Wednesday, 6 March 2013

instructions for SURVIVING THE FOREST

Bush Turkey chick
Living on the edge of our sub tropical forest is interesting and fun if you follow a few simple tips I've gathered - from very personal experience.  

In the forest:  Keep to the cleared tracks and wear solid shoes.  It's helpful to carry a large stick for support over rough patches and to chase away nasties.  Expect it to be very humid in the forest.

Rain: If it starts to rain, as it often does these days, get in close to the trees to stay dry - but once the rain stops get away from the trees because the water you were sheltering from will be running down the leaves and raining onto the ground. If you have bare feet or wear thongs (like I do)  in very wet weather, keep an eye out for leaches - if one latches on to you do not pull it but pour salt over it until it falls off - they inject an anticoagulant so eat green salad leaves to stop the bleeding.  Expect itching for weeks from a leach bite.

Insects:  After rain be prepared for mosquitoes.  Don't put fingers into crevices or even the letter box without checking for spiders. Spiders really do eat insects so leave them alone unless you are in danger.  Stay indoors during dawn and dusk to avoid the midges that come out of the trees - a midge bite will itch for a week. If you see a mud sculptured wasp nest on the house or a tree, do not poke it with a stick.  Bright coloured caterpillars will hang in large bunches from three branches and tree trunks - don't touch them, some have spikes or stingers.  If bees get into the wall of the house call for help to smoke them out. Carefully handle wet cardboard and paper mulch that could be hosting white ants - they bite.  Bull ants sting and only an ice pack will ease the pain.  Ticks drop from trees, float on the wind or crawl onto you from something else. The sooner you get them off the better. We all have our own technique for removing ticks, some say to kill it with insect repellent first and that also reduces the inflammation and itching - which can last for weeks.

Wind:  When the weather has been very dry and then suddenly windy stay away from the tall trees to avoid falling branches and sticks - they come down with great force and spear into the ground so deep it's hard to get them out and heavy branches crash to the ground and shatter.  If an ant nest or a wasp nest falls from a tree, probably from very high up, don't touch it until it's been on the ground for a few days and definitely empty. If an egg falls from a nest and does not break do not pick it up - even if the parents can't get it they could be upset if you touch it. 

Sticks: If collecting wood for the fire it's best to stay on the path, especially if you are wearing thongs, like I do. Before picking up an old looking stick or log check for white ants - they bite.  When clearing the letter box,  also check the track the postman uses on his motorbike and clear away any sticks that will be in his path - if he's annoyed the letters won't get pushed right into the slot.

Reptiles: Do not casually pick up black plastic or sheets of ply or tin lying on the ground - snakes love to lie under these in the sun. If you find creamy white rubbery eggs in the ground, don't pick them up and certainly do not give them to your young niece and nephew to play with - they could be snake eggs.  If you find a snake skin, the snake is gone.  If you startle a goanna don't stand still, run away - it might mistake you for a tree and run up your leg. Geckos are lovely and keep the house free of insects so don't let the dog bite their heads off.

Odd sounds : a loud scratching could a bush turkey covering his egg mound, a small brown bird delousing trees by pecking insects from cracks in the bark, or a goanna (monitor lizard) zapping around a tree trunk so you can't see him. A lion roar or deep bear growl at night could be koalas mating.  All our birds sound odd to overseas visitors - they don't tweet or sing, they squawk and screech and chortle and scream.

 Birds:  Kookaburras and bush turkeys have very strong, hard beaks so hand feeding them is not a good idea and if you leave food out and then forget to do it again they will remind you to the point of bullying. It's best to throw fruit or vegetable scraps into the bush for them to find. Don't chase baby bush turkeys even if they are cute - every other creature wants to eat them and it's amazing so many survive the stress. Kookaburras know how to tease dogs by flying low over the paddock. Do not stand under a tree where a Kookaburra is sitting and definitely do not look up - you can find a Kookaburra nest by the white droppings down the tree trunk and on the ground.

Toads:  Do not go near toads, their skin is coated with poison, they also squirt poison when threatened, aiming for the eyes - this can kill a small dog by causing heart failure. Toads have an odd sense of direction and don't always hop away from you when startled, sometimes they hop towards you - eeek.  If a dog gets a toad it will spit it out because it tastes bad, but if you see white foam forming around the dog's mouth it is the poison at work -  hold the dogs mouth open and use a hose to wash the mouth out so the foam and water wash through the mouth and out the other side, not down the dog's throat - wear gloves if you have cuts on your hands to protect yourself - this usually seems to occur in the middle of a very dark and rainy night. 

Animals:  You cannot cuddle a possum.  If you leave food for possums they like carrots and apple slices, but keep feeding away from the house and not always in the same place.  Wallabies come out to feed and drink at dusk - avoid frightening them if possible because you could cause them to be without water or food for days.  Echidnas curl up into a ball if you disturb them and stay that way for a very long time and miss out on their dinner.

Water:  Water dragons live in the overhanging branches and will dive into the water when you come close - they don't like people but love showing off.  If you go into the dam or the creek be prepared to sink to the knees in the soft mud and to come out sticky - swimming won't be enjoyable and you'll need a shower to get rid of the smell. Don't disturb the reeds, they keep toads out of the dam.  Ducks don't like dogs.  Always put a long stick in any tub or bucket of water that has high sides, so birds drinking or bathing can get out.

When the Eastern Yellow Robin arrives winter is close

An echidna digging for ants under tree roots, at night

... now you can enjoy your bush walk.


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  1. Janine I love your observations of "The Bush" I am going to share this with my family who will love to read it

    1. Thank you, that's a compliment from you Jenny - you being the bush girl and me the city girl who has had a lot to learn in the last 20 years.

  2. I laughed at these comments I can recall some of these lessons learned the hard way.

  3. Thank you for lovely your message Frieda -

    "I love your blog, Janine.. Its beautiful, interesting and very warm and personal.
    Photos excellent too.. go girl! Love it!"

    - and I'll remind you about the next post.

  4. Reminds me of living in North Queensland
    and enjoying all that it had to offer.
    Some days I miss it terribly but mostly I
    am thankful for the amazing experiences
    and memories I have from that season of
    my life.
    Love the blog!!
    Kylie B


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