Hysteria About Wisteria

“Hey Cuz, I can’t wait to see your Listeria bloom!” a cousin sister exclaimed last week. A biomedical scientist, it is no surprise she had bacteria on her mind rather than flowers. Listeria infection, although uncommon, does raise its ugly head every year. One year, it was bean sprouts. Can you imagine no raw bean sprouts with your pho? Disappointing – pho just isn’t the same without that sweet, green taste of sprouts. Last year, it was rock melons that made headlines. We did not return the one we bought from Coles because it was already inside our tummy. Trust your nose, your eyes, and your taste buds. We can smell them, see them, and taste them, surely! My cuz will tell me off for peddling such silly notions. A few years ago, we found a fridge-full of deli meats and the most expensive Brie and Camembert in a local supermarket bin. There were pâtés and smoked salmon too. A quick guesstimate told me there would have been easily $2,000 in that bin. Half my body was inside the bin, reaching for the discarded veggies at the furthest corner of the bin. The thought did cross my mind. $2,000 worth of goodies and I’m picking damaged vegetables? See, they are for the chooks. They won’t succumb to Listeria, right? No risk to them. Unfounded theory, that. I love them but isn’t it careless of me? Callous? Why have I not researched into this? What if they die of Listeria-poisoning? I did have a pet chook when I was a young boy. I singled it out to Yong Jie, our family maid, that it was not destined for our dinner plate. Based on my childhood experience, no birds died because they were fed rotten fruits and vegetables. You could give them overnight rice that had gone off also. They will choose what is edible and leave what’s bad for them. There! That’s my research. But, my childhood experience also taught me that chooks kept for the family were only temporary pets. All birds die because they are destined for the oven or hotpot. The Mrs and I keep four chooks. One of them is a poor layer. “Off with her head!” I would threaten her indirectly – the chook I mean. Said numerous times in jest, I now make this solemn declaration that all my chooks will die a natural death. By natural, I do not mean they are naturally destined for the oven. If you Google the pros and cons of binned food, Google will ask “Did you mean: pros and cons of canned food” No one discusses the benefits and risks of consuming binned food. The abhorrent waste of throwing away food should be a crime. According to Rabobank’s 2019 Food Waste Report, Aussies are the fourth worst culprits of throwing away food, despite only being the 55th largest country by population. We bin about $10 billion of food every year. We clog our landfills with food that was once perfectly edible. The concept of wasting precious earth’s resources and wanton animal sacrifices is not lost on me. Water shortages, political stoushes about the unfair allocation of water from the river systems, and uncontrolled bush fires hog the headlines every year. It is clear food waste is a contributor to the ecological disaster we are experiencing today. COVID-19 recently showed the ugliness of earthlings. We panic too easily. All over the world, urghhlings went on a rampage and emptied their supermarket shelves of toilet paper and food. Toilet paper does not have a shelf-life. But, stock-piling on food? Food has use-by-dates, it is foolish to stock up on perishables. The panic-buying frenzy led to the eventual binning of food. I get it – there is a strong argument to not waste food, but some go even further. They collect binned food for their personal consumption. I have seen people loitering near my local supermarket’s trash bins waiting for the next new batch of food wastes. One of them even drives a Mercedes. I assume she collects them for the needy and desperate, and not for herself – otherwise it is greed and not the disguised claim of saving the climate. Leave them for the poor, why deprive the poor of food we can afford? In any event, it is risky. A power outage or other causes of disruption to the safe storage of perishable food will mean a big harvest for these bin-divers. Unlike my cousin sister, I hope there is no Listeria bloom with the warm weather upon us. The poor and vulnerable do not need another threat to their health. COVID-19 is bad enough.

September 11 2020. A Wisteria bloom.

