I consider myself  very fortunate to live in the beautiful Blue Mountains of New South Wales.  I often post images of spring blossom or  spectacular autumn foliage on Facebook,  but I do face  certain challenges in my  garden. And not everything is beautiful!  The following photo  may be why cold callers tend to hesitate before venturing in. Our property is called The Gums, and this one is as good as a guard dog. I should add that the term ‘wildlife’ in the title of this article is used in the broadest sense, ie; all of nature’s wonders.

Creepy tree trunk

Good grief!


The most  aggressive snake we have  is the highly  venomous  Eastern Brown Snake.  I can’t say that I have ever  seen one in our 16 years here.  More common is the Copperhead. It too is venomous, but quite shy, and far less likely to cause trouble. My partner Rob  assures me that they prefer to stay down by Pope’s Glen Creek eating frogs.  I choose to believe him, though logic tells me they must enjoy little outings sometimes. Without doubt there are snakes sharing our garden but they probably just slither away before I spot them.

Copperhead snake

The copperhead, an inoffensive fellow

A far worse legless beast is….the LEECH. I have a phobia about them, and can barely type the name. I definitely could not post a picture of one. Unlike snakes and spiders they  deliberately creep up on you. UGH!!  I may have had one on me once, but thankfully it fell off and just left blood streaming down my leg.  Recently I ripped  my trousers  off in the middle of the driveway, freaked  out by  a crimson stain. It was a false alarm,  blood had dripped from a badly cut arm (another story completely).


Of course, the worst multi-limbed creature  is the fabled  Sydney funnel-web spider. Folk say they can bite through a concrete block…well a thick glove anyway!  We have lots in our garden. I noticed a web in a wooden  seat the other day, which could be nasty.

This fellow was found in one of our plastic buckets. December 2015

This fellow was found in one of our plastic buckets. December 2015. He’s dead..I think!

The feared funnel-web.

The feared funnel-web.

The underground lair of the Funnel Wed spider.

The underground lair of the Funnel Web spider.

Many Sydney-siders remember the  occasion when a hapless newsreader  described  a  woman’s misadventure with a spider  as;  ‘ Unfortunately she was bitten on the funnel by a  finger-web  spider.’  According to urban myth he was  subsequently demoted,  becoming the voice of   the recorded time message ; ‘ON THE THIRD STROKE IT WILL BE TEN THIRTY ONE…..’

Ironically, a ‘harmless’ huntsman spider bit me on the wrist last year. I forgave him, despite a  painful, golf-ball sized lump, as he was fractious from a spidery illness. He was hiding under the rim of a bucket I was washing out.

Huntsman spider. Huge, but harmless..generally speaking!

Huntsman spider. Huge, but harmless..generally speaking!

I have never been able to find what lurks within this silken tunnel in an old stump  My associate Editor Des has tried to lure it out, but thus far has had no luck.

Mystery spider’s abode.

Come on out Mr Spider.

Eight leggers are bad enough, but our woodheap has a  resident colony of centipedes. I hear they have a nasty bite  too , but  fortunately I  have no personal experience to relate.

Despite all these creepy crawlies, in my mind the worst problem  in my garden is a ghastly fungi that smells like rotten flesh….charming!  It grows in wood-chip mulch.  Rob and I have become expert at finding them; like truffle hunters (well sort of).

My deadly enemy.. Aseroe rubra.

My deadly enemy.. Aseroe rubra.

They are produced from  white ‘egg sacs’. You can see one emerging  in the above pic, just below the top specimen. They tend to hide under shrubs, so finding them is a real art. We  dig them out with their eggs and  fungi threads,  then put them in sealed plastic bags in the wheelie bin. Will we ever eradicate them? I have no idea.


I adore most birds and we are blessed with many. However, the giant, yellow-tailed black cockatoos  cause my heart to beat faster. They have a maniacal screech,  and they  sit in pine trees tearing the rock hard cones apart. They tend to be clumsy and often  drop whole cones; lethal if you happen to be standing underneath. They also tear  the trunks of my little trees apart in search of borer grubs. Good grief!

Their cousins the Sulphur crested cockatoos are far, far worse. They eat everything in sight, then hone their beaks  after lunch by pruning timber decks and window sills.

Oh and I forgot about furry fiends, as in foxes. They gobble up my Wongas and decapitate my dear little possums!! The latter  crime would break Dame Edna’s heart.

Hey, why don’t you come and visit me sometime? I can always do with a helping hand.


LIFE CAN BE SO UNFAIR!  My partner and I own an apartment  on Sydney’s North Shore. Yesterday I discovered that there is a council garden bed full of ‘rotten flesh’ fungi directly opposite our building. Can you believe it?  The bed is right  outside the door of a fashion boutique, and when the owner noticed the stench she organized for the council to spray the fungi.   Mark my works, they won’t get rid of them that easily!

How dare these grow in swanky Mosman!!

How dare these grow in swanky Mosman!!

UPDATE TW0 – We did get rid of our foul fungi.  Simple really, we just stopped putting woodchips on the garden beds. They are now  only used on woodland garden paths.

My cheeky associate Editor Des has written his own story about my mountains garden. Just click HERE


  1. Very interesting work and I pray that it will go far for you. Good Luck, my friend.

    • Pauline

      Thanks Kimberly, I know you are referring to the biographies, not this strange post!!

  2. Lovely post. The worst I get when I’m weeding is prickles or nettles. If you want some safe weeding when you’re over here you’re welcome to try our garden – there’s plenty to do!
    We met a couple of teachers from Las Vegas (no, they do exist, I’m not making it up) who were picking wild plants. One of them asked, “What’s this?” “A nettle,” we said. How we laughed when they’d gone.

    • Pauline

      Glad you enjoyed the piece Mike. I included some nettle recipes in my Thames book. They were our biggest threat on the path, other than angry swans and the odd Bull. Not sure those Americans told you the truth about their profession!

  3. Thank you Pauline, for making me laugh,cry and shudder at the same time. It was a little antidote to my sometime homesickness.

    To your list I would add BULLANTS and those strange maggoty things which collect on bushes sometimes. Now the really hard part: to remember to work out the sum ( what happens if I get this wrong 3 times?) and then press submit.

    • Pauline

      Hi Annabelle
      I’m getting a bit homesick and I haven’t even left yet! I do love being able to amble through the English countryside without fear though….well except for angry swans.

      Thankfully we don’t have much trouble with bull ants..they are probably devoured by everything else! I don’t know what the maggoty things are, and I hope I never do.

  4. HI Pauline,

    I was really tempted to come visit by that mouth-watering photo of the pastry shop you posted, but now I think I will just stay home. You stay safe!

    Smiles, Nancy

    • Pauline

      Well, we do have some good bakeries in the Blue Mountains Nancy, but the pic of the patisserie I posted was in France, where I will be next week. lol

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