Monday, December 20, 2010

The Garden Report #27

The Garden Report #27

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

• This moment in time: It is another Sunday afternoon. The house is quiet. Maureen is off at her book club lunch. They consist of a group of women from the neighborhood, who offer up the rationalization that they meet because they read. In reality, they gather because they eat. I am not certain any books ever get discussed, but recipes are exchanged and food is consumed. I tell them they should be honest and call themselves ‘The Good Eaters Club.’ They don’t think I am very funny. Murphy is also quiet. He is sitting on the arm of the big chair that I am composing from. He wants to walk across the keyboard, but that is not allowed, so he sits and meditates. There is an abundance of white snow on the garden and in the trees. All of my perennials are hidden from view, my tulips are indeed ‘sleeping beauties’ and the squirrels are absent from their play. The only sound that enters is that of the furnace and occasionally, a jet as it leaves the airport. The winter sun is low in the southern sky. It shines through. It does its job. There are many things for me to do but for the next few minutes, I will enjoy the sound of nothing. The rest can wait.

• Readers Write: Roberta Nichol is grateful for the neighbor who blows out her garage entry each time it snows. That is one of the benefits of living in Lakeview, wonderful neighbors. Niece Joana Cook (Ian and Denise’s daughter) is having the time of her life studying at King’s College in London, England. She has been meeting some fascinating people from the world of politics while in London. Georgia Hearn wrote: “Loved this week’s report (#26)…everyone waits for it.” Readers Jeanie Freeman and John Huston both weighed in on my criticism of people and stores who abbreviate Christmas to X-Mas. They pointed out that ‘X’ was used by the Christians of the 1500’s as a mark of reference for Christ. Well, now that I have been corrected, let me say that if I ever open up a Christmas store in 1518 or any time around that mark, I will definitely acknowledge political correctness and call it Rod’s X-Mas Store. In #26, I included a photo of a naked man scuba diving in the snow. Reader Lyn Goldman asks “Is that you in the scuba gear?” Well, don’t tell anyone Lyn, but it is actually reader Chris Pasterfield. My buns are much firmer than the ones in the photo. Reader Gayle White from Winnipeg has sent along the photo of the kitty in the attachment. Reader Bonnie Jackson (she used to be Bonnie McDonald in the good old days) wrote “One of my absolute favorite stories (Mom and The Riders)”. Marg Hryniuk wrote that she likes to read positive stories about young people. Well, I like to write them. Gail and Ted Bowen are home this week after their gig in Calgary. Gail writes that they loved Calgary but it is also great to be back in Regina and Lakeview.
Annoyed RoughRider Fan

• Garden Tip: When your amaryllis takes off, there is always a danger that when it reaches a certain height, it will topple over. Rather than stake the stalk and the flower, I find it best to insert my growing pot into a taller, wicker basket. The wicker basket provides the support for the amaryllis to lean against and still allows the bloom to emerge above. Wicker baskets can be obtained at many stores. I often find something in the neighborhood at Gales on 13th.

• Garden Tip: Readers have verified my garden tip from last week. Overwatering a poinsettia creates the same symptoms as under watering. Best to water a poinsettia by placing it into the sink, minus the decorative cover. Fill the sink with two inches of water. Let the poinsettia wick up the needed water through the holes in the bottom of the pot for twenty minutes.

• Garden Tip: My Gardening for the Prairies just arrived. It is a wonderful magazine. A gift for yourself or for a gardening friend.

• Garden Tip: If you are going to have real greens inside of your home to decorate for Christmas, remember that they only remain fresh for three to seven days. White Pine greens last the longest but they have little fragrance. Cedar has a lovely smell as do Balsam and Fraser greens. Real wreaths are always enjoyable but if you bring them in doors, do so just the day before the party or when you wish to view them.

• Garden Tip: While decorating for Christmas, red stemmed dogwood branches are of great use. They provide a wonderful contrast with the cedar and pine greens. Red Dogwoods are everywhere in the city, so there is no need to buy them. Of course, always ask permission if they are not your dogwoods.

• Garden Tip: In my travels, I have inspected the poinsettias offered up for sale at the grocery stores and in the box stores. I cannot help myself. I have to look. Sadly, there are many, many poor quality plants in the market place. The race to the bottom of the price barrel has lowered the bar for a quality plant. Those places that are flogging $4.99 poinsettias, are selling plants that have been grown so close together to maximize space that they have little structural strength. If that is acceptable to you, there are many choices available.

• The start of Christmas: We all have our triggers that alert us to the beginning of Christmas. For some of us, it is a sound, a smell or something to eat. For me, Christmas begins with The Rotary Carol Festival that has been operating for seventy years at Knox Metropolitan Church, downtown. I was there in the first grade, with Miss Patterson’s class of 1957. My hair had enough Brylcream in it to lube a battleship and I was wearing a red sweater over a white shirt with a black bow tie. I was under clear instructions from my mother to do nothing that would bring shame onto the family. After all of these years, it is still the start of The Christmas season for me.

