Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Garden Report #129

Sunday, April 28th, 2013 

Spring will soon be here
 • Writers write: The spring melt has begun and now, instead of complaining of the longest winter in memory, we can shift our fears to being swept away by the mighty Wascana, which technically is a creek, in fact a very lazy creek, except for a week or two each spring. Perhaps next week’s Garden Report will be written from a raft or from my friend Noah’s boat. Do you know him, Noah?

Here is something important, at least to myself, as is spring flooding. As many readers know, I was diagnosed twelve years ago with renal failure (kidneys). I have been on dialysis for the last six. I want off of dialysis and the only way for that to occur is if I have a transplant. There are many stories out there, in the news, about the shortage of donor kidneys. Those stories are true. Within the transplant community we call donations ‘The Gift of Life’ and we are not being theatrical. Donor kidneys (and other organs) change people’s lives. I was blessed to have a friend and neighbour, Kirk Bellamy, come forward to be tested and we were a match. That was the good news. After six months of testing, it was revealed that the transplant could not proceed because of technical problems hooking up our arteries. Receiving the news was similar to having the floor drop out from underneath our feet. Not what we wanted to hear. As a writer, my ending would have been much happier. Us writers get to do those sort of things. Thank you.

I used to be apprehensive about asking people this question, but not any longer. Here it is: Would a reader consider being tested to see if they are a match for me and if so, donate one of their two kidneys? As you can read, I don’t ask for much. For new readers, that is me being tongue in cheek. In order to be my donor, you have to be either Blood type A or Blood type O. You have to be in good health and willing to go through a complete screening process of around six months. That is the elephant in the living room that I am talking about today. Rest assured, if I was not approaching desperation, I would not even mention this issue. I am only too aware of the courage that it requires to be a living donor and I am not certain, if I posses that attribute. I will not bore you with the details of life on dialysis but I will share this, it is not fun. Kirk advises me that if anyone wants to discuss being a living donor, he is more than willing to be involved with the conversation, sharing his experience.

While I wait for a living donor to come forward, I am also listed on the Cadaveric Transplant List. If you are willing to be an organ donor after you pass, you have to sign your card and let your family know of your intentions. There are only a few occasions that we are given to change someone’s life for the better. This is one of those opportunities.

• Readers write:
Michel started this hanger March 28th

• Terena Murphy Bannerman provides us with a good laugh. She writes “As always, a wonderful Report, thank you. It has been one of the many small points of light helping me get through what seems like a very long, long winter. I laughed at your mention of the incident with the nurse in the RPH. When I was approaching forty, many of my friends (also around the same age) were having tattoos drawn onto various parts of their bodies to celebrate the milestone birthday. I could never choose a design that I was committed to. Now, we are all about to celebrate fifty, I am still undecided. And what if, as in ‘The Big Bang Theory’, one believed that one was getting the Chinese symbol for ‘joy’ but it turned out to be the symbol for ‘soup’? Now that's commitment to a food group. I wonder what the Chinese symbol for ‘chocolate’ is?”
• Sherrie Tutt was appreciative of the book mention given here. “Hi Rod: Loved the pussy willows. Now I know spring really is coming! Thanks for plugging my new book. Feel free to offer my e-mail to anyone interested.”

• This in from Jean Freeman. “And thanks for the shot of the pussy willows in today's Report! They went straight to my soul, I swear, and gave me hope for eventual spring!”

• Nina Ocejo writes from Edmonton. “I enjoy reading your newsy Garden Report.”

• Our friend, Bob Leeson, had this comment about bullying. “I remember the bullies and the cliques. I loved United College where people like me were free to be ourselves and those bullies felt very out of place. Many of those bullies in my neighborhood were being abused at home and I came to forgive them.”

