Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Garden Report #22

American Elm canopy along Regina Avenue, October of 2010 - June Blau

The Garden Report #22

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Black mulch in a shrub bed #1-Mike Liske

Black mulch in shrub bed #2-Mike Liske

• Nice Photos: Mike Liske from The Classic Landscape Co. sent along some photos of a front yard where he incorporated a black mulch into the shrub beds. Mike writes that the mulch has maintained its color for two years and has reduced the weed growth to a minimal amount. Black mulch became quite popular in the east a few years back but has never caught on here.

The van Zantens-Garden Report Readers!
Photo: We have a photo of faithful blog reader Rob van Zanten and his family. Rob is a part owner of one of Canada’s largest horticultural firms, Pan American Nursery Products. While Rob lives near Vancouver, he has been a frequent visitor to Regina over the years. He loves Wascana Park, our bike paths, and old Lakeview where he has stayed with our family, many times. In case you can’t tell, this is a real Dutch family, not one of those pretend ones! The picture is cropped and you cannot see their wooden shoes.
• Readers write: Lyn Goldman writes “The photographs are particularly beautiful.” Chris Dodd wrote in regarding the wearing of clean underwear to the doctor’s office. She reminds all of us of the importance of wearing clean underwear in case we get in an accident. Amazing how that little gem has been passed down through the ages by the Association of Protective Mothers. Roberta Nichol understands my willingness to engage in conversations with squirrels, as reported in #21. Roberta herself, converses with gophers. Jodi Sadowsky wrote “Love the updates. Hugs.” Just send money, Jodi. Jean McKay tells us that she planted Princess Irene Tulips with some Scilla sibirica which are purple. Georgia Hearn writes “I always learn something and have a good laugh.” Dani Mario and her boyfriend Trevor Green joined us at The Globe last Sunday. Dani says that she enjoys the blog because of the mix of topics. The boys at Hill Avenue Drugs totally agree with my take on KFC’s new sandwich. They called it a “salt sandwich.” Morag Armbruster writes “Your Garden Report is quite interesting so I don’t want to miss it.” Daryl and Lola from The Ninth Street Bed and Breakfast in Saskatoon write “We enjoy your blog…its entertaining, funny, insightful…The ‘Rod-isms’ are priceless”.

• Garden Tip: A few of you have inquired about amaryllis varieties. The number one seller is called Red Lion and it is indeed a bright red. One of my favorites is Apple Blossom which is white with pink striping. There are some really weird and strange varieties on the market now, if you know where to look. There are ones called Green Goddess, Papillio and Aphrodite. I am growing the last two.

• Readers Read: The snow storm was raging, a wonderful fire was going and Murphy and I were curled up listening to the radio. That was last Tuesday afternoon. Being broadcast was a story from actor, writer and regular blog reader Jeanie Freeman. Jeanie was telling the tale of learning how to kiss when she was a young girl and the dangers of two teenagers attempting romance when each of them have braces. It was hilarious and poignant at the same time.

Blue Oat Grass-a good choice for many gardens
• Garden Tip: Not to worry about the snow. Just about everything has hardened off as it should. The snow has melted into the ground and will act as a good reservoir for next spring. When there is a really hard frost of minus seven or lower, early in September, that is a not a good situation. It damages the plants not yet prepared for it. Plants need time to get rid of the water in their leaves and stems for winter. If they freeze with too high of a moisture content, they can rupture.

• Cookie Monster: During Tuesday’s storm, Maureen contracted a bit of ‘Betty Crocker Syndrome.’ She baked some absolutely delicious oatmeal/raisin cookies. I was ecstatic. She commented “it doesn’t take all that much to make you happy, does it?” That started me thinking, something I am prone to do. What we value and seek in a mate changes from when we are twenty to when we are sixty.

• Changing mates: Friends of ours have a wonderful marriage. They enjoy each other immensely. It is a second marriage for both of them. She told me when she was twenty, she was attracted to the party boys. Those lads who liked to drink and carry on. It was a ‘fun time.’ She married one of them. The party scene soon grew old and redundant. They divorced. She took her time before getting married again. Her second husband was the opposite of her first one. He was a quiet fellow who loved to read and write. She admits that when she was twenty, she would have not given this man a second look. She would have classified him as ‘boring’. Yet, he turned out to be great husband. He was kind, nurturing, caring, stable and he cooks for her. She grew into him, for lack of a better phrase. So, long after her ‘party boys’ have gone to seed, many of them sitting in beer parlors without regular employment for fourteen years, her bookish husband gets better and better. I love a happy ending.

• Elder love: Two old timers, sitting on a park bench. One asks of the other what is new. The second responds that he has recently taken a bride. The first asks if the new bride is a good cook, a good house keeper or sexy? The bridegroom answers no to all the questions. “Why did you get married, then?” “Because she can drive at night.” I don’t care if you heard that one before. I’m recycling these days.

• Garden Tip: Most (not all) insects on house plants can be controlled with Trounce which is a combination of soapy water and chrysanthemum juice.

• Restaurants: This is a not a review, rather a lament. In the last fifty years, restaurants have gotten better and better with their marketing. Their menus are super slick now, filled with wonderful photographs and descriptions of meals that had to be written by a gifted Irishman. But as their menus improved, the quality of the food has diminished. Here is my point. Up until the 1970’s, even the dives cut their own French fries from real potatoes, mashed potatoes did not come from flakes and hash browns did not originate from a bag. Every café made their own soup from their own chicken or beef stock, simmering on the back of the stove. No soup came from a can, a bag or from a mix. The house gravy was made from the pan drippings of the roast, not from a can. Every small town café made their hamburgers on the spot. No one bought frozen patties.

• The old Brock Hotel: When I was in Grade Eight in 1965, I worked part time at the skid row Brock Hotel Café, long since gone. We baked four different fruit pies every day, two cream pies and a killer Boston Cream Pie which I have not seen on the market for years. And the filling for our fruit pies was made in the kitchen, not scooped out of a can. Our veggies were not frozen or from a can. We bought them by the case, washed and peeled them and then they were cooked. We sliced our own bacon. It did not come precooked. Just about everything was made in the kitchen, from scratch. Keep in mind, this was a dive. A place frequented by drunks, hookers and drifters. Today, if you want something from scratch, it is normally found in upscale bistros. Most middle of the road places, especially the chain restaurants, are serving their customers food that was prepared elsewhere. All they have done is heat it up. “My compliments to the chef running your microwave and to the photographer who took your menu pictures.”

• Times change #1: While we were a scratch kitchen at the old Brock Hotel, everything we cooked, we cooked in lard. We piled on the salt and no one ever complained. We used gobs of butter on many items and we boiled the hell out of the veggies until you didn’t need to chew them. If we would have served the carrots a la dente, they would have been sent back by the customer. We were a scratch kitchen. I didn’t’ write we were a healthy place to eat.

• Times change #2: To finish off the rant from above, working at The Brock Hotel as a fourteen year old, washing dishes, I was paid eighty-five cents an hour. Some of the women working as servers had been there for twenty years. They were paid seventy cents an hour. Fifteen cents less than me, because they were female. That was the law. Even thought I was only fourteen, I knew that was wrong.

• New Dance Horizons: Many of you forward The Garden Report. Perfectly okay with me. It’s in the public domain. New Dance Horizons is now forwarding the blog to their people so we have some new readers. Welcome. For you dance enthusiasts, which is a true statement? A) I was a middle linebacker for The Regina Rams in 1969 or B)When Robin founded NDH, I was her lead dancer for the first three seasons until a knee injury forced an early retirement. No prize for guessing correctly.

• Another guessing game: Which of the following is a true statement? In high school, I was a good student. Was that because a) I was diligent and hard working or b) because I spent so much time in the detention hall that I always finished my homework assignments.

