Derek – Sunday 2nd October 2022

These are the chilly days as the nights grow longer and autumn deepens. Day temperatures are in the mid-teens, and at night below 10 degrees. I see no animal life in the pond except snails. They are cold-blooded, and dormant. This is the advantage of cold-blooded creatures, by dropping into dormancy they need little food. They will maintain their barely-alive state until the warmer days of spring.

Warm-blooded animals, mammals and birds, must eat more as the temperature falls. This is the time to keep our bird feeders full. Some mammals, though, hibernate: the squirrel for example. They must now build up their fat reserves, and store food like acorns. The latter for emergencies, should they wake hungry in midwinter.

We are awaiting Thames Water. We have asked them for a quote to put in a water tap. The quote itself costs £300, for which they will give us a figure for the plumbing. My estimate is £4000, though others think it will be more. Then we will figure if we can raise this money. It is likely we will have more summers with extended periods of drought and high temperatures, so water is essential.

Fiona now has a shed under the cherry tree at the front of the garden. The sides are made from the old hoarding which had the mural on, taken down this spring for our new wire fence. She has put all the odds and ends for her children’s workshops in the shed. This frees space in the container, which is surprisingly tidy at the moment. That won’t last.

Nearby, by the side fence, perennial sweet peas are flowering. There’s Japanese anemones here and there, golden marigolds as always, and Michaelmas daisies. A great cluster at the end of the pergola.

Sadly, Sophie, our administrator, died a few days ago. She has been ill much of the last year, a cancer that seemed to have gone, but returned and did not respond to treatment. We sorely miss her energy and her humour. She fundraised and encouraged a variety of projects: planting in the Garden and the neighbourhood, but also art, music and work with children.

I walk around the garden and look for her legacy. Sophie did the design for the information plaques for the Cereal Project (2020), Americana (2021) and the Herbs and Spices Project (2022). All the plaques are around the garden. As I was planning Americana, a collection of food plants that originated in America (beans, maize, tomatoes, potatoes, sunflowers, squash etc), she reminded me to bear in mind how much is owed to the native peoples. She being aware of this aspect, as she did a trip with Karl around South America before she had children.

In the spring of this year, after our wooden fence blew down, Sophie researched wire fencing and got the crowdfunding started to raise the money for it.

At the back of the garden near the pond, hardly noticed, is a rustic seat, made from tree branches. A few of us, including Sophie, worked with Newham Conservation Volunteers to cut off suitable branches in Forest Lane Park coppice. This was two years ago, when her cancer was in remission. We began the construction of the seat, and the bench was completed by the Volunteers, who brought it to the garden. A good place to sit and think of what Sophie brought to our garden.

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