Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Garden Report #122

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

'Morden Blush' rose
• Writers write: I took in a friend’s funeral on Tuesday. As I get older, I attend more and more funerals. It goes with the territory. She was a fine lady, very kind to me many years ago, when I needed some kindness. Her husband spoke at the funeral, an eulogy to his wife as she lie in her coffin. He said many things but one sentence stayed with me all week: He said “thank you for making me a better man”.

When I was a young adult, I would have found that an odd statement, as I believed that no other person could make us be anything other than what we wanted to be. Not true. There are special people in our lives, sometimes they provide us with guidance, other times with pain, but the one thing they share in common is that they do change our lives. Perhaps, we are willing to change and don’t even know it. I don’t know the answer. The older I get, the fewer answers I have.

There are people in our lives, perhaps a partner or a friend or a co worker, and they do make us better. Some are cheerleaders, others are butt kickers. Some inspire, some teach, some are just there. Regardless, we do become better people and thank God, we do.

As to a husband speaking at the funeral of his wife or a son at his father’s service, I admire them. I could never do it. In that situation, I would remain surprisingly mute. My late sponsor, John Wolkowski, when he got up in age, said to me “I want you to write my eulogy, when the time comes. You’re a good writer. But don’t read it. I don’t want you up at the front, blubbering away for half an hour.” I laughed. He knew me, only too well. When the time came, I wrote what he asked of me. I have written several eulogies and delivered none. If I tried, it would take two weeks for me to get the words out. It is best if I remain in the congregation.

• Readers write:

• Heather Lowe adds her thoughts to last week’s ‘Writers write’. “John Boxall, who was killed at Arcola and Park, was the husband of Rosemarie who has cut my hair since we moved to Regina in 1973. Rosemarie owns Apollo Beauty Salon on 13th, next door to the barber shop which is next door to The Mercury Cafe. John was doing a few deliveries for the courier service he worked for, as well as delivering bill payments on behalf of Apollo. I went to the funeral last Monday. Of course it was packed. I’m sure there are many who agree with you and your sentiments as to how the two truck thieves (and eventual murderers) will be dealt with. I like that you wrote about it.”

• Jodi Sadowsky responds to ‘Writers write’ . “Did you know the gentleman that was hit on Arcola? I drive by there every day on my way to and from work. I think of him sometimes. It is very sad and unfortunate.”

• Roberta Nichol had this to say about the tragic death at Arcola and Park. “As for your 'Writers write': I did see that awful accident on the news, absolutely tragic. There are times, I feel like you do, that these offenders need to be put somewhere, all together. We don't need that kind of idiocy. I still do have a lot of compassion though, regarding the shaky start to life that many of these young people have had, but on the other hand, once we become adults, by then, it should have sunk in that life is about choices. Everything we do is about choices.”

• Jackie Arnason is upset with prison sentences, for some offenders. “Nice to have you back! Your suggestion that the two who ran the red light and killed the gentleman should be banished to an island - I have one in mind - Ellsmere - north east, in the arctic - nothing there but ice and snow. I have lost all compassion for these types and I fear I have lost some certainty that the justice system is just.”

• This is the first time Aubrey Burlock has written in. Hopefully, he shares with us again. “Ditto on your opening story comments, Rod. Thank you.”

• Jan Pederson lives in Winnipeg and writes “I loved your play on punctuation with the Pardon/Siberia story in this weekend’s Garden Report.”

• Marsha Kennedy had a few favourite parts of #121. “Thank you for a very enjoyable Garden Report this morning, Rod. I loved the way you delivered your Writing Tips, Words Matter and Grammar Matters lessons. They were all wrapped up in great little stories.”

• Leah Biegler writes in to say that pulled pork is wonderful, cooked at home. Here is her take on it. “No need to go looking for pulled pork. Place pork roast in slow cooker that is well sprayed with Pam. (I like a centre cut with very little fat). Combine two cups of salsa with 1.5 cups brown sugar and pour over roast. Cook on low all day. Pull meat apart and serve with great bread or buns. (Hint: adjust preferred level of spiciness with mild to hot salsa).”

