2 Jun 2008
Taking Slugs Seriously (or not)
A few days of warm, moist weather and the great slug armies are massing on my garden. Although the sizes of them have been increasing as these slug-friendly conditions continue, it is actually the smallest ones that seem to do the most damage. The tiny ones, that look more like something that comes out of your nose than something you’d find in the garden, do an astonishing amount of damage, rather like me chewing my way though a couple of limbs of an oak tree in a single night. Anyway, as you can tell, slugs are rather on my mind at the moment. Which gives me the opportunity to tell you my favourite slug story…
A couple of years ago, Maddy from Permaculture Magazine got in touch asking if I had any ideas to breathe some new life into the mag’s ‘Solutions’ section, which had been growing a bit short on solutions being sent in. I suggested a few of us wrote some silly ones to see if anyone could tell the difference. Here is my contribution, which duly appeared in the next issue;
Fed up of the slimy critters destroying your garden? Well, as we permies like to proclaim, the problem is the solution. After many a torch lut evening collecting bucket after bucket of our slimy friends, I wondered what I could do with them. The solution is gloriously simple. Simply pop them in the oven at Gas Mark 4 for five minutes, not so long that they cook, but just long enough that they adopt the texture of a wine gum. Then simply slip a sharpened knife under the skin, and it peels off beautifully, like peeling a lychee. The resultant ‘pelt’ is waterproof, flexible and tough. After a few weeks drying and peeling, I had a large enough collection to make my first pair of trousers, sewing them together with a tough twine. Now my ‘slugskins strides’ are the talk of permaculture gatherings across the land, and I have started work on a matching jacket.
I thought it rather amusing, but thought no more of it. Then, a year or so later, my friend Tom went to do a Permaculture Design Course at Ragman’s Lane Farm. (What follows is the version of events that I have in my head based on my recollection of what Tom told me, and which has become the official version I now tell people. If it is willdy inaccurate I’m sure Tom will write and correct me).
One evening, he sat down to eat his supper with a young American guy who was also on the course. As the meal went on, conversation turned (as it often does on permaculture courses) to slugs. “Hey, do you know, I read this great thing in Permaculture Magazine!” interjected the young man. “Some guy wrote in saying that you could make a fabric out of slugs, but do you know, it doesn’t really work”. Tom, who at this point nearly choked on his fine Ragman’s dinner, asked “what, you mean you tried it?”
“Yes, but when you put them in the oven, they don’t firm up, they go all mushy, and you can’t get the skins off…. maybe I had the oven too hot..”. Tom, appalled, had to break the news gently to him that it was actually a joke. Just goes to show, you can’t be too careful with humour. I am still awaiting the heavy hand on my shoulder from the Crime Against Slugkind hearings, where I find myself being accused of being the ‘architect’ of a uniquely cruel way of exterminating slugs. And even if it did work, to make anything out of these phenomenally destructive ‘snot slugs’ would take many many years.