A Meditation on Slugs

Slugs! What are they good for?  So far, I have determined that they are good at crawling all over the underside of lettuce heads, destroying cabbage, burrowing into cauliflower, bringing down whole sunflower plants and other general mayhem.  But, what are they good for?  The chickens won’t give them a second glance, it doesn’t seem like the spiders are interested at all, and other birds are just going for the worms and seeds.  However, the ducks do get excited for a tasty slug That is one benefit among many detriments.  So…how am I supposed to justify the presence of these pests?


A slug.  On my window.  Nearly seven (SEVEN!) feet off the of the ground.  They are everywhere!

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  1. Hi Alex,I concur yuck! Yet even though they dont have legs, they dont freak me out like the S-word creature. See I cant even write it!! I was reading through your blog and when I got to the part where you wrote Gulp, I had a flashback to a funny (well not really!) story that happened to me back in 1977 involving slugs. Youre not going to like it, but here goes. I was on a month-long Outward Bound program in North Carolina, and we were on the mountaineering part of the trip. We had HEAVY backpacks and had been planning to be out 4 days. Somehow, we got lost in the wilderness of the Smoky Mountains and this was Day 7. We had been out of food for 3 days. The terrain was DIFFICULT and we were told that we were burning between 5,000-7,000 calories per day. Not knowing how long it would be before we got back into civilization we prepare yourself boiled slugs. Oh my this vegetarian farmgirl actually ate a few. Chewy, tough, nasty things, but I guess you could say that there is another use for them you hadnt thought of. Just think of them as the Escargot of the Woods! Have a great day, Cathi (The Mountain Farmgirl)

  2. Mary Anne says:

    Slugs YESSS! and snails this year in the Pacific Northwest. I go on slug patrol and agree that even the chickens won’t eat them. On the windows,yes, but I do use a shovel and have hurled them across the road in an Olypian toss! I don’t LIKE slugs!!!

  3. The title of this article caught my attention. I am not a Buddhist but a United Methodist pastor. That doesn’t matter. It’s just that the title of "Meditation on Slugs" and your article gave me food for thought – and not slug food. What a great title for a sermon! What do we do with the slugs in our lives? They are not just on the underside of lettuce leaves but they abound everywhere – things that take our attention and cause havoc with our emotions and threaten the very nourishment – not of our bodies only – but of our souls – slugs – slugs – slugs. Thanks Alex for your meditation! Sandy

  4. Sandy says:

    Just be glad you don’t have Japanese beetles. No slugs this year in Minnesota, but tons of Japanese beetles eating and eating. Poisons don’t work, they loooove green beans. I go out with a bucket of soapy water and knock them into that where they die. One shake of a bean vine will get about 25 beetles in my bucket. They also love roses and birch trees. This will eventually eliminate birch trees in my opinion. hmmmm, sounds like bugs are winning.

  5. Anne says:

    Putting wood ashes on the cabbages helps , and the heads stay firm and closed enough that it all washes off when you harvest. On a large scale, both farm size, and slug amounts, I don’t know. Not so many here this year, in north Idaho, as it has been dry since the end of June except for two brief rains and in the 80s most days. We all planted a month late because of the cold and wet spring, so we are hoping our stuff finishes before fall frost. Love your column, and wish you well.

  6. Molly says:

    I am a banana slug (UC Santa Cruz alumni), and I LOVE outdoor slugs. But now, after moving to the woods, I have a slug problem INSIDE my house…..now I must draw the line!

  7. I live in Pacific Northwest Washington and slugs are the bane of my existence! I can’t seem to get ahead of them and their voracious appetite for my greens!

    I’ve found the best way to rid a garden of slugs (temporarily) is to take a dowel the width of a pencil, cut it into 2 foot length and then sharpen both ends in my electric pencil sharpener. Take them outside and start slug hunting, stab and fling! Repeat, repeat, repeat!

  8. Maureen Griffin says:

    Hi, it’s your Mom and Auntie Gwen we are at Reed’s using the internet. We know how to kill your slugs with kindness. I’ve never tried this but I have heard that you can place a shallow plate like a pie plate into the garden soil and fill it with beer. I think the slugs are attracted to the beer and crawl in and drown or maybe they become to intoxicated to crawl out. Not a bad way to go for a slug.

  9. Gail Pederson says:

    I am reminded of a wonderful RVing trip to the northwest where my family encountered massive slugs for the first time. A long diatribe erupted on ways to eat a slug…..slug on a stick, slug stew, slug saute, slug smoothie…..you get the picture.

    What about a line of diotomacious (sp) dirt? I’ve heard they do not like to cross it…cuts their underside.

  10. Betty in Pasco says:

    You asked what slugs are good for–duck food. I used to skewer them and drop them in the duck pen and they would pounce on them and nary a drop was left. Good stuff for the ducks but not my cup of tea. I have a problem with snails that has just occurred in the past few years.

