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mini snail farm

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@BBCGoodFood Show #GFSwinter

Winter Bursary Sometimes you just have to boast! In two weeks time Rachel and I will be putting the finishing touches to our stand at the BBC Good Food Show at the NEC Birmingham.

photo snails eating

Would you believe, we are the first snail farmers the BBC Good Food Show has ever had and we just had to take the molluscs with us. This is the beautiful new packaging for our mini snail farms - ready for Christmas.

H&RH Mini Snail Farm Box

And this is the package for the Grow Your Own Escargots gift. We can't let the children have all the fun! Here's a quirky gift for the grow your own food fans in your family.

H&RH Escargots Box

The last few weeks have been full of finishing off all the paperwork, ordering everything we needed, getting everything printed and putting packs together. Then there was the stand to design - choosing a colour for the backdrop and to cover the table. We decided to go for burgundy and it's amazing what you can achieve with a stack of cheap double sheets. Then there's a couple of tall bookcases to display the packs and we're all set. I just hope I can get it all in the car - mustn't forget the stepladder. This has all been achieved in the middle of a muddy building site - the kitchen wall was demolished today. Why does it always rain as soon as you dig a big hole?

And we haven't forgotten the crowdfunding campaign which we'll be promoting all through the show with some delightful little snail-y gifts for stocking fillers.

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Learning about living things #crowdfunding

On Thursday we were invited in to Wickhambreaux primary school to the after school young gardeners club for a Meet the Snails event.

School Video.Still008

We took a mini farm with some baby snails and some big ones too so the children could see how they grew. One of the girls ran her finger round the spiral shell and told me how the shell grows as the snail gets bigger.

School Video.Still022

The excitement of the children is always infectious on these occasions and this was no exception. They were amazed at how hard the shell was when the babies first hatch and how fast they move when they can smell food. The children were mostly six or seven and they were very knowledgeable about snails already but did enjoy feeling the radula in the snail's mouth gently rasp their fingers. It is difficult to explain in words how the snail eats but when you can feel it with your fingers it all makes sense. We sprinkled some dry snail food onto the inside of the mini farm bell too so they could see the snail opening its mouth to show the black radula inside and scrape the food off the surface.

The children already knew that snails laid eggs but they didn't know how many one snail could lay so it was good to be able to show them a clutch that were laid the previous week.

It's their long antennae that always fascinate me - they way they wave about in all directions. Because our eyes both normally point the same way so we can focus on an object, it is difficult to imagine what it's like to have eyes that just rove about randomly!

All too soon it was time to go for the molluscs and me so we said goodbye and left them to tend their gardens.

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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!

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Are you a Citizen Scientist?

“I’m finding these snails absolutely fascinating,” he said and laughed. “You’ll probably think I’m very odd but I’ve bought a notebook and I sit and watch them for hours and write down what they do.”  John had bought a mini snail farm from me and was on the phone a few weeks later.

“You’re a Citizen Scientist.” I said. That’s an ordinary person who takes part in scientific research. If you’ve made a note of the birds visiting your garden each year and sent it off to Garden Birdwatch, which thousands of people do, then you’re a Citizen Scientist too. Do you keep an eye on the activities of the local hedgehogs or foxes? Do you notice when ash trees nearby start to succumb to dieback. This sort of informal recording is absolutely vital - we are all the eyes and ears of professional scientists who rely on us collecting this data because they can’t be everywhere.

Citizen science is an example of crowd-sourcing – engaging lots of ordinary people in an activity. Crowd-funding is another example. On Wednesday Crista Cloutier (www.theworkingartist.com) gave a talk at UCF about her use of crowd-funding to get financial support for her project. She used indiegogo (www.indiegogo.com) as her platform but kickstarter is another.

In the world, of book publishing Unbound (http://unbound.co.uk/authors) is a company that uses crowd-funding. You have to pitch your book idea and they post it onto their website to see if readers think this book is worth publishing. You get your book published if you get enough support. Give it a go! Get involved!

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