Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Garden Report #67

Sunday, February, 2012

I can only dream of my back is covered in snow right now
• Writers write: Thank you for all of your kind responses and writing how much you have missed The Garden Report. I have included many of your emails in the Readers Write section, but not all, as over a hundred of you took the time to write.

       This province of ours is filled with so much talent in the arts’ community. One of our showcases for that talent was the former SCN Television. It had as its motto ‘Saskatchewan’s Storyteller’ and it was a fitting one. The station told many of the stories that this province needs telling, and we in turn, need to hear. Sadly, for whatever reasons, the government cut the funding, sold the station and now it is City Television, programming lots of American television. All we have left on our sets to get out those important, local stories is Channel Seven on Access. Thank goodness for them. However, nothing replaces SCN and its ability to tell the Saskatchewan story! I was one of those independent storytellers, so I have a vested interest in a Saskatchewan station, but I have an even greater vested interest as a citizen, a prairie boy and a viewer. The ship may have sailed, but the Provincial Government needs to restore that station. Its costs were every bit recovered in the culture it presented and preserved. We need a station that is not programmed from Toronto and filled with American television. We need prairie storytellers on air.

• Readers write:

This is Rob Van Zanten's adopted grandbaby, 'Max'!
        • From rainy Vancouver, our champion rose grower, Rob Van Zanten had this to say: “Sitting here reading The Garden Report with my coffee on a rainy Wet Coast Sunday morning. Coffee seems to taste better...”.

       • Sherri Tutt has a plan for The Garden Report: “I have all 66 issues of The Garden Report and I am starting a book of tips excerpted from them. Hope you don't mind.” (Rod says: Be my guest.)

       • From Calgary, actor Cheryl Hutton sent this along: “So...amidst my speeding around the house this morning, what do you think stopped me in my tracks? Yup, you guessed it. The Garden Report. I dropped the socks I had in my hand and read. Slight procrastination on my part, perhaps, but a tribute to your report! Nothing else could get me to stop. Well done. Now if you could only help me with my to do list.”

       • Sandra Rayson was motivated to plant. Read on: “My heart is overjoyed with the return of The Garden Report! On a snowy, grey day, it sure lifted my spirits & actually motivated me to re-plant my amaryllis bulb that has been wintering in the basement.”

       • Roberta Nichol is singing again: “Well, well.... what a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful surprise! I was elated to find The Garden Report in my mailbox this morning! When it first popped up, I thought, "What the heck is this doing here?" Then I saw the date! Yeeeeehaaaaa!”

       • Our neighborhood nurse, June Blau sent this from across the street: “Imagine, if you can, my delighted squeal upon opening my inbox to find The Garden Report once again! Thank you for the effort you put into writing this wonderful blog. I feel privileged to have access to it.”

       • Wanda Bellamy is a true Scot: “So nice to wake up to The Garden Report! From one Scot to another.. Happy Robert Burns Day!”

       • Author, Gail Bowen has a new book coming out in April. It’s title is ‘Kaleidoscope’. In between editing her new book, she wrote this: “Seeing The Garden Report appear again in my Inbox made me feel that, once again, God was in Her heaven and all was right with the world.”

       • We have readers all over the world, and this came in from Janine and Kevin Gray, who live in Southern California: “Nice to see you again - both in the photo and in your report. We very much enjoy your good sense of humor and writing style. Good to have you back.”

       • Long time fellow writer, Jean Freeman penned this: “ Welcome back!!! It was like a breath of spring to open your email and see those beautiful photos -- especially the one with the smiley faces and the pixie Highland Elf in the middle!!” Note to readers: If you ever have the opportunity to listen to one of Jean’s stories on CBC One, take it. The only danger is that you might laugh so hard that you will wet yourself…not that that has happened to me.

Canadian Artist Rose 'Bill Reid'-photo courtesy of Peter Harris
• Garden Tip: Regular reader and die hard gardener, Paula Grolle, shared her geranium over wintering experience with us: “Each fall I haul in my three geranium planters and place them in my south facing bay window. I fertilize them and they pout for a month by dropping leaves, but then they take off. Now they are starting to produce flowers again, but I pinch them off. I water every 10 days or so and fertilize maybe once a month. They are very full and happy.”

• Not a good idea: There are some cultures and some people who name their children after the area where they were conceived. Thus, names such as Paris and London have become popular. If this were the cultural practice in our province, there would be thirty year olds registering to vote with names such as ‘Back seat of ’58 Chev’ and ‘Kitchen table-after smoking hash oil.’

• Thank God for veterinarians: My beloved Murphy is starting to bark, as if he were a dog. I took him to our local vet and she said “It is obvious. You have a Canadian cat. He is attempting to become bilingual.” Stop your groaning. It took me a week to write this.

• Eating out: We don’t eat out a lot, but when we do, we try to find those places that offer us ‘big flavor.’ We gave a try to A Taste of Tuscany on Hamilton Street. There were three of us and we shared two of their salads, lasagna and a pasta with meatballs. It was okay, but not brilliant. It was lacking in flavor. Add to the absence of taste bud stimulation, an overpriced check for a pasta meal, and it is not one we will be revisiting. Too bad, as we have been searching for an Italian place that impresses us.

