Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Garden Report #104

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Spring tulips in a vase-just dreaming
• Writers write: I grew up in the shadows of Taylor Field, along Dewdney Avenue. From the age of eight and on, I was allowed to attend football games by myself. This was in a time when parents didn’t worry about pedophiles. I would walk over and pay my ten cents to watch three high school football games on a Friday night. My mother would pack me a lunch as I would be gone from four p.m. until nine. I loved football and there I sat, in the upper part of the stands, watching the plays unfold. Other kids were in attendance, but they were more interested in fooling around than watching the game.

Sometimes, I would move down the grandstand to sit slightly above the designated high school sections. I was fascinated by their pep bands, cheers and festivities. Don’t ask me why, but I was enraptured with Balfour Collegiate and fantasized that one day, I would attend that institution. Their team, The Redmen, dominated high school football through the sixties with Gord Currie as their coach. Now, at the risk of receiving some angry letters from former Balfour students, by the time Grade Nine arrived, I knew that Balfour was not where I should be. That is another story.

On Saturdays, I would pay my twenty-five cents and take in a Ram’s game. I memorized the rosters and I had my heroes. Again, I would sit by myself, not running around with the other kids, seeking lost treasures underneath the grandstand. I suspect that was my genesis as writer. To write, one has to observe and to observe means that on occasion, the writer cannot participate.

A dime for the high school games, a quarter for The Rams and then the ultimate game itself, The Riders. That was fifty cents and I sat in the end zone labeled ‘The Rider Rookies’. Kids from those days remember the mayhem of that experience. Four hundred grade school students, 99% boys, running around and screaming. It was chaos on steroids. You could not sit by yourself and watch the game as the pandemonium swept up all in attendance. The Grade Eight boys ruled the stands and enforced their will with a few punches to the shoulder. That was called ‘a pounding’. Stories were told of how allegedly some bigger kid had a girlfriend and that they had “even kissed and everything.” Need I write that we had no idea what “everything” consisted of but it did sound fascinating to our Grade Four ears.

Little boys have vivid imaginations and what we did not know, did not prevent the story from being told. Some kid would regale us with the tale of how he had snuck into the dressing room and stolen a football. The ultimate story was that of being a policeman’s son. If your dad was a cop, you could essentially rule with an iron fist as everyone knew that with one call, he could have you arrested.

Eventually you get older and you no longer believed that some kid from Benson walked along the power lines, high above the street, as if he were a circus performer or that another kid from Thompson, had a brother who played in The NHL. Sooner or later, innocence is lost and what is left are the memories to be mined for stories, if you are to be a writer.

• Readers write:

The Pasterfield twins, Sally and Susan and me-friends for 46 years!
• From Victoria, B.C., Sally Orr writes “I enjoy every Garden Report, thank you so much. Speaking of flowers, lots still blooming in my garden.”

• Marsha Kennedy responds this week. “I am sitting up in bed with some tea and enjoying your Sunday Report. I had to laugh at your story about you and your father. Even at that young age, your tenacity and humor was fully developed.”

• Roberta Nichol is not thrilled with the ward boundaries nor am I. “I have to say, as I was driving around a few weeks ago, I couldn't help but notice the signs on the lawn, marking Ward 2, Ward 3, etc. It actually puzzled me; I was momentarily confused as to what Ward I was in. When I realized that I was #2, then, I had further questions, which relate very well to your entry on ward boundaries. Why, a few blocks down, is it Ward 3? This is one area, right? It does seem very strange to me, also, that it would be done like this. I kind of understand the problem of population and numbers, but this plan doesn't work real well for me either. It just doesn't make sense. Odd.”

• Sherrie Tutt has found her own way of preserving begonia bulbs. She tells us “Hi Rod: I was very interested in your instructions about begonia bulbs. I have been saving mine for several years. Two, a yellow and red, are now about five years old. They get larger each year and for the past several have made a splendid display in a pot in my west-facing, well-shaded, front yard. The others brighten my very shady back yard. I wait until the soil is fairly dry, remove the green growth, shake off as much soil as possible and place each in its own separate brown bag and store in cardboard box, in a closet in my office. Perhaps not as cool an area as it should be. What are the advantages of using bulb dust and peat moss?” Rod’s answer: Peat moss will protect the bulb from drying out and bulb dust stops insect attacks and mould. If you have success doing it your way, who can argue with good results? Keep up the excellent work.

Cute kids modelling costumes at The Kidney Foundation Gala
 • Winter shutdown: In my career, the earliest we had to shut down landscaping and garden activities was October 15th, 1984. I didn’t have too many things put away on that date and it snowed. I thought that it would melt so I left my work unfinished and then it snowed again and again. It was April before I could tidy up the garden center and my yard. The latest into the season that I have worked was 1997 and 1998. I delivered poinsettias in my shirt sleeves those years. It was so unseasonably warm.

• Spring startup: The earliest that I have been able to start was April 2nd of this year followed by April 7th of 1981. Both were early spring starts. The latest starts were 2002 and 2004. Both years were very wet springs and planting was difficult to accomplish until early June.

• You can’t please everyone: In an early spring, people are anxious to get going and they start arriving at the greenhouse to shop around April 15th to the 25th. Most greenhouse crops are planned to be at their max for May 24th. People complain, vigorously, that the plants are too small, even though they are a month away from the traditional planting season. In a late year, people will be shopping at the end of May and the first two weeks of June. Not surprisingly, the bedding plants are somewhat overgrown by a week or two and then they complain that the plants are too tall. Where is Goldilocks when you need her?

