Eaten Alive By Sydney
February 9, 2010 – 2:49 am | 5 Comments

When the prospect of a shift to Sydney is raised, the doomsayers often rise as well. And they’re nasty! The manner of one’s demise is always different, but the result is always the same – …

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Predators vs Sydney Newbie

Submitted by on November 16, 2011 – 1:43 pmNo Comment
Predators vs Sydney Newbie

You have to admire a country where gardening is an extreme sport and essential camping equipment includes a copy of Bindi The Jungle Girl: Survivor Edition.

Before becoming a Sydney newbie I could climb trees, grope around in the bushes or fall asleep on a bed of autumn leaves without fear of being chomped, poisoned or drained of blood.

My carefree habits have proven difficult to shake and I’m told my naivety is going to land me in deep trouble some day soon. In the meantime I’m providing great entertainment for my neighbours.

Like many Sydneysiders, we live right on the edge of significant bush and keeping on top of the encroaching greenery is a constant battle.

I’m currently tackling a bamboo problem in the never-visited bush that is our back yard, a bamboo problem so acute we’d need to borrow Adelaide Zoo’s pandas for a month to  clear it all. Why we haven’t trained possums to eat bamboo instead of our herbs, fruit trees and vege patches is beyond me.

Anyway, I used to grab a machete and go bush in singlet, stubbies and sneakers before a friendly warning from our neighbours.

They implored me to wear gumboots or steel capped hiking boots to protect against the quick retaliatory strike from any predator I accidentally stepped on. They advised me to tuck my jeans or trackies into my socks so I didn’t expose skin to giant red ants and their nasty nips. They recommended long sleeved shirts and gloves to minimise the landing area for bush ticks. And they told me to wear my akubra hat and a bandana, just because they look cool.

Now I kit up and head into the garden looking like Ned Kelly, except with modern day clothing instead of armour. I should just invest in a pair of overalls and a balaclava and be done with it. Or perhaps a teflon-coated suit of chains or an extreme-level biohazard suit that also protects against stinging plants and other poisons, such as fox baits (which I won’t be eating again after the frothing and convulsing incident of early winter).

Which reminds me: where I’m from, round-up in gardening parlance relates to poisoning weeds. In Sydney, round-up is what my neighbours do whenever I go into the garden. Moments after crashing into the undergrowth a horde of locals materialise on the neighbour’s balcony and the lamingtons and popcorn are passed around as they settle in to watch me play gardening roulette.

On the rare occasions I’m not looking out for predators I have sneaked a peak to see money changing hands. I’m sure there’s a sweepstake on when I’ll need hospitalisation and I think Tom Waterhouse is running a book on what creature will ambush me first (“I wasn’t born to garden for Australia but I know all about blood-sucking ticks and I’ll bet on any sort because I was born a Waterhouse”).

Our besties next door tell me there’s red-bellied black snakes in our area. But they say it like it’s a good thing because the red-bellied blacks apparently keep away the more aggressive brown snakes.

I don’t care what colour they are. I’ll be running away from anything without legs. As well as anything with more than two legs (you don’t scare me bush turkeys).

Heading the multi-legged category are Sydney’s infamous Funnel-web spiders which our neighbours swear can perform all sorts of extraordinary feats, like running fast, biting repeatedly and channelling David Copperfield. “Don’t go swimming in your pool at night,” they say, “because the Funnel-webs lurk on the bottom, encased in an air bubble they create.” Perhaps Ian Thorpe should train in our pool. The adrenalin might help him go faster.

When it comes to spiders, the locals have a simple mantra they abide by, which goes something like: “If spiders are in the air, have no fear…if they’re on the ground, don’t hang round.” I have a second verse: “If it bares its mandibles, don’t be a hero…and if you get bitten, dial Triple-Zero.”

Thank goodness for medical insurance. Our healthcare provider MBF, which stood for Might Be Fatal, has just changed its name to BUPA, Battling Untold Predators Australia, to better reflect its business environment.

To keep BUPA in business and creepy crawlies off your back, here are Sydney Newbie’s top tips for staying alive in the garden:

  1. Shake out shoes and gumboots left outside before you put them on (just in case a creepy crawly critter has converted your toe room into a bedroom)
  2. Let a family member or close relative know when you’re going gardening and what time to raise the alarm if you haven’t returned
  3. Always take your mobile phone in order to call for help or act as a beacon for search and rescue crews
  4. Use garden tools that can double as weapons in case of ambush or attack and don’t forget to keep your blades as sharp as your sixth sense for danger
  5. Cover yourself liberally with several layers of clothing – a teflon/titanium blend is preferable – and formidable footwear
  6. Wear a thick, wide brimmed hat like an akubra so you can focus on the threats on the ground and not those lurking in, or falling from, the trees
  7. Don’t frolic in large piles of autumn leaves because they’re a favourite haunt for nasty critters from ants to snakes
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