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Foraging Farmgirl

“Why farm? Why give up the 20-hour work week and the fun of hunting in order to toil in the sun? Why work harder, for food less nutritious and a supply more capricious? Why invite famine, plague, pestilence and crowded living conditions?” Harlan (1992)
The late summer foraging season is upon us in Alaska. As our own raspberries start showing hints of pink (an unlucky few matured early and made their ways into eager bellies, already), Mother Nature’s bounty is ripening up, as well! While societies around the world have thrived and grown in the wake of the development of agriculture, hunting, gathering and all around foraging are still great ways to supplement our diets with fun new (and often previously unknown to us) ingredients.

I love Blueberry stained hands!

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  1. Alli says:

    I live in So. Cal in a VERY dry area, but here are a few things we find here that are good; wild radish, prickly pear cactus,mallow and miners lettuce along with nettles in wetter areas. My favorite is nettle. when it is cooked up in a soup it tastes like cream of asperagus soup to me…yum!

  2. Diann says:

    At the beginning of spring, we have wild blackberries. There are large wild brambles everywhere. The birds and I squabble over them vigorously! We usually have some pretty good mushrooms but not so much this year because of the dryness. Wild sage, mint, and other herbs are usually abundant. I love fresh "stuff" whether cultivated or wild.

  3. Terri Talarek King says:

    I always enjoy your blog so much! Including this one. I’m aware of many edible and medicinal plants in my area (including in our own woods and growing wild in our garden area), yet I’ve barely used them. I really want to get into it and make use of what’s there! So, your posting inspires me to do so.
    While I’m here, I have a question for you or anyone else reading this: does anyone know if only certain species of ferns are edible in the fiddlehead form? Or are all fiddleheads edible? I’ve been having trouble finding the answer. Alexandra – maybe your friend Henry could help me with this one? 🙂

  4. Julee says:

    Checkout Backyard Harvest, Fallen Fruit and other websites for urban foraging ideas.

  5. Julie says:

    I live in Ketchikan and I consider myself a hunter gatherer and gardener. I love picking rhubarb, Fireweed and spruce tips for jelly, red huckleberries, blueberries, high brush cranberries, salmonberries, wild strawberries, raspberries and salal. I make jams,jellies and syrups for my growing extended family. This year I am making 4 oz jars of jams and jellies for my wedding favors. We have lots of mushrooms here in Ketchikan too but I don’t know enough about them to pick them.
    I loved your blog post about slugs too. This year they were extremely bad in our garden. They ate our green beans and beets even after using Corry’s slug death. I even found them on the branches of the raspberries and huckleberries I have been picking this year!

    So glad to met another Alaska girl who enjoys foraging! Have a great winter!

  6. Katie says:

    I’m sort of surprised that I haven’t found any educational type blogs about GMO’s… would love to see this topic spread like wildfire and for people to have their eyes opened. Thanks in advance for any consideration of this topic 🙂

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Learning to Farm

In the not so distant past, the main mode of gaining farming knowledge was by growing up in a farming family. The mothers and fathers of little farm kids everywhere imparted their knowledge to their offspring for generations. In this way, families knew their land intimately, the children’s knowledge of farming practices was nearly intuitive and land, machinery, livestock and outbuildings were passed down generation to generation. However, the days of the family farm have all but come to an end. People who grew up on farms are increasingly moving from rural areas into more urban centers. The median age of farmers has increased steadily while the number of farmers has decreased. The U.S. census doesn’t even list farming as an occupation any more.

So, what is going to happen to small scale American farms? 

This is what small-scale sustainable agriculture looks like!

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  1. Well written. There is a great program for Beginning Women Farmers through Holistic Management. It covers all the bases. So exciting how many young people are interested in being part of food production.

  2. I really enjoyed your article. I live in a small town in Iowa and we really enjoy gardening. I wish that I could own a few farm animals but I can’t. When I was younger I would stay with my grandparents who lived on a farm and I would have a lot of fun helping Grandma gather eggs in the morning or whatever else there was to do.
    Donna W.

  3. Kat Oliver says:

    Lovely article. I have seen first hand the rise of the small family farm here locally as more farmers markets are opening every year. Locally grown is the trend as there is such an improvement in the quality of the food provided. I have embarked in a career in fiber and wholesale hand dyed yarn and am in the process of developing a registered Shetland flock of sheep with the notion of developing an American Shetland yarn. My back ground is being a military brat. But l have educated myself via a lot of classes offered by local ag colleges and extension services. I volunteer for 4H and local schools teaching knitting, spinning, and dyeing. I think it is important to share knowledge.
    Kat at Sweet Tree Hill Farm in VA

  4. Kat Oliver says:

    Lovely article. I have seen first hand the rise of the small family farm here locally as more farmers markets are opening every year. Locally grown is the trend as there is such an improvement in the quality of the food provided. I have embarked in a career in fiber and wholesale hand dyed yarn and am in the process of developing a registered Shetland flock of sheep with the notion of developing an American Shetland yarn. My back ground is being a military brat. But l have educated myself via a lot of classes offered by local ag colleges and extension services. I volunteer for 4H and local schools teaching knitting, spinning, and dyeing. I think it is important to share knowledge.
    Kat at Sweet Tree Hill Farm in VA

  5. hobbit says:

    So glad to read articles like this. I did grow up on a farm and it was the best. However, my mother wanted something better for us and sold the farm!!!!I have spent my whole life doing what I could to be a farmer.I had to,it what was in my heart and soul. Our farmer’s market runs all year long and it’s so busy in the winter you can hardly get to the vendor.It took about 5 years to reach this level but, thanks to that "never say die" attitude of our New England farmers it has blossomed into something wonderful.I hope this attitude catches on all across the land.People happy to meet and greet their neighbors…….I love it.

