Thursday 7 May 2009

Moles, Worms and Charles Darwin - Naturalist ...

Dear Mr Postman .. thank you for coming today .. my mother has gone down for her operation .. she was happy and unconcerned - which is excellent .. we had a couple of hours together when I read her some items that I'd like to turn into positive stories for her .. she was laughing and enjoying the connotation of the various story links and my discussion points with her - she is still so with it - it is extraordinary and wonderful that we can share so much .. - she is looking forward to hearing her story on moles, worms and Charles Darwin ..

Are you surprised at the choice of post? Well it makes a change .. and I visited my uncle yesterday and he has mole hills everywhere!! The property was an old chicken farm .. so the soil is extremely rich in nutrients .. and that suits worms just fine! It doesn't suit him .. or me for that matter .. as we've both spent time (every day) religiously going round the garden filling in the holes .. it doesn't seem to do a blind bit of good - they run riot!!

It suits moles just fine! I've uncovered some surprising facts .. they're about 20cm (8") long, covered in black velvety fur and bear powerful, shovel-like front feet, which can shift 14kg of earth in an hour! (that's some shovelling?!) They're not blind, but spend most of their life underground hunting for worms.
An underground larder is created to store food for a rainy day (excess worms having their heads bitten off to prevent escape!!) and their appetite is enormous, they also enjoy a sprinkling of slugs and leatherjackets (crane fly: daddy-long-leg larva) .. it's a solitary animal which hates its fellow moles almost as much as we hate them!!

Charles Darwin, the Naturalist, was born 200 years ago .. and amongst his many claims to fame was as a doctor, geologist, zoologist, botanist, scientist, etc .. and the short tale today that amused me was that the last work Darwin published in 1881 was a 286 page work entitled: "The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms, with Observations on their Habits" - he had spent 22 years watching an area of garden in Down House, his family home in Kent, just near Biggin Hill aerodrome, and recording this information. He concluded that

"It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures."

Apparently 90% of the fallen leaves in an orchard are dragged into the soil by earthworms ... and one square metre of fertile soil will contain more than 100 worms .. the leaves will become rich humus benefiting the land. My mother earlier on was asking me .. whether worms could talk .. why - I have no idea .. and I couldn't answer then, not sure I can now, but .. they use light and vibration adjustment to warn themselves of impending predators .. birds, moles, some snakes, slugs, snails, hedgehogs, badgers, etc .. disappearing back down their tunnel. Worms move with their segments covered by minute hooked bristles - they stay attached by their tail or their head before 'worming' their way along.
A worm does not survive if cut in half, but will survive if it loses part of its tail - new segments being formed, while if it loses its head .. the injured worm remains immobile for about a couple of months, by which time a new head is regenerated away. It then wriggles away - a born-again worm!!
I rather liked this poem written by William Cowper from the 1700s, which also seems to reflect upon society today ... encouraging us to look after our small unsung heroes of the land ...

"I would not enter in my list of friends,
(Thou graced with polish'd manners and fine sense,
Yet wanting sensibility)
Who needlessly sets foot upon a worm.
An inadvertent step may crush the snail
That crawls at evening in the public path,
But he has the humanity, forewarned,
Will tread aside, and let the reptile live."

And just to round it off a "Silly Verse" by Spike Milligan, one of the childhood memories of the sense of the ridiculous .. we used to laugh before a lot of these entertainers had even started speaking ...

Little worm - wiggle wiggle,
You make me and my sister giggle.
You live in mud,
You live in wet.
Yet never ever see a vet.
You must be very healthy worm,
Wiggle Wiggle Wiggle Squirm.

Well thank you Mr Postman for visiting .. you're right I'd better go and see how my mother is getting on ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Giovanna Garcia said...

Hi Hilary,
Another great post! I wish your mother the best.
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than no Action

Daphne @ Joyful Days said...


You dig up the most interesting stories! The worm limerick made me laugh. It's cute! I'm enjoying these stories a lot.

Unknown said...

Hello Hilary,

It is good to close to nature. I remember there was nature in Tokyo 40 years ago. Before I left Tokyo, there was none. Here in San Francisco, it is better. My wife and I enjoy watching snails when wet day.

