Three Weeks in the Perup forest

 

Manjimup, Western Australia

 

 

Perup Forest is home to sizeable populations of most of the 27 species of native mammals found in the southern forests of Western Australia. The Perup Forest Ecology Centre and Wilderness Lodge, 50 km east of Manjimup, is designed to give visitors a deeper knowledge and understanding of nature conservation and forest management, offering a spectacular wilderness experience. The centre is located within 52,000 ha of jarrah forest and wandoo woodland and offers visitors a great chance to see six rare Australian mammals in the wild - the numbat, chuditch, woylie, tammar wallaby, ringtail possum and southern brown bandicoot.

 

The webpage below shows the current Perup Ecology Centre and Wilderness Lodge, which used to be a Research station of the Forests Department.

 

http://www.naturebase.net/component/option,com_hotproperty/task,view/id,87/Itemid,755/

 

Some other interesting web links are listed below:

 

Animals of the South-west Forest

 

http://www.australiassouthwest.com/en/Natural+Wonders/Animals/default.htm

 

Woylies (Bettongia penicillata) in trouble as numbers fall again

 

http://www.thewest.com.au/default.aspx?MenuID=77&ContentID=9448

 

http://www.awc.org.au/wildlifeprofiles.asp?WID=612

 

Map showing the location of Manjimup

 

http://www.discoverwest.com.au/western_australia/manjimup.html

 

Trapping animals for research

 

http://www.araratcc.vic.edu.au/labsalive/Abel/page2.htm

 

http://www.animalethics.org.au/reader/wildlife-research/arrp-pitfall-traps.htm

 

In the early 1980s a student friend and I spent about three weeks at the Perup research station, surveying the flora and fauna of three local areas, being dry swamp and forested areas.  We set up box traps and Elliott (spring operated tin traps) and inventoried the animal species caught, and we plotted vegetation profiles.  At the conclusion of our research, I wrote up a report for the unit “Biology Project 301” which I was studying at the Western Australian Institute of Technology.

 

The following factual and humorous account of our experience at the Perup is transcribed directly (un-censored) from a journal in which I kept detailed notes during our research.

 

Journal entries

 

Thursday 6th January

Saturday 8th January

Monday 10th January

Tuesday 11th January

Friday 14th January

Saturday 15th January

Sunday 16th January

 

Monday 17th January

Tuesday 18th January

Wednesday 19th January

 

Sunday 23rd January

 

 

 

Thursday 6th January

7.25pm

 

Well, here we are at the Perup research station.  We arrived yesterday. I can’t seem to keep my nails clean for longer than about 30 minutes.  Right now, Jenny and I are sitting face to face with our backs to the posts on the front verandah of the house.  Both of us have pretty dirty feet – mine are just black all over.

 

I suppose today hasn’t been too bad, meaning that this is the first time I have actually had the time or energy to write, and it is quite pleasant sitting out here until dark.

 

Karan left about 10am taking the CB radio with her.  Right from the beginning of the day things haven’t been going our way.   We all got up about 6am (I set the alarm clock for 5.30am but Jenny and I gave it another half hour), and after having coffee or tea on the verandah, we went to check the traps.  Karan and Chris from the Forests Department had already set up the box traps and Elliott traps.

 

We found four frogs in the pit-fall trap by the swamp – a real cute tiny one, but there was nothing in any of the Elliott or box traps.  Then we checked the pit-falls in the jarrah forest – and guess what.  I blew my nose and it started to bleed of course – I don’t know what has given me this sniffles, but it’s rather inconvenient not being able to blow one’s nose!  Anyhow, Karan asked if I wanted to go back, but I said determinedly, “No” and straggled after the other two, with a tissue up to my nose.

 

When we got back my nose was even worse.  Actually it bled for over an hour – stopped at 8.27am.  Boy was I getting mad.  Stupid nose.  Altogether I used five of Jenny’s hankies and lots of her tissues!  Jenny and Karan had breakfast and waited patiently for me to recover.  Just before our 9 o’clock call in to town (on the radio) Karan went out to tie tape to trees to mark the way to the traps.

 

Well, we were outlined on vegetation, how to remove animals from cages, etc. and were asked (at coffee time) if we would like to analyse fox “scats” for mammalian hairs in the laboratory to determine what they ate.  Karan said she could bring the equipment over so we can it analyse it here.

 

About 10am Jenny and I loaded up the necessary equipment and struggled off to the swamp (I had the axe and bucket full of fences, traps and stakes) and Jenny had the spade and the hole-digger – a contraption that was really heavy so we took turns carrying it.

 

We decided upon a convenient place (too far away actually) in the jarrah forest where Jenny plied the spade to scrape a path clear of litter and top-soil.  I didn’t get far with the spade.  Jenny cleared most of the about 9 metres (it was supposed to be 12 metres and looked really short when we had finished).

 

Then we set about what Jenny calls the “hard physical labour” part – that is, digging the three holes for our drift-line or dry pit-fall trapline.  It was really difficult because the earth was all soft and crumbly and there were roots and rocks in the way, so the hole-digger didn’t lift up the earth.  Anyhow, poor Jenny had to do most of the work.  All I was able to do was to fill in the hole around the cylinders to go in the holes and feebly dig around with the trowel.   I was too weak for it – but Jenny set to with the hole-digger to break up rocks and remove soil.  Anyhow when Jenny was about half to three quarters the way through the first hole, she remembered we hadn’t bought the plastic bags to put the cylinders (traps) in before we stuck the cylinders in the ground (to keep the animals from burrowing out as the cylinders had no bottoms).

 

[ I just stopped writing then to get us both some orange cordial – which was too strong, at about half cordial.  It’s about 8pm now and the light is fast going out.  Jenny is still reading – an old book “The Saint in Miami” which was first published in 1941. ]

 

Back to the story – I decided to go back to the house to get the bags, and missed the track where the truck goes to the swamp, by miles.  Anyhow I went in the wrong direction, wandered around a bit and then I espied the swamp.  Somehow, I thought I was headed toward the road and the swamp shouldn’t be there – I got all confused.  So I managed to get lost.  Once I yelled out “Jenny” into the trees, but it was in vain.  I kept coming across dead (burnt) trees and low, light greenish bushes I hadn’t seen before.  I just keep on walking – I knew I would get somewhere eventually and I got really cross with myself for losing my way.  And then there it was – a blue piece of tape fluttering on a branch of a tree at the edge of the swamp so I honed in on it.

 

Eventually Jenny and I both went to the house, me following Jenny.  This time we walked past the line of traps to the dam and hence to the road.  Jenny found the bags, we had a drink and I made vegemite sandwiches to take for a lunch.  I filled up my yellow flask with water to take too.

 

[ It was too dark to read or write at the end of me writing “lost” so we and our glasses came indoors, whereupon I opened up the Minties and threw one onto Jenny’s bed, which she didn’t want, so I returned it to the packet.  My Mintie made me splutter a bit so I had a glass and a half of water from the tap to wash the pieces down. ]

 

After much hard work (on Jenny’s part) all three holes were dug to the right depths, and we stopped for a drink and lunch.  Then we put up the drift fence (to guide small animals along the fence and thus into a pit trap) and hammered in the stakes (with the axe) and had to join in a second fence just about two and a half feet away from the first trap.

 

At last we went home, me holding onto the hole-digger (which I found more comfortable to hold than the bucket which, being pretty big, bumped annoyingly against my right leg) and the spade.  We both had our hats on, having fetched them with the plastic bags, but the flies around my face drove me crazy because I didn’t have a free hand to get rid of them.  The walk was long with me shaking my head from side to side and stopping every few minutes to place the hole-digger on the ground and shoo away the blasted files.

 

When we got home, off came our shoes and socks and we both changed from jeans (my one dollar ones) into shorts.  Actually it was probably a bit cooler than the forecast 37 degrees for Manjimup today – it was a bit cloudy and this morning I woke up about 4.30am and found to my disbelief that it was raining!  Jenny checked the weather box outside – we got 6 millimeters of rain!

 

We sort of had a sleep – had a lie down anyway, but then by about 4pm we were feeling a bit bored.  Jenny suggested beforehand that we could do two hours of searching at 5 or 5.30pm today, but really we just couldn’t be bothered searching for that long!  Jenny had aching arms and blisters on her fingers from the hole-digger.  Anyhow, instead, at about 5pm we went off, climbing over the broken down part of the fence outside the front (ducking your head as you swung a leg over), and checked the pitfalls in case any little frogs had fallen in and might be dehydrated by tomorrow morning.  There were none but on the way back I espied a nice looking kangaroo hopping out from the swamp and hopping gracefully as a ballet dancer into the jarrah trees.

 

Karan had put three or four frogs into a bucket with a few rocks and a few inches of water to be identified tomorrow.  They are real cute.

 

It was about twenty to six when we got back and we were all ready to cook a nice Vesta dinner for two, Nasi Goreng, which would have been our first proper dinner since Sunday, when I thought that the wind had blown out the gas flames (just as were boiling the water for the rice and Nasi Goreng packets), but there was no gas at all!   Jenny tried to run on one of the gas cylinders outside as we thought the one already on must have run out, but the tap wouldn’t budge!

 

We were really cross – what a disappointment – no cooked dinner now that we were ready for it, and that would mean no toast or coffee in the morning, or until the gas was turned on.  So we ended up having an unsatisfactory dinner of spiced ham (the boys before us had left it in the fridge) and cheese on bread with a glass of cold milo.  Jenny had a piece of fruit cake at lunch-time, the first piece.  I don’t know how to get the rest of it and the pineapple cake eaten before it goes really stale – there are no containers for them.

 

We felt a bit “un-right” about not having done much work at all today, but we will make up for it yet!!

 

There are ants and bugs everywhere – ants all over the table and in the glass which had the last of the orange juice in it.

 

It is now a quarter to nine – nearly bed-time so I’m going to have a shower and perhaps read in bed (for the first time).  Jenny has already washed and is reading in bed.  The little bugs are driving me bananas (not really).  They are all (most I mean) flying around the naked light bulb almost right above my head – and I can feel them in my hair and running up my legs and shorts!  They were all over my pillow and sheet too a moment ago before I shook them off.  I wish they’d get lost!