• Winter bulbs: If you are a garden enthusiast, you can plant fall bulbs inside and get them to grow. Amaryllis and paper whites require no chilling period so you can plant them and they will start growing quite soon. Remember that it is almost impossible to time amaryllis bulbs. You might want them to bloom for Christmas but they have a mind of their own. Some will bloom in November and the odd stubborn one will not bloom until March. Paper whites are much easier to time. Keep in mind that some people really enjoy the fragrance of paper whites and others find it too strong.

• Winter bulbs #2: Tulips and daffodils can be grown in pots and they require a twelve to fourteen week chilling period. A chilling period means 40 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit. I always plant my tulips nice and tight as in seven bulbs to a six inch pan. Leave the tips sticking through the potting soil and water them once before placing them in the fridge. When you bring your bulbs out from their chilling period, start growing them in a lower light and after two or three days, move to a stronger light area.

Lovely poinsettias at The Marian Center
• Poinsettia season coming up: Usually around early November, you will see poinsettias in the stores. This is an early crop and if you wish to purchase one to get the season going, go ahead. But do understand that 99% of the early poinsettias do not make it to Christmas. If that is important to you, be prepared to purchase another one in December.

• Poinsettia care: Never place a poinsettia in a draft or by a register. Bad, bad, plant grower if you do that. Also, the easiest way to kill one is to overwater it. Every year, I would see more poinsettias killed with kindness than with neglect. Poinsettias can actually tolerate being ‘run dry’ or under watered on occasion. The very best way to water a poinsettia is to fill the sink with two inches of water. Place the plant, without its cover, into the sink and let it soak up as much water as it wants for ten minutes. Always place your poinsettia into a water proof saucer as the decorative cover can leak and stain furniture.

• Fringe news: Jodi Sadowsky, our loyal reader and producer of The Regina Fringe, wants us to know that Rob Gee from England is returning to our festival in 2013. Rob impressed many people with his show about a psych nurse, two years ago. Increasingly, The Regina Fringe has returning performers, in spite of being the smallest Fringe on the circuit. The reason is quite simple. The performers are treated very well here and they enjoy the experience, even if they don’t rake in the big bucks of Winnipeg and Edmonton.

• The doggy in the window: In 1953, Pattie Page’s version of ‘How much is that doggy in the window?’ went to Number One on Billboard’s hit list. It received air time all the way through the fifties. In 1956, I was four years old and in our neighborhood, we had a drycleaner. The drycleaner had a cute but ruffled little dog that sat in the window of the shop, wagging its tail at those who passed by. I was convinced the song had been written about that very dog. I am not certain if this is a true memory or an invented one, but I seem to remember singing that song to that dog.

• So what has happened?: I was at a seminar. The instructor asked how many of the thirty in attendance knew how to sing? Two people put up their hands. He then asked how many of us knew how to draw? This time, three people put up their hands. He told us that he had asked his daughter’s Grade One class those same two questions and everyone put up their hands. “What has happened to us since Grade One?” was his next question.

• Things change: Around 1973, there was a nurse who lived three doors down from us. She was returning to work at The Grey Nuns Hospital and she needed child care. Daycares were not prevalent at the time. My mom volunteered to look after the three year old. The first few days that the nurse dropped off her child, the kid screamed and cried and carried on. She was upset that her mom was leaving her. Now, you had to know my mom and how she could look after little kids. They watched her soaps in the afternoon, had a nap together on the couch and then a tea party, with the dog and the cat as special guests. Before the week was up, the crying was now at the other end of the day. When the mother came to pick up her child, her kid screamed and carried on because she wanted to stay with Auntie Bea. I ran into that little girl this week. We talked. She is now forty and still has fond memories of her days with Auntie Bea who would host a tea party for a cat and dog.

Pink peonies with a few white impatients- again, dreaming.
• Lunch with Daniel: My first rate nephew, Daniel Jackson, takes me for lunch to celebrate my birthday. He was a bit tardy this year, as in six weeks late, but we made it out this past Friday. Daniel wanted to check out Tandoori as I have written highly of their food. We arrived but it was closed due to the Muslim holiday of EID. We headed further north on Albert to Afghan Cuisine for their lunch buffet. It is a bit more money than most places as in thirteen bucks plus tax and tip, but it is worth it. We had some very tasty ground beef kebabs, an incredible chutney made from mint and vinegar that is neither sweet nor hot but still divine and their version of rice pudding, made with rose water, is to die for. Trust me on this one, as I am a rice pudding aficionado, it is fantastic. I told the cook that her version was so good that next week I was coming in and skipping the buffet and heading straight for her dessert. I think I am joking but then again?

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in brrr, it’s getting cold Regina.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Garden Report #103

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Valley River, Manitoba photo by Ingrid Thiessen
• Writers write: Has anyone else looked at the new ward boundaries for the upcoming, civic election? Some genius or perhaps that should be a plural word, decided that wards should be more or less equal in population. Ward Three, which is essentially Cathedral and The General Hospital area, was a little shy on people, so they threw in twelve or so blocks of Lakeview. When you look at the map, and you understand the neighborhoods, we really belong in Ward Two, which is Lakeview and Albert Park.

     Here’s the kick. Our twelve blocks of Lakeview are supposed to go out and vote for one of the candidates in Ward Three. How much attention are we going to get for our issues, when the person elected is in essence, a Cathedral/General Hospital rep. And if we turn to the Ward Two rep, he or she can say “you’re not part of my ward” and we’re not.

