The land was thick with aged trees and prickly pear. The smaller succulents grew in dense clumps, ?eshy and spine covered, while others stretched skyward, tangling with their brethren ten feet into the air so that the way ahead resembled an ancient forest. Overhead snatches of blue sky teased the riders as they picked their way through a section of countryside made unusable by the prickly invaders. The noxious plant covered the ground in varying sizes with scant dirt in between and Edwina Baker, accompanied by her brother, Aiden, was somewhat surprised to ?nd birds still present, as if the very presence of the spikey monstrosities should surely compel them to ?y elsewhere.
This part of their property suffered from one of the worst infestations, with the pear having made a good two-thirds of their land useless for any form of agriculture. Edwina didn’t normally ride out here. Just the sight of so much of the weed made her mad with frustration. They had cut, burnt, hoed and applied chemical to the invasion for as long as Edwina could remember. It was an ongoing battle to eradicate the dreaded plants and she hated to think of the money and effort that had been expended on the task. The plant was virulent and drought tolerant. Its seeds were carried by birds, especially crows who loved the ?eshy cactus. Their father said for many years that the bush carried an albatross about its neck until something could be done about the species. By 1920, millions of hectares of land across Queensland and New South Wales had been infested. Now useless, enormous areas were abandoned by their owners.
But there was hope and they carried that hope in a saddlebag.Continue Reading