(obviously, if you’re squeamish about slugs you should avoid this post)
It rained last night, and we woke up to overcast skies and the occasional light drizzle.
Rain or no rain, a farm still has to run, and it was fruit harvesting day, so after breakfast Mum put me on to picking limes. The lime trees sit on the edge of the farm, on the rough slope where the flat bed of the valley rises steeply up into rocky valley walls. Picking the limes involves scrambling amongst the rocks, peering up into the tree and using a grab-and-twist picker to bring down the ripest fruit.
Last year the limes got pruned, and some of the cut branches were left sitting under the trees, a tangle of delicate stems and sharp thorns.
Climbing up amongst the rocks towards the lime tree, I discovered what happens to dead lime branches on moist*, damp days.
They get covered in slugs. Covered. Like over-decorated Christmas trees, only with brown, slimey garlands, instead of lovely silver tinsel.
Slugs, it seems, just can’t resist the delicious flavour of decomposing lime bark, and on cool wet days they climb up onto the branches to feast on it.
Slugs are bad news for vegetables, but great news for ducks. Slugs are one of the duck’s favourite foods, and they are great for them: full of protein that the ducks turn into delicious eggs, or adorable ducklings. The farm has both Khaki Campbells and Muscovy ducks (and, at the moment, more than a dozen ducklings of each variety – happiness!).
Out on the flats of the farm the ducks can forage for their own slugs: clearing out one area, and then being moved to the next garden that is having a rest between crops. Unfortunately the hillside is too rocky and irregular to build a duck pen on, so we have to take the slugs to them. Which means collecting them.
Do you know how we collect slugs?
One by one, using kitchen tongs.**
Slugs carry salmonella and other really bad diseases (rat lung disease in Hawaii), so you DO NOT want to touch them (and the most common variety of snails in Hawaii is highly toxic, so don’t touch them either). So tongs let you pick them up without touching them.
So I fetched the slug tongs, and a couple of old yoghurt containers with lids, and set to work on my ‘harvest’.
Collecting slugs that are wrapped around cut branches is one of the most revolting, but weirdly feel-good (after all, you are getting rid of a pest and making a pet/farm animal happy) things I have ever done.
Slugs are not attractive creatures, and as I disturbed the branches slightly in pulling them off the less -firmly attached slugs lost their hold and fell to the ground, so every particularly good tug was accompanied by a soft rain of slugs hitting the leaf mold below.
Thud, thud, thud.
Let’s just say that a rain of slugs is a life experience I could do without (even if the branches were all in front of me, and ended at waist height, so there was no chance the slugs would actually rain down on me).
When I do things that my brain is not happy about, I distract it with a monologue of exactly how unhappy it is about said thing, so it can’t focus on the thing, and freak out.
In this case it went like this:
“Gross, gross, gross, gross, GROSS…So gross…Ewwww, ewww, ewww, gross…Gross, yuck, yuck, gross….Gross grossers von grossikins….so, SO gross….so, so, SO gross…oh, the grossness….Total grossness….a totallity of gross…grossus maximus…grooooooosssssss…welcome to the People’s Republic of Grossistan….oh gross….yuck, yuck, yuck gross…”
And then the my little monologue on the current level of grossosity in my vicinity was interrupted by a bloodcurdling scream. My mother, hurrying to find the reason, was relieved and nonplussed to be informed that it was occasioned by the discovery that a slug had landed on my hand.***
Errant slug flicked into the container, times I intended to wash my hands when done mentally tripled, and the area of skin I’d be washing extended up my arms another 10 inches, I resumed my slug collecting duties, and my discussion of exactly how gross what I was doing was.
“Oh gross…gross, gross, gross…yuck, yuck, yuck, gross…grody to the max…You are now entering an area of maximum grossness, extreme caution should be practiced at all times…ewwwww, gross… ewww, ewwww, ewwww, gross…pooh, yucky, yuck…Looking to the right of the plane, you’ll see the wild waves of the Loch Gross crashing on the shores of Cape Disgusting. On the left, you see the slime-covered peak of Mt Gross rising from the foothills of the Ewwwnessess.”
Thud. Thud. Thud.
I filled the first yoghurt container, clipped the lid on firmly, and started on the second.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
I was running out of ways to describe how gross things were, but I persevered, interspersing my standard exclamations of ewwness with comparisons of things I could be doing that would be even more icky (with commentary from my brain).
“Well, at least they aren’t centipedes” (BAD IDEA, BAD IDEA, ALL BRAIN NEURONS TO PANIC STATIONS, FREAK OUT COMMENCING) “Ummm…ummm…ummm…yuck, disgusto, ewwness…Sir Ewww La La and Yuckity Ewwer McEwerson (Hmmm…I bet McEwerson is actually a name. Well. That’s unfortunate…) set out to discover the source of Ewww.” (oh, hey, look, panic averted. Well done you!).
“Gross. Gross. GrooOOooosss. Well…at least I’m not going to be eating them” (SHUT UP!!!! shouted my brain and stomach together). “Errrrr…sorry about that! Grossdity, grossdity, gross da da, grossdity grossdity gross!…Please Miss, how much does this bag of Disgusting weigh? Oh, it’s a gross? Of course!…La, la, la gross…well, at least it’s not as gross as the thought of reading Outlander again (Ewww…so right!)…and at least it’s going to have a satisfyingly happy ending, with less slugs and more happy ducks…yuckity, yuckity, yuckity, yuck, yuck, yuck…YAY”
The second yoghurt container was full, and all the really obvious slugs were collected, so I clambered down from the rocks, set the containers to go down to the ducks, and then set myself up at the outside sink for a thorough scrub.
But you know what? I’ll probably do it again the next time it rains.
* I’m assuming that if you’re willing to read a post about slugs, the occasional use of the word ‘moist’ is not going to be too disgusting for you.
** Well, not actually kitchen tongs, as they do not go anywhere near the kitchen, and are NEVER used for anything but slugs, but the kind of tongs you’d use in the kitchen.
*** On this farm we know slugs need to be picked up, but we also agree that bloodcurdling screams are the perfectly logical reaction to finding one on your hand.
† My father, on finding the containers full of slugs, also shouted “Oh GROSS! Can you imagine what someone who wasn’t expecting these to be full of slugs would think on opening them?”