Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Garden Report #34

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

• Writers write: I want to thank all of you for your emails, cards and attendance at mom’s funeral. Your support is appreciated. The one realization that I would like to share, having gone through this cycle of life in the last week, is: Our bodies are really and truly, only a shell that houses our spirit and soul. Nothing more. And when that shell is finished, we still exist. We are spiritual entities that occupy a human form but for a short period of time.

Rod's Garden towards sunset with Murphy's tail
• Readers Write: Itinerant actor and reader John Huston wrote into say that a wonderful part of the slow food movement exists at ‘The New Ground Café’ in Birch Hills, south of Prince Albert. John says it is worth the visit if you are in that area. Beth Pelletier is writing to us from her winter home in Texas. Beth writes that the Tucson shootings didn’t even make the front page of her local paper. She says that there is a real disconnect between Texas and the rest of the world. Sarah Willis out of Toronto, is afraid to comment on why women sniff underwear to ascertain if they are clean, less I quote her. I have no idea where Sarah would obtain an idea such as that one. Sherrie Tutt was wondering about Yorkshire Pudding. It is exceptionally easy to make. Anyone can do it. Regular reader Stew Wass from Indian Head says, one day he will send in an update of what is happening in his town, gardening wise. Stew says he really enjoys The Garden Report and he reads it upon arrival every Sunday. Marcus Fernando is holidaying in Cornwall, on the south coast of England. I asked Marcus if he is anywhere near the filming for ‘Doc Martin’ and he has never watched the show! So he was not able to answer. Imagine, a Brit not watching ‘Doc Martin’. I love that show. Patient: “Am I going to die?” Doc Martin: “Yes, but not today.”

• Good Coffee: Reader Jan Pederson is the former owner of Shelmerdine’s, a premier garden center in Winnipeg. He sold it, but you can’t keep a good man down so he went to work for Byland’s, a wholesale nursery. He travels a lot. Jan weighed in on the coffee issue. He recommends the following as being good choices for our addicted readers. In St. Andrews, ‘The Café at Lower Fort Garry Garden Center’. In Dauphin, ‘Scotty’s Bakery’. In Steinbach, ‘Oakridge Greenhouses’. In Prince Albert, ‘Great Western Coffee Company’. In Biggar, ‘Weasie’s Gourmet Blend’. In Saskatoon, ‘The Fine Art Café’ at Lansdowne and 14th. Thank you Jan (pronounced Yan).

• Good line: I ran into a friend who is taking chemo treatments for her cancer. She told me that chemotherapy can affect your brain for awhile. I asked her how so. Her response was great: “Not only am I making stupid decisions, but I am doing so quite slowly.” You have to laugh or you might cry.

• Democracy in Action: Regular readers know that I am not a fan of call in radio shows. It is not that I am opposed to people voicing their opinions. I do support democracy. What I am opposed to is stupid people voicing their opinions. There is this entire subculture of people who call into these shows and hold court on subjects they have no experience with. Rex Murphy had a relief worker from Haiti on the air this past Sunday. The guest was thoughtful, compassionate and a caring person. Then Rex opened up the phone lines.  There is a major difference between asking questions of the guest and staging a polemic. They should have taken the amphetamines away from the first caller ‘cause he was flying high. So, why don’t I just turn the show off? Well, you have to be aggravated by something.

• Bread news: The new Orange Boot Bakery has opened on Gordon Road and Queen Street. It is producing artisan breads. Reader June Blau has purchased a few loaves and raves about the quality. Don over at Lakeview Fine Foods tells me that he will be stocking some baguettes from Koko’s in the next two weeks, along with a sourdough loaf. Koko’s bakes a fine product as well.

• Johnny Cake: Reader Iris Sirke wants Maureen’s recipe for this piece of heaven. Maureen provided it with this comment: “It’s like giving up one of my kids.” Now, I love my kids as well, but I would not hesitate to trade any one of them for a taste of this. Below is Maureen’s recipe.

Maureen’s Johnny Cake Recipe

Preheat oven to 400, warm the pan for 15-20 minutes, preferably a cast iron fry pan(the older the better!)

3/4c cornmeal

1 1/4c milk

1c all purpose flour

1/3c sugar

1tbsp baking powder

1/2tsp salt (optional)


1/4c vegetable oil

Combine cornmeal and milk. Let stand 10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in larger bowl. Add egg/vegetable oil to cornmeal mixture and mix well. Add to dry ingredients stirring just until combined. Fill greased pan (this was in the oven preheating) and bake until golden brown. Cut into wedges and slather with butter, syrup or whatever your preference.