Michel's hanger on April 25th-filling in nicely
 • Marsha Kennedy had some interesting comments regarding last week’s editorial on bullying. “ I am learning to save The Garden Report that now arrives Saturday night, for my Sunday morning treat. It is a good way to bring in a new week and a lovely Sunday read. I read, with interest, your comments about bullying and your experiences at Central. I remember that all too well. What also came to mind, as I read, was the very first time I tried to 'fit in' and indulge in a bit of bullying myself. I was walking to school and near me was a girl who was a victim of bullying. I thought, in my misguided thinking, that I was given a ticket to do the same thing. This girl was large, had red hair and freckles. A combination that was sure to give her grief from other students. I called out “fatso” and she turned, looked at me and returned the words, “toothpick”. I wasn't expecting that as she had not ever said anything to anyone else before. I very quickly 'got it', and apologized to her. That experience was a very good lesson for me. That was in grade two (approx.) and I still revisit that moment, from time to time, and feel guilty. I also really respected her after that and she has no idea that it was a lesson that has stayed with me until this day.”

• Marcus Fernando feels the need to be glib. He writes from Birmingham in England. “When you referred to "breaking the fifth wall", I thought you were being deep. I should have known better!”

• Neil Slater had this bit to add regarding delivery times for The Garden Report. “Thanks for the latest Garden Report. It's as wonderful as ever. I too had wondered at the early delivery time, but it makes complete sense.”

• Garden Tip: Never let plants sit in puddles or ponds of water, if it can be helped. Best to drain excess water away from plantings. How should this be accomplished? Positive drainage is the easiest of the solutions. After that, trenches and pumps. Where drainage will always be poor, best to dig planting holes six to eight inches deeper and fill that void with crushed rock. This will give the plant a bit of a hedge factor if there is an excess of water.

Getting ready for the flood

• Sadly: Doreen Fisher, our neighbour who lived with her husband in the house next to The Albert Street Bridge, since 1970, has passed away. Doreen was eighty-three and had been in poor health the last few years. She is remembered not only as a neighbour but as an artist and a potter. She taught art at Sheldon Williams Collegiate for twenty years and was thought of highly by her students and fellow teachers. Many people also know her husband Duncan, as he played in The N.H.L. in the 1950s and ‘60s. At the service, Doreen’s grandson Andy Fisher, honored the Clan Kerr and Clan Fisher heritage with the pipes. He played the traditional Bobby Burns ‘Amazing Grace’ and then he piped us out of the chapel with ‘Scottish Soldier’. The neighbours turned out in fine force to offer their final respects at Doreen’s memorial service. Our tight knit community will miss her.

• Viet Trung: There have been a few Vietnamese Restaurants at this location, 1929 Albert Street. This is the latest one. Usually, for Oriental food, I order from Peking House on Rose. The last two times I have called P.H., I was put on hold and my order was not taken. That is Peking House’s problem. That is the explanation of how I ordered from Viet Trung for the first time. I will probably not be ordering again. I gave them a test order of six, basic dishes including soup. I could get into the long, drawn out, foodie review, but I will save time and cut to the chase: The food was mediocre at best and I was disappointed. Too bad, as I much prefer to give small shops great reviews, but only when they deserve one.

• Cultural oasis: There are many wonderful cultural events to attend in Regina, in spite of those who complain otherwise. Maureen sings with The Amici Choir and they had their concert last Sunday. I love choir singing, the blending of the voices and the fullness of the sound. Also on this week was ‘I, Claudia’ at The Globe, our main stage theater. Lucy Hill, who hails from here, was the one and only actor, performing all four parts. I also love to mention our symphony, The Folk Festival and The Fringe Festival. Sadly, I often see the same people at all events. Now, not to be too much of a Baptist here, but “seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened”. Lots to see and do if you are willing to give up complaining.

• Coming soon: The 22nd annual Cathedral Village Arts Festival is drawing closer and closer. This year, it is on from May 20th to the 25th. If you have never been to this arts and music festival, let me assure you that it is a great time. Take note that all performances are free and regular readers know that the word free, makes a Scotsman feel warm all over. The web site for information is Reader Margaret Bessai is the head honcho for The Festival. She mentions that they can always use a few more volunteers.

