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April 2003

In one of my explorations in the desert near Tucson, I unexpectedly came across a little spring in a low place among the rocks. Surrounded by a variety of vegetation, it was surprisingly cool.

As I looked around in surprise, I stumbled over something that looked almost like a little dwelling, and as I caught my balance I thought I saw a very slight movement on the ground next to my feet.

Putting on my glasses, I squatted down and peered intently at a very tiny snail holding what looked like rolled-up building plans.

"Uh, how do you do," I said, "Please excuse me. I'm a tourist and ...."

The poor creature almost had a heart attack when I spoke to him! "Terrorist! Run, Agnes!" he cried in a thin little voice.

"No, no," I explained hurriedly. "I said I am a TOURIST, not a terrorist, and I mean you no harm whatsoever. My name is Wanna, and I like to get out and explore the countryside whenever we travel. We're just in Tucson for a few days, although we plan to come back in the fall." I looked around carefully to see where I had stepped. "I hope I haven't harmed anything."

Reassured, the snail became quite sociable. "No, no harm done, Miz Wanna," he said. "The name is Podd, Gastro Podd."

"Pleased to meet you." I squinted as I gazed down at him. (This was one tiny snail!) "Uh, Mr. Podd, would you mind if I get out my mag-eye glasses?" I asked. "My hobby is miniatures and I always carry my tools along in my totebag. They would allow me to see you much more clearly."

"No problem. Just don't let a ray of sunlight focus too much on us, is all I ask."

"Thank you," I responded. With my mag-eye glasses I could see a bit more clearly. He appeared to be waving a newspaper at me.

"I don't mean to be rude," he said, "but frankly we don't have much confidence in Human Beings these days. Just listen to this headline," he cried. "SALT SPILL THREATENS COMMUNITY!"

"Oh, no, I had nothing to do with that," I said. "Look," I added, spilling the contents of my totebag onto the ground, then holding up both hands. "See? No sign of salt anywhere. Why, I was just wandering around and I'm not even sure how I got here," I added, looking around in confusion. "Where the heck are we, anyway?"

"That's just as well, then," Gastro said. "The less your kind know about where we live, the better. Don't take this personally, but when you leave I will lead you blindfolded back to your car. You realize that as a Human Being, you risk our very survival if you ever let people know exactly where we are located."

Gastro and his family ARE somewhat special, it turns out. He explained that they are desert snails and rather unique because evidently they are the only creature capable of eating all plant species of the area in which they live. They are particularly fond of Mesembs, members of the Aizoaceae Family, which include some of the most interesting and collectable succulents in cultivation.

The Podd Family story is a remarkable one of survival and adaptation in the inhospitable desert, having survived through the millenia in thousands of small springs, seeps and wetlands that were the sole source of moisture for miles around.

At this point, Mrs. Podd approached shyly. Gastro Podd said. "Agnes, this is Miz Wanna. Only a lost tourist; nothing to worry about."

"So nice to meet you, Mrs. Podd," I said. "I'll be honest; I've never met any snails personally before and I'm rather ..... Uh, that's a pretty apron you're wearing. I didn't realize that ...."

"That snails wore aprons?" she completed my sentence. "A common misconception among Human Beings. However, we are not the common garden variety of snail, you know."

"My Aunt Molly did considerable research on the family. Agnes and my aunt really care about that sort of thing," Gastro Podd commented.

"Well, we are proud of our lineage," Mrs. Podd said. " We come from a long line of Podds that can be traced back millions of years. Poor Aunt Molly; all that work and then she drops out of sight. And WE'RE not ready to disappear now because of someone blabbing about us to other Human Beings," she said pointedly.

"My lips are sealed, Mrs. Podd," I said quickly. "You have my word on that until you tell me I can do otherwise. Why, I had no idea that Podds were anywhere around here."

"What big eyes you have," she said. "They really shine quite alarmingly."

"Oh, these are just giant magnifying glasses," I reassured her. "See?" I smiled as I took the glasses off, then put them back on..

"Hmm, well, I don't think I'd wear those out in public if I were you," she said.

"Oh, I don't, usually; just for workshops and close-up work at home. Although I am happy that I had them with me today. Otherwise, I might've missed you and your little home completely. Who could have imagined what I would stumble over when I left my car and started exploring?"

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Miz Wanna, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy," Gastro said, winking.

"True," I agreed, trying to remember where I had heard those words before. "Tell me," I said, peering more closely at the strange little something I had nearly crushed underfoot. "Is that a house? I always believed that snails carried their houses around with them."