     Hopefully we can get some common sense and the ward boundaries will be established by neighborhoods, not just by numbers. South of the creek is a very natural border for Ward Two. Sadly, we are not the silliest of boundaries. If you want to see real stupidity, take a look at the bizarre borders they have established for Ward Six. They really chopped up neighborhoods to create that one. Also Ward One, which is essentially Whitmore Park/Hillsdale, has a tiny bit of Broadway and Douglas Park tucked inside of its boundaries, just to make things interesting. Oh, and here is The City’s explanation for this fiasco. “The Regina Municipal Wards Commission has determined the boundaries of the ten City Wards used during municipal elections to ensure the city’s population is distributed evenly between each ward.”

• Readers write:

     • Marcus Fernando weighs in on the word, ‘thingy’. “In Edition 101 you mentioned a certain Harold Pinter play, and a certain degree of nakedness, and a certain comment from a certain female director about a certain part of the male anatomy. "Thingy", I believe was the term so carelessly bandied about.

Marcus with his boys Sebastian and Pascal
      Of course, you know that I was most intimately involved with said production, being the male actor involved, and therefore possessor of said "thingy". As you also know, I am still in contact with the female director, and showed her where she was quoted in The Garden Report. Of course, she denied everything, but when confronted with the irrefutable argument that "Rod has the memory of an elephant, and never gets it wrong" she confessed. She then tried to blind me with theatrical jargon to get herself off the hook, claiming that her comments were purely from a professional point of view.” 

Pickled watermelon in vinegar with dill-never tried it
     • It is always nice to hear from Ingrid Thiessen. “ Several times this fall, I have found myself reading your Garden Report on the road, while heading to family functions. We have so much to be thankful for including family celebrations, beautiful landscapes and Garden Reports that connect us with our community. One of the events was my parent’s 60th wedding celebration where my sister decorated with my mum’s pickled watermelon. The other photo is on route to the farm, north of Dauphin, Manitoba. Rod’s note: I asked Ingrid about the pickled watermelon and she tells me that it is with vinegar and dill weed.

     • Jean Mackay is concerned about our food supply, as are many readers. She writes “The story of our food /meat supply is well told in a book I am reading now, and would be of interest to The Garden Report readers. It is The Omnivores’ Dilemma by Michael Pollen. It is American information but does anyone know how true the facts are here in Canada? Perhaps we can learn about good sources for meat close to Regina for small families. Marsha Kennedy, can you help us?”

     • Joanne Terry has not been heard from for some time. She has this to say. “I thoroughly enjoyed today’s read, and I definitely will be trying your recipe for souvlaki burgers. I have been shopping for my meat for about the last year at the Butcher Boy on 13th and kudos’s to them for their service and quality of meat. My son noticed the change immediately, and he eats anything that doesn’t move. You can compare the difference in quality and I now wonder, how anyone can put that rubbish in their mouths from the big box stores? Please support your local butchers, you might pay a bit more but you are paying for quality and getting it.”

     • Leanne Carlson is giving away free compliments this week. She writes “I look forward to my Garden Report every Sunday as you make me smile, laugh and sometimes just go aawwwwwww.”

• I thought I was quicker: It was a hot summer’s day in 1957. I was six years old and bored. My dad was shaving at the kitchen sink. None of my friends were around to play, so I decided I should play with my father. Standing by the back, screen door, I announced “my old man, he’s too old to catch me.” My dad looked over in my direction and he kept shaving. My second foray included “my old man, he’s too old and he’s too fat to catch me.” Again, my father glanced at me, wondering who was this child’s real father. I managed to utter my third attempt “my old man, he’s too old…” That was as far as I got. My dad set down his razor and took off after me. Out the back door I flew, down our Dewdney Avenue and Rae Street alley, with my not ‘too old or too fat’ father in close pursuit. My short little legs were churning up the gravel but he was gaining on me. About sixty yards into my flight from justice, my dad grabbed me by the collar, bringing my forward motion to a complete halt, and he proceeded to give me a whisker rub with the part of his face yet to be shaven.

• Finnegan update: In the spring, I wrote about the lost kitten that wandered into our life. He lived with us for a week. We advertised in several places but no one came forward to claim him. He was an absolute delight. Loving, inquisitive and cuddly. We couldn’t keep him because Mr. Murphy would not tolerate another cat in the house. We did manage to find him a ‘forever home’ and all is well. He is growing into a handsome, young cat and he is still as affectionate as all get out. He is providing much joy to his new ‘daddy’. I love a story with a happy ending.

• The Wok Box: This is a chain store that operates across Canada. I checked out the one on south Albert Street on Sunday and here is what I can tell you. For ten bucks, give or take, you choose between noodles or rice. Then you choose one of their meats or tofu. They add in a few veggies, a sauce and cook it up in front of you. The good news is it is fresh, not pre cooked. The not so good news is that it is rather long on the starch part and short on the veggies and the protein portion. I ordered ‘The Singapore Cashew’ with chicken. It was filling, not long on flavor and I would like know what the salt content was of that meal. All I know was that I drank two tall glasses of water when I arrived home, and that is unusual for me. ( I later discovered that it contained 2247 mg. of sodium. A healthy diet contains no more than 1500 mg. of sodium , daily). The Wok Box is someone’s misguided interpretation of Thai, Chinese, Indian, Malaysian and Korean cuisine operating as a fast food joint. Healthy? Probably not. Tasty? Nope. Filling? Yeah, lots of noodles. Worth going back? No. You can do much better elsewhere.