• Trivial Pursuit: In 1969, at the university, only engineering students had hand held calculators. They cost a hundred dollars which is the equivalent of five or six hundred now. The engineering students wore their calculators in a holster attached to their belts, almost as a badge of honor. “Hey! I’m an engineering student. I have a calculator. I’m smart. Eat crap you history majors!” Ask me if engineering students got along with the other students? By 1976, calculators had been miniaturized. They were now running on solar and cost six bucks. I bought one and it lasted twenty years. I never carried it in a holster.

• How long do you hold your grudges: In 2001, I had an opportunity to visit a relative in a nursing home. He was 92 years of age. While he could not remember what he had had for breakfast, his mind was absolutely clear regarding an incident from 1918. As we spoke, I realized that he had lost the social filter that allows us to lie, rationalize and minimize. He could only tell the truth as he knew it to be. I took this as an opportunity to ask him a question. I knew that he and his brother had been estranged since 1937. They had not spoken since that year. I asked why? His answer was “My brother was always too busy for my liking. He had always just come from somewhere or else he was just going somewhere.” I asked him if there was anything else that had lead to their separation? “Nope. That’s it.”

• Is that me: Now this gave me a pause to think. How often do I, how often do you, allow something that is nothing more than an irritation, to influence the rest of our lives? If we are upset with someone who is close to us, a friend, a colleague or a family member, how long do we get to carry our grudges. At what point do we say to ourselves “It was one word, one sentence, one moment in time and does that outweigh all of our other experiences.” I write this from both sides of the equation, having been both the ‘grudgee’ and the ‘grudger’. And when we hold a grudge for a day, a week or for fifty years, who exactly are we punishing? Does the universe congratulate us at some point saying “Wow! You are better at holding a grudge than anyone else.” Do we get a trophy or a ribbon for first place? Is there a premium spot reserved in heaven for those of us who held grudges compared with those people who practiced forgiveness? I know I will never qualify for sainthood. That is not my destiny. I would just like to quit carrying rocks uphill in snowstorms, because when I get to the top of the hill, it turns out, it was just a rock.

Black Mulch in shrub bed #3-Mike Liske
• Garden Tip: This one’s a week or two late. When you are cleaning up your flower pots for the winter, always inspect the quality and depth of the root ball before you throw it out or compost it. You will usually find that your best flower pots had the deepest roots. That is why it is so important in the spring, to loosen root bound plants so that the new shoots head south into the pot. The best root balls will leave very little soil behind in the pot, once removed.

• Farmers’ Market: It was packed at the market yesterday morning. I came away with fresh carrots, strawberry jam, and lemon pound cake. Its open every Saturday morning at The Cathedral Village Community Center.

• Options: I am aware that life is not always fair but so far, it beats the alternative.

• Happy gardening…and snow shoveling…Rod McDonald in Regina

Take one last look at the green, green will be a few months before you see this color in Regina

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Garden Report #21

The Garden Report #21

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

• Garden Time: I was on the Angus Street side of my garden wall this Thursday. I was planting the last of my tulip bulbs. One of the neighborhood squirrels was on the ground, no more than fifteen feet away from my planting bed. He watched me with great interest. Do squirrels understand English? I gave him very clear instructions not to return later in the day and dig up my newly planted bulbs. Of course, I am also the same man who instructed my boys when they were teenagers, to behave themselves. Somehow, I think I have a better chance with the squirrel.

• Poison Profits: Kentucky Fried Chicken is suffering lower sales and reduced profits. To improve their bottom line, they have introduced a bun less sandwich called ‘The Double Down’, which contains somewhere around 1700 mg. of sodium! Add in the fat content and the calories and you have everything you need for a stroke, a heart attack, high blood pressure and kidney failure in one meal. According to KFC’s spokesperson, the sandwich is not meant to be eaten regularly, only as a rare treat. Yes, and the heroin dealer does not want his clients to become addicted. He suggests that they only inject the drug on holidays and other special occasions.

Acidanthera 'Bicolor'

Linden Tree-Fall Color
• Attachment Photos: People have been emailing me some really wonderful photos, appropriate to The Garden Report. June Blau from across the street sent in the Regina Avenue autumn canopy. For our out of town readers, Regina Avenue is the main street to the airport and the trees are American Elms, planted in the 1920’s. I actually have an old photograph of this street when the elms were only five feet tall. The other three photos were submitted by Heather Lowe. I have often recommended that people plant a linden tree. As you can see in the photo, it is a truly, outstanding specimen.

• Readers Write: Richard Gustin wrote “I have been sharing The Garden Report with a neighbor who greatly enjoys it and wants to know if she can be added to the distribution list.” Yes she can. Roberta Nichol wrote “I like the way it deals with every day experiences…”. Cheryl Hutton from Calgary writes “…I feel like I am given a little piece of civilization every time I sit down to read. Keep it coming, Rod.” Joan Kortje wrote “I too, love getting your Garden Report every Monday morning when I arrive at work. Have saved every one…”. Joanne Terry wrote “…those photos of the legislature are ‘prize winning’…”. They were submitted by regular reader Jan Pederson of Winnipeg.

• Hill Avenue Drugs: Stopped in there to pick up a prescription. They told me that they enjoy reading The Garden Report. They said they enjoy the humor. Now I feel under pressure to be funny.

• Scot’s Man Report: People who are not from my clan ask on a regular basis, if it is true that we do not wear underwear beneath our kilts and tartans. Now stop and think about that for a moment. How would you react if I were to walk around asking about the status of your underwear?

• Added underwear thoughts: You know how your mother always insisted that you put on clean underwear when you were going to the doctor? Well, in all my years of visiting different doctors, none have ever inspected my underwear. They know the condition of my liver and my appendix and my tonsils, but none have ever taken the time to ensure I was wearing clean gotch. One day, a nurse will file an inspection report and forward it to my mother. “Dear Mrs. McDonald. Rodney attended our clinic today and his underwear was very clean. You should be proud as this reflects upon your ability to raise children properly.” Signed…The Nurse.

• Dutch thoughts: I am often mistaken as being German or Dutch. It happens all the time, especially being in the greenhouse business. About twenty years ago, I was visiting Casey Grootendorst at his greenhouse in Vancouver. His mother was there and she decided I must be Dutch. Once a Dutch person has made up their mind, there is very little one can do to change it. She spoke Dutch to me. I told her “I don’t speak Dutch”. She continued for some time with our conversation, as if I would learn the language. I again told her “I don’t speak Dutch.” Didn’t slow her down one bit at all. She had a story to tell and I was going to listen.

• Peking House: This restaurant on Rose Street charges a bit more than most Chinese places, but they give you some good eating. Their veggies are fresh and crisp, never overcooked. They make a killer Hot and Sour Soup which is one of my favorites. Almost a meal in itself. Maureen loves their Singapore Noodles which is a lightly curried plate of thin pasta.

• Farmers’ Market: The market has moved indoors until December. They are at The Cathedral Community Center on 13th and are open Saturday mornings. Had some dynamite young carrots last week from the market.

• Why?: Why do some performers take fifteen minutes to introduce a song? Where they were when they wrote it, how they felt about it at the time, how it changed their views…and then it only takes them five minutes to sing it? There is a concept from the theater world that applies here: No matter how many classes you took, no matter how many directors have influenced your work, no matter how talented you think you are, your job is to deliver the next line!

• Garden Tip: As we move indoors for the winter, so do the ants and a few other creepy crawly insects. The best way to control them is with the organic powder ‘Insectigon’. This powder is made from diatomaceous earth and it is not a poison. It works through the mechanical process. You can apply the powder behind the fridge and stove or along insect pathways.

