Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Garden Report #123

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

'Dexter Jackson' apple-a Saskatchewan introduction
• Writers write: ‘Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet and so are you’. The basic love poem has been penned for Valentine’s Day for a century or two. Sugar is sweet, no argument here. It is also addictive, highly addictive. The addiction, courtesy of ‘Big Sugar’, Pepsi, Coke and The Seven Eleven Corporation, has moved from adults to youth, to children to young children.

I was driving from the garden center out to a landscape job on a summer morning. It was a little before eight a.m. The sun was shining brightly and no wind. The start to a beautiful July day. As I approached the intersection of 13th and Pasqua, walking down Pasqua Street was a family of three. Mom, Dad and a three year old. Each of them had, cradled into their bodies, ‘Double Big Gulps’. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, it is a plastic cup filled with two litres or sixty-four ounces of soda pop. That translates into approximately 75 teaspoons of sugar for each person, including the child, to start their morning off. Slurp, slurp.

Feed a child a morphine pill or give him a cigarette to smoke and you are facing criminal charges. Rightly so. The bottom line is that sugar companies, along with the pop companies and retailers such as Seven Eleven, have engaged in actions to ensure there is an entire generation hooked on their product. Addiction equals profit, at least for them. For the population, it equals a bankrupted health system, diabetes, obesity, shortened attention spans, uncompleted educations and that is the short list.

I am not opposed to sugar in a treat form. I do love my ice cream, but I also try to limit it to the now and again, not the everyday. When we were kids, a coke was seven ounces and a king sized coke was ten ounces. The thought of a 32, 48 or a 64 ounce coke would have been considered preposterous. But that ship sailed many years ago.

I am fully aware that I am preaching, perhaps to the converted, but the damned alarm bell has been ringing for years and very little has been done. New York City has been trying to get a law enacted to limit the drink size to sixteen ounces and that should only be the first in a series of shots fired at ‘Big Sugar’. As with the tobacco companies, expect the sugar companies to fight back and not always in a fair manner.

• Readers write:

• Anita Hall asked this question. “Were you being funny when you asked about changing your underwear every time you showered?” Rod’s note: If you laughed, it was a joke. If you wrote a ten page thesis on the rules of underwear changing, then I was being serious. Your choice.

• Jackie Arnason offers this ruling on the underwear debate. “Rod - you asked about re-using your gotch. I am probably old enough to be your mother so here is my take - you are allowed to re-use the gotch, once - but you must turn it inside out. Hope this helps to reduce your laundry."

• Reader Janice Cerato is a mother, a grandmother and a Registered Nurse. She believes she is fully qualified to pass an official ruling on the frequency of underwear changes. “Once a day is adequate, regardless of how many showers are taken."

Pascal, Tina and Sebastian- fans of TGR!
• Marcus Fernando was surprised by #122. “How is it that, in all the time we've known each other, I never knew you were a trumpet man? Come to think of it, did you know that I am a trumpet man? Why have we never talked trumpet before? How come we've never compared trumpet heroes (Louis Armstrong and Herb Alpert, in my case)? Most importantly: why have we never tried to crash through some chords together? Next, you'll be telling me you're a puppeteer as well!”

• Jodi Sadowsky responded “my sister thinks that The Naked Bean is first rate as well.”

• Roberta Nichol has this to say about people who pass through our lives. “I truly believe that each person we meet comes into our lives for a reason. They may turn out to be our best friends, or just a passerby. But in my mind, there are no coincidences, and each of them are supposed to be there. Maybe to make us think. Maybe to make us stronger, or maybe to make us more patient or compassionate. Who knows? Sometimes, we may never know what that reason is.”

*It is always enjoyable to receive an email from Chris Dodd. “As usual, The Garden Report is a very enjoyable way to start Sunday morning. I want to mention, I recommend you try Flip Eatery’s Cuban pulled pork sandwich.”

