This part of the book deals with the importance of minerals in the diet and what other people can tell us about cancer. But before hearing from the experts, we should perhaps check on the health of the natural realm, and in particular the state of our wildlife . . .

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MANY of the native animals that I was familiar with in my boyhood and teens are rarely seen today. What most people fail to realise is that when even the smallest of them are gone the health of the environment can suffer. Active little marsupials like the Long-nosed Bandicoot used to keep our bushland healthy by eating out the bardi grubs and witchetty grubs. They were superbly adapted to the task. Now there are grubby trees everywhere, and up in the hills barely a tree is free of white ants.

Some bandicoots are still about, but the job nature gave them is being neglected. In the days when they flourished, before they had predators such as feral cats and foxes stalking them, bandicoots lived in the hollows of trees. Now they live deep in vacated rabbit burrows mainly. And there were a great many other animals about that I fondly remember.

We don't see the duck-billed Platypus so much now. There used to be quite a few living in the creek up home. In years gone by we actually caught a family of them. They virtually lived on an insect diet and we couldn't provide that for long; they especially liked dragonflies. We still see the spiny Echidna - there's one out in the orchard all the time, eating fruit and insects.

The most ferocious marsupial I ever met was a Spotted-tailed Quoll, a carnivorous animal equipped with a gaping jaw. If it gets a bite of you, it can hang on like glue. He dug his sabre-like teeth into me and wouldn't let go. I knew then it was not a rabbit caught in the trap!

It has been a long time since I saw a Brush-tailed Phascogale up close, although I'm sure there's one up in the roof right now. He can be heard thumping about after dusk. He goes out into the orchard at night and has a good feed. And, of course, leaves his calling card.