 

  

Saturday 8th January

11.56am

 

Well, I feel much better today, mostly because it is cooler – 27 degrees was the forecast and it was pretty cool yesterday as well, especially about sunset when we saw a lovely little Joey bounding across the land past the house (and over the road).  I was reading a book by Joy Packer.  Jenny had a jumper on, but I didn’t.  Anyhow I was freezing cold when I finished my shower (not that the water wasn’t hot – it was just me).  When Jenny went to have a shower, only a trickle of water came out, so she did some water pumping today.

 

So we both went to sleep before 9pm.  It took me awhile to settle down but actually I think it was the best sleep I have had down here (since Sunday really).  I had my continental quilt and sometime in the morning even thought about getting my blanket, and Jenny was in her sleeping bag with a purple track-suit on for pajamas.  Usually I just sleep in one sheet that is folder lengthwise in half to make a cover.

 

Once again, the alarm going off was to no avail as I immediately turned it off (which is not the idea!) and we finally went out about 6.30am (a bit late really).  I had a few sips from my coffee but the milk had gone off.  That’s a problem with our milk – we have 2 or 3 one litre cartons at a time, which are supposed to be used in about 4 days from the date of purchase.  Also right now we have two loaves of bread (one loaf plus two cartons of milk were brought in by Karan on Friday) which are used mostly for toast as it goes stale (there is no room for bread in the freezer), and along with the bread are a few ants running around the inside of the packet (where-ever one puts the bread, the ants make holes in the plastic and get in).

 

Well, we found a furry little creature in a box trap not far from where the trap line starts at the dam, and at once we both thought it was a bush rat.  Anyhow, he (or she) was really scared and was bashing himself on the sides of the cage to get out (as Karan said would happen), so we slipped a large canvas bag over the mouth of the cage and popped him in the bag.  We decided to wait until we had checked the other traps before taking him home as he would weigh more than 100 grams (we only had a little spring balance with us with a capacity of 100 grams).  I looked at the pit-fall traps in the swamp (nothing at all) while Jenny checked the two in the Jarrah forest on the opposite side of the road, and we met back at the house.

 

Jenny had found a little skink which we identified as a New Holland Skink (form a book on reptiles of the southern forest).  She thought that it was almost dead, but after putting it in the grass by the tank, with some water, it revived and Jenny took a photo of the little fellow.

 

About that “rat”.  We had him or her (in the bag) and the scales out on the verandah.  Jenny grabbed it by the tail – it looked as though it was just about done (dead).  When we had peered in the bag, it was very still and Jenny even stroked its back (to see if it had a ruff to be grabbed but it didn’t), before she got its tail.  Its tail got skinned and before we could stop it, the creature freed himself or herself and hopped away at a fast pace, under the fence and over the road!  It was then that we realised that it wasn’t a bush rat at all, but rather, it was a short-nosed bandicoot!

 

Over the 9am call to Alpha November or Headquarters, I asked if a message could be sent to Karan saying that we could only find 29 Elliott traps instead of thirty.  Both of us had forgot to tell Karan when we saw her yesterday morning.

 

Before 10 we went out to the Jarrah forest to start on another vegetation profile.  Soon our jumpers came off (it was cold at 6.30am) and we decided to go home for a while after marking the vegetation profile strip 5 metres apart with red tape (close to the pit-falls in the bush).

 

So that brings me to now (12.25).  As for in between Thursday and Saturday, well, when I was going to bed on Thursday I got a nose-bleed and consequently stayed up till nearly 11.30pm before it stopped, and then I had to wash my nightie and change.  I was getting really worked up.  I hate getting nose-bleeds when I’m actually doing something – I mean working out here in the Perup.  I want to get rid off this stupid cold or whatever it is before it gets hot again (at least by Thursday).

 

On Friday we found some frogs in the pit-falls by the swamp and one in the bush, but nothing else.  In the morning we started on our first vegetation profile across the gradient from the swamp to the road (nearest to the dam).  We marked out a 5 metre strip, plotted the trees, i.e. the jarrah, marri and mellaleucas, measured distances to get their location, and measured the circumferences of the canopy cover to estimate the trees’ diameters.  We had started about 10-ish, as Karan had come late.

 

After lunch (which Jenny calls dinner, so my dinner to her is tea) we estimated the heights of the trees in our profile, using a 230 centimetre yard-stick as a guide, then we started on the second profile further along, near our pitfall trap.

 

At about 4pm we went back to make the 4 o’clock call and I made it for the first time.  Then I forgot all about leaving it on for only ten minutes (to conserve the battery) and we went out again.  It was after 5pm when Jenny remembered the radio hadn’t been turned off.  I would never have remembered.  So I went back to turn it off, and when I returned to the swamp, Jenny had finished measuring the last three trees.

 

That night we had our Nasi Goreng dinner.  When Karan came that morning, she at once turned on the tap for the second gas cylinder, and made a note about it.  Jenny would have done it if she had one more try at it – even I tried to turn the tap, but it was tight as anything.  The dinner was yummy and a lot (Jenny thought it wasn’t much for two serves when it was frying in the pan, so we had a piece of bread and butter with it).  The instructions said that after simmering the rice and the Nasi Goreng mixture, to drain it well.  Jenny poured out most of the water via the saucepan lid.

 

After my shower, it was bed-time then.   Over the night, a small animal, probably a possum was scuttering across the road.

 

Right now, it’s 12.47 – time for lunch and Jenny has gone out to put the fly-wire back up at a window.  I am sitting on my bed at the moment.

 

 

Monday 10th January

11.36am

 

Right now we are waiting for Karan (her name is spelt Karan and not Karen) to come.  We were late for making the 9 o’clock call to HQ by only five minutes, and then we could only get through once, but nobody answered, so we didn’t really know what to do about that.

 

This morning after breakfast (about 8) I washed my hair and then washed clothes in the kitchen sink and hung them out on the fence out the back.  It is quite cool this morning so I changed from shorts to trousers and have got a jumper on.  It is supposed to reach 27 degrees today, and tomorrow should be hotter.  I hope it doesn’t get too hot.

 

This morning we caught two brown mice, the first got away, but Jenny weighed the second using the 100g spring balance.  He or she was 33 grams, then the mouse jumped out of the bag before it could be grabbed for further measuring.   Jenny found a dehydrated frog in a pit-fall trap in the jarrah forest, but it revived in a bucket with some water.

 

Yesterday we were a bit slack – not really slack.  We got our last vegetation profile done in the morning, then after the 4 o’clock call to HQ we started on sampling the vegetation by the swamp with a one square metre quadrat (two triangular halves which fit together).  We did five quadrats, that’s a half of our quota (unless in the end we get 20 done), taking measurements and recording things like animal diggings.  We both had a turn at throwing quadrats over our shoulder for random sampling.

 

We collected the Elliott traps today and have just closed up the box traps as this is the end of our first five nights of trapping, so today is a sort of holiday for us.

 

Last night we had minestrone soup which we found in the cupboard along with other things we found when we first came here (and concluded that it was left by Darryl and John who had been here just before us), followed by minute steak (which I burnt), with the rest of the sweet and sour vegetables.  We couldn’t have chips, as planned, because there is no potato peeler here.

 

Oh yes, Jenny discovered that the ants had made an all-out attack on the cakes I had brought.  They had got stuck under the icing of the fruit cake and the pineapple cake had gone a bit mouldy, so the whole lot had to be thrown out.  That made me rather glum.  It’s about now that I am ready to eat fruit cake.

 

We have run out of tissues – we used about 300 tissues altogether in one week (me mostly)!   I am using Jenny’s hankies now – thank goodness she brought quite a few with her.

 

We have to book tickets for getting home.  I want to leave on Monday the 25th, that means we will have been away for three weeks.  Our trapping nights (three lots of five) finish on Friday 22nd, so we can write up our report and pack on the weekend, and hand in the report on Monday morning, if someone can take us and our luggage to the train station.  That’s something I have to do – arrange all my luggage so that I can handle it all on the bus!

 

Well, its 12.01 now – lunchtime.  Like I said to Jenny before, I’m hungry.  I don’t know why – we’ve been eating well.

 

 

Tuesday 11th January

3.35pm

 

Well that’s a bit of excitement for us as someone said.   We had a fire today – quite unexpected.  This morning we went to the office, then Karan and Tom drove us two back to the field station.  Tom turned on the generator, instructing us to turn it off at 1pm and showed us how to do it – by flicking a lever upwards.   Then Tom and Karan left, and Jenny and I took all the box traps and Elliotts (thirty Elliotts and ten box traps) to the jarrah forest where we set them up closed, in a sort of line from the road to the swamp.

 

We were just having our coffee (or tea) and bikkies at about 1 o’clock when I noticed in a reflection on the big wall map of the Perup Management Priority Areas opposite us, a great cloud of smoke billowing past the kitchen window.  I made an exclamation and Jenny jumped up saying “The generator”.   It hadn’t blown up or anything, but the fuel from the exhaust must have been pretty hot and caught fire.

 

Anyhow, there was a fire blazing around the back of the generator.   Jenny was going over there, lugging a bucket of water.  “Get the other bucket from the shower” she said to me, so I did.  We couldn’t find a hose, so it was trips to the fire, re-filling buckets from the water tank.  By now the flames had spread further to the back of the paddock and the wind was changing direction.  Before, the smoke was blowing this way towards the house, but now the flames were being fanned in the other direction.

 

“It’s too big” Jenny said, about the fire.  “Shall I get Alpha November?” I queried and did so.  AN replied immediately.  “There’s a fire here because of the generator” I said a bit shakily.  “How big is it”?  AN asked.  “We’re trying to put it out with buckets of water.  There’s nothing else to use” I said, under duress.  “How big is it” AN repeated patiently.  I thought for a moment then replied “It’s a small fire but it is spreading”.   “Where are you?” AN asked.  “At the Perup field station” I replied.  “OK, we’ll get someone out there” AN said, or something like that.

 

Then he was on to Mike someone-or-the-other and told him to head out this way.  “I’ll need a map” Mike-whoever said.  “Don’t we all” AN replied a bit snappishly.  I turned off the radio and ran outside.

 

Jenny had flicked the lever on the generator but it wouldn’t turn off.  Nothing happened.  We were somewhat alarmed that Tom’s instructions hadn’t worked.  By now we were aware of a plane which had homed in upon the fire and was circling the field station.  It stayed in the area until the fire was out.  Once it came over the house, swooping over us quite low, to get a good look at us I suppose, and we could see the plane clearly – there was a red stripe along its side.

