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,
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 ..