Thank you for your sharing.
Shaw Funami
Fill the Missing Link

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Gio .. thanks - glad you enjoyed the wiggly worm .. Mum will too - all has gone successfully! Thank goodness ..

Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Daphne .. thanks - yes I guess the 'dig' is appropriate .. and it's family related. Thanks so much for enjoying the snippets of info ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Shaw .. thanks for visiting .. Ihope all goes well for you when you're back in Tokyo and your mother is comfortable.

Parks - you've hit another topic I can do .. we're so lucky here in London, and I guess you too in SF as the world had realised how important open spaces are to towns and cities. I expect Tokyo is trying to improve and find new open areas?

Thanks for visiting .. and looking back at the lavender post ..

Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Marketing Unscrambled, Home edition said...

Hilary, thank you for another great post.
These things may help with the problem with the moles. Try one or all.
1. add two tablespoons of Pine-Sol (a household cleaner in the U.S.) to a sprayer bottle filled with water, and squirt the mixture into spots along the runs.
2. place 1/2 inch pieces of Juicy Fruit gum (needs to be this kind if you can get it in the UK), lengthwise and unwrapped into the runs (they eat it but can not digest it and they die).
3. mix human hair and mothball crystals and place the mix along the runs. (Get the hair from the barber shop or beauty salon) Hair can also be added to the compost or other organic materials, work it into the soil. You'll need about two bushels of hair for every 100 square feet of garden.
4. place pieces of rose stems or other thorny stem along inside the runs.
5. place castor beans or castor-oil in the runs.
6. place styrofoam or cotton balls the size of your little fingertip in and along the runs.
7. place pieces of garlic smashed and onions along the runs.
We hope that these help to get rid of the mole in the yard.
Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Dan & Deanna .. good heavens!! Thank you .. we only have a mere 2 acres to deal with .. well perhaps we can concentrate near the house! He has tried everything over the years .. they live in the woods and pop out once the danger of Jeyes fluid, old paint, other disinfectants, etc etc have been put down ..

But - I like the idea of Juicy Fruit gum .. we must have similar here ..

However now I know that each mole is solitary .. there's rather a lot of them!!

Anyway I'll give him the list .. and we'll see what we do .. - he was enamoured with the gum idea!!

Running a mower over the top helps ..

Thanks for this list of ideas .. we'll give it a go ..

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Liara Covert said...

Nature's creatures are unique, entertaining and also have much to teach us. People who talk to animals using telepathy indicate a variety of useful facts. Have you ever heard of animal communicators with enhanced intuition? Check out this post:

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. thanks for visiting .. yes Nature's creatures are certainly unique and have so much to teach us ...

I did go to your post - it is interesting this awareness of the horse whisperer, Dr Doolittle, and other people who've become extremely close to their animals .. and who've been rescued in extraordinary circumstances ..

Thank you for your comment and for visiting
Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Peter Baca said...

Hi Hilary,

I learned so much about moles and worms today! You could have been a botanist!

Best Regards

Pete Baca
The Car Enthusiast Online

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Pete . thanks for visting ..yes I learnt too did my uncle .. we didn't know they were solitary creatures ..

my wings are quite spread .. botanist, historian, geologist feeling coming on!

All the best -
Hilary Melton-Butcher
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Marketing Unscrambled, Home edition said...

Hilary, plant the garlic and onions on the edge of the property that will keep them from coming in, in the first place. Let them grow wild they will replant themselves for the next year. Good way to always have garlic and onions around to eat as well.
Dan and Deanna "Marketing Unscrambled"

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Dan & Deanna .. thanks .. good idea .. except 2 acres is rather a lot!! Also I'd rather smell roses .. not garlic and onions abounding .. though I can see the sense in what you're saying .. my uncle is 88 .. and doesn't walk too well now the garden is becoming somewhat jungly!! I've noted for when I have a garden of my own ..

Thanks for the extra comments .. my uncle really fancies the sweets - juicy fruit gum .. I'll have to have a look for some when I'm out in San Diego next week .. hope they have it at the airport?!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
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