Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Garden Report #111

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

My ferns and hostas are now asleep for the winter
• Writers write: This is short and to the point. Courtesy of John Huston and Jim Gibbs, we now know that an X in Christmas has historical support as being respectful of Christ, Christianity and Christmas. Historically, it is okay. Here is the position taken by myself and reflected in The Garden Report. I will continue to use the long form of Christmas, without the historically correct X. Over my lifetime, which has been short compared to that of history, X has been used by major stores in their advertising in a disrespectful manner. That is the usage we have been accustomed to seeing, thus the ‘keep the Christ in Christmas’ campaign. Language is a floating crap game with new words being added all the time. Forty years ago, stash, score, stoned, fax, wasted, text, ‘sext’, modem, browser and LOL either did not exist or they had a different meaning. Today, when someone is described as being stoned, rocks are seldom involved.

After that being said, I am staying with a resounding and traditional for my time period, Merry Christmas!

• Readers write:

• One of our vigilant readers pointed out that I used the word adverse last week when I should have used averse. Curse those unnecessary letters, especially the added letter D, that I am normally averse to using. Tie me to the main mast and have me flogged with a multitude of thesaurus.

• Roberta Nichol worked with many poverty stricken children in her teaching career. “I really enjoyed reading your 'Writers Write' today. It is truly food for thought. I'm hoping that it's human nature to help others in any way we can, and yet, the old saying, 'give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day..... teach him to fish and he will eat for a lifetime' sticks in my craw. Many of the families that I met and worked with during my teaching career were often living in poverty. Part of the issue was choices they were making. Very, very poor choices. On the other hand, how does one stand by and watch people struggle? And often, children are involved. How can you not act after you've seen a child with dry heaves, their stomach retching, because they are hungry? "Better to light one little candle.........." Absolutely.”

• Jean Freeman sent out compliments. “You are such a sweetheart! All the stories this morning gave me either a smile, a lump in the throat or tears in the eyes (both of them!)”

• Chris Dodd and I both have weak spots for puppy dogs and kitty cats. “I meant to say that both my cats are from The Humane Society and I wouldn't consider getting a pet anywhere else. Thank you for supporting their good work. Also I think I will give to The Marion Centre this year. Every year, I buy individual presents for the 50 women who live at the YWCA. It must be very tough at Christmas to be reminded that you have nowhere to be.”

• Bob Anderson loves his fish and chips, as do many of us. “I had the fish and chips at Montana’s and was very surprised. Very little batter – mostly fish and a nice big thick piece – not sure what kind of fish though, I have to ask next time but it was cooked perfectly and tasted great.”

• Neil Slater sends along his best greetings for all of us. “Happy Christmas, Merry Xmas, et Joyeux Noel to you and to everyone who reads The Garden Report. I have to admit that I'm still surprised at the number of readers I know from work and elsewhere, or whose names I recognize.” Rod’s note: Do not be surprised as there are now three thousand readers. You are bound to know someone.

• Marsha Kennedy found the reader responders historical notation of the X in Christmas to be of interest. “Thanks for your Christmas spirited Garden Report this week Rod. So now I know that using Xmas is not at all a lazy way of writing Christmas. It was very interesting to read that it has a long and meaningful history. I was surprised and delighted to read the posts regarding Xmas.”

• Nancy at The Marian Center sent along her appreciation. “Thanks again for The Garden Report and for your support. I really like ‘Light one candle’.”

• Elaine Wurm sent her grandchildren to The Globe so they could watch ‘The Wizard of Oz’. “By the way, thanks again for The Globe invite as that enabled us to send our two grandsons on Thursday and the seven year old phoned Friday to say thanks. When I asked him if he liked it, his response was "I loved, loved, loved, loved, loved it" He is the one I could see someday on that stage.”

Christmas at Buchart Gardens
 • Keith Carpenter lives in Vancouver and now, courtesy of The Garden Report, he has a different opinion regarding the ‘X’ in Christmas. He writes “Thanks, thanks a lot! Now I have to get off my high pedestal of anti-Xmas for the reason of society trying to take Christ out of Christmas. You have informed me of the truth and now I cannot religiously look down on people for putting Xmas on everything. Thanks for the enlightenment on the meaning behind the Xmas and X being used in the Christ of words like Christopher and Christina. I still feel that I like to keep the Christ in writing, and a rose by any other name is still a rose. I passed that portion on to my wife who teaches middle school at a Christian school as that could make for a good research topic this time of year as to why we celebrate the way we do.”