  6. Shery says:

    Wow, I did not know about farmers not being listed on the Census. Wow wow wow…SCAREY. The ‘bread basket of the world’ … not so much anymore is what you’re telling me.

    In our corner of the agricultural world – Ranching – the average age of the American rancher is 75. Frightening. American citizenry seems to be either clueless(?) or uninteresing in caring. I guess people are ok with being by & large dependent on other nations for food…?! So very bizarre that a country so rich in Ag history and just as promising for continuance in Ag self-reliance [as a nation] is going the way of consumerism in all four corners of our existence.

    I so hope that enough of you youngfolk see what is a’foot and move away from this trend.

  7. Beth says:

    Hi Alexandra.
    Great article! I agree with you completely- we have to support small organic farms. I try to buy local, organic (if possible), and also have a garden and chickens. I’m happy to see more small farmers markets springing up every year in my area of central Pa. I’m currently renovating my mother’s family homestead to start a School of Country Living, where people can learn some of the skills that sustained us in generations past. At one time it was a small, busy dairy farm with a herd of cows and its own milk bottling plant. Sadly all of that is gone now, but the spirit of the place remains. It’s encouraging to know that there is a new crop of "Beginning Farmers" on the land. Best of luck…"

  8. Valerie says:

    I have several family members currently that are farmers, which farming has been in the family for generations. Most of my relatives have anywhere from 800-1200, however as they all have cows, they use several hundred acres of their land is then used as pasture land. A few of my cousins are currently helping out as farmhands to my uncles and grandpa, mainly due to the high price of land they are unable to purchase their own right now. When the time comes at some point the land that my family members own will be passed down to them. I even know farmers that will purchase land from a neighbor (a private sale is usually done instead of a public one), that they do not necessarily even need, but do so in order to ensure big corporations are not getting the land. They will then either have more acreage for their cows or grow alfalfa or just have it be fallowed to preserve it. I think beginner farmers should be given low interest rate loans to start out and be able to purchase land and equipment. My uncles and grandpa love to talk farming to people, so if someone is starting out I highly recommend trying to find a seasoned farmer in their area to get advice from.

  9. Carmen says:

    For the most part, I like your article but you said something that annoys me every time I hear it. "The food from these farms might seem outrageously expensive at times." Sorry but if you buy the food "from these farms" at Whole Food it is "outrageously expensive" but it rarely is if you buy it at a farmer’s market, unless you chose to go to one with very high fees where the growers have no choice but to charge high to make up the fee. I sell at a farmer’s market where the vast majority of us use organic methods to grow what we eat and sell. Because there is no middle man and we run our own farmer’s market, our prices are comparable to what the local Walmart charges for non-organics. If people would visit their smaller farmer’s markets they would find out that eating organic doesn’t mean selling your first born to do it. If people who are into organics keep telling other that organic prices are "outrageously expensive", people who may want to eat organic will not even try buying from those of us who want to keep it affordable for our neighbors because a preconceived notion perpetuated by articles like this one.

  10. Andrea says:

    I have recently (2.5 months ago) moved onto and I should say into a family farm that has been on set-aside for the past 12 years so even though it is a farm , it’s only a beginning farm. We are slowly adding and learning as we go and I love to hear other newbie stories. I’m 36 and would never have guessed that this is what I would want to do, but after having my daughter the normal consumer driven life I had been leading seemed all wrong. We only have gardens and chickens, ducks, and geese right now but will add crops next year along with a few dairy cattle, bees, and possibly a few sheep or goats…oh and a few pigs. 🙂 We hope to bring in more biodiversity with small amounts to help soil and labor amount. To anyone out there thinking about it…I say you gotta try it even if you don’t have a farm to play on, there are so many that would love any help they can get, go volunteer! There’s nothing that beats fresh dirt on your hands and animals calling out to you as you walk by.

  11. Sheree says:

    You are an inspiration! I have wanted to farm since the 70’s when I was a teenager. After retirement from a vastly different career, I bought 5 acres in IL complete with 100 yr old home, corn crib, & 150 yr old barn. I am living my dream! Better yet, my daught and her family are with me. We are renovating, getting gardens started, and even have 2 cows in our pasture (they belong to a neighbor farmer) but the smell is authentic! I too see this as a wave of the future and what better time then in these trouble economic times. Hope to use some out building as guest homes to eventually start a B&B so others can "play farmer" and catch the bug!!

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