• Don Volpel had this comment. “Good morning Rod. I normally do not respond to comments made by others, but this time I had to. I too, attended the funeral of this lady who was a friend. The eulogy by her husband touched me as well. I wish to point out that as we age the appreciation of life becomes more inherent. This man's wife had suffered for a very lengthy time and had time to prepare herself to meet the God of her understanding. His eulogy brought memories back that I will hold on to and remember forever, especially when I was thinking of my life with my spouse and how we really don't communicate how we feel about them enough. I am now going to make a point of doing that more often. Thank-you Rod for expressing this in your newsletter.”

• Terena Murphy Bannerman has read The Garden Report in many different locales. “Congratulations on your milestones; surely the popularity of The Garden Report confirms that you have a winning format; we read (wherever we happen to be in the world) to have a trip home. Over the years, I have been in rural France, a coastal village in Ireland, a B&B in Italy, a hostel in Bavaria, a former royal palace in Zanzibar and a tented game reserve in Tanzania when I logged on for a slice of home. I treasure the feeling of connection you give us, it's like a cosy visit with an old friend. And when I am reading in my home here in Lumsden, I enjoy the feeling of a shared conversation with the group. Thank you.”

• Georgia Hearn was full of compliments this week. “Loved, loved, loved, this issue. So funny in spots. Keep it up.”

• Heather Lowe is up late on a Saturday night. “It’s one o’clock in the morning and I’m still up, reading The Garden Report. I really enjoyed it. Thanks for a good read. Now I’m off to bed.”

• June Blau has a different take. “Many thanks again for a great Sunday read! In response to your volunteers as weeds: sadly, it applies beyond the plant world. Is this too cynical?”

• Neil Slater responds to the toque as religious headwear assertion. “As for your writing this week, my wife agrees that hockey toques are a religious item of apparel, and I would add to that caps with automotive logos. The passion with which people (usually males) will argue the merits of a particular make of vehicle can be amusing. Or tedious...”

'Felix Leclerc' rose
 • New column: I have often mentioned ‘The Gardener’ magazine which is published in Saskatoon. It is the finest publication for gardeners both new and established. The people who run the magazine have long been fans of The Garden Report. I am now writing a regular column for their publication, titled ‘The Anecdotal Gardener’. The magazine is published four times a year and is available on newsstands and by subscription. This issue, there is a great article on hardy roses by reader William Hyrcan.

• Parents’ pride: I have seen and no doubt you have as well, parents who brag of their children’s’ accomplishments, as if this proves they were superior parents. Children’s accomplishments, while something to be proud of for any parent, belong to the child who worked for them. I have seen kids who accomplished much in life who came from terrible homes as well as the opposite. There are kids who have had every opportunity to excel and insisted on mediocrity as their choice. One of my favourite stories regarding parenting and kids achieving came from Wayne Gretzky’s father, Walter. Walter was asked by a reporter if he was proud of Wayne and Walter growled “I am proud of all my children!” Not all kids grow up to be Wayne Gretzky, but all kids grow up.

The good sleepers club at work!
• Grampa’s report: The only two things that Rayanna and I share so far is, both of us enjoy our meals and both of us love our naps. Good eaters and good sleepers, that is our claim to fame right now.

• Liver Lovers Club: Oh stop your complaining. You don’t have to join us. For the truly converted, we will be meeting on Thursday, April 4th at 11:30 a.m. The venue is The City Hall Cafeteria. Be early as the line up is very long! The City Hall Cafeteria will be shutting down for renovations for ten months so we will be meeting elsewhere after that.

• Once again: I still maintain that middle age is meeting a pretty lady, walking her dog, and being more interested in the dog than her. “Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy?”

• The spirituality of children: Ask any small child to draw a picture of God and they will carry out the task immediately. Ask any adult and they will respond that it cannot be done. I suspect the reason us adults cannot draw God is that we have forgotten what he/she looks like whereas small children remember.

