Viewing entries tagged
Slow Summer Snail Farm

Comment

Roman snails reappear to enjoy the sun

baby Romans 08.04.15 In August last year our first baby Roman snails emerged from the soil in their pen at Littlebourne Allotments. I counted about 30 but they were so tiny and it was so late in the year I wondered if they would survive the winter. But yesterday I was delighted to see the warm weather had brought the little snails out to graze during the day and I counted 33. I gave them some water and dry food and they were soon tucking in.

Most of the other snails were collected up in October/ November and taken indoors either to hibernate or to carry on growing in a warm shed. But I left a few out just to see how they would get on outside. These were mullers (petit gris) and I reasoned they might be more hardy as they are smaller and more like our common garden snails. Well, some of them died but most have survived I think and they too were out snacking while the sun shone:

overwintered mullers 08.04.15When they are tiny like this the Helix aspersa mullers and the Helix pomatia (Roman snails) look very similar. But if you look at the foot you can see a difference in the shape: the foot of the Roman snail looks as though it has a skirt round the edge while the mullers don't have that. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed the weather doesn't suddenly turn very cold again and catch them out. Only a few more weeks before Slow Summer Snail Farm moves outside for another English summer.

Comment

Comment

Welcome to 2015 from the molluscs and me

2014 was quite year!

Fireworks Show

Looking back to last January I can see I spent a lot of time reading and reviewing books in the short days and long evenings of winter. My memory is so bad these days I'd forgotten that Bugsy and Splash the guinea pigs joined the menagerie back in January too. Splash was very old and cranky so we weren't surprised when he left us to join the great guinea pig heaven in October. I wondered if Bugsy would pine but he seems to be enjoying not having to share his breakfast with someone else. Nevertheless I think we will be looking for a companion for him soon. In February I posted my first blog about Mollusc World, the wonderful magazine of the Conchological Society and I'm sure I will be telling you more on that subject. Moving Slow Summer Snail Farm from Brogdale to Littlebourne Allotments was a major event that took months of hard work but it all started in February... much earlier than I thought. Who would have thought that the floods happened in February? I'm so glad I took some pictures otherwise I would have forgotten what it looked like.

March began with some thoughts about why snails feature on the menu during Lent. I've recently been given some new insights into why snails fell out of favour in England after centuries of popularity. The new information came from a blogger called Miss Foodwise, who is very knowledgeable on the history of cooking in Britain.  She suggested that the Reformation was the key to the change because after that it became dangerous to engage in any activity that might be associated with Catholicism. So the ‘wallfish’ was left to flourish and become a garden pest instead of remaining the cheap nutritious source of protein it still is in many parts of the world.

Well that was the first three months of 2014 - lots more to come!

Comment

Comment

The first intrepid molluscs venture out

ImageWarm weather has arrived - don't anybody remind of the summers when we've had snow in June - I don't want to know! The first of this year's babies has ventured out and Snow Summer Snail Farm is re-opened causing great excitement at Littlebourne Allotments. On the day I arived with the first trolley loads of boxes I was conscious of a certain frisson in the air as I unloaded and gradually more and more people came round to have a look, reassuring themselves no doubt that the fortifications were strong enough to prevent escape. I'm pleased to say the vegetation has grown well with regular watering and now it's started raining again I'm sure the molluscs will think they've gone to heaven.

Image

There's 400 snails in there - can you see them?

 

Comment

2 Comments

Slow Summer Snail Farm on the move!

Image

This is an exciting moment ... yes really! This empty plot of ground is going to be transformed over the next few weeks into Slow Summer Snail Farm. We had to move out of our happy home at Brogdale with it's lovely fruit harvest and find another place. Three years ago I first approached the Parish Council in Littlebourne to ask if I could keep snails on an allotment and after a great deal of thought they agreed. Under the Allotments Act, you can keep chickens, rabbits and bees on an allotment without special permission - but for any other livestock you have to get their agreement. The primary purpose of allotments must be for growing food of course - if you keep rabbits they've got to be for eating. I'm already half way through moving the snail pens from Faversham but it wasn't until yesterday that I got the exciting news there was a plot I could have. January is the time of year when allotment holders have pay their modest rent, so I guess that's when many decide they just haven't got the time or energy to grow their own food in the way they had hoped. What seems like such a good idea on a balmy day in Spring or summer turns into a chore when it won't stop raining.

The ground is nice and flat so the first thing I've got to do is put down week suppressant fabric to stop it getting overgrown. Then the pens go on top. We're going to need the wire mesh pens to keep out predators here just as much as at Brogdale - there's been a plague of foxes killing chickens and I'm certain there will be hedgehogs, mice and shrews ... and who knows what else! So planning is well underway and I'm just delighted to have the snails so close to home for this summer.

2 Comments

Comment

Newsflash! Snails don't like garlic!

The most common question I get is ‘How do you stop the snails eating everything in your garden?’

‘If snails are a nuisance: eat them! That’s what they’re for.’ That’s my reply.

ImageYesterday I spent the hottest day of the year so far out in the sun at Slow Summer Snail Farm trying to persuade my snails to strut their stuff before their audience. They took the commonsense approach of opening one eye to see if there was any food around then going back to sleep – it was Sunday after all!

