The Green and the Gold: or, Peace to Permaculture

I was about to turn my computer on last Tuesday evening when Mrs Spudman suggested instead we sit out in the field with a glass of wine in the sunset. We watched a fox quartering the slope beneath us, listened to the birdsong die in the rising gloom, saw the first bats of the evening emerge and heard a man walking up the lane beyond the hedge stop, unaware of our presence, and offer a prayer for the beauties of the season. Time well spent, I think.

But when I turned my computer on the following evening after 48hrs of internet exile, I found a huge queue of comments on this old post of mine about permaculture awaiting moderation. The awesome power of the retweet at play, I think. There are now 61 comments beneath this post, comfortably a Small Farm Future record, and so many that I can’t really engage with them all. A sweet thing indeed for any blogger to be able to write, but one tinged with sadness too. For when I do respond to a particular comment, I feel bad about all the ones I could have responded to but didn’t. Oh the blogging life is such a rocky road to travel…

Anyway, I hope some of you permaculturists who kindly visited my site will stick with it, and to tempt you along I’m going to add some further thoughts about permaculture here. But first I’m going to talk about something else entirely in order to accustom you to this blog’s typically digressive, allusive and eclectic (OK, rambling) style.

First up, then, an interesting little debate on the always excellent Agricultural Biodiversity Blog about Norman Borlaug, whose centenary year this is. Was he the saviour or the murderer of millions? Oh come on, however passionately we take up our positions in the polarised world of food politics, hyperbole of this kind on both sides gets us nowhere (and, as I argued here, the fact that Borlaug can be painted both hero and villain tells us something important about the contingency of the intellectual frameworks with which we have to wrestle in food policy). Luigi Guarino of the ABB makes a similar point about the hyperbole involved in both sides of the golden rice controversy. As a walk-on extra in the latter, I’ve certainly felt the heat of hysterically pro-GM ideologues, my badge of honour being the accusation that my scepticism about golden rice was tantamount to me travelling to Bangladesh and stealing wheelchairs from disabled children, or some such silliness that I can’t be bothered to look up to get the proper quote.

That accusation came from a familiar old adversary to this site, Graham Strouts. Much as I appreciate a bit of righteous anger, like Guarino I have no taste for wealthy denizens of the global north parading their egos in the misplaced belief that they’re advocating for the poor, and not much taste either for the crude ideology of neo-colonial agricultural improvement or eco-panglossianism that Strouts showcases on his blog. But I just can’t help coming back to him every once in a while. I think it’s because when you read a celebrity eco-panglossian like Stewart Brand his honeyed words almost tempt you into thinking ‘By God, maybe he’s right’ until you remember to re-engage your critical faculties. Whereas with Graham the seething ideology of it all is only too apparent. The historian J.G.A. Pocock wrote that Sir John Fortescue was “the kind of amateur of philosophy who helps us understand the ideas of an age by coarsening them”1. Well, I submit that Graham Strouts is the Sir John Fortescue of eco-panglossiansm. I said as much to a bloke at a party the other night, only for him to edge nervously away from me. Can’t say I blame him, really. Sometimes my erudite wit scares even me.

Anyway, this lengthy preamble is really just by way of justification to explain why I’m going to engage here with Graham Strouts’ comments about my piece on permaculture, and not with those of the many permaculturists whose thoughtful responses to my blog post are really more deserving of attention. But though Graham isn’t thoughtful, he can certainly be thought-provoking. I’ve already addressed a number of the problematic claims from his post in a post here, and implicitly in an article for Stats Views here – in the present post I’m going to focus specifically on his main challenges to the permaculture movement, namely:

  •  that permaculture lacks substantive content: its design principles are nothing more than banal platitudes
  •  that what I called permaculture’s ‘cheerful can-do amateurism’ is in truth more a ‘gormless can’t do naivety’
  • that specific examples of permaculture principles being thoughtfully applied are required
  • and finally that what he calls ‘these earnest PDC-ers’ should ‘just go to ag school, study science and GET REAL’

1. Permaculture Principles

Most permaculturists, I think, are happy to accept that permaculture offers little that’s new or original. It merely packages (perhaps sometimes over-packages) various useful ideas and design principles from other disciplines and thinkers and presents them in a format that’s digestible for modern urbanites who’ve suddenly come to appreciate the banality of their cosseted and unsustainable existence and want to do something about it, however humble. Sometimes permaculturists forget this, and are apt to make excessive claims about the movement’s originality and its capacity to solve the world’s problems (just as eco-panglossians are apt to make excessive claims about the capacity of new technologies to do the same). As Deano put it in his blog comment “It does sometimes seem to take a while for people to ‘observe and interact’ with the facts, and then accept the feedback, and apply self-regulation.”