 

Jenny turned off the fuel to the generator, but it still operated.  By now, I had stopped to put on my thongs because there were prickles in the paddock.  When the fire started I had gone out with bare feet, until Jenny had yelled at me “put something on your feet”.  I was a bit scared, a fire seemed pretty dangerous to me.  The smoke wasn’t too bad and after awhile I got used to going close to and dousing out a flaming patch.  Jenny had her good sports shoes on and was vigorously stomping on smouldering bits, as well as dousing.  My trousers got pretty wet from slopping a lot of the water on myself, on my way from the tank to the fire.

 

The generator wouldn’t switch off.  By now we were pretty desperate. “I’ll ask Alpha November how to turn off the generator” I told Jenny.  I stopped just before going into the house.  Jenny was getting another bucket of water.  “What shall I say about the fire?” I asked Jenny, then I added “I”ll say it’s alright”.   “No, it isn’t alright” Jenny said when she came back with the empty bucket.  That was when the wind changed direction again and the fire began to spread out even more, and along the fence.

 

I ran to get more water.  At last between the two of us, we put out the major fires which had started up along the fence, and all looked pretty much right – just smouldering black land.  I called Alpha November again.  The plane had gone.  “The fire’s out” I said, “but we can’t turn the generator off”.  “Roger” AN said, “there’ll be some blokes out there in a few minutes.”  I said nothing – “Roger” I should have said.  “Did you copy that Lima Hotel?” AN asked.  “Yes” I said a few times, but it didn’t go through.  By now AN was speaking to Mike someone-or-other again.  I turned the radio off and told Jenny help was on the way.

 

I had just finished a tea and a Granita biscuit, having thrown out the cold remnants of the coffee from lunch, when two fire trucks came rolling up along the road from the direction of the jarrah forest.  They came to a stop alongside the entrance to the field station grounds.  Someone peered out of the window.  “Where’s the fire”? he said brusquely.  “It’s out” Jenny explained.  “Where do you think it is?” I thought to myself.  I mean they obviously expected there to be a blazing furnace for them to put out.

 

Someone spoke to AN.   I heard AN say “But there’s something wrong with the generator too”.  “We can’t turn it off” we said helpfully.  Neither could they.  There were six blokes altogether.  Three went into the shed where the generator was and two turned hoses onto the smouldering ground, while another was on a truck, playing out lengths of hose and keeping the water on.

 

When they had first rolled up, one of them immediately said to Jenny “where’s your husband?”.   “I don’t have one” Jenny replied truthfully.  “We’re WAIT students” I spoke up helpfully, but I don’t know if anyone heard.  Jenny explained the situation with the generator.  “Does it run on electricity or fuel?” the boss said to Jenny.  Jenny shook her head when she heard the word “electricity”.  I mean that’s what the generator’s job is to do – to generate electricity, not to use it up!!  “Diesel” he asked, and Jenny shrugged and said “I suppose so”.

 

Soon a car rolled up and two guys from the Research branch of the Forests department got out.  They were quite cheerful.  “Looks like you’ve got enough help” Mike I think it was, said.

 

They were still poking at the generator, muttering about it being made in the sixteenth century and saying things like “there must be some way to stop the gas from going out”.   I was a bit put off.  Everyone was talking to Jenny, asking about our work down here, like how long were we here for and what had we caught, etc.  They didn’t say anything at all to me – not that I looked very approachable.  I felt rather insignificant – I mean I helped put out the fire too!

 

Anyhow they managed to turn of the generator eventually.  We had left it a bit late to turn off and it was running off the batteries (back feeding) so it looked like now that we would be out of power – so no lights on after 8pm!  AN (it was the girl this time) came on over their radio, and said something like “the girls have got two gas lamps”.  “Do you know how to use them?” one of the guys asked, and was disappointed when Jenny replied ‘Yes’.

 

The hoses were turned off and the two guys from the Forests department decided to leave.  The fire men stayed around for a bit to make sure the fire didn’t start again.  The tall one who had asked Jenny if she had a husband asked me if I was from Uni too, then he asked doubtfully, “How old are you?”.   “Nineteen” I said loudly and he expressed disbelief.

 

However, they seemed to sympathise with the notion that we were out here in the bush by ourselves for three weeks doing hard work for no remuneration (financial of course).  One of them called out to us, “hey did you two guys put out the fire?”  Someone else had said “you’re lucky you put it out”, so I felt happier with that.

 

While they were waiting a bit, one or two of them hinted at having tea and bikkies.  I was ready to get them something, but Jenny didn’t want to bother, and I was too chicken to approach them by myself.  Anyhow the boss said that they had their own stuff.

 

So off they went about 3.30pm.  I was peering out of the kitchen window.  As the second truck went past, the tall guy and some others near the window stuck out their thumbs in a goodbye gesture.  I just grinned and feeling a bit embarrassed turned my back on them.

 

The next day Karan came to the research station with two large portable tanks with hoses attached to them.  The tanks had straps so one could, in theory, fasten them to one’s back like a back-pack.  As I stared at them, I could not help but think that I would rather use buckets of water when the next fire came, because the tank with water in it would probably weigh more than me!

 

 

Friday 14th January

8.27am

 

Not long to go now before we are off home!  Because we’ve got no lights now, we go to sleep straight after dark, so that’s between 8 and 9pm.  I have good nights sleep now – it seems no time at all before it’s 5.30am, time to get up.  We actually started out today at 6.10am (instead of the usual 6.20am by the time we’re out of bed and ready to go).

 

On Tuesday evening, both of us wrote letters by the light of a kerosene lamp – that was until nine-ish.  On Wednesday at bed-time we could see a big cloud of smoke sort of blotting out the sunset out the front.  It was a fair distance away and didn’t seem to be moving fast but was biggish.  There was a fire at Harvey too.  On Thursday no smoke could be seen in that direction so the fire must have been brought under control.

 

On Wednesday morning Tom came over to give us more bait.  He told us that Karan wasn’t coming and that she is going to be somewhere else this weekend, so we won’t see her until next week.  In the morning we hunted for the third swamp and found it a fair way back from the first swamp, closest to the house.  If you kept walking straight from our second vegetation profile, eventually you would hit the swamp.  So back we went to the house and made lunch – Enavites and a peach each, plus the water flask, to take with us.  We set off soon after 11am.  “It won’t take us five hours to do it” Jenny said along the way, referring to the setting up of our second pit-fall trapline in the third swamp.  Well, she was wrong – it did or close to five hours!

 

Having discarded the idea of taking along the wheel barrow (at the moment, full of sticks for the fire in the heater, and with only one wheel) to carry our equipment, we armed ourselves with the various items – this time minus the spade which we couldn’t find around the house anywhere, and minus the axe.  Instead we took along the small iron mallet to suffice as a hammer to drive the stakes in.

 

Somewhere past he first swamp I ran ahead and took a front-on photo of Jenny carrying all the equipment.  Well, I kept on getting slowed down by the bucket.  Jenny reckoned the bucket was heavier than the post hole-digger.  The bucket had two drift fences in it, plus six wooden stakes, the mallet and a screw-driver.  In the end (or rather at the beginning of our trek through the bush) Jenny took the bucket as well as the hole-digger, to balance weights, and carried them most of the way.  I relieved Jenny of the satchel (with lunch, flask and cameras in it), not that doing so made much difference to Jenny, and hurried after Jenny.

 

When we came upon the swamp, we remembered that we had seen a fence running alongside the swamp.  I thought that we were at the edge of the swamp straight ahead of the first swamp, which was some way behind us, but Jenny said that we had gone too far over to the side.  We thought we were at the side of the swamp so we traipsed over to the right.  But I was right.   If you walked straight from our pit-fall trapline a short distance away you would hit the fence, so now we were at the side of the swamp!  The fence ran alongside a road which eventually made a right-hand turn around the back of the first swamp and led to home.  It was about twenty minutes walk by road after I checked the third swamp’s pit-fall trapline this morning (and got home at 7.28am).   Jenny said that it took her twenty five minutes to walk it yesterday.

 

It was clear at the edge of the swamp so we selected a site in the shade and consequently Jenny marked out the positions of the three traplines by measuring five metre spaces between the first and the second, and the second and the third by taking long strides along the line.  The first one was the only proper one, that is, level with the ground.  The second one required three attempts to dig out the holes.  With the first two attempts, Jenny struck rather thick tree roots which refused to budge.  While I dug at the second hole once Jenny had found a place without roots, Jenny started on the third.  Eventually I filled the space around the second trap, building up the soil around it, as about an inch of the cylinders were poking above the top (shouldn’t have been).  I started putting up the drift fences, then we discovered to our mortification that the second fence would be short of our last hole!  The fences were twelve metres long, so that meant another hole had to be dug.

 

We couldn’t finish by 3pm – Jenny allowed an hour to find the way home (we didn’t have any tape with us) so Jenny went off about three to make the 4 o’clock call to HQ.   Meanwhile I alternated using the screw-driver and mallet as a chisel at the third hole, to try to poke away the clay, and even tried the hole-digger (to little effect).   The hole-digger has sharp inward triangular curving bits all around its edge which when rotated vigorously, only strips away the clay like a potato peeler.

 

The bottom of the hole wasn’t wide enough for the cylinder to slip easily into position.  The hole narrowed as it went deeper like a cone.  I attempted to chip away at the edges to widen the hole.  Many times I threw in the cylinder in the hopes that it would fit but to no avail.  Jenny got back about 4.30 (with the water flask re-filled and having taken back the empty bucket).  We had another go at it, then plonked in the cylinder, built dirt around it and finished off the fence.  Then at last, off home!  I took a photo of Jenny and the finished pit-fall trapline.  As I backed towards the swamp to take the photo, I heard a plane, probably the same one as had appeared at the time of the fire.

 

You could see the heat rising off the swamp reeds and shimmering.  It all looked rather like looking through glass.  Well, the both of us got our clothes pretty dirty.  My white top got reasonably clean of dirt, but I’m afraid that my green jeans will remain dirty until I can get them into a washing machine!

 

 

Saturday 15th January

7.53am

 

Well yesterday was a rather horrible day.  In the first place our work wasn’t really organised all that well – we didn’t know how many quadrats to do altogether, and we were told to set up a pit-line along the swamp, which we did.  But all that work was for nothing and soon became undone, because we had put the pit-line in the wrong place according to our organisers.

