This post comes in two parts. Part one on what I have done in a national garden today. Part two on the toad and snake my wife has encountered. We save the best to the last so first, here comes part one.
I am a big fan of corporate volunteering activities, even though some are pretty laborious – at least to an office worker like me. Next week, my wife and I will be holidaying overseas. So why not wrap up this work year with some volunteering work at the Botanic Gardens? As usual, I have little idea on what I have signed up for. The event was in the afternoon. My wife and I took the opportunity to have lunch at the garden. She asked what to do while waiting for me to literally get my hands dirty. I said, why not take a nap and play her favorite Android game Duo Lingo?
We visit Singapore Botanic Gardens often. But it was the first time we visited Jacob Ballas Children’s Park. Admission is not free. And it is – I think – for the children. Hence, the why. There were only a handful of us from my company joining the activity today. We were led by a young female staff who walked a lot faster than we did. Oops. I hope we were fit for what we were about to do. And we have gained access to a restricted area! Exciting. As we walked in, I saw rows and rows of plants that I do not know of. Once we were indoor, I saw this lying on a bench waiting for us.
The young staff then announced cheerfully, “Today, we will do rice propagation!” I looked at these two trays of ‘baby rice’ and was wondering, do we need twelve of us working on this?
Turns out we do.
First, we have to take empty pots, put the fertilizer at the bottom and fill them up with soil. Then, we have to move the pots to the bench area where those who were assigned to work with the plant would need to take out three tiny stalks of rice and plant them onto the pot! How fragile these stalks are. All of a sudden, this activity was going to take some time because there were many stalks.
After planting the stalks onto the pots, we would need to water them and transport the pots to an outdoor nursery area where we lined them up on the top shelf, and the bottom. Something like this.
In life, I seldom take the role of what everyone is doing. So I volunteered to be one of the two transporters. It was a rather tough job. Two of us went around looking for pots from the bench ready for transportation and moved them onto a trolley. We then took turn to water the plant, pushed the trolley to the designated area, and arranged them nicely. Under a hot sun! We must have moved more than 200 pots in the afternoon. Tiring it was, but pretty fun stuff we did. I have a much better appreciation of what goes behind the scene in maintaining such a large world class garden.
Before we parted, one colleague wished to take some pictures of the fruit of our work. Just as I led her into the nursery area, one Indian staff frantically said, “No photo!” We were puzzled. Just when we were about to ask why, he frantically waved his arms and screamed, “Water! Go! Now!” Lo’ and behold, all the water sprinklers were switched on simultaneously! We were deep inside the rows of plants and both of us ran like mad! What a laugh we had.
What’s the point of doing what we did? I learned that each stalk of rice produces six seeds. So I guess by propagation, we help to increase the seed pool.
When I finally reunited with my wife, I asked her what she has done while I was gardening. She told me that she had a half-an-hour nap on a bench (no wonder her eyes were so big when we met). After she woke up, she saw a toad hopping towards her and stopped in front of her. Not long after, there was a snake coming from behind going after the toad and the toad – naturally – hopped away. Both disappeared into a bush nearby! My wife said she jumped out of the bench seeing the snake approaching her.
“Where are the photos of the toad and snake?” asked I. She said none. So I conclude that either she was dreaming of a toad and snake during her nap. Or the toad came to her, woke her up, and warned her of the snake.
OK. One last picture to share. Here is the entrance of Jacob Ballas Children’s Park. All photos are taken using my mobile phone, Nexus 4.