"Well, we do; our shells allow us out in a world that is quite hostile for any soft-bodied creature. But we are an upwardly mobile family of snails, and this larger family dwelling will be where we can have family reunions and let our shells down, so to speak, and be comfortable without worrying about being vulnerable."

He looked around as if to see if anyone was in earshot. "I'll let you in on a secret," he confided. "Not many people know this, but we are members of a local nudist group. We're in a secluded area here, and quite off the beaten path." He looked at me with a smile. "Except for lost tourists like you."

"Oh, so you mean you leave your shells and ...."

"Whenever we are of a mind to, yes."

"Wow, I never would've guessed," I said, shaking my head in amazement.

"We're still residing in our individual mobile homes while waiting for the contractors to finish our family residence," Gastro Podd informed me. "An interminable process. Those desert elves have their own ideas about what is appropriate, and I've had to fight them every step of the way. They just dawdle along and keep wanting to leave out things."

"I guess they work at a snail's pace," I joked. He just looked at me.

At this point I hurried on. "I admire the structure of your new home. It looks quite whimsical somehow, but very appropriate. Did you design it?"

"Oh, yes." He looked at me with a slight smile. "You haven't been around many snails, have you? We've been designing our homes for millions of years!"

He surveyed their almost-completed dwelling. "The basic structure is called a saguaro boot. That's pronounced Sah-war-oh. You know those tall cactus with the arms, like someone in a holdup?"

I nodded.

"Well, woodpeckers like to peck holes in them so they can build their nests, and when they do, a fungus starts growing which ultimately destroys that arm of the cactus. What's left falls to the ground and is known as a boot. They're much in demand among the animal world. I even hear that a species of desert fairy occupies one occasionally. So the contractor elves tell me, anyway."

"I had no idea," I said again, shaking my head in wonder.

"Most cactus boots are fixer-uppers; some occupants just move right in, as-is."

"However, we wanted something a little more substantial." He gestured toward the interior. "I'm seriously thinking of having the workers put at least a thin coat of plaster on the inside. If we use this place to come out of our shells, we don't want rough surfaces to bump against, that's for sure, although our Podd foot is able to crawl over almost anything." He looked thoughtfully at their potential dwelling. "I think we could do that without destroying the uniqueness of the original, don't you?"

"Oh, I'm sure," I agreed, nodding. "And it might make it a bit lighter in there; it seems kind of dark now."

"We could've chosen from among several designs," he said, pulling a photo from his shell.

"This is one plan we looked at, and it was fairly open, letting in more light, but Agnes, Mrs. Podd, wanted a bit more concealment. As I said earlier, Podds have to lead a very circumspect existence. Our survival depends on that."

He gestured toward their house. "I am a bit disappointed at this stage, however. They left off the ramps I designed. I mean, we can crawl up the walls, but we don't want to have to do that with this residence. I am continually amazed at the lack of common sense shown by this group of workers. You'd think the contractors would have noticed that omission when they reviewed the plans. IF they reviewed the plans!" He shook his antennas in disgust and pointed. "Look at that! Stepping stones but no ramp!"

"This is a lovely setting for a home," I said. "It's neat how you took advantage of the natural environment without destroying it."

"Well, it was a battle, I tell you. Why, those guys wanted to just go in there and scrape it flat." He looked at me. "Frankly, they reminded me of some Human Beings I have known. Bulldoze it down, that seems to be their motto."

"What about this?" I asked, pointing toward what looked like a cross between a ramp and steps on the right side of the house, leading to the top of the dwelling.

"Oh, that," he said proudly. "Well, the contractors did do one thing right. That is my special design; it allows access to the roof. It's made from a kind of bean pod. Clever, isn't it? A pod for a Podd." He slapped the side of his shell in amusement.

"Is that a gazebo?" I asked. "What in the world did you make that cute little covering from?"

"Well, some Human Beings had a picnic here once; scared us to death that they might trample our community out of existence. The only good thing they did was leave that lemon peel behind. For some reason, they had scraped away all but the husk, and it turned out to be quite interesting when it dried. Thoughtless and rude of them to leave it here, but I decided to keep it. If you walk over to the other side of that large rock, you'll see what's left of their trash. It took us FOREVER to haul it over there out of sight." He sighed. "It will probably be there long after we're gone."

"A lemon peel! Imagine that! You are very innovative, Mr. Podd."

"We have to be, Miz Wanna; our survival depends on it."

"I don't want to appear nosy, but will you climb up there?"

