Hedge Rows and Killer Ants.

I was out picking blackberries this morning in what I consider my hedgerow. I know it is not really a true hedge row.
I know that here in Tasmania mostly in the midlands and north of the state there are some amazing hedges and hedge rows. I recall driving into Perth Tasmania from Hobart and seeing these amazing structures, quite neglected but quite lovely still.

In spring Tasmania reminds many people of UK.

It is so green and rich looking, from mid Autumn to late early summer providing rainfall has been adequate. Combined with Georgian and Victorian style houses and buildings in towns and cities across Tasmania and rural areas.

Records indicate there are 3,000 kilometres of historic hawthorn hedges left.
Landline: Tony King

Along with hawthorn hedgerows, many planted in the first half of the 19th Century and stone walls. In reality the only similarities are the verdant green of the grass from autumn to early summer, the Georgian and Victorian built heritage that still remains and the patchwork of fields enclosed by the hawthorn hedgerows, many of which were planted in the first half of the 19th century.

The first hedgerows were planted and cared for them which then enabled the family that owned the property to plant crops for the early colony of Tasmania.
Sadly for the last 70plus years these hedgerows hae been neglected as barbed wire fencing became more accessible and affordable.
Mr Dumarseq a sith generation farmer said.

“We’re slowly now just starting to trim them again, lay them over in the traditional way and bring them back into traditional working order.”

The family has employed one of Australia’s few traditional hedge layers, James Boxhall to work on the property. James has been slowly beginning to trim and lay them as the convicts would have so once again the hedge rows will be back in working order.

James Boxhall at work in Tasmania

Since the introduction of barbed wire, fencing has taken on a whole new form, harsh on the eye, requires mining and high energy to produce and is lifeless. In stark contrast a healthy living hedge is not only a fence or boundary but a nature reserve full of diversity.

Flowering profusely in the spring, highly fragrant, buzzing with insects and the chatter of birds they attract, visually spectacular with painful thorns for the unwary. A sensory overload! Ever-changing autumn brings fruit, prized by the Green Rosellas, the swamp harriers and goshawks cruise the extremities flushing out prey, small mammals find homes among the roots and branches, all while these carbon sinks provide shelter from the elements for our sheep and cattle.

The satisfaction of preserving these ancient hedges and passing on a dying craft has kept people like Mr Boxhall on the job, cutting, pushing, bending and chainsawing the thorny and at times nasty plants back into the shape of the traditional fences.

“Science has shown your mortality rates in sheltered paddocks are 50% less than in unsheltered paddocks”, James says. https://www.outbackmag.com.au/sticks-and-stones/

We must ensure their survival long into the future.

In the UK their benefits are of such importance the government pays land owners to look after and maintain them in the Countryside Stewardship scheme creating gainful employment for many. Here in Tasmania we too should appreciate the great value healthy hedgerows make to the diversity, ecology and charm of the Tasmanian landscape as well of course as the cultural importance of our British colonisation.

Fortunately in 2003 John and Robyn Hawkins employed master hedgelayer and stonewaller Karl Leibscher from Shropshire in the English midlands to teach a small team these traditional skills and to restore the many kilometres of hedges on their property “Bentley”.

James says he has had the great privilege of being invited to the Patrons Event, a competition held this year on the Queen’s estate “Sandringham” by the Patron of the National Hedgelaying Society HRH The Prince of Wales.
“I travelled to England to compete in the National Hedgelaying Championships, becoming the first person from outside of Europe to do so”.
http://www.omlxi.com/sticks_stones/about.php#james

Along with 35 other competitors from most parts of the UK we were given six hours to lay, stake and bind our 7-yard section of hedge which was judged at the end of the day. Many of England’s masters of the craft were in attendance to advise and mentor which made it an invaluable experience. The chance to meet and talk with Prince Charles about Tasmania and hedges was wonderful, an opportunity I will not forget.

“It’s a big undertaking, it’s a long-term thing, it’s almost a five to 10 year plan that [the] Dumaresqs are looking at and it’s a big financial undertaking as well,” Mr Boxhall said.
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-04/restoring-tasmanias-hawthorn-hedges/9106960


So I accept that my boundary is not a true traditional hedge row, as it is not made from bent trees and woven and trimmed. It does keep my dogs in. I love my hedgerow. It is full of life. It is not for stock and meets my needs.

Looking down the hedgerow.

I do wish I could say this is a fairy entrance into my garden, it is almost as magical. This is a pathway for wallabies and other animals it goes under the apple tree. The blackberries provide a safe escape. Quiet a few years ago I watched a blue tongue lizard eating blackberries just up from this spot. This has been a pathway for all the time I have lived here. I will not fence as I love having the wallabies come in and be part of my garden. So many new people are moving here and fully fencing their properties to keep the wallabies and possums out. I understand if you are having stock or horses, but just to keep the animals that belong here much more then we do out of their pathways and feeding areas not good.