• Susan Rollins sent along a good vibe. “I appreciate all the gardening advise you have to offer.”

• Marcus Fernando and his lovely wife Tina, lead an exciting life, globetrotting with professional theater. Here is an update on what they are doing in England this spring. “We're busy here: just about to open ‘Lady Chatterley's Lover’ and then begin rehearsals for ‘Romeo and Juliet’. After that, Tina is going to be acting in an Oscar Wilde production and I shall stay home and look after our little boys.”

'Northern Dazzle' lily
• Milestones: Two to mention. On Wednesday of this week, The Garden Report-Internet Edition crossed the thirty thousand reader mark since it began publication in the www. The second milestone, I celebrated quietly. It occurred on the 26th of February. Forty years ago that day in 1973 was my first day of living on the corner of Regina Avenue and Angus Street. I was twenty-one, still dating my high school sweetheart and my beard, what there was of it, was a dark red/brown in colour, no grey or silver. I had absolutely no idea where life would lead me or how it might turn out. Kids? Surely you must be joking! RRSPs? Give me a break. If you had told me that I would be residing on this corner (two different houses) when I was sixty-one, I would have stared at you, wondering if you had swallowed some peyote mushrooms. For those who yearn for a long ago era, my mortgage payment was $150 a month, including taxes.

• A touch of Tommy: Tommy Toddington was a trumpet player, a ‘horn man’. When the legendary Al Hirt was the headliner at The Grandstand Show for The Regina Exhibition in the summer of 1968, Tommy was playing in the back up stage band. After the first rehearsal, Al Hirt asked the director “who is that trumpet player?” He was that impressed. Tommy had one of the sweetest tones of any trumpet player, never harsh, never sharp. Tommy was one of my two trumpet teachers, the other one being John Harding. Why I bring this up is that I ran into Tommy’s daughter while out grocery shopping. She told me that her mom is ninety, lives in a seniors’ home but is still going strong. Tommy passed away about a dozen years ago and for those in attendance at the funeral, Ed Lewis, the renowned trumpeter, organized a quartet of ‘horn men’ to play. It was not only a tribute to Tommy as a musician, it was one of the greatest pieces of music ever played in this city.

• A touch of nostalgia: When The Shrine Circus would come to the old, Regina Exhibition Stadium, most of the children in attendance would fantasize that they were the Lion Tamer, The Ring Master or perhaps the high wire trapeze artist. Not me. I have written before, I was different, even as a child. I would fantasize that I was the lead trumpet player in the pit band. The circus always had the best of musicians playing as the performers entered, creating the suspense, the danger of the moment. They were loud. They had to fill the air of a four thousand seat hockey barn. No flutes or harps were allowed. When the lions would emerge from their cages, the lead trumpet player would stand up and let his horn rip. He was the man, at least the man of the moment, for me. I would fantasize that one day I would run away, join the circus and be that trumpet player. The one who played such thrilling notes that told the audience to move forward in their seats.

Daylilies in our garden
 • Garden Tip: Think long and hard before planting a spruce tree in the front yard of any city residence. Spruce trees start as loveable five foot ‘puppies’ but they grow. Not just to ten or twenty feet. Take a walk behind The Legislative Buildings, the south side, and see how tall a spruce can grow in our area. Try sixty to eighty feet! Most city lots cannot handle a mature spruce tree in their front yard. The tree will dominate the house, creating a dark zone. Some residents have pruned the skirt of their spruce up to eight foot mark, so that they can at least walk underneath it. Nothing looks worse than a raised skirt on a spruce.

