Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Garden Report #13

August 29th, 2010

A ranch house that I am landscaping
• It is a rainy, cool Sunday in the garden. Murphy complains that it is wet and balks at going out, but eventually responds to the call of the wild. The garden is in good shape. I knew it would rain today so I spent yesterday getting everything clipped and looking good. I think it is the perfect morning to make blueberry pancakes. This time I add in three teaspoons of cornmeal to give them a bit of crunch. They are wonderful. I eat mine with maple syrup. Maureen refuses to be a Canadian cultural cliché, eh. She insists on eating hers with cherry jam from Lumsden. She is a woman of strong opinions. I know. I have been the beneficiary of those opinions. They have made me a better man. That is what she tells me. She does not think I am funny. That is why I write. To find an audience. You have my permission to start laughing. That’s enough. Save some for later.
Murphy loves Christmas
• ‘The Symphony Under the Sky’ was another resounding success. It was culture the way it should be. Families, babies, seniors, teenagers, everyone was out for this event and I suspect there were between five and seven thousand in attendance. The music was great. Neighbors chatted. People connected with old friends they had not seen in a while. People strolled, eating ice cream as the orchestra played. It was so casual and the ending. Wow! The cannons were going off and the fireworks shot skyward to finish Tchaikovsky’s ‘1812 Overture.’ I have heard it played before, indoors of course, and for the cannon shots, they fired a cap pistol into an empty oil barrel. Nothing matches a real cannon. Kaboom!

• After the symphony, we ran into friends and faithful readers of this blog, Gary and Ina Field. They were kind enough to take us for supper at Peking House on Rose Street. The food was very good, well prepared and served hot. This was only my second time at this place but I am impressed, so it gets a recommendation from me…and my tummy.

Garden Tip: Some of you wrote in regarding growths on your Shubert Cherries. What you are looking at is called prunus knot and it infects any member of the prunus family which is plums and cherries. Prunus knot can be found in the wild populations of native chokecherries as well. It must be cut out of the tree, at least six inches below the point of infection. This often means, the tree is destroyed and cannot be saved. For what it is worth, Heather Lowe and I discovered the first case of prunus knot in the city in 1982. We found it growing in a Mayday Tree on Mayfair Crescent. We didn’t know what it was and we had to take it to the provincial lab to have it analyzed.

Garden Tip: Prunus cistina has many common names and they are all the same plant. They include Cistina Cherry, Purple Leaf Plum, Purple Sandcherry and similar variations.

Rod and Georgia Hearn ensuring this rock doesn't blow away!
• Your comments: Reader Alan Bratt wrote about his fond memories of Max Bortnik as did Roberta Nichol and Lyn Goldman. Alan remembers purchasing a Bob Dylan record from Max and it was in mono. Jeannie Freeman chatted about the Shubert growing close to her balcony. Heather Lowe wrote “you are a funny, funny guy”. Heather is from that sin city of Zehner, Saskatchewan. They know good comedy there. Marcus Fernando, who lives part time in Croatia and is a faithful blog reader, writes that he is acquiring a garden plot and plans to start a garden soon. Marcus has spent his life in the theater and this is his first venture into the gardening addiction. Some of you may have seen Marcus when he performed his Pinter piece, ‘The Lover’, at The RSM a few years ago. Ingrid Thiessen wants to know more about growing shallots and raspberries. Denise Cook wrote: “Love your articles and always get a laugh.” Are there jokes here? Chris Dodd writes “I love the beginning of this (#12) report”. Margaret Hryniuk wrote that she loves to eat heirloom tomato sandwiches. Georgia Hearn says “Absolutely look forward to the Sunday report”. Paula Grolle wrote in with memories of Garret Wilson’s family from when she was a child. According to Paula, Garret’s mother was an incredible gardener. Kim Lytle wonders if weeding is really necessary for a good vegetable garden. She also thinks I am indeed a sex symbol as reported in the last blog, but then again her standards are not all that high. Ann Anderson wrote “It is my favorite read.” Joan Ziffle wrote: “You are a very good writer and educator.” Ah…you’re embarrassing me. New reader but old friend, Jean McKay is pleased that I am promoting Scottish heritage, even if I have my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. Yes Jean. With each compliment you get a four ounce serving of haggis at no extra charge.

My Fringe poster
• We were in Saskatoon at The Fringe in 2001. I was putting up a poster when a friend of mine came along. My friend is gay and that information is critical to the story. My friend said: “That’s a terrible job of putting up the poster” and he took the tape away from me and fixed the poster, nice and neat. My alibi for doing a sloppy job was “what do you expect from a straight man?” He looks at me and says “Rod, the way you dress, you don’t have to tell everyone you’re straight, we all know that.” Now that wasn’t very nice. No haggis for him.

• ‘Prairie Gardens’, my television show, is still running on SCN, Friday nights at six p.m. There are twenty-six episodes shot all across the province. Nope, I don’t get royalties. Sold the show outright.

Garden Tip: If the bottom of your tomatoes have a black, soft blemish on them, they are suffering from tomato end rot or blossom end rot. It is caused by inconsistent watering. In other words, you kept them too dry and then too wet and the blight set in. I had a bit show up on my Patio tomatoes growing in pots. I harvested all the good tomatoes and I am window ripening them now. I threw away the damaged tomatoes. My plants in the garden have not been affected.

• Alex Edgington, who tours with The Fringe, stayed with us on Tuesday night. Alex was finishing up his run in Edmonton and was driving home to Toronto. Some of you may have seen Alex’s show this year in Regina. He was at The RSM with a TJ Dawe piece called ‘Tired Clichés’.