"Oh, definitely. That was always a part of my house plans. It will be a great place to read or have a snack or just commune with nature. You can see for quite a distance. Naturally, we have to limit our exposure to cloudy days."

"So you'll leave your shells and sit out in the open ...."


"Wow, that is so cool."

Mr. Podd pointed toward the overhangs at both entrances to their almost-finished home. "Well, I see they did follow my plans there, too. That large fungus worked out quite well."

"A railing is going to extend partially along the edge of the rear deck eventually," he said. "I like that; we can sit out there without worry of falling and enjoy the view without being exposed too much to sunshine or rain when we aren't in our personal shells."

"Oh, I'm sure," I nodded in agreement. "One other question; what in the world is that thing?" I asked.

"If I am not mistaken, Human Beings call that a Devil's Claw. Mrs. Podd saw it on the site and insisted that the contractors not remove it. She feels it will make an excellent clothesline, and possibly a swing for Gastro Junior."

"Well, you didn't miss an opportunity to take advantage of the natural setting, Mr. Podd," I said, admiringly.

"Yes," he said thoughtfully. "We have survived all these millions of years because we have adapted well to our environment. Just because we want to modernize our lives a bit doesn't mean we have abandoned those principles. Look under the front deck, here, for example. See? That's all natural growth. The only additions are those stepping stones for potential visitors. Since this is a natural desert seep, it can be quite muddy at times."

Mrs. Podd said, "I may try growing some some small shade-tolerant plants under there. I'm planning an algae garden around at the side of the house where the sun hits when I find just the right containers. One of the contractor elves brought me a container of fish fertilizer that should last a lifetime of algae-gardening. Maybe I'll try growing some succulents, too. The Caracol branch of the family always planted yerba mansa; it grows in this area, too, but not right here now. The Podds are big believers in medicinal plants."

At this point she pulled an album from inside her shell. "Let me show you something."

"Now, Agnes," Gastro began, "Let's don't bore Miz Wanna here."

"Oh, no, no," I said. "I am not bored at all. I would love to know more about your family."

"Well," Mrs. Podd said companionably, "sit down here beside me and I'll show you some of our family history."

I looked around carefully before I eased myself to the somewhat-damp ground. It was a good thing I had my magnifying glass with me. (You know how we miniaturists are, always equipped with our tools.) With it and the mag-eyes I could just barely make out the print.

At this point a young snail came crawling from behind a nearby plant, pulling a toy on wheels.

"Miz Wanna, this is our son Gastro Junior. Junior, say Hello to our guest."

"Hi," he said in a tiny little voice, hiding behind his mother's shell. "Is that a gas mask you're wearing? Are you a terrorist like Dad read about in the paper?"

"Junior! Don't ask questions like that!" his mother said. "Miz Wanna here just dropped in for a visit. She's harmless; just out exploring. And that's not a gas mask, it's her glasses. Now then, back to the album ...."

"This is our marriage certificate," she said, "Although I will confess Mama thought I was marrying beneath my station," she murmured under her breath.

Young Gastro Podd Junior was curious. "Where did I come from?" he asked his parents.

At this point, his father retreated behind the sports pages. "I see the track team did well in the Ambling Competition."

"This is your father's baptismal certificate, Junior," his mother said hurriedly, frowning at her husband hiding behind his paper. "It shows that we springsnails are special. We are an example of ecological transformation, adaptation and survival spanning millions of years," she said proudly. "Among our more distinguished ancestors were some whose fossilized shells are even now on display in the Centennial Museum on the campus of The University of Texas at El Paso."

"What does fossilized mean, Mama?"

"Well, it means he's been dead so long his shell has turned to stone."

"Wow, neat!"

"And speaking of stone," she said, pointing at a picture in the album, "Here's a picture of a famous courtyard at a castle in England that honors our family."

"Cool," young Gastro said.

"I wish you wouldn't use those expressions all the time, Junior. They sound so common."

"Oh, good grief, Agnes," Mr. Podd said, snapping his newspaper. "Lighten up a little."

"I say, lighten up a little! Somebody around here needs to maintain some standards. Hmmpf," she snuffed, and turned to the next page of the album. "If it hadn't been for Aunt Molly, we wouldn't know a lot of this."

I kept silent.

Gastro Podd peered at her over his newspaper. "She probably wore herself out drawing all those maps from a million years ago. I knew she was old, but ...."

"Oh, Gastro!" She couldn't resist a bit of a smile at her husband's teasing. "Don't pay any attention to him, Miz Wanna. He's always got to make a joke of everything!"