 

On Thursday morning we completed a vegetation profile - the one from the first swamp to the road and found out that egg-and-bacon bush is Jacksonia and that what we had been plotting as Jacksonia was in fact Banksia (obvious really from the cones and spiky leaves).  Then we did five quadrats in the reeds and went home for lunch.

 

Karan told us in the beginning, to choose four different vegetation types and do ten, possibly twenty quadrats in each type, then when we saw her afterward, she said to do forty quadrats in each type along our first vegetation profile!  So in the afternoon we did ten quadrats each in the young melaleuca (closest to the reeds) and old melaleuca and fifteen in the bush (as you moved towards the road).  I suppose our random throwing of the quadrat was a bit biased as we couldn’t help spotting a clear space and throwing the quadrat in a particular direction!

 

Well, that day’s work was to be wasted as we’ll have to repeat the quadrats now.  On Friday morning, just after the 9 o’clock call, Per came with Tom and an electrician.  We went for a walk-about with Per to show him where we had put all the traps and show him the direction of our vegetation profiles, including the one we had put up by the third swamp, which he immediately said would have to be taken down!  Jenny was keeping stride with Per.  I was well behind, hurrying to catch up and keep sight of them through the bush.

 

So it came down to Per saying he wanted more traps put up in our third area, which was the un-cleared forest around the third swamp, as we already had traps around two swamps.  Then we could lump the data together for the swamps and compare it to the data from the forested area.  All the traps that had been set up in the swamps would equal 60 Elliott traps plus 20 box traps, so Per wants us to set up 80 traps in the forest as well!   That’s two lots of 30 Elliotts interspersed with 10 box traps.

 

We have a problem with the pit-lines.  Altogether there will be five in the two swamps (three in the first swamp and two in the second swamp), which would be running for the whole fifteen nights of our stay, making a total of 75 trap nights.   So Per decided that four pit-lines will have to be set up around the third swamp.  My heart sank as I heard this unexpected news.  I hate doing pitfalls!  For five nights to go this would mean 20 trap nights.  Oh well, it’s the best Jenny and I can do on our own.

 

Jenny wants to get the heavy work done as soon as possible so we can sort of slacken off next week.  Per offered to send someone out on Monday morning to help move the traps out to the third swamp.  A car would be a great help to transport the equipment, but then that would mean five nights of trapping would have to include Friday night.  There is no way that we could then leave Manjimup on Saturday 10.35am, as we had now eagerly planned, so it would be Monday the 24th before we could leave!  We still want to go home on Saturday!

 

So the onus is on us.  Even though it would mean less work, less time and a sleep-in on Monday morning (as we’d close the traps on Sunday morning and no-one would be coming down before 9am on Monday), we decided to reject Per’s offer and to move ALL the traps ourselves by hand on Sunday!!  The we could still leave on Saturday, packing up the traps on Friday after the early morning check.  Well, I am certainly getting a lot of exercise down here – I shouldn’t be puffing and panting when I get back to W.A.I.T. and walk up the hill!

 

That means from Monday onwards we’ll have to get up by 6am for sure as it takes ten to fifteen minutes to walk to the third swamp, then we’ll split up, one of us checking the pit-falls in the first swamp, and the other checking the two in the second swamp.

 

We didn’t get up until about 6.15am today, even though we had gone to bed about 8.40pm yesterday!  We were both so tired.  I was feeling depressed by the time Per and Tom left (the electrician went earlier about lunch-time, having fixed things so we can have five lights on at a time, but at minimum use).  I had some orange cordial and ate two Granitas rather glumly while Jenny got herself some “dinner”.  I really felt too dispirited to eat anything else. 

 

Per showed us how to use two 2 metre sticks which the boys had left, as quadrats.  One stick was marked with white tape at 10 centimetre (one decimetre) intervals up to one metre, then at one and a half metres.  We can use it to measure plants, instead of taking the pole with us (230 cm).  Per and Tom said that we should have been given a little depth gauge to use.  Per outlined and showed us in the bush how to use the make-shift quadrats.  You walk, say 5 or 10 paces and decide before-hand whether to throw the stick to the right or to the left of the heel or toes of your leading foot.  Then you put the other stick at right angles in front of your shoe and imagine the other half of the square.

 

Per was looking for a calculator he had left and said that the boys must have taken it with them, also a book on identifying plants was missing, so we were instructed to record and number three dominant plant species in each quadrat we sampled, and label the plants with consecutive letters of the alphabet.  Then we had to stick a sample of each plant in a little note-book and write in its label and keep it to be identified.

 

Right now Jenny is pumping water.  I’ve only done it once and Jenny also lights the heater.  Between breakfast and the 9 o’clock call (in just 21 minutes now) is the best time of the day for me.  All is peaceful,  I can read or write (while Jenny is pumping) and stay cool in the house.

 

So yesterday after lunch we went off to the third swamp to start pit-falls.  We couldn’t find the spade again, so took the rake-hoe along instead (good at cutting down clumps of weeds etc.).  Jenny did the three holes in about 15 minutes – it was soft sand to our relief.  It was somewhere in the bush not far from the road and on the left of the swamp.  I went back to get the plastic bags which of course we’d forgotten.  When I reached the orange tape I had tied on a bush by the road I couldn’t relocate the next few orange bits and ended up sort of skirting around the pit-fall and coming out nearly upon the swamp.   I yelled out for Jenny a few times then to my relief I espied her some distance behind me.

 

Jenny says I should be able to tell my way by the position of the sun.  I think that I need a compass or a walkie-talkie.  Perhaps it would be better if I scattered a trail of something behind me.  Anyhow I’m pretty useless at directions – perhaps I had better stick to the laboratory.  The thing is I can find my way to the road when I’m anywhere in the bush – all you have to do is walk right, but once I’m in the bush all the trees look the same to me and I wouldn’t have a clue if the pit-fall was straight ahead or wherever.

 

We started on the second pit-line.  About 3.30 Jenny went off to make the 4 o’clock call and I deigned to go to the swamp to collect the equipment from our other pit-fall to be used for the new one.  I hit a fence – this time it was the one at the back of the swamp which would run to the right intersecting the fence along the side of the swamp which we followed to get to the swamp in the first place.  Then I couldn’t find my way back to the pit-fall and panicked a bit.  I made my way to the road and decided to go home.

 

Jenny was really surprised and a bit cross, I think, to see me.  She immediately went back and left me to do the 4 o’clock call.  I was a bit crest-fallen as I thought I could follow Jenny back to the pit-fall.  Anyhow after the call I find my way back alright.  Jenny had cleared a space for the line and was starting on the holes.  “Do you reckon you can find your way to the swamp now?” she asked me at once.

 

She instructed me to walk straight ahead until I hit the fence and then follow it until I reached the yellow tape which indicated the edge of the swamp where our second pit-fall was.  I hit the fence but the wrong one, so I went back to the pit-fall and struck off moodily to the right.   I was right – I came upon the left-hand edge of the swamp.  All that remained was for me to cross the swamp to get to the pit-fall on the other side.  I walked around the swamp and getting cross, I pulled up the pit-line.  The dirt flew up everywhere, all over my watch too.  I had to yank up the stakes with some effort as they were driven in deep.  I kicked a bit of dirt into the holes and set off in a line with the bucket of things, straight across the swamp, making for a double melaleuca with my orange tape on it.

 

The dry reeds in the swamp were about waist-deep.  I trampled over them, not knowing if there were any snakes under-foot.  By now I was pretty mad with the whole thing.  My face was filthy and it was still hot.  I stopped for a few rests.  Once in anger I gave the bucket a resounding kick, hoping that Jenny heard.

 

When I got to the pit-fall I didn’t feel like doing anything else.  Jenny was unperturbed at the sight of me – she had been hard at work with the hole-digger.  We decided to put up the fence, then went home.

 

On the way back, we split up because Per had told us to pile up more dirt on the sides of the drift-fences.  I took the three by the first swamp and armed myself with the trowel.  It looked like a mole had been at work with my madly chucking up clods of earth everywhere.  The two pit-lines in the reeds and at the edge of the swamp were badly constructed – sometimes the fence didn’t touch the bottom, so as Per said when he saw them, a skink could go under the fence easily.  I also had to fix up one of the joins with a piece of blue tape.  By now it was about 5.30pm.  The sun was high and my face was dripping with sweat.  Jenny had dug up dirt in the forest with her hands – she needed a trowel too or a spade really, and she taped her way home the back way.

 

I felt much better – quite good actually after I had a shower at home, put on my short red nightie and had dinner – Jenny’s Paella (Spanish rice dish).

 

Oh no!  I’ve just made the 9 o’clock call so it’s time to go out again (groan).  I asked the guy at HQ to give Per a message from us, and he said “Repeat that please.”.   I did – I told him that we will set up the traps by ourselves tomorrow.  He said “Yes, yes, yes.  Did you say you will pick up the traps tomorrow”.  “No,” I replied and repeated my message.  “Repeat slowly” he said patiently.  I did so and this time he got it.  “Tell them you’ll fix the traps up yourselves tomorrow?” he said.  “Yes” I confirmed happily.   “Roger” he said.  His was a different voice to the other people so I guess he didn’t know my voice and couldn’t work out easily what I was saying!

 

 

Sunday 16th January

7.43pm

 

Now that the weekend is over, Jenny and I can breathe a well-deserved sigh of relief.  I don’t think I have ever done this much work in my life (not that it’s a lot – but I’m slack).   As Jenny was saying we are working flat out for three weeks with only one day off (after the first five nights) and no-one will even come out on the week-end to help us move the traps.  Sunday is their day to relax.  Oh well, I’m not complaining – after all it’s good experience for the two of us.

 

The first lesson I learned was that it would make life much easier if either one of us two could drive.  As it is, whenever we want to get somewhere we have to use the two universal “get-abouts” – the legs!

 

Saturday wasn’t as bad as Friday for me anyhow.  We set off sometime around 10-ish, each of us taking a bucket each (for two pit-lines), plus Jenny had the spade, which we had found again, and I held onto two cylinders.  Well, we soon finished the second pit-line we had set up on Friday close to the road.  Then we trudged off to the other side of the bush where the fence is to put up the other two pit-lines.  I got really cross especially when we were crossing the swamp.

 

I was miles behind Jenny who wouldn’t wait for me to catch up.  I felt uncomfortable because I was carrying the satchel on my back with the water bottles in it (my yellow flask and the bottle of grape juice was in it) together with a bucket and the hole-digger.  On the edge of the swamp we changed equipment.

