Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Garden Report #33

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

• Writers Write: Last Tuesday afternoon, I got a call from my sister. My mom was slipping away. All of the family were there to hold her hand, to say their goodbyes. She was almost eighty-nine. Mom enjoyed a sharp mind until the very end. Sometimes it was too sharp, especially when she would recall something I had done when I was fifteen. A writer should know what to say when a loved one is getting ready to start on a new journey. Something profound or creative. After all, we deal in words. All I could muster was “thank you for being my mom.” Mom had made it clear that when it was her time to go, not to keep her here. Her time was four p.m. The children she had brought into this world held her, as she took her last breath. It was quiet. She was at peace.

Rod and Mom at her grandson's wedding last summer

• Readers Write: Morag Armbruster writes in to say that she totally supports the slow food movement. They have rid themselves of their microwave and the cooking time does not appear longer and the food tastes better. Marsha Kennedy has been looking for a good breakfast joint and she is going to try Nicky’s, which was on the ‘best of’ list in #32. Both Marg Hryniuk and Heather Lowe wrote in to nominate their choices for best honey. Marg thinks Three Bees Honey which is sold at Lakeview Fine Foods is excellent and Heather has been buying honey for her ‘honey’ from Michelle at ZeeBee Honey. ZeeBee can be purchased at Sarah Willis writes from Burlington, Ontario that ‘Breaking Bad’ is her favorite television show. Kevin and Janine Gray are readers from California. They wrote to say they enjoy The Garden Report, especially the humor. Mike Liske wrote in requesting my tomato soup recipe. I had to tell him that it is not a recipe as much as it is a guide. I rarely make the same dish identical to its first incantation. On the food topic, I did mention in last week’s Report that Maureen had not baked Johnny Cake (corn bread) on Sunday morning. Believe it or not, when I awoke Monday morning, I could smell that oven baked piece of heaven wafting upstairs. Now, what else can I write that will get some action around here? Trevor Langen disagrees with my rating of Harden/Huyse above Bernard Callebaut in chocolate shops. Reader Michiel Verheul from High Q Greenhouses in Alberta wrote: “I am happy that you added me to your Garden Report. I like you poking fun at the Dutch (Michiel is very Dutch)…they are used to it and will flourish and survive.” Who has been poking fun at the Dutch? I would never do that because the Dutch make us Scots look as if we are big spenders. Roberta Nichol produced her own ‘best of’ list. Noelle Chorney who edits that wonderful gardening magazine ‘Gardening for the Prairies’ out of Saskatoon, wrote in to say that great cappuccino can be found at The Mendel in Saskatoon and at a place called Café Sola.

• Great to be Canadian: Sad to watch the news reports of the shootings in Tucson, Arizona. Six people are dead all because of easy access to guns. In Canada, gun culture revolves around hunting, not the right to bear arms. People do not walk around with guns in Canada, as a rule. We do not have them in our glove compartments, underneath our front seats or in our night stands. This is not to write that we never have a shooting or even a mass shooting in Canada. We did have our Montreal massacre in 1989, but deaths from guns are rare occurrences. Added into the television coverage from Tucson was the political rallies where people arrived with their guns in hand…because they believe they have that right! In Canada, an upset driver might flip off someone who cuts them off in traffic, but they don’t shoot the offending driver.

• Garden Tip: Reader June Blau is wondering if due to the tomato blight, one needs to replace their garden top soil. The blight is wind spread so changing the top soil will not improve the crop. However, it is always best, if you can, rotate your crops within your garden. There has been anecdotal evidence that the heirloom tomato varieties showed resistance to the blight. Heirloom tomatoes are ‘open pollinated’.

• Garden Tip: Reader Marsha Kennedy wanted to know about pruning a plant that is getting too tall. It is always best to prune a tall plant to control its height before it gets to the final stage. Nothing is less attractive than a plant that has been ‘topped’. It looks very unnatural. If your plant is a multi stemmed plant, remove the tallest stem so that a shorter one takes over to become the ‘leader’. On occasion, you can train another stem to become a leader. Always best to make any cut on an angle rather flat across.

Garden Tip: I can’t get over how many readers have written in to say that my tip regarding watering poinsettias gave them the best plant they have ever had. Just how many plants were you people killing? The tip applies to most plants. Simply place your potted plant into a sink, filled with two inches of water. Let it absorb as much as it needs for ten minutes. This method stops overwatering which is harmful to all plants. Your pot must have drainage holes in the bottom for this to work, or did I need to write that?

• Good concert: Jack Semple who is an incredible guitarist, has a concert on at The Royal Saskatchewan Museum on Saturday, February 12th. If you have never heard Jack play, you will be impressed. The boy has fast fingers.

• Great venue: One of our best venues for concerts and theater in Regina is at The Royal Saskatchewan Museum. It is a decent size in that it holds 280 people in comfortable seats. It has some very clean washrooms, well lit parking and good acoustics. I have produced quite a few shows there and I always received great cooperation from the staff.

Red Lion Amaryllis
• Garden Tip: No matter how lovely your poinsettia is still looking, it is time to bring a bit of fresh spring into the home. Check to see if there are any spring bulbs available in pots. Things like tulips, daffodils and crocus all brighten up the house as do primulas, mums and begonias. Some new plants will give most people’s spirits a lift.

• Good eats: Last Sunday I was motivated to create an old fashioned Sunday supper complete with prime rib (sorry my vegan friends), roasted carrots, green salad, boiled corn, pickles and my first attempt at Yorkshire pudding. I love that stuff but never knew how easy it is to make. Here is the recipe: combine three eggs with a cup of milk, then add in a cup of flour. Mix and set aside. Pre heat the oven to 375, take a muffin tin or a loaf pan, add in a teaspoon of butter into each muffin compartment and let it melt in the preheated oven for about five minutes. Bring the muffin tin out of the oven, fill the compartments with mix and bake for five minutes at the 375. Then reduce the heat to 350 and bake for another 25 minutes. I actually like the loaf better as that is the way we made it at home, but the muffins do make for a better visual appearance. I served the Yorkshire pudding with a scratch gravy that I finished off with a teaspoon of horseradish. I find most gravies to be bland so I decided to pump it up with a bit of bite and it was fantastic. Drooling yet?

• Gender wars: One of the differences between men and women is that men will not sniff their underwear to see if they are clean. We just put them believing that they are ‘probably clean enough’.

• Thought for the day: The danger of singing our own praises is not that others will think we lack humility. No. The real danger is that most will think we are delusional.

• Thanks for reading this week…Rod in very snowy Regina

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