Viewing entries tagged
snail

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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.

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Starting to write

My granddaughter gave me a picture of a snail she had coloured in – I rather like the eyelashes!Chili's pic small I wonder when she will start to write stories. I’ve never forgotten winning half a dozen eggs when I was nine years old. Bizarre prize perhaps but we thought we lived in the country and free range eggs were a novelty then. The competition was for writing a story and mine was about two girls who ran away from home. The original has disappeared over the years of moving from place to place and getting involved in the ordinary business of life but I still remember something of the plot.  I had thought through the details of how I could get out of the house without being heard – avoiding the stairs that creaked and holding my breath as the front door lock clicked into place behind me. I wasn’t planning to go alone because I’d arranged to meet my friend. So I had company and we’d planned in great detail what we were going to eat. That seemed to be a quite central concern. We went to hide out in the woods which I obviously thought was an exciting and wonderful place to be. The pages were illustrated with a drawing of a picnic spread out on the ground under the trees on a sunny day and we slept under piles of leaves like babes in the wood. There was no fear in the story – no fear of the dark or the woods or the unknown. It all ended happily ever after with our parents sending out a search party to find us and take us back home before the food ran out. They weren’t angry – just pleased to find us.  I can’t remember how I felt at the time but I do wonder if the process of writing helped to stop me from actually running away as a child. I used the creation of the story thirty years later when I had children myself and was feeling trapped. I rewrote it with myself as the child’s mother helping her to write the story while planning my own escape. The second version ended the same way with everything returning to normal and no one actually running away.

I feel sure that writing has always served the useful function of helping me to think through problems that were on my mind. That was certainly true with Molluscs and Me. I used to sit down every morning and write about the things that had happened the day before. Turning that stream of consciousness into a coherent book was the work that took seven years.

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Have you heard the one about ...?

He stood staring at the snails for a while, then grinned, looked up at me and started: ‘Have you heard the one about…?’ ‘Probably.’ I said.

‘No!’ he said. 'I mean the one about the snail who …’

‘Quite likely.’ I said.

'The snail who took off his shell …’ he persisted.

‘Definitely,’ I said.

‘Don’t spoil the punch line,’ he said and turned to his audience. His wife looked bored.

‘He took off his shell because he was feeling…’

‘Oh yes,’ I said. ‘I have heard that one… once or twice.’

‘Because he was feeling a little sluggish!’ He shouted flinging his arms out with a flourish.

‘Boom! Boom!’ said his wife.

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Biological control

Have you ever bought ladybird larvae to eat the greenfly on your roses or nematodes to get rid of slugs? Biological control is the perfect way to solve some problems. This year for the first time I’ve invested in some predatory mites that feed on compost fly grubs. Have you noticed those little black flies that infest the compost in your house plants? Those are sciarid flies and their grubs destroy seedlings and the roots of potted plants. But they can also attack snail eggs and, from my point of view, they are a potentially a big problem. So I bought some Hypoaspis miles – there’s a name to conjure with! (www.defenders.co.uk) They came through the post in a sprinkler pack that I shook over the compost and now I just have to sit back and wait for nature to take its course.

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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.

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19 May 2013

19 May 2013

On 22 November 2006 I took delivery of my first edible snails and the real adventure began. After more than six years of writing the book about that experience it is nearly ready to be published. At the moment I’m waiting anxiously for two of the people featured in the story to finish reading it and let me know if it’s alright to include them. As soon as I’ve incorporated their feedback the manuscript will go for final edit and preparation to go to print. It has taken such a long time to reach this point and now I just want it to be finished.

 

I write everyday early in the morning while I’m eating breakfast. Today I shall be off to Slow Summer Snail Farm for the morning to try and get everything ready for opening in a week’s time. There’s such a lot to do still because of the cold months in early Spring when I should have been busy outside but couldn’t bear to venture out. I’m making wire mesh pens planted up with spinach for the snails to live in during the summer months. The wire mesh is to keep predators out. Small furry animals were such a problem last year that they ate more than their fair share of my profits. Even Dusty and Freddie ferret couldn’t keep them at bay. As soon as we went home the mice and shrews and rats came out to play. Let’s hope the new pens do the trick. Fingers crossed the cold weather is over now and you can look forward to a warm summer with the molluscs and me.

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