Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Garden Report #39

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Yellow Twig Dogwood
• Writers write: Here we are again on an intensely sunny, Sunday afternoon. The temperature has risen to a balmy minus nine and after a few nights in the minus thirty range, it is indeed balmy. I did not miswrite, as any prairie boy or girl will testify. There has been lots of correspondence this week from readers, including photos of our resident cute baby, Pascal. As readers know, I have been on my high horse regarding the importance of the slow food movement, the reduction of salt and sugar in our diets and other health issues. This week, I have included some sage advice from a reader who specializes in the treatment of cancer patients. This doctor is well loved within our community and has touched many lives. I too am touched that so many of you have taken the time to be engaged and participate in The Garden Report. When I first started writing, I acknowledged I had no idea where this blog was going…but I have certainly enjoyed the ride.

• Readers write: Margaret Bessai wrote: “Thanks for another edition of The Garden Report. Love seeing those pics of New Zealand.” Heather Lowe wrote “The New Zealand pictures are so nice.” Kate Berringer writes “Loved this one, Rod. Well done.” Catherine Parker shared that she staggers her amaryllis planting times so that she gets blooms for at least three months. Joanne Vollbrecht’ writes that she has seen hearing aids improve the life of those who need one. Susan Rollins proclaims that a life without chocolate brownies is a life not worth living. Roberta Nichol has discovered how wonderful the sour dough bread is at Orange Boot. Catherine Parker inquires if any reader has memories of the youth center that used to be at the corner of Broad and Dewdney. Actor and reader Courtney Cunningham wrote in to say that she has moved from New Mexico to Los Angeles. Courtney is trying to get her film into Cannes. It is a seven minute piece titled ‘The Last Animals.’ Reader Marcus Fernando sends along a photo (in the attachment) of his baby Pascal, who is celebrating his one year birthday. Holding Pascal in the photo is his mom, Tina Hoffman.

Very good news: Reader Richard Gustin who has been sending us the lovely photos of New Zealand has let us know that he is just fine. Richard is on the North Island, far away from the devastating earth quake.

• Garden Tip: There will be a seed exchange of open pollinated garden seed on March 5th at St. Mary’s Anglican. For further information, open the attachment ‘2011 Seedy Saturday’. This information is courtesy of reader Kate Berringer.

• Cancer: One of our readers is a physician who specializes in treating people who have cancer. She has done so for thirty-five years. She has seen thousands of patients in her practice. I asked her to write the three things that a patient can do to improve their healing. These three things can be utilized by anyone suffering from a debilitating disease. She asked to remain anonymous. Her original answers are quite detailed. I have distilled them to their essence. Any reader who wishes the entire response, please send me an email and I will forward the original (minus identifying information) as an attachment:

a) Set your goals and a timeline in which to accomplish them.

b) Believe that you can accomplish your goals. (This is extremely important)

c) Ensure that you are surrounded by positive influences. Do not allow people who are negative to be in your life. Learn to forgive others as well as yourself. Pray for your enemies. Do not allow resentments to fester as they cause many illnesses.

Her last piece of advice regarding resentments is so true. I have seen, and no doubt you as well, people who carried so much anger towards another person or institution, that they actually became sick from their own emotions. One other piece of advice our reader/physician writes: Creativity is very healing. How true.

• Humor as healing: Maureen has been a nurse for many years and she agreed with everything in the above heading. She also added that she has seen humor reduce pain levels in suffering patients. Laughter is very medicinal because it increases your endorphins.

• Poverty and the theater: Over the years, I have heard now and again, a complaint in regards to theater and other cultural events. The complaint is that they are not accessible to those with limited incomes. Here is the reality. There are many cultural events in this city that require volunteers, and in turn, those volunteers are treated to many perks, including free admission into events. At The Fringe Festivals across Canada, volunteers receive free admission to plays based upon hours worked and they also receive perks from the performers. It was a common occurrence on tour for a volunteer to ask if they could “slip into the show” and permission was always given. At The Folk Festival here in Regina, they asked me to assist one year in setting up a stage. No problem. They gave me free admission for that assistance plus they fed me. The Globe uses volunteers for ushers, the coat check and ticket takers. Those people get an opportunity to enjoy the show as well. If you are willing to do a little bit of volunteer work, there are many opportunities to take in cultural happenings.

Today’s observation: Being young and cute is only phase that most of us experience. Eventually, we manage to get through it.

• Close but not right: When our middle son was in Grade Three, he came home from school and informed us that one of his friends had explained prostitution to him that day. I asked him to explain it to me. He told me that prostitution was when women stood on a street corner and men drove by in their cars. When the woman saw a man that she liked, she paid him to have sex with her. “Well son…you are close,” I told him. I explained that it was usually the men who paid. He looked at me and said “Oh! That’s gross!” And the conversation was finished.

Poster for March 25th show
• Glory Days: I am now ‘off book’ which means I have memorized the play. Once you are ‘off book’ you can start blocking the show which means, sorting out where the actor delivers the lines from, the motion of the play. People ask how long it takes to work up a play. For me at least, it takes about sixty hours to memorize a one hour script, about an hour per minute of stage time. Then it takes about sixty hours of rehearsal to get the show up to stage presentation. A number of our readers are from the theater and each actor has a different process. Some are able to memorize a script with two or three readings. I am not so fortunate.

