' the Woodlouse: September 2009


Friday, 4 September 2009


There's a danger that this blog could deteriorate into a woodlouse obsession and that really isn't the idea.  That said, I keep discovering more woodlouse related sites and I'm loving them.  I think the single one-inch black-and-white outline drawing with the word "woodlouse" underneath and nothing else on the page remains most inspired though.  I was trying to use google to find out who made that site and found http://www.woodlouseconservation.co.uk/ instead.  Not what I was hunting but sounds like a great small business to me.
And now I've just been back to check I knew what I was talking about and I realise that Woodlouse Conservation is based just outside Wiveliscombe, Somerset.  Wivey is just up the road from the workshop I shared with a potter friend for a year.  It wasn't the happiest year in either of our lives, but Wivey and surrounding area was lovely, so it's a pleasing connection to randomly discover, all thanks to woodlice.
I'm finding new sites while writing this.  Walking With Woodlice is on the Natural history museum site and has a series of maps showing UK distribution of different types of woodlouse; click on the map for a large version and a lovely picture of the relevant species.  Brilliant.
After a quick look at http://www.kendall-bioresearch.co.uk/wlice.htm I have learned that woodlice are the "the only crustaceans that have properly invaded land" and been reminded of a fact I read yesterday but couldn't remember: that Pill Woodlice (Armadillidium) are the only ones that can roll into a ball.
Okay, now I'm starting to find sites listing a number of ways to cause slow painful deaths to woodlice (like abrasive stuff that sticks to them, rubs holes in their shell, causing "dehydration and death") so I think I'd better stop.  Have found one final nice site though woodlice.co.uk
I promise the next post won't be about woodlice. 

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


I'm new to blogging so please bear with me as I find my way.  I thought maybe I'd start by explaining or at least elaborating on the "woodlouse" title.
I like woodlice.
At a young age I was acquainted with the little bugs, they were a long time resident in the loo in the house I grew up in.  They'd wonder around the floor, crawl up walls onto the ceiling, and occasionally drop to the floor unexpectedly if they lost their footing.  They'd curl into a ball for protection if I poked them (an instantly endearing behaviour to me) and wave their legs around desperately in the air when a fall left them on their backs (I did used to put them back on their legs).  The armoured bugs were also everywhere to be found under any old lump of wood I overturned in the garden.
More recently they seem to converge on the wood stacked ready to fire my kiln with.  I have tried talking to the stacks of wood, imploring the many woodlice and other bugs who've misguidedly chosen a firewood pile as a good home to leave before it's too late.  I even recommend them  suitable "wildlife piles" of neglected rotting wood near by as alternative accommodation.  Sadly though, I've yet to achieve human-crustacean communication and I can't escape a lingering sense of guilt for the untold legions of lovely woodlice who have probably died a fiery death in my kiln.  My only hope is that many are knocked off the wood and make a successful bid for safety when armfuls of wood are dropped to the floor in front of the kiln prior to stoking.
My current kiln (soon to be decommissioned) has become known as the woodlouse as it has eaten far more wood than previous models.  My next kiln will be a move back to the older models in terms of using as little wood as possible to get the maximum amount of effect on my pots (the ash from the burning wood lands on the pots and melts to a glaze at the same time as the flames react with the clay and bring out a range of earthy colours).  Wood is a renewable fuel (if from properly managed genuinely sustainable sources) but I still think it's best to burn as little as possible.
A final woodlouse note:
Have a look at this fantastic website which appears to be a simple homage to the wood munching creatures - www.woodlouse.co.uk