'William Baffin' hardy rose
 • Garden Tip: It is a myth that roses are difficult to grow. Any gardener can grow roses, if they have a sunny spot. Roses require a bit of plant food to keep them blooming and a bit of pruning, which is not difficult to learn. There. The secret is now out.

• Out of the blue: This week, I got unexpected, but appreciated, phone calls from regular readers John Huston in Toronto and from Marcus Fernando and Tina Hoffman in Birmingham, England. Great to hear their voices. Even better, they didn’t call collect. Must not be related to me.

• Garden Tip: As soon as the snow recedes from your lawn area, get out a fan rake and give the grass a good raking. Then place everything you raked up into a sealed garbage bag. This will not only improve the appearance of your lawn but it will assist in removing much of the snow mould left by the winter. Be careful in that some of you will be very allergic to snow mould. I find a bit of Claritin helps, but I am not a doctor nor am I prescribing.

• A long history: In 1938, a gentleman named Mr. Love, lived on Regina Avenue, near Robinson Street. He purchased a Philco Radio and it was a gorgeous piece of furniture. In 1973, his widow gave the radio to me. I had it in our house, across the street, until 1995, then moved it to our present home. I no longer use the radio and I gave it to the young electrician next door. He, his wife and their children have just moved here from Vancouver. He is going to fix the electronics and refinish the cabinet. That one radio has now spent seventy-five years residing in four different homes, all on Regina Avenue. To add one last piece to this story, the Love’s had a daughter who many of us know. She is Nancy Hipperson and she lives on Albert Street.

• According to the birds: Each spring, as the ice turns to water on Wascana Lake, the birds return from their southern, winter homes. It is a pure racket of screaming coming from flocks that number in the thousands. What an excited noise. If I can translate for a brief moment, the conversation goes something like this: “Oh Mabel. You look great. We were in Texas, again, this winter. We adore it there. And you and Pete? No doubt Florida. You two are so predictable. You must give Texas a try next year. We’ll take you out to our favourite grain field.”

• Good eats: Sometimes we burn out from too many suppers that have the meat in one corner, the rice or the potatoes at the top and the veggies at the bottom. The salad being served in a separate side plate. Just too predictable, even if it is well done. We have been trying to do a few things differently and have been pleased with the results. Nothing new school cuisine. Just some old school with changes. We prepared some pita pockets for Friday supper. First, the protein was boneless chicken marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano and basil. We grilled it quickly on the barbecue to get a crisp exterior, leaving the interior juicy. The chicken was chopped into half inch bits. We used pita bread from Zsa Zsa over on 4th Avenue. Excellent, locally made product. Open the pocket of the pita and the first layer is finely chopped lettuce with a few green tails mixed in. Then some of the grilled chicken pieces, followed by chopped tomatoes and dressed with a yogurt sauce. The yogurt sauce is made from Greek yogurt, a bit of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, lots of garlic, oregano and basil with chopped up cucumber and green tail mixed together. Finished it off with a sprinkling of feta cheese made from sheep’s’ milk, which has the most flavour. You can get the feta from The Italian Star. Was it good? Yep.
A single petunia growing at Cherry Lane

• Garden Tip: Usually, I recommend that fertilizing your garden occur between May 1st and the 15th. Not this year. You have my full permission, at least in our area, to be a little tardy this season. I would guess that this year, the middle of May or even a week after will be the right time to start feeding the plants. Stay tuned to this station as everything is weather dependent.

• Garden Tip: With a few warmer days showing up on our doorstep, if you have plants growing indoors, it is a good idea to harden them off by placing them on the steps for a few hours of real sunshine and wind. Now, beginning gardeners are always confused by the words ‘harden off’. They simply mean ‘to toughen up by placing outside and exposing tender plants to more extreme conditions’. You are supposed to take the plants in at night if the temperature is going to drop too low.