• Cold night/hot soup: Wednesday night it was approaching minus thirty, a perfect evening for a bowl of good soup. I made French Onion Soup, something that most of us adore and it is surprisingly easy to make. Here is what I do:

Chop up one large onion or two medium ones, brown them in a large pot on a higher heat, use two or three tablespoons of canola oil to get them started. After ten minutes, turn the heat down to a low medium, add in two tablespoons of butter and cook for another forty to fifty minutes until the onions are caramelized or brown. Ten minutes before the onions are finished cooking, add in half of a clove of chopped garlic and a pinch of salt.

With the onions cooked, pour in one liter (four cups) of beef broth. Your own beef broth is best but if you have none, then use a store bought variety, preferably one low in sodium/salt. Bring to a boil. Add in four tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, a bit of ground black pepper and reduce to a simmer.

Preheat the oven or the toaster oven to 450. Take four or five larger soup bowls, and place close to a cup of soup into each one. Then place a slice of French bread that has been toasted on top of the soup. Cover the toast with shredded Swiss, Gruyere or Emmental cheese. Place the bowls in the oven and change the setting to broil. Bake for five to seven minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and getting a crust on it. When removing from the oven, use oven mitts and warn your guests that the bowl is very hot.

If you want, you can use a different bread for the toast or even croutons in a pinch. The two key things to getting this one right is to cook the onions close to an hour and use a good broth.

• Blues night: We took in The Johnny Winter show at Casino Regina on Thursday night. It was part of the Mid Winter Blues Festival, a cultural event that has really taken off. I read some on line reviews that said Winter has lost his touch. While it was obvious that the man is in failing health, if he has lost his touch, I could not see it. He played an incredible guitar. For reasons unknown to me, his singing voice did not come through very well at all. There was so much distortion in the speakers. I was sitting close to center, so it was not a balance issue. I have heard from musicians that the room at The Casino is poorly tuned and it was ever so evident on Thursday. Too bad.

Not nice: Seated behind us at The Casino on Thursday, were a group of drunks. They yapped all the way through both of the excellent opening acts. All eight of us at our table had difficulty listening to the openers because the table of drunks talked loudly throughout the show, and constantly. We kept turning around to give them our best ‘shut up’ look, but subtly was lost on them. After ruining the first act, I slipped over to their table at intermission and asked if they could quit talking during the next show as we wanted to hear the music. “Yeah, yeah,” they said. They were good for about five minutes and then started up again. This time, my sister went over to their table and they said they would stop, but they didn’t. Then my brother-in-law shouted “did you come here to talk or to listen to the music.” Unbelievable that someone would pay forty bucks to talk through a show. At the end of the evening, I heard from several other friends that there were similar tables scattered throughout The Casino that yapped through both of the opening acts. Perhaps, and it is just a suggestion, The Blues Festival and The Casino should set up two sections. One for the drunks who want to be the center of attention and another for those of us who want to listen to the show. For what it was worth, my sister and her husband took in Friday night’s show at The RSM. She said that show was outstanding and no one was holding court through any of the performances. She writes that the vibe was totally different from Thursday night, much more enjoyable.

• What?: I took Murphy to the vet on Thursday afternoon. His chin appeared at first to have a scrape on it. As the week had gone by, the size of the damage increased. The vet informed me that he was suffering from ‘feline acne’. At his age? He is either fifteen or sixteen. Now I have to put Clearasil on his chin so he can go to the big dance.

• Garden Tip: I have been asked this question a few times. What temperature should a greenhouse be kept at? As a general rule, sixty-eight degree days and sixty-two degree nights are what is recommended. More important than air temperature is root zone temperature which is sometimes called bottom heat. You can run a cooler greenhouse if you have heating cables installed underneath your growing trays. There are heating cables available for home greenhouses.

• Negotiating with God: Whenever I get an outbreak of acne, I tell God “make up your mind. Either zits or crow’s feet but not both at the same time!”

• Garden Tip: For those of you starting your plants, I recommend that you use a Premier product called Pro Mix. It is a good quality potting soil that should give you good results.

• Lucky guess: I brought home a box of chocolates for Maureen on Friday night. A ‘just because’ box. She opened the box and asked who had made the selection of the chocolates. I told her I had chosen all caramels and toffees, because those are her favorites. Her memory must be going because she assured me that she loves nut chocolates and that caramels are my favorites. Who knew that buying a box of chocolates could go so wrong? Saturday morning, I got up. On the kitchen counter was a note for me. It read that she was at her studio painting. She used to be a RN. Now she is ‘the artist formerly known as Nurse Maureen’. The note finished off with a threatening tone: “Don’t eat all of the chocolates!” In military language, that was a pre-emptive strike. I can’t help but to remember when we first met, she let me eat all of the chocolates I wanted. I think I will stick to flowers from here on in…way less controversial.

Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in Regina!

Lovely tulips grown in the garden, cut and placed in a vase

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