Rural riddles

Jeremy Hob­son solves more of your pas­toral prob­lems

French Property News - - Contents -

Put your pas­toral prob­lems to our very own man in the coun­try

Is it just in my gar­den, or are this year’s dan­de­lions twice the size and twice as pro­lific as nor­mal? Char­lie Austin

Ah, now it’s funny you should men­tion that as I no­ticed ex­actly the same thing dur­ing the spring and sum­mer months.

As most read­ers will know, the French of­ten re­fer to dan­de­lions ( dent-de-lion… lion’s teeth) as ‘ pis­senlit’ (lit­er­ally mean­ing wet the bed) due to the fact that, when eaten or made into a drink, they are a di­uretic. Their leaves though are ex­cel­lent added to sal­ads – and, of course, dan­de­lion wine is well known as a coun­try wine. In the early part of spring, dan­de­lion flow­ers are im­por­tant as a food source for bees when many other plants that pro­vide nec­tar have yet to flower.

Chicken-keep­ing read­ers will no doubt have no­ticed that their poul­try seem to like dan­de­lions. In fact, some breed­ers feed their flock leaves, ei­ther freshly picked or dry. They also say that the roots are a great liver tonic, and dry and grind up the tap roots so as to add the re­sul­tant pow­der to their chicken’s feed dur­ing win­ter.

On a walk around the edge of a lo­cal vine­yard (the vitic­ul­teur has given us per­mis­sion) I dis­cov­ered a scrape in the ground and sev­eral dead or dy­ing bees. Might the two to­gether be a co­in­ci­dence or could there be a con­nec­tion? We won­dered if the bees were dy­ing as a re­sult of spray­ing the vines. Jo­hannes and Anna Janssen

I doubt that there’s any con­nec­tion be­tween any spray­ing and the bees you ob­served. The men­tion of a scrape in the ground gives a clue. There are cer­tain types of ‘wild’ bees that al­most ex­clu­sively utilise old mice nests and it’s more than likely that what you wit­nessed was where a bad­ger had dug out such a place the pre­vi­ous night in search of the nec­tar col­lected and stored in the hole (some species of bees do not make honey at all, but merely col­lect nec­tar – a tasty snack for bad­gers).

Upon at­tempt­ing to find out more on your be­half, a French api­arist of my ac­quain­tance told me that: “When the Dutch green­house grow­ers first at­tempted to in­tro­duce nests of the hum­ble, or bum­ble bees into their com­mer­cial green­houses (for pol­li­na­tion pur­poses), they made nest boxes (for the bees) but the prob­lem was the lin­ing. The grass lin­ing in mice nests is very spe­cial in its con­sis­tency. They needed a lot. It took months of de­vel­op­ment to get a machine to shred the grasses to the same con­sis­tency; with­out it the bees would re­ject the nest.”

The com­mon dan­de­lion’s seem­ingly very com­mon these days!

Mr Bad­ger – good at dig­ging!

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