• Garden Tip: Many years ago, a gardener was irate that his tomato seedlings were dying off. He wanted me to explain why this was happening. There can be many reasons but this one was actually quite easy to solve. The plants had a strong smell of gasoline to them. The man had been hardening off his plants and he wanted to protect them at night, in case there was any frost. He put them in his tool shed, right alongside the gas for his lawnmower. The seedlings had breathed in the gas all night long and were now quite limp. As an anecdote, you might think the gardener would be appreciative, that I solved his query, but no, he was quite ticked with my discovery. He wanted the reason for the plants demise to be something obscure rather than something he had done. Sigh.

Patrick and  Rayanna going out the door
• Not yet, but soon: I work, part time, at a ranch, south of town. Brad Crassweller and I took a drive out there on Saturday to see how much of the snow has melted. I thought that we could get a start on the spring cleanup and pruning by the end of this week. Not a chance. Not even if it goes to plus twenty-five every day. There is so much snow and the drifts are six feet in places. There is more snow out there than in the city. I wonder how much rabbit damage there will be? Preliminary reports from readers with homes on the outskirts of the city are that the rabbits were very hungry this year, eating anything and everything.

• Farmers’ Market: They will be moving down to the new mall on 12th and Scarth, starting this Saturday at 9:30. It will be a small number of booths at first, but still worth supporting. This Saturday, I picked up some of the finest poppy seed loaf from Laura’s booth, some fresh tomatoes and cucumber from Bush Greenhouse and some free range eggs at another booth. Also, there was a bit of fresh basil available. Soon, we will be enjoying our own basil, grown with the goodness of the sun and the auspices of the Greek Gods.

• Gardener wanted: One of our readers is looking for a part time gardener to assist in maintaining her yard. She is very fussy, I will vouch for that as her garden is first rate. She wants to keep it looking that way. If you are interested, I can hook the two of you up. Keep in mind, this job has nothing to do with me. I am just playing volunteer matchmaker.

Lisa and Rayanna-cool hair cut
 • Never too much Italian dressing: I was giving Carlos Giambattista the gears, asking how many Italians does it take to change the proverbial light bulb? The answer: Twelve. One to actually do it and eleven to claim it was their idea. I wrote that one myself. Our former mayor, Pat Fiacco, was listening in and let me know “we invented the light bulb” which just adds to the joke. So. Who from the politically correct will be filing a complaint with The Human Rights Commission that we were telling ethnic jokes? And while we are on the topic of ethnic jokes, how does a Scottish kid tick the old man off? “Hey dad! Screw the oatmeal! I want bran flakes for breakfast.”

• Wowser!: Just checked the circulation for The Garden Report. We now have over four thousand readers in total. There are one thousand of you who read this via the email edition and three thousand who read it online. One of the reasons for such a strong jump in readership is that there have been two plugs for the online edition in national publications. Those mentions added more readers. Keep in mind, The Garden Report started out with only a hundred readers.

• Thanks for reading...Rod McDonald in the flood zone of Regina, Saskatchewan

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Garden Report #128

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

Rob V.Z.'s favourite hardy rose-'Winnipeg Parks'
• Writers write: Bullying has been in the news again and rightly so. Specifically, at the high school level. Sadly, there has been another suicide. There has always been bullying in schools. When we were kids, those who possessed athletic skills, dominated the playgrounds at school. Those who did not excel at sports and were last chosen to play, were usually relegated to the bottom of the pecking order. Yet, when finished with school and life continued on, some gifted athletes struggled after their days of team sports were finished; while the science kids climbed the social order with superior jobs and higher incomes.

I remember, sadly, those who were socially inept were often mocked, made fun of and ostracized: Or the small boy in high school, well mannered, minding his own business, would have his books knocked or kicked from his grip by some member of a supposed higher pecking order. I have no idea who appointed those obnoxious, self serving cliques who defined themselves as the ‘in crowd’. I have no idea who decided what or who should be fashionable, acceptable and in a quasi leadership position. I have no idea why someone who could shoot a three pointer in basketball was supposedly superior to the best mathematician in the school. Who made that rule?

