The House That Nature Took

Christine Hand

© Copyright 2020 by Christine Hand

Photo of rainbow lorikeet.

Here, in this leafy suburb of Queensland is the house that we decided would be our forever home. Surrounded by large trees and shrubs, it provides us with the seclusion we desire together with the nearness to all amenities and the city centre. We share it with the local wildlife, crows, bats as large as unfurled umbrellas, the laughing kookaburras, magpies and rainforest birds nesting on the large trees and the miner birds, blue-faced honeyeaters, rainbow lorikeets, peewits and butcher birds on the smaller shrubs. Brush turkeys and blue-tongued lizards rummage and ransack the garden while the smaller garden lizards do comparatively little damage. By nightfall, the possums emerge, some carrying their babies on their back, nipping lithely from branch to branch and stealing the show for us all. At first, they are wary of our colony of six cats, then they decide that as fellow mammals they are part of the larger family.

Before long, the possums decided that the house looked inviting, they stepped inside, took a look around, would walk through the lounge, then up the stairs to investigate the bedrooms and out through the balcony doors that spanned the length of three bedrooms. The left-over cat food was the main attraction and soon they settled, unknown to us in the space between the roof and the ceiling; it gave them ease of access to the house, as and when needed.

The Surgery:

‘Mum, Dad, come and have a look, quietly though. It’s an injured possum,’ said Matt. In his bedroom was the injured marsupial, feeding on a banana.

‘What are you going to do with it?’ I questioned our son who was a veterinary student.

‘I’ve put some antibiotics in the food so hopefully it will get better with time.’

The balcony soon became the makeshift surgery and it was much needed. We did not realise how much the possums warred amongst themselves, inflicting some horrific wounds. They soon realised where to come for treatment and would hide behind the bookcases for safety until well enough to venture out again. They were fed and treated.

The Baby-Sitting Service:

A rustling noise over a couple of nights disturbed Matt from his studies; he took a good look around his bookcase. There, between the books was the tiniest little baby possum, nervously sheltering itself. Matt was concerned. This little one was too young to be away from its mother. What could we possibly do with it? We fed it and slowly it began to relax. As the night wore on, it tired and soon fell asleep on Matt’s bedroom slipper under his desk.

Around one in the morning, an adult possum appeared and looked with concern at the bookcase. No baby there but it soon found its little offspring. There was visible joy in the baby’s eyes. But there was unfinished business for mother possum. She had spotted the left-over banana and apple that had been given to her baby; delighted at the sight, she immediately set about eating until she was replete. And now it was time to leave. Baby possum jumped on her back and off they went into the darkness of the night. The baby-sitting service was utilised until baby possum was old enough to go its own way. Wouldn’t any mother take advantage of such an opportunity? It was so much easier to find food without baby on board. Besides, there was the added advantage of keeping fit with her arboreal gymnastics. In time, the baby was able to fend for itself but both mother and baby returned each night for a treat of fruit and nuts Matt kept in his room especially for them.
Photo of possums.

Population Explosion:

Years passed and the possum population in our house had grown exponentially. They thumped around and ran across the ceiling like a herd of elephants. We could not leave any food out. I woke up on many a night to find a possum on my bedside table quite nonchalantly eating my chocolates. The wrappers littered the room and balcony. They had taken over our house!
Then came the strange chirping noise that rose to quite a crescendo as the evenings waned. We were curious about the sound, trying to work out what it was. It was the possums. The numbers had grown to such an extent that they needed more space; they had found their way into the gap between the two floors of the house. The possums had acquired a two-storey accommodation!


‘It’ time to get the possum man to get these darned creatures out of our roof,’ said Dan my husband.

‘You can’t possibly do that! Where will they go?’ I cried

‘They’ll jolly well have to find a home in the trees. There’s plenty of them out there and that’s where they belong.’

I opposed the idea bitterly but there was the argument that if they urinated, it could end up coming through the ceiling and further, if one should die up there, we would have to put up with the stench of the decaying corpse. Very unhappily, I acquiesced.