• Newspaper columnists in all of The Fringe Festival cities bemoan the loss of the edgy theater that once populated Fringe Festivals. They ask “where has the fringe part of The Fringe gone?” With Alex staying with us, he and I had a good chat about that very issue. Alex is one of those writer/performers who is highly experimental. His work requires the audience to have good listening skills as he jumps in a non linear fashion to tell his story. So here he is, one of the edgiest performers on the circuit, and the critics continually give him mediocre reviews. What occurs, especially in Winnipeg and Edmonton, is that the bulk of the audiences read The Free Press and The Journal to see which shows received four or five stars. They buy their tickets for those star rated shows, leaving excellent shows such as Alex’s, playing to small houses. The power of the press is so influential that John Huston, who is considered one of the Fringe’s more talented performers, took his show to Winnipeg, got a three star review from Kevin Prokosh of The Free Press, and he sold only forty tickets a night, in a hundred seat venue. His show in Edmonton, received a four and half star review (which it deserved, if not five) and the show sold out every night.

• Do reviewers who write that a production is a cliché or filled with clichés, not realize that they themselves have become a cliché?

• Jimmy Gibbs out of Winnipeg said it best: “Today’s innovation is tomorrow’s cliché.”

A mixed bed of perennials, annuals and shrubs
• Reader Gail Bowen is now the writer in residence at a library in Calgary.

• Kevin Newman has retired as the news anchor for Global Television. He was very good at his job. One day, we were flying out to Vancouver and Kevin was in the seat in front of us. Sitting next to Kevin was an elderly gentleman. He asked Kevin “what do you do for a living?” Kevin could have in all honesty told him “I am the anchor for a national news show.” Instead, he answered quite simply “I am a journalist.” The elderly gentleman, totally unimpressed with Kevin, responded “I suppose that is an okay profession.” I love that moment.

• Jay Hale is at the house, doing some painting for me. We were chatting about friends who are always there for us. Jay said “they are few and far between, and greatly appreciated.” I couldn’t agree more. Here’s a toast to friends who are there when we need them.

• Long time friend, Hielke De Jong passed away last December. Hielke was one of those people who if you were sick, would take you to the doctor or pick up some groceries for you or do something that needed doing. As his wife, June Mayhew said, “he was unfailingly kind.” Good people need to be recognized.

• I have never been to The Creek Bistro but I have heard very good things about the place. Roberta Nichol wrote in to say that she had one of the best meals of her life at The Creek Bistro on 13th Avenue, this past Friday. Roberta had the halibut with perfectly prepped veggies and a killer lemon/phyllo dessert. Roberta also wanted people to know that Rod, her waiter was fantastic. She is right on about Rod. If there was a contest for Regina’s best waiter, he would get my vote. Many of us remember when he was a mainstay at Mieka’s on Smith.

• I had more wonderful meals at Mieka’s than at any other restaurant. Her cooking was divine.

• So, I was listening to Garth Materie hosting ‘Blue Sky’ on CBC One this week. His show has a phone in component. Is it just me or do you notice that a lot of dumb people call in to voice their opinion? Now I know I could have found a nicer word than ‘dumb’ as in I could have said “four cents short on the nickel” or “the ladder doesn’t reach the top floor”…but it would still amount to the same thing. And yes, I know that if I had used the word dumb in the classical sense, then dumb people can’t call in as they are mute, but I didn’t…so don’t go calling the grammar police.

• The grammar police should be called on everyone who overuses ‘LOL’ to indicate that they are being funny. Is the context not the indication of the humor? When I write about the importance of my people’s national dish, the beloved haggis, and how it should be served regularly in all public cafeterias and schools…do I really need to add in an “LOL”…because if you don’t’ get it, just keep calling Garth at CBC…he will be happy to hear from you.

• Writing about phone in shows….a few years ago, Maureen and I were at a Rider game. After the game, we were stuck in traffic. I turned on CKRM and their fan phone in show. I told her “you have to listen to this”. Maureen listened to a few callers and she thought it was a parody, a comedy show similar to SCTV or Saturday Night Live. When I told her that it was a real show and these were fans phoning in to voice their opinion, she was stunned.

Garden Tip: If you have to plant a tree in an area that is usually quite wet, there is a simple thing you can do to increase its chance of survival. Dig the hole six to twelve inches deeper than you normally would to plant the tree. Fill the space with crushed rock or pea gravel. This will provide a bit of extra drainage for the tree so that it does not sit in water. A tree sitting in water is often described by gardeners as having “wet feet.”

Plant your tulips in September
Garden Tip: No more lawn fertilizer. Do not buy the fall fertilizers you see for sale in the chain stores. Not worth the money. What you should be doing is thinking about where you will be planting your fall bulbs in the next month. Tick, tock.

Garden Tip: More of a complaint than a tip. My Dolgo Crabapple is a perennial producer of lovely, one inch crabs that are perfect for canning. This year, the vicious hail we received in July, damaged the new fruit as it formed. Most of the fruit is bruised, but only on the top side where the hail struck. Apple sauce anyone?

A raised  garden box at the ranch
Garden Tip: Chatting with Margo Soriano and Georgia Hearn. Between the three of us, we have lots of green tomatoes but very, very few are turning red just yet. It has been a later year with not very much of the intense summer heat we normally experience. All of us have very large crops in spite of the wet and the cool. Margo tells me that her Romas have twenty-five tomatoes on each plant.

• I love lemon tarts made from scratch. There are two places to get great ones. Government House and Sharon Wallace at The Farmers’ Market.

• And happy gardening for another week…Rod in rainy Regina

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