For me, the main substantive (though not original) content of the movement inheres in its emphasis on holistic design (but let’s call it lifecycle analysis and input-output optimisation to avoid any spiritual baggage), on pattern language and on biomimicry. The last of these touches on a new front opening up in the eco-panglossian war against human sufficiency and its furious and frightened insistence on a philosophy of human overcoming. But my next few posts are going to examine that issue in some detail, starting with a look at Emma Marris’s book Rambunctious Garden, seemingly becoming a keystone work in the eco-panglossian oeuvre, so I’ll leave that hanging for now.

Banal platitudes? Well, yes, I suppose. But what’s the nature of a banal platitude? It’s something that rings true and commands widespread agreement, but also something that’s difficult for people to get right – which is why they platitudinously resort to them as a reminder to stay on the right path. Quit while you’re ahead. Don’t count your chickens. Make hay while the sun shines. And so on (interesting how many of them derive from agriculture…) In a short permaculture design course it’s hard to do much other than mention the platitude and cite a few examples where it comes into play. But it takes whole lifetimes of agricultural thought and practice to apply them skilfully in specific contexts, make the right decisions and learn to farm well. Wendell Berry has written a beautiful essay about this, framing the issue as that of the ‘agrarian mind’ focused on the practical accomplishment of good work in the specific contexts of the farm2. I think permaculture has done a decent job of generalising some of the lessons one can learn from this ‘agrarian mind’, but it’s a dangerous enterprise and all too easy for students to take away from it outcomes when what they really need to see is processes (that was basically the point of my previous post on permaculture).

2. Gormless can’t do naivety

Well, there’s a lot of that about, to be sure. Particularly in the urban white collar worker who seems to be the eco-panglossians’  archetype of successful humanity, and who generally knows nothing about how to grow vegetables, fix an engine, butcher a lamb, make a fence or do a host of other useful things, but instead relies on artisans to do all of that for them, and naively elevates something called ‘science’ to the status of revelation and miracle.

Trust me on this, as a sometime academic sociologist I once was that archetype. But then I became a farmer – and, yes, my farming was pretty naive and gormless when I started. Still is, really. But I figure the world has more need of second rate farmers than second rate sociologists (it’s tempting to add that it’s also more in need of second rate sociologists than second rate eco-panglossians). Still, my farming is less naive and gormless than it was. To me, that’s the most important measure of ‘progress’.

Anyway, I think a lot of people who do a PDC come to it feeling miserable that contemporary education and economics has so deskilled them that they’re incapable of the basic self-care involved in providing their food, clothes and shelter (Simon Fairlie has written a nice article on this phenomenon of ‘distechnia’ here). If they graduate from their course and go on to grow a crap garden, or make some rubbish furniture out of wood from a skip, I salute them. Maybe their next effort will be better. Give me gormless can’t do naivety over wilful dependence any day.

And let’s not overplay the virtues of professionalism. When I get a professional in to do a job for me, sometimes they do it quicker, cheaper and better than I could. More typically they do it quicker, cheaper and worse than I could, because they don’t care about it as much as I do…and then it’s worth asking why I so valued the speed and cost that I hired them. Surprisingly often they do it slower, dearer and worse than I could – most of my faltering improvements to my skill set as a farmer have come from that realisation. And speaking as both a gormless permaculture farmer and a consumer of professional agricultural products from the shops, I’d say that the food production professionals do it quicker, dearer and worse than me…

In summary, gormless can’t do naivety can be rectified, whereas self-legitimating irrationalist scientism is virtually irremediable.

3. Examples of permaculture in action

Nope, I’m not falling for that one. I reject the tyranny of the exemplar. In the hands of the permaculture proponent it becomes exactly the kind of vapid exercise that I criticised in my previous post – Joel Salatin mob stocks his beef cattle, therefore all permaculturists ought to mob stock their beef cattle. And in the hands of its detractors it becomes a build ‘em up and knock ‘em down hostage to fortune of the predictable sort. There are countless examples of permaculture principles being thoughtfully applied for those who care to see, but I’m not going to play the name game. Oh what the hell – Vallis Veg is an example of the thoughtful application of permaculture principles. Is it a flawless example of permaculture design that others should flock to in wonder and then apply religiously to their own practice? No. But we came, we designed, we made it more productive than it had previously been and we (mostly) enjoyed ourselves while we did it. QED.

