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Slow Summer Snail Farm on the move!

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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.

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Dogs and snails

It's August so there are lots of snail stories about again. This week it's about snails being responsible for spreading lungworm to dogs. The article in each newspaper is almost identical so I suppose they must have simply reprinted the press release from Exeter University. It came with beautiful illustrations of sparkling Led lights on snails wandering around in the dark so that was a bonus. It's only the headline that's different depending on the style of newspaper concerned and mostly focused on the idea that snails were spreading lung disease amongst dogs.  At least Radio 4 didn't make a crisis out of a simple piece of ecological research that apparently just watched snails moving about.Image

If you want to understand parasites you need to know the whole life cycle. This parasitic worm affects foxes as well as dogs - though, importantly, it doesn't affect humans. I looked up Angiostrongylus vasorum to try and find out its life cycle. According to Wikipaedia - not always a reliable source for scientific information but this looks like a reasonable article - foxes are thought to be a reservoir for the disease. If you think about it rationally for a moment, snails we know have a homing instinct implying they don't travel far. Foxes on the other hand would range over a much wider area infecting lots of slugs, snails and other internediate hosts. Slugs and snails get infected because the larvae of the worm burrow into the mollusc's foot. Perhaps foxes are more important as an agent that spreads the infection from place to place. But dog hygiene has got to be an important factor too. If you let your dog defaecate all over the place, is it any wonder that molluscs get infected too? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angiostrongylus_vasorum) One message that seemed to come from the research is not to leave dog toys out in the garden overnight. But the research is said to have been funded by Bayer Health with the aim of investigating lungworm so I can't help thinking there had to be more to it than just watching snails wandering about.

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