• Fish and Chips: Always a popular topic here at The Garden Report. I finally made it to Brewster’s on south Albert Street to check out their version. On the positive side, their chips were crisp and clean and I asked that mine not be salted in the kitchen and they accommodated my request. They use halibut as their fish at Brewster’s and in my opinion, halibut is the best fish to use. Cod and haddock are also good. Pollock and Tilapia are not recommended. Cooked fish should be either golden or golden brown. Mine arrived dark brown which means that it was in the fryer a minute or two too long. The batter was not very tasty having been overcooked. I should have sent it back but being a good Canadian, I am really reluctant to do that. So I simply peeled the batter off to one side and ate the halibut which was very tasty. I would give them another chance but the next time I order, I will be very up front with the wait staff and ask them to ensure the kitchen does not overcook my order.

• Fresh and homemade: Michelle Jackson who is a regular reader and leads an alternate existence as my niece (Bonnie’s girl), finally made it over to my house with the long awaited apple crisp. It was the finest one I have ever tasted! It was made with apples from her back yard. And one of the things I love about homemade desserts is that I can pronounce all of the ingredients and there never is a caveat proclaiming “may contain…”.

• Garden Tip: It is time to plant your amaryllis. Mine arrived this week. Plant the bulb in a pot that is slightly larger than the bulb. More often than not, a five inch or six inch pot is more than adequate. Rookies often make the mistake of planting their amaryllis in a pot that is too large such as an eight inch container. Best to water your amaryllis from the bottom rather than the top. I take a dish with a bit of water in the bottom and place my amaryllis pot into this dish for about twenty minutes. The bulb will pull up the amount of water it needs. The easiest way to kill an amaryllis is to overwater it. Now, as to when it will bloom? Experienced growers can time tulips to bloom with one or two days of when they want them. Tulips can be programmed. Amaryllis cannot. They have a mind of their own. If you plant ten, they will all bloom at different times. Just the nature of the bulb. If you have a slow bulb, do not give up on it. In all my years of growing this plant, I have never had a failure. I have had the odd one that would not bloom until February or even March, but they eventually bloomed.

• Selective listening: When I was a young boy, I would mishear songs that were playing on the radio. The classic ‘Return to Sender’ was interpreted by me as ‘Return December’ and I assumed it was someone looking forward to Christmas. Some things never change. Maureen now says “take out the garbage” and I hear “why don’t you watch the football game and I’ll make you a chocolate cake.”

• Symphony: Love the symphony. Had season tickets for years. Last night, the guest artist performed a classic, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. It was fantastic. I never tire of the piece.

• Football fans only: Don’t get me started. I rarely yell at my television set. Now I do.

• Enjoy the lovely autumn…Rod McDonald in Regina

The Garden Report #20

The Garden Report #20

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

• Another week: After a summer filled with more rain than any of us can remember and a lack of sunshine, we have been enjoying the finest of Octobers. One of the neighbors and I were chatting about the canopy formed by the American Elms along Angus Street. Both of us remarked on the number of leaves still left. With the slowness of this autumn, there have been some pretty wonderful fall colors. The Dogwoods, Burning Bush, Spirea, Cotoneasters and Cranberries have given us some brilliant oranges and reds. Fall suppers are in abundance, the harvest continues and the crisp smoke from the fireplaces permeates the night air.

Our Legislature at sunset - Jan Pederson
• Readers write: Alan Bratt weighed in on the topic of weddings and graduations turned into over the top galas. Alan wondered if there is a direct correlation between how much money is spent on a wedding and how short the marriage lasts. Good point. Michelle Jackson says that she has made an apple crisp for me but so far it is only a rumor. Les Vanderveen from Vanderveen’s Greenhouse has informed me that he will be growing some heritage tomato varieties next season. While Vanderveen’s are located in Carman, Manitoba, they do sell their bedding plants all over Saskatchewan. I will pass along the variety names when I get that information. Robin Poitras of New Dance Horizons fame wrote “always a delight to read your report.” Georgia Hearn was touring through Tuscany and she read the blog during her travels. She wrote “it was so good to hear about home.” Marsha Kennedy wrote “what a lovely garden report” and then she described how much she has enjoyed this season. Roberta Nichol wrote: “I am now at the point where I look forward to Sundays as your report will be in my mailbox.” She also agreed with my take on spouses who belittle their partners in public. Roberta says it is embarrassing to witness. Paula Grolle writes “I love The Garden Report.” She did suggest that when people tell those stories about what we did when we were sixteen, we should sit back and enjoy them. Margaret Hryniuk says that she laughed out loud at my adage involving goats and bridges. Sure, it’s funny if you were the one building the bridges. The always lovely Denise Cook wrote in to say that she enjoys the blog. Several of you took the time to comment how beautiful Pascal is in the baby picture I attached. He is!

• Pretty girls: We have a new reader in Victoria, Sally Orr (formerly Pasterfield). Sally writes that she works in a retirement home and that she enjoyed my comments on kissing pretty girls when we are eighty-eight. I have told some of you this story before and here it is again. We were walking through The Fringe in Winnipeg. Three young performers aged eighteen or so, stopped Maureen and I. They told us they thought it was “cute” that we still hold hands at our age. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I hang onto her hand so that we don’t get lost. It would have burst their bubble.

• Forgiveness: Two old timers are sitting on a park bench. One asks the other if he ever cheated on his wife and the reply was “yes, once.” “Did she fine out?” The answer was affirmative. “Did she forgive you?” was the next question. “Many, many times…” he answered. I love that story. Forgiveness is something that is proffered once, not something that is used as a hammer over and over again. Move over Reverend Lovejoy.

• Number One Son: Bryan was home this past weekend for a visit. He had not been home since last February. He has built a life for himself in Calgary, but he still cheers for The Riders.

Legislature at sunset - Jan Pederson
• John Wolkowski donated to The Walk for Life Campaign (Organ Donation). Thanks John.

• Garden Tip: Do not let your lawn, trees, shrubs or evergreens go into winter without a good watering. One of our neighbors, new to gardening, had been told that you never water after September. She saw that I had my lawn sprinklers running on Thursday and why not? There has been no rain for three weeks. Evergreens transpire through their foliage even in cooler weather, so a good watering this month is imperative for them as well.

• Garden Tip: I have been a busy boy planting my tulip bulbs this week. I like to plant my bulbs using three things: Peat moss, bulb dust and bone meal. I could not find bulb dust anywhere but I did notice the active ingredients in Wilson’s ‘Rose Doctor’ Powder were the same, so I dusted my tulips with that product.

• Garden Tip: I have written before how plants come and go in a fashion cycle. I am surprised at how few people are planting fall bulbs. There was a time when I would sell seventy thousand every September and my seminars were filled with enthusiastic gardeners. But that ship seems to have sailed. If I could explain it, I would. They really are worth the effort.

• Garden Tip: You can move strawberries in the fall provided you dig a deep root ball. Take the entire plant, soil and all and make sure you water the soil ball in really well. If you are getting rid of a strawberry patch, remember that it takes two years to get them all out. The tiny roots that are left behind after you dig will sprout into new plants, so you have to dig those ones out the following year.

• Probably a wrong number: I got a text message on my phone. It read “Cant come out tonight. Too much homework.”

• Garden Tip: If you use lamium as a hanging plant in your boxes or baskets, you can transplant it into the garden for the winter. It usually survives and you can use it again next year. We had six plants in our window boxes and we dug them into a hosta bed until next spring.

• Garden Tip: Last spring, I advised gardeners to plant their amaryllis bulbs outside for the summer. Following my own advice, I planted mine underneath my Dolgo Crabapple. I kind of forgot all about them until I spotted the foliage on Thursday. I dug them up and they were well rooted into the flower beds, just what I had wanted. I let them dry out for a few days in the sun, then brought them into the basement for a rest period of six weeks. After the rest period, I will pot them up and hopefully get some new blooms.

