I come in, planning to take some photos and water the plants. I leave my bag on a bench, and take out the camera, intending to take a few snaps of the cereal project. I get as far as the birch by the water butt, when I see the fox. I freeze, knowing if I move, it will run off. I begin taking photos. The camera is my daughter’s and I am not familiar with it. The fox is about 20 yards away, and looking at me looking at it. My only motion is my fingers on the camera. I try the zoom, unsure how it is working, what it is seeing, hoping I am on the right setting and taking anything at all.
The fox approaches, staring at me, wondering, perhaps, if I am alive as I am stock still. This has to be the shot. If, big if, I have everything right. After about five seconds, the animal has had enough. I am no danger to it, and it is hungry. The fox shuffles off, past the pond, disappearing into the hedge near the cereal project.
We have the first tadpoles in the pond, a thick, black mass of them clinging to the jelly. Some have broken free, a lot virtually motionless, but a few swimming lazily. Each, at this stage, is little more than a mouth, tail and gut, breathing through gills. Tadpoles are the larval stage of the frog with massive changes ahead before they mature. Those that survive (there is a high mortality) will grow a skeleton, sex organs, lungs, and limbs in three months of metamorphosis. No wonder they fascinate us. Not all have yet hatched in the larger cluster, and the smaller cluster is a week behind with all the embryos still in their eggs.
I go to the cereal project. Between the raised vegetable bed and the pond are railway sleepers, on which are five cardboard boxes filled with compost. Each has been sown with a cereal and has a sheet of cardboard covering them, except for the barley. That is already sprouting, so, two days ago, I freed it to the light. I examine the other boxes now. It’s 16 days after sowing. Emmer wheat, oats and rye are just sprouting. I remove the card covering each of these boxes. There’s only the Red Fife wheat still to germinate. That’s behind the others, as I had to resow its seeds after the box collapsed on me when I tried moving it. I cover all the boxes in plastic sheet to keep the birds off, as emerging seedlings could be used as nesting material.
The Gateway building site by the side of us has been abandoned. For the past year, there’s been hammering and drilling, the whirring of machines, the clanging of metal on metal. Now it is silent, somewhat eerie, concrete floors on concrete floors to six storeys, as empty as Chernobyl. Almost the last action of the contractors was to saw down the yew tree.
The palette of our spring garden is expanding with the season. There’s yellow, white, orange, blue and red in the various blossoms: tulips, spiraea, forsythia, marigolds, wallflowers, forget-me-nots, anchusa and anemones. The buddleia grows on and on, nothing can stop it short of an axe. Its arched through-way is like a miniature cathedral. Nearby, acanthus leaves are like huge hands in a gothic drama. They smother out any undergrowth, a common plant strategy.