"Okay, Agnes. Go ahead," Gastro Senior said, and winked at me.

She pointed to some hand-drawn pictures and continued, as if from a script; probably Aunt Molly's research. "Long ago there was a vast network of interconnected waterways of the Intermountain West that went all the way from the Northern Basin of the Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico to Nevada. That's when our ancestors, the springsnails, spread all the way from the East Colorado River to California. Nowadays, what few wet spots that are left with the recurring drought conditions are being destroyed by Man's continuing domination over everything. We think that's what happened to poor Aunt Molly. Even with the monsoon rains we don't think her community has survived, because Human Beings are always diverting the water, or letting their cattle trample out all the wet pockets. That's why it's so important that you do what you can to keep our home's location secret."

"Yes, and we don't want to become another Great-Uncle Armando Caracol, either," Gastro blurted out.

"There you go again," his wife said, her antennas waving indignantly. "Why do you always have to talk about every failure and black sheepsnail in the family?" she fussed. "I'm not going to sit around here while you fill your son's and our guest's heads with things they'd be better off not knowing." She slid away in a huff. "I'm going to see if the algae's ready for lunch."

I was getting excited. "Oh, wow ! Mr. Podd, I read something about that recently," I said, pulling a piece of paper from my totebag, "in a newsletter from The Nature Conservancy. Ah, here it is." I began reading the newsletter aloud. "'In 1998, six federal land management and resource agencies, along with the Smithsonian Institution and The Nature Conservancy, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work to conserve the nearly 100 species of springsnails in habitats on federal and Nature Conservancy lands in the Great Basin. The agencies and involved scientists are working to identify threatened habitats and raise the awareness of a broad range of springs stakeholders throughout the West.'"

He looked at me with new respect. "Well, maybe Human Beings aren't ALL bad. Present company excepted, of course, in my condemnation."

I continued reading aloud. "'The likelihood of losing a great many more of these springsnail species is extremely high," So-and-So said. "But finally there's a genuine awareness beginning to take hold that this biodiversity resource is priceless, both for its endemic species and for the knowledge they hold about the natural history of the West.'"

"Well, it's true," he said. "We are living indicators of the ecosystem. If things go badly for us, they reflect problems in energy transfer and balance. A rather wise Human Being once said that if we springsnails and other endangered species die out it will be 'like losing a library that contains answers to questions we've not yet learned to ask.'

I returned the newsletter to my totebag. "So you have The Nature Conservancy working for you!" I looked at him with pride. "And I'll bet the Game and Fish Commission, too."

"Tell us about Great-Uncle Armando, Dad," Junior pleaded.

"Yes, do," I said. "I'd love to hear, too."

"Don't let on to Mama that I told you," Gastro said, his antennas poking around the corner to see where his wife had gone. "Well, Great-Uncle Armando was a horn snail who lived in Southern California. Unfortunately, that branch of the family was almost completely destroyed by a trematode infection."

"What's a trematode, Dad?" Junior asked.

"Well, I'm not sure exactly," his father said, "but it's pretty bad. It all began when Armando was grazing on algae and incidentally swallowed some worm eggs, perhaps from a bird dropping. The eggs hatched into worms that prevented him from, uh, ahem .... further reproduction. Instead, he nourished the growing larval worms, which eventually developed into a free-swimming stage and then left him to take up residence in some other animal, maybe a crab, fish, bird, or even another species of snail. Unfortunately, by the time the trematode left Great-Uncle Armando he was only a shell of his former self and quickly died."

"Oh, yuck," Junior said and I also swallowed hard at the thought of poor Uncle Armando's fate.

"Yuck is right," his father agreed. "A sad story, but we all have to learn about such things, Junior. It's part of life."

"I know I promised I wouldn't talk about you, Mr. Podd," I said with concern, "but people do need to know about your family so that you can be protected. Like with what the Smithsonian and The Nature Conservancy and The Game and Fish Department across the West are doing and all."

"Well, I trust your judgment, Miz Wanna; that if you speak of us it will be with the utmost discretion, or the long line of Podds will be snapped."

"I assure you, sir, that I will keep your location a secret." I looked around. "I don't know if I could ever find this place again, anyway, it's so well hidden."

"That's the idea. Now we better mosey over to lunch before Junior's mother has a fit. Will you join us?" he asked politely, pointing toward the food spread on a tablecloth on one of their nearby new stepping stones.

