Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Garden Report #70

Sunday, February26th, 2012

A midwinter's dream
 Writers write: Today is a special day. It is February 26th and on this day in 1973, I moved into our first house on this corner. It was a small, 800 square foot bungalow, with one bathroom and an unfinished basement. Nothing special at all. But to me, it was a castle. Who was to know that thirty- nine years later, we would still be on this corner, in this lovely neighborhood. I paid $15,5000 for the first house, which at the time, seemed high. A special thank you to my neighbors who are also readers, for sharing this area with me. People already know how I value our neighbors and community. I need not write more.

Readers Write:

     • Jean Mackay had this to say. “A cool Garden Report as always! I agree with Heather –yours is much more than a Garden Report. Maybe gather The Garden Reports into a book, and sell them to profit The Fringe Festival? Just a thought this early Sunday morning.”

     • Liz Calam loves to garden and she lives across the street from us. Here is her take on the name. “I really do enjoy The Garden Report and am so glad you are back. I read with interest that two folk have remarked “perhaps you have outgrown the name of your blog…” How about ‘Our Gardner’s Report’? The name is almost the same but can cover a wider range of whatever you want. Whatever….keep them coming!”

     • Jackie Arnason had a maintain the status quo view. “Rod - I like the name The Garden Report. This is not only about gardening the earth but also your stories are gardens of the heart. Keep up the fine work.”

     • John Ciotucha was straight to the point about a name change. “If it works, don't fix it!”

     • Jean Freeman is always a positive voice in the universe. “I know I'm only one of a very large group of folks who are all a neighborhood of friends because we (read The Garden Report).”

     • This was sent in by Marsha Kennedy. “Just wanted to say it comforts me that you are ‘back on’.....and I am one of many who feel the community and loving humor and advice you share with us.”

     • Chris Dodd has a sense of humor. Read on: “I have a contribution for the mural representing the 1912 tornado - it's a photo of my office. It's been busy! Loving your column.”

Anne's garden in northern Manitoba
     • Our resident landscape architect, Ingrid Thiessen sent along comments and four photos. Here are her comments. “Thank you for passing on the new plant introductions - loved them all! Your garden tip on containers reminded me that I was going to send you photo's of my mother-in-law's garden. She puts leaves into the bottom 1/3 to 1/2 of her containers to reduce the weight and soil required. Anne has gardened for over 50 years in Pine River, Manitoba. I especially like her delphiniums, since I can't grow them. Some years they are 2 meters high!”

     • Roberta Nichol relates to last week’s bit about becoming our parents. “Absolutely. I find myself becoming my mom and my dad. I will talk to anyone and everyone. That is so my dad!”

'Downy Mildew' on impatiens
Garden Tip: Larry over at Sherwood Greenhouse has this piece of advice regarding impatiens. “Last year’s extra moist climate in North America and Europe, caused a massive spread of a new disease in impatiens, called downy mildew. In many areas, there was total destruction of every impatiens plant. We are told that it is under control for now. Of course, if 2012 is also wet, continued control will be difficult. This particular mildew can actually survive our winters. It over winters on dead plants, therefore removing, and not composting this season's impatiens is necessary. At this point it only attacks the Walleriana family, unfortunately both the seeded and vegetative types.”

Garden Tip: I asked Dr. Phillip Ronald at Jeffries’s in Portage la Prairie to recommend three newer plants for this coming season. His first selection appears in the photo as Starlite Flowering Crab.

Starlite Flowering Crab
The life of a storyteller: Storytellers occupy an important role within both modern and primitive cultures. It does not matter if we gather around the tribal campfire for the stories or join an online conversation. Storytellers are the conduit through which oral history is transmitted. Our stories are not always exactly the way we have been. Rather, they are a narrative of how we wished we had acted. All of us, given the chance, would rewrite portions of our lives. All of us would change things that we said and did, and for the better. The storyteller in society does that for us.

Gender differences: As regular readers realize, women respond to this online magazine at a much higher rate than men. We have many male readers. It is not as if they are absent from our numbers. Men approach me at The Symphony, The Globe, The Farmers’ Market, The Fringe Festival, any public place I make an appearance. They comment about a story or a line. I ask them: “Why don’t you ever write in?” The usual answer is “well, I just told you what I thought.” My only comparison is that 98% of thank you cards are written by women, even if two names are signed to the card. Guys take the time to read, but not to respond. Just not our thing.

Role reversals: Is it only us? We have been noticing that our boys, all in their thirties now, often use a certain tone in speaking to us. The comments are somewhat along these lines. “Dad…how many times have I already told you this? You have to click the view button to change that format. Do you even listen when I tell you these things?” Hmm…I wonder where they learned that phrasing?

But that is your punishment: Number Three Son came home with a less than stellar report card around Grade Five or Six. He asked his mother to dole out the punishment, but “please don’t let dad see the report card. I don’t mind the punishment, but dad’s lecture will be at least thirty minutes long and go on and on. Just punish me, but don’t let him tell me one of his stories.”

The film’s storyteller: All of us know that there are hundreds if not thousands of people who work on a major film. At one time, I thought that the writer was the genius behind a film. Then my admiration moved to those on camera, after all, that is who we see, the actors delivering their lines. Then I changed my mind yet again to admire those behind the camera, the photographers and the directors. After all, they choose the angles and capture those moments for all to see. In recent years, I have come to realize that it is the film editors, sitting in their darkened, editing suites, who are the true storytellers of the film. They take many hours of film and choose one scene over the other, and join the sequences together. A good editor makes the story flow, not stumble. I was watching ‘Amadeus’ from 1984. It was on the old movie channel. The editing was a work of art as it jumped from the aging Salieri telling the story to The Opera House in Vienna. It all fit together, because some unsung man or woman did their part. The film editor as storyteller.

