Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Garden Report #44

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

Michiel's Greenhouse -getting ready for spring!
• Writers write: The sun has come out from behind the clouds and a slow melt continues to reduce the banks of snow. Patches of lawn now appear, especially on the south facing gardens. My body is tired today. I was at my friend’s birthday party last night as he has turned sixty. Many of my friends and myself will be having that very same birthday this year. It was a good time and our school mate Gerry Thue, brought out his band. Gerry still brings down the house with his vocals, even after plying his trade for forty-five years. Maureen and I danced for two hours, thus explaining my fatigue today. Since I was fifteen, I have always enjoyed going dancing with a pretty girl on a Saturday night. I saw many friends I have not seen for years. They have gone bald or their hair has turned grey. “What happened,” I asked? No one offered me a mirror.

• Readers write: Kimberly from Lincoln Gardens at Craven has joined us as a reader. She writes “It’s fun to read your comments on everything from family to food.” Marsha Kennedy writes that she is concerned about water in her basement this spring, something that worries many of us. Chris Dodd wrote “Your newsletter makes my week. Thanks.” Ann Anderson is concerned about the demise of the small town grocery stores as covered in #43. She notes that one finds a level of service in small town groceries that is rarely found in the city. Reader Paula Grolle weighed in on the snow levels of 1947/48. Paula says that she grew up on a farm near Midale, and that her parents had to tie a rope between the house and the barn so they could find it, and that a train became stuck in a drift near them. Ken Alexe writes “You are still at the peak of your game.” I assume Ken is referring to writing and not to football. Jodi Sadowsky writes “The pasta dish you made (in #43) sounds wonderful.” Helen Janzen who is the baker/owner of Sweet Bakery appreciates my plugging small businesses. Helen believes that it is the independents who are the heart and soul of a community. I agree.

Black Bacara - photo by Rob van Zanten
• Lovely Roses:  Reader Rob van Zanten sent along a photo that he took last summer of Black Bacarra Hybrid Tea Rose. Rob writes that this is the blackest rose on the market. While hybrid tea roses are not hardy in Regina as a rule, some gardeners are able to overwinter them by covering with lots of mulch and snow. Reader Ingrid Thiessen sent along her photo of fresh cut forsythia. Ingrid cut them this week, placed them into a vase of water and in a few days, she had these blooms.

• Service not to be found: I was in Home Depot’s Garden Center last summer. Hanging around seeing how they run their place. Several customers were shopping but there was only one staff on duty and she was running the cash register. There was no one on the floor to assist the customers. One woman was quite perturbed and she insisted that a staff member be called in to assist her. I waited to see what would happen next. Eventually, a staff member showed up, admitting they knew nothing about plants. He picked up the plant and began reading the tag to her. Her frustration was growing. “I can read a tag” she exclaimed. “What I need is someone who knows something.” Good luck with that one.

Cut forsythia stems - photo Ingrid Thiessen
• Vegetarians-quit reading: Here is my favorite recipe for pork cutlets. These are not available at every store but you can always find them at Oscar’s on 11th. I beat up two eggs, to dip the cutlets in. Then I coat the cutlets in a flour mixture that has some Montreal Steak Spice mixed in the flour. I have the burner set on the number five of ten positions, and I cover the bottom of the fry pan with canola oil. I brown the cutlets on both sides and barely cook them all the way through. I set the cutlets aside on a plate with a paper towel. I place two tablespoons of butter into the fry pan and mix in four tablespoons of flour to form a rue. I then add in one cup of stock, either chicken or beef, one cup of water and bring to a boil, stirring the rue and the pan scrapings. I add in a quarter cup of lemon juice, some garlic, four table spoons of Worcestershire sauce, some salt and pepper and a splash of hot sauce if you like a bit of heat. For something different, I have also added in Japanese bread crumbs to the gravy/sauce. They soften but don’t dissolve. Once it thickens up, I add the cutlets back into the gravy and simmer for ten minutes. I serve it with egg noodles. Other options include adding some chopped onions into the gravy or hot peppers. Is it good? Absolutely!

• Grammar Grandpa: One of our readers who wishes anonymity, wants to know where the nouns have gone as he ages. He reports that the adjectives, adverbs, and verbs are just fine but the nouns are no longer at his quick disposal. He now asks for dinner partners to pass him that white, shaky thing.