• I need a ruling: Dialysis patients itch from time to time. It has to do with the phosphorus levels. My itch has been quite severe for the last month. I shower two or three times a day and that provides some relief. That is the situation, here is the question: My mother taught me to shower every morning and then put on clean underwear. No doubt, your mother taught you the same thing. If you shower a second or a third time, do you have to change your underwear each time or are you exempt if the gotch were clean in the morning. The reason I am asking is that my mom passed away two years ago and I need a ruling as my laundry is building up to record high levels. Only older mothers are allowed to respond.

• Garden Tip: Before you choose a tree for your yard, best to check out its growth habits in your local area. Going to the internet for information or library gardening books can lead any gardener in the wrong direction. A linden tree grows much, much differently along the river banks of Winnipeg than it does in Regina. Talking to someone in Winnipeg about their linden tree would give you the wrong information. This is why local information is always so important for gardeners. I tire of people telling me how a plant grows based upon an internet article. I challenge them: “Show me the yard where it grows the way you described, here in Regina.”

• Garden Tip: Keep in mind, when discussing weeds, that the proper definition of a weed is: An unwanted plant. There are gardeners who grow dandelions as a salad crop. Weed? Not to them. My neighbour has a seedling green ash that germinated on its own. It is in a bad location for the both of us. When it matures, it will block the last vestige of sun that enters our two gardens. Several years ago, the same yard had another volunteer tree that caused both of us problems and we had to pay several hundred dollars to have it removed. Not all plants are wanted. Not all are beneficial to your garden or your home. Best to remove volunteers before they become difficult. If you lift out volunteer trees when they are young, you can plant them in an area better suited to their growth habits.

A crop of young plants growing in the greenhouse
• Garden Tip: Best to plan your spring pruning now. If you are going to do it yourself or if you are hiring someone, get ready now. Why I mention this is, spring will be upon us quicker than we can fathom. For the homeowner, now is the time to purchase a good pair of hand pruners, loping pruners (long handled) and a good quality pruning saw. If you already own pruning tools, have them sharpened. I take mine over to The Sharpening Service at Angus and 3rd. Also, it is a good idea to always disinfect your pruning tools when working with trees infected with prunus knot or fireblight. Dip your tools into a 10% bleach solution, 70% alcohol solution or if you have too much money, a twenty year old bottle of Scotch will also be quite effective.

• Not so good: When I visit the local hospitals and sadly, that has become too frequent for my enjoyment, I park two blocks away. Two reasons. First, I am a Scot and I refuse to pay a dollar for every half hour of parking. Second and of more importance, it forces me to get a touch of exercise. This week, I parked by the liquor store on Dewdney and the Lewvan, a short walk to The Pasqua. As I returned to my car, there were three people walking along the sidewalk. A young man, perhaps nineteen, had two bottles of liquor in his possession. Accompanying him was a girl of seventeen and another girl, around fourteen years of age. They were chatting excitedly, about getting drunk. You just know that that afternoon was not going to end well.

• Truth in advertising: There is a show coming to town called ‘What Women Really Want’. Lots of posters and billboards. Of course, it is a show skewed to sell products and services to women, nothing more than that. Now, if there were a truth in advertising law and this show could really, really tell people what women want, don’t you think there would be a line up of men from Saskatoon to Weyburn, demanding to be let in?

• Martha Wainwright: We took in this most interesting of concerts last Sunday night at our new, local, hot spot, The Artesian on 13th. This is not a review, just a commentary. I don’t think I have ever seen so many readers of The Garden Report in one spot, at one time. It was a conference, a reunion and a really good time. The lady definitely has the pipes. She finished the night with her version of ‘Stormy Weather’, the song made famous by Lena Horne and Billy Holliday. It was a show stopper and crowd pleaser. That song has some really, solid roots. It was first performed in 1933 at The Cotton Club in Harlem. I’m just a little fountain of ‘Trivia Pursuit’ answers today. Want another piece of trivia? Andrew Lloyd Webber, the famous Broadway musical producer, said that ‘My Fair Lady’ was the best musical ever written. “Every song was a hit.” Now that is a compliment. After writing about ‘My Fair Lady’, I can’t get ‘I’m Getting Married in the Morning’ to quit playing inside my noggin.

