Monday, 19 May 2014

The Year Before Cook

This date is carved into the lintel of a garage in Chedigny. I suspect it's genuine.

Louis Antoine de Bougainville returned to France this year, having got as far as the Great Barrier Reef, not realising what lay beyond the dangerous reefs and shoals. He was the first Frenchman to lead a circumnavigation of the world, and his expedition was the first to take a team of naturalists. Remarkably, he lost only 7 crew on the 3 year journey.

James Cook arrives in Tahiti for the first time and crosses the Pacific to New Zealand but does not make it to Australia until the next year.

James Watt establishes himself in the anglophone public's mind as the inventor of the steam engine, effectively sidelining Denis Papin's legacy from a generation earlier in France.

Spain establishes the colony of California.

Daniel Boone sets out to explore Kentucky.

Richard Arkwright invents the spinning frame and kick starts the Industrial Revolution.

Arthur Wellesley and Napoleon Bonaparte are born.

Exciting stuff, eh?!
Save money, time and biodiversity: There is a nice article in the Nouvelle République encouraging local authorities and landowners to stop mowing, hedgetrimming and strimming in the spring. The LPO point out that it costs money, time and impacts very negatively on nesting birds and insect populations. By mowing you remove nesting birds food source (insects in the grass) and prevent plants from setting seed; and by hedge trimming you destroy nests or cause birds to abandon them. 

They understand that maintenance is necessary, but point out that mowing has become a reflex action, and it is not a necessity. There are nice ways you can maintain your property or roadside without endangering the wildlife or property values. For instance, mow paths through grassy areas, not the entire area. Don't trim hedges until the autumn or winter. If you mow over your orchids in the grass, you don't get to enjoy them in flower. The places that are mowed are the last areas where pesticides are not used, so they are more and more important as refuges for both plants and animals.

They have some guidelines:
  • the height of the cut is important. Don't cut lower than 7cm. Mowing lower results in killing 70% of the insect life.
  • don't mow at the end of spring, but allow plants to set seed.
  • begin mowing in the centre of an area, to allow creatures to escape to the sides.
  • leave the clippings in situ (at least temporarily) to allow creatures to stagger out and find new areas nearby that will support them.
  • in a big area, just mow paths. They make a great game for the kids. Don't mow the rest more than once or twice a year. You find lots of unexpected species appearing in the untouched zones.
Botany Outing: Yesterday I spent the afternoon on the Pelouse des Grandes Fontaines at Bléré with the botany club. Gazillions of orchids, a new butterfly species for me and an impressive new broomrape. I'll write a blog post at some stage to tell all.


Tim said...

the year it all began?

For the inch worms... 7cm is 2.75"
That means cut at 3" on most mowers as the next setting down is 2.5"!!
However, to get "nice" paths that don't r'quire too much maintenance...
Mow two widths at 3.5"[9cm]....
then go down the middle at 2.5"...
this allows the bugs to vanish into the deeper undergrowth as you make the first cuts....
and you get a nice "verge" to the path...
and which also allows low growing plants like Ground Ivy, Daisy, etc. to be seen.

Any lower than 2.5" tends to make the grass look yellower and then peepilz put down unnecessary lawn fertilizers / greening agents to make it look nice again!!

Our tondeuses both go as low as 1/2".... a level of cut only for the lawn fanatickz!! [Or bowls players?]

I would ideally like to make the ride-on ride 1.5" higher...
that would give me a cut height from 2" to 5"... much nicer!!
Much greener and lusher looking....
but not good in open-toed sandals on dewy mornings....

Tim said...

I wonder what 'Stralia would be like today if the French had discovered and settled...

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