Someone, not mentioning any names but looking upwards at the ceiling of my study where a certain possum resides among the rafters, has stolen all our parsley.
We've never had parsley munched by wildlife before. Wombats ignore it, except when they dig up a parsley root or three. Wallabies munch on fallen loquat leaves rather than eat parsley. For years I grew parsley in a long strip in a paddock to sell to restaurants, where it remained till someone accidentally mowed it. It's been grown as a decorative froth under our roses till I finally got tired of prickles in the hair every time I picked. Our parsley was only in the enclosed vegie garden because it's conveniently outside the kitchen door.
Then someone ate it. All of it, about 40 plants, and in a single night, too.
It wasn't rabbits, because the goshawks eat any rabbit here. It wasn't bower birds, even though bower birds are partial to broccoli and a few other greens. The only suspects could be human (Bryan, sleep walking to the parsley patch) or a possum. Specifically, Possum X.
For the last 10 years Possum X has fought a war with a fellow large male possum over who gets the rights to eating the lemon tree. (The winner was never going to be me. I don't have the stamina to sit in a lemon tree for hours every night growling at the opposition and letting off foul smells.)
Finally, Possum X seems to have won. There are no possum growls in the lemon tree ... and no possum interest in the lemon tree either. As with so many wars, once the lemon tree was no longer disputed territory, both sides lost all interest in it.
Instead Possum X has seen the folly of spending a decade mostly in a lemon tree. In the past six weeks he's eaten all the leaves from the top half of the cumquat. (The wallaby ate the lower half). He's consumed about a quarter of a hectare of Dorothy Perkins rose, every leaf on a calamondin tree and a small avocado tree, none of which he's shown interest in before.
That's the problem with gourmet wildlife. They might eat anything - or they might not. You can go for decades assuming a crop or flower is safe then wake up next morning and it's vanished. Spray repellent on your roses and you may find the apple trees are leafless. Make the apples repellent and they'll be in the pears.
I can defeat Possum X, of course. A member of the species that calls itself 'Homo sapiens' should be able to outwit a possum. The fruit fly netting is going over the vegie patch next week, which as well as foiling fruit fly keeps out possums and also gives a few degrees of protection against frost for planting out early tomatoes.
I will sneakily put up possum barriers in the trees, too, over my most valued trees. Take large-diameter polypipe or old soft drink bottles, make a slit along one side, then fit them over the trunks of your trees. Sometimes you may need two or three to cover the tree's full circumference, with at least another three or four layers on top. Then watch as the possum vainly tries to climb up the tree and yells at you.
Though the possum will have revenge in the end. Once you remove one source of food they start on another. There is only one sure way to secure your garden from possums, and that is to become the equivalent of their cook, butler and bottle washer, and provide enough delicious items to keep them satisfied. Plant a loquat tree - possums love loquat fruit, flowers and young leaves. Our problems with Possum X only began when we thinned out our loquat grove. Put out possum tucker, too.
I don't actually know what is approved human-sourced food for possums, but parsley, apples, sweet potato and pears might possibly be included. I'm told they love tabouli, too, with lots of garlic, but check with a local wildlife expert before designing the menu, never leave more than one meal's worth, and look for the design that leaves a hanging tray for possums but has a small metal hat over it to stop rats snacking there instead.
Possums are territorial. If you trap and move your possums there'll be more waiting to move in. Accept your garden - any garden - is really a possum Airbnb. Forge a truce with your possums and your most treasured plants should be safe for a couple of decades, though if you move perhaps you should leave a list of 'What the Possum Likes' for the next tenants.
Meanwhile, I'll pick my parsley from the other garden bed - till Possum X discovers it.
This week I'm:
- Picking daffodils, big fat yellow 'should only bloom in spring' spring ones, as well as the early jonquils.
- Accepting that in this dry year we aren't going to get a flagrant display of camellias unless it rains, and rains, and rains, so I may as well stop waiting for it. But it's been 'pretty good' which is enough.
- Trying to explain to a garden show that the colour in our garden depends on the weather, and this spring it may be green and rose filled or dappled with red from the last dust storm.
- Still trying to eat all last season's pumpkin and sweet potatoes.
- Forgetting to order seed potatoes, and it's nearly time to plant them.
- Wondering when it is worthwhile watering the dry vegie garden to be rewarded with the first asparagus spears. Maybe in a fortnight...