Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Garden Report #117

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

Sandra's garden is under two feet of snow right now
• Writers write: ‘Dear Abby’ was asked, during an interview, which of her thousands of columns was the most controversial? Was it abortion, pre marital sex, divorce or perhaps, corporal punishment in schools? Nope. The one column that drew more letters than all others was toilet paper. Half of the respondents argued that toilet paper should be installed fold side over and the other half were equally insistent on the fold coming from under the roll. One golf club had to install two rolls in each cubicle, one under and one over, to appease their membership.

Why I began with this anecdote is simple. I have written about motherhood, relationships with God, marriage, raising children, the justice system and other topics. They all have had a level of response but nothing equalled the response to my question, who do you recommend as an optometrist? Mine retired and I need a new one. From all four corners of the city and beyond, readers sent in their recommendations. I am certain that every optometrist, licensed to practice and within driving distance, is now on my list. Each recommendation was put forward with great sincerity by the reader. I had anticipated three at the most would express their opinions. Who knew?

On another note, readership of The Garden Report has been climbing by a hundred or two, every month, on the internet edition. This means readers across the globe have been finding the blog. People in India, the U.S. and England have no interest in reading reviews of local places or community events. I get that. I have made a decision to continue on with the same format, including items that interest my neighbours as much as those with international appeal. I always wanted this to be more about community than anything else, not that I don’t appreciate the diversity of our readers from abroad. I will try to include enough of those universal bits to keep it worthwhile for readers abroad.

• Readers write:

• Lyn Goldman and I share a mutual love of dogs, cats and plants that grow in the shade. She writes: “How could anyone give up that beautiful dog? And yes, I want some of those hostas!”

• I sent Dianne Palmer #116 but it didn’t get through. She panicked. It’s nice to be missed. “Hi Rod .... I woke up on Sunday and there was no Garden Report to read. Is everything Ok?”

• Georgia Hearn has opinions. “Always a delight to my Sunday morning. I loved that rose! Cannot wait for the seed sale. I also wanted to tell you that I have religiously followed your advice and my poinsettias are still spectacular. I have to agree, I hate to shovel this heavy snow and I would like a break.”

• This in from Chris Dodd. “Amen on snow tires! Changing them seasonally is cheaper that your insurance deductible and less time and discomfort than recovery from whiplash.”

• Roberta Nichol is empathetic with the people who have snow clearing routes. “ I sure feel for Mike and Richard Liske this winter. Wow, they have their work cut out for them. I have a friend who employs them for snow removal, and she is just delighted with their work. Thank goodness they are around to take care of us!”

• Linda Lyster spotted a typo. “Hi Rod...we just returned from the cinema and thoroughly enjoyed 'Life of Pi'. It was very true to the book and I loved it in 3-D. Since readers of The Garden Report make a point of telling you of your infrequent typos, I'd like to add that Yann Martel is the correct spelling of the author's name. As always, I enjoyed The Report....well written, but more importantly, informative and often amusing.”

A reader sent me another shot of my Kerr Clan home
• Wendy Richardson writes to us from London, Ontario. “We don't have as much snow as you have in Regina, but it is pretty cold today and going to get worse, so it is winter. Love all the pictures and fun anecdotes about Regina that you put in The Garden Report. As I have said before, it helps me to still feel connected. Thanks for all your hard work in putting this together and giving so many pleasurable reading material and helpful gardening advice.”

• A remembrance: I grew up in a newspaper family. My dad was an editor. There were often newspaper men around our house. Women rarely worked in that trade in the 1950s. The two things I remember the most is a)they drank a lot of whiskey and when I write a lot, I am being subtle: And b)they had massive egos. They thought because they wrote the story, they were the story.

• Community news: Maple Leaf Bakery/Oscar’s Deli is now open four days a week, Wednesday through Saturday. So don’t go there on Tuesdays anymore or your will be disappointed.

• Soup is democratic: Anyone can make a good soup and soup is perfect for a cold winter. On Sunday last, I took a litre of beef stock, unsalted, brought it to a boil and added in some German egg noodles. I looked in our fridge to see what else was left. Soups do not have to be prepared from a recipe. There was a handful of frozen green peas and they went in to the pot at the end. You don’t want to boil the peas until they are mushy, the same with green beans. For spicing, a splash of Worcestershire sauce, a teaspoon of chopped garlic, a bit of salt and pepper. I placed some capers into the bottom of the soup bowl, five for Maureen and ten for me. I like capers more than she does. Then I ladled the soup. Hearty, basic and a great way to get rid of those small bits floating around your fridge.

