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Useful And Fantastic: Too Wild Life

"Gardens are wonderful places in which to be one with Nature, and also to be fed up with Nature,'' writes Val Yule.

There is no place for boredom in gardening. Melbourne gardeners can have fruit bats eating their fruit, possums eating their roses and camellias, bugs eating anything that looks green, snails and slugs eating anything that is just starting out in life, and lorikeets landing in a gorgeous cloud of color on a plum tree and flying off with not a plum left on the tree.

Grapes may grow until the first wattle-bird finds the first globule that is not absolutely sour and then his mates flock in to help him destroy any net or other deterrent. Ducks can shovel up a line of beans like vacuum cleaners, cats just love newly turned earth with seeds planted, dogs will bound or bury bones anywhere, and human children can do anything from pulling up carrots to see if they are growing to doing unsuccessful skateboard jumps over the rhubarb.

Life - we’re in it!

But we can let our fellow creatures have a share of what we have. It's a bit like paying rent or making a Balinese offering of fruit and flowers at a shrine in the garden. We can enjoy their liveliness and beauty. Pity when they make off with our fruit and flowers.

There are cheaper ways of dealing with many pests than some of the commercial preparations. You can pour detergent and boiling water down wasps’ nests until the froth goes everywhere. Wipe up scouting ants in the house with kerosene on a rag. They don’t want to come scouting again after a couple of experiences.

However, the rivals to human beings as nasty critters, or perhaps coming up second to us, are the rats and their smaller rodent relations. And I would add the crows which fly down the street with other birds’ babies in their beaks.

For a couple of years our garden was horribly overrun with rats - possibly encouraged by the school next door, and certainly by humans’ habits of littering. We could not grow any vegetables except rhubarb and silver beet because the rats scoffed everything else raw and unripe, including the council rat-poison, which they just loved. They ate the green tomatoes and they ate entire broccoli plants down to the stumps and they scrambled under nets.

Here is a creature of mass destruction and disease-spreading world-wide, and in my garden it is evolving into getting even more destructive. If the defence industry went into seriously getting rid of rats, they would probably double or even triple the productivity of the world and save millions of human lives. But if we cant persuade US Presidents to get on to rats, the only other immediate means of dealing with them is to make sure that nobody litters, and that nobody makes edible composts that can provide vermin with breakfast.

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