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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Very Special Snail

Artwork by Charlotte when aged 8

I remembered and searched out this little essay that I wrote some years ago and wanted to share it. The writing is a bit corny and I haven't edited it, except for the odd comma here and there........ oh, and it's a true story. :)

A Very Special Snail

"Which creature has its eyes on stalks like a Dalek, is related to the octopus and has such a powerful muscle that it can retract its body inside a protective covering carried on its back? Of course, it's a snail! The colour, pattern and shape of its shell are dependent on the environment in which it lives. That is why we are blessed with such a wonderful variety of land and marine molluscs. There are even people who build up collections of shells, such is their fascination and beauty.

However, I am more interested in the creature that lives inside the shell. My first significant experience of snails was my reationship with Henry. It was shortly after my daughter was born and I was going through a period of post-natal depression, as well as living at the time in a claustrophobic house with only a backyard with very high brick walls that I couldn't see over. I felt thoroughly miserable and spent much of my time staring out of the window wishing those eight-foot high walls would fall down.

I had a window-box though and one day I noticed that there was a snail's shell partially buried in the soil. In the weeks to come I watched the snail. He would leave the box in the evening, just as dusk was falling, and would return in the morning. Whilst I looked after my baby daughter, nothing held my interest like that snail. I called him Henry. I don't really know why - he could quite as easily be a Henrietta, since snails are hermaphrodite. I began to put food in the window-box for him and he became thoroughly spoiled on tit-bits of banana, lettuce and apple.

On opening the curtains each morning, I'd look to see if Henry was 'home' and, if he wasn't, I'd return time and time again to the window to anxiously await his arrival! Many a morning I'd see him glide over the top of the box and make his way to the little dent he had made in the soil. But the Spring rains came and one morning Henry didn't return. I watched for him for days until I began to accept that he wasn't coming back. I didn't like to dwell too much on what had become of him but, to this day, Henry is still in our prayers!
In conclusion, I would like to say that Charlotte, my daughter who is now almost six years old, and I have a very close and loving relationship, but I will always be grateful to Henry for getting me through that difficult time......... and that is why snails have a very special place in my heart."

Charlotte is now twelve years old, approaching her teens...... think I might be looking for another Henry! :O)

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Poetry and artwork by Charlotte

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Spot The Difference

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The top photograph was taken before I started work on Billy and Martin's garden. The one beneath it was taken a few days ago. I'm so pleased with how it's turning out and so are they. Billy can even walk down the garden and use the back gate to get to the local shops. It's quicker and easier for him and, at the age of 84 and having suffered two strokes, I think he's marvellous for doing all their shopping!

Their plot is turning into a proper market garden; their crops include potatoes, onions, garlic, tomatoes, chives and parsley as well as many flowers that will bloom next season. We're waiting for an order of bulbs to arrive so they will have some colour from as early as next January, beginning with snowdrops followed by daffodils and crocus, the Spring finale supplied by tulips. Of course, that wont really be the finale because then there will be all the Summer flowers to look forward to.

In my garden, we've been delighted with a cute visitor over the past couple of weeks..... a juvenile robin. That's one in the top photograph. This isn't 'our' baby; I've been too enthralled watching it to go looking for my camera! (This photo is from google as is the photo of the adult robin).

Although the baby doesn't have a red breast you can tell it's a robin by its shape (round and plump) and by its movement. Robins are quick and dart about, not staying in one place for long. On the first day that I spotted Baby Bobbin (our nickname for it. Cute, eh?) he was chased away by an adult robin..... probably one of its own parents. A couple of days later it chased the adult off! Robins are territorial and can be extremely fierce so it looks like there are going to be some family feuds as Winter approaches. What really amazed me was that, within days, his breast began to turn red. Aye, they're not babies for long! :)

The Summer has been good to our tomatoes and we've actually had some going ripe. Yay! I'm usually left with green ones. Well, we did have some ripe ones until they began to disappear...... the Tumbling Toms, cherry tomatoes, that we have growing in a half-barrell. As I was hanging the washing out I heard crunching behind me and there was Benji, one of our three dogs, helping himself!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

First Aid for Bees

Twice in the past week I've had to administer first-aid to bees! No I'm not joking. Luckily I had just been reading about this in last week's issue of Garden News. At this time of year in particular, with the onset of Autumn, bees are prone to exhaustion. It's not surprising as, in one day, they visit more than 5000 flowers to gather precious nectar, while pollinating the flower at the same time. As Summer is drawing to a close, the number of flowers are dwindling and bees are having to work extra hard to source food.

Why are bees so important?

* They pollinate a substantial percentage of the fruit and vegetables that we eat and feed to our livestock.

* They pollinate plants that we get our clothes from, e.g. cotton.

* They pollinate plants that line rivers and streams that control erosion.

* They pollinate many plants world-wide, plants that form forests, grasslands and jungles that provide habitat for animals everywhere.

So please, if you come across a bee lying, apparently lifeless, on the ground and you have sugar and water to hand, here is what you do:

Mix two tablespoons of sugar with one tablespoon of water. Put it in a shallow container and place it near your exhausted bee or transfer the bee (on a trowel or similar suitable object) to a plant and pour some of the sugar mixture on the plant next to it. The glucose mixture will provide a lifesaving fix and, when it has recovered, the bee will fly off on its way to continue its valuable work.

On both occasions, I was happy to witness 'my' bees recover after about an hour.

Here's a list of just some of the plants that bees pollinate:

Okra; Kiwi fruit; Onion; Cashew; Celery; Pawpaw; Starfruit; Brazil nut; Beet; Mustard; Rapeseed; Broccoli; Cauliflower; Cabbage; Brussel Sprouts; Turnip; Red & Green Pepper; Papaya; Safflower; Caraway; Chestnut; Watermelon; Tangerine; Coconut; Coriander; Hazlenut; Cantaloupe melon; Cucumber; Pumpkin, Marrow; Quince, Carrot, Buckwheat; Fig; Fennel; Strawberry; Soybean; Cotton; Sunflower; Walnut; Flax; Lychee; Apple; Mango; Alfalfa; Passion fruit; Avocado; Lima Bean; Kidney Bean; Runner Bean; Apricot; Cherry; Plum; Sloe; Almond; Peach; Nectarine; Pomegranate; Pear; Blackcurrant & Redcurrant; Rosehips; Raspberry; Elderberry; Sesame; Eggplant; Cocoa; Clover; Blueberry; Cranberry; Broadbean & Grape.

This list is by no means complete and contains crop plants only...... then there are all the wildflowers and garden flowers that our bees pollinate also. Working from dawn to dusk all Summer long, they deserve our utmost respect.