Ants and Snails

Mole and Hedgehog LOVE animals. Fury ones, scaly ones, feathered ones, it doesn’t matter. It is the only other thing besides my phone or a laptop that is guaranteed to get their instant attention.

This extends from following around cats and dogs, to chasing squirrels in the park, running after ducks, scrutinizing an ant, stopping to admire a slug in the pathway for 20 minutes and generally terrorising any moving thing within a mile radius.

The problem is that they tend to kill the smaller ones.

Mole’s conversation to another little girl she met in the playground last week went like this:

Mole: “Shall we climb down this ramp? Can you get down? Do you want me to help you with your leg? Ooooooh look, an ANT. Do you want one? Look I’ll get one for you. Oh, it died. Never mind, here’s another one…”

Last week Mole brought in a terrified snail cowering in its shell, and showed it to me. We put it on the stone slabs outside to watch it come out and begin its slow motion journey towards our olive tree. Mole and Hedgehog crouched over it. I repeated my instructions to WATCH and not TOUCH, and went inside.

After a while Mole came in and asked for a teaspoon. “Why?” I ask. “I want to make music on the plant pots”. Okay. A little while later Hedgehog comes in asking for the same thing, predictably following anything that Mole does.

I emerge a few minutes later, and find the snail, mashed into a pulp with the teaspoon. Hedgehog looks at me with a half guilty, half vacant look on her face. I tell her off but can’t be sure that she really understands. Mole by this time has lost interest and is doing circles on her scooter.

This got me thinking that it is hard to teach lessons about killing versus not killing animals when there are so many exceptions. There are pets, and there are pests. It must be so confusing for a 2 year old.

Spiders and slugs for example, are a tricky area. I routinely hoover up any spiders without a second thought, and Mole and Hedgehog have both seen me go round the garden at night with a trowel, chopping the slugs in half. Snails with their pretty shells are spared the death penalty, they just get thrown over the fence.

There was a bee swarm on our roof last year. Pest control would have killed them, and their home in our chimney pot was too difficult for a bee keeper to reach. In the end they swarmed off somewhere else and made the decision for us.

I did a wrecky around the village allotment last week on a vague thought of renting a plot, and discovered that someone was keeping chickens on theirs. Light bulb moment… chickens for Mole and Hedgehog? they can learn about pets and farming at the same time, brilliant.

The chickens would be mainly for the eggs of course, and perhaps the occasional Christmas bird? but we wouldn’t tell Mole and Hedgehog that.