What to look for when buying an air rifle for possum patrol
IF YOU have an orchard, or any kind of fresh, new, tasty growth this spring – think all those willow and poplar poles sprouting new leaves – you’re going to find possums. Worse, they may be dancing over your ceiling at 2am in the morning mimicking the sounds of an elephant.
Traps are excellent for ongoing control, but if you have a possum cornered, an air gun is perfectly capable of dispatching it.
The air rifle
Used for: pest control, eg rabbits, hares, possums, rats, ferrets, stoats, wild cats, pest bird species* Types: spring-powered, Co2-powered, pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) Licence: not required for spring or CO2powered but is required for PCP air rifles Kill range: about 20m, up to 40m for experienced shooters Pellet range: 50-120m*
Spring-powered air rifles have a crank or lever on the barrel that the operator pulls between shots. This squeezes an internal spring and sucks in some air, compressing it to provide the power to propel the pellet when you pull the trigger. These rifles are cheap, easy to use, self-contained and very robust, but it takes practice to get consistent accuracy as they fire with a small kick.
Co2-powered air rifles use a small canister of liquid carbon dioxide to create pressure. When triggered, a small internal valve releases a squirt of gaseous CO2 behind the pellet. These have no kick when fired, are very quiet and accurate, but need an external supply of CO2 (which you will need to buy separately). They are sensitive to air temperature so you tend to get less power when it’s cold.
Pre-charged Pneumatic (PCP)
Pre-charged pneumatic air rifles are at the higher end of the market and have a small tubular cylinder mounted under the barrel. This is filled with high pressure air, usually by a pump or dive tank. These work the same way as the CO2 air rifle but do not have the limitations of temperature, and can be semi-automatic. These rifles can be quite expensive because they are very powerful and accurate, and you will require a firearms licence if you wish to buy or use one.
YOU CAN never have too many sheds, but if your budget doesn’t spring to something that requires a council permit, it is possible to build a garden shed under 10m², the typical size of a shed before you need one*. To qualify as a ‘garden shed’, it must be one storey, contain no facilities (eg, a toilet, water supply) and must be at least their own height away from any boundary. A shed under 10m² can have any floor dimensions you like. For example, you may choose to have a wide shed that’s not very deep, or one that’s deep enough to allow you to store a ride-on mower. But whatever you want, it pays to grab a measuring tape and some pegs and work out what size works best for your needs. Make sure it’s also easy to access. A flat site is going to need the least amount of preparation, but you also want a clay base (so you can lay a concrete base, or at the very least a gravel base) and you want to make sure there is adequate drainage. There is a wonderful range of small kitset garden sheds in stores these days, mostly designed for urban gardens and very sheltered sites. These don’t tend to require a permit (the retailer will tell you if it does) and come with everything you need.
However, if you’re planning to have your shed sitting anywhere that’s not an enclosed, sheltered place, particularly if you get strong winds, check the specs: the frames and trusses are often thin steel that don’t have the rigidity or strength to stand up to wind gusts, and if you’re near the sea, they may not have the right specification cladding to withstand salt. If you’re not experienced at building, you may think it’s a case of grabbing a hammer and nails, but tech screws and rivets are important fastenings, especially for cladding and roofing. Brackets to attach it to a floor or concrete foundation blocks also add strength, reinforcing the frame. There’s nothing more annoying than building your shed to fit your ride-on mower, then finding it won’t fit. Make sure you measure the width of your mower and allow extra room for hinges and the door’s frame.
Doors can be sliding doors (easier to install, but do require extra wall to slide past) or hinged doors which can be closed and secured more easily. Always have doors on the longest side so you can easily access everything in your shed, whether it’s to the left or the right. n
There aren’t many people in the world who can say they have millions of fans, and Elsie Hall – part-time artist, lavender enthusiast – who lives on a block in a quiet little village in the Wairau Valley doesn’t look like a rock star.
But her patented plant creations are the celebrities of the lavender world, sold in high numbers every year. The other big star is Thumbelina Leigh, a little plant that grows to just 40-60cm in height in a round, compact shape and blooms its heart out, producing lots of strongly scented flowers. Elsie found it as a crossbred plant growing in her crop back in the early 1990s, recognised what a great option it was for gardeners and began to propagate it. But it wasn’t until she took part in Maggie’s Garden Show in 2002 that the world heard about it. The result was Elsie got an agent, Morten Damstad of Kiwiflora. Thumbelina Leigh was patented to protect it, and Morten’s work with nurseries worldwide saw it become an instant hit.
“I think I’m really lucky to have met (Morten). If it wasn’t for the Maggie Barry show coming to me, he would never have known what I was trying to do. I have no knowledge of overseas marketing and it’s so totally different, every country you need to have a new patent to protect your intellectual property, which is what the plants are – they’re my property so there are people employed who make sure nurseries are not taking advantage of your plant and renaming it. A royalty is paid on each plant which we receive, it is very regulated.
“She’s an excellent variety to market because of her early flowering… they can shift her around the world very quickly because she’s so compact… and also they can move it in volume in huge amounts – I can’t give you the figures but they’re absolutely huge.”
Elsie took up growing lavender 25 years ago, after she moved to the Wairau Valley. She joined the NZ Lavender Growers Association, planted out dozens of varieties of lavender in all colours – from shades of lavender and purple to white and yellow – eventually ending up with over 150 different types. She now mentors other growers, including Leonie (see page 19).