Sow There!: Discover the connection — clean cars and snails, 8/24/2018

August 24, 2018 at 4:17 am

I’m driving a Prius these days and I feel pretty darn smug about it. The school where I began teaching this year is just a few miles away. I fill up the tank when I’m on the south side of town, and a smile to myself when the bill is nine bucks.

I bought the car used from one of my delightful friends. She knows I’ve been busy, so we agreed to meet for lunch every time the tires need to be rotated. This ensures we’ll see each other about every 6,000 miles.

Look closely, beneath the tiny specks, this snail has sealed itself up tight for the summer. (Photo by Heather Hacking)

Driving a Prius has its perks and drawbacks. People literally honk and wave their arms dramatically. This is not out of joy for saving the planet. Usually they are driving very large vehicles. It might be my own bias, but it seems like they have been waiting for me to accelerate slowly so they can make a horn-assisted comment about my less-than-hasty style. The noise often occurs on the Esplanade, where the speed limit is 27 mph. If you drive 30 on the Esplanade you’ll race to the next stop light and wait for the light to change.

I admit, even on the open road I drive only five miles over the speed and I obey posted speed limits around town. However, I drove this way even before I drove a hybrid. Maybe the stereotype for slow-pokey Prius drivers is true, only because people who buy them don’t care about torque.

When people honk at me, I like to play a game in my head. If I continue to drive my normal pace, will I catch up to them at the next stop light? Usually I do. I smile to myself and don’t turn their way. Sometimes I am a car’s length ahead.

When I met Mary, the previous owner of my Prius, for the tire rotation, I was embarrassed about how dingy the gray gas-saver had become. I’ve been hauling teacher books in and out of the car for weeks. The back seat is strewn with a plastic model of the planets, miscellaneous wrappers from contact paper and empty cardboard boxes. I haven’t washed the car for weeks because soot had been falling from the sky. The vehicle had a fine patina making the color more charcoal than gray.

After lunch and a long chat, Mary drove me from lunch to the garage. I was delighted to hop into her car and note that her ride was also filthy on the outside. When we were suffering in a drought my car blended right in with all those other dirty vehicles. Now I have no excuse. I took the car to a drive-up self-wash the next day.

More news from the ivy

A few weeks ago, I let loose with a long rant about Ivy. It’s nice that when you publicly air a complaint, you often hear from others who have suffered even more hardship. Wendy wrote that she has been battling ivy for 15 months. The infestation covered a 40-foot fence, and she hired some guys to come and grind out ivy stumps. Good luck, Wendy. Robert wrote that it took him three years to get to the point where he wasn’t sweating over unwanted ivy.

Amanda wrote that she rented a weed wacker with metal blades. If you’re not in rocky soil, the blades can cut through the soil and into the roots, she said. I haven’t tried this yet. I’m waiting to hear how it works out for Wendy.

However, I found something interesting while I was digging around in my unwanted vines. Well, snails aren’t exactly that interesting. Naturally, when I saw the snails, I started to stomp on them. These snails weren’t budging. They were as hard as rocks. Were they petrified snails? When I investigated, I saw that the gooey stuff on the bottom of the snail was dried, actually sealed shut. It was as if some kid had plugged up the hole with rubber cement.

I always wondered what happened to snails in the summer, and why they come out during the first rain as if they’re late for a party.

It’s called aestivation, or estivation if you don’t’ want to get fancy with that “ae” combination. Just as you would guess, the snail shuts down when its dry. Just like food packed for backpacking, everything changes when you add water. One study discussed on Wikipedia states that a snail can wake up after 10 minutes of having water cross its path. Several insects were listed on the aestivation list, as well as crocodiles, desert tortoises and some frogs. Another on the list is the fat-tailed dwarf lemur. I included a link so you can see I am not making this name up,

Of course, this brings me to the question: If I had washed my Prius on my lawn, how many snails would have slithered back to life?

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