Saturday, June 16, 2007

Pet snail

In the course of my genealogical research, when I first heard of the plantations of Ireland, I had visions of vast cotton farms, or maybe banana plantations (as in Coffs Harbour, near my Australian birthplace). In reality, the Irish plantations were lands confiscated during the reigns of the Stuart monarchs (16th and 17th centuries) and given to Protestant colonists from Britain. In this way, the British Crown transplanted a whole new population into Munster and Ulster. Besides, I would imagine that my Irish ancestors named Kennedy, Cranston, Dancey and Adams were descendants of so-called planters from Scotland.

A fortnight ago, the image of transplanting a population from one environment to another sprung into my mind in connection with my snails at Gamone. There have always been two different communities of snails here: the relatively small brown creatures that hide in cracks in stone walls, and the much larger light-colored Burgundy snails. Well, when my daughter was last here, and helping me to build a fence around the lettuce patch [click here to see my article on this subject, entitled Building fences], I started to transplant a population of Burgundy snails from alongside my lettuces to the lawn in front of the house, normally inhabited by the community of small brown snails, where there's a good supply of clover. To keep track of my planters, I decided to draw numbers on their shells, preceded by the letter B for Burgundy. Well, to cut a long story short, all these transplanted snails seem to have shot through (disappeared into thin air)... except for the patriarch, labeled B1, whom I still run into regularly, in front of the house.

So, B1 (whom I photographed this morning on the lawn) seems to be the sole survivor of my attempted plantation program: the last of the Mohicans. I'm starting to regard him (her?) as a pet, and I've been thinking of giving him a more friendly name than B1. After all, I can't imagine myself standing in front of the house and yelling out "Come on, B1, food time!" No self-respecting snail would trot back to a master who had given it such a clinical name, more like a laboratory label. On the other hand, I must be careful not to get too emotionally attached to this creature, because there's a good chance that I'll walk on him one of these evenings, when I go outside for a pee in the moonlight. I've been wondering whether I might be able to install some kind of a tiny battery-driven flashing red light on his shell. Ah, life in the country is a constant flow of new challenges and problems to be solved.


  1. I had some pet snails when I was a child. They lived on the balcony in some kind of boxes I arranged for them. Unfortunately, they didn’t appreciate the food I gave them (lettuce and other sort of plants) – they died after a few months...

  2. I read that the oldest snails (breeders) are able to force the other snails into hibernation through chemicals in their slime trails, if there isn't enough food to go round for everyone.