Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Garden Report #36

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

Starlite Flowering Crab

• Writers Write: There is a company that tracks the readership of The Garden Report. Not surprisingly, the readership is comprised of mainly Canadians, followed by a solid base in The U.S.A. For third place, I would have expected England but I was wrong. For some unexplained reason, we are being read quite nicely in Denmark. Perhaps they like my jokes about the Scots. Next in line is Germany, Slovenia, Russia, Poland, The United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Japan. Eighty per cent of you read this with a PC and fifty-three per cent of you are using Explorer. There are only 17 of you reading this on your I Pod and 8 of you who read it on your I Phone. There are no statistics available as to how many of you are reading this in your underwear. For some strange reason, I am actually dressed this morning and it is not because I am cooking bacon. That is my idea of living dangerously these days, cooking bacon in the buff.

Starlite Flowering Crab
• Readers Write: I was quite surprised by the number of responses to the ‘salad wars’ blurb. There were several different perspectives. Some readers shared how they had gone through their own battles many years ago including reader Jean Freeman. Jean wrote that her war was with a defiant six year old daughter over whether six year olds should eat brussel sprouts: And then the younger parents such as Noelle Chorney from Saskatoon wrote: “Thanks also for the parenting tip on the ‘salad wars’. I read it to my husband, and we both appreciated the good advice, since we are currently navigating parenthood with a 2 and a half year old and a six month old, and are learning the hard way to avoid power struggles at all costs.” Noelle also wants readers to know that she has a blog of her own and it is about food. You can read her blog at . Marcus Fernando writes that his young niece filed a complaint regarding her mother. She ledged her mean mother made her “eat leaves.” Nancy Topping was interested in making Yorkshire Pudding. A recipe for this lovely dish appeared a few Garden Reports back. June Blau writes that she and Dave enjoy the smell of ‘bone soup’ as it simmers in their kitchen. Ingrid Thiessen suggests that I am an enigma because I have requested airplane passengers to dress in a respectful manner yet I insist that we be allowed to eat brunch in our underwear at The Hotel Saskatchewan. I had to explain that flying is a formal experience whereas brunch is much more casual, thus I am no longer an enigma. Marg Hryniuk pointed out my grammatical error from last week. I wrote that “our priorities lay…”. According to Marg, chickens lay eggs and priorities lie. Good to know. Reader Gail Bowen wrote “Thanks for the recipes, for the wit and the wisdom and for all the lovely memories…” Wisdom, eh? I have to send that comment along to the kids. They won’t believe it. Paula Grolle writes that she really enjoys British shows including ‘Doc Martin’ and ‘Coronation Street’. Peg St. Goddard wrote “As always, I am enjoying The Garden Report." Jodi Sadowsky has been passing us along to her parents. They made Johnny Cake from the recipe presented here and they enjoyed it. Reader Joana Cook is in London, England, working on her Masters. She writes that it is a balmy twelve above and quite sunny today. That’s beach weather here.

• Gross joke: Whilst we discuss our versions of the ‘salad wars’, I wish to relay a vegetable joke told to me by a Grade One girl, many years ago. What is the difference between broccoli and ‘boogers’? Six year old boys won’t eat broccoli. Yuck!

• Salad Wars: During the ‘salad wars’ of 1983/84, positions not only became entrenched but they expanded. One afternoon I was making a batch of cabbage rolls on top of the stove. Patrick climbs up onto his stool, lifts the pot cover to inspect the product and proclaims in disgust “cooked salad!”

Starlite Flowering Crab
• Garden Tip: Readers have been asking about fertilizing their house plants at this time of year. I like to use a 10 30 20 or a 15 30 15 or even a 20 20 20 water soluble fertilizer. I mix a teaspoon of fertilizer (five mm.) into two liters of water. That is a very weak strength and I use it each time I water. The point is to keep your leaves a dark, healthy green. As a rule, light green leaves or slightly yellow ones indicate a need for some plant food. Needless to write but I will, most plants can tolerate all the light you want to give them at this time of year. A south window will not be too warm and sunny until we are well into March.

• Light: We are six weeks past the winter solstice and the increased light is now noticeable and much appreciated. It is amazing how a little bit of extra sunlight can perk people up. My friends who suffer with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) which is triggered by low light levels, should hopefully be feeling better.

• Garden Tip: Reader Peg St. Goddard wrote to ask about geranium seeds, as in where can you buy them. I used to sell a lot of them but I am not certain if any independent is open right now and has them in stock. If you cannot find them locally, check with T and T Seeds out of Winnipeg, Mackenzie Seeds out of Brandon or with Stokes out of Ontario. All three of them are reputable companies. The only mail order company that you should avoid is Rockwood Nurseries.