• Garden Tip: Never, ever, let your trees, shrubs or perennials go into winter dry. Always ensure that everything is well watered, either by Mother Nature or by you.

• Time runs out: There was this young woman I knew, several years ago. In her teens and twenties, she was a real doll. When she went to the bar, the boys were lined up six deep to buy her a drink. Flash forward twenty-five years and I am at a dance at Holy Rosary on 13th. She is now in her late forties and the years have not been kind to her. She is ahead of me in line at the bar. She has one drink ticket. She asks the bar tender if she can have a double and he informs her that she will need two tickets for a double. She flirts with him saying “but for me?” Rest assured, in her past, that worked. The bar tender, a younger man in his twenties, is not impressed with her attempts to charm him. She is embarrassed that that her beguile no longer works. I wanted to tell her “you cannot stay a princess forever”, but I didn’t. I let her scramble to salvage her pride.

     I know something about preparing for the day when we are no longer a princess. As many readers remember, in my youth, I was noted for my rugged good looks. I knew that time would eventually catch up with me, so I developed a sense of humor to compensate. Today, you still see a touch of that handsome young man, but more importantly, you laugh at my jokes. Sadly, in spite of how incredibly funny I am, the bar tender still insisted on a ticket for a drink. Damn! I too, am no longer a princess. Please note: For the humor impaired, this is where a writer lacking the integrity that I possess and bowing down to cheap tricks, would insert a ‘LOL’.

• Community: Neighbor and reader Christ Pasterfield and I held an impromptu block meeting in the middle of Regina Avenue on Tuesday morning. Chris said “where else but this neighborhood, do we hold meetings in the middle of the street?” We solved exactly zero problems but we agreed to meet again. I don’t think anyone took down the minutes of the meeting and neither of us got run over by oncoming traffic.

     Readers have asked, “how do you create a strong community?” The answer is quite simple. All that is required is for one person to start the ball rolling and the rest will follow suit. We are in and out of each other’s homes, we have neighborhood parties, barbecues and most importantly, we do what we can for each other. When one of our elderly neighbors could no longer look after his snowy sidewalks, neighbors stepped into deal with that issue. Seldom do homes come up for sale in our area as people tend to live here for many, many years. When one of the neighbors needed to sell her home as she had a new job in Calgary, she said it best: “The street will sell itself.” We actually have people waiting to purchase a home in our area because of that sense of community, which is not a cliché, if you live here.

• Garden Tip: How important is it to remove the leaves from your lawn in the fall? Very. Leaves left over the winter decay to a certain extent and they also smother the lawn. Lawns need air along with sun, food and water to thrive. Also, leaves promote snow mould on lawns and that is not a good thing. Of course, you can use your leaves as a mulch in your perennial and shrub beds and composting leaves are wonderful for the garden.

• No looking a gift horse in the mouth: From time to time, readers drop off gifts as a thank you for The Garden Report. While not expected, they are definitely appreciated, especially anything to eat. Does that give readers a hint or I am I being too subtle? Recently, readers have been quite kind to me. Jean Mackay was in Edinburgh for the grand daddy of all The Fringe Festivals this summer. She brought me back a t-shirt, as she knows my love of The Fringe. Sandy Thiessen has been on a grand adventure this year, working on a fruit farm in the Okanagan Valley. She sent me, via her sister Becky, the finest of fresh squeezed apple juice and a jar of mixed berry jam. Without any hyperbole, I could actually taste the freshness of the fruit in both. Wow! I have never tasted anything better. Denise Cook dropped off a delicious banana loaf and John C. comes over almost every week to restock my dialysis chemicals. The boxes are stored in the basement and are quite heavy. John brings them up to my bedroom so they are accessible as I set up. A big thank you to all.

'Winnipeg Park's' Morden Rose
• Garden Tip: To protect tender plants, it is always a good idea to provide a layer of peat moss as a mulch around them. This will act as an insulation buffer, reducing the extremes of hot and cold. It is a good idea to mulch new perennials as well, until they are well rooted.

 • It can’t be done: When I started building Lakeview Gardens, there was no shortage of people who told me that I was on the wrong track. With my glass greenhouses and paved pathways and railway station store, one fellow told me that no one would shop at my place because I was “too fancy, too New York.” I heard with great regularity, that I didn’t know what I was doing and each time, I just said “is that right” and carried on. I reached a conclusion. There are critics and then there builders. Builders build and critics tell builders why they can’t build. What is really delicious about this scenario is: Each of us get to choose which one we want to be in life.

Brad has been covering his new greenhouse this week

• Garden Tip: In spite of seeing large displays of fall fertilizer in the chain stores such as Rona, Home Depot and Wal Mart, good gardeners know that this is fool’s gold. Lawns should not be fertilized after August 15th in our area. Why do they sell this stuff? Here’s a better question. How many people do they have who know anything about gardening, working at the chain stores? For example, at Home Depot, they were selling apple trees this spring that were not hardy here at all. Again, ask why? If you want good information, shop at the independent garden centers and greenhouses.

Poinsettia season starts in a few weeks time
 • Friday night gala: I wrote a few weeks ago about the gala being staged by The Kidney Foundation. It was their first time with this project and I suspect it will happen again, next year. The highlight of the night was the fashion show of Halloween costumes prepared by local fashion designers. Wow! Were they ever good. The fund raiser came about as the costumes were auctioned off, as well as some incredible masks, created by local artists. I bid on and acquired the petite, lion’s costume from The Wizard of Oz Collection. That costume will be heading up to Edmonton, for my soon to arrive granddaughter. She can wear it out for her first Halloween when she is two or three. Accompanying me to the gala were seven of our Garden Report readers including Jack and Linda Lyster, Bob and Lorelle Anderson, Freddy Hammond and Brad and Sandy Crassweller. Reading The Garden Report has its benefits, just like American Express.

