Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Garden Report #115

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

In Regina, we take snowblowing seriously
Writers write: Nothing spectacular this week, on my mind, except for snow, glorious snow. My snow blower is getting an incredible workout this winter. I actually love running the snow blower. You have to realize men love anything with a motor or involving danger. I am a man. I blow out neighbours walks and this week, I had some help from the snow fairies. My spies suggest it was neighbours Dave Calam and Nigel Crooks who were out early with their machines, taking care of the city sidewalks. Thanks guys!

• Readers write:

• Candace Holmstrom lives out in ‘God’s country’ so she was able to verify that Continent Coffee in Vancouver, on Commercial Drive, is still open. She writes “Continental Coffee is still open” which is what I just wrote.

• Casey Van Vloten also reports “my nephew and his wife work at a coffee shop on Commercial and they report The Continental is alive and well.”

• Continuing with the coffee theme, Jean McKay is a convert. “Thanks, Rod, for the kicking Horse 454 tip-am really enjoying my morning coffee!

• Jodi Sadowsky is getting our 2013 Fringe Festival up and running but she still has time to read the blog. “Hey Rod - thanks for The Garden Report. Love the story about your mom stopping to say hi to the two men as well as the Grammar Police being good and bad. I agree with your friend, your Garden Reports don't need to be policed. That said, I love the "Let’s eat grandpa" versus “Let’s eat, grandpa."

Brad's angels in Hawaii
• This in from Robert Stedwill. I inadvertently added in an extra one to #114, moving it up to #1114. Also in last week’s Report, my American Spell Check took over for no explainable reason. “I won't comment on the use of liter versus litre, because I do have a lot of American friends, and do understand they write a little differently, but I got a little concerned when I saw The Garden Report #1114 in the subject line! Have I been asleep for 1000 issues? Did I arrive at 85 and never felt the intervening twenty years? I have enjoyed reading the ‘Coffee Report" and understand why you take your own coffee equipment with you when traveling. Standing in line at a Tim Horton’s for coffee is not my cup of tea, unless you're there for tea, which is, strangely enough, passable.”

• Jim Tomkins writes in about dialects. “The story of the Glaswegian in today's Garden Report reminded me fondly of my paternal grandfather, who emigrated from England to Saskatchewan when he was eight years old. Being young, he of course quickly lost his British accent and developed a Canadian one. ... except, oddly, when he answered the telephone. To the end of his days, I could have sworn that I had dialled someone in London when he picked up the phone!”

• Neil Slater has a take on multiculturalism and it involves food. “Regarding multiculturalism: our favourite places to shop for food are Oskar's Deli/Maple Leaf Bakery, the Italian Star, Ukrainian Coop and the India Food Centre on Victoria.”

• Jean Freeman also supports multiculturalism with a Canadian perspective. “I agree completely with your take on Canada's melting pot abilities -- although I also agree with Arnold Edinborough, who said that Canada has never been a melting pot, but rather more like a tossed salad! I like that!”

• Marg Hryniuk suggests this local place for good coffee beans. “Lakeview Fine Foods sells coffee beans roasted at The Green Spot. They go fast, so I doubt if they are even one week old. I love the French roast.”

• Roberta Nichol enjoys the food at Peking House, but not when ordered by the numbers. “Oh, Rod, I so agree with you about Peking House. Kevin, Ray and I often go there before we attend The Globe Theatre. The separate dishes are just excellent. A few months ago, some friends were in from out of town, and we decided to go there for supper before attending a concert at Sawchyn Guitars. I ordered a dinner for one. Plain and simple: Yuck! I couldn't believe it was the same restaurant that I'd been bragging about. Never again will I order a dinner for (whatever number). But I do highly recommend the single dishes, yes.”

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• Terena Murphy Bannerman sent along the cartoon in the attachment plus this: “Thank you for the last year of Garden Reports, and I look forward to those to come in 2013.”

• Gwen Barschel passes out compliments. “I am still enjoying those Sunday morning reads, especially the latest installments of grand parenting.

• Garden Tip: I used to receive many phone calls asking how to turn a poinsettia from summer green to a winter red colour. I got so tired of answering the question that I wrote up the instructions and callers came down to pick up the answer sheet. Why I got tired was, in all the years of answering that one question, I never once, not once, had anyone carry out the instructions. It is so much work, having to provide sixteen hours of absolute darkness, every day, from September onwards, that no gardener bothers with it. It is best to leave the growing to the pros such as Les and Calvin Vanderveen and purchase a new one every December.

• Community news: The Creative Arts Center, operated by Marian Donnelly, produced 144 events in 2012. That was 144 events that struggled to find a venue prior to the opening of this community based arts center. A thank you goes out to Marian.

