Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Garden Report #31

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

Our house after the snow-photo by June Blau
 • Writers write: The Garden Report is often filled with the words community, neighbor and neighborhood. They are inserted regularly and often as they are important words to me. There is a simple explanation. You have to live somewhere and why not have the people who surround you wave in a friendly fashion, rather than pretend you don’t exist. A young family moved in down the street, on Angus. I met them at a neighborhood party. He told me that they had lived in Tsawwassen for eight years and had never got to know their neighbors. He moved to our block and had been to three neighborhood parties and had two ‘come over for dinner’ invites, all within six months of arrival. That’s the way it is supposed to be. Neighbors are supposed to look after each other. They are supposed to care. And when people understand the essence of community, then a neighborhood is a safer, more enjoyable place to live. For us, we have enjoyed living here since February 26th, 1973, and we have appreciated sharing that time and space with the people who surround us.

• Thank you: Over the holidays, readers of The Garden Report having been dropping off goodies, often leaving them on our front steps if we are not home. Licorice, jams, jellies, pickles, cookies, coffees, teas, chocolates and poppycock. Thank you for thinking of us and we appreciated your cards as well.

Readers Write: Roberta Nichol weighed in that the Christmas spirit is complete when she views Alistair Sims in ‘A Christmas Carol’, shot in 1951. Actors everywhere agree that Sims was the best ‘Scrooge’ of all time. Cheryl Hutton out of Calgary wrote in to say that The Garden Report slows everything down for her, and she is a busy lady. Jean Freeman wrote in to wish everyone well for the new year. Joanne Crofford wrote “you old softy” and I can only hope it was not in reference to my tummy. Laurie Marcella out of Winnipeg wrote to say that The Garden Report is similar in spirit to a conversation over the back fence, amongst neighbors. Reader Ed Heidt who now calls New Mexico home, understands my thinking that God, Jesus and Santa were somehow connected when I was a little boy. Ed informs me that they have a twelve year old, chocolate lab whose name is ‘Murphy’. Mike Liske writes that when he talks in his sleep, he is ordering supplies. Trust me Mike. As a married man, ordering supplies in your sleep is much safer than talking to former girlfriends. Laura and Terry Ross spent Christmas in Georgia and they wrote to say how much they enjoyed the news from back home. Gail Bowen writes “I look forward so much to reading your Garden Report every Sunday”. Audrey Vanderveen from Carman, Manitoba says that what she enjoys best is my quirky sense of humor. Now, let me be the first to admit that I am surprised that my Dutch friends are willing to admit that they actually laugh at something, let alone something that I wrote. Audrey, put on your wooden shoes, go back into the greenhouse and stop this fooling around. Considering that The Garden Report has around fifty Dutch readers, that bit should get a response or two.

The Marian Center Dining Hall on Christmas Day
• Marian Center: Every year, the local florist shops and Vanderveen’s Greenhouse donate Christmas plants and greens so that my family can decorate The Marian Center Soup Kitchen.

• Nice people: I always enjoy writing about the positive aspects of our community. Three generations of one family operate Dutch Cycle, our local repair shop. Dutch Cycle has been open since 1960 and I have an early memory of Grandpa Fred repairing my flat tire when I was ten years old. Grandpa Fred passed away this year at the age of eighty-six, leaving Fred Jr., Lawrence, Freddy Junior Junior and Larry to carry on. They are easily the best repair shop in town and they treat me and all of their customers very well. Nice families deserve a plug.

• Thought for the day: No matter how much humility you possess, you can never brag about it.

• Garden Tip: Writer Jean Mackay wants to know why we do not plant our amaryllis bulbs all of the way up to the neck of the bulb. I turned to ultimate bulb man, Frank Van Noort, who by nature of his last name appears to be an expert. Frank responded that if we bring the soil level up too high on a bulb, the moisture surrounding the bulb will lead to ‘red streaking’ which can damage the bulb. ‘Red streaking’ is also called ‘red blotching’ and it leads to an infection. Now you know.

• Garden Tip: As your amaryllis grows taller, you will need to provide some type of support. The best thing to do is to place the potted bulb inside a taller container such as a wicker basket. The basket will provide an area for the stalk to lean against, thus reducing the chance it will break.