4. Learn science, go to ag school, get real

Well I’m all in favour of learning science and going to ag school, though I don’t think this bears any necessary relation to getting real. A ghastly pall of unreality afflicts the discourse of scientific agriculture, and the eco-panglossians are in the thick of its fog. Human problems are social problems and as I’ve argued here and here they are not solved simply by applying science or agricultural technology, which is not to say that the learning of science or agricultural technology is of no use. I would, however, venture to say that the crude techno-determinism and cultish mythologisation of science practiced by the eco-panglossians is, genuinely, of no use.

In a follow up post to my original one on permaculture I mentioned Hirschman’s ‘exit, voice and loyalty’ framework. The debate that the original post prompted convinces me that it was good to voice my doubts, rather than going for loyalty, even if the danger of the voice option is that it risks being gleefully picked up by those who wish to undermine from without the movement to which one still, after all, belongs. For me, that debate demonstrates that, as I wrote in my original post, “there’s enough self-critical dynamism in the movement” for it to retain my ultimate loyalty. Peace to permaculture, I say.

References

1. Pocock, J.G.A. (1975) The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition, Princeton.

2. Berry, W. (2002) ‘The whole horse: the preservation of the agrarian mind’ in A. Kimbrell (ed) The Fatal Harvest Reader, Washington.

 

 

13 thoughts on “The Green and the Gold: or, Peace to Permaculture

  1. Dr Spudman says:

    “I would, however, venture to say that the crude techno-determinism and cultish mythologisation of science practiced by the eco-panglossians is, genuinely, of no use.”

    On the matter of cultish mythologisation being of no use – ok , I can sit still. Or better still perhaps – even lend my ‘Voice’. But help me, please, better appreciate where ‘crude techno-determinism’ goes off the rails. Maybe I just need a cogent definition.

    Second rate anything isn’t too rough by my reckoning. And I expect there isn’t any fellow human who can reasonably be ranked as first rate who got there by some magic or birthright… they’ve all climbed to the spot through the fourth, third, and second spots on their way. So you’re posted well at this point.

    Have to run, so perhaps I’ll return to this, but before I go I want to leave an anecdote that bears on my own travel to self-awareness.

    Growing up on a farm I learned early how to raise veges – at the knee of a remarkable farmer. It gets in your blood if you let it. And when the time came to make that life choice about one’s future I signed up to study at an Ag. College. Was even fairly good at that and have since grown up to be a plant scientist. Perhaps not yet first rate, but I’m trying. So the little story here occurs at a college bar just off campus. This is the VERY loud sort – not a pub per se – think Animal House. Conversation is difficult, but a buddy leans across the table and shouts to ask why I’m studying Ag. To which I shout back “You know the expression ‘green thumb’? And following his nod, I shout “I have two”.

  2. Crude techno-determinism. Is that Marxist somehow? I see Thorstein Veblen gets some credit for coining the term. A sociologist… hmmm, wonder how that snuck in here 🙂

    This reminds me of Kevin Kelly’s ‘What Technology Wants’. And while the book has its place, I’m guessing it may have a negative effect on feelings in certain circles. So lets mine somewhere else.

    Where are we headed with the assertion that “A ghastly pall of unreality afflicts the discourse of scientific agriculture…” ?? I so sorely want to jump in here — but I’m afraid I might be projecting notions where none deserve (yet) to be projected. So I’ll wait.

  3. Good questions Clem – but I’ll have to be brief as I’ve got to fill out my EU subsidy forms before taking advantage of the rare sunny day to weed the onions.

    Crude techno-determinism – yes, there’s probably a bit of Marxism in that mongrel, though Marxists are sometimes guilty of it. Broadly it’s a ‘prime mover’ theory of social change that suggests the character of societies is fundamentally determined by their technology, or else that social institutions are wholly explicable as adaptations to environmental conditions (a common criticism of Jared Diamond’s work…I ought to come back to that some time). Perhaps it’s not quite the right phrase for the eco-panglossians, who are techno-fixers: their eyes are only for the solution of environmental problems through technology, with no attention to the complexity of the relations between societies, economies and the wider environment. I’m planning to write another post soon which looks at this in more detail – a basic outline of my argument is at https://smallfarmfuture.org.uk/?p=500.

