Wednesday, 17 February 2016

The charming of worms


I've just learned that Benjamin Franklin invented (amongst many other things) the glass harmonica. He thought it was best suited to Scottish music, apparently. Well well.

We are warming up to a weekend of gales again. This will be the 11th gale since just before Christmas. Our Saturday market traders must be getting pissed off. I know I am.

A farmer from a flooded area here was saying this morning that his fields will not recover from 6 foot flooding without re-seeding, and he will not be able to re-seed until he has loosened up the soil from having been compacted by all those tons of water. That's another thing that had not occurred to me - I know water is heavy, but had not thought that it presses down on the ground and turns it into a clay tennis-court.

Here in Britain, we rely on worms. It is because of the worms that we have to dig to find archeological artefacts and the buildings which contained them. In Egypt, if you drop an item on the ground, it stays in exactly the same place for thousands of years, just so long as it is not buried by sandstorms. Here, it will end up at least three feet below the surface in quick time.

Just before this farmer spoke, someone else mentioned the reason why Greater Spotted Woodpeckers are doing so well. The decline of Starlings means that woodpeckers don't have to compete with hoards of them for worms - the staple diet of both, apparently.

I have a friend who won the All England Worm-Charming Championship once. In case you don't know, this is a competition in which you are given a small patch of ground and the winner brings most worms to the surface in a certain time by any means other than actually digging them up.

Many people perform all sorts of exotic dances on their patches, with varying degrees of success. Some just pat the ground to attract them and I have heard that others play Indian pipes, as if they were Cobras. My friend (who runs a very successful and famous hamburger outlet in Bath) just used his intuition.

He placed his mobile phone on his patch of ground and called it up using another phone. Within minutes, dozens of worms were surfacing to see what all the fuss was about. There was science involved, but he did not know what sort.

There was much debate amongst the judges as to whether or not he should be disqualified, but there was nothing in the rules which prohibited mobile phones. This was probably because the rules were written about 200 years before they were invented.


20 comments:

  1. This unleashed a flood of reminiscing by the Great Scot... recalling various techniques for charming worms.

    I knew Benjamin Franklin had invented the glass harp, but not that he thought it most suitable for Scottish music. Interesting.

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    1. He also invented the odometer by measuring the circumference of the cart wheel, then attaching a peg which clicked a counter which logged revolutions over the distance. I still use this, but not on my cart.

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  2. Chris and i won second place in the worm charming comp in Prestatyn 5 years ago

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  3. I love this as competition. What will they think up? I have heard that earthworms were brought to the US from England. Now, they are everywhere. When we hired someone to fence off our horse's field, he said while sinking the metal posts every six feet, giant night crawlers came to the surface and were everywhere. I'm going to have to try that with the grandkids. Worm charming. Learn something every day.

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    1. I think I am right in saying that we have accidentally imported giant America earth worms from America, and I know that I have seen some. They are about 15 inches long at full stretch. Big, like everything else from the States...

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    2. '...from America...' Where else???

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  4. I have a mental picture of worms tickled mercilessly to the surface by the vibrating phone on the ground.

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    1. Yes, that rings some sort of bell from my youth too.

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  5. You have to be careful what you do with your patch, don't you ?!!!! XXXX

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  6. Dear Tom, I am very late in catching up with your posts. Thank you for your keen observations of D Trump's taste.
    Mysteriously, he continues to attract potential presidential supporters. I guess they share a certain taste.
    Hoping you've got your computer troubles all sorted.
    You do have a lot of good sense, and taste.
    Best wishes.

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    1. Kind words, Frances. Thank you. The computer problems still niggle, but are slowly being ironed out.

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  7. Clearly, worms are attuned to social media, and like gossip.

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    1. Except sexual scandal - they are hermaphrodites...

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