• Sally Orr lives and gardens in Victoria. She writes of a fond remembrance. “Chris (her brother) has likely told you when we grew up our father would buy the Christmas tree on the 24th and it was likely a ‘Charlie Brown tree, but not always. Susan (her sister) and I have continued the tradition of decorating the tree on the 24th. We buy them earlier and celebrate the following twelve days of Christmas."

• A Christmas Story: Christmas of 1982, I bought a reconditioned pinball machine for the kids. It was full sized, right out of an arcade and it was mechanical, not electronic. It had all the bells and whistles, lighting up the board as the pinball flew through the game. My brother helped me get it down the basement after the kids had gone to sleep. We played a couple of games, just to ensure it worked. With our task finished, I turned in for the night, knowing that Santa had done his job.

The kids were up early that Christmas morning, before six a.m. They soon discovered the pin ball machine. As it was from an arcade, it had a coin return slot. Patrick was three and curious. He wanted some of those coins that were supposed to be returned. He inserted his little fingers into the slot further and further, until the point of no return. He was stuck. I woke up with Maxwell standing over me announcing that Patrick’s fingers were attached to the machine. I went downstairs, found a crying child who deeply regretted being too much like ‘Curious George’. I got his fingers free and bawled him and his brother out. Isn’t that what dads are supposed to do? It was not a good start to a Dickens’ Christmas.

• Poinsettia care, again: Okay. I get it. No one’s printer is working. I keep getting phone calls and emails asking “how do I care for my poinsettia, again?” Run a couple inches of water into your sink, preferably not soft water. Take the poinsettia out of its decorative cover but keep it in its green or black growing pot. Set the pot into the water for about two to three minutes, remove, allow to drip dry and place it back into its decorative cover. Poinsettias are okay with being ‘run dry’. In other words, do not overwater them. By using the sink method, you avoid splashing water on the leaves which is not attractive.

• Writing Tip: Use double quotation marks when quoting a person: Prime Minister Harper said “the long gun registry is finished.” Use single quotation marks when framing a title: We saw ‘The Wizard of Oz’ at The Globe Theater. On occasion, single quotes are used to frame an adage or for an unusual use of a word such as: My teenage daughter said she will be late because she has to ‘study’. The single quotes around study alert the reader to the wink and the nod context of the writer as if to say “oh sure.” Also, single quotes can be used around a word that is not usually recognized as a word such as ‘Movember’, the prostate cancer fund raiser which combines moustache with November to form their special word.

Sandy, Jenny, Nancy and yours truly at The Mariian Center
 • Fun times: Calvin and Les Vanderveen always donate a few cases of poinsettias to The Marian Center every year. Sandy and Jenny were assisting me this year and we dropped them off. There is a photo to the left.  Included in the photo, as we deliver the beautiful Christmas plants are Sandy, Jenny, Nancy and myself. For those with questioning minds, my ‘Movember’ beard is staying for the winter.

• Technology crosses generations: Our son Patrick, is a techie. Without his expertise, this blog would be coming to you by snail mail, printed on a Gestetner machine . He is the father of our first grandchild, Rayanna. He has set up two different ways for us to keep up with the sweetheart. First, and please do not laugh, he set up his dear old dad on Skype, so that I can visit with Rayanna. Secondly, he installed a camera over her crib and I can, with a few clicks, check in to see how she is doing. One night, I clicked onto her camera site and there she was, staring up at the camera, wiggling her arms as if to say “hello Grampa Ra-Ra”. As I watched her lying there staring up at me, I said “shouldn’t you be asleep sweetie?” It’s what us grampas say.