• Thanks for reading….Rod McDonald in a little bit of the sun, Regina.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Garden Report #102

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Anne's garden
• Writers write: Maureen headed up to Edmonton, Saturday evening, to visit our kids there. I am a bachelor of sorts, for an entire week. After dropping her off at the airport, I headed over to Tandoori Kebab Touch for my supper. Amazing, how quickly I degenerate in her absence. The place is not usually too full of customers, but Saturday night there were around forty people having supper. There were three tables filled with young, Pakistani families. I assume that they are here, in Canada, to build a new and a better life for themselves. I get that. My grandparents did the same thing. After all, Canada is a land of opportunity.

     My beloved mentor immigrated to Canada from Germany, after the war. He came here seeking a better life. He married, they raised four children and built a beautiful greenhouse and nursery. Of note, he was the man responsible for many of the beautiful plantings at The University in Saskatoon. In his later years, he tells me how wonderful Canada is compared with other parts of the world and he offers up examples. He told me that it often takes an immigrant to appreciate how special Canada is, compared with someone born here. I get that, too.

     Not being in a hurry Saturday night, I sat back at the restaurant and I watched the interactions of the different families. There were about ten children. Half were boys and half were girls. To no reader’s surprise, the girls were well behaved, models of decorum and etiquette. The boys, well they were boys. They ran up and down the aisles and when they got tired of running, they wrestled. We raised three boys and I have a soft spot for their rowdy behavior. As they wrestled, things got a little wild and one of the mothers stepped in. She grabbed her kid and let a barrage of words fire. Now, I am willing to admit that I do not speak any of the Pakistani languages, but I still feel that I can translate what was being said. After all, being a free spirited little boy many years ago and having a mother who did not tolerate too many ‘shenanigans’(as she described my exuberance), I feel sincerely qualified. Here goes.

     “So help me Allah, if you and your little buddies don’t’ settle down and quit embarrassing the family, I will swat you until you wished you could sit down.” I am pretty certain I did not lose too much in the translation. The mother released her son and he behaved himself, for all of ten seconds and then the shenanigans started. Another wrestling match erupted. I think they will fit into the Canadian mosaic just fine.

• Readers write:

     • Dianne Palmer is concerned with the mega processors of Canadian beef. She writes: “I am in total agreement with you on your views regarding XL packers. My late husband was a rancher, so my family had the good fortune to have home grown beef on our table. I did not have any concerns regarding the product because I knew where it came from. Upon our move to Regina, my sister and I would share a side of beef from a local farmer/rancher. With the emptying of the nest I have not been buying as much beef, but when I do, I wonder where the meat comes from. I think large food processors are a major weakness in the quality and security of our food, and I prefer to buy locally. On another note, belated congratulations on your 100th Garden Report. It is always a good read.”

     • Marsha Kennedy is worried about the treatment of cattle when the mega processors are involved. “Yes, the meat industry is appalling. I am further troubled that the animals endure terribly long, uncomfortable and terrifying trips on the highways. Feed lots are no more pleasant. I am not a vegetarian, but I struggle as the industry is not right from any perspective. I have a cousin who has their own cattle that have a good life in the pastures surrounding their farm. They package and sell it to those who want to buy. My cousin loves her cattle as do many farmers.”

     • Cheryl Geiger-Paul is also doing her small part regarding the beef crisis in Canada. “Hi Rod...congratulations on your milestone. I have been thinking a lot since your Report about the beef crisis. Our family has decided to go with the less complicated food chain and shop at some of our local butchers. There, we can ask simple questions about where the meat comes from and how the meat is handled and support local. It is so easy to fall into the habit of buying all your groceries from the big stores .We are ready for the change!”

Bacopa survives a few frosts, but not the winter
     • Cynthia Fiori is a new reader. “Thank you so much for including me in your email for The Garden Report. As someone who is just getting into gardening around my home, I have found so many great tips to make my garden a place to truly enjoy with my family.”

     • Judith Langen writes this week: “I love The Garden Report. It's very good for gardening and I am always going back to past issues for reference. I am storing my dahlias right now. On another note try The Creek Bistro for fish and chips.”

     • Wendy Richardson from London, Ontario has some questions. “Thanks for the dahlia information in The Garden Report. I planted dahlias and really love them, but not too sure on their care for winter . Do you think that for this area of the country, I could leave the bulbs in the ground and just cover them well, with leaves etc.? Also there was some kind of a pest that was eating the leaves and the flower petals this summer. It was either slugs or earwigs, both of which I despise and I did put some poison out for them, but it did not do the trick. Could there be another bug that I am not aware?”

     • Stew Wass from Indian Head, answers Wendy’s questions. “No ifs, buts or maybes, you can't leave dahlia tubers in ground, over winter in this part of the world and expect them to survive. I also have experienced holes chewed into the leaves and suspect slugs. I know of people sneaking up on them after dark when slugs are active with a sprayer loaded with household ammonia and soaking the area around the plants. The slugs practically dissolve before your eyes. Thrips are a problem to be reckoned with as they attack the buds just as they open and completely ruin the blossom. I choose to load a bottle sprayer with malathion and spray them before they start to open, but that requires diligence to be effective. Alas, the joys of gardening!”