• Best tomato soup: Better than Campbell’s, Aylmer’s or Heinz, the tomato soup I made last week was wonderful. There appears to be a lot of vine ripened tomatoes on sale recently, so I took advantage and bought several. I cut nine of them into quarters and poached them in a quarter cup of water. I then cooked them down for an hour, mashing them with a potato masher. I added in a teaspoon of fresh ground rosemary and a teaspoon of ground coriander seed, a half teaspoon of salt and pepper and two cloves of smashed garlic. I let that simmer for another hour with the lid off to reduce it slightly. The more you reduce tomatoes, the more intense the taste. I added in a tablespoon of butter and a cup and a quarter of whole milk. Then I took a fine strainer and poured everything through to remove the pulp and seeds. It was ready to serve once I brought it back up to a warmer temperature. So much better than canned and I know what is in it. So easy to make.

• Living life dangerously: Cooking bacon, in the nude.

• Living life ridiculously dangerously: Asking your wife if she has gained weight when she is cleaning the family shot gun. (Okay, in order for that joke to work, you have to assume that wives clean shot guns. In some homes, perhaps, that is possible. “Honey. Is my shot gun clean? I want to go duck hunting with the guys and I don’t want them noticing that it is still dirty from last week.” Okay, okay. This one needs more work. Stay tuned for next week, when the drugs should have worn off.)

• Do I have this one right: Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will be gone for the rest of the week.

Billy and me planting trees
• Some wonderful news: Some of you know Billy Patterson. He worked for me part time in 2011 and fulltime last year. He will be carrying on his apprenticeship with my mentor, Dieter Martin in Langham, Saskatchewan, this year. There is no better place for a young person to learn the horticultural trade than at Dieter’s greenhouse.

• ‘Dexter Jackson’ Apple: This apple is a Saskatchewan introduction. It ripens early and can be eaten right off the tree.

'Black Scallop' ajuga
• ‘Black Scallop’ Ajuga: Attached is a photo of 'Black Scallop' Ajuga. Excellent accent plant in patio pots or for the shady part of the garden. Fast growing, with large glossy dark foliage. Great display when planted en masse. Photo and info courtesy of Brian Heembrock at Aubin Nurseries Ltd. in Carman, Manitoba.

• Spring runoff: If we have a long, slow arrival to our spring, flooding will be minimized. If spring thaw arrives with a vengeance, pack your bags Martha and move to higher ground. I write this with a bit of experience, having lived through the floods of ’69, ’71, ’73 and 2011. Our house is about two hundred feet, give or take, from Wascana Creek and Lake. In 1973, as the water passed underneath The Albert Street Bridge, the roar was so loud that you had to shout to be heard. As an aside, we are closing in on the record snowfall of ‘54/’55.

Tulips cannot handle flood waters
• Oh, oh: If we have problems with run off this spring and the water remains in my back garden, which is quite flat, my tulips could be flooded out. I planted somewhere between a thousand and fifteen hundred last fall, my memory fails me, and nothing destroys fall bulbs more than wet soil. This is another reason for me to have my pump out and working hard in a few weeks time. There is always an element of risk to gardening, that is the challenge.

• The light of day: It is now light at seven a.m. and daytime sticks around ‘til after seven p.m. How wonderful the return of the longer days. It gives everyone a lift.

• Garden Tip: If you have houseplants that have not been fertilized for awhile, March is a good month to start your feeding program again. My own favourite fertilizer is 10 30 20 or 15 30 15. You can also use 20 20 20 and if you are starting seedlings right now, a starter fertilizer called 10 52 10 is a good one to feed the new sprouts with.

• An Irish kiss: Today is St. Patrick’s Day, the day in North America when all pretend to be Irish. Green, the natural colour of this province and Rider fans everywhere, is worn across the land. Beer is drank and those who cannot tolerate Guinness, will try once again to see if it tastes better this time. Irish pubs will be packed to the rafters and tomorrow, there will be many celebrants repeating the Irish mantra of “Oh God. Please, Please. If you make my head quit throbbing, I promise never to do this again.”