• Not too pleased with Rona: Remember when each piece of merchandise had a price tag on it? Then computer scanners came along and the only price was the shelf card. Consumers were concerned about the switch to shelf prices only, but we were assured that if the shelf price was lower than the till price, the lower price would prevail. That was then, this is now. Every now and again, I will purchase an item with a shelf price card stating one price only to be charged a higher price at the till. Sometimes I let it go, sometimes I point it out with no change. Well, last week I was in Rona, buying a gas can. They had three models on display with corresponding prices. I picked out one advertised for $5.49 but I was charged $14.99. I told the cashier. “You have to go to Customer Service for an adjustment.” So I head over there and the young girl passes me along to someone else who informs me that the price on the shelf was for a different model. Except there was no “different model” available and there was no other price sign for the model I had. I asked the staff why I could not rely upon the price card in front of the display being the amount I was charged at the till. I got dismissed. Wow! So I sent a letter into Rona’s head office for a response. Have not heard a thing.

• Speeding by: Around 1995, there was a car filled with high school students bombing by the garden center, every morning close to 8:30. I assumed they were late for school. The car would be moving around ninety to a hundred k.p.h. in a fifty zone. I was more than a little concerned with some safety issues. Rather than call the police, I recorded his plate number and got the owner’s information from SGI. This was before the privacy laws had kicked in. As I suspected, the car was registered to the boy’s mother. I phoned her. Told her who I was and what was going on. She took the car away from him. That’s what a good mother does. No doubt he was miffed, but at least he was alive to be miffed.

• Attachments: Jan Pederson from Winnipeg took the two photos of our Legislature at sunset. Maureen took the photo of some bacopa in our garden on Saturday. With the long, cool autumn, the bacopa’s white color has become intensely bright.

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in sunny Regina

Bacopa in the Fall

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Garden Report #19

October 10th, 2010

Marcus and Tina's boy 'Pascal'
Sitting in the garden: It is yet again, another lovely fall day in Regina. Temperatures have been in the twenties and the wind has been gentle. Many of the leaves have drifted from their summer perches but the American Elms hang onto a few of their golden beauties, refusing to give up the fight, just yet. Two young squirrels play a game of tag in the Dolgo Crab. One falls out of the tree landing on the lawn below. Their mother warned them about roughhousing but they did not listen. Murphy spots the disoriented creature but does not launch an attack. Experience has taught him that squirrels climb trees quicker than cats. If cats can laugh, I think he is doing it right now. The coffee is dark, the cinnamon buns are fresh and Mother Nature sings her chant.

• Jan Pederson, who owned Shelmerdine’s Garden Center in Winnipeg, was in town for a few days. Jan stopped by for supper on Tuesday and I caught up on the news from the trade. He left me with a catalogue from Byland’s, the wholesale nursery he is now representing. The reason I mention this is there are many readers who are from the landscaping and greenhouse trade and they all know Jan. For the readers not from the trade, I will read the catalogue and tell you about some of the new introductions that are coming into the market place.

Role Models: This man I know told me that he wants to be a role model for his children. I admire his aspiration. I know a little bit about this fellow so I asked him a tough but important question. How does hitting the mother of his children make him a role model? He glared at me. Now that I had his attention, I asked him how getting drunk and using drugs and going off to jail for bad behavior was being a role model? He no longer speaks to me. In fact, he avoids me when he sees me downtown. On the other end of the spectrum, my friend from the old neighborhood, Rob Pyne, has been inducted into The Sports Hall of Fame this week. A worthy award for Rob. Rob is a role model but he is so modest that if you asked him about being a role model, he would say “I just like to help out.” All Rob did, was show up to coach football teams for the last thirty years, helping young boys to enjoy sports. The first fellow I wrote about thinks he wants to be a role model, but he doesn’t want to do the work.

Heather's Moose
Readers write: Les Vanderveen from Carman, Manitoba“…enjoying the weekly reports.” Marcus Fernado from Croatia sent along several photos of his seven month old son, Pascal. Pascal is a real cutie so I included one of his photos in the attachment. Everybody say “aaahhh.” Heather Lowe sent in a photo of a moose wandering close to her farm at Zehner, north of town. Neighbor Jack Tunnicliffe, took a photo of our house, capturing the setting sun bouncing off of the complex roof line. Gwen Scott of Fort Langley, B.C. is a new reader and she responded with “You have an engaging way of writing.” Chris Pasterfield weighed in on the fish and chip story. Chris writes that the old Blue Schooner that was located on north Broad, had the best chips in town. Sadly, they are no longer in business. Chris also reminds everyone that chips must be eaten with malt vinegar to get the best experience. I agree. Lyn Goldman writes that she is enjoying this lovely autumn weather as are most of us. We have a new reader from Beaumont, California named Kevin Gray. Welcome to the blog. Jan Pederson says that The Garden Report captures moments in time and he enjoys it for that reason. Coleen Mahoney writes “I too have been enjoying your weekly blog.” Chris Dodd wrote: “Getting The Garden Report makes my day.”

Grads gone wild with overindulgence: I wrote about this in last week’s blog and several of you responded. All were in agreement as to how they have gotten way over the top. One respondent referred to the displays as a “gluttony”. It was as if I had walked onto the set of ‘Gone With the Wind’ at the last function I attended.

Simpler Times: I also wrote about how my parents got married in the middle of the war with no pomp, no ceremony, and no money. Roberta Nichol wrote in how her mom and dad got married and how her dad had five cents left in his pocket, which his new bride used to buy an ice cream cone. There is absolutely no correlation between a two hundred thousand dollar wedding and the amount of love that exists between two people.

Words: Of all the words that can be written about love and marriage, perhaps the most overlooked one is ‘cherish’. Recently, I was told the story of a wife who was speaking in an extremely disparaging way of her husband, and doing so in front of strangers. I thought, what is it that we fail to grasp about that word cherish and how do we apply it in our own lives. Move over Dr. Phil.

As a child, I thought as a child: When I was ten years old, I was totally convinced that the only reason my parents got married was to have me. I could never understand why mom and dad wanted to do stuff that didn’t include the kids. On Saturday nights, Dad would take Mom to a movie downtown. They would see a Doris Day flick. Mom would tell us the next morning about how wonderful the film had been and inevitably, her review always ended with a “and everyone learned to get along.” The subtly of my mother’s reviews was not lost on us kids.

Sadly: Many of our readers remember Murray Metz who along with Ernie Wurm, were the maintenance men that kept Lakeview Gardens’ physical plant up and running. Murray passed away at a much too young age of sixty-six this week. A senior complained about the price of Christmas trees “when they used to be five dollars in the good old days”. Murray looked at the fellow and said “yep, and both of us remember when butter was ten cents a pound.” The senior laughed and bought the tree.

Old friends: At Murray’s memorial, I ran into Barb Boyle who was the greenhouse manager at Lakeview for many years. Many of you would remember her. She was also an outstanding decorator of our Christmas trees every December. She is now working as a bookkeeper for a local restaurant.

Garden Tip: I am asking a few of my friends with greenhouses to grow some heirloom tomatoes for next season. Heirlooms managed to survive the blight that destroyed the hybrids. I will keep you posted on this issue.

The sun setting on the Angus Street side of our house
• Strange but true: A few years ago, our dog McIvor died. I had his body cremated and used the ashes as bone meal in my tulip beds. After all, the garden was his favorite spot to hang out. The following spring, my pure white tulips came up a golden yellow, the exact color of McIvor’s coat. It was as if he was saying hello.