"Thanks, Mr. Podd, but I ate a picnic lunch just before I found you. But I would like to look around your new house a while longer, if you don't mind."

"Be our guest," he said graciously. "Why not take a look through our newspaper while you wait, too. It's a smalltown offering, but not bad. ALL THE NEWS AS QUICK AS WE CAN GET IT, that's their motto."

I reached for my magnifying glass and began reading the newspaper. Their thin little voices drifted over and I couldn't help eavesdropping.

"Boy, that was a creepy story, Dad," Junior said, shivering as they approached the pot of algae where his mother waited, hands on shellhips.

"I just don't understand why you had to tell our son and Miz Wanna that tragic family story, Gastro," Mrs. Podd complained, "when there's somebody like Uncle Albert to talk about. Remember him? He's working with NASA on some kind of research project. Now there's the story you should be telling."

Gastro was more philosophical. "Every family has its secrets, Agnes," he said. "The boy was bound to find out sooner or later. What about the aliens?"

"Now you've done it!" she cried. "Must all our dirty laundry be spread for the whole world to snicker at?"

"Well," Gastro said, "I think it's kind of interesting, myself. Both sides of the family have some weird characters, if you ask me. What about your Grandfather Slue? He got so near-sighted he fell in love with a Human Being's discarded Scotch tape dispenser!"

"Sometimes you go too far, Gastro.That's not true and you know it!"

Gastro looked over at me and winked. "Just be glad you get your curiosity and sense of humor from my side of the family, son," he told Junior. They ate silently and then Mrs Podd crawled away in an even more indignant huff to put away the remains of their meal.

"This is a lovely view," I said from my seat on a large rock.

"If you don't mind, how about lifting us up," Gastro said, as father and son crawled onto a flat rock at my feet. "Otherwise, it would take us a week to get up there."

As I lifted the rock like an elevator, young Junior said, "Tell us more about the aliens, Dad."

"Your mother doesn't like to hear any member of our family referred to as alien, so let's let this be our little secret, okay?"

"Okay, Dad."

"Thank you, Miz Wanna. That saved us considerable time," Gastro Podd said as I carefully set the rock beside me.

"You are quite welcome, Mr. Podd." I noticed for the first time that the sun had grown lower. "I am going to have to be going soon, but I would like to hear about the aliens, too."

"Well, one branch of our family, the girdled snail, has always lived in the Mediterranean, where it's warm, but in recent years has migrated to Wales where it's wet and rainy. Why, I have never understood. Perhaps some of our Lumaca ancestors stowed away on a shipment of plants or something. Anyway, they've caused quite a stir, and are referred to as alien invaders in Wales. Now even school children are tracking girdled snail sightings on a map on the internet."

"Wow!" Junior said. "Why can't something interesting like that happen around here?"

"Well, the Chinese branch of the family has a saying, son. 'Be careful what you ask for; you may get it.' Right now, the most interesting thing that's going on around here is the salt spill that's splattered all over the paper."

"What is salt, Dad?"

"Something to be feared. A monstrous ecological disaster that can threaten our entire family, so I've always heard. Here, look at this, but don't tell your mother I showed it to you." He pulled a picture from underneath his shell.

"See that, son? Two of the Podd family's biggest enemies, Salt and Human Beings. Put both together and you have the potential for great misery. Present company excepted, of course," he said, as I nodded vigorously.

"Why would anyone want to hurt us, Dad?"

"Well, son, there will always be those who don't understand someone who's different. We have always served well, from the algae cleaners to those who give their lives for scientific research." He gestured for me to lean down, then whispered in my ear. "Agnes doesn't know it, but Cousin Albert isn't going to return from NASA. Don't let on to her or Junor."

"You have my word," I agreed.

He continued in a louder voice, "But of course in every group there are always some who are destructive. Unfortunately, the good members of the group have to pay for the sins of the bad ones." He folded the newspaper and put it and the picture away from his son's reach. "However, son, Mayor Snurd and Sheriff Sludd have the matter well in hand. No need for you to worry right now about a salt spill."

Gastro's father turned to me. "It's almost time for me to talk to him about Snail and Slug Bait," he said, holding up another picture. "Much to my regret. But not yet. Soon enough to learn of all the evils in this world." He shuddered. "Too bad we have to be lumped together like that. Even I can't stand slugs, I have to say, but we tolerate them." He looked toward where his wife had disappeared. "And don't even think of mentioning the word Slug around Agnes!"

Again I nodded, filled with mixed feelings of guilt for all human beings and revulsion at the thought of slugs.

