Cradle Mountain in the summer is remarkable. In the winter, it’s stunning. I awoke to snow on the car, on the pandani, and on the mountain itself. It was my son’s first trip into World Heritage wilderness. His first taste of snow. His first decent bushwalk, albeit on my back, high in the saddle of his backpack, and rugged up so he looked like the Michelin Man. He’s soon to be one, and while watching me feed pigs and milk a cow are usual activities for him, a bushwalk in icy climes isn’t. Maybe that’s why, ensconced in his snowsuit he felt too comfortable and slept most of the way around Dove Lake.
I came home to find a new wall to the chook pen, a snugly warm house and a cooked dinner thanks to two Italian friends. I also came home to find that two pigs have now learnt how to escape from the electric lined sty and into the main paddock. And I came home to a calm, sunny day. The light at the moment is low and sweet. Warm and golden, especially on the farm. Escaping for a couple of nights gives you fresh eyes.
The trip north is always fascinating. I know my valley and the drive to Hobart well. Too well, it seems, when I have to drive in more than twice a week. But heading north through the state’s centre, the Midlands look dry again. The colour of straw. The colour of sand, of pale toast. The colour and smooth texture of the crust of hot-bake bread. The north, as usual, is lush and green, with dairy cattle standing ankle deep in thick pea-green pasture. I get pasture envy on a regular basis, but having seen the state’s extremes in a two-hour drive, I can’t complain about the rain around Cygnet. It’s been a very dry winter, here, with frosts galore, but still there’s enough moisture in the soil to get a green flush even in grass that’s relatively dormant.
The problem with grass is wallabies. There’s been a recent report that says 800 metres from bush, the loss of winter pasture to wallabies in Tasmania is 68 per cent. Much closer to the bush, and the loss is close to 100 per cent. No wonder the sheep are hanging around closer to the house each day, leaving their sheltered spots on the far hill and nibbling right up close to the fence.
The options are to fence the wallabies out – at the cost of, roughly, a few thousand dollars; shoot them – and if they all don’t die (and I live near a lot of bush) then the remaining wallabies will get stronger and eat just as much; or just give up.
That’s it. Not many options, really.
The pigs are moving steadily towards that side of the hill. Closer to the bush, ready for a shady block come summer. One, in particular, is closer to the bush than the others. A first rate escape artist, with the ability to sense when the electric fence has shorted out. He roots around all over the place, though his last act on a recent trip to freedom was to fill in the only two rabbit holes on the property. I doubt that will keep the bunnies at bay, though maybe the fact the wallabies have eaten all the grass will.