Living among a farming community in France means getting used to unexpected sights and sounds, writes Ian Moore
Farmers can be a paranoid bunch can’t they? If they’re not shaking their fists at the heavens angrily demanding more sun or rain, they’re watching you with a beady eye in case you stray innocently on to their land and enflame the wrath of the farmer gods as if you’ve kept your shoes on in a temple. This time of year, as the crops are sewn and the budding shoots of their seeds cling on to early life, they are especially fearful, less so of humans and the weather but very definitely of birds.
It seems that our own neighbouring farmers are especially vexed. To be fair, it must be a constant source of annoyance that their farmland also happens to be smack dab in the middle of an ornithological preservation area so they’ve set up elaborate systems all designed to give their winged nemeses the heave-ho. Rules naturally get bent under such trying circumstances and strange noises occur at all times of day and night, some of which are very definitely large-bore gunshots as farming patience is stretched to its limit and some mischievous crow gets blasted into the next world.
There’s also a strange noise, like a Catherine wheel firework, which goes off at regular intervals and frankly doesn’t seem to have any bird-scattering effect at all and might, if I had the nerve to investigate, just be the farmer blowing his top at Mother Nature’s cruel seasonal injustices. Another timed sound effect, again of little reward as far as anyone can tell, is like a sonic boom and while the birds barely bat an eyelid, it reduces our menagerie to a tearful, barking, whinnying, clucking mess.
This year has seen the advent of new techniques, all with varying degrees of failure. Rubbish is apparently the technique of choice this season and it’s an ugly manoeuvre.
For a couple of years now it seems that tying carrier bags to a long pole and letting the wind flutter them about has had some effect; a few even have smiley faces painted on them because as any fool knows, birds hate a smiley face.
One quite absurd idea, and some farmers still persist with this, is to tie a crow-shaped kite to a pole and then let the wind do its thing. It just looks like a demented, swooping crow though and I suspect other crows are flying nearby saying something like: “Is that Dave? What’s got into him? Let’s decimate some crops while he’s having one of his turns…”
Now though, it’s not just one rubbish bag with a hundred square metres to protect, they’ve been placed every few metres or so and at different heights, all of different colours too. If you were kind you might suggest that it resembles some kind of large-scale art installation, a metaphor for the century-old industrial-agrarian struggle perhaps. Actually though it looks like the aftermath of a music festival as rubbish is just strewn about and it’s actually doing a pretty good job of attracting scavengers rather than shooing them away.
And so it seems, a new technique is being tried: A Peugeot 205. There it was, right in the middle of the field, an odd vision obviously, and adding to the growing landfill site look of the area. It didn’t seem to be having any more effect than anything else that’s been tried and I suspect that over the next fortnight as desperation sets in, different car brands may be chosen – all of them French of course as they’re fiercely patriotic about car buying around here.
I was chatting to a neighbour about the sudden appearance of the Peugeot in the field. Was it having any effect I asked, is this the result of some crackpot theory emanating from farming headquarters somewhere? “Oh no!” said Thierry blithely, “one of the farmers got drunk last night and tried to run over a crow.”
Ah… and the war goes on.
Ian Moore writes a bimonthly column in French Property News. Click here to subscribe.