• Garden Tip: If not already done so, and if you are in need of design help for your yard, call Heather Lowe or Ingrid Thiessen for a booking. Both are already booked well in advance but best to get your name on the list or soon, it will be next year country. Considering how much money a gardener will spend on their yard over the years, the fee spent on design help is a truly an investment.

• A great place: I stopped in this week to visit with the boys at Dutch Cycle. I haven’t been there for some time and a visit was overdue. How do you reinvent the bicycle? What is old is new again, that is the answer. Big fat tires are the rage this year. You read it here. Yep, those tires we grew up with in the 1950s are back in style. The one benefit of big fat tires versus the skinny ones is that the big ones are much more comfortable to ride over the bumps and ruts.

• Garden Tip: All gardens evolve, change and grow, no pun intended. Why I remind people of this basic premise is that there are those amongst us who believe that once a yard has been planted, the task is finished. A tree grows big and tall. It casts shade. The potentilla that flourished for several years now languish in the shade cast by that tree. It is time to evaluate the landscape and see what stays and what goes. Heinz Wiffel, my friend over at Wascana Greenhouses said it best: “A landscape must be changed every eight years to keep it current.”

• Out and about: Saturday afternoon was my day to travel around town, shop a bit and socialize. I know, I know. What happened to the bar hopping, party animal that we used to be? Time, man, time, is the answer. I ran into Jack Severson, one of our local artists and we had a visit. Jack is riding his bike all the time, skating and walking everywhere. He turns sixty-five this summer and looks great, as if he might be fifty. Something to be said for keeping fit. I also ran into readers Michelle and Ken McCaw who are always a treat to have a chat with. Over at The Italian Star, me coming out and they going in, were Aleese and Duncan Fisher II. There are three Duncan Fishers in town and I am related to all three. I bet you didn’t know that. Duncan II and I are connected because his grandmother and my grandfather were brother and sister, though married to other people. Our family might be hard working farm folk, but we are not inbred, in case you were wondering. Duncan II and I were laughing, that for being cousins, we do not look anything alike. Duncan suggested that might be a good thing. I did not clarify who it was a good thing for, lest my feelings be hurt.

I planted this one in October-here's hoping!
 • Three ideas: I get people approaching me, from time to time, bouncing business ideas off of me. Here are three suggestions for what Regina needs in our shopping community. We need A) A high end spice shop where you can purchase the good stuff. Call it ‘The Spice Box’. They could sell fresh herbs as well. B) A shop that makes and sells great soups. The soup can be to go or to sit in and enjoy with a slice of good bread. In Vancouver, two of these are named ‘The Stock Market’ and the other ‘The Soup Kitchen’. C) A bake shop dedicated to first rate pies. Again, eat in or take out. Sharon Wallace bakes the finest of pies but they are only available at The Farmers’ Market. How about a sit down place where you can order a bit of tea along with a slice and then take a whole one home. We used to have ‘The Little Pie Shop’ but it is long gone. There is a diner in Hope, B.C. called ‘Home Restaurant’. They serve great meals and slices of pie. They also pack up entire pies, charging a good price, for people who want one to take home. I asked what their best seller was and they told me lemon meringue. I bought one and it was worth every penny, if not every calorie.

• We want to buy: Rayanna is coming to visit us over Easter and we have a crib and a bassinette but we need to buy a folding, change table. Do you have one tucked away in your basement that you are not using? Keep in mind, when you quote us a price, that we come from an excellent line of Scottish people, who don’t like to pay too much. ‘A fool and his money are soon parted, but a Scot’s man and his nickel seldom are.’

• Thank you for reading…Rod in ‘yeah, yeah, this is old news, lotsa snow’, Regina

1 comment:

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