• Winter Solitude: The best thing about winter is being able to sit out in the garden when it is thirty below and not have to listen to the idiots gun their motorcycles.

• Tommy Douglas: Some (but not all) of the RCMP files on Tommy Douglas will be released in the next few months. According to CBC, the file is over eleven hundred pages thick. No one from The RCMP has yet to answer the question of why were they collecting information on the man voted Canada’s ‘Greatest Canadian’? No doubt, any explanation will contain reference to ‘the times’ which leads to the next question: Who is The RCMP/CSIS collecting information on today? Let me guess. Whoever it is, the phrases ‘national security’ and ‘threat of terrorism’ are included in the rationalization. I have written this before and I write it again, a lot of people make a lot of money ‘protecting us’.

• Tommy Douglas continued: For as much as parts of our community had deep concerns over the leadership of Tommy Douglas and his policies, in the sixteen years he was premier of this province, he offered up sixteen balanced budgets. In reality, he was a fiscal conservative, not a wild spending dreamer. Imagine that. A politician who actually believed in staying within budget. That is kind of radical.

• Sadly: Lauren Rice, one of our areas best gardeners, passed away this week at the all too young age of forty-nine. Lauren had an incredible garden at her residence in the Lumsden hills. She believed in ‘garden rooms’ so that as you moved through her property, you entered into different horticultural experiences. Each room was distinct from the one next to it. On my SCN television show ‘Prairie Gardens’, I featured Lauren’s garden. It was a real treat to interview her and film the yard. She was a wonderful woman.

• Cultural Divide: I do not golf. Never have. But I have a brother in law from Toronto who loves to play the game. Jack was in town visiting, so I arranged for him to play a round with friends. I had to have him at the club house for a 6:30 a.m. tee time. We were a bit early so I waited until the other three golfers arrived. Conversations that I heard while waiting were filled with put downs, sarcasm and faux machismo. It reminded me of the negative aspects of high school, with its posturing and pettiness. Except the men were sixty years of age and up. Wow! Less any golfer take offence, I merely write what I heard. I did not script the words or the behavior. That was chosen by those men, themselves.

• Our turn: As a young boy, I used to laugh at my parents as one would read the obituaries to the other, across the kitchen table. It was just too funny. Not surprisingly, I now read the obituaries to Maureen every morning, at breakfast. The kids were home for Christmas. They laughed at us. No matter how much they protest, their turn awaits them.

• New Year’s Eve: A table of Garden Report readers brought in the New Year on Friday night, at The Italian Club. Gathered together were Dave and June Blau, Gary and Ina Field, Roberta Nichol, Maureen and myself. We shared the night with around 250 people, many of whom were named Tony. We chose The Italian Club because ‘Cornerstone’ was playing, an excellent dance band. They started playing at nine o’clock and you know how no one ever wants to dance during the first set? Not the case on Friday night. The dance floor filled up from the first song and stayed that way until the last one. The audience had come to dance, not to drink, which added to the overall enjoyment. The smokers were banished to the frigid outdoors, leaving the hall with clean air. For ten years now, we have had a law banning smoking in public places and that was one of the best laws ever enacted. Around ten p.m., the band asked Roberta Nichol to join them on stage for a song. Roberta sang with this group many years ago, so they were comfortable with her at the mike. She chose ‘Blue Moon’. The dance floor overflowed with old and new lovers and Roberta ‘knocked the socks’ off of the audience. The girl still has her pipes. As the evening approached midnight, the band played a slow dance classic, ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’. Dancing beside us were two nineteen year olds. He was holding her bottom tightly in his hands and she was loving it, nuzzling into his shoulder. Maureen asked why we no longer danced like that? Now, I immediately thought of at least six incredibly funny answers to the woman’s question. I just know that each one of you would have laughed at my clever series of retorts. However…being an experienced husband and having provided the wrong answer to this type of question before, I simply responded “I don’t know, dear, I don’t know.” A wise man knows his audience and chooses his words, carefully.

The Marian Center, Christmas of 2010-Nancy, Rod, Trudy, Doreen-Poinsettias donated by Vanderveen's Greenhouse
 • Happy New Year from Rod McDonald in lovely Regina!

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