So I got on with some weeding. I had a local radio station on the phone one day last week asking me why slugs and snails only eat the plants we value and don’t eat weeds. I tried to explain that I didn’t think their assumption was true so they asked if there was an expert they could talk to instead of me. My answer was the wrong one and presumably they were only interested in hearing they were right. If it’s a small delicate newly formed leaf then it’s fair game – weed or not.

I find the best method of stopping slugs and snails from eating my vegetables is to go out at dusk with a jar of salty water and catch them at it. There are copper strips, beer traps and all sorts of clever devices on the market for keeping them off your lettuces and out of your pots. If you feel compelled to use those nasty blue pellets don’t spread them all over the place and especially not round the plants you are trying to protect because they are attractive to slugs and snails. Put just a few in the places where snails might congregate to sleep during the day – under flower pots or piles of bricks.

But I think garlic spray is worth a try. I heard you can just make up a solution of garlic and spray it onto your treasured plants and it will keep those little teeth away – they don’t like the smell of garlic. Rain would wash it off of course so you’d have to repeat the exercise until the leaves are tough enough to survive. I’m going to try it at home.

Let me know how you get on with it.

Comment

Comment

Meet the Snails day

Festival time again! It’s the Strawberry Fayre at Brogdale this weekend so Sunday is the first ‘Meet the snails’ day of the summer season. I will be there with snails big and small explaining how they live to anyone who wants to listen. You can handle the big snails and let them explore your fingers. They’ll probably give you a gentle nibble to see what you’re made of but it doesn’t hurt – it tickles.Image People are often surprised to find that snails lay eggs but gardeners usually say ‘Oh that’s what they are!’ They’ve seen them in the garden, probably in the soil round a potted plant, but didn’t know what they were. The baby snails, for the mini snail farms, will wow everyone as usual – even people who don’t like snails have to admit that the babies are cute. Their shells are translucent and they move so fast, waving their ridiculously long antennae.Image

As well as the Roman snails I’ll be taking some petit gris – the little snails that are so popular in France.Image

(a reader who is more observant than I am noticed that this photo has been reversed so that the snail shell is spiralling the wrong way!)

Look forward to seeing you there!

Comment

Comment

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

Every morning I wake to the sound of tweet of the day on radio 4 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01s6xyk). I’m trying – yet again – to learn to recognise birds by their calls. Birdsong is one of the joys of Slow Summer Snail Farm, but some of the noises made by other animals would certainly annoy the neighbours. As farm animals snails have a lot going for them in that respect: being very quiet is one of their endearing features. But ‘The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating' : isn’t that a wonderful title for a book? I had to read it of course and I’m so glad I did. The author (www.elisabethtovabailey.net/) is ill and is given a potted plant with a snail living in it. Bed bound and unable to leave her room she becomes fascinated by the activities of her snail especially at night when she can’t sleep. She reads everything she can to find out about snails too and tells us all about them. One of the poems she quotes is The Four Friends by AA Milne. I’ve read all his children’s books about Winnie the Pooh but I didn’t know this poem. The line she quotes is:

‘James gave a huffle of a snail in danger And nobody heard him at all. ‘ ‘Huffle’ is a lovely word - perhaps it’s the sound of a snail retreating into its shell. Snails have no ears. They can’t hear and they don’t make deliberate sounds. But if you listen carefully you can hear them drinking water and their thousands of little teeth make a rasping noise when they eat.

I’m not yet half way through the book so I don’t know what happens next but I can’t wait to get back to it.

Comment

Comment

A Slow Passion

Ruth Brooks’ story was a gift from the BBC. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/features/sywtbas/2010/ruth/) At Slow Summer Snail Farm, when I was trying to bring snails to the attention of the public as an animal that could promote scientific enquiry in children, Ruth's story came along. She loves her garden and was fascinated by the behaviour of her garden snails. She noticed that they chose special resting places and eating places, sometimes quite a distance apart. Ruth spent years trying to get rid of snails using all the usual methods but eventually decided that enforced repatriation was a better solution. After collecting them up and taking them to a nice new home she was puzzled to see them quickly re-appear. When Radio 4 advertised their competition for Amateur Scientist of the Year Ruth took the chance to follow her curiosity and find out more under the guidance of a ‘real’ scientist. I told everyone I met about her experiments into the snail’s homing instinct and urged them to try it out. Ruth had groups of children everywhere painting the shells of their garden snails with nail polish and swapping with their neighbours to see what happened. Now the book is out and I had to read it. Ruth has collected some really fascinating information about snails and her enthusiasm shines through in her writing. If you're interested in wildlife and the mysteries of the garden then this book is for you.

Comment

Comment

20th May

Chelsea Flower Show is where the idea of starting a business was hatched. Rachel and I met there for a mother and daughter day out and talked about our hopes and dreams. I started growing things when I was very young. My mother was a keen gardener and she gave my brother and me our own small patches of ground where we dug and sowed seeds and watched things grow. Many of the vegetables and fruit that we ate came from the garden. Maybe that’s why it feels natural to me to eat local food in season and to grow my own vegetables. At Slow Summer Snail Farm I’ve been cutting beet spinach that has over-wintered and is now going to flower; so new seed has to be planted to continue the cycle. Spinach is a favourite with both the molluscs and me. This month’s extra special treats in the farm shop are asparagus fresh cut straight from the soil and new season’s strawberries from Faversham. Kent is the perfect place to live if you want local food because it is all here in such abundance.

Comment