Statute of limitations: In speaking with a friend, he told me that someone recently reminded him of the time he drove his car into the lake, when he was sixteen. My friend is now fifty-two. He has a very successful career and four children, all in university. He said “I don’t deny that I did some stupid things when I was in my teens, but eventually there has to be an expiry date on those events.” I know how he feels. Last month, I ran into someone who had heard a story about something dumb I had done in 1967. Somehow, he thought it was relevant to 2010. I do not deny that I have been stupid: It is just that forty-three years have gone by. There has to be a statute of limitations on this stuff.

Adages: People who know me know that I love to quote adages. Just something I do. The appropriate adage for the story above is ‘build forty bridges and no one calls you an engineer…but get caught with one goat and they never forget.” Crude but funny.

Garden Tip: Things you can still be doing in the garden this week? Pruning, digging the flower and vegetable beds, planting tulips, dividing perennials, digging out the lawn to prepare the new perennial bed you have been talking about for the last four years. Yeah. That’s right. Your wife told me about that little project that never gets done.

Persistent cough: There is a really bad cough going around the city right now. One of the neighbors came down with it and it was so severe that she actually woke me up around six the other morning. The poor lady was coughing and she had an open window and the sound flowed into my bedroom. I have been hearing that it lasts close to two weeks.

The bread of life: I have mentioned three places for good bread at different times. Here they are under one heading. Beer Bros. make some wonderful bread including a sour dough multigrain loaf. You can buy the bread at The Italian Star on Victoria. Maple Leaf on 11th makes a wonderful sour rye, a great pumpernickel and a Saskatchewan Fields which is a multigrain. Over at La Patisserie on Broad, they put out an olive and rosemary bread that will knock your socks off. Sadly, I have not had any bread from Safeway, Sobeys or The Northgate that impressed me.

Garden Tip: With the cool nights, my white bacopa has never been brighter. It glows. Also, my white pansies are back to their full glory now that the rains have stopped. Pansies will tolerate -7 with ease.

• What does age have to do with it? A woman I know has a father in law who is 88, widowed, and lives in a senior’s home. He has a girlfriend or lady friend or whatever you wish to call her. He holds hands with her and his daughter in law thinks that is ‘cute’. But she caught them making out and she was abhorred! I don’t understand her reaction. If we want to kiss a pretty girl when we are twenty, and we do, why would we not want to kiss a pretty girl when we are eighty-eight?

• A note for our international readers, this is our Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. Below is not a typo.

• Have a lovely Thanksgiving…Rod McDonald in very sunny Regina!

The Garden Report #18

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

• It is one of those fall days that exist in our memories. The sun is warm and cuddly, the remaining leaves are intensely golden, and the wind is gentle and kind. Murphy wanders in and out of the remaining plants, occasionally chasing a rogue leaf. I sit on the swing with my trusted coffee at my side, writing this report. Maureen is across the garden at the table, paying household bills. The Dolgo Crab that graces my back garden is loaded with unharvested fruit. The hail of July 18th damaged the crop. The robins do not care about such cosmetic things. They are here in great numbers, feasting on the sweetness of my miniature apples. They are getting fattened up for the migration. I do not migrate. I hibernate. I fill up on cinnamon buns from The Farmers’ Market.

Garden Tip: This autumn has seen an incredible display of fall colors. The elms have hung onto their golden leaves much longer than most years and there is a simple reason. While we as humans have not enjoyed the cool, wet fall, the trees have. In most years, with harvest in full swing, there is a good amount of heat and wind available. This causes the trees to finish with their leaves quickly and dispose of them. But this year, they linger. Gently turning, gently falling. Easily, one of the prettiest autumns in memory.

Joe Pettick: I mentioned two reports ago that Joe had passed away. Recently, in The Leader Post, a group of contractors and suppliers purchased a full page of the paper to honor Joe’s life. The reason? Whether you were the president of the company or the guy pushing the wheelbarrow filled with concrete, Joe treated you with respect. That was his legacy. Kindness and respect.

• Two of our readers were left out of the list of writers/artists in last week’s Garden Report. Roberta Nichol is the grand dame of the local folk music scene and Maureen Hawley is a very talented Chinese brush artist. Anyone else left out? Let me know.

• One of our readers forwarded the opinion that by listing all of the writers who read The Garden Report, that I was engaging in a bit of name dropping. I was perplexed by this assertion so I asked my good friend, Mayor Pat Fiacco for his opinion and he did not agree with that writer. Neither did Gordon Lightfoot when I spoke with him.

Fish and Chips: Several readers suggested I give a try to Brewster’s as a good place for this treat. Will do. In #17, I referenced the old Chinese Kitchen at the corner of Pasqua and Dewdney Avenue. Two readers, Jean Freeman and Wanda Bellamy responded with memories of the tasty fish and chips served up at this neighborhood dive.

• Margaret Hryniuk wrote in to say that she had an incredible roasted turkey Panini at The Fireside Bistro which is located at Smith and 15th. I have not been there for years but it is on my list as well.

• The price of democracy: I was logged onto one of the boxing bulletin boards in the Vancouver area. Someone posted that a local boxing club should be avoided because they are involved in cocaine trafficking. No name was signed to the entry. If the statement is true, then the police should be contacted and the club should be shut down. If it is not true, then the blogger got to slander and attack someone with impunity. This freedom to post without identifying yourself is definitely not in anyone’s best interest. It is disgusting. And the greater tragedy is that the blogger could be spreading gossip for any number of reasons. Perhaps he is a competitor.

Garden Tip: The tomato blight that swept across our gardens a few weeks ago, destroyed all but the heirloom tomato varieties. Both Margaret Hryniuk and Susan Rollins reported their heirlooms were just fine. Most of our garden tomatoes are hybrids, the result of crosses. Heirlooms are old fashioned tomatoes and you are able to save the seed from year to year. They are not crosses. I spoke with Rick, the organic farmer at The Market and he confirmed that his heirlooms were just fine. As this tomato blight will be around for a few more years, I would strongly suggest that we all plant heirlooms next year to avoid another crop failure.

• I was out and about and had a need to stop into Manulife on Scarth Street. The ladies of that company Karen, Glenda and Shelley, are all readers of the blog and really enjoy it. They really appreciated the story about my friend the priest, Ed Heidt.

In the news: A couple of Grade Twelve boys were charged and plead guilty to assaulting two Grade Nine boys by paddling them. This happened close to Campbell Collegiate. Paddling has gone on for many years and it is often called hazing or initiation. The courts got it right. It is an assault. When I was in Grade Nine, there was a senior boy who assaulted many younger students. He thought it was great fun. We were all terrified of him. He was never disciplined by the school. Sadly, he went on to become a City Police Officer.

Garden Tip: Hate to sound like a broken record but with the decent weather, it is the perfect time to plant your tulips and other fall bulbs. Fall bulbs equal spring flowers!

• A recent university study found that the higher a man’s testosterone level, the less ability he has to construct a sentence. Now I understand why my writing career took off about ten years ago. I am now able to finish a paragraph, because that gorgeous redhead no longer dominates my frontal lobe.

• Lies, damned lies and then there are statistics: I asked my buddy what was new and he responded: “I made passionate love to my wife five times last night!” I was impressed, very impressed. So I said to him “if I ask your wife, will she verify that number?” “No,” he said, “sadly, her memory is starting to go.”

• Universal themes: We were walking along Denman Street in Vancouver. Pulled over to the curb was a minivan. In the driver’s seat was a Chinese husband. His wife was outside the vehicle, just reefing on him. Now, I fully admit I do not speak Cantonese or Mandarin, but I do recognize specific intonations, and he had his head hung appropriately low, not wanting to make eye contact with his missus. Her finger was wagging and I am willing to bet dollars to donuts that she was saying “you don’t know how mad I am right now! You don’t know how you embarrass me when you do stupid stuff! What were you thinking or were you even thinking?” As we passed this couple, I said to Maureen “poor guy” and her response was “I wonder what he did wrong.” Two sides to every situation.

