thud as a bird flew into a window.  Probably a pigeon I thought as they are heavy birds which fly fast.  It was perhaps 30 seconds as I followed the sound and saw the grease smear on the window and a stunned brown pigeon on the ground with its wings spread.  I recognise that as a defensive posture.  10 seconds later a currawong landed a meter away and the pigeon turned to face it.  To no avail as the currawong leapt upon it and grabbed it by the neck with a claw and dispatched it very quickly by smashing the pigeon’s head in with its powerful beak.  After plucking some feathers for a while it tried to fly off with it but only got 10m.  

Meanwhile back at the possums, the best wrangling equipment is welding gloves.  They are thick leather gloves that come up to the elbow so the claws and teeth of the possum can’t hurt you much.  Can also be used for welding and doing stupid things with hot fires.  Grab the possum round the neck and by the tail and you can do what you like with them, though you wont be friends for life.  For more advanced students, simply pick them up by the tail with your hand.  You will have to hold them at arms length or they will rip your shirt off and very likely large chunks of flesh as well.  A few will hang in a docile fashion but 95% will twist up and shred your hands and forearms within a few seconds.  You can avoid being flayed by vigourously shaking your arm from side to side as you walk out of the house to the disposal area.  I did say it was the advanced students course.  

For beginners perhaps the most effective method is to shoo them out.  For this to work smoothly, without excitement, accidental injury or massive loss of crockery, you have to plan a safe and easy exit route for the possum.  Preferably the way they came in as they are not too bright and can’t see very well in bright light.  I suspect the clearest trail is by scent back along the the urine they deposited on the way in to declare their ownership of your kitchen.  This is easily spotted as a dark yellow sticky zigzag trail that never dries and stinks forever.  Approach slowly at 90 degrees to the escape path as what you have to do is keep the possum calm, but increase the proximity threat.  If you get to within 1m and it shows no signs of moving, perhaps a reappraisal is required.  You have one truculent possum.  A strategic withdrawal may be advised to go and watch the tele or make a cut of tea. 

never mess with a mom

In this picture a couple of days ago, the latter alternative was not available.  You will notice the poised posture and the impressive array of sharp claws.  I did.  So I went for another half hour of essential television viewing whereupon I found that the possum(s) had exhausted my resources and left.  I prefer to call it the diplomatic solution rather than abject capitulation, but hey! it worked.  This hardworking mom also had a distinct bulge in the belly which suggested another one in the pouch.  This is a coppery brushtail possum, the most common and boldest possum at possum valley.  The coppery brushtail is a subspecies of the grey brushtail, but only found in the rainforest.  Flannery suggests that its genetic relationship to the grey needs to be clarified, but I have found that the possum itself is in no doubt of its status.

In the last few days the dire forebodings I suggested in my previous post “Heat Wave”, seems to have been fulfilled.  Temperature records tumble sometimes only lasting a day.  Meanwhile, a two year exhaustive report by hundreds of scientists from many US government agencies in the US predicting dire consequences of global warming has been dismissed by Trump with “I don’t believe it”.  Ever prepared to back his ‘intuition’ against a few hundred scientists with a lifetime of study, he will go down in history as a villain to rival or excel Hitler or Genghis Khan.  I suppose Atilla the Hun should get a mention and perhaps Vlad the Impaler.  Though Vlad could at least claim he was successful in turning back home the Turkish forces in disgust.  Rather like Australia’s refugee offshore processing policy really.


Turtle Time

I was servicing Maple Cottage recently when I saw someone had dropped a hat outside on the grass 10m in front of the kitchen window.  I really don’t need any more hats.  Closer inspection showed it to be a turtle apparently trying to dig a hole, but it froze and regarded me suspiciously as I had a look.  I have lived at Possum Valley for 42 years now and this is the first time I have ever seen a turtle. 