Amaryllis can be grown again
• Garden Tip: Tulips, daffs and crocus (crocii is the plural) that have been grown indoors seldom repeat their blooms. The adage I follow is ‘once forced, always spent.’ With amaryllis, I have found they can be successfully re-bloomed, five years out of eight. When the bloom is finished, cut the flower stalk to the level of the pot. Feed and water the plant until the danger of frost has passed in May. Plant outdoors, underneath a deciduous tree or in a similar dappled light condition. It could bloom, later in the summer. Allow the plant to get one or two mild frosts on the leaves. Remove the spent or withering leaves with a sharp knife. Store the bulb in the basement, dark and cool, for six to eight weeks. Bring upstairs after the resting period, repot and start the growing process. Remember that amaryllis bulbs grow best when planted two thirds below ground and one third above. It doesn’t look right, but that is the proper way.

• Low and slow: I have been buying blade roasts for Sunday supper, a cheaper cut of beef. I have been getting very good results by massaging the roast with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. I roast it in my convection oven at a low temp of 200 f. for five hours, give or take. I do use a meat thermometer and pull it out when it reaches an internal temp of 71 C., which is medium rare. The meat is very tender, when served warm. When left to cool in the refrigerator, it toughens up.

• Some clichés are true: Some writers and reviewers get on their high horse over perceived clichés. The problem with clichés is that they do have a basis in real life, otherwise they would have never become clichés. One of my favourite clichéd stories involved my Aunt Belle, who was as Scottish as Robbie Burns. One Sunday supper that I shared at her house, she served roast beef with HP Sauce. At the time, HP Sauce was not common in Canadian households and I adored the brown liquid as a gift from the gods. Aunt Belle thought I adored it too much and instructed me to return one half the amount I had on my plate to the bottle. When I hesitated, she threatened, in her Glaswegian accent, to call my mother and report my over indulgence. The next time someone references the frugality of the Scots, I just might have an opinion.

• The best (or worst) of the Scot’s jokes: One can tell they are flying low over Scotland when you see toilet paper drying on the clothes line.

• The best (or worst) of the Scot/Irish jokes: When you have a parent who is a Scot and another parent who is Irish, one half of you wants to get drunk but the other half refuses to pay for it.

• Some clichés are true #2: When it is convenient, I do not reference my Scottish grandparents. When I present myself as a writer, I suddenly remember that my dad’s father was Irish, somehow proving an obscure point of heritage.

• Downton Abbey: This British produced soap opera is incredible. A period piece, set in the early part of the last century, it weaves stories in and out in a brilliant fashion. I am hooked and watched the first two season over the Christmas holidays. For those dyed in the wool fans, I think that Thomas murdered Bates’ wife. Just a suspicion. It is on PBS, Channel 20, Sundays at eight p.m.

• Garden Tip: Okay. This tip is really a winter tip. When approaching someone who is operating a snow blower or any other power equipment, never, ever tap them on the shoulder. Operators of equipment are engrossed in the operation of the machine and with the engine noise, cannot hear someone approaching. A tap on the shoulder is an almost certain method for getting an elbow in your gut from an operator who genuinely believes he is under attack.

• Too much of a good thing: Now, the old timers who survived the drought years of the 1930s always maintained, a prairie boy should never complain about too much moisture. So I won’t complain. Having written that, we received another twenty centimeters of snow on Thursday. With the drifts, it was two feet high along some parts of the sidewalks that I shovel. If I were running a ski resort, I would be ecstatic, but I am not. In Newfoundland, according to The National, they got two to three feet of the white stuff and then it rained so the snow was the heaviest type for snow removal. Ours remains very fluffy, the easiest type to remove with the snow blower.

• Ouch: On the Seinfeld show, they would take everyday issues for topics. One of the shows dealt with whether you can date a girl and then date her roommate. According to Jerry, “it has never been done.” Somewhere in my youth, I took this girl out on a date, twice. She was nice, but no chemistry. Her roommate and I did hit it off. I knew it was a risk for me to ask the roomy out, but being young and filled with bravado, I decided to sally forth. I phoned, hoping against hope, that the girl I had already dated would not answer. She did. She knew what I wanted and was definitely not in the running for Miss Congeniality. She said in a loud voice, for all to hear, “Rod McDonald! How dare you speak to me using such vulgar language!” All I could muster was a “well played,” prior to tucking my tail between my legs and leaving the conversation.

A snowbank at High Q Greenhouse - two years ago
• Grampa’s little girl: Rayanna has returned with her parents to Edmonton, but not before I received many opportunities to hold her, burp her and feed her a bottle or two. I told her stories of my parents and my grandparents so that she will grow up knowing her ancestors. So far, so good and my record for never having changed a diaper is still intact. In 1977 when my nephew was a baby, my brother and I attempted to change a diaper, once. We required several rolls of duct tape and the entire process would have made an excellent ‘Red Green Show’.

• Thanks for reading...buried in the snow, here in Regina, Rod McDonald

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