Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Garden Report #105

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

Murphy was not thrilled wearing my bow tie on New Years' Eve
 • Writers write: We are given puppy dogs and kitty cats to teach us how to love. Some of us are in the slow learners class when it comes to love, but our pets are patient teachers. They open a part of our hearts that lies dormant and once we learn to love them, we learn to love others.

This reflection is tied into the passing of our orange cat, Murphy. He came to us as a kitten, found by our son Patrick, walking down a country road in 1995. He was about eight weeks old and opinionated, even at that age. We advertised but no one came forward to claim him. I laid down the law and told the residents of our house that he was to go to The Humane Society for placement. No ifs and buts. I have allergies to cats. As usual, when I have laid down the law firmly within our family, no one paid any particular attention to me, so we had a kitten who became a cat. Patrick got wanderlust two years later and left for Europe. Murphy had been his cat. Soon, the cat was curling up with me, watching Blue Jay’s games on TV and purring away. He became my cat.

I wrote a story about him, alleging that he must be of Irish origin. He would leave the house at eleven p.m. and not return until sunrise, looking the worse for wear. We hired a private detective to follow him one evening and found out that he headed down to O’Hanlon’s for a few Guinness’ with the lads. He also enjoyed a good brawl now and again, cementing my theory that he was indeed an Irish cat.

Murphy was diagnosed with a fatal illness around the middle of June. The vet did not expect him to make it much past July 1st. He hung on for four months, defying his diagnosis. He enjoyed his life until the end, with his walks through the garden, his snacks and his cuddles. He loved to curl up with Maureen in bed as she read and he thoroughly enjoyed having a nap with me, but if the two of us were in the same bed, he left. He never told us why.

Murphy taking it easy in the garden this summer
He took a turn for the worse on Saturday and passed away on Monday, with the two of us holding him, thanking him for the seventeen wonderful years he gave to us. We know this much about Heaven. It is filled with our dogs, cats and ice cream, because if it’s not, then it’s not Heaven.

• Readers write:

     • Cheryl-Ann Smith writes to us from England. “I just love your description of what it is to be a writer. You put your finger on what I love about your writing: it's the observation of the details of the faces, every day events and behaviors, and seeing the interior humor, wisdom, foolishness, poignancy. Your writing is a gift. Thank you.”

     • Jim Tomkins enjoyed last week’s opening segment. “I loved your story about your adventures at Taylor Field as a boy; It brought back my own memories of paying my fifty cents to watch the Riders in the 1950s. In my day, the kids got to sit on the grass, right beside the field of play. Opposing teams were always complaining that having kids on the sidelines inhibited their receivers, for fear of injuring some fans. "Bush league", they said. We loved being so close to the action, but the Riders eventually gave in and forced us into the stands.”

     • Jean Freeman is well known as a writer and a actor within our arts’ community. “Hi Rod: Your story about the genesis of your writing compulsion made me stop in my tracks and revisit my own childhood and what got me started on the creator's path. Writing, telling stories, making plays, performing - they're all part of the same magic that I discovered as a wee child. In my case, most of the time, I had to participate. But the memories have always remained magic, even today, when the time has arrived that I'm mostly an observer. Thanks for the memory!”

     • Roberta Nichol is always a fan. “I loved your 'Writers Write' this week. Such a lovely trip down Memory Lane. When softened with time, things somehow seem more simple and satisfying. I thoroughly enjoyed taking that journey with you. I'm afraid that type of afternoon or evening couldn't be done now. Not many moms would send their children to Taylor Field alone, for five hours. Kind of sad.”

     • Marsha Kennedy sent this bit in for us to read. “Well, I made it to the dining room table to read your Report this Sunday. I love your childhood stories, Rod. I grew up at the same time, and your stories bring so many images and memories to mind. Football for me, was not of much interest, but I do recall the fall days, walking my dog while sounds of the game drifted into the street. It was usually quiet outdoors as everyone was watching the game.”

     • Sandra Rayson is always up for giving a compliment. “Thank you for The Garden Report as always. Your time, effort and advice are much appreciated.”

     • Marlo V. is also in the mood to deliver compliments. “Thank you for another great Report!”
• Garden Tip: Now is a good time, and it is also a legal time, to prune your elm trees. All branches and stumps must be delivered to the City Nuisance Grounds for proper disposal. You cannot legally and should not morally, store elm firewood. Elm firewood is a breeding ground for the insect that carries Dutch Elm Disease.

