Monday, March 28, 2011

The Garden Report #43

Sunday, March 27th, 2011
Cranes amongst the ferns in my back garden

• Writers write: Irish soda bread and a good cup of ‘Joe’…is there any better way to begin a Sunday morning? Spring struggles this year. The snow is leaving at a slow pace, which is a good thing for flood control. In some years, the first robin is already in the yard and tulips have poked their way through the sun trap part of the garden on March 31st. Not this year. There will be no gardening except in my dreams during early April. Growing up, I often heard the stories of the winter and spring of 1947. There are photographs from that time of trains buried in twelve foot snow drifts. My mother’s second husband would tell me “anyone with a strong back and a weak mind could make five bucks a day, just shoveling snow that year!” We went for a walk through our beloved Wascana Park this week. The rabbits have not begun to turn. They remain snow white. They know something.

• Readers write: I had a wonderful visit with regular reader Neil Vandendort. Neil is the head of Parks in Regina. Both of us came up through the ranks and at the same time. We pushed wheelbarrows, dug tree holes and installed sod back in the seventies. Now Neil is a big shot at City Hall and me, well…I write The Garden Report. Lyn Goldman writes regarding #42, “Wonderful photos. Can’t wait for summer.” Heather Lowe wrote in regarding the ‘ticket angels’ saying “That’s a lovely list of who’s who’ in Regina.” June Blau wrote “Thanks for another good read.” Had an opportunity to meet reader Ann Anderson who I have never met before. She is a lovely woman who works in The Mayor’s Office.

• Great pasta: I love pasta. I don’t deny it. I am a carb junkie but I get tired of eating variations of the tomato based sauces. Tuesday night I decided to do things a little differently and challenge my taste buds. I was inspired by the wonderful tastes of lemon and garlic dripping off of Greek souvlaki. I took one pound of ground pork and began to fry it. I added in one medium sized, chopped onion, one tablespoon of chopped garlic, half a red/yellow chopped pepper, two tomatoes chopped, and two cups of sliced mushrooms. I let that cook down for twenty minutes. Then I added in half a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper, three teaspoons of oregano, two teaspoons of basil, one teaspoon of paprika, a third cup of lemon juice and a cup of plain yogurt. I also added in half a cup of hot peppers but not everyone likes that much heat. I let everything simmer on a minimum heat for another ten minutes and then I served it over fresh pasta. Totally different and very delicious.
A lovely hanging basket

• I like your buns: Cinnamon buns are a treat that most of us enjoy. And when I used the word ‘enjoy’, I suppose that would be considered an understatement. I have no particular preference in that I do love baking powder ones, yeast risen ones and flaky, croissant style ones. Anything that has lots of flavor will impress me. I ate a delicious one from Sweet Bakery at College and Broad. Helen calls her version a Cinnamon Twist, not considering it a bun. Semantics I say. It was good. Really good. I also taste tested one from La Macaron out in the east end. It was okay, but it did not have the punch I was looking for. I do not like to speak poorly of a locally owned business, but this one does not make it into my top ten.

• Good night Irene: Sadly, CJ Katz is publishing her last edition of ‘Savor Life’ this week. CJ has produced this on line food and restaurant blog for eight years. She has encouraged readers to support the slow food movement, locally produced food and creative chefs, all things I totally agree with. CJ has found it too taxing to keep producing her E-Zine as she is now busy writing a new cookbook. I was a regular reader and I will certainly miss her take on things. CJ writes that she will consider resuming ‘Savor Life’ in the future. CJ writes in her blog that when she started eight years ago, she was read by around fifty of her friends and neighbors. Today, she has ten thousand regular readers. A local success story.

• Garden Tip: Neil Vandendort from City Parks tells me that on his residential bay in the east end, there are several Silver Maples that are growing well. Most Silver Maples get to a certain height and then they winter kill. These ones have not done that. Neil is trying to find out which seed source or selection they are from. If we can find out, it would be worthwhile trying one of these larger growing trees. We certainly need more diversity in our urban forest.

Silver Leaf Dogwood
• Use or lose: Much controversy over the planned closures of Co-op grocery stores in smaller communities. Many towns in this province have lost their grocery stores and other small businesses. People are complaining and quite loudly. So far, no one has addressed the elephant in the room. The reason grocery stores are closing in small towns is because many of the customers are shopping in the city at Costco, Wal-Mart, Superstore and so on. They treat their local establishments as convenience stores, purchasing last minute items but not full orders. The bottom line is that the stores are no longer profitable and no one wants a business that loses money. This city has lost just about all of its independent hardware stores because customers did not support them. Peter’s Hardware, which was a fixture in Lakeview since 1957, had to close because the customer support no longer existed. Yet, it was at these community based businesses, where people could find virtually everything they needed with expert assistance. Good luck finding someone at Canadian Tire, Rona or Home Depot who can match that level of service.

• The mighty Wascana: The little creek that meanders through our neighborhood will soon be a torrent of water. Long time residents will remember what it was like back in 1969 and 1973/74. The rush of water underneath The Albert Street Bridge becomes so loud that one feels they are living beside Niagara Falls. And the noise is there 24/7. The City is preparing for the onslaught of water. All of the garbage bins from the back lane of the north side of Regina Avenue have been moved out to the street. I suspect that sandbagging operations will soon be underway. How high was the creek in 1973/74? In places, it was ten feet above normal and the sandbagged back lane held back three feet of water.

• Thank you: The Regina Fringe Fundraiser has come and gone for another year. I am most appreciative of all seventy-nine of you who purchased tickets from me for this event. For those of you who did not attend, the night was a lot of fun. Roberta Nichol knocked the proverbial socks off of the audience with her music and as always, her personality filled the room. Carlos from The Italian Star provided a great lunch from his deli and I got an opportunity to take my acting chops for a ride. It was an honor to showcase one of my plays for you. It was, a very good night.

Tulips-one of my favorites
• Ego reduction: God gives us family so that we don’t’ get too carried away with our sense of self worth. A few years ago, I was engaged to deliver a speech to two hundred people. We were having a family supper prior to my speech and Maureen said to the boys “Why don’t you go listen to your dad speak tonight. It is a real honor that he was asked to deliver this speech.” None of the three boys leapt at the opportunity. In fact, the dining room was very quiet. One of the boys broke the silence and asked me “Are you going to say anything that we haven’t already heard you say?” He called that one right. He had heard everything I was planning on saying.

• Thanks for reading this week…Rod McDonald in Regina

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