Day 8 – Friday 22nd June
Decided to stay around the gite today so not much to report. We were loafing. Well we were both reading and my wife was catching the rays.
It was not a wasted day though. Enter Guided Tours by Didier. Initially this was an offer he made following a conversation we had about birds in general and owls in particular. The conversation had moved on to a particular bird that is a migratory visitor to the region. Didier’s bird guide had a name but no picture so we couldn’t tell if this species had an English name. Didier suggested he take me out to see if we could spot them out by the fields. Apparently they prefer to run, rather than fly, and are quite often seen on the roads.
We didn’t spot the elusive bird but did discuss many other things.
Didier explained how his family used to dairy farm but had moved on to grapes and other crops. Didier’s father had felt tied to the farm when they had cattle as they require 24/7 care. They then switched to grapes but discovered that they required a different kind of attention but were nonetheless demanding. Other crops are now the order of the day. In this area, in addition to the ubiquitous grape there are fields of various cereals, sunflower, maize, pea’s and Colza, used for its cooking oil although Didier claimed it is also used to run the tractors.
As Didier drove us around the maze of roads criss-crossing the patchwork of fields I wondered how the farmers kept track of which field were theirs. This potential confusion has been further exacerbated by the undocumented “swapping” of land to allow for a form of crop consolidation. The details of these swaps, he tells me, are held in each persons head.
At one crossroads I pointed out a large earthen, obviously man-made, structure. He informed me that it is a water reservoir. The water is stored during the winter and used during the summer to water the crops. This takes the burden off the local streams and rivers and also off the local water table. The local farmers were further encouraged by a government subsidy. A sensible and green action you might think.
However, something about this scheme has enraged the green activists who have obtained legal injunctions. So no more reservoirs will be built for now.
Go figure !!
Many vineyards have been cleared and the land now used for these other crops. There are also tracts of land that have been cleared and just left.
Again, Go Figure !!