    ‘Ghastly pall of unreality’ – well, do jump in. I’m not at all opposed to the scientific method and the possibility of using new technologies in agriculture. But I am opposed to invoking concepts like ‘science’ or ‘progress’ as symbolic props in support of an essentially cultural or political position about shaping humanity’s future. In my opinion, there’s a lot of scope for employing science and technology to help overcome many of the problems we currently face, but little scope for overcoming those problems with science and technology.

    Interesting that you mention Kevin Kelly – I’ve got another of his books awaiting processing in the in tray. Yeah, don’t think I’m gonna like it.

    Have to confess my envy of you growing up on a farm and then going to ag college. Great advantages. Oh well, best to make the most of what one has – perhaps I’ll figure out how to tackle the weeds and slugs sociologically.

    • Slug control may work quite well sociologically. It is rumored the little guys (and gals) are quite attracted to fermented barley beverages. So the next time you and the Mrs are out to enjoy a sunset (a very nice mention in your intro above BTW) take along a saucer or two, make it a beer rather than wine, and leave a few tablespoons in each saucer to share with the slugs.

      The only sociological solution I can come up with for the weeds is just the plain camaraderie of teaming up with a friend (or employee) or two (or more) and hoe the devil out of them, and then retire for beverage of your choice to celebrate the victory over those sedentary miscreants. Oh, and in so far as some of these weeds might be edible… cook ’em up and share that as well. Community among Homo sapiens – and death to the uninvited plants. Ah, another sunset approaches. (Where is Brian’s banjo pickin’ buddy when you need him?)

      • “in so far as some of these weeds might be edible… cook ‘em up and share that as well.”

        Chris,
        An interesting post, and I will comment later this weekend. But sadly I use your forum to respond to Clem.

        We had a nice dinner last night with a rich salad as a side. It was composed of Lady Thumbs and Lambs Quarter, both weeds growing in the potato patch. Quite tasty! A great way to achieve victory over the weeds, eat ‘em.

        No what do I do with the pig weed…?

        • I can’t attest to eating the pig weed leaves myself(suppose I better double check… by pigweed you are talking about Amaranths aren’t you?) , but it appears they can be eaten – and along the same lines as one would eat Lambsquarters. I have eaten the tiny black seeds, and have even had the seeds popped like popcorn. Though it isn’t agronomically appropriate to wait to have seed… so back to the leaves. Will Ginger eat them? Oh, wait… do you have goats? I’ve heard they’ll eat most anything.

          Here we’re still looking for something good to do with Canada thistle. I’ve tried more than once to get friends north of our border to consider repatriating them. They haven’t warmed up to the notion.

  4. No, you folks just go right ahead and use my site to talk about your weeds, why don’t you!

    Well, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em – so I’m interested in hearing your vernacular words for your weeds, and comparing them to mine. So lambs quarters I think is what we call fat hen, Chenopodium album? It was cultivated by the stone age folk around here for its starchy seeds. It grows in abundance on our site – I like the taste, though like a lot of wild plants the leaves are a bit too small to hold my interest for long. Orache I guess is the halfway house between wild and cultivated. But then, looking up pigweed suggests that this is also a Chenopodium, maybe a different species? And Lady Thumbs is Polygonum persicaria? I don’t think we have that here, but we have Polygonum aviculare, which we call knotgrass – not sure that it’s edible. Chickweed is another good one that ought to go into our salad bags and possibly sometimes does…

    Yes, beer traps – not a bad idea. Bit too late for the calabrese & celeriac. I try to avoid controls like that as it feels like a lot of faff even on a small scale commercially, but it’s probably worth a go – a warm, wet winter + wet spring + a bit too much grassy habitat around the place = slug nightmare at the moment. I’m hoping to get some ducks next week which ought to help longer term.

    And then down in the river we’ve got those pesky invasive American crayfish…

    • Chris,
      Yep, you’d think two Americans might find a more convenient forum for dialoging than some British farmer’s blog. With that said what we call Lambs Quarter is Chenopodium album. My sources say it contains more vitamin C than citrus, not sure if that is correct. And, yes, Lady’s Thumb is Polygonum persicaria. Your knotgrass is used around here as a wild asparagus. A bit sour but still tasty. Not sure if any of the above were brought by early settlers are not. Certainly dandelion and the plantains were brought over as greens and quickly became native.