 

Finally we made our way to the fence and selected a site in the shade to start work.  I fell to with the spade scraping leaf litter away and ripping out weeds with my hands.  It didn’t take long for the three holes to be dug – it was soft sand which had to be dug out with our hands.  I even managed to help with the hole-digger.  We used the rake-hoe to chop up roots stuck in the holes.  After the first one, Jenny announced “we’re going to finish both of them before dinner”.  I agreed.

 

Our second site was a bit further towards the swamp.  We cleared a path and then realised before holes could be dug and the depths gauged, that we would need the other bucket of equipment which had been left behind in the region of our first two pit-lines.  Jenny obviously expected me to go and fetch them while she dug holes, but I demurred disconsolately.   Why should I do all the fetching?  It was enough collecting the things from the swamp on Friday.  “Will you dig holes?” Jenny asked me anxiously before she left to fetch the bucket.

 

By the time she got back with the bucket I had nearly finished the first hole.  (These ones were all sand – with our first pit-line on this side of the swamp we struck gravel but it was large orange stones which were easily removable.)  I had marked the positions of the other two holes with the hole-digger, actually making the line too short as I was anxious about it being over long like our first pit-fall trapline at the edge of the swamp!   We decided to leave off throwing dirt around the fence, to give little animals like skinks a chance to crawl underneath the fence and escape falling into the cylinders, until we officially opened up the traps on Sunday.

 

We had forgotten to take more ice-cream container lids so we filled up the holes with bits of wood so that anything that fell into them could get out again.

 

It was about 3 o’clock when we got home.  That night we had steak and Jenny’s packet of savoury rice for tea.  The steak and some sandwich steak we had already eaten had expiry dates for when they had to be eaten by – which was 10th January, but we ate both lots after the 10th.

 

This morning someone new was on the radio – either a young girl or someone older  with a youngish voice.  When I called in she said “Go ahead Lima Hotel”.  “Everything’s fine here” I said nonchalantly.  “Roger” she replied, drawing out the “r”.

 

Jenny washed some clothes and hung out my white Yatch top and some socks on the “line”.  I found out it was a mistake to throw my top into the bucket with the socks to soak.  Jenny remarked that my top was now a dusty gray.  I was unperturbed.

 

This morning after checking the Elliott and box traps, we closed them up.  There were two mice (we think) in the two Elliotts, which got away when we tried to fish them out with a hand in the trap (instead of using a bag).  Jenny found a middle-sized frog in the pit-fall by the swamp (in the reeds).  She put him in the freezer as Per had instructed us, so he could be identified later.  Poor little frog.

 

We try to arrange things so that we do sort of equal work.  Yesterday after checking the traps we went to the first swamp and decided to split up.  Jenny went off to check the pit-line in the bush.  I would be making my way home, checking the other two in the swamp.   Jenny said something.  “What did you say?” I demanded to know.  “We’ll swap tomorrow” Jenny repeated.  My silence was agreement – it made little difference to me.

 

Once when we had got back home after a day’s work, Jenny had asked me if I wanted to get a shower or start tea.  “A shower” I replied promptly.  Jenny grinned and said “I should have said, right, you peel the potatoes and I’ll get a shower.”

 

When Jenny checked the pit-line on the edge of the swamp on Thursday and I asked her whether the road along the fence met this road running past the house, she answered with an air of long suffering, “Yes and I walked it.”  I regarded this remark mildly – well if it wasn’t her who walked it, it would have been me.  Later on, Jenny said rather peremptorily to me, “right, you’re walking to the back swamp tomorrow” but I said nothing at all to this.

 

I get annoyed in the mornings when I have packed the satchel and am waiting for Jenny to return from the loo or bathroom or somewhere and she says to me, “Right, ready?”.   I am always ready, waiting for her!   This morning, as for any other, I was ready to get up soon after the alarm went off at 5.30am.  I keep my watch close to my pillow also to tell the time when I awake.  Even though we had gone to sleep soon after 8 last night, I didn’t get to sleep until a long time.  Part of the reason was that we have a friendly resident mouse which gets into the cupboard via a hole near the sink.  He was busy at work.  Sometime during the evening, I jumped out of bed and opened a cupboard door slightly so the mouse could get out that way.

 

Today I discovered the mouse had nibbled away the top biscuit in my packet of Granitas (I had wrapped the packet up in Glad Wrap).  At lunch-time I found that the mouse had eaten away some paper at the bottom of the packet.  There were neat little crescents eaten out of the three bottom-most biscuits.  I threw these away on Jenny’s advice and wrapped up the two remaining un-touched biscuits, which I ate later when I came home today.  The mouse had vainly disregarded Jenny’s Ginger Snaps (although he had made a small hole in the packet).

 

Well, getting back to other things, this morning I wondered how long it would take for Jenny to get up.  Eventually I sat up in bed and said crossly “It’s ten past six”.  I’m easily irritated by small things which I consider should go a specific way, when perhaps it really doesn’t matter what way it goes.  Does that make me fussy?

 

Sometimes Jenny asks rather un-necessary questions – like when we were taking two satchels to the swamp.  “Do you want to take the heavy one or the light one?” Jenny asked.  I didn’t reply and Jenny gave me the lighter one.  On the way back from putting up our last pit-fall trap on Saturday we decided to take back the heavy equipment, leaving behind two empty buckets.  I announced that I didn’t like carrying buckets because they bumped against my legs in a way that slowed me down.  So I took the spade.  Jenny said that the bucket and spade were comparably the lightest things to carry, so we took one each, and since the bucket was hard to carry for me, I should take the hole-digger (it was supposed to be comparable to the rake-hoe).  We came out quite far down the road, me struggling after Jenny and getting held up over logs with the hole-digger.  On the road, I announced I would rather take the bucket now, whereupon we swapped bucket for spade.  I was about to give Jenny the hole-digger, which is what I really wanted to get rid off in exchange for the rake-hoe.  “Wasn’t it the bucket you wanted?” Jenny enquired.  I had it already, so with some surprise at this turn of events, I kept hold of the heavy hole-digger.

 

Oh well, that’s enough griping for now.  Talk about not complaining.  Its 8.45pm now – bedtime though Jenny lying on a sheet with shorts on says it’s too hot to sleep.  Today it was forecast to reach 37 degrees and tomorrow to reach 38 degrees.  I was hoping it wouldn’t go over 35 degrees.  From 35 to 40 is just tolerable I suppose.  There wasn’t even much wind today – my arms got burnt.  Now it is a bit windy, but not really cool.  I suppose I can’t tell because the wind is blowing in the other direction.

 

Right now though, I feel like having some nice cold tinned fruit before bed (to sleep on)!

 

 

Monday 17th January

2.40pm

 

Well, last night I had a drink of water instead of the fruit and went to bed.  I went to the bathroom first, turning off the bathroom light behind me, and when I came back I turned off the corridor light and put the bedroom light on again.  Jenny blinked sleepily.  “Hello Sleeping Beauty” I grinned at her.  She made a small sound of protest, “Do-on’t” then added “Oh, what are you trying to do?” grumpily referring to the light being back on again.  “I’m not trying to do anything” I said affably then added “I’m just going to bed.”  After a pause I added a bit grumpily “I have to see what I am doing”.

 

It got up to 40 today.  Jenny and I are so worn out from all the work on the weekend that we came back to the house about 2 o’clock to have a rest until the 4 o’clock call.  We’re just too hot and tired to work this afternoon.  We had some fruit salad at home and Jenny made up some milk for Milo.  The mouse had been at Jenny’s Ginger Snaps.

 

Now for yesterday’s news.  We started moving the traps at 9.35am and finished just before 6pm.  Jenny put eight box traps on the wheel-barrow and tied them down with string.  She put a few Elliott traps in a cage too, to make the box of Elliotts lighter.  I carried two box traps with my left hand and the box of Elliott traps with my right hand.  My thumb not being very strong, got tired quickly as I had it only hooked under one of the cages through a hole.  I found it more comfortable to hold the cages on my hip but when I got a shower that night I discovered, as expected, a nice purple bruise about 2 inches across my left hip.

 

The road was pretty bumpy and we made numerous stops along the way.  We had to take this load of traps the long way, along the fence, to start the line from the fence and around the right side of the third swamp.  At last, sooner than I expected, Jenny espied the red tape around the fence.  We climbed through the fence between the third strand of wire from the top which was barbed, and the second one down, which was not barbed.  Thus, you could see what you might be getting caught on, while not fearing to be “grabbed” from the top.

 

Our trap-line of 30 Elliotts and 10 box traps ran through both of our pit-falls on that side.  While we were there, we kicked dirt up around the drift-line fences.  Then we went home by the same road, with an empty bucket and the empty Elliott container in the wheel barrow, and the mallet in Jenny’s satchel which we had left at one of the pit-lines.

 

By now we have run out of bread and milk, so rely upon cracker bread and Enavites.  Jenny toasts the cracker bread and occasionally burns them, whereupon with an angry exclamation “What a waste” she hurls them at the rubbish bag.  I’ve eaten all of the apples that I brought (six) except one.

 

After lunch Jenny went the back way and me the front way by the road with the wheel-barrow a little way up to the jarrah forest, where our second lot of traps were.  It took awhile to collect all the traps, especially as I couldn’t find one of the Elliott traps.  Jenny found it and we were on our way again about 2 o’clock, this time taking the left-hand road which curved and ran past the house (ten minutes walk without equipment).  This time Jenny had trouble with the traps  as the eight Elliotts didn’t seem to fit as well in the wheel-barrow.

 

Jenny got quite put out as the road was sandy, making it even harder to push the wheel-barrow.  At one time the only wheel (the front one) got bogged and we were nearly at our destination, but Jenny nearly gave up.  Once before that the wheel-barrow toppled right over, as the balance was favoured on the right-hand side!  When we spotted my orange tape around a tree by the side of the road, we decided to go a bit further to the next bit of shade, to get to the uncleared forest.

 

We made it and sat down on the road in the shade for a rest and a drink.  Then we set to putting up the traps.  At 3.30 I went back to the house, changed from shorts (my Stubbies) into blue track-suit trousers and had some orange cordial.  As soon as it was 4.10 off went the radio and off I went, back to the traps with bait and re-filled water bottle (the grape juice one) and red tape.

