Sunday, 26 May 2019

A change of heart


When we lived in England I kept bees, only one hive as we aren't huge honey fans, but I loved having them. I could see 'the girls' from the kitchen window and would often just stand and watch them, if you kept out of their flight path they wouldn't bother you. Although our garden in France is suitable for a hive we will be having paying guests from next year and I don't think it's worth the risk of people being stung.

I still enjoy bees and we were walking out of the village the other morning and heard a great humming ahead. There was a shrub by the side of the road covered in bees, the flowers were insignificant but there were honey bees and several types of bumbles. Further along we could hear more, in fact so loud we were convinced there must be a hive somewhere around but couldn't see one.  As we got back home I could hear the crickets, they are such a soundtrack to the summer that you can almost 'forget' to hear them but I think as we had been talking about bees we noticed them more. When I went into the barn I had to rescue one from the window sill, along with a beetle. There are a lot of insects around here!

Just outside the village
It got me thinking as to why this was. It could be our local industries contribute in some way - forestry and our famous Limousin cattle. Forest management needs no weedkillers that I can see, and when trees are harvested the land is not usually cleared. It can look a little unsightly but at least all the tree debris rots down which is great for insects and wild flowers quickly fill the gaps. The cattle graze on pastureland, and maybe nitrogen is used to improve the quality of the grass but I'm not convinced and certainly no weedkillers.

Limousin cattle
There certainly seems to be a difference in the management of roadside verges and weeds here. Our last house was in a semi-rural location in Norfolk, surrounded by hundreds of acres of commercial apple orchards. Several times a year a potent weed killer was used under the trees, you could smell when it had been done and we wouldn't let Mortimer walk there for at least 48 hours. If a contractor couldn't mow the roadside verges with a sit on tractor then the weed killer came out, resulting in most paths having dying, yellow edges. In our village of Corrèze it's different, our verges are strimmed not sprayed, and so we have roads and paths that are edged with grasses and wild flowers that can seed. Just walking out of the village is beautiful at this time of year.

Corrèze roadside
The other benefit to all these insects is the aerial displays that we get. I can spend hours (well I could if I wasn't restoring a barn and a house!) watching the house martins flying over the village and the river. As dusk falls they are replaced by the bats. We have a lot of small lizards that live in our old stone walls and they look pretty healthy too.

We've decided to encourage the insect population by letting some areas of our lawn stay uncut, probably only mow them two or three times a season. There is one patch in particular with some purple flowers that is heaving with bees at the moment. We have what the French call a park style garden, no it's not huge but we have a lot of specimen trees and grass (well moss), and few flower beds. Fortunately for the non-gardener that I am, it means that the garden can take looking a little unkempt so these wild flower areas blend in well. At the bottom of our garden is our neighbour's donkey field which is full of flowers at the moment.

One of our garden's wild areas
Solo the donkey's field

So I've decided that if I return to a recently glossed door and there are a few flies stuck to it I'm not going to whinge, just be grateful that we have

so many insects and bees here.

If you want to know more about our new life in Corrèze, and the restoration of our house and barn then you can follow us on Facebook or if you love French barns then here

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