The tulips are resting until spring
• Parents morph into grandparents: As a child, my mother was fairly strict with us children. If you disobeyed her, you receive a free swat, usually from her wooden spoon or a rolled up newspaper. We were Baptist and to spare the rod is to spoil the child. When Mom’s first grandchild was born, all that spanking stuff went out the window. In fact, you were not allowed to raise your voice towards a grandchild, lest you harm their sensitive feelings. I used to laugh at my Mom and tease her with “how times have changed Mom.” She was the same woman who told me when I was fifty-five “I have not forgotten what you were like as a teenager.” I thought there was a statute of limitations on that stuff somewhere in our Constitution.

• No Humane Society photos this week: This was supposed to be weekly happening but Lisa from The Humane Society is on holidays and the fellow who was supposed to send something to me, didn’t’. I will call them on Monday and remind them to send another photo. Some good news. The cat we featured last week, ‘Meeltu’, has been adopted.

• Old school: When our boys were young, they had a fixed bed time but with great regularity, they would be fooling around past that set time. I would go to the bottom of the stairs and call up “so help me God! If you boys are not in bed by the time I count to ten, I’m coming up there and you will be sorry!” One night Patrick, called back “let me now when you get to seven and I will get under the covers.”

• Old school, déjà vu: The boys were home last Christmas. I made brunch and no one was stirring, not even a mouse. I called down to Maxwell, Number Two son, to get up. He didn’t respond. I reached back into my bag of tricks and growled “I am going to count and if you are not up, I am coming down there. Don’t make me come down there. One! Two! Three!” Up from the basement bedroom comes a panicked voice “I’m getting up! I’m getting up! Don’t count!” What makes this story funny is: He is thirty-six.”

• Garden Tip: For those readers in areas of limited snow, always best to cover tender plants with what snow you do have. Snow is an excellent insulation for bulbs, roses and perennials. This year, in Regina, we have more than enough snow for good insulation. There should be very little winter injury.

• Christmas trees in 1957: Everyone had a real Christmas tree back then. A Douglas Fir cost two bucks and a Scot’s Pine was five dollars. The Doug Firs were considerably cheaper as they were cut from the wild and lighter than the plantation grown Scot’s Pine. Please note they are not Scotch Pine. Scotch, is a whiskey, not a people or a Christmas tree. There are no rugged Scotchmen, only handsome Scotsmen.

• Garden Tip: One of our readers asked if the reason Christmas trees dried out at home was because they dried out at the tree lot. Having sold thousands of Christmas trees, seldom did a tree dry out at the lot. The vast majority of Christmas trees dry out when the water level falls below the cut line of the tree after it is set up. After that occurs, the tree seals up and no amount of water will open the seal. Shortly after, the tree dries to a crisp and becomes the proverbial fire hazard. Not surprisingly, most people returning a tree insist that they never allowed the tree to dry out so therefore it must have been a bad tree. They are hard pressed to explain the seal of sap across the bottom of the cut line.

• The Politically Correct Police: In Saskatoon, a man has taken umbrage with the city owned buses displaying a ‘Merry Christmas’ sign. A separation of religion and state he suggests. I never knew that a ‘Merry Christmas’ would subvert my civil rights and liberties or endanger democracy. And here I was, concerned with a high handed, majority government that might be a threat. I was going to wish you a ‘Merry Christmas’ but now I feel obligated to wish you a middle of December, kind of fun, take time off of work, eat lots of good food and be with family and friends sort of holiday. Was that okay with everyone or am I in trouble for the use of ‘family’, in a traditional format?  To our vigilant friend in Saskatoon, get something more improtant to worry about than a bus wishing you a 'Merry Christmas', unless of course it is a talking bus.
This lady taught me to be of service to others
• Life lesson learned again: Last Saturday, I sold poinsettias as a fundraiser. You already know that. People came in and out of our kitchen, all day long. Some stayed for tea or cider. Others were only there for a minute or two. Many friends brought gifts of home baking. It was a wonderful day. As I was tucked up, wrapped in my warm comforter and ready to fall asleep, I said to Maureen “this was a wonderful day. I have not felt this good in a year.” For one day, I forgot about my health issues and any other problems, real or imagined. I had been of service to others and my blessing was I felt good and I slept well. One can never ask for anything more. Thank God our mothers taught us well.

• Thanks for reading….Rod McDonald in sunny and snow covered Regina

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