 

I had baited about half the box traps when I met Jenny making her way back to the road.  She had put the rest of the traps up.  We soon finished baiting and then we had a problem – where was our first pit-line from the fence from where the second one ended up being?  We walked straight in the general direction, me taping trees to mark our way.  We walked about one hundred metres or a bit more before we suddenly came upon the last Elliott traps of our first line (trees not taped with orange as we hadn’t any orange tape when we did those traps).  We made our way to the fence, counting traps as we went, but losing count towards the end, and getting muddled up with other bits of blue tape left behind by others, and the blue tape for our pit-falls.

 

On the way back to the left-hand road, we baited the first trap-line (box traps) and pulled out the bits of wood from the pit traps (I had forgotten to remove wood from one of the pit traps in the second pit-line).  When we got back to the road and the wheel-barrow, it was two minutes to six.  First of all, we had gone and removed the lids from the two pit-lines close to the road.  Jenny had collected her satchel which she had left at a tree along the trail and I followed her in the general direction of the road.   “We’d better not go too far” I said anxiously (too far down the road), “or we’ll miss the wheel-wagon”.  I thought perplexedly for a moment and added thoughtfully “I mean the wagon-wheel or whatever it is”.  Anyhow, we eventually met up with our first lot of Elliotts and the wheel-barrow.

 

I pushed the wheel-barrow home most of the way – Jenny had to bend over to push it.  She took it the last stretch home right to the back door where it should be.  “I’ll never push another wheelbarrow again!” Jenny declared by the swamp today.

 

In the forest Jenny had said she would have tinned fruit for tea and I seconded this.  But while Jenny had her shower (first) and I read a bit, we felt hungrier so Jenny cooked sausages (Dinky-Dis) and fried eggs for tea.

 

This morning we got up soon after the alarm went off at 5.30.  I checked the three pit-lines by the first swamp and was a bit longer than Jenny who checked the two pit-lines in the jarrah forest.  By the time we had checked the two trap-lines and four pit-lines by the third swamp and got home, it was 7.36am.  Jenny found a pigmy possum in one of the pit-traps closest to the fence.  I found a dead skink in a pit-trap by swamp one.  Jenny had found the same type in the reeds by swamp two.  We kept a skink for identification.

 

At the beginning of our stay, Karan had brought over two rather heavy red safety helmets for us to wear, according to the regulations.  We haven’t worn them once!  We found out though what they were for – breaking branches overhead which could fall on one’s head.

 

This morning we did six quadrats in the reeds (Per said to do 20 there) and went home early for lunch.  Karan had been and left a note saying she would be back after lunch to help shift the traps, and also there was a fat letter for me with money in it too from home!   We found the letters after we had gone back to the house, after measuring canopy heights in our vegetation profile, me to put my shoes on (I had unwittingly gone out in thongs) and Jenny to change from knicker-bockers (King Gees cut just above the knees) into jeans.  Then we did the quadrats and couldn’t be bothered doing more after we had done six.

 

At the house I started writing a letter to home when Karan and a lab technician Liz, came.  They didn’t stay long.  I rushed to finish my letter so they could post it.  “What shall we do now?” Liz asked Karan, impatient to get started helping us (as they had to set traps themselves).  “I guess we can go home” Karan answered, “they’ve done it themselves.”

 

“All of it?” Liz exclaimed.

 

We have three lots of 40 quadrats to do, and a whole new vegetation profile (erk !) by the third swamp so we’ll be busy all week.  Karan is picking us up on Wednesday to show us how to trap bats, so that’s two and a half days for working.  I’m getting very “anty”.  As I said to Jenny, while I’m staying here, I’ve grown to hate ants.  They are simply everywhere!  While I’m writing now, I shake an ant or two of my hand or brush one of my arm with a swipe which crushes the ant usually.  Sometimes I liberally spray the table or floor.  I suppose it wouldn’t be as hard on the ants if I squashed them, but being a bit of a coward I find it more convenient just to press an button on the can and let the spray do the work slowly, rather than me actually bringing up my hand (or foot) and laying it down – wham – to squash a few scurrying ants myself!  Such is Life (or should I say such is a person – fickle?).

 

Well, that has brought me up-to-date.  It is half past three now.  Jenny is having a snooze but I reckon it is too hot to sleep.  More water pumping is needed.  More washing was done this morning (washing time is after breakfast and before the 9 o’clock call) – we boiled water in the kettle about 4 or 5 times.  The clothes dry in no time at all.  That reminds me – the heater has to be lit or it’s cold showers for us later.  If ants are in an empty glass, I promptly wash them down the sink.  I’ve finished the second roll of film now – that’s 18 photos that I have taken here!

 

 

Tuesday 18th January

5.42pm

 

I was just thinking cheerfully, all is well, and was even going to write in my journal – I still have to blow my nose a bit, but then it has been okay, when I did blow it (normally not violently) and it started bleeding!  But not for long at all fortunately.  Anyhow, I’m determined that it shan’t bleed when I don’t want it to, at crucial moments like when we’re checking the traps!

 

I think that all this continuous work has been a bit taxing on my strength – perhaps I should have written before in my journal that I have never done so much walking before!  Actually I feel okay.  Sometimes my feet ache a bit, but while I was walking today, my heart just seemed to be a bit un-steady – well not really at all.  I  could feel it beating slowly, not fast as usual, at all.  Actually, a slower heart beat means that you should be fitter!

 

This morning on the way back from the third swamp I developed a stomach ache and blamed it on the mince we had in the rice for tea yesterday (date to be eaten by was 10th January once again).  But I lay down after breakfast (spaghetti and fried egg) and before the 9 o’clock call, and was right as rain after that.  So it’s spaghetti bolognese for tea tonight with the other half of the mince!

 

We’ve used the last of the small tin of Milo Jenny brought.  We waited futilely for Per to arrive.  Instead, at 10am just as we were on our way to do our last vegetation profile, Tom and Karan turned up instead – just to collect a few things.  We gave them the skink and frog.

 

[ Intermission ]

 

 

 

“Quick shower” Jenny remarked in the midst of her making tea.  I hastily combed my hair, anxious to get back to my writing.  My face appears speckled and more rounder if that is possible (cheeks filled out more). 

 

Well back to this afternoon.  Just before Karan and Tom left, we went on our way to the third swamp.  Soon Tom drove up and stopped, whereupon we clambered onto the back of the ute and got dropped off somewhere along the back fence.  Our vegetation profile was pretty short – 16 trees altogether.  We couldn’t be bothered doing any more so we went home for lunch.  All the cracker bread has gone so the Enavite is rationed out to two each a day.

 

We listen to Rainbow Radio which is a collation of Manjimup, Albany and Bridgetown radio stations, and to Jenny’s tapes.

 

Some funny things have happened here.  The first time Jenny was calling in on the CB radio with Karan here in the house, she got muddled and said “Alpha November from Leo Hotel” instead of Lima Hotel, then she said “oops sorry about that”.  When we got here on Wednesday and were cleaning up, Jenny appeared in the “bedroom” (which was really the lounge room where we put our sleeping things on the floor – the dormitories with the bunk beds were too spooky for us especially after we had just watched Friday the 13th).   She held up an oblong metal tin which she had found in the cupboard.  “Is this a cake tin?” she enquired innocently.  She looked at it anxiously and said “It smells mousey.”  Little wonder – it was a mouse trap with a frightened mouse in it!   Jenny had been shaking the poor thing around.  At first we thought it was dead, but it wasn’t so we let it go under a bush outside.  That was our first Elliott trap that we saw.

 

Jenny forgot to bring a nightie with her (I brought three, including my pink winter nightie and a new one), so she wears shorts and top to bed or her purple track-suit, according to the climate at bed-time.

 

The first thing that I realised (before the second which was it would be handy to have a drivers’ licence) was that I had brought excess luggage – the hairdryer and the electric jug are not used as there is no electricity.

 

After lunch we went back to the third swamp to do quadrats and managed to get twenty done – the 20 for that side of the forest.  In the hour or so at home before the 4 o’clock call Jenny made pancakes or rather pikelets – a mixture of flour and water dropped in spoonfuls into hot margarine in the heavy frying pan.  We ate a few and had a glass of hot milo each.  The reason for the pancakes is that when we’re hungry, there’s nothing we can grab and eat.  (I decided not to worry about getting Karan to bring anything tomorrow as it’s nearly home time).  I sure would like some Coke or something though!

 

After the 4 o’clock call we went out and finished the second profile in the jarrah forest.  It took half an hour.  The flies were really bad!  It was supposed to be 28 degrees in Manjimup but the thermo-hygrograph read over 35 degrees here!  It takes 3 minutes to do a quadrat (four square metres now), making observations of seven criteria, plus mapping the three dominant plant species.  We’ve got sixty more to do – that’s three hours of work.

 

Right, it’s tea-time now.  Jenny has done it all.  I hope the mince is okay.

 

 

Wednesday 19th January

3.30pm

 

The other day when I thought we would have to get a cold shower because the heater wasn’t lit, well, the water was okay, sort of coolish to luke-warm (and it was a hot day anyway), then when I turned on the cold water (as I have been doing the last few days to “open up the pores” as they say), it was even hotter than the hot water!   That’s because the water had heated up a lot in the tank outside in the sun all day!  I suppose that as the water is pumped, solids have to be removed along the way, as rainwater and whatever else falls into the tank via a small hole in the top of the tank!

 

Tom (Forest officer) is immediately a likeable person.  He is cheerful and good-natured.  I don’t think he is a ranger like Chris was.  Chris was the one who tried to cajole us into a conversation on the first Wednesday when Karan and Chris had already set up four pit-line traplines.  Jenny and me were both silent as ever.  Chris reckoned that Regina and Kath (honour students), the two girls who did bird banding in Manjimup in December, talked a lot.  “What did you say?” he would ask us, putting a hand to his ear.  I looked surprised while Jenny said truthfully “We didn’t say anything.”   “Thought so” Chris said amiably.  He called me Sal at first (short for Celine or “sailing” without the “g”), and as we were working he asked me with a serious voice “Are you a Luigi?”   “I don’t think so” Jenny negated the question for me, “not a Luigi”.  After we had finished (it was hot that day, somewhere in the 30s, nearly 40 I think) and got home, Chris asked me gently “Are you going to wash your face Sal?”  I did so – there were streaks of dirt haphazardly across my cheeks.

