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I am staying in a brand-newish hostel near the Gare du Nord in Paris. It is at the site of an old train station or something.

Between the building and the still-active tracks is a garden-filled courtyard, with trees, ponds, vegetables. It is a covered courtyard, with banks of solar panels slanted overhead. Passenger trains go to and fro constantly.

One of the best things about the smart-o-phone is the GPS. I clocked this morning's train at 180 miles per hour. It was a smooth ride through the French countryside, past tree-filled villages and acre upon acre of cropland.

Bill Bryson makes a few remarks about the distinctness of English hedgerows, which made me notice their absence in France. Not much in the way of field margins at all, really. A consequence of continuous long-term production on a landlocked continent. Nebraska has more margins than Iowa. So much life tries to survive in those margins.

The greenery and watching the trains feels so therapeutic.


( 6 remarks — Remark )
Aug. 14th, 2015 05:31 pm (UTC)
interesting re bill bryson on hedgerows. they are greatly in evidence, actually, in northern france west of paris--norman in origin, so i wonder if england actually got theirs from france rather than vice versa. here's a good discussion of the effect of norman hedgrows in wwii: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhino_tank/. surely you see them between paris and brest?
Aug. 14th, 2015 07:08 pm (UTC)

Well, I will be on the lookout for them now! I hadn't given the matter a tremendous amount of thought previously, but they were abundant from what I remember of flying into Dublin and London. I do remember the countryside out towards Brest being quite lovely.

It's all making me ponder conservation concepts as well. Save the abstract elephants on another continent, or save a half-dozen species of small amphibians, plants and arthropods in one's backyard or spaces otherwise defined as marginalized?

Aug. 15th, 2015 12:45 pm (UTC)
I have difficulty with this kind of weighting as well. I tend to try to work on things where I am, but I don't want to give up the charismatic megafauna other places either. So I mostly work locally, but I'm a soft touch for donating to conservation efforts anywhere that I think the money will actually reach its goal.
Aug. 14th, 2015 08:33 pm (UTC)
Normandy is known for its hedgerows. Traditionally they are much higher than the English ones.
In fact it was because of their height that they caused some deadly issues for gliders during the D-Day invasion. While there had been amazing recon. done ahead of time to know the lay of the land really well, there hadn't been enough evidence collected regarding their height. (they were like 12 feet tall in some cases)
When the gliders came in (containing supplies and vehicles at times) they hit some of those hedges hard and killed a number of men.

England is improving some of the hedge loss that has happened during the 20th century. Some of that was due to WWII, when all available land had to be converted to growing crops. It was very much a desperate measure.
Aug. 15th, 2015 04:17 pm (UTC)
I read something about how in Peru they'll grow potatoes in little fields, and then in the margins around the fields you'll have thousands of little varieties of wild potatoes growing. This offers a lot of opportunities for cross-pollination and explains why they never had any potato famines, due to genetic diversity in their food crops.
Aug. 16th, 2015 05:47 am (UTC)

After reading about Peru's potatoes and farming methods, I'm keen to visit at some point! Even in the US there's so much life in the margins. Studies in California are showing clear and strong benefits of intercropping as well, especially for spaces like vineyards and orchards.

Edited at 2015-08-16 05:47 am (UTC)
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