September 11, 2020. “Hey, cuz! Here is my Wisteria bloom, finally.” Every September 11, the world pauses to remember those 2,977 killed during coordinated attacks by al-Qaeda terrorists using four hijacked planes. Purportedly. There are also the many accounts by very reliable witnesses that the towers were brought down by bombs that were part of a “controlled demolition”. We all remember how the two towers of the World Trade Center collapsed. But, very few remember the collapse of Tower 7 which housed CIA and Secret Service offices. Tower 7 was not hit by any aircraft, yet it too imploded in a free-fall. Neither before nor since 9/11 have fires caused the free-fall of steel-framed high-rises. There is a report titled “15 Years Later: On the Physics of High-Rise Building Collapses” which earned the signatures of 2,936 engineers and architects. One paragraph said “the head structural engineer (of the Twin Towers), John Skilling, explained in an interview with the Seattle Times following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing: “Our analysis indicated the biggest problem would be the fact that all the fuel (from the airplane) would dump into the building. There would be a horrendous fire. A lot of people would be killed,” he said. (But)“The building structure would still be there.” (emphasis is mine). In other words, the fire (and resultant high temperature) alone could not cause the free-fall of the whole building that we all witnessed. Link: http://www.europhysicsnews.org/articles/epn/pdf/2016/04/epn2016-47-4.pdf”

We all watched in disbelief as the towers collapsed like a deck of cards. It is too far-fetched to think that these towers could fall to the ground in a matter of seconds once some of the upper floors gave way unless the rest of the lower floors were blasted by the precise detonation of bombs professionally placed on the structural columns. I am neither an engineer nor architect. But there is a body called the Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911Truth). AE911Truth posits that there is sufficient doubt about the official version of 9/11 and that a new enquiry, to examine the possible use of explosives that destroyed the three buildings, should be called for. Aside from this controversy, we must remember that people continue to be killed from the resultant War on Terror by America. Over 500,000 killed and over 6 million have been displaced from their war-torn countries ever since the US attacked Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Syria. Let us pause a little bit longer on 9/11. Link: https://www.voanews.com/middle-east/us-war-terror-kills-nearly-500000-afghanistan-iraq-pakistan