• Better luck: A grab joint that has impressed me recently is Milu’s on Victoria Avenue. It is located in the old Bokoria Club. I have watched as they prepare Vietnamese subs and rice noodle bowls. Their prep area is exceptionally clean and they are methodical in their assembly of your dish…which is a good thing versus being haphazard. Lots of flavor. There are no seats, so you have to take your order home or eat in the car.

• Move over Food Channel: Here is a comfort food dish that I like to make on a cold, Saturday night. I place a bit of canola oil into the bottom of a good sized pot. I add in a pound of ground beef, a chopped large onion, two cups of whole mushrooms, half a chopped up red or yellow pepper, and I let it cook away for ten to fifteen minutes, turning now and again. When that is ready, I add in a tin of baked beans, a quarter cup of hot banana peppers, one cup of salsa, and a half cup of chopped pineapple. For flavors, I add in some ground black pepper, garlic, and at least a teaspoon or more of cumin. For the finish, I add in half a cup of barbecue sauce and some hickory liquid smoke. I let it reduce down with the lid off, on a simmer for thirty to sixty minutes. I serve it with either whole wheat toast or low salt, taco chips. You can garnish the top of your serving bowl with some chopped up tomatoes. It’s not gourmet, but it sure tastes good. Hardy, smoky, tangy, sweet, pungent, meaty with a bit of a back bite. Reader John Ciotucha stopped by for supper. He couldn’t get enough of it and even took a Tupperware bowl to go.

Canadian Artist Rose 'Emily Carr'
• Garden Tip: This year, it might be the year to start growing more of our own vegetables. Nothing can give us more joy. Growing our own vegetables is something that has been almost lost to us, even though most of us grew up with large gardens. Our mother’s knew how to stretch a dollar and how to feed us. Seed racks are on display in many stores or if you really want some great varieties, you can order seeds from Stokes or from T and T Seeds. Both are excellent seed companies. I am giving serious thought to digging out my daylilies which occupy some of my premium sunny spots…just so I can get in a bit of a salad garden.

• Too much fun: I was on my way home this Tuesday. I had a half an hour to spare, so I dropped into see everyone’s friend, Carlos at The Italian Star. I didn’t buy anything. I just hung out. At The Italian Star, there is a continual conversation going. It changes as people come and go. It could start out as ‘what’s wrong with our health system’ and quickly move onto The Rider’s chances and then a round table of ‘is it worthwhile to have a financial advisor?’ All topics are open for discussion. Everyone contributes. There is no right or wrong and there is no beginning or ending. It is just one giant ‘middle’. Somehow, even though I am a Scot, I totally fit in. It’s as if I am an onion in the middle of a great soup, simmering on the back burner. How’s that for an analogy?

• Boxing Night in Regina: If you enjoy Olympic style boxing, and I do, then March 30th is a date to mark on your calendar. The Lonsdale Boxing Club from Dewdney Avenue will be hosting ‘The Battle of the Prairies.’ Tickets are cheap. Only ten bucks if you get them in advance. You can watch some of our talented young people, work their magic in the ring.

• Liver Lovers’ Lunch: Some people think I have made up ‘The Liver Lovers’ Club. But I haven’t. If you would like to join our club, we will be celebrating St. Valentine’s Day with a liver lunch at The CBC Cafeteria, College and Broad. The lunch is only ten dollars and that includes everything. Lunch starts at 11:45 a.m. You have to let me know if you are coming as they need to know the number of Liver Lovers who will be attending. Reader Heather Hodgson is the organizer of this luncheon. Thanks Heather.

• Thorn less raspberries: Reader Jim Tomkins asked how one can obtain these plants. He had some at his old house and really enjoyed the berries as well as not being scratched. Here is the problem. Most nurseries no longer grow ‘Muskoka’ which is a thorn less raspberry. I did find a small nursery in Valley River, Manitoba that still has it listed. If readers are interested, I will order some of these canes. We can get them shipped to me on the bus. We need to order a minimum of a hundred and the cost will be $2.50 for each cane. Gardeners should note: these canes will be bare root, not in pots.

• Zam Zam: This is a hole in the wall in an out of the way place. It is located just west of 4th Avenue and Park Street. The big seller at this Lebanese joint is a pita wrap. The pita is fresh made in their back room bakery and one can purchase the pitas separately, to take home. They fill the pita with lettuce, tomato, and other veggies, your choice of a rotisserie meat, sauces and cheese. We had a chicken wrap and it was tasty and filling. The problem with giving this place a triple A rating is that I compare it with The Falafel King in Vancouver, which sets the highest of bars for this style of food. The Falafel King (you have to ignore the corny name to enjoy their tasty food) has two locations. One, spotlessly clean on Davie Street and one on Denman, that is divvy. Their tzatziki sauce, hummus and stuffed grape leaves, along with their carrot or lentil soup, are second to none. So damned filled with flavor. Now, back to Zam Zam. They do offer every Friday and Saturday, until six p.m., a Lebanese platter, filled with middle eastern food. I have heard good things about this and I will try to wind my way out there. Oh…the things I do for my readers. Eat, eat!