A simpler solution: Perhaps it is because of my age or maybe because I have spent so many years touring with The Fringe Festival, but I have really come to appreciate the simple over the complicated. Within The Fringe Tour, performers learn quickly to keep their technical requirements to a minimum and often their sets are nothing more than a chair. Fringe Theater is above all else, dedicated to simplicity. The essence of The Fringe is writing and acting, not the flying squirrels and dancing penguins. Having written that, I am tiring of the everyday celebrations being turned into major, Hollywood style extravaganzas. Specifically, Grade Twelve Graduations. Gowns now are custom made, costing thousands of dollars. Tuxes are mandatory. Limousines line up at the hotel. Everything has to be bigger and better. The show grows in size and complexity every year. For God’s sakes, it is Grade Twelve Grad! It is supposed to be a celebration not an exercise in overindulgence. And while some parents don’t mind maxing out their credit cards to ensure the ‘perfect’ dress is worn by their precious, it begs the question to be asked: Where does it leave the lower income kids? Apparently, this grandiosity is filtering down to the Grade Eight Grads. Don’t get me started on today’s weddings.

A simpler time: It was 1942. My mom and dad met. The war was on. They fell in love. My dad proposed. They bought a five dollar ring. They got married at seven p.m. at Knox Met on Victoria Avenue. They had two friends ‘stand up’ for them.. My dad was working the midnight shift at the anti-aircraft factory. He went to work. My mom went to sleep. In the morning, my dad came home from work. My mom got up to go to work. My dad thanked my mom for keeping the bed warm and he went to sleep. It was his turn. The war was on.

$2,515.00: That is the amount the readers of this blog donated to The Walk for Life – Kidney Transplant Awareness last Sunday. Thank you.

• Enjoy the sunshine…Rod McDonald in Regina

The Garden Report #17

September 25th, 2010

• The Garden Report is being released a day early this week to remind you that The Kidney Foundation Walk is on Sunday, September 26th. It is in front of The Legislature in Wascana Park and registration starts at 11:30 a.m. The walk itself is at 1:00 p.m. Registration costs you $35 and you are welcome to donate if you want or just support the event by walking. The walk is organized both as a fundraiser and to bring awareness of the need for organ donors. Sign those cards. I hope to see several of you there. So far, thanks to you, I have raised $2300 for the walk.

For Boxing Fans: I love boxing. Have since I was six years old. There are boxing matches in our city but most people don’t know about them. They are not well advertised. If you do have an interest in Olympic Style Boxing (head gear, more safety rules), there are matches tonight (Saturday the 25th) at The Lonsdale Boxing Club on Dewdney Avenue, starting at seven p.m. I’ll be there.

Hog Heaven: Ever since I was I eighteen years old, I have fantasized that I would be the only male in a room filled with nurses. I love nurses. Always have. All types. This past Monday, the fantasy came true. Maureen’s nursing class from The General Hospital held their reunion and the social was at our house. Yes! Thank you God! Forty nurses and me…but none were wearing miniskirts and no one had on their white uniform and cap. Talk about a letdown. All they wanted to talk about was the garden and did I have any advice for them. I on the other hand, kept wanting to show them my ouwies, and no, that is not a metaphor. They say the anticipation often exceeds the actual event and whoever ‘they’ are, they are right.

Writers read: Did you know that this blog is read by many writers and others from the fine arts community, which I take as a compliment. Who is a writer or artist? Alan Bratt, Gail Bowen, Cheryl Hutton, Gail Aubin, Alex Eddington, Kevin Blevins, Beth McLean, Bobbi Jo Cook, Don List, Candace Holmstrom, Colette Nichol, Courtney Sebring, Courtney Cunningham, Rachel Elie, Daniel Jackson, Danielle Mario, Colette Kendall, Ed Heidt, Susan Freedman, Greg Morley, Jodi Sadowsky, Jean Freeman, John Huston, June Mayhew, Kirsten Von Ritzen, Ken Mitchell, Lyn Goldman, Laura Harris, Daryl Peterson, Marcus Fernando, Marsha Kennedy, Margaret Hryniuk, Patty Softly, Rita Deverell, Rex Deverell, Robin Poitras, Russ Bennett, Sarah Wills, Marla V.. Did I leave anyone out? If so, let me know and I will include an addendum. Writers, please note the fancy word.

Garden Tip: With all of the rain we have been having, many people have not been able to mow their lawns. It is a bad idea to let your lawn go into winter too tall as it will mat, and that can produce mold. On a five setting lawn mower, the best setting is usually the number three or four.

Garden Tip: Is it a good time to plant in the fall? Common question. For many years, there was a debate as to whether spring or fall planting was the best time and what should you plant in the autumn. Not anymore. Most plants that you buy today have been container grown. It does not really matter when you plant as in spring, summer or fall. Fall planted trees and shrubs go into a winter dormancy as do your other trees. They sit there all winter, waiting to take off the following spring.

Garden Tip: I prefer to move established plants in the spring rather than the fall. Having written that, I have moved many spruce trees in the fall with great success. The secret is in getting a large enough root ball. I do not move pine trees in the fall as they do not enjoy the process. If you don’t know the difference between spruce and pine, you better find out before you move them.

Garden Tip: How late in the fall can I lay sod? I have installed sod as the snow is falling. I have never lost a lawn from installing it too late into the season so if you are planning to do it, go right ahead. It will take off in the spring.

Garden Tip: If you grew begonias from a bulb, best to let the begonia get a light frost on the upper part. Then lift the bulb out of the pot or garden, shake off the dirt and let it dry out in the sun for a day or two. Then store the bulb in a brown paper bag (never a plastic one) filled with peat moss. Keep them in a cool place until next March when you can start them again. You can also save your calla and canna roots this way as well as gladioli. There used to be glads growing in gardens all over the city but they seem to have fallen out of favor in the last twenty years, which is a shame. They are such a wonderful summer flower.

Garden Tip: Plants come and go in style. In the 1980’s, I could sell thirty peonies in a year. Ten red, ten pink and ten white. I was lucky to get ten bucks for them. By the turn of the century, gardeners were buying different types of peonies, and by the hundreds. We were selling several rare varieties than were priced between fifty and one hundred and fifty dollars. A friend of mine who had a very strong Chinese clientele at his Vancouver garden center, sold many rare peonies for over two hundred dollars each. In Chinese culture, the peony is revered.

Garden Tip: Still on the plant as fashion statement. In the 1980’s evergreens sold in the thousands in this city. Junipers, cedars, pines and spruce. Many yards were filled only with evergreens. I had difficulty getting people to even look at sprieas, potentillas, dogwoods or any of the other deciduous choices. That seems to have balanced out and now people are interested in a wider variety of plant choices for their garden.

• When Trivial Pursuit was first released on the market, my mother gave me a game as a Christmas present. I thanked her and told her how surprised I was that she had chosen it. Her response was “I never knew a child who retained more useless information that you, so I thought it was a perfect gift.” Now, was that a compliment?

Best pie: I have mentioned before that Sharon Wallace is the finest of pie makers. She often sells her pies at The Farmer’s Market. Your two best choices are her Pear and Ginger pie and her Country Apple. Pear and Ginger has a nice kick to it and Country Apple is local crabs and apples. Thanksgiving is coming up and she bakes a lovely pumpkin pie which will grace our table. Has everyone figured out that I really like pie? Reader Roberta Nichol often mentions that she is an excellent pie maker, but I have no firsthand knowledge of this skill. She has never brought me a pie to taste.

Birthdays this week: Who turned 59 on the 23rd this week? Did you send him a gift? A really expensive gift. No? Well there is still time. This is me being subtle.

Black mail: Anyone who went to school with me and does not send me a gift, be forewarned. If your parents are still alive, I will tell them about the time you skipped third period and got caught smoking behind the gym. This is me not being subtle.