• Show tunes: One of my all time favourite show tunes (honest, I really am straight) is from ‘Chicago’. It is ‘When You Are Good to Momma’. Now, try getting that song out of your head. Here’s another one that will stay inside your brain for about two weeks after singing it, ‘Goodnight Irene, Goodnight’. Go ahead, I dare you to try just one chorus. As a six year old boy in The Church of Christ, just off of Dewdney Avenue on Retallack Street, my all time favourite was ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’. Why? Because you got to march to it. Makes sense if you are a six year old boy who is very skilled at marching and singing at the same time.

• Makes sense to me: Driving along with John C. one day, he cracked “I have good news and not so good news. The good news is that I have discovered the meaning of life. The not so good news is that no one cares and everyone wants me to shut up.”

• A tough eulogy: There is a story that no doubt happened somewhere at sometime. It is told this way. A man had lived a hard life. Mean, bitter, combative. No one in the town had anything good to say about him. He died. There was a funeral but no one would go to the front to offer up a prayer, an eulogy or even a Bible reading. Finally, one fellow who was known for his diplomacy, made his way to the pulpit and offered “I understand that his brother was worse.”

• The Naked Bean: This is another one of many cappuccino shops that have opened their doors in our city. It also serves the best latte/cappuccino I have had in Regina. Lots of bite. CJ Katz loves this place and suggested I give it a try. It is a little difficult to access unless you are coming north on Broad Street. If you are heading south on Broad, it gets convoluted. It is located across the street from The CNIB and CBC. The young man waiting on me was very polite and when I asked where their goodies were made, he told me, with pride, that they were baked on site.

'Emerald Spire' Flowering Crab
• Beware of the grandmother: How bad can it be, you ask? She has a book. A grandmother’s brag book, filled with a hundred photos. If we have no visitors for a day or two, she gets antsy. I will be watching the hockey game, minding my own business and she will plunk herself down beside me. The book is opened and she begins the show and tell story of how wonderful this child is. “I know, I know” says I, but it doesn’t stop. “Aren’t those the most adorable fingers you have ever seen?” she asks.

• Take your medication, please: One morning, I arrived at the garden center. I glanced at the phone to see who had called. One number showed up twenty-two times in the last ninety minutes. I called back right away. It must be really important to call twenty-two times in ninety minutes, right? What did the lady want? “Do you sell corn seed?” I have written this before, I can’t make this stuff up.

• Pizza Pizza: Let me begin with the conclusion. Don’t go there. On Thursday, a coupon arrived in our mailbox. We are normally a fan of The Copper Kettle or sometimes Houston on Hill for a takeout pizza. The coupon tempted us as the price was half of what we normally pay. We gave into that temptation and even at half price, it was not worth it. Where do I begin? Let it suffice to write there was not much difference in flavour between the cardboard box and the pizza. I always prefer to include one positive note. Here it is: The photo on the coupon was lovely.

• A hat by another name: The Sikhs wear turbans, Canadians wear toques. Some point out that the headdress worn by a Sikh is for religious reasons. True, but talk to a hockey fan wearing a Toronto Maple Leaf toque. Now that is a true believer.

Martagon lily in our garden
• Farmers’ Market: The spring version has been open for two Saturdays now, in The Cathedral Village Community Center. I have to report some very unwanted news. The fine folks at Linda’s Pickles are retiring. They are selling off what they have left and there are no dills available. I checked out Rocky Orchards as they jar up a decent dill and they are sold out ‘til next fall. Laurel was back with her incredible poppy seed strudel. It is the best in town, second to none. Free range eggs and greenhouse tomatoes were for sale.

Thank you for reading...Rod McDonald in ‘it’s still winter’ Regina

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