In two to three months, it will be tulip time again
• The Keg: I have not been to The Keg in at least twenty years. I just don’t believe in patronizing chains when there are so many great independents around. Having delivered that polemic, we were given a gift certificate for Christmas and we checked it out, last Sunday. The place was absolutely packed with a line up. As there were only the two of us, they had a small table left at the very back and we took it. We were pleasantly pleased. I had a very tasty Caesar salad and the Romaine was incredibly crisp. Lots of flavor there. Maureen had a green salad which she said was lovely, followed by Oscar Chicken. This was a chicken breast served with a cream sauce and scallops. Lots of scallops. I had the prime rib dinner and it was also first rate. They served my dinner with a really hot horseradish and a small container of au jus. The au jus was very tasty and most pieces of my beef had a quick bath in this liquid. We finished off with a slice of cheesecake for me and Maureen ordered the Crème Brule. Both were very good. Food, dessert, one glass of wine for the Mrs., tax and tip was a hundred bucks, so it is not cheap.

• Hot is a relative word: I was in Tony’s India Food Center on Victoria East, stocking up on supplies. It is a wonderful store filled with all sorts of food products and Tony is as decent and as fun as you would want. So, he asks me to give a try to this curry sauce that is premade. Instead of adding my own curry spices, you just add this into your pot. I asked Tony, “Is this hot.” He said “not at all.” I usually don’t’ follow recipes but as this sauce was new to me, I did, this time. I added in the 125 grams of sauce (half a cup), just as instructed. I let my curry simmer away and before serving, I gave it a taste test. I just about burnt out my nostrils, it was that hot. To reduce the heat in a curry, I usually add in a half a cup of yogurt. In this dish, I added two cups of yogurt and it was still off the wall. We ate it. It was tasty as all get out. But we also had a box of Kleenex at the dinner table, blowing our noses and wiping away the tears of joy. Next time I am in Tony’s shop, I am going to ask my question differently. “Is this hot for me?” Hot is a relative word, not an absolute.

• More of Readers Write: Sorry about the length of this Garden Report, but over a hundred of you took the time to write. I didn’t have room for all of you, just a sampling

       • Gwen Scott from Fort Langley, B.C. missed the read: “Welcome back Rod! I have missed your weekly dose of witticisms, sage advice for keeping plants green and growing, and sharing your life perspectives with your readers. I was one of those student nurses who hung out with your beloved Maureen. It has been good for me to maintain our friendship with the added bonus of getting to know you, the "Mark Twain" of Regina. I almost wish myself back in that picturesque city (Regina) when I hear you describe the things that you love there. God bless you!”

       • Our itinerant Dickensian actor, John Huston, penned this from Toronto: “It's grand to have you back. I spent a busy Robby Burns Day but managed, just, to get in a late haggis dinner at a local pub. I called ahead just as the kitchen was closing and said, "I'll be there, please hold one for me". They did. Not the best haggis I've had but not bad. I did the first two lines of ‘The Ode’ and fell to.” Rod’s note: If you have the opportunity to see John perform in one of his plays, take it. He is a major talent.

       • Joanne Terry was pretty excited this Monday morning. “OMG Rod – Thank you so much for your come-back. It was so delightful to open up my email this morning to find The Garden Report. Everything stops at work on Monday mornings until I have had a chance to read my Garden Report”

       • Noelle Chorney, who edits the wonderful Gardener for the Prairies, out of Saskatoon, was kind: “Glad you’re back, Rod! As far as Garden Reports, I’ll enjoy whatever you’re able to offer.”

       • Wendy Richardson gardens in London, Ontario. She grew up in Regina but she was Wendy Campbell on Gordon Road, back then. She wrote: “I was so pleased to see The Garden Report in my inbox, yesterday. It was a treat to read your blog as usual and I had missed it.”

'After Eight' Oriental Lily
       • This from Ingrid Thiessen, our favorite Landscape Architect. “What a great way to start the morning. I loved "a burden shared is always cut in half while a joy shared, is always doubled.” I have winter oregano growing but am inspired to start the basil. And Lawrence needs a new pancake flipper so Kitchen Gear, here I come. So glad to see you are back.”

• The last word: When I was six years old, my mom was teaching me to ride my bicycle. She would hold me upright by the bike seat and I would peddle away. We would do this after supper every night, heading north of Dewdney, on Rae Street. One night I was peddling really fast and I shouted back “Mom! Look at how fast we are going!” Of course, she had let go of the bicycle seat and I was easily a half block away from her. It was at that moment that I understood mixed emotions. On one hand, I was excited beyond belief to be peddling extra fast. Yet, I was terrified that I was on my own and that Mom was no longer holding me up. It’s that way with all things in life. Freedom is exciting and scary, at the same time.

'Bridal Wreath' Spirea- a good plant for the sun and lovely cascading branches
 • Thanks for reading….Rod McDonald in Regina

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