Derek – Saturday 11th March 2023

We were given various Fair Trade foods by the Co-op on Woodgrange Road: tea, coffee, bars of chocolate, a range of biscuits, and a bunch of bananas. Fair Trade was set up so that small growers get a fair price for their produce, so they can feed themselves and their families, buy the necessities of life, and send their children to school, instead of being crushed by multi-nationals into selling at poverty prices.

The items were displayed on a table, near our container. Volunteers and visitors drank tea and coffee and ate the exhibits while we explained the concept of Fair Trade. Children went around the garden looking for pictures of food items hanging on bushes, showing the country they came from. When they had found them all, they were rewarded from our table.

On Friday, I saw six camera-shy adult frogs in our pond. There were too many of us gazing at them, and by the time I had my camera ready they had hidden in the water weed. But they’d left a mass of frogspawn. The first I noted came on 1 March, the first day of meteorological spring, as if the frogs had their own calendar, which in a sense they have. It was a cold day back then, so it’s not just the temperature that activates them but the longer days. Now we have a mass of spawn, as much as last year. I am surprised to see so much as I thought last summer’s drought would have killed off the maturing frogs, as they do need to keep moist. But enough of them survived to give us an amorphous cloud of spawn, about the size of a bed pillow. In two to three weeks, we’ll have tadpoles, which will gradually become small frogs by June. The froglets will leave the pond for a few years. The few survivors will return in around three years to breed.

It’s cold today too, so I am struck to see the back-swimmers (aka water boatmen) so active in the pond. These are the adults that have survived the winter. They are on the surface, but the instant they spot movement, they dive into the depths. Juveniles will be hatching about this time, much smaller than their parents. They will gradually enlarge over the spring months, to breed in their turn.

The cherry buds are swelling. Our two trees could be in bloom by the end of the month. We have a magnolia, just planted last year. It has about a dozen yellow blooms just opening. They will be a glorious splash of colour to match the daffodils we have around the garden. Many magnolias originated in Japan and China, though also in South America. Obviously related, it is intriguing how they got where they are in the world. Yellow is an unusual colour for magnolia; they are usually pink or white. I think ours is Magnolia Yellow Bird; its proper name is Magnolia x Brooklynensis. It was bred by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden back in the 60s. The tree is small to medium size, growing 2 to 3m in size, which is fortunate for us, for some magnolia species can grow as high as 10m and as wide as the garden.

We are making square raised beds, about 1 ½ m wide, and 60cm high. In the next week or two, we will plant in them a range of vegetables. I am sure they will be a great talking point as the various plants mature.

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