I have lived in this suburb of mine since 1996. Prior to that, I did hear my brother mention the sighting of brown snakes in his garden. He has lived here for 14 years longer. I suppose he has seen a few of them. The Eastern Brown is the second most venomous snake in the world and they are very common here in South Australia. My brother demolished the quaint white cottage he had and sub-divided the land. I liked the design of the two Federation houses on his plan. Pa encouraged me to buy one of them. I did not need much encouragement for I have always liked the architecture of such homes. The previous owner of the land was an English botanist – which explains the rare plant specimens we have in our garden. I discovered not only are there poisonous snakes here, some of the plants too are poisonous. Our kids were toddlers when we moved in. So, I chopped down a Brugmansia, the Angel’s trumpets. The Mrs and I could not risk the chaps ingesting them should they decide to mimic their mother and cook garden weeds whilst left unattended out there. I used to play “masak-masak” (cooking in Malay) when I was a kid. Start a fire, find a discarded condensed milk can, and chop up some Morning Glory vines to cook. I didn’t have to worry, the chaps did not have such an inclination. So, the Brugmansia died in vain. Little did I know there are more than 1,000 species of plants that are toxic to us. I still have the Oleander in the garden. And of course, the Wisteria. Every part of it is toxic, especially to dogs! I am beginning to think the garden is a dangerous place. Before we put on our gumboots and gardening gloves, we unfailingly examine them for any signs of spider web. The dreaded redback spider loves dark, damp places to hide. They are another highly venomous resident of South Australia. Also known as the black widow, I think it is an unfortunate name that wrongly tarnishes widows. When our new neighbours moved in on the other side of our house, we assured them we do not have snakes here. See, we have blue-tongue lizards out there on the moss rocks, warming themselves in the sun. That was something the old Aussie cobbers used to say. If you see blue-tongue lizards, it means there are no brown snakes. I rationalised (wrongly) that the blue-tongue lizards must be predators of brown snakes. Last Saturday, I was horrified to see a brown snake slither silently towards the Mandarin tree right in front of me. A good 3-feet long, I was told it is a mature snake. Its skinny body showed that it has just awakened from hibernation. It is a myth to think snakes are slimy. This one had beautiful dry scales. I was sure the poisonous snake would be ravenous and wisely kept a safe distance. That to me was some 15 feet away. It took me mere seconds to retrieve my phone from my desk. I wanted to take a photo of it to prove it was an Eastern Brown. But, it was nowhere to be seen when I returned. What do I do now? Was it just a figment of my imagination? Was it just a brown garden worm? Will anyone believe me? I was concerned for my chooks. Eggs and mice would be perfect food for snakes. Eggs can’t run, they are even more ideal for snakes. I suggested to The Mrs we should get some sulphur powder. Not a good idea, she said. She did not want sulphur to be blowing in the wind. “What about an electronic snake repellent?” Little Sis joined in. Luckily I googled before parting with my money. Reviews show they do not work. The pulsing vibration does not fool a snake. They have a much heightened sensory system and can smell a rat a mile away. They are territorial also – they “own” six neighbourhood plots. The female does not stay with her eggs or nurture her young. Lay and say bye-bye. After I cleared away the overgrown vegetation and rotting pallet wood left in a pile from years back, I called in the snake-man instead. When one runs out of ideas of what to do next to scare off a snake, the next obvious task is to catch it. The snake-man goes by the name of Rolly. Rolly belied his name – he isn’t roly-poly at all. He lived in Cambodia for 12 years. He told me he would go to the snake market once a week to buy up all the snakes he could get. “Why? You eat them?” I asked. No, he loves them and sets those destined for the dining table free. I told him we have not sighted any blue-tongue lizards for over a year. That proves to me the old cobbers were right. See a blue-tongue and you won’t see any snakes. Rolly said the opposite is true. Snakes love to eat the lizards. If you see lizards, you will find snakes. Predators flourish when there is food. I was quick to retort that it is the presence of blue-tongues that tell us there aren’t any snakes around. If there are predators, you would not see their food lazing about, sun-baking in the sun. Rolly looked at me and said nothing. Snakes are defensive, not aggressive creatures. They have numerous predators such as lizards, birds and mammals, and fear anything bigger than themselves such as humans. But then, which animal does not fear urghhlings? Snakes are a bit like me, they will always choose flight over fight, and only act aggressively if they feel threatened. They are usually shy, quiet animals and are efficient predators of rodents such as mice and rats. A pet to keep, perhaps. Rolly set a trap near a compost bin by the chicken run. Rats are attracted to the compost bin, but only if you foolishly throw meat scraps with your kitchen wastes. Snakes love to visit compost bins as it is their ever-ready food source. Worse news is that they are often found right under the lid of the bin, as the top section of the bin is the warmest. A horrible image appeared in my mind of The Mrs shrieking with fright whilst a snake was uncoiling its body with a sudden forward thrust. That horrible image was followed by even more horrible images of Rolly rummaging through the dense undergrowth with his bare hands. “Rolly, what do you think you’re doing?!” I cried out. “Looking for your snake, of course”, he answered. Silly man. We look with our eyes. Rolly has had many snake-bites, yet he still loves them. I had to remind him they are not love-bites. Spring is usually the loveliest time of the year to be out in the garden. This Spring, it feels different…..somehow. Overnight, the gully winds returned with a vengeance. The Wisteria bloom normally lasts a good three weeks, but they no longer look their best after the blast they copped. The hysteria about the missing snake has not subsided though. Rolly’s snake trap has not worked. There is simply no trace of the snake. Maybe it was in my imagination after all. Rolly said to call him when I find the snake trapped in the netting. I mumbled under my breath. “No chance, mate. The Mrs will cook soup when she finds it.”

Rolly found a long one, but it’s just the garden hose.

Snake-lover, Rolly, has had many snake-bites. Rolly, they aren’t love-bites.
A snake-trap sprayed with pheromones that smell like rats

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