Friday, September 6, 2013

Hey Buddy! Snails

Ireland.  A land famous for darkness, clouds, and rain.  This summer, we have noticed a healthy dose of sunshine, but all of our Irish friends and neighbors tell us not to hold our breath for too much.  Generally, Ireland is a land of clouds, mist, fog, and rain.

These atmospheric conditions happen to be the optimum environment for certain kinds of organisms.  Among the least favorite of the residents and visitors alike is, of course, mold.  Our favorites (probably because we are not gardeners) are the resident mollusks: snails and slugs.

A slug crawls up a brick garden wall in Dublin, Ireland
Climbing up a brick wall

Our admiration for large, slimy critters should be well-documented in our account of the trip through the redwoods in northern California, another wet, temperate climate.  Here, the specimens are smaller, but the sheer numbers can't lie.

When we first arrived, we noticed that many (many) vertical surfaces like garden walls, tree trunks, sign posts, and doors had colorful shells stuck to them.  They at first appeared to be empty and dead.  Day after day we noticed them, sometimes by the dozen, everywhere we went.  Most important in our observation was the time, day after day.  We had yet to go out at night or very early morning.

When Sara started working, suddenly we had a reason to be out in the early morning.  Suddenly, all the dead shells came to life with brown and grey speckled buddies.  All shapes and sizes of the little scamps slowly prowl the leaf litter in search of sweet vegetation.

A large snail crawls over rotting leaf litter in Dublin, Ireland
Looking for a snack

Any time spent outdoors in the early light gives us a chance to see these guys with antennae fully extended and posing for perfect photos.  Our West Coast American and Irish native friends and family probably see this as no big deal or no uncommon sight.  In Iowa, it was rare to see snails of ANY size.  Slugs, however, were common.  Lettuce and other greens grown organically in our Iowa garden were always dotted with slug holes.  We saw it as a way to give a little bit back to nature.

I don't know how urban gardeners here in Dublin feel about the snails, but I do know how great it is to see them.  I can't help but stop every time I see one stretched out and give a loud, "Hey Buddy!"

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