• An incredible choir: I listen to all of these wonderful choirs every year at Knox and I enjoy each and every one of them. Having written that, The Luther College High School Choir has stood out every year and this Festival was no different. Their choral singing is well rehearsed and they take on the challenge of complicated arrangements that most choirs could not handle. I don’t’ have any contact with the school so if some reader wishes to pass along my accolades, please feel free to do so.

• War Horses: There was a time when CKCK Radio and Television ruled the airwaves across this province. Two of the broadcasters from the glory days of CKCK are still on the air. Doug Alexander who started with CKCK Radio around 1957, as the ‘teen jock’, was on air for The Rotary Carol Festival, and his voice still commands your attention. Lorne Harrasen produced an incredible show for Access Seven on the hundred year anniversary of The Roughriders. It makes my heart glad to see those two, after fifty some years in the trade, still punching out the shows.

• Storytellers: Have you ever heard Morley Gusway tell a story? Morley can make an hour feel like twenty minutes and he will have you laughing one moment and crying the next. He is very gifted. Bob Hughes wrote that our own Bill Hicke was one of the finest storytellers God created. Bob wrote that he would get on the bus for a Pat’s game in Brandon. Billy owned The Pat’s at the time. Billy would start telling a story and hold everyone’s attention until it was time to get off the bus…and four hours had elapsed. He made road trips enjoyable.

• Happy Hanukah!: It’s time to wish our Jewish readers and friends well for their celebration.

• Old School Service: I was chatting earlier this week with Colin Perkowitsch from Colin O’Brian’s Men’s Wear on Hamilton Street. Colin is one of the newer converts to old school service. There is nothing that he would not do to make a customer happy. I asked where he had learned such a good habit and attitude. He told me that his father owned a grocery store in a small town. Colin’s first job was delivering groceries to the townspeople. He learned the value of service and he transferred that into his clothing business. Colin believes that old school service is starting to make a comeback, after many years of it being removed from the business equation.

• That was good!: Had a lemon tart from Koko La Patisserie on Broad on Wednesday evening. I even shared it with a certain someone, kind man that I am. The tart is filled with a sweet and sour taste and the intoxicating aroma of real lemons is all over this baby.

• American Opinion: So, according to the leaked papers that have been in the press this week, the American diplomats and bureaucrats do not think highly of Canadian courts, politicians and television. I just know the readers of this blog are going to lose a lot of sleep over their concerns, just as I have. Perhaps in an act of retribution, they will deport Celine Dion, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. That would show us.

• Health Care 101: Saskatchewan had a solid reputation with its transplant clinic in Saskatoon. They did some fine surgery and looked after the patients. It has been closed for a year and a half now, frustrating the staff and the patients. Why is it closed? Did they run out of patients? Did the surgeons forget how to do the job? The Provincial Government says that they are working to resolve the issue, but the clinic still remains closed. There are 115 of us in a holding pattern, waiting and wanting to get better. Getting the clinic open again would be a lovely Christmas present for many families, including mine.

• Thirty days has Movember: Well, the month of moustaches has come and gone but mine remains affixed. I had to shave it off five years ago to play the part of John Diefenbaker in a historical reenactment. How I suffered for my art, and a five hundred dollar gig. Never again, I say. If the role is reprised, Diefenbaker will have a moustache and he will be proud of it. Ahem… “My fellow Canadians…”

• Driving: I know that the readers of The Garden Report would never, ever drink and drive. And if you should see someone who is inclined to do so, tell them that you know this dude with a moustache who will bawl them out (and then call the police).

• Being Six: The Dad’s Cookie Factory used to be next door to our house on Dewdney Avenue in the 1950’s, before they moved out to White City. One very, hot summer day, the delivery truck left the back door of the factory, hit a bump in the alley, and a case of Goodie Rings fell off the vehicle. My two buddies and I saw this happen. We regarded it as a modern day miracle, believing that God does indeed answer prayers. We took the case of Goodie Rings, which contained twenty-four boxes of cookies, into our garage and we proceeded to each, eat one box. We finished the box and being six, we threw up, never eating another Goodie Ring for a very long time.

• Honeymoon Heaven: My nephew, Daniel Jackson was over for a grand visit on Saturday. Daniel and his new bride have just returned from their honeymoon across Europe. I asked him “what was the best part of the honeymoon?” He started to laugh, surprised that Uncle Rod had forgotten what it was like to be in his twenties. I quickly corrected myself by adding “I mean, geographically, what was the best part?” Daniel informs me and thus the readers, that Greece was the best country to visit. He said the climate, the scenery, the history, the food and most importantly, he said that the people everywhere in Greece were welcoming hosts and could not do enough to make their stay enjoyable. I asked what was the worst experience of their trip and he said “Hands down, Paris.” Daniel said it may be a cultural stereotype to refer to Parisians as being rude, but it is a well earned stereotype. He said that asking a waiter for a glass of water is greeted with irritation. And the rudeness exists across ‘The City of Light’. I have heard this before. I have also heard that in the French countryside, one is treated with more hospitality.

• Thanks for reading….Rod McDonald in sunny and snowy Regina!

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