Probably the most unusual guests in my farmhouse was a family of Brush-tailed Phascogales. I spotted a little creature in the garden one evening just as the light was fading. It was busily collecting some of the grassy mulch I’d put around the plants earlier in the day. It was quite a shock when it suddenly dashed over to the television antenna pole and quickly climbed it to the roof.
Then there was the pitter patter of little feet on the ceiling. Although it was more of a hop hop patter patter. The female phascogale – and I only worked out the gender later – had a mouthful of mulch to make a cosy nest.
There was just enough room under the corrugations on the roofing iron for this small marsupial to fit. Fortunately possums were too big to make their way in although they danced around on the roof in hobnail boots.
I hadn’t lived in the house long when I met the phascogales. A check-in with the previous owners confirmed that they had often seen them and, like me, were fascinated and delighted to have them visit.
Mrs Phascogale didn’t confine her house visits to the ceiling. I’d set up my office on the closed-in verandah and often spotted her dashing about, not bothered by my presence or my small dog Ziggy.
Ziggy had learned to leave small creatures alone and mostly just watched them with interest. There was one occasion when I had to whisk him by his tail out of the reach of a brown snake. It wasn’t dignified for either of us but it could have had a worse ending.
Soon there were more; three tiny, squeaking babies. They took over the house, falling asleep instantly in chairs, on tables and in shoes. At dusk they woke as if a switch had been flicked and tore about madly. They had no fear and if Ziggy or I were in their path they simply ran over the top of us. I learned to check every surface before sitting down or moving things – they slept peacefully through being handled and placed somewhere safer.
I watched them grow up and was sad when the whole family left. I saw them around the property sometimes and I’d like to think that the flick of tail they always gave meant they remembered me.