Restaurant Time: Many of you have written in about how wonderful The Creek on 13th is to eat at. Well, I finally made it there for my birthday supper…and the power went out. The chef couldn’t see to cook so we had to find another place. I have been hearing good things about the food at Bushwhacker’s on Dewdney. We gave it a try. I really enjoy fish and chips a few times a year and I have been told that theirs were good. On the plus side, they use cod which is much preferred to basa or Pollock. Cod is a much ‘meatier’ fish. The portion was more than generous as I only got through two/thirds of it. On the not so plus side, the fish was a little soggy, not as crisp as I would have preferred and the chips, while very good, had double the amount of seasoning salt that was needed. I suppose if they extra salt the chips, they will sell more beer. Maureen had a Mediterranean pizza which was tasty. Number Two Son and Number One Cousin both had the taco salad. One had the chicken and the other had the beef. Both said they were pleased. Lots of black olives and hot peppers. Max and I shared a coconut cheesecake and it was okay, but not great. Calories in Saskatoon sets the standard for cheesecake. The ladies shared a Chocolate Soldier which was a crepe with ice cream and cherries. They raved about it. I tried a glass of their home brewed sarsaparilla and it was different than any other root beer. It was lower in carbonation but higher in flavor. A strong licorice like taste. The question is, would I return? Yes. Did it knock my socks off? No. It was okay but not great.

• The Best fish and chips I have eaten were from Go Fish tucked into the wharf opposite Granville Island in Vancouver. Nothing else has come close.

• The Best fish and chips in Regina were cooked up at the old Chinese Kitchen which was that little, take out dive beside the Nortown Bowling Alley, across from The Pasqua Hospital. The fish was cooked in this super delicious batter that was quite yellow from the egg yolks. Now this is dating me but, fish and chips with cod was fifty cents a serving and with halibut (which is the best), it was sixty cents. No one has picked up their recipe and that’s a shame.

Garden Tip: The poinsettia that you are going to buy this Christmas is growing today. It was planted as a rooted cutting at the end of July or early August. Poinsettias, when they were first being grown were planted in fields and sold as a cut flower, not a potted plant. Poinsettias turn red due to restricted light, not because of a special fertilizer as most think they do.

Garden Tip: The traditional potted plant for Thanksgiving is a harvest colored mum.

Mixed Messages: A gift of a white rose can mean purity, innocence, virginity, death, grieving, love or cowardice. In World War Two, if someone of Army age did not sign up, people would hand them a white flower or a white feather, as an act of contempt.

• Not science fiction: One day in the future, there will be no need for organ donation as science will be able to clone needed organs from our own stem cells. But the day is off in the future and until it arrives, transplantation is one of our best options. If you think that is farfetched, then think back to the time they did the first heart transplant. That was forty years ago. We were all in shock and disbelief. Now, most of us know one or two people who have had one.

Sad but true: Every year at the garden center, usually in the spring when we were exceptionally busy, someone would point out that we had charged them too much. As in $11.95 for a pack of raspberries that were priced at $9.95. No problem. We made mistakes. We refunded the money with an apology. The law of averages says that for every mistake we made by charging too much, we would make one of charging too little. In twenty-eight years, I never had one person make that claim, that we had undercharged them.

Readers’ Comments: Lyn Goldman writes “your reports make me smile.” What? No laugh? Sheila Angelstad from Saskatoon wrote “fun blog.” “I am trying your bacon/mushroom sauce” so writes Joanne Terry. “Greatly appreciate your tips…” - Sherri Tutt. Marcus Fernando wrote in from Croatia about many things, almost a blog within itself. The one story that struck me was the time Marcus was in a show near Edinburg and The Scotsman sent a reviewer, who left after the first act and then wrote an entire review, as if he had been there the whole time. “Thank you for this lovely and interesting blog,” writes Micheil Verhal, first time reader from near Edmonton. Laura Ross wrote “Love The Garden Report.” Laura donated to The Kidney Walk this week as did Mysteria Gallery. That brings the number up to ten who have donated. Thank you.

Strange but true: We were in Winnipeg at their Fringe in 2004. They have an area set up with food and crafts booths. We were at a table, having a snack. A woman of around seventy was wandering through the crowd, obviously distressed. She was crying “feed me. Won’t someone feed me. I’m so hungry.” No one was paying any attention to her. I flagged her down and told her to sit at our table. I went over to a food booth and I bought a slice of pizza, a salad and a bottle of juice. I brought it back to our table and presented it to her. She looked at the food and said to me “What’s this for?” I told her she was crying that she was hungry and that this was my gift to her. She said “I don’t want food. I want money.” I told her “no” and she left. I often see her when I am in Winnipeg and she will approach me crying, “won’t someone help me? I’m so hungry.” When I remind her of our past interaction, she stops crying, and wanders down the street, looking for her next patron, and the crying starts again.

Garden Tip: Lovely fall color on the Amur Maple Tree located at the south end of The Albert Street Bridge, west side. Just starting to come into its full glory.

• Enjoy your garden, plant some fall bulbs this week…Rod in sunny Regina

The Garden Report #15

The Garden Report #15

September 15th, 2010

Shrub bed at The Ranch
Wave Petunia Pot at The Ranch
• It’s yet again, another rainy day in a year filled with rainy days. The garden exists. It has not been touched for more than a week. The farmers are at a standstill. Their crops left standing, waiting for the harvest to begin. The road builders’ equipment sits idle. They too wait, for a drying wind and a golden kiss. The elders of the community who lived through the 1930’s, tell us that all moisture is beneficial. They have seen the other side of the proverbial coin when gardens were parched and live stock died from thirst. We are Goldilocks. We only ask God for the right amount of rain. Not too much and not too little, just the right amount.

Sad News: Joe Pettick has died. Joe was considered, along with Clifford Wiens, to be one of the two premiere architects in this city. I had a special relationship with Joe. When I was in my twenties, starting out in business, Joe was one of my strongest supporters. He gave me much needed advice and more importantly, he gave me his blessing. To have the blessing of Joe Pettick meant that you would get jobs, that you would work. I was always grateful for that acknowledgement from him. We need more men with his talent and humility.

• A big thank you to the following for their checks in support of The Kidney Foundation’s Gift of Life Walk: Roberta Nichol, Jean and Harold McKay, Susan Freedman (Vancouver), Jimmy Gibbs (Winnipeg), Bonnie and Jeff Jackson, Mike and Kristi Liske, Shelley Kelln-Trudelle and Joanne Terry. The ‘Walk’ is happening Sunday, September 26th, at 1:00 p.m. in front of The Legislative Buildings. If you would like to make a donation and sponsor me, send the checks to 2635 Regina Avenue, Regina, Sask., S4S 0G1. Make them out to The Kidney Foundation.

• Many of you have commented how much you enjoy the restaurant recommendations and you would like to see more of them. Here is the problem. I am limited by dialysis to how often I can eat out due to dietary restrictions. I should not eat out more than once a week or even better, every second week. On the other hand, Maureen loves to lunch and is often out four or five times a week. She feeds me (pun intended) some of my reviews.

• Maureen had lunch at Henry’s on 14th this past week with her girlfriends. She said it was okay, but not great.

• For those of you who know Pat Smith, she was back in town for a visit and a group of us got together to have supper with Pat at Alfredo’s on Vic East. I was not feeling particularly adventurous so I went with a pizza which was very good. Maureen had the cashews and salmon dish and said it was just fine. She particularly enjoyed the side dish of rice that had some cardamom as a spice.