      Pigweed is one of the Amaranths and the bane of the Southern farm. One source says the seed heads are good for flour and the leaves, when young, can be boiled as a green. But it has significant spikes on the stalks which you find when ripping out one of god’s innocents. Ouch! It also acts as purge of thiamine in sheep. We discovered that when we had a rash of ewes “star gazing”, a classic symptom of thiamine deficiency.

      But I must say as a native Louisiana boy I’m particularly miffed to see our native crawfish disparaged on this site. What I wouldn’t give for a fifty pound bag of mud bugs, a cooler of beer and good friends to while away an afternoon in convivial eating.

      Cheers,
      Brian

  5. What’s the permaculture term “see a limitation and make a solution” or whatever? Find me a “solution” with couch grass and bind weed. Both are inedible and both require *digging* (or to be fair glyphosate but I’m not going to advocate for it) to remove. I too have sat down satisfied after an afternoon of hoeing to find myself doing it again a week later, and on and on . My pests are rats and slugs: one is a health risk to eat and the other is a waste of time to eat I am told.

    Come on guys, we’re doing it again – indulging in folklore and earthlore “wisdom” when there is the serious business of growing calories, vitamins and minerals. This is more of that silly stuff about permaculture that started all the criticism in the first place. Lambs quarters don’t yield as well as the cabbages they are competing for water, light and nutrients with, so in my opinion, hoe them off. That is unless you like them in which case don’t, but don’t bleat when the scientific brigade ask us to prove permaculture is viable. This is partly why we’re here distracting Chris from his work so we can discuss these issues.

    The PDC is still dodgy and I laugh when people complain they can’t make a profit from charging 20 people the best part of £1000 for two weeks teaching. I wouldn’t mind an input of £20000 into my bank account in exchange for two weeks really hard graft, wouldn’t you Chris?. Don’t get me started on charging a thousand people the best part of a thousand pounds even though I really respect the actual on-the-ground work those teachers do. It’s not the wealth creation bit that bothers me, it is the idea of a social and ecological programme that is spread by means of hard sell and incentivisation techniques.

    I can’t teach Zuumba until I have done a Zuumba teaching course (and paid for it), and quite right too you might say, but they are not going to give me one until they have seen me teach, made sure I am fit, can apply all the techniques and can do the books. They have got the quality control right. Now with the PDC none of that takes place but you are now “licensed” to teach permaculture!. Do it the other way, like the soil association, award the farm, garden or business the “licence”. With the PDC you pay a huge sum of money to be cool, to impress your friends, save the planet and licence yourself to teach others coming into the movement for (what is in reality, individually, to many people) a huge sum of money. And we still haven’t proved p/c is any good.

    And the rant goes on…that permaculture doesn’t have any recognisable style it is just a design philosophy. So what’s with the:
    1. Swales
    2. Hugel Beds
    3. Herb spirals
    4. Polyculture
    5. Food Forests
    6. No dig
    7. Perennial Vegetables
    8. Closed Loop Fertility

    Before permaculture i can confidently claim that nobody tried to grow a perennial vegetable polyculture in a vertically stacked food forest on a mound of buried rotting wood next to a ditch cut along a contour.

    To claim that seeing two or three of these techniques in a garden wouldn’t perhaps indicate that you are looking at permaculture is disingenuous or even deliberately mystifying.

    I should be made up being involved in a light discussion (*ahem*) with Toby Hemenway (and others) but the criticism with p/c is still there.

  6. Tom,
    I’m sure this wasn’t your intent, but to clarify, I was not advocating a commercial use for these weeds. I do hoe them out of my gardens precisely because they interfere with my chosen crops; crops chosen for higher yields.

    However there is a value to knowing your landscape and what is harvestable in a pinch. I personally like the idea of a blurred line between the productive side of our farm and the non-crop world. Where I grew up in Louisiana we actively, fished, hunted and gardened. Knowing what we could safely harvest in our woods, bayous or the edge of our lawns gave us a better sense of security. I wrote about that decline in self-reliance and its impact on my native cuisine last week (shameless plug) on my farm blog in Respect Your Cuisine. Food is ever on my mind.