• The Liver Lovers’ Club meets again: Some of you will be thrilled to read this information, others, not so much. The Liver Lovers’ Club will be hosting a supper at Greko’s on November 19th. Tickets are twenty-two bucks. It is always a great time, provided you enjoy liver and onions. If you want to buy tickets send me an email and I will forward it to the organizers.

• Exclamation points and other misused grammatical devices: Okay. So three of you decided to rag on me about exclamation points this week. I am vulnerable. Here it is, written out slowly for those who are not quick learners. I am not opposed to exclamation marks, used properly, to accent sentences of excitement such as: “Fire!” he shouted. What I do object to are those who decide that the exclamation point will accent something they think is important. Then there are those, yet again, who pound out six or seven of them, just so you will get it as in “It was so good to run into you this afternoon!!!!!!!” I appreciate enthusiasm but there is subtly and nuance to language. To include a half dozen exclamation marks is actually quite insulting to your readers. It is as if you are saying that they are not bright enough to catch your drift without enhancements.

• Misuse of words: When a person is writing a strong letter of opinion, they often include powerful statements to emphasize their point. I.e., “I view this as an abuse of power”. Once written, you have made your point. To include the same phrase, ‘abuse of power’, a second time is overkill and to do so a third time is insulting. If your reader does not get your point the first time, they certainly will not accept it if you use power phrases a second, third or fourth time. One time in Vancouver, I read a letter where the writer included the phrase “I did nothing wrong” over and over until they had used it nine times. It did not help to make their point and I was just a third party bystander to the letter, not involved at all.

Tulips and trollius benefit from a cover of snow
• Garden Tip: With the arrival of the snow, shovel some of it around your more tender plants to protect them. Snow attracts snow and with good snow cover comes good cold protection. Remember the ‘igloo’ effect. If it is minus thirty air temperature and you have twelve inches of snow, the soil temperature is a balmy minus six. You are free to notice that I mix my Celsius with my Imperial. My farmer friends often tell me that they were spraying eight liters to the acre.

• Premier Wall has this one right: I was not thrilled with Brad Wall, acting as our Premier, when he cut the Film Tax Credit and SCN. Those two decisions destroyed an arts community that had developed over the last thirty-five years. This week, he announced that he is growing a moustache for ‘Movember’, which supports the work against prostate cancer. With his much higher profile than any of us regular plebes, he encouraged all men to get a regular prostate exam. That is something I have preached from the rafters. For five seconds of discomfort, in a doctor’s examine room, afflicted men could catch prostate cancer in the early stages. Caught in the early stages, us men have a very good chance of surviving this disease. Listen to your Premier.

• Poinsettia sale: Some people have emailed and asked if I am planning on doing the poinsettia fund raiser for The Marian Center this year. I have not yet decided but the answer will probably be yes. We have lots of time left to make that decision. Essentially, I am waiting to see the direction my health is going. If I am doing it, I will announce it the middle of November.

• To bleach or not to bleach: I got a job in Saskatoon when I was twenty-four. I was not very good at doing my laundry even though I had moved out when I was twenty-one. I headed down to the Laundromat on 33rd Street with two hampers of dirty clothes. I had picked up some Tide as that was what my mother had used. I also purchased a bottle of bleach, again, something I knew my mother used. Does this story write itself? I filled up the washing machine with my dirty clothes. I did not sort colors from whites. I dropped in my cup of Tide and then my cup of bleach, right on top of a brand new pair of golden/brown cords. Of course, the cords came out of the process tie dyed which was appropriate for the time. I asked an older woman at work what happened and she said “did you pour bleach directly onto the top of the laundry?” Well, of course I had. “Isn’t that what you are supposed to do?”

Maureen, yours truly and Susan Rollins (Pasterfield)
• A story of socks: For many years, you could only purchase athletic socks or tube socks in the color of white. Sometime in the 1990s, someone offered up those one size fits all socks in a grey color. Joan Anderson, who I worked with, looked at my newly purchased foot wear and remarked “They are coming already grey from the factory.” I am not certain, but it could have been a cheap shot at us men, collectively.

