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Warning signs.

Our eastern-boundary neighbour just came over to warn us there's caltrop breaking out up on the roadside 'long paddock', next to the north-eastern corner of the block. The rain that followed the red cloud and plenty of heat has stimulated the caltrop seed to sprout and grow to the point of flowering. He claims it's a community pact to be vigilant and dispose of the stuff. It's Tracy he tells this, though I can hear him from inside the house. We know about caltrop. I'd say I've written a dozen poems over my life dealing with double-gees and (later) caltrop. "l-he latter has a military connotation anti-personnel mines/weapons, spiked heads that impair and damage an enemy. Introduced, as were double-gees, from the Cape. They came into the loop when the road was bitumenised, on the wheels of trucks. Last year at the same time I cleared the caltrop away and spent a week unable to type because of pricked fingers. "1"he poem I wrote, which is part of my Jam Tree Gully/Walden manuscript, was predictably called 'Pricked Fingers'. And now I get that 'by the pricking of my thumbs' MacBeth-witches deja vu.

Though we have a great degree of refuge from neighbours, due to the bush on our block and the hilly, rocky terrain, when you're up there pulling caltrop, you are in full prospect. People will slow down and comment or chat, conversations and gossip will begin. As I've stated, I am eremitic and known as keeping to myself around here--I know my neighbours but just enough--but the necessary process of pulling caltrop (we never use spray and have a caveat with the shire saying the roadside at our boundary cannot be sprayed) briefly changes that. It becomes an event. One is on display. And you take that sense of exposure to the quieter, more sheltered places on the block, and it changes how you 'interact' with everything. It makes you more aware that 'conservation' is dependent on the goodwill of neighbours.

In the same way, the neighbours opposite and above, who poisoned the entire summit of the hill to kill wild oats and turned it orange, a beacon of damage, changed the health of the block we protect. Wash-off, spray-drift. The kangaroos that grazed on the still-green oats after the poisoning. Those neighbours are absentee. We rarely ever see them. For them, perhaps it's a rural retreat.

But you do know your neighbours without living in their pockets. It's the little things: George's Mack truck going past on the top road, Len's small plastic Buddhas coming and going from his entry gatepost down the long road to his place at the valleys bottom. Kids at the bus stop relating to wildlife--keen to see eagles, or, as Tracy said this morning, all pleased to see a kangaroo doe feeding in a paddock opposite where they wait.

But then, walking down to the valley floor, through the reserve, and seeing the great flooded gums being used as props for ploughs and other farm machinery, you realise there are neighbours who operate undercover and will be using that remnant 'nature' beyond their own properties in any way they can. q-he gunshots late at night tell the same.

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Title Annotation:Section II
Author:Kinsella, John
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jan 1, 2011
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