Tuesday, June 21, 2011
The "Snail Army"
One of my very first projects at Dungeness Studios was getting our garden shaped up for it's first season. For those of us that garden we know that the first year can be really busy and entirely too short. I wanted to get the lay of the land before starting this protracted endeavor so one of our first local trips was to the Hoh Rain Forest. There we were introduced to one of the Olympic Peninsula's more infamous inhabitants...The snail and his giant cousin the slug. My goodness you could throw a saddle in one of these bad boys and ride them home in a pinch. Well I had met the enemy and they were mighty. So I started my research of them.
It turns out that there is a widely held belief that if a snail or slug tries to cross over a strip of raw copper will cause some sort of galvanic response and the critter will turn around and find another course to it's meal. Being a jeweler I certainly had a readily available supply of copper and being a member of the junior league of scientists...I still have the secret decoder ring to prove it...I set up an experiment. I put both slugs and snails on top of a stump I use for forming copper and surround them with a triangle of copper strips. I then got myself a stool and a pair of magnifying visors and sat down to make my empirical observations. I am here to tell you that they didn't stop and turn around...they did try to arch over the copper...they didn't even flinch in the slightest. They just slimed their way on over to the other side. So much for that "Old Wives Tale" as Kari would say on the Television show "Myth Busters" it was "totally busted".
Now as it turns out, my plan B was to be very interesting indeed. I decided that instead of engaging this multitude in battle...I would celebrate their tenacity. I started making a little pieces of "garden art" that would pay a small homage to these stalwart denizens of the damp and decaying. I turned to red hot steel, the anvil and the hammer. I began forging one steel snail after another making about a dozen before I started to slow down. They were flying off the anvil due by a large measure to the simplicity of the form. I was happily applying a drawing skill that we often used in undergraduate art school. The drill was called economy of line. Basically it means to try to convey visually a concept using as few lines as possible. And so the basic image of my garden snail was reduced to just two lines. One of those lines was to also be the stand that set it into the garden. As these individual units began to pile up in the garden I came to realize that I was building a "Snail Army". And just like in boot camp...these new recruits looked very confused. Some looking one way while others were looking behind them. Some were even cross eyed. Some looked like they were toiling their way uphill while others looked to be headed helter skelter like a run-a-way train down hill. Then it came to me, I had to be out of my mind. There was no way that I was going to build snails and voluntarily install them in my garden. There had to be some kind of return on the effort. As my buddy Eddie would say, "It ain't gonna happen". I needed something...some task that this little army could help me with...some positive contribution to the whole.
As you probably know from previous posts...we live in a Rain Shadow called the "blue hole". It can be a heart warming to come home from a long trip through two hours of rain in the south to find sunshine as we round the bend and return to cabin 82. But only 9 inches of rain per year also means you have to be prepared for watering. "Taadaa" I'll teach these little devils to hold the water hose for me. Okay...I realize that holding a water hose is not exactly highly skilled labor but let's face it...they are snails. There's not a lot up there to work with. A few of the solders in the "Snail Army" picked up on this (now mandatory) skill and soon the entire corps was in step so to speak. Now we gardeners know there is a great multitude of sundry devises for watering a lawn or garden, but where the "Snail Army" has the strategist advantage is small jobs. Maybe you have a newly transplanted tree that needs watering in or just a tiny bit of weeding in your strawberry patch could use some softening, the "Snail Army" stands ever at the ready. Just hand them a hose and sit back with your glass of iced tea and wait.