My kilometre: the hidden riches of a small patch

Laurier prêt à fleurir. Il existe plusieurs espèces de laurier, celle-ci à ne pas confondre avec le laurier vrai. Les soldats romains en France, pensant que ce laurier du nord était comestible comme le laurier vrai, sont mort en les mangeant. Celles-ci ressemblent à des bougies romaines, ou à2 des candélabres, au soleil.

Taking advantage of our one kilometre/one hour rule here in France, here is what nature is doing this Spring week in my kilometre. (During this time of confinement due to the virus outbreak, in France we are allowed out 1 hour a day for physical exercise and only within one kilometre of home.)

How about checking out your perimeter?  In confinement we may learn a lot more about our immediate natural environment, however modest or poor it may have seemed up until now. Check out A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold, American ecologist and environmentalist who at first begrudgingly accepted to study an area of poor land but in the end found a wealth of beauty and information there.

Manure from the local cows, ready to be spread on the fields. Flocks of yellowhammers gather there to feed off the insects during this, the breeding season. They lift off in a cloud of yellow when disturbed, too fast for me to get them in the photo.
Stellaria, also known as starwort, chickweed, stitchwort. Easy to remember their best name, they look just like stars.
Laurel tree ready to flower. There are several species of laurel, these ones not to be confused with the bay laurel. The Roman soldiers in France, thinking this northern laurel was edible like the bay laurel, sank back writhing to death when they ate it. These look like roman candles, or candelabra, in the sunlight.
Wood anenome. The leaves smell very curious, that’s why it’s sometimes called smell fox. Also known as windflower, or thimbleweed. It looks so pretty but beware. don’t touch, don’t eat: it contains protoanemonin, which irritates the skin, gives serious stomach upsets – and it tastes bitter, burns the mouth, and throat, and can give diarrhea.  Steer clear!
The cows aren’t yet out in the fields, the grass isn’t rich enough yet. As for the house, thereby lies a tale of inheritance. French inheritance laws are very different from elsewhere.
Celandines and violets know how to live together.
Elm trees stretching out to the sun. The buds are peeping out of the branches, but the leaves are not there yet.
March of the Moles in the field next door. For a bit of light reading, check out here how the mighty mole’s teeth perpetually replace themselves, and are used in alternative medicines in Normandy.
Mistletoe, blown to the ground in the latest gales? A large trade in mistletoe from Normandy to the UK developed several hundred years ago (shipped from Rouen). It continues today in lesser quantities, mostly at Christmas time. Kissing under the mistletoe originated in Greece. Associated normally with fertility and peace, this faded bunch looks more like a bundle of tiny skeleton bones, an almost translucent yellow-green, severed from its host and abandoned, drained of its juice.
White dead-nettles (lamium album) famously do not sting. Notice how the new baby leaves on the top are a darker, richer green than those further down.
Wild spring onions, just as tasty in the salad as those you buy, even if much smaller.
Broom, not quite yet in flower. Broom is indigenous to England. Its other name is Genista, in French ‘Genêt’. Henry II of England adopted the Planta genista (medieval name for Broom) when claiming Anjou, and thus became the the first ‘Plantagenet’ King of England.

Check out this wonderful account of the botanist and environmentalist Aldo Leopold who discovers a world of riches in a seemingly barren stretch of land.