"What I want you to remember, Junior," Gastro said, patting his son's shell shoulder, "is that our ability to carry our home with us is not just survival; it is a matter of great technological wonder as well as great beauty. Snail shells have provided countless opportunities for study because of their intricate construction and the loveliness of their color and design. Some of our shells are so translucent that one can almost see through them; others are almost as tough as Man's armor. Everyone from artists to engineers have studied our construction, and many famous sculptures have been erected in our honor."

"Oh, yes," I agreed. "I have seen some beautiful artwork based on snail shells."

He nodded again. "We must remember to be proud, as your mother says, Junior, that we have been around so long. If we lose pride in ourselves, we will be lost as surely as if the hand of Man had indeed spread salt in our path."

"My picture and coloring books tell me that, too, Dad. So do my teachers."

"Listen to your teachers, son. If we don't learn from the tragic stories of the past, we shall be condemned to repeat them. In ignorance lies destruction."

"You're a great man, Dad. I'm proud you're my father."

"Well, son, there's more to life than just eating algae or visiting the nearest succulent garden, I admit. And my job is important, too. Lots of people depend on me."

At this point, Gastro pulled a plaque from his shell. EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR, it read. "You can be proud that neither snow, nor sleet, nor dark of night has kept me from my appointed rounds."

"I want to be just like you, Dad," Gastro said proudly, yawning.

"Well, you better learn all you can about computers, son. I don't think Snail Mail is going to be around much longer."

At this point, I became aware of the lateness of the hour. "I hate to interrupt this lovely visit, but I really need to try to get back to my car before dark," I said.

"Of course," my host said, pulling several large handkerchiefs from his shell and knotting them together. "Agnes," he called, "I am going to escort Miz Wanna back to her car. I may be late getting home."

As Mrs. Podd once again approached us, I told her, "Thank you so much for your hospitality, Mrs. Podd. I really enjoyed seeing your album and hearing about the Podd history."

"Nice to have met you," she said, tucking Junior neatly into his shell for the night and waving up at me. "Come back in the fall. By then we should have moved into our new house, and I'll show you around."

"I would love to," I said. "It's been my pleasure meeting you and your family." A thought struck me and I turned to Gastro. "Uh, since I happened on your home accidentally in the first place, how will I know how to find you when I come back?"

"Just send me a note by Snail Mail and I'll meet you at the same place you left your car," Gastro Podd smiled. "I'm the Snail Mailman and I'll be sure I get it!"

"All right, kneel down, Miz Wanna," he said, holding up the bandanas. "Now, after I tie on your blindfold, if you'll just carry me on this rock, I'll guide you." He laughed. "Otherwise, if you have to follow me at a snail's pace, you may NEVER get back to your car."




The Podds' little home was made from a saguaro boot that I selected from several provided by Beth Giachetti in a workshop at the 2003 Southwest Roundup in Tucson, Arizona. She gathers these from where they have fallen on her property, soaks them in a bleach and water solution to kill off any critters, and offers these boots for sale at shows, as well as providing them for workshops like ours. The "other house plan" that Gastro shows is one of Beth's dwellings, but I think mice live in it.

Originally, I had thought I was creating a house for a fairy nursery, but as it progressed, it had such a whimsical look that I knew no fairy would live there, that it was some other little creature's home. When I said this to my friend, Kathleen, who saw it sitting on my kitchen table, she commented, "That looks like a snail's house." I knew instantly she was right, and that's how my visit to the Podds came about.

The hardest part of this project was figuring out how to do the floor. After we had chosen our boot, Beth had us lay it on a piece of paper and trace around it for a rough guide. After that, it was a matter of cutting and taping bits of paper and fitting them into the interior until we had a workable pattern. This picture shows an in-progress pattern.

This was the final pattern cut from lightweight cardboard.

The pattern was then used to cut the floor from a piece of foamcore.

Starbucks coffee stirrers were glued one by one to cover the foamcore, then the excess edges were cut away with scissors and the sides and top were sanded. The floor was then stained (I added stain underneath, too), covered with a piece of wax paper and left to dry under weights so it wouldn't warp. (I need to do a final sanding on the floor; it's still a bit rough.)

It took us almost all morning to make our floors.

Here is a sampling of the wide variety of materials provided in the workshop. I put a green wash over the Devil's Claw and the eucalyptus pods that I used in my scene. I also used a dirty water wash over almost everything else.

I will have more on the construction of this snails' house after I have returned from my next visit with the Podds.






Copyright <>Juawanna Newman . All rights reserved.