 

As soon as the alarm went off at about 5.20 Jenny immediately got up and tried to turn the alarm off.  “Does this stop?” she asked crossly.  “Yes” came my muffled reply, “if you press the thing in at the top”.  “Come on, get up” Jenny ordered me.  I ignored her and remained curled up in bed for a few more minutes.

 

Again I checked the swamp and was as usual, a bit longer than Jenny.  Yesterday we didn’t leave the house until about 6.20 but still got back round about 7.40am.  Today we got back just before seven.  Jenny was in a hurry for breakfast, which was for me, four pancakes with butter and marmalade and a cup of coffee, and for Jenny, six pancakes (Jenny said that three pancakes were equivalent to one piece of bread).

 

About 7.46 we were on our way in a Toyota 4-wheel drive with Karan and Tom, to accompany them as they checked traps for woylies.  It was about fifteen minutes journey by car to the first trap.  We turned around a sharp bend on the left where there was a sign saying “Delandgraft Road” and across the roads I saw on the way back, a sign-post reading “Manjimup via Perup 29”.  I glanced across to see a sign further to the left which read “Road Closed”, when around the corner we suddenly went down a slope which then suddenly leveled out.  My stomach dropped.

 

There was a woylie in the very first box trap.  They are so cute.  Like quokkas with pointy faces, sort of like a rat’s, and soft brown fur.  The woylie began beating itself frantically at the wire of the cage while Karan tapped the back of the cage with one hand to make him rush into the sack around the opening of the cage.  Then began an operation which was a routine to Tom and Karan.  Tom lay a sack on the road just behind the car.  Both back doors of the ute were flung wide open (I just missed being hit by one) and Tom collected various tools to make measurements.

 

He took out the scales from a red box (all the equipment was in red boxes).  Karan dumped the sack in the pan of the scales – the woylie weighed 2,039 grams.  With the sack on the ground (on the other sack laid out on the ground) Karan grabbed the woylie through the sack, around the neck and at the base of the tail.  Standard measurements to follow for every woylie were dental formula (something like P4, M4 for pre-molars and molars) to tell the age, with Tom forcing open the woylie’s mouth with a tool like long tweezers.  Tibia length was measured with the calipers (usually five point something centimetres from the middle of one bone to the other).  Sex was recorded, you could tell a female from the pouch – a loose fold of skin on the belly.  The first time I saw a female woylie there nestled in her pouch a tiny pink foetus.  The condition of the tail was recorded also – if it was fat that indicated a healthy animal.  Woylies which had been caught before had thin metal strips which were numbered, clipped onto each ear. 

 

After the first few woylies, Jenny got ready to take a close-up photo.  Karan got the woylie out of the sack on the ground, but still covered by the sack.  Then she removed it.  For a moment the woylie (a quiet female) stood there.  Click went the camera, before the woylie bounded off, her front legs tucked under and hopping on her back legs.  In general, the woylies were quiet – they made whooshing noises of fear, and a few whimpered or whistled.  Two woylies, one a female, tagged, and another un-tagged, put up a bit of a struggle to get out off the bag while it was on the ground.

 

The traps ran along the road on the left-hand side – the car stopped every time we saw a blue marker and we all jumped out as if there was an animal there.  There were five woylies in a row, then a poor dead bungara (monitor lizard) which had got  its hips caught as it tried to get out of a gap in the bars.  The next cage was empty.  From 30 traps there were 18 woylies with one re-capture and two possums.  The possums were really lovely – big furry grey animals looking docile and cuddly.  Jenny tried to take a photo of the first one, as Karan let him go on a jarrah tree, but he skimmed up the tree faster than the camera could click.  Jenny got a good photo of the second one.

 

A female woylie early on in the line had a baby with her in the cage – it was fairly large – a juvenile which was taken out, measured separately and tagged.  The baby was emptied onto the sack on the ground with mum.  Karan let them go.  Mum dashed off and the baby hopped off in the opposite direction along the road, past the car.  Then he or she changed his or her mind and headed for the bush and mum.

 

Another female had a foetus with her – it was fully developed and Tom put it into my  hands.   I was uncertain about holding it, but Tom assured me “It won’t bite.”  It was a little pink bundle, all warm with large round eyes and feet that kept flailing out at my hands.  After mum was measured and tagged, the woylie was put on her back and Tom opened up her pouch.  “Put it in” Tom instructed me, nodding to the foetus, “head first”.   I was a bit slow about it, but I pushed the baby’s head into the opening.  Together, with Tom helping me, I finally pushed the whole baby in.  When it disappeared from sight Tom wrapped a wide piece of white tape around the mother’s belly and pouch, and she was released.  That, Tom explained, was to stop the mother kicking the foetus out until she had calmed down.

 

Then we came across another mum with a baby woylie – this time a younger one than the very first baby, but with all his or her fur and everything.  He or she was really cute.  Jenny held onto the baby while I took a photo (see the end of this journal writing).  He or she kept on looking enquiringly into Jenny’s face as if to say “you aren’t my mum.”  Karan took a photo of the baby, then a photo of me standing next to Jenny still holding him, with his (or her) small face peering above Jenny’s hands.

 

The baby had a tick on a front foot which Tom dutifully collected with tweezers, putting it into a little plastic vial with a screw top.  He collected these, Tom explained, to determine whether any ticks of the species occurring in the Eastern states, which caused paralysis in animals, had turned up here in Western Australia.  The reason for this was that the tammar wallabies in W.A. were becoming partially paralysed in a way that pointed to ticks as the cause!  So far Tom had identified one of the bad ticks as being in the same family, but not the same species, as the notorious tick in the East.  This time, Tom drove the car a little way ahead, and Karan left the sack with the mum and baby in the forest by the road, so that the mum and the young baby could settle down before taking off, otherwise mum, in a panic, could leave the baby behind, who wouldn’t know what to do, or rather, where to go.

 

On the way back home, we stopped twice to look for fox scats (droppings) along the road in pairs, walking for a kilometre.  I was with Tom and Jenny was with Karan.  Tom chatted to me along the way.  He said that from 1971 to 1973 (I think) he and Per had surveyed this area, setting up traps, radio-tracking (using 18 transmitters – which was a lot of work), doing quadrats, searching for species, and spot-lighting at night-times.  They would work until about 11pm and get up at 6am, to begin another full day’s work!  Tom reckoned he knew every stone along the way.  Once, he told me about a promising young man, who had started a survey in the area, who had a clear and long memory, but who despite his obvious capabilities, was dull.   He would lose interest in a project soon after he started it, get bored and give up.  He was squeamish too.  Once Tom told him to cut off a bandicoot’s (dead) head and he got his future wife (a lab assistant then) to fetch Tom to do the job, but Tom refused.  Tom says he has had to get livers out of animals before, to analyse in the lab.  It’s not pleasant work, he said, but it has to be done – so there you are!

 

Tom explained that the flat wooden plank (sort of like a miniature raft) floating in the dam and tied on both sides to trees was his float for ducks.  The float is covered with sea-weed and the ducks walk onto it, then they are captured, and money is made (I suppose the ducks are sold but I’m not sure how the money is made).  If they had plenty of money, Tom said, then they could make a little island in the middle of the dam to get more ducks.  I listened attentively to Tom, acknowledging what he was saying with “mmmm” or “yesss”.

 

We got back to the house just before 11am (checking all the traps took two hours).  Just as we turned off Northern Road Tom remarked “Well, we’ve nearly got your home safe and sound.”   “Not yet” Jenny answered.  “There’s a few kangaroos between us and home” Tom agreed seriously, as though imminent danger lay around the corner.  Tom likes to quip about Karan opening gates along the road.  The gates are long logs which fit at one end into a deep notch in a tree stump fastened by a chain and padlock.  In the middle of the chain is a sign saying “No Entry except for Forest Department Permit” and underneath that “Forest Disease Regulations.”  You see quite a few No Entry and Road closed signs along the way, as the area around the field station is actually in quarantine.

 

At the first gate we came to, Tom warned us “watch this,” and as Karan lifted the log up with both arms around the log, he exclaimed with conviction “Muscles!” as if narrating the event.  When we came upon another gate, after all traps had been checked, as Karan came running up to catch up with the car (moving slowly), Tom said to us “Exercise” and as Karan vaulted into the front seat, blowing off dust, he remarked “Got to build this young girl up.”

 

Just before Tom and Karan were leaving, at the house, I asked Karan about some trees which I hadn’t been sure of identifying in our vegetation profile in the back swamp.  Karan decided to have a look if we were going that way, whereupon we rushed off (putting the quadrat sticks on the roof rack) but forgetting the vegetation book.  (Tom found the book and Jenny had found the calculator Per had “lost” in a box at the house.)   We weren’t planning to do quadrats but we showed Karan and Tom the red-gum which was Marri, and asked about Swamp Gum.  After they left, we half-heartedly did the 20 quadrats on the side near the fence, making our way back to the other road, the shorter way home with the last few quadrats left to do.

 

So we had dinner at bout 1pm – Enavites and pancakes (which are all gone now).  After lunch we managed to go and do 20 quadrats in the bush in the jarrah forest by the second swamp – the flies were still bad there.  We intended to do the remaining 20 after the 4 o’clock call, but then again decided to leave it until tomorrow.  It’s about 5 o’clock now.  Before the 4 o’clock call Jenny washed her hair.  We took the radio with us in the car this morning, and Jenny made the 9am call from the car.  On the way home from doing quadrats in the jarrah forest, we saw the tail of a bunny hopping away into the bushes.  Last night, I saw a kangaroo family (at 7.30pm) – mum, dad and junior (I think).  There was a full moon last night (or nearly).

 

 

Sunday 23rd January

5.39pm

 

Well, here I am back at home.  Actually I wouldn’t have minded staying for the four weeks.  I was just really settled into life at the Perup and getting to know Karan better, when we left!  So, the last few days have been pretty slack.

 

On Thursday after the 9 o’clock call we managed to struggle through the last 20 quadrats in the reeds by the second swamp – and were glad when we had finished ALL.  We ran around packing and tidying up the house a bit, then after lunch (I made a batch of pancakes – this time - with flour and milk as the last of the Enavites was eaten at breakfast time).  We had a good discussion about life and ourselves at the table until we decide to draw up a map of the area.  I did it on a large sheet of graph paper while Jenny made tea, which was rice with things in it.  I was still hungry, so we had some pineapple pieces after it.

 

After dinner we attempted to draw a vegetation profile diagram.  I left it to Jenny to work out the scale while I washed the dishes, so we only had to use 2 sheets of graph paper joined together. 