• Garden Tip: If you grow tropical plants in your house, it is a good idea to have a bottle of Trounce on hand. It takes care of a wide range of insects and it is quite safe as it is an organic. As with all things, read the label before applying. There are certain plants that do not enjoy being sprayed with Trounce.

Immigrants are Canadians: In the news recently, there has been an ongoing story of the MP in Saskatoon who was raising hell over health benefits for immigrants. Here is my take on the issue. If immigrants arrive here in need of health care, I have no problem offering that to them. They have enough problems adjusting to our language and culture so if a bit of medical support is required, I am for it. Shortly after arrival, most immigrants become not only self supporting but some of the hardest working members of our community. My friend Nicky Makris arrived on the boat from Greece in 1964, knowing only six words of English. He worked long hours, hard hours, to pursue the Canadian dream. He built a life for himself here as have most immigrants. All he ever wanted was the opportunity to raise his family in this wonderful country of ours. And he did. I keep hearing stories of people who have been abusing the system. That is nothing new. There will always be those who try to get something for nothing and the systems people have to have procedures in place to catch the abuse. Having written that, we can’t throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. After all, most of us are only two or three generations removed from the old country.

• Are we this grateful: Everybody’s friend Nicky Makris, tells me that when he returned from Greece, visiting his relatives, he landed at Pearson in Toronto. He walked out of the airport and kissed the parking meter. I asked why? “Because I was back in Canada. This is my home.”

• Women are hard to understand: My beloved comes to me with a complaint. “We have not been on a date for quite some time,” she says. I told her “last Friday night, I took you to Shoppers’ when you needed some distilled water.” She glared at me, not appreciating how thoughtful and romantic I really am.

• Kave Haz Café: This lovely neighborhood café is on Dewdney Avenue, across the street from Luther College. It has a good vibe to it along with the best latte I have had in Regina. They use an espresso bean from Italy. Their soups are made on location and I had one with tomato, macaroni, celery, carrots and potatoes. It was filling but a little on the bland side. It needed more spicing to kick it up a notch. It was $2.75. I followed that with a very good egg salad sandwich for $3.75. I am always surprised at the number of places that cannot prepare a decent egg salad sandwich, which in my books should be a basic. Their bread is also made on location. The dessert cooler is filled with an incredible variety of treats, again made in house. I had the rice pudding. It was good but a little undercooked. It needed another five minutes on boil to soften the rice. The service was very friendly. Would I go back? That is always my measuring stick. Yes is the answer.

• Arby’s can’t spell: Arby’s disgusts me. I have been there only once, in 1992, ordering their roast beef and cheese special. The roast beef does not look like roast beef, it doesn’t smell like roast beef and it doesn’t taste like roast beef. I have no idea what they do to screw up such a classic, but they have obviously mastered that skill set. Tuesday, we were driving north on Albert to get Maureen’s tires rotated at Graham Tires. We passed the Arby’s. It has a sign out front, announcing the return of a special. They wanted to say ‘They’re back’. What do they have on the sign? ‘Their back’. That is nit picking, but if they didn’t screw up the food so bad, I would cut them more slack.

Our baby holding his baby
 • A special place: We stopped into The Humane Society to deliver some paperwork. Seeing as we were already there, I took a tour of the dog kennels. I have never walked into a bar or a coffee shop and had everyone jump up and down with joy. These guys sure did. All of them were barking for me to stop and visit each of them and many of them were saying in doggy language “Hey man! It’s great to see you. How you been doing? Wanna go for a walk or just hang out?” As I wrote, no group of humans has ever been that excited because I entered a room. I felt like a rock star.

Rayanna's first photo
• Some wonderful news: I get to finish the week off by announcing that in addition to my title of ‘Grand Pubah’, you may now address me in a more familiar form, ‘Grampa Rod’. Patrick and Lisa had their baby girl, Wednesday morning. Her name is Rayanna Maurina Gardiner which includes all four names of the grandparents. My middle name is Gardiner, one that has been in my Clan Kerr family for many generations. She arrived around 8:30 a.m. weighing six pounds, fourteen ounces. Maureen flew up to Edmonton right away to be with all three. Unfortunately, I cannot travel. I have decided to call her ‘Ray-Ray’ and I suspect the first time I hold her, there might be some tough guy tears.

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in snowy Regina.

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