     • Jean Freeman sends out kudos. “#101 is absolutely delightful and spot on, as usual.”

• A different burger: When I have purchased souvlaki burgers in the store, I have been disappointed with the high levels of salt. I now make my own version. Here is one recipe. I purchase two pounds of ground pork. In a bowl, I squeeze the juice of a lemon, one tablespoon of Franks’ Red Hot Sauce, two table spoons of liquid smoke, one teaspoon of lemon pepper, one teaspoon of garlic powder, two teaspoons of dried oregano and one teaspoon of basil. I mix it all together with one egg as a binder. I let it blend together in the fridge for four hours, form into patties and barbecue. If you need salt on the burger, you can add a small bit when serving and still be way under the amount on many store bought. As with anything, the cook can adapt a recipe to fit their likes and dislikes.

Are you getting ready for the snow?
• Just so you know: When people write into The Garden Report, I do edit most of the letters and as a policy, I remove most exclamation points and continuous capitalization. The reason is simple: Exclamation points and continuous capitalization have been over used to the point that they have lost their impact. There are people who write letters with strong feeling who actually capitalize everything, which in reality, weakens their argument. Readers do not need any structural encouragement to focus on a point. A point either stands on its own two feet, or it doesn’t. It requires no enhancements.

• Garden Tip: Now would be a good time to lift out your begonia bulbs, if not already done. Cut the plant part off from the bulb part. Allow the bulbs to dry for two days. Dust with bulb dust and pack in dry peat moss. Store in a cool, dry place in the basement, preferably around forty degrees Fahrenheit. You can start your begonia bulbs as early as the end of February or March, in pots, next spring. As an aside, very few people have been starting their own begonias the last few years. Most gardeners purchase them already growing in pots from greenhouses.

• Out to lunch: Noelle Chorney, The Editor of that wonderful garden magazine called ‘The Gardener’, was in town this week, on another assignment. We went for lunch, to ‘Nicky’s’ and did the diner thing. Noelle is trying to run a first class magazine out of Saskatoon, hardly the epicenter for publishing or for an advertising stream. She deserves all of the support she can muster from ad purchasers to readers. There was a time when anything to do with the prairies was published on an old Gestetner machine and the thought of a black and white photo was just that, a thought. Color photos in a magazine came from either The U.S. or Toronto, not a local publication.

• Garden Tip: You can still aerate your lawn this fall. There are no time restriction on that task. Some gardeners, including me, prefer the fall for aeration as it allows the winter to dissolve the plugs left behind. You must mark your sprinkler heads prior to aeration or be prepared to replace a few.

In Saskatchewan, we take snowblowing to the next level!
• Parliament Avenue-a long story: Parliament Avenue is now open from Albert Street to Pasqua and The Lewvan. It’s true. Why would I lie about that? I took a trip down the newly finished connector street on Wednesday. What is long about this story is that this road has been in the planning stages since the 1970’s, seriously. I went to a City Hall meeting about this road in 1990 and the bureaucrats suggested that the road would be open shortly. Why are you laughing?

• Out of the mouths of babes: In the 1980’s, the garden center was not year round so I was able to do a lot of the cooking during the winter. I was boiling a pot of cabbage rolls for supper. Patrick had just returned from kindergarten. He was five years old and he and I were going through what came to be called ‘the salad wars’. He refused on pain of death to eat salad. He climbed onto his stool to examine the supper that smelled so good. He lifted the lid off the pot and exclaimed “Oh no! Cooked salad!” There was just no fooling that kid.

Only six, short months until this Thunderchild blooms again
• Out of the mouths of babes #2: After Christmas, Maureen and I always take the turkey carcass and boil it for several hours to make a stock for soup. That’s how it is done. Patrick was around four or five and he got out his stool. He was checking what was going on, stove top. His comment: “Oh no! Bone soup?” I imagine him explaining to his brothers, “I knew things were slow at the garden center and that money is a bit tight right now, but ‘bone soup’? What’s next? One ply toilet paper.”

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in ‘still a bit warm’, Regina.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Garden Report #101

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

‘The Canadian Thanksgiving Edition'

Our geraniums just before the frost
• Writers write: Vegans and vegetarians, advert your eyes. With all of the commotion and news about the recall of beef from XL Packers out of Alberta, one issue seems to be missing. Packing plants have gotten incredibly large and traceability has evaporated. XL now controls forty per cent of the cattle in this country. There was a time when a farmer sold his cattle to a butcher and then it was purchased by the consumer. Now, we have mega farmers selling their cattle to feedlots, who sell them to massive slaughter houses, that sell the processed meat to massive supermarket chains. No one knows where the beef came from, how it was handled and the source of the contamination. We need to take another look at a less complicated food chain. If we had a smaller food chain and there was a problem, finding the source of the issue would not be near as difficult.

     As an aside, I was at a fall supper at a farm south of town, a few weeks ago. I ate some of the finest sausage I have ever tasted. I was talking with the fellow who made it. It came from the same farm we were having the supper at, where the steers were raised on Saskatchewan grass. They were slaughtered locally and turned into this wonderful sausage. The sausage maker said “you can’t make good sausage without using good meat.” And it is so true. When I read on a package that a sausage is 100% beef, I also know that the 100% might include everything from the nose to the tail and still be a true statement.

     I am hardly on a soap box, but we have to realize that these mega processing houses are not good for us or the economy. I am leaning more and more to our locally grown products.

