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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Slug vs Crop

Naked Eggplant
When my tomatoes suddenly vanished along with every leaf off my eggplant and cucumber plants, I figured the same cheeky squirrel who polished off my peaches was to blame.

My husband faulted our new dog Wally for not taking his squirrel-chasing duties seriously enough, unlike  dearly-departed, dedicated-crop-defender, Sweetie-the-Dog, our old black lab.
Historical Bad Guy

But then a friend in the know, knowingly said, “I bet you’ve got slugs.”  

We peeked under a planter and discovered a globular, wad of gooey matter stuck to the bottom of the pot.  Yep, slugs. Lots. Ew. 

Realization #1. I am a furist, defined as: One who finds annoying but pardonable behavior at the paws of the furry, way less adorable when the perp is slimy. And maybe I’m also a boniest, in that I prefer those with at least a bit of skeleton.

I posted a confession of my newly discovered personal bias on facebook, but friends assumed I was looking for The Final (Slug) Solution.  One recommended I try sluggo. Another suggested fobbing them into the neighbor’s yard as she did her snails. A third suggested beer, saying the wee lushes were drawn to the smell, and drown drunk and happy.

I called a house meeting.  
  • Husband, himself a big fan of the beer-cure for most ailments and conundrums, reserved judgement. 
  • Non-red-meat eating daughter said, “No killing. Period. No discussion necessary. Slugs are sentient, cucumbers are not. The end." 
  • Her visiting friend said, "Slugs are not indigenous so we should feel free to kill them." I did not ask his stand on immigration but pointed out that neither our family nor our tomatoes were from around here, either.
  • Philosophy-major-son wanted to discuss the ethical, moral ramifications /justifications of any killing.
And someone pointed out that we can’t really know that drowning in beer is a painless death. Isn’t it entirely possible the alcohol would sting their weird slippery skin?

Other questions were raised: How badly did I need my tomatoes? asked the child who does not like tomatoes and wonders why I persist in growing things she hates, such as vegetables. 
And: How much protection do we owe the plants we plant? Aren’t they entirely dependent on us? 

Slug One
We decided to have a look at the culprit. We upended a planter and scooped a small, muddy, slug out on the tip of a leaf. It curled slowly away from our prying eyes. 

We brought out a bigger slug. Much easier to see the details, the gill hole, the blue feeler-things. It crawled around on the leaf, fat, and slow, like the sainted, Sweetie-the-Dog. Son pointed out that it had a Fu-Manchu mustache.

And it had a face.

Realization #2. Having a face (slug) trumps not having a face (tomato).  

And that was that, Faceists all. So much for my time and attention, my water, my fertilizer, my compost, my grubby fingernails and salad dreams. My gardening adventure comes to a sluggish end, and it's the produce section at Ralph’s here on in.



Rosalind R. Oliver said...

The face argument coupled with the cute pictures is very compelling. I think I have to agree with you. Unless, you could carefully toss them over the fence and not hurt their little faces?

Anonymous said...

We had what seemed like millions of slugs and snails in Van Nuys. Steve would go outside at night with a flashlight and collect all he could find in a bag. I don't know what he did with them (I didn't ask) but he did this obsessively until there were no more snails. You could collect them and let them go out at the beach, or at the river. We also discovered the turtles loved to eat them.

Lisa said...

I think this is very funny, especially the point about growing unliked vegetables. Coming from the wet and slimy Northwest, I harbor little compassion for slugs. But I also have not looked deeply into the face of one. I may reconsider my opinion.

Uncle Barry said...

You think it's OK to eat tomatoes as long as somebody else does the necessary slug killing?

Susan Patron said...

I think you should get a skunk family. Skunks LOVE snails and slugs, they are gorgeously furry, and they have fairly cute faces. Wally will have to make some adjustments, but your son and daughter should both be pleased and if the skunks are indigenous you'll get points with the visiting friend. You already got points from me for how much I laughed while reading this piece.

Karen McDermott said...

Funny! My fav is the caption: Sweetie the Slug. Love it! Being someone who regularly relocates daddy-long-legs (oh-so-carefully) from their bathroom corner webs to what I've determined to be the most spider-friendly area of the yard, I'm totally with ya on turning your garden into a slug sanctuary.

The Pen and Ink Blogspot said...

The squirrel framed the slug.
Rumor Monger