• Arguments you can’t win: Several years back when my niece Michelle, was four years old, the two of us were going out to Regina Beach for an afternoon of swimming. Before we left, Michelle’s mother was fretting, saying “I hope Uncle Rod doesn’t speed with you in the car.” At the time, I might have had a reputation within the family for being a little heavy on the gas pedal. So Michelle and I are cruising down the highway and she begins to bark out “don’t speed Uncle Rod! Stop your speeding!” I glanced down at my speedometer and I saw that I was doing 100 in a 110 zone, well under the speed limit. I was explaining this to Michelle but she wasn’t buying it. “You cannot speed with me in the car!” she insisted as I continued to plead my innocence. Finally, it dawned on me that I am arguing with someone who doesn’t know how to read, tell time or to drive! Add into this equation, that she is woman, albeit a woman in training, but there is no way she is going to let me win this battle. What could I do but say, “thank you Michelle. I have stopped my speeding and now I am driving much more careful.” Order in the universe was restored and we had a good time swimming in the lake and eating at Butler’s.

• Garden Tip: There are some lovely little flowering plants starting to show up in the different stores. I really suggest that you treat yourself to a bit of spring color to brighten your day. Not a brilliant tip but a gentle reminder to be good to yourself.
Top Graft Little Leaf Lilac

• A cruel disease: We had lunch this week with a friend whose wife suffers with Alzheimer’s Disease. I asked him how far the disease has advanced. He told us that she no longer knows his name and that she can’t make toast. All I could do was to listen, nodding my empathy. Then he stated the inevitable, “and soon she will get worse.” I often refer to this as ‘a cruel disease’ because it takes the mind from a healthy body and how it impacts the family.

• Bring on the good stuff: Readers got onto their computers and let me know their joy of eating good bread. A few years ago, each I time left Vancouver to return to Regina, I did so with the regret that I could no longer purchase quality bread. This is no longer the situation as today we have several choices. Orange Boot has been baking some incredible tastiness, Koko’s offers up some great stuff, and Beer Brothers produces some terrific loaves. Now, Jean McKay writes in telling us that la Macaron in the east end on Quance Street has entered the derby with a rye and walnut loaf. This is a wonderful situation, to have several different artesian bakers working on our behalf. Don over at Lakeview Fine Foods has just started to carry Koko’s breads on Saturdays. Don said his first sales day, everything was gone by noon, so he will be increasing his order. Get the butter ready!

• What is old is new again: My mom told me this last year. She said in the 1920’s and ‘30’s, they grew their own grain, ground it, mixed it, proofed it, formed it and then baked it in the wood fired oven. It was a wholesome bread with no chemicals or additives. Mom’s brother went to work for a bakery in Regina and when he would return to the farm for a visit, he would bring sliced bread made at the bakery. Mom and her sibling would go wild. Store bought bread was so much better in their minds, than their home made loaves. Then mom pointed out “and now, they make the bread like we used to but they call it artesian bread…and they charge five bucks a loaf for it!” Here’s to the return to slow and pure food movement.

• Not so good for us: A recent study found that wherever there is a Wal-Mart Super Center, that people gain weight. It has to do with their reduced pricing on processed foods. All of the stuff that is not good for us is now cheaper and consumers who eat processed foods gain weight, amongst other health issues.

• Fast food joints: Reader Jean McKay is very involved with decent nutrition for children, especially breakfast. Jean is on The National Board of Jean and her organization know of children who start the school day without breakfast and other kids who are sent by their parents to a fast food place for their meals. There was a kid at the boxing club whose mother sent him to McDonald’s everyday for supper. After years of this, he was actually addicted to a Quarter Pounder, fries and a Coke, and he ate them all the time. It is difficult to be an athlete with a fast food diet.

• Good for us: I love telling this story. In the 1960’s and early 1970’s, you could not purchase yogurt anywhere in this province. The Milk Control Board did not allow yogurt sales. Hippies returning from Europe were the first proponents of yogurt and they started to make their own, albeit yogurt did exist in small pockets of immigrants, especially Greeks. While you could not sell yogurt, you could give away the culture to a friend and the hippies loved to share. I had a little taste of the stuff and I loved it. I was given a small jar of the culture along with instructions regarding how to produce it. I would make a batch every week and my family started to eat it, but we kind of kept that quiet. Eating yogurt was considered a weird or a revolutionary act, at the time. Quit your laughing. I only record history, I don’t make it up. Now today, yogurt appears in every convenience store and in every format conceivable. The one thing I have noticed is how few of the products are really true yogurts. Most are imitations. To be real yogurt, all there needs to be is milk and a culture. Having gelatin products as a thickener is not a yogurt. It is more of a jellied milk.

• History continues: Along with yogurt, hippies introduced granola to the Canadian public. It was not sold in stores. It was baked in the oven at home. Because of its hippie influence, there was a principal at a high school in Minnesota who actually prohibited his students from bringing granola to school. Why? Because hippies made granola and they were involved in anarchism and that would leave the door open to communism which would lead to the downfall of America and all of its freedoms. I can’t make this stuff up. As with the yogurt, granola is now sold in many forms in many stores and America has not fallen, at least not from eating granola.

What? Along with the weird history of yogurt and granola, here is another kicker. When typewriters first came on the market, doctors decided that women should not be allowed to operate them. Why? Because the strain of typing would interfere with their reproductive organs. Just about all of the first typists were male.

• New math: I have to stop referring to myself as ‘middle aged’ or else I have to live to be 120.

Thanks for reading this week….Rod in even more snowy Regina

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