THE ATLANTIC PLAIN OF FRANCE 452. An agricultural nation.—France is made up of parts of six of the regions of Eu rope. What are they? (Fig.819.) The most im portant part is the great low plain that slopes west and northwest toward the sea. The climate is good, like that of England, but somewhat warmer because it is farther south. It is an agricultural region in which there are a few cities. The region does not have as many manufactures as does England, partly because it has so little coal. Instead of building factories and big cities, this region has remained a land of farms, supporting itself chiefly from its own fields rather than by buying food from other countries, as England and the Low Countries do.
453. The farmers on the plain.—In France, each peasant farmer owns his few acres, instead of renting them as English farmers do. The Frenchman loves his little farm and will not leave it. This kind of own ership of land has helped to make France an agricultural country.
The farmers live in villages of ten to fifty houses, and go out each day to their farms near by. One sees a patchwork of little fields with crops of various colors—wheat, hay, potatoes, beets for the cattle to eat, or beets to go to the sugar factory. It is warm enough for a little corn to be grown in the southern part of the Atlantic Plain.
Many of the farmers in this part of France have herds of cows and send butter to Eng land. The French farmers here raise a breed of splendid, big, strong horses, called Perche ron, which may be seen on almost every farm, and also in the United States (Fig. 5).
There are important wine districts in the Atlantic Plain. The largest is near Bordeaux, and a second is in the upper part of the Seine Valley, near the beautiful city of Rheims. Figure 375 shows how the French farmers live in villages and go out each day to work in the neighboring fields.
454. Brittany and west ern peninsula of France is called Brittany. It is rather hilly and damp, like Wales, and like Wales has many sheep and cattle pas turing upon it. The people who live on the coast are fishermen. They catch sardines off the shore, and sometimes sail to New foundland to catch cod.
Normandy, the famous province in the peninsula east of Brittany, is one of the sections of Franc& where fruit is grown. Apples from Normandy are sent to Paris and London markets.
455. French thrift. — The French are thrifty people. We see this in the fact that nearly every French per son, man, woman, boy, or girl, saves some money. No matter how much or little he or she may hap pen to have, a part is saved. Then when money is needed there is some in the bank.
The French are noted for their good cooking and for their skill in making good dishes out of things which we Americans often throw away. In America, vegetables go to market in barrels and boxes made of boards sawed from the trunks of trees, a process by which much wood is wasted. As soon as the American box or barrel is emptied it is usually thrown away or broken up. In France, food goes to market in big baskets woven by hand from the long, limber branches of willow trees which are grown for that purpose along roadways and stream banks. When a crop of twigs is cut off, another grows again in a year or two, so that one tree will give many crops of willow twigs and will furnish many baskets, most of which are used over and over again, instead of being thrown away.
The French farms are well tilled, and the farmers often get two crops from the same land by planting English walnut trees in the midst of their fields. The fine nuts obtained from one of these trees causes the tree to increase the value of the farm as much as another acre of land would do; so the income of a farm is often doubled by a few trees.
Along the southern part of the east coast of the Bay of Biscay stretches a hundred and fifty miles of sand. For a long time the west wind blew it into dunes which traveled inland, and buried the forests. The French laboriously planted pine trees on the dunes; this stopped the dunes from moving, and now the trees have grown into forests. They are bled to death to make turpentine, and the small trunks are sent to England, and used to prop up the roofs in coal mines. By cutting a small part of his trees each year, the forest owner has a regular business. How have we done it in the United States? (Secs. 121, 333.) 456. French art and French are an artistic and gifted people. They love to make and to have beautiful things. Nearly every city of France has a public square in the center, and usually a great church or cathedral. The people of the cities of France are very proud of their beautiful cathedrals and of the masterpieces of painting and sculpture with which they are adorned. These buildings, like the cathedrals of other European countries, have often been the work of many generations. When times were peaceful and prosperous, the masons, the stone cutters, and the sculptors worked to build another part of the great building. (Fig. 372.) Sometimes work was interrupted for five years, or fifty years, or a hundred years. It is hard for people born in America. to understand how people can love buildings as much as the people of France love their cathedrals.