• Me too: On occasion, I lose nouns as well. The other day, I could not remember the name of The Beach Boys while telling a story about Dennis Wilson. There I was, saying “you know that group that sang Barbara Ann”…and then I started to sing the song which in retrospect, was a humbling experience.

• Family mythology: Many of us take stories from our families and retell them as if they were gospel truth. Unfortunately for history buffs, family stories are often embellished as they are retold until they bear little resemblance to the truth. But they are good stories. My dad would tell us the classic one of walking five miles to school in a snow storm, uphill both ways. In 2001 I visited the house my grandfather had built and raised my father in. The school was two doors down from the house. My dad could sleep until five to nine and still get to school on time. Had my dad been still alive, I would have enjoyed asking him for clarification on that story.

• My own stories: When my nephew was six years old, he was spending the afternoon with me. We stopped in at the credit union to make a deposit. I told him as we walked into the credit union “Uncle Rod owns this bank.” Daniel nodded his understanding. I asked him “do you believe that?” He responded “I believe everything you tell me Uncle Rod.” After that, I could never tell the boy another one of my whoppers.

• Garden Tip: When pruning, you have to be a little bit like Goldilocks. The pruned stem you leave behind on the tree cannot be too long nor can it be too close to the main trunk. It has to be just right.

• Garden Tip: This is more of a history lesson. Do you know that many of the plants growing in gardens all across Canada, The United States and into Europe were developed here in Saskatchewan. The following is a list of some of those plants: Thunderchild Flowering Crab, Royalty Flowering Crab, Rosthern Crab, Battleford Apple, Martin Saskatoon, Thiessen Saskatoon, Coronation Triumph Potentilla, Walker Weeping Caragana, Wascana Linden, Sutherland Caragana, Métis Rose, all of the Honeywood Lilies, the Patterson Plum series, Carmine Jewel Sour Cherry, Fuchsia Girl Crab and this is only part of the list. All of these plants can be grown in our 2b hardiness zone.

• Low calorie: I must admit I do love oatmeal/raisin cookies. I have never met a dozen of them I didn’t enjoy. Chocolate cookies are totally different. I really don’t care for them. But in fairness to those readers who do love them, I purchased six from Orange Boot on Tuesday. I offered them to four nurses for their reviews and all four gave them a thumbs up. I did sample one of their oatmeal muffins and it was good but not excellent. Of note, it was very moist.

• Baguette wars: Reader Ken McCaw weighed in a few weeks ago that Orange Boot’s baguettes are more authentic than those of Koko’s. This week, I purchased one of each from both places. The one from Orange boot has a much more crunchy crust than Koko’s, and it has a lighter dough. Ken is right. The one from Orange boot is more authentic and qualifies for our unofficial award of excellence.

• Here we go: Four elections in seven years! This blog is not political and neither am I, but this is too much. Democracy is a great institution. We vote. They govern. So why is it that we get another election that no one really wants. It appears that our House of Commons needs a few mommies to ensure some discipline. The kids in that hall are so busy name calling that nothing gets done, except some more campaigning. I would like to know exactly when our politicians are going to grow up and behave as if they are responsible adults. A pox upon all their houses.

• New boys on the block: In the old Peter’s Hardware location, a kitchen shop has opened up. It is called Kitchen Gear and it is the third store for owner Kirk Leier. I took a tour of the new place on Saturday and he is carrying some hard to find items as well as quality kitchen ware. Kirk tells me that he is willing to listen to his customer base and adjust his inventory to their tastes. My first thought is that we need a store that carries top quality spices. Welcome to the neighborhood.

• Garden Tip: If you are interested in peonies and how to grow them, then register for the peony class on Saturday, April 9th. It runs from ten a.m. until noon and the instructor is Brian Porter. The cost is ten dollars and registration is by phone at 543-8189 and ask for Keith. Brian Porter is one of the most knowledgeable people when it comes to peonies.

Acidanthera - bicolor
 • Seedlings grow: Reader Joana Cook was in town for a visit. She lives in London and attends King’s College. She stopped by for a visit. She has morphed into a tall, elegant, composed young woman who celebrated her 25th birthday on Thursday. I remember when she was brand new to this world. I held her. I also held her when she was two and she wanted to terrorize the Hotel Saskatchewan. She was less than thrilled to have me restrain her. She had things to do and people to see…and she wanted to run up and down the hallways. Today, her social graces have improved but she still has things to do and people to see.

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in sunny Regina.

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