Pesticides, the history of …

Last night, while I was watering the land, I watched a small flock of ring-necked turtle doves gorging themselves on fruits in the fig tree, which have ripened very early this year. There were other birds feeding off the grapevines. A large toad crossed the driveway and paused to study me with bulging eyes. I greeted him but he simply plodded onwards into the shade and safety of the wisteria bushes.

The Olive Farm
The Olive Farm
These are ordinary every day sights; the to-ing and fro-ing of wildlife. We have eagles who nest up in our pine forest towards the summit of the hill. Sightings are rarer. An occasional red fox suns itself on one of the terraces.

These ordinary activities, which delight me, sometimes bring to mind the opening chapter of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Its description of the death of flora and fauna.

And I ask myself, suppose all this were destroyed?

Here, in the south of France, we are living through what the French describe as ‘la canicule’, a wave of scorching hot weather. The temperatures have risen to mid-thirties. In some areas inland of us, the figures have hit the forties. Are these summer temperatures escalating year by year? It certainly seems to be the case. Will we adapt and survive? Over the past month, there have been horrendous forest fires in the area. They have spread fast, taking hold, causing devastation, because the earth and vegetation are too dry to resist them.

Here, overlooking the Bay of Cannes, we have had no rain, not a drop, since April. The land is baked like a biscuit. Still, this time we have been fortunate to have not been – not as yet – caught up in any of the hinterland fires. One downside of the relentless heat for us is that insects are taking up residence on the plants, weaving nests, webs, damaging flowers, eating into the fruits. Our farm is organic. I usually count on the midsummer storms to wash the critters away, because I won’t poison them, but there is no such redemption this year.

Why, you might ask, do I not just buy an insecticide and spray all the shrubs and trees? Well, because we are organic and have been so for almost a decade now. If we target one insect, we set off a chain reaction that damages other forms of life.

When we first purchased this Olive Farm it was a crumbling property perched halfway up a hillside nestling amongst a jungle of overgrowth. You could barely spot even the….

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