    But I hear you loud and clear on permaculture’s obsession with certifications and expense. One of the reasons I don’t describe myself as a permaculturalist. I do however try and apply some of the techniques of permaculture and add more perennial plantings to our farm. I do so to give our farm more security in a more uncertain climate. It’s the same reason I plant 10-20 different tomato varieties each year. I have no idea what the summer will bring….

    But I have way too many acquaintances that pony up $1000 bucks for their design certification. Then busy themselves with plans for swales, raised beds and paper outlines of their back yards. All good stuff, no doubt. And maybe I don’t get it. But why not just get your hands dirty? Why not let the goals of permaculture, organic gardening, Wendell Berry, Joel Salatin or whomever and whatever washes over you; then select what is needed for your plot of land and discard what doesn’t work. And repeat, because what all of us know is that farming is a practice of endless becoming.

    Our own Thomas Jefferson famously said, “I may be an old man but I am a young gardener.”

    Cheers,
    Brian

  7. Tom,
    Don’t want to look as though we’re piling on, but I’d like to take a step back here and wonder on a couple of your points.

    Perhaps I’m reading our ‘eat your weeds’ replies from a slightly different direction. I won’t advocate making a living from it – but at the same time I’m not sure throwing folklore and ‘earthlore’ under the bus is the prudent path either. I can’t say as I’ve ever deliberately planted Lambs’ Quarters to raise for food. But around my corner of the planet it seems to do quite well for itself and more than a little attention has been paid to removing it (or killing it). I guess I’m only suggesting it’s cool (and quite delicious) to squirrel away a bag full of ’em so long as you’re taking them out anyway.

    And following along from this and Brian’s remarks about knowing what is and what is NOT edible: Jimson weed (Datura stramonium ) is poisonous… at least at sufficient dosage. And I find it remarkable that some young people will risk life and limb for a temporary buzz by trying Jimson weed seeds. So, a little knowledge (vs. enough knowledge) is sometimes a bad thing. But I’ve gone and digressed again.

    Bind weed is difficult – and perhaps made worse by the point that there are SO many different vining weeds that fall under the moniker. Not sure you have the option to rotate to a ley (pasture or hay field) but most of the vines I encounter here in Ohio will struggle in a properly managed hay field. Under the most common broad acre rotation around me (corn and soybean – I can see the eyes rolling, but please…) attention paid to herbicide rotation and sound agronomic practice (rapid and complete canopy closure for example) will give you the best chance at coexisting with the vines.

    The preceding paragraph on weed control has been brought to you free of charge (save your pounds for a Zuumba teaching course) – by the fine folks here at Small Farm Future. [Where a penny saved is still a penny earned (Franklin I think… a contemporary of Jefferson, and just another revolutionary scoundrel escaping the 18th century British yoke]

  8. Thanks for all that folks. I’ve just been reading a piece about how the open source character of the web is economically iniquitous. It suggests a system of micro-charging for reading blogs etc. Brings new meaning to ‘a penny for your thoughts’. Still, what goes around comes around – I’m learning from all these comments, so do feel free to keep posting about your weeds.

    So, on permaculture – yep I agree with a lot of what you say, Tom. Focus on processes, not outcomes and don’t overdo it trying to stand out from the crowd. I like to think that was implicit in my previous post on this. Have a look also at this interesting post from Patrick Whitefield, who makes some candid points about over-emphasising the different in his permaculture teaching: http://patrickwhitefield.co.uk/one-permacultures-holy-cows-death-swale/. From holy cows to cash cows: I’m not so sure that permaculture teaching is all that lucrative for most teachers. We looked at running a course here a couple of years back, and the numbers didn’t stack up too well – it’s quite a lot of contact time, and a fair whack of the money goes on covering costs. The Permaculture Association is trying to tighten things up, I think, though in the absence of really widespread models of functioning permaculture maybe the result will just be more bureaucracy.

    On slugs, I don’t know Clem. Snails have the physical protection of a shell, whereas I reckon slugs opt for the chemical protection of yucky slime. I’m inclined to say ‘you first’. But let me know how you get on… (BTW just went out to the tunnels and picked off a load of slugs by torchlight, then set some beer traps as per your suggestion).

    On crayfish, sorry Brian. I like the taste too. It’s just that the American ones are bigger, meaner and have better teeth than their English cousins who are losing out in the arms race…

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