So true: One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given as to the editing process, whether on film or paper, was this: “You have not done your job until you are reduced to tears over the material that you had to leave out.”

'White Dream' Tulips in a vase
Not very often this happens: Congratulations go out to our reader, Jeremy Parnes. Jeremy, after being the spiritual leader of Beth Jacob Synagogue for many years, has been ordained. He is now Rabbi Jeremy to us. Mazel tov! Now that he is a Rabbi, Jeremy is promoted to assistant editor of The Garden Report. He is in charge of writing Jewish jokes, but no Yiddish punch lines, please. Of interesting note, there are several clergy people and spiritual leaders who are regular readers of The Garden Report, and they represents a wide spectrum of religions and churches.

The trees block the view of the forest, Part #2: Last week, I wrote of the man who wanted four healthy trees cut down in his back yard, as they were blocking his view of the adjacent park. Out itinerant Englishman, Marcus Fernando has a house in Birmingham, England. He shares a somewhat similar story. Here it is. “I can add to your anecdote of the man who wanted his trees cut down. When I first moved into my house in Birmingham (24 years ago!) there was an elderly woman living next door. In short, she was one of those more cantankerous elderly people who can never imagine ever having been young. I'm generally pretty good with people of advanced years (after all, I'm in apprenticeship myself!), but this old lady really made it tough.

This lady hated trees, which begs the question: why did she opt to live opposite a park?! Our road, Avenue Road in Birmingham. is really quite delightful as it borders Kings Heath Park, and is lined with trees. I think the lady's vitriol towards the trees stemmed from the fact that they have a tendency to shed leaves every now and then. She was forever sweeping her drive (or her ‘runway’, as she insisted on referring to it) to keep it leaf free. This also became a bone of contention between us: I was not so interested in keeping my front garden permanently leaf-free, so she began to insist that the leaves were blowing out of my garden into hers!

Anyway, to (finally!) link in with your tale. During one of our more lucid conversations, she confided in me that she wanted all the beautiful trees lining our road to be cut down. Why? Because they blocked her view of the park!!

Well, the little old lady is long gone now, but one of my final sightings of her, many years ago, was around Christmas time. I was sitting upstairs, looking out of my window overlooking the park, and watching a group of schoolchildren, guided by a Park Ranger, plant a fir tree. Lovely. Seasonal. Educational. Suddenly I heard the familiar crackly voice from down below: "Take it away! Take it away!" And there she was, in all her glory, hobbling down her ‘runway’ and shaking her stick at the somewhat startled children. She really didn't like trees! One more was just too much to cope with!”

A few years ago and then some: Downchild Blues Band was in town, playing The Blues Festival this week. A favorite memory of mine goes back to 1977 or 1978. Sandy Monteith was running Pub Night at The Students Union of The University of Regina. It was an every Thursday gig and Sandy was legendary for booking the best bands of the time to play. I worked for Sandy at these events. It was a very warm, September evening and Downchild was on stage. We had seven hundred kids packed into an auditorium with a rated capacity of 480. The place was hopping. There was this table of fifteen or so thugs, definitely not students, seated towards the back of the room. Real troublemakers. Donny Walsh, Mr. Downchild himself, spots the bad vibes. He has the world’s longest extension cord on his guitar, about two hundred feet. He wanders out into the audience, playing riffs. He approaches the trash at the back of the hall, takes one of their beer and chugs it with his teeth, as he plays an incredible blues number, up and down the scale. The place went wild. I have never seen an eruption of screaming, clapping and hollering, quite like that night. The bad assed trash were impressed. The dude swiped one of their beers and gave them a personal performance at the same time. It was performance art at its finest.

Old joke: What do you get when you cross a Mafia hit man with a performance artist? Someone who makes you an offer than you cannot possibly understand. (Rim shot, please.)

Talking to strangers is okay, in spite of your mother’s warnings: Reader Lyn Goldman writes in that she was talking to someone who she did not know, while at a bed and breakfast in Mexico. It turns out that the man is a friend of Lyn’s hairdresser here in Regina. Six degrees of separation, reduced to two.

Siam, Yes I am: Thursday night we stopped into Siam, our favorite place for flavor. You have to call ahead and reserve a table now, they’re that busy. We had an assortment of tastes, starting with a chicken soup cooked in coconut milk and lime leaves. So very, very good. One of my favorites. For a salad course, we ordered a tender beef salad, mild for our delicate palates. It arrived spicy hot. How hot Johnny? Hot enough to burn our lips. The owner explained that it was the ‘yum sauce’ that made it hot, not the chili peppers. It was tasty but misnamed as ‘tender’. The beef was not tender, it was chewy. Small complaint. Our main course was a garlic and basil, pork dish with green beans. Now this was tender, very tender and great flavor. We also had some rice and tea. No booze, but with tip included, it was $43.

Anne's garden filled with delphiniums and heliopsis
No you’re not: I got a phone call from a 206 number earlier this week. The caller said he was with “Windows Security Center.” This is a scam. They tell you that your computer has been infected, ask for your password, credit card number and banking information, then the fun begins. I said to the caller “we both know that you are not with Windows or Microsoft, so why don’t you just cut to the chase and say who you really are with?” He hung up on me. So rude. Definitely not Canadian.

Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in fresh snow, Regina.

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