Monday, January 12, 2009

Snail Mulching

Every leaf that falls from my trees, all the grass clippings, and every bit of vegetable kitchen waste goes into the ground of my yard. I make sure of that. I learned to do that when I was a kid in Michigan, to mulch and compost all plant-type biodegradable material that happens to get generated in my immediate surroundings.

I learned to do that in school, in my Earth Science and Biology classes, as well as from the magazines my dad bought, especially one called Organic Gardening. Burning leaves or tossing out grass clippings with the regular garbage was unthinkable. Why would anyone do such a thing when they can easily let it break down naturally into its basic elements and thus re-nourish the soil?

I’m reminded every evening that there are unfortunates here who never heard of such environmental endeavors when I watch the ugly effects of scores of little raked up piles of twigs and leaves as each pile is lit up. From up in the tower I can see each burn spot from the telltale white smoke clouds. Up they go where they join together into one massive pall of hazy air pollution. Its dry season now so there's no cleansing by daily rainstorms and the drier it gets the more people want to burn stuff. As much as I would like it to be otherwise, it's what they do in places like this.

In fact, from my travels I’ve learned to equate the smell of smoke with the Third World. Whether Africa, South America or here in Asia, one thing all underdeveloped countries have in common is the acrid odor of burning, whether it is brush, garbage, or just from cooking fires; take a whiff, and for sure something will be alit nearby.

The poor here really seem to have this ingrained firebug penchant. Not long after I first moved into this house, I watched as one of my newly hired maids raked up a small pile of fallen leaves and a candy wrapper or two and then nonchalantly lit it up. She did this even though I pay to have my garbage picked up, notwithstanding that my desire to compost was not yet known to her. Rather than take the effort to pick it up and place it in the can, she opted to burn it. I wasn’t very happy with her, and the funny thing as I look back on it now is she could not figure out why I was so worked up over such a trivial thing, and trivial it was to her. She didn’t last here very long, and while she WAS here I don’t think she ever “got me.”

On that note, last week I was out mulching into the soil a few days worth of biodegradables. I don’t have a compost pile because they are a bit unsightly and odiferous, and with my yard being so compact I decided long ago to just bury the stuff, although I have developed a composting process.

My mulching process is to dig a two foot wide trench about three feet long along my bamboo fence and then lay down a layer of organic detritus. I mash it into the earth with the sharp end of a shovel, wet it down, shovel a thin deposit of earth over that, and then lay down another layer of detritus, and so on until I get 5 or 6 layers built up.

So I’m doing my composting thing last week when I notice a round object fall caked with a crust of dried mud roll out from under my bamboo fence. At first I thought it was a rock or a nasty old rubber ball. But once I washed the mud off it I discovered it to be a pretty hefty sized land snail.

I found that strange since I’ve been in this place for more than a year now, and I spend a lot of time in the yard, and yet, this is the first time I’ve seen any snails at all. In fact, I’ve lived in the area since 2002 and have never seen a snail anywhere around here.

I took a break to examine it. I love nature, so it’s what I do, what I’ve always done since I can remember. I much prefer natural things to things of man. I avoid the latter if I can and indulge in the former like an addict.

I went in the house for my Cybershot digital cam and took a few shots of my new snail friend as it enjoyed its newly dampened surroundings. When I first picked it up it had been dried up and dusty. I had the hose out and had wetted everything down as part of the mulching process. I’m pretty sure snails like it moist, and presently, during the midst of dry season, it had probably been in a dormant state waiting for it to start to rain again. Of course, all that is conjecture.

This particular gastropod, once washed off and cleaned up, I thought to be particularly photogenic. I turned on the macro function and clicked away. I really enjoy pictures like this, particularly when I watch them back on the computer screen on a slideshow when each shot fills the entire screen. Wow, the detail!

Snails can be tough on plant life, so I was considering releasing it outside the confines of my walls, but I figured what the heck, it’s only one. How much harm could it do? So, after the photo session I put it back where I had found it and wished it well.


Amadeo said...


From the looks of it, what you found is the common garden variety snail quite plentiful in our part of the country. The local s call it Japanese snail due to some handed down lore that the Japanese brought it to the country, implying also that it is not indigenous here.

We consider their presence a nuisance because they propagate fast and indeed do damage to plant life. And they cling to the underside of most stuff you leave out in your yard. And the locals have not yet found a way to eat them. HiHiHi.

Funny because when we moved to Daly City, we had the same problem. The same type snails inhabiting our backyard. The Filipinos brought them there?

But we share the same attitude about organic waste. I continue to use a manual lawnmower in the US and either gather the grass cuttings or allow them to decompose where they lay. In Daly City, I would also dig and bury them in our backyard, except that because of the soil composition decomposition takes a long while. And I did not introduce your decomposition agent, detritus, in the process.

BTW, you may have to rethink your decision about the snail. Have you asked around your neighborhood?

PhilippinesPhil said...

No, not yet, but if I catch it chowing down on any of my favorite plants I will certainly serve an evtiction on it.