Unknown Turtle

I knew they should be here in the rainforest creeks and have seen pics from guests to confirm their presence (thanks Martin & Marco), but have never laid eyes on one till now.  I would like to tell you the species, but there are many and I’m no expert.  I did a bit of web searching and discovered that freshwater turtles go nest-building in November and also there is a web site TurtleSat to report sightings which I duly did and uploaded the pic here to aid identification.  So I may yet learn what species it is.  You can see some damage to the top of it’s shell.  That would have taken considerable force.  I also learned on TurtleSat that many species are under threat from habitat loss and foxes.  The foxes can find and completely consume all the eggs in the nest.  I have seen dingos, but never a fox at Possum Valley.  

I was also on the web recently to find spare parts for my gas stove at the homestead as the larger front burners were well …… burnt out.  Totally crumbling away so the lazy yellow flame burnt inefficiently and curled round the saucepan to burn the handle.  First thing I found was that I needed model numbers and serial numbers long and complicated enough to describe the position of every subatomic particle in the known universe, let alone a gas stove.  ‘Simpson Super-Nova’ wasn’t going to get me anywhere near my target.  There were any number of hits, but they all had only the small back burners in stock.  Of course the back burners are much cooler and less used, so why didn’t they keep the burners people would actually need?  Then I came across a site that helpfully added “model out of production”.  Ah! that explains it, I was chasing remnant spares already exhausted, so I had only two chances and one of those was ‘Buckley’s’.  I wasn’t impressed with the exorbitant prices asked for these scraps of metal anyway. 

new stove burners

So out to the workshop and my teetering mountains of junk to find a thick metal tube outside diameter 59mm to fit the stove aperture, that abruptly increased to about 70mm for the burner.  I turned over half a ton of assorted junk before finding a 2 inch BSP nipple.  For those of you not initiated into the arcane language of plumbers, a nipple is a pipe joiner with 2 male threads.  Writing this, I contemplate why plumbing has such gender specific jargon, and just how does two male threads make a nipple?  Or how I can, and have, gone into a hardware store asking for a ‘ball cock’.  “How big?”  Oh, 3/4 inch will be enough for me.  I think I would get an entirely different product in an adult shop.  So I chopped up the nipple with a hacksaw, and cut slots with a thin cut-off blade in an angle grinder, and Bob’s your uncle, I had 2 new burners.  Bodging, and world affairs generally, would be much enhanced if everyone had an uncle called Bob.  In the picture upper left is the nipple alongside the discarded bits (I had several nipples). Middle, the new burners, and bottom the crumbling remains  of the 20 year old burners.  It took me no money and less time than I spent searching the web to produce the required items.  Two obtained from 1 nipple.  They burn with neat blue efficient flames.  I will also have a little glow of satisfaction each time I light them up.  Which I will do right now to cook some fish and vegies , perhaps with a cheese/curry sauce.  See you later.

Possum Valley Heat Wave

Today is the hottest at Possum Valley in the 42 years I have been here.  The temps in the last three days have been:- 32C the second hottest day ever, 33C equalling the hottest recorded over a decade ago, and today 34C for a new record.  … [Continue reading]

Memories, memories

It is often said that memories fade with age, but I have very vivid memories of some places and the places have faded within my lifetime rather than my memory.  I find that very sad.  I am forcefully  reminded of this by recent news … [Continue reading]

A Ramble

Nothing of great significance has been happening at Possum Valley, so if you are looking for drama, change channel.  Certainly nothing much in the way of rain.  Hot and dry for the last 4 months and I've just looked at BOM forecasts and … [Continue reading]

Spring Has Sprung

..........the flowers is riz, I wonder where the birdies iz? They say the birds are on the wing, But that's absurd, the wing is on the bird. This piece of doggerel from my father was my first introduction to poetry.  Then came … [Continue reading]

Ram Works

When I first came to Possum Valley 40 years ago, there was no road in and no even a walking track.  I hacked a way through the rainforest, set up tiny tent and a few sheets of tin on wobbly poles for a kitchen and started building a house, now … [Continue reading]

Little Angels

Last week I had the pleasure of a visit from my youngest daughter Josie and her two grandkids from Darwin.  They are Huon 5 and Evie 3.  What a pleasure to see them again.  I regularly babysit my other grandkids, Henry 4 and Philip 2, … [Continue reading]