the frenchman rings the other night a rare enough event and tells me that our mutual neighbour Patrick the new kid on the block is clearing his bush and is there a law against it.?? he figured I would know because and here he blustered a bit unwilling to say out loud about my propensity for activism perhaps.
‘ he has a bob cat the biggest there is and is taking out everything up to 5 inches round. the noise is driving me crazy ,he goes in clears a patch then comes out and goes in another bit. what is he doing? ‘
I don’t know I reply but if you want to talk about noise and neighbours let me tell you about warren and the hippie mover that sounds like a boeing aircraft engine or worse . we think it is a machine that mashes up ???? feed for his cows . called feedlot farming very progressive is warren. sorry John I got carried away there what were you saying ?
‘ he started 2 weeks ago then something broke and he had to get a part from america and then does it again this week it is no good ‘ the Frenchman continues ‘I thought I would finish my life here in peace and quiet but now he do this I don’t like it if he doesn’t stop maybe I sell.’ Like us John has been here 30 years and is as gnarly and twisted as an angophora.
we had been hearing it too and for the first few days for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what the sound was. And then my John not french John said it sounds like one of those mulching machines .
the frenchman wants me to do something . And then Christa rings and talks to John with a similar vent against patrick and what he is doing. “he is opening up the canopy and then it starts drying out and becomes a fire hazard and he is a bully you know. Christa has already had a run in with patrick over the road and the frenchman had a run in over the sale of some timber. So far we have been doing alright keeping out of the way.
I looked up the Vegetation ACT 2003 and found that it is illegal to clear your forest or the under shrubbery either but exactly who takes any notice of that? . while there is a law and while a person could report the misdoings of their neighbour and while the environment and heritage office could investigate and have the power to administer a fine it would all be too late.
of course the libs in NSW are changing the law anyway to make it easier for farmers to clear their bushy bits coming into effect in 2014 not that patrick is a farmer unless he is intending some sort of cash crop.
lets go for a walk I say to John. Camo he asks. Of course .
so after porridge on a sunny warm verandah which is still a work site cluttered with nails and timber hammer trestles ladders and wire all part of further rat proofing techniques we suit up and head out ,. I chose to go with green jeans hat and checkered shirt. John adopted blue bottoms khaki shirt and brown hat. Perhaps camo is more an attitude than a dress code.
we wandered along our track and out the gate cutting thru Christas paddock to the gateway into patricks and the frenchmans. Both of them hold 100 acres here that buts up against our two 40 acre blocks. all of it forest . and behind that forest all the way to the next valley.
we walk the fenceline seeing nothing of any clearing , in places there is no fence as trees have smashed down across human boundaries and lie rotting given enough time back into the earth. We climb over trunks tangle up in vines and cutty grass skirt around thorny bushes slither down gullies and creep along tiny little would be creeks . everywhere bandicoots diggings wombat diggings and burrows scats of wallaby and kangaroo. beneath the tall stringybarks grey box silver topped ash past the Casuarina and wild cherries past the unnamed rainforest opportunists past the lichen and ferns and wild violets.
30 years ago Bill McVeity put up this fence red gum fence posts and 5 strands of barb. today it looks like madness but John tells me it was madness back then too and he should know because he helped Bill do it. We came across one huge tree that Bill cut it down because it was on the fenceline. As I say madness. And yet it still continues.
30 years of living here and I think one starts to think like a forest like a tree and the world of human doings can look even stranger and weirder than ever before.
Bec rings and John tells her we have a refugee problem . yesterday evening before the curtains needed closing but the sun had left the forest John points out the window .four of the red wallabies near Kingston’s swing set nibbling grass dreaming one looking directly at us thru the glass had a pouch full .
It is unusual to see them around the house these days . once they were common place but at some point they traded places with the shy black swamp wallabies who even now claim the verandah as their territory.
I had a theory that the swampies are harder on the garden than the red ones were but hey they are all here now .
it’s all ok i am not going to try to garden anymore bugger it the lavender and sage were the last last last straw. When you look out and see so many wallabies that you run out of fingers to count on it is time to say goodbye to gardening.
probably kidding there because the daffs and jonquils are flowering the air is perfumed with daphne and the swallows have added onto their nest . the yellow robins are with me in a flash when I chop up no. twos for stanley gathering the tidbits that fall out of the logs . wattle birds and honeyeaters are swanning and clamoring around the callistemon outside the bedroom and the male blue wrens have put their luminous blue coats on.
I would like to have an answer for the frenchman but I don’t. Perhaps it is enough that after 30 years he is now able to reach out and ring us .
it is sunday and out there in paddock land the guns are shooting .
perhaps it is not enough anymore to hold the space of generosity and compassion to keep the light burning as a beacon of kindness to those that are persecuted perhaps it is time to say refugees are welcome here.