• Times change as we age: Patrick, our number three son, who is Rayanna’s father, told me that I have to turn in my t shirt. The one that reads “World’s Greatest Dad”. He alleges that the shirt and the title are now his. I have been transitioned to “World’s Greatest Grampa”. I asked for clarification. “Do I still get to sit at the head of the table.” His response: “As long as you are picking up the cheque, the head of the table is yours.” It’s nice to have job security.

 'Morden Cardinette' rose
• Writers’ tip: This one, I have to be vigilant of in my own writing. It is very easy to switch between past, present and future tense. Best to reread your writing and ensure there is consistency. If you are writing in the past tense, do not lapse into the present, though it is quite easy to do.

• Strange world: The two banned drugs that Lance Armstrong took to improve his cycling skills are a part of my dialysis therapy. I, of course, take them to bring my blood levels closer to normal. Lance took them to win races. I want to state for the record, he did not get them from me.

• It’s difficult to be taken seriously around here: Talking with Maureen, I suggested that if we were not so busy, we could be making love three times every day. She laughed and laughed and laughed. My feelings were hurt. “Hey! The first time I speak the truth in a long, long time and you think I am joking?”

• Told this before: When I was twenty-four, I was working at The Senator Hotel in Saskatoon, in their bar, part time. I was putting myself through school. One night, two fellows in the their fifties were in my section. After a few drinks, one gentleman informs his buddy that he and his Mrs. still have sex once a day, every day. Being twenty-four, I thought “What? Only once a day? What’s wrong with you?”

• Good pizza: In CJ Katz’ new cookbook, she has a recipe for pizza dough and sauce. The sauce is a no cook one, originating with Gina over at The Italian Star. I cut the dough recipe in half and had enough for two, sixteen inch pies. Two of the baking tips I found useful. The first was to preheat my pizza stone. It ensured the crust began to bake right away. The second one was to roll out the dough and let it rest for ten minutes before applying the toppings. The ten minute rest allows the top of the dough to dry out a bit and it is not soggy. The finished product was as good as the pies we have been getting from The Copper Kettle, at a fraction of the cost. That is the good news. The not so good news is that Maureen had to clean up my mess. How she handled that situation, I don’t know. I am still in hiding at an undisclosed location.

• Sadly: Les Pavelick passed away this week. Most people knew him as ‘Metro’, the Ukrainian comic. Les released several comedy albums under his stage persona. There were the politically correct who objected to Les’ bit, that somehow it was demeaning to Ukrainians. That was their view, from the high horse. Yet, everywhere I went within the Ukrainian community, Les got big laughs. His act also included many references to growing up on a Saskatchewan farm and everything that entailed. I loved his wisdom advising “never piss the old man off during harvest.” Every farm boy knew the truth behind that one or else they didn’t survive puberty.

• Writers’ tip: Often, there can be two words that are both correct for a given situation. Usually, one is slightly better than the other. When uncertain, speak the sentence out loud using both words. One will feel as if it is the better choice.

 Single and double impatiens
• Garden Tip: Do not use salt to melt ice near your garden or lawn. Salt will raise the PH level of the contaminated soil so that very little will grow. In low lying marshes, where salt collects, few plants thrive. Take a lesson from nature.

• Old school service: My vehicle had a boo-boo and needed to go to Isaac Sneath’s, Queen City Auto Body for repairs. I met Isaac in the detention hall of Central Collegiate, around 1967. Both of us were there, having been framed. Isaac did a good job of repairing my car and the exterior was clean. I expected that. When I got inside, it was spotless. Isaac had one of his lads clean up the winter grime and it was a real treat to drive home in a clean interior. Even the floor mats had been shampooed!

• Driving tip: If your vehicle goes into a heated shop during the winter, add in a touch of gas line anti-freeze when taking it back outside. What I have found is that a warm car creates moisture and that can freeze up the lines when exposed to our cold outside temperatures.

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in Regina

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