Hedge row blackberries grass and bracken no fencing at all along here. The only small bit of fencing is where the apple tree is and the first bit of grassland as people would come onto our land to pick the apples. No problem with them taking them from the road side.

How lovely the rain has arrived and is falling as I type. It has cooled off.

Hedge rows (neighbours across) is a pine of sorts just a hedge) Mine blackberries bracken and agapanthas.(white flowers) I do not have any fencing along here at all.

Agapanthas I cut and had to go back to pick up because I had forgotten them. The clouds were coming over and as I bent to pick them up I felt two stinging burning bites. Really painful I was in a mass of Jack Jumper ants. I feel they knew it was going to rain. Why they were about the agapantha flowers I am not sure. They were no where about earlier when it was humid so sticky and humid. Below is the photograph I took of two of them and some information about these beasties! (I was also bitten earlier in the week in the veggie garden on my left index finger).

Photograph of Jack Jumper Ants in my garden

The jack jumper – Tasmania’s killer ant: 2012

By Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery

Jack jumpers (Myrmecia pilosula) are small, black and orange ants with extremely keen eyesight and an unusual ability to jump. This tiny creature is considered one of the most dangerous ants in the world – and, indeed, the most dangerous animal in Australia! In Tasmania, the death toll from the jack jumper’s sting is about one person every four years – greater than the toll inflicted by sharks or by the most poisonous of snakes or spiders.

They are named after the ‘jumping-jack firecracker’ because of their tendency to jump aggressively towards potential threats to themselves or their nests, and to follow up with multiple painful, fiery stings.

The ant’s fierce-looking, toothed jaws are ideal for holding insect prey in place while using the stinger at the end of its abdomen to jab its victim.

Jack jumpers are so very dangerous because the venom in their stings is one of the most powerful in the insect world; about three per cent of Tasmanians (some 14,000 people) are at risk of anaphylactic shock if stung.

While jack jumpers are common in the bush, their preference for disturbed, sparsely-vegetated and stony ground allows them to colonise roadsides, pathways and heavily-grazed paddocks.

For the same reasons, they can also be common in recently-established suburbs. Nests are typically found under logs and rocks and can often be spotted from the mounds of gravel that mark the entrance holes.

Not one single ant species, but a complex of seven superficially very similar species, jack jumpers hold a key position in native ecosystems.

Despite their notoriety, their nest-building improves soil structure, while their predatory and competitive behavior with other insects and invertebrates helps to selectively enhance plant growth.

They are also a food source for other animals. The most important predator of jack jumpers is the echidna, which – unfortunately for people – avoids disturbed ground and suburban areas.

Below please excuse my dirty feet, I have been working and walking about in sandles all day. Digging and on dirt paths in bare feet.
You can see my bites fortunately I am not allergic to them.

The first is on the side of my big toe, and it is swollen quite a lot now it feels like I have a huge blister or pad under my foot when I walk and the top and side is hot to touch and red. There is no pain just a burning sensation which is not unusual. This ant really had a tight grasp on me. It was still attached even when I pulled my sandle off.

Below. The one on my toe is not too bad it has not swollen any where near as much as I feared. (I could not bend my finger for 24 hours after it was bitten, and it itches off and on annoyingly so) It is burning still I know if it had swollen I would have found it really annoying as you can see I have webb toes and it would have impacted both of them. The redness you can see is the reaction but that has disapated and basically where the whiteness is and the small red dot (bite) is now red and the rest of my foot now clean is back to normal. Of course I was bitten on different feet. I can laugh now.

Even with this I have had a wonderful day and so have my dogs. We did our usual run this morning. I picked fruit and stacked some of my wood. I pruned some trees and bushes. (bushes mainly for access for my gas bottle delivery man. )
My dogs were wanting another walk so after their meal we went off on the way home one of my neighbours was out with her two dogs, so my guys played with them as we chatted for ages.

We waved as several other neighbours drove up or down the road. As the dogs played in their paddock.

Another neighbour came and joined us, bringing us each a gift of half a marrow, a zucchini/courgette that has grown huge. I am going to stuff mine and bake it, yummo on tuesday when I have gas again.
She also gave us each a jar of her homemade home grown apricot relish yummo!

We chatted for quite a while and her friend came looking for her and stayed for a while and talked with us more.
I had to go as Busby was so hot and tired and Miss Treacle was sleeping under the shade of a tree. So we all said bye. All smiling.

As I write I am listening to the rain and Busby snoring deeply as he has been since 5pm (it is now 8pm) and Miss Treacle making mmmering noises in her sleep. Neither of them raising their head if I get up to do something. Not normal. Sleeping the exhausted.
It is a lovely night, all dry our tummies full and comfy beds to sleep in.
I am not suffering with my ant bites. I have learnt about Tasmanias true hedgerows.

I am so thankful for lovely neighbours, other dogs for my dogs to play with, the rain, the gifts I received to day, the bounty of Mother Earth, I will have more blackberries, and the apples will be ready soon. I am thankful for I am truelove blessed.

Blessings to You all Tazzie

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