• Strange times: At The Edmonton Fringe Festival, several years back, a small, fundamentalist church decided to protest one of the plays being performed. They had a picket line marching back and forth in front of the venue. As The Fringe in Edmonton is an incredible mixture of street performers and lunatics, most people assumed the protestors were a part of The Fringe. And in a strange way, they were. Their protest brought added attention to this particular play and it quickly sold out, curiosity being a strong motivator. The protestors would harangue the people who were in line to see the show, but most people thought it was all part of the ‘set up’. The preamble to the production itself. Having witnessed the success obtained by this show, due in no small part to the protest, I was tempted to ‘rat myself out’. I gave serious thought to calling the church and informing them that my show too, was filled with heresy, blasphemy and anti-Christian bias. It wasn’t’, but I was quite willing to say so, to provoke a picket line outside of the theater. Shame is not something that comes easily to most impresarios.

• Strange times are not new: During the 1950’s and ‘60’s, book publishers would often promote a book with the heading of “banned in Boston!” The inference being that it contained some racy material (the good stuff) and thus, promoted sales.

• Gay Marriage: Saskatchewan’s highest court has weighed in on the Marriage Commissioners’’ legal obligation to provide a service for same sex couples. I am not going to proffer an opinion on that particular issue as it has been thoroughly discussed in most media. It did provoke this observation from me. Over the years, there have been a small number of same sex couples who have lived in the neighborhood. Their houses have always been well maintained. Their eves trough are not hanging off of the roof, you never wonder when they will be painting their garage and their gardens are often the finest in the area. In short, gay couples have made excellent neighbors. Now, if only I could get those damned heterosexual neighbors to clean up their yards! I trust that my readers do not believe for one moment that I am prejudiced against opposite sex couples. After all, some of my best friends are straight. And after thirty years with the same woman, there are some within the community who would suggest that I might be heterosexually inclined as well. Hopefully, I will not have Bill Walcott outside my door protesting my secret sin, that I like to kiss a pretty girl and take her dancing on New Year’s Eve. I believe that I have just ‘outed’ myself.

Power Surge Mum

• The photos: Courtesy of Jeffries Nursery in Portage la Prairie, are two photos. Power Surge Mum is part of The Firecracker Mum Series. It produces a series of double red flowers that rejuvenate the fall garden. Mums bloom in early September. The second photo is of Hotwings, a small tree that is tolerant of drought and alkaline soil (which we have in the Regina area). It has dark green leaves with bright red samaras at the end of the branches. It is a selection from the Tatarian Maples which are similar to Amur Maple. The third photo is of my back garden, the view towards Angus Street. Murphy’s tail is in the foreground. I thought it might be a good time to present this photo, what with all the snow on the ground.

Hot Wings Tatarian Maple
 • Garden Tip: A few readers have expressed concern over the mounting level of snow and wonder how it will affect their garden. The heavy snow load will cause a bit of damage on some shrubs. They may be bent and a few branches will be broken. For the most part, the shrubs will recover from this physical stress by mid June. Perennials and bulbs will come through this winter with higher than average survival rates as the snow acts as a wonderful insulation blanket. Of course, there will be an increased amount of damage due to the snow melt and lower lying gardens will lose some plants to drowning. There will probably be an increased amount of snow mould on lawns as the weight of the snow will create favorable conditions. The best thing to do is to rake the snow mold (white cotton threads) off of the lawn as soon as is possible. Then reseed and fertilize.

• Garden Tip: With the very real possibility of flooding this spring, it would be a wise decision to purchase a pump before they are all sold out. I suspect that many of us will be draining parts of our yard out to the street, to protect our gardens and basements.

• Garden Tip: Reader Rhonda Rein wrote in to ask about using mayonnaise to clean house plant leaves. She had heard about this from a neighbor, many years ago. This ‘tip’ has been around for years and it resurfaces every now and again. Here is the situation. If you use a bit of mayonnaise to wipe your houseplant’s leaves, they will initially look very good. They will be quite shiny from the oil in the mayonnaise. After a short period of time, that oil will plug up the breathing pores of the leaf, preventing it from engaging in oxygen exchanges. Best to clean your house plants by placing them in the shower and giving them a rinse with plain water if not too dirty or you can use a weak solution of dish soap to wash the leaves if they are particularly dirty and then rinse with plain water. There are a number of leaf shine products on the market including one made by Miracle Gro. These products are not harmful to most house plants and they do leave your leafs with a shiny, green luster. Here is the question: Do you want your house plants to look natural or do you want them to have a shiny, almost plastic and thus artificial appearance to them? Most people prefer to have their plants with the natural look.

• Garden Tip: Another reason to give your houseplant a shower every now and again is to reduce spider mites. Spider mites love a dry environment and they detest a high humidity one. Spaying your plants with a mister is a good idea as it makes the plant less hospitable to those pesky spider mites. The same applies to spider mites in your cedars, outdoors. Hosing them off on a weekly basis chases some of the bugs away. And it’s organic, too. Might as well engage in some political correctness.

• Minifie Lecture: This year’s speaker was Anna Maria Tremonti and her topic was on taking back journalism. She maintains that many journalists are afraid to write the truth because if they do, their access to politicians will be restricted. She spoke about her coverage of war and conflicts, and regardless of the side, people want a good life for their children. It was well attended, which is the norm for this annual series.

Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in Regina

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