• Readers write:

     • It’s always good luck to start off any Garden Report with something from a Dutchman. And our good luck begins with Hans deJongh writing from Surrey, B.C. “Congrats on your 100th edition.”

     • Jean Freeman always sends along good vibes and today she sends them out to Joe Fafard. “Rod, you are wonderful as always!! Happy 100th!! (That also applies to your centenary birthday, just in case I lose track of time -- as I often do -- and forget to wish you a Happy Day then!!) I concur wholeheartedly with your comments about Joe Fafard, who I love and admire for many, many reasons!”

     • Wendy Richardson who used to be Wendy Campbell, many years ago, lives and gardens in London, Ontario. She writes: “By the way thank you for all your hard work in putting The Garden Report together. You make it look easy, but I know that it is not and it is very time consuming. I love all the pictures that you put in, they are very beautiful. Is Tina Hoffman related to Grant Hoffman? That is an absolutely beautiful picture of her and her new born, Wow, who took that?” Rod responds: Tina is Croatian. She trained in London, in theater and that is how she met her husband, Marcus Fernando. We met them through our Fringe travels. Marcus is an excellent photographer and takes the credit for that shot of Tina and their two boys.

     • Candace Holmstrom of CBC One fame, sent us this update. “What a wonderful milestone! Congratulations. Hope your knee surgery goes well. I’m on Salt Spring Island, BC, for much of the next eight months. This is a break I've been planning for quite a few years. I have a lovely home and guest house on an acreage with a peaceful view of the ocean and sunrise. I have been going wild, buying organic produce which is in amazing abundance from local farmers.”

     • Bill Warriner is also living on Salt Spring Island which leads me to ask, why not me? Bill is succinct. “Congratulations on #100......keep it up.”

     • Sandra Rayson sends along her blessings. “My heartiest congratulations to you on the 100th edition of The Garden Report. You have been a tremendous inspiration to this community, to me & all the people who know you. You touch the lives of the people you meet in more wonderful ways than you might ever realize. Thank you for sharing your knowledge & talents with all of us through your personal contact & especially through The Garden Report. I feel blessed & privileged to know you.”

     • Georgia Hearn is always a fan. “Another great Sunday morning tradition. I love the gardening advice and I practice it religiously because I know of your success first hand. Of course the humor and culinary comments are a treat as well. It's a pleasure to be part.”

     • Roberta Nichol is a regular responder. This week she is not finding grammar errors but offering up nice things in print. “Well, congratulations Rod! While I was aware that last week's Report was #99, I just didn't think that this week's would, in fact, be an ‘Anniversary Edition’. That's quite a milestone. You have done well. I know, by your readers' responses every week, that your hard work on this blog is so appreciated. I know how much time it takes to read, write, compile, and edit as, one evening, you showed me, and it was pretty overwhelming. It's pretty involved! And we love you for it!”

     • June Mayhew, proud mother of our Olympic Silver Medalist in rowing, wrote this: “Congrats on the 100th issue. Each and every one has been a wonderful combo of humor, gardening insight and folksy philosophy. Thanks too for the plug for Rachelle in issue #99. Looking forward to the next installment.”

     • New reader, Bhupinder Singh, likes what he sees. “Thank you for The Garden Report! It’s nothing but spectacular. Now I finally will be able to sort out my garden. I've bookmarked it and will go through the past postings, bit by bit.”

     • Margo Soriano sent this missive in to share. “Wow Rod #100! (Worth the punctuation.) Congratulations. I have selfishly enjoyed every edition that showed up in my in box without a hearty thank you. Time to fix that. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Keep up the great work. I look forward to it.”

The Saskatchewan Legislature at sunset
• Canadian Thanksgiving: For the benefit of our non Canadian readers, we celebrate our Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October, every year. We do a similar supper to Americans, with a roast turkey and pumpkin pie; but sweet potatoes are not near as integral to our suppers as they are in The States. It was traditionally, a post harvest supper, when our farmers were finished bringing in their crops of wheat, barley, rye and oats. Today, farming has expanded to include lentils, mustard, peas, canola, flax, canary seed and winter wheat for the ethanol plants. While Thanksgiving is an important part of our social calendar, Thanksgiving in Canada has never taken on the level of importance that it occupies in America. When I was a young man and single, I was in The U.S. for their Thanksgiving. People commented, feeling sorry for me, “you’re going to be alone, without your family, for Thanksgiving.” Being raised Canadian, I didn’t get what they were saying and I didn’t’ feel alone at all.

• The book is out: Taste: Seasonal Dishes from a Prairie Table is now on the market. I ran into CJ Katz, the author, at The Italian Star on my Saturday morning visit. I have a copy and it is a lovely book. The photos are great and there are a variety of recipes. The book promotes locally grown products wherever it can, but let’s face it, how do you source locally grown olive oil? The timing of the book’s release is perfect for the upcoming gift giving season. I think a lot of foodies would love to have this under their tree. The cost is $30.

• Garden Tip: This question is asked every fall: Should I cut my roses in October or in April? Answer: I wait until April to cut my roses back. That way, I can see how much winter kill they experienced and prune accordingly. Some years I have to cut quite a bit and other years, only a minimal amount. Another thing I like to do to protect my roses is after the first snow fall, I scoop up snow from my patio and walks and use it as a mulch or a covering over my roses and other more delicate plants. The snow acts as a wonderful insulator for plants. When it is minus thirty air temperature, if you have twelve inches of snow cover over a plant, the soil is a balmy minus six.