The possum man arrived and yes, he found several avenues through which the possums were getting into our ceiling spaces. I asked him how he would go about his business. I was worried about them dying in there if they were unable to get out. But this was a humane solution that he had. He would set up traps that would allow the possums to get out but the trap did not permit a way back into the house. These he would keep in place for a couple of weeks until the ceiling spaces were cleared before blocking them for good. I was content with this solution so he set about to work. In the meantime, I made a visit to the pet shop to find some readymade homes for the possums, something we could hang on the trees.

The Possums Find New Homes:

Dan was overjoyed when the incessant chirping sound disappeared. He would be able to deliver his webinar in peace without possum worries that evening. Gigi, our newest and youngest feline always sat on his desk during this time and would participate every now and then by walking across the keyboard. The webinar participants had got used to her and loved the interruption.

Marsupials on Camera:

During the webinar session, Dan tried to open his desk drawer for a pencil. Strange, it was suddenly so heavy to move; something seemed to be jamming it. The drawer slid out with difficulty and Dan drew back in surprise. Curled up inside was a large ball of fur. Evicted from one home, Mr Possum had found another and he was certainly going to stay put in this one. Dan prodded it. It opened one eye to see what the disturbance was, shut it quickly, tucked its head in its furry body and went back to sleep. Further prods had no impact on Mr Possum, the day was still young! The webinar participants grew curious about Dan’s distraction so they wanted a look in as well. The camera had to be directed so that they could see Mr Possum -something rare and exotic for most of them. The audience was excited and keen to keep tabs on what Mr Possum was up to so every now and then they wanted a peek.

Mr Possum slept through the entire session. The time had to be right for it to wake up, emit a yawn, casually climb out of the drawer and scamper off. Later we found that this was not the only drawer that was occupied.

There’s your comeuppance,’ I said. ‘You evicted it from its home and now it’s come to live that much closer to you.’

The investment in the Possum Catcher was very temporary indeed. Before long, the possums found new and ingenious ways of re-entering our ceiling and there they live, thumping and scampering around to their heart’s delight to date.

Arrival of the Magpies:

This summer, we were overwhelmed by a colony of young magpies. The Australian magpies are much larger than the European counterparts and have some beautiful songs on offer. We had on many an occasion helped a family with their offspring by providing them with food for their voraciously hungry mites. But this summer, it was an invasion of almost twenty-five young ones. We were constantly throwing out food and actually buying entire loaves of bread just for them. The odd thing was that there were no adults amongst them. How strange, I thought. The entire summer passed by and finally their feathers changed colour turning these chicks into young adults, now able to fend for themselves. It’s at this point that I began to notice the parent couples coming over to partake of my offerings of food. What devilry was this? They had stayed away from their young when they were most needed. Most families of magpies comprise of two chicks so for a group of twenty-five, at the very least, twelve couples were involved. Had they all conspired to dump their offspring on us, the adoption centre, leaving themselves free of their parental duties? This I dare say is exactly what happened.

They say that there is more activity in the brains of birds than those of humans. I truly believe this now. Two of these young magpies were rather ambitious. They wished to be fed in the kitchen rather than outside. It became a battle to shoo them out each time, but they were clever little things and discovered that if the door was closed, a second entry point existed, the cat flap. Thankfully, most of the birds have found new ground to forage barring three or four that don’t appear to want to leave us.

And what of our house full of cats? They have little to say apart from the odd guttural sound which says, ‘Go away, stop being so noisy and leave me alone, I want to sleep.’ They are in their teenage years after all!

Christine Hand lives in Queensland, a sub-tropical part of Australia which she has adopted as her home.
Christine is fascinated by cultural differences, a result of many years of travel and work overseas. She enjoys good food, gardening and spending time with her six cats. ‘A Figment of My Truth’ is her first book of short stories in search of a publisher. She is currently working on a novel

She is a Brisbane-based academic and writer with a penchant for whimsical short stories. She focuses on creative non-fiction.  Christine was frequently published in the ‘Korea Times’. She was also a regular writer for an online platform ‘Suite 101’. Submissions were of an academic nature and covered topics of a diverse range, mainly socio-political, financial, and historical.  Christine also covered current affairs, book reviews and biographies.  Her short stories, ‘Amazons up in Arms’ and ‘Escorted to Death’ were recently published by Adelaide Magazine.

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