 

On Friday we were up about 5.30, me taking 7 bits of asbestos to cover up the pit traps.  Then after we had checked the traps, we closed them up and covered up the pit-traps by the third swamp with mainly ice-cream carton lids.  How disappointing – we haven’t caught anything at all in the box traps.  Besides that, there have just been a few mice and skinks in the Elliott traps.  So we can’t make much of a comparison between swamp and forest!   Karan and five others are coming out to the field station on Monday so they might be able to use some of the traps we have set up.

 

Well, I swept the floor.  Jenny and I put our dirty clothes in green garbage bags, mine went into Jenny’s ruck-sack, my shoes went into a pocket of Jenny’s ruck-sack (I have just remembered that I left them there at Jenny’s place), and my quilt plus sheet, pillow and blanket went into another bag.  Jenny put her sleeping bag in the garbage bag with her dirty clothes.  We wrote “To Bunbury” on labels and managed to force my brown suit-case closed, stuffed with a few groceries, jug, hairdryer, etc. as well as clothes.  Karan came just after the 4 o’clock call (we had finished the pancakes for breakfast and eaten 10 each).   At Karan’s place, we put all of our luggage in her house, and then immediately we all set off for the Forests Department’s office in Brain Street (yes it was called Brain Street).  Karan asked us if we wanted coffee or tea, then took us to the Silvi-culutre Laboratory (where silvi-culture is the art and science of controlling the establishment, growth, composition, health, and quality of forests, to meet its diverse needs and values)  where Liz was working.   Well, Liz told us about identifying mammalian hairs from scats etc.   It was quite interesting.  She softened up a scat (dropping) that Karan had collected from the field station area and broke it up on a tray with tweezers, but there wasn’t enough hair in it to do anything.  Instead, there were bits of beetles (insects) and grasshoppers, and feathers and strands of vegetation in it.  So, instead Liz showed us some prepared microscopic slides, then the profile of some possum hair.  This was taken from a marked envelope taken from a box of specimens.  The guard hair is best to look at, as it is of medium length, then there is the over-hair and the short, soft under-hair.  Liz pronounces medulla as “me-doola”.

 

Liz showed us how to take a cross-section of a bunch of hair with a steel slide containing six holes.  You thread a loop of hair through a hole then pull through a loop of acetate yarn (wound around about 5 times around the first and the last fingers of the hand).  Then you fan out the acetate loops and place a bunch of hair in the middle of it.  Next you grab the ends of the acetate thread from underneath and pull the loop of yarn through, pulling the hair bundle with it slowly until the end of it is just above the slide.   Then with a razor blade at a 35 degree angle you quickly slice off the hair and yarn flush with the slide at the top and the bottom.  If the hair bundle isn’t thick enough, then the hair in the hole (which is only 0.6mm in diameter) falls through.  We couldn’t work out the shape of the hair – I reckoned it was oblong with a large medulla (central area or pith), Jenny thought it was reniform or kidney shaped, but it wasn’t either.  It was eye shaped!  It was a bit shaped like a lemon.

 

Then Liz got another bit of bit of hair out for us to identify.  I volunteered to do the cross-section.  I had a bit of trouble with it at first – the thread kept slipping out, then I cut it too high up, but at last it was done.  You put a drop of paraffin oil on the hair, then a round cover-slip on.  It was an easy pattern to pick out, being a multi-serial ladder shape.  Then I keyed it out using the guide book and it was, as Jenny guessed when she saw the soft grey fur, from a rabbit.   By this time, it was nearly lunch-time.  We hadn’t brought our notes or anything with us, so Karan took us to her house where we got our purses and went into town.  Karan took our notes with her.  I was wearing my blue shorts and checked shirt.  First of all, we looked at shoes.  Jenny found the pair of sports shoes that she wanted (for $15) but there was only a pink pair left and she wanted red.  Then there was another shoe shop just next door but separated from the first shoe shop by a tiny squashed in Commonwealth Bank store.  I bought two commemorative rulers (expensive too) at the corner newsagent then we went to Coles and I bought two pots of honey, one banksia honey and one redgum (marri) honey, 500g each, for 97 cents.

 

Then we found a chicken take-away store nearby and I bought us a lunch pack each, plus a small choc milk for me and a bottle of mineral water or something for Jenny, who paid me back.  The chicken and chips (a lot of it) cost $1.70.  We ate lunch on the lawn by the train station then hurried of to see Per about 1 o’clock.

 

We showed Per our few notes and the map in the lab at Brain Street, then he, Karan and Liz tried to work out the identity of the plant specimens we had collected.  They had trouble with a few so they got Tony (good at plant identification) to help.  Finally all but 2 or 3 monocots (plants with one seed leaf only) including grasses were given names.  The little frog was identified by the “frog man” but the skink which we thought was a New Holland skink couldn’t be identified.  Per said it had to be sent to the museum to be identified – it could be a female but it didn’t have a coppery coloured head.  We had left a Smith’s skink behind at the house in the freezer!   There was some “cooking” going on too – someone had been mixing up a crumbly batch of peanut butter, oats and bacon or whatever – the bait!

 

Jenny and I had a look at some mounted numbats, a water rat and a woylie in  glass cases, plus there were skeletons, then we left.

 

We took the honey to Karan’s place then went into town and the train station to book our bus tickets.  The man there said it should really be done the next day, but we got them anyhow.  “You’re under sixteen” he said, peering at me over the counter.  “I’m the same age as her” I said sweetly, nodding at Jenny, without actually telling him Jenny’s age.  “Over sixteen then” he said, filling out the ticket details, which cost us $3.80 each.  We had been expecting the tickets to cost more!

 

We wandered around a bit more – there wasn’t much to see, only a few streets and a few shops, then we went and bought munchies for the bus and train journeys to home at Coles.  I bought a four pack snack-pack of Violet Crumbles for 97 cents and a packet of jelly beans for 72 cents.  Jenny got two cheesy snack things like cheezels or twisties and we both got a little Sesame bar which cost 21 cents each.  Then about 5pm we walked back to Karan’s house.

 

We read a bit in Karan’s lounge room, me getting a bit hungry.  About 7pm Karan told us we might as well eat – she was expecting a friend from Esperance about five to six o’clock that day, but the friend hadn’t come.  Tea was a sort of casserole dish (with beans) with steamed corn and pumpkin (which burnt Jenny’s mouth).  Then we all had tea in the lounge room and we two chatted to Karan until about 9pm.  It turned out that Karan’s friend’s car and broken down so the friend would be arriving on Saturday instead.

 

I woke up about 8.30am, and Jenny a bit later.  All of a sudden we were rushing off, getting the car loaded and when we were in the car I remembered I had left the Violet Crumbles behind in Karan’s fridge.  I couldn’t be bothered running into the house to get them and by then it was a bit late to fetch them anyway.  Oh well.

 

The bus was small – there were a few buses.  I was sitting low down, not by the window, and our luggage was put away in a big compartment at the back of the bus.  We passed through Bridgetown, Greenbushes and Balingup, probably not in that order!   True to schedule we got to Bunbury about 1 o’clock.  We bought our train tickets (little bits of cardboard) which were $4.10 each concession price, and we left our hand luggage while we went off to buy lunch. 

 

When we got back, a man at the station told us we should put labels on our cargo luggage saying “To Perth”.  Well, Jenny went to buy four labels but when she got back, someone had taken off with our cargo luggage, so the labels never got to their destination.

 

At a cafeteria we bought lunch, then we shifted our hand luggage outside to a bench to eat lunch.  Then we just left our stuff there so Jenny could ring home from a phone booth.  We wandered about for a while – a few people were around, mostly waiting to go on the train also.  We looked at a few shoe shops then went and picked our place in the train, with half an hour to wait.  The train left just after 3pm.  I liked it in the train – where I was sitting facing Jenny across the table.  I was going forward and was getting the breeze too.  We ate half of my packet of jelly beans and chatted a bit.  I even read a bit from the Forest Focus magazines.  Toward the end of our journey we fell silent.  About 5.30pm we opened a packet of Jenny’s cheezels.  Jenny read Garfield.  I got a drink of water in a tiny paper cup which held only a mouthful of water.

 

There wasn’t much to see out of the train window, but soon we came to streets and houses – it was Armadale!  We got to Perth about 6.30pm and hopefully looked around for a blondish-head (Jenny’s sister who said she would try to pick us up) but no-one was there to pick us up.  Instead, surprisingly we bumped into John Spice who was off on his way to do something for his Biology Project!  It was him and Darryl who had been at the Perup research station just before us!

 

We struggled of to the taxi stand which was far away.  It was immediate apparent that with all of our luggage, we couldn’t make it to the bus stop.  My suitcase weighed a tonne.  Jenny lugged it over and did two trips.  So we got a taxi to Jenny’s house that cost $6.10.

 

No-one was at Jenny’s house but later on the Lees turned up, but were leaving on Sunday morning (at half past five), so it would be just Jenny and Ken at the house until Saturday when Monica got back.  I rang my sister and Jenny rang her dad.  To Jenny’s astonishment, the phone bill was there and said the cost was over $300, from November last year.  Jenny had got a few letters – including an enrolment advice and a cheque for TEAS (Tertiary Education Admittance Scheme) of the amount of $375.85.

 

I was getting hungry.  Jenny forgot about tea and anyway there wasn’t much in the house.  At about 9 o’clock I made some coffee and ate two crisp-breads with Promite.  After Hawaii 5-0 about 10pm we went to sleep.  I slept in Monica’s bed in Jenny’s bedroom.

 

Jenny got up about 8.30am and me not until 9.30.  Then we went to the deli and Jenny bought bread and milk.  At Jenny’s place I had muesli, then toast and tea for breakfast.  Jenny had three pieces of toast.  I introduced myself to Ken.  About 10.30am we moved out the front to await my sister who came just after 11.  In the end, we all had lunch at Jenny’s place, sandwiches and Milo.  Then we left Jenny to do her washing, at about 2 o’clock

 

We got home to Shoalwater Bay about 3 o’clock.  So at home I am now.  It’s good to be back near the beach and all.  The three weeks were hard work but quite an experience.  I now have my report to collate and type up!  Well, it has all been very well worthwhile!

 

 

~  The End ~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A baby woylie, and Jenny and I at the Perup forest, Manjimup

 

 

 

 

 

Bettongia penicillata - the Woylie (baby) - cute !!