Reader’s Comments: “Getting your Garden Report is like getting my cherished Harrowsmith in my mailbox” wrote Roberta Nichol. Jimmy Gibbs out of Winnipeg weighed in on the poor quality reviews at The Winnipeg Fringe Festival. Jimmy’s feeling is that since Robert Enright retired from The CBC, there has not been a first rate reviewer. Many people agree with Jimmy on that one. In fact, I have been getting quite a bit of mail regarding poor quality reviewers in many cities. Chris Pasterfield sent in a list of thirty-four puns. Jean McKay is heading over to Scotland to inspect the land of our people. She is threatening to bring me back some haggis and make me eat, it but she is not certain if it comes in a can or as a mix. Don’t tell Jean, but it actually comes cooked inside of a sheep’s stomach. Yes, us Scots are a culinary adventurous bunch. Joanne Terry writes “I look forward to it (The Garden Report) every week.” Cheryl Hutton (Calgary) writes “I have got my sister reading The Garden Repot now, too.” Heather Lowe wrote “I chuckled at your remembrance of The Robbie Burns Night”. Mike Liske from The Classic Landscape Company writes: “You hit the nail on the head in regards to small jobs (#14).” “I had to smile when you wrote about the eternal optimism of gardeners” so says Roberta Nichol. Yep. Pessimists don’t garden. They know it won’t grow so why plant it. Optimists know that this year they will get a bumper crop. They just know it.

• Sometimes kids lie, even to their mothers. I was in the Gold Square Lab getting my monthly blood test. They were busy, around twenty minutes behind. I was sitting there, reading my Maclean’s from 1992 and a girl/woman of around twenty arrived on the scene. She was impatient. “How long do I have to wait?” she demanded. The answer was twenty minutes, give or take. She sat down, quite cross. After five minutes, she announced she was late for work and she was leaving. She was in her car in the parking lot, talking on her cell phone. I could see her through the plate glass window. Two minutes later, her mother was on the phone to the lab. Her mom said that her daughter waited for over forty-five minutes (really big lie) and that her name was never called and “what type of operation are you running there anyways?”

• Tomato City. If you have tomatoes that are ripening at a very fast rate, the best thing to do is to make tomato sauce. There is not a store bought tomato sauce on the market that can match the sauce you can make and you don’t have to be a chef to prepare it. Here is what I do. I take a large, heavy pot. Put in a bit of canola oil in the bottom and I sweat my onions, peppers and mushrooms. Get them going for ten minutes. I then take around ten or twelve tomatoes, cut them in half, and drop them into the pot. I let them soften for about twenty minutes and then I work them over with a potato masher. You can put them through your food processor or blender but I prefer a coarser sauce, so I just mash mine by hand. I add in some fresh garlic, a pinch of salt, some fresh ground black pepper, a good amount of basil from the garden and some oregano which I just happened to grow this year. I let it reduce down by about a third and it thickens up beautifully. If you wish to thicken it, do not cook it with the lid on as the steam recirculates. You want it to reduce, in other words, let the steam out. What is left behind is incredibly intense in flavor. You will get a little bit of tomato skin but I never find that to be a problem. The sauce freezes well. Sometimes I add in some hot peppers but there is an argument in our house right now. Someone who shall remain nameless, insists that I put in too many hot peppers. Personally, I think…never mind what I think, it doesn’t really matter.

• On the cooking topic. I get so angry when I read the list of ingredients in a can of chicken soup. As I write this, I have a pot of homemade soup on the back burner. Here are my ingredients. Chicken, water, rice, vegetables, garlic, rosemary, basil, dill, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. If you notice, there is nothing in my soup that you cannot pronounce. And when you have a bowl of my soup, you do not get 37% of your daily salt intake either.

• Ingrid Thiessen bit into a piece of rye bread purchased at The Superstore. It was so salty. She read the back panel and low and behold, each slice contained 18% of your daily salt intake. She was so upset that she sent a letter off to Superstore suggesting that the bread could be sold in the potato chip section. Who decided that we want this much salt in our food?

• Keith Carpenter form Van Noort Bulbs was quick to point out that ‘Praying Hands’ will be The Hosta of the Year for 2011. I had erroneously reported that ‘Ice Follies’ would be the selection. My information was bad. At least I know that Keith is reading the blog.

Greeen, green grass at The Ranch
• Mathematicians drown in water that is on average, only six inches deep.

• It was four in the morning. The rain was coming down. It was April of 1974. I was sitting in the long, gone Fuller’s that occupied the corner of 12th and Broad. I was drunk. Sitting across from me was my friend. She was a caretaker…of people. She looked after everyone, every imagined hurt, every feeling anyone could have. She was known for her strength. She never flinched. At four a.m., she was no longer invincible. She looked across the table at me, her coffee left untouched, and said “ who do the strong lean on when they feel weak?” It was a Leonard Cohen moment.

• A local priest/friend told me this one. He took in a conference for religious leaders and the speaker said: “All your congregation really expects of you is sincerity, and once you learn to fake that, the rest is easy.”

• Another priest/friend in Saskatoon, and I were chatting one day. I asked him “when you get to heaven, what do you think God will say to you?” He thought about it for a moment and replied “You didn’t have to make it that complicated.”

• When I stop to think of all my shortcomings, faults and sins, I can categorize ninety percent of them by simply saying “I failed to respect the other person.”

Garden Tip: I have written about tomato blossom rot or end rot in tomatoes. Now we have something that I have not seen before. It has been labeled as a blight and it has turned just about every tomato in our area to mush. Nothing a gardener can do about it as it is spread by the wind.

• Garden Tip: As soon as it dries out, don’t laugh too hard, it is time to plant your fall bulbs. With tulips, dig a planting pit eight inches deep. Plant the bulbs pointed side up, five bulbs to a square foot, and then cover. To improve growing conditions, I like to dust my bulbs with bulb dust which prevents rot and insect attacks. I also add in peat moss to the planting pit and a bit of bone meal. Water your tulips once and that should be good for the fall. Then tuck in for the winter and next spring you will be greeted by your sleeping beauties.

Garden Tip: Everyone thinks that tulips are Dutch in origin. While the Dutch grow the tulips and they did introduce them to the gardening world, the original tulips were found growing in Afghanistan. You can still purchase species tulips which have not been hybridized by man. Tulipa tarda is one of those naturalized tulips. They are very petite bulbs, so plant them around four inches deep, ten to the square foot. Very lovely little flower.

More sad news: Grandpa Fred from Dutch Cycle has passed away. He was 87 and had been in poor health. For many of us in this city, Grandpa Fred was the first one to repair our bicycles. When I was ten years old, I took my flat tire to be repaired by him. His first shop was in his garage on 4th Avenue. He fixed it for me and then proceeded to bawl me out for riding carelessly through broken glass. Hard working, kind and he loved tulips is how I remember him.

For football fans only: What the hell is going on? Edmonton wins against us and then Winnipeg lays a licking on us. Come on. Edmonton and Winnipeg were supposed to be the joke teams of the league this year. There are green tears all over this town.

Garden Tip: The middle of September is a perfect time to split or transplant your peonies. To split one, dig up the root, cut into four parts and replant the part about eight inches deep. If your root is quite tough and they can be as they age, use an axe to split them. The first time I learned how to split peonies, Ilsa Martin showed me how to do it. I thought it would be a surgical operation. She grabbed her axe and gave the root a good whack. So much for surgery.

Garden Tip: Lilies can be separated or divided at this time of year. Simply dig down and lift out your old lily bulbs. If they have been planted for five or more years, there should be several bulbs growing in a cluster. They are very easy to separate by hand. Replant the bulbs following the instructions I gave regarding planting tulips.

• Had a tasty rice bowl filled with Mexican toppings at The 13th Avenue Coffee House yesterday. Very, very tasty. Finished off with a ginger cookie that was incredible. Could have eaten a dozen if no one had been watching.


• Happy Gardening…Rod McDonald