Sunday, October 10, 2010

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

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