• Tulips for sale: I ordered in a few thousand tulips to plant in the gardens that I am involved with. I have three hundred left and I am selling them. I have two hundred Negrita, which are a dark purple and one hundred White Dream, which are obviously, white. They are both mid season tulips and work well planted together. They are in boxes of one hundred and each box costs $60.00. If you take all three boxes, I will offer a discount.

'Katherine Dyke's' potentilla is a lovely, soft yellow
 • ‘Tangerine’: This bistro, on 14th Avenue near Lorne Street, is clean, friendly and serves food selected from a chalk board menu. I love clean and friendly and I love chalk board menus. Chalk board menus indicate that the kitchen can keep the food fresh and seasonal, and when the chef gets bored, he/she can create a new item and have it up and running the same day. You never want to block the creative energy of a good chef.

     Both Maureen and I had the soup which was Italian sausage with corn and other veggies. It was fist rate and a good soup is positive indicator for a bistro. Then we switched things up. I had the dilled egg salad on a croissant. It was definitely dilled, no getting around that. The croissant, to me, is supposed to be a work of art. It is supposed to be light, flaky on the outside and soft on the inside. My croissant was soft from one end to the other, so I am going to assume that it was stored in a sealed container or a plastic bag, to keep it fresh. But keeping it fresh, takes away its flakiness and turns it into more of a bun. They need to address that issue. Maureen had ham, cheddar cheese and green apple on a multigrain bun. A much, much better bun for this sandwich than mine. The bun was chewy, flavorful and everything it should have been. The ham was real, not that processed crap. Don’t get me started on processed ham. Maureen had a dark roast coffee and reported it was good. No desserts for us, but they looked really tempting and appeared to be made in the back.

     Here’s what you need to know. This place is really good for coffee and a treat or for a lunch. It impressed me. I will be back. The details were being paid attention to. The service was very good. Guys should be forewarned: This is a ‘chick place’ and not The Husky House. On Friday, I was the only dude in the place, surrounded by thirty, beautiful women, not that I am complaining. The staff assured me that other men venture in, but I didn’t see any and I am pretty good at spotting my gender, with or without baseball caps. And for our history buffs, Tangerine occupies the same space as once did ‘Gene’s On the Avenue’, which was a hangout for artists and writers, back in the sixties.

• Garden Tip: When you are laying stone work or interlocking bricks, do not use concrete or wood as a border or edging. If you notice the brick work in Victoria Park, you will see that the concrete edging has shifted to the point that they form uneven surfaces. Bricks, stones, concrete and wood all shift at slightly different rates and if they are mixed together, often create a trip hazard.

The flowers of the cimicifuga appear to be dancing
• Off the record: A friend of mine is a Queen’s Bench judge. I asked him if being a judge was difficult. He said: “Not as difficult as you would think. If you let people talk long enough, it becomes apparent who is lying and who is telling the truth.”

• Storing dahlia tubers: This information comes from reader Stew Wass, who gardens at Indian Head, Saskatchewan. Stew loves to grow dahlias and has become one of my go to guys for information on this flower. Stew writes:  It has become evident that there are just about as many methods as there are growers. First and foremost, they require very cool storage, in the 45 F. range. Cut the stocks back to just above the crown. Clean them well, spray wash if necessary and air dry for a day or two, in the shade. Pack in cardboard boxes and cover with newspapers. Check periodically during winter and if shriveling, spray them lightly with water, trim spoilage and repack.

Manchurian Ash-fall color
 • Farmers’ Market: There is one more Saturday market in the downtown left. After that, they will start holding them indoors at The Cathedral Village Arts Center. Always worthwhile.

• In Canada, we have another word for it: Several years ago, I was producing a Harold Pinter show from England. The last scene of the play required the lead, male actor to get naked. I produced the play, I didn’t write it. I was in the tech booth of the theater with the female director. When the actor’s underwear came off, the director turned to me and said in her British, clipped accent, “I hate it when his thingy flops around like that.” My response to her: “His ‘thingy’? His ‘thingy?”

• Fish and Chips: Reader/writer CJ Katz and I are always on the search for fish and chips that excel. CJ insists that Regina’s best are served at La Bodega. This week, I checked out ‘Union Jack’s Authentic British Fish and Chips’ at 363Broad Street. It is a little difficult to find this place as it is set back from the street, tucked into an area with only a few parking spots. Here is the nitty gritty. The service was good and the place was clean. For ten bucks you get one piece of fish, chips and a sauce. Your choose between cod, haddock or salmon. I had to ask: The cod and haddock run around fifty/fifty as choices and they sell a few salmon pieces a week. For fourteen bucks, you can have a two piece fish dinner.

     I went with the cod. The fish was fresh. I could see that from the counter. The batter was bland or non descript. I like a batter that has something to it and this one didn’t. No pizzazz. The chips were store cut and were very good. I noticed the boxes the potatoes came in labeled as being from B.C. Not sure why when we grow them here in the valley. There were four choices of sauces. I went with the basic gravy and it was definitely basic. Something that grabbed my attention was that all the condiments, including the malt vinegar, came in packages. I would have thought a place self labeled as ‘authentic’ might have had some of their seasonings in shaker bottles. Small point.

Anne's garden #2
     Here is what you need to know. It was good, but not great. Definitely not worth a drive which is something I use as my own barometer. If you are in the neighborhood, which is just north of all the Broad Street car lots, then check it out and send along your opinion. Meanwhile, CJ and I carry on with our magnificent journey for the best place, unfortunately, this was not it.

Thanks for reading…enjoy your pumpkin pie, Rod McDonald in lovely Regina.