I do remember that there was one of these self appointed, elitist cliques when I attended Central Collegiate in downtown Regina. It was a group of supposed alpha males who hung around a water fountain, mocking those who passed by. I was in The Fine Arts Program and for some unknown reason, this group decided the students in our program were either ‘sluts’ or ‘fruitcakes’. Nice choice. One afternoon, tired of their comments, I approached them and asked if any one of them cared to go outside with me and ‘dance’. They became unusually silent by my request. None spoke. I then informed the clique that the next time any of them said anything to our class, as we passed, that I would ‘dance’ with the speaker/tormentor, right there in the hall. Amazing, how a pack of usually opinionated guys had nothing to say when threatened with a beating from an alpha male, ‘fruitcake’ notwithstanding. Ghandi, I was not. As an aside, there is a difference between standing up for yourself and bullying and there was no other way to get this ignorant group to behave. Report them to the administration? Give me a break. Absolutely nothing would have been done about it. The gym teacher actually encouraged their behaviour.

I do know this much. Bullying in schools can be ended, if we have the collective will to do so. The schools must adopt a zero tolerance to the problem and just not offer lip service to that policy. The students must band together to agree to end it and parents must instruct their kids on how words can hurt. It is not an easy issue to resolve, but it can be stopped, if we agree to do our part.

• Readers write:

• Chris Pasterfield is back in town after a long absence to Hawaii and Victoria. Chris enjoyed the friendship of our neighbour, Alex Young, who has died. “Sad to hear about Alex as he just addressed our service club, three months ago on prostate concerns. He was a nice guy.”

The City is setting up flood protection to save our houses

• Mike Liske has joined the ongoing discussion praising women’s hockey. “I, too, have found myself more interested in women's hockey over the past couple of years. Much cleaner hockey. Also if you get the chance, European hockey can be fun to watch. The speed of the game and skill level makes it very exciting. North American hockey really needs to take note and maybe get back to its roots.”

• Georgia Hearn also writes up a lovely compliment. “Fabulous issue. You make spring closer and you make me smile. Thank you.”

• Gwen Barschel is a gardener who just can’t wait to get outside. “My southwest facing front window is full of seedlings, including four pots of canna roots [or is it tubers?] I purchased San Marzano tomatoes last year at Dorn’s and I, too, enjoy the local greenhouses. You can always find something unusual, and the plants are well cared for. The Marzanos grew well, but I found the tomatoes smaller than the other Romas I had. I planted datura seeds on March 24th and I have a eighteen, healthy seedlings. My husband teases me. He thinks I am behaving as if I am going to get into my garden, soon. I replied, “Three feet of dirt right here in the living room will do if necessary!” Enjoy The Garden Report, as usual. I noticed you’ve been getting it out earlier in the evening the past few weeks!” Rod’s note: If I am going out on a Saturday night, say to The Symphony, I have to send it out early. Here is the situation. The readers in England and Europe are six to eight hours ahead of us in Regina and they get ‘owly’ if The Garden Report arrives late, by their time clocks. I have to have it out by midnight, at the latest. When I come home from my big night out, I am either tired or else my dialysis machine is calling me.

• Sarah Willis gardens in southern Ontario. She writes about a plant that I featured last week. “I think the photo of Delosperma 'Fire Spinner' should come with a warning or disclaimer, or something that provides scale. 'Fire Spinner' was new last year, and having seen photos of it, I made sure to look for it at my husband's garden centre, as I had great plans for this day-glow flower. The flowers really are those amazing neon colours - but, where I was picturing gerbera-size, they are less than English-daisy size, about 1 cm in diameter (about 3/8" if you're not bilingual). I guess I should have read the fine print.”

• Roberta Nichol has an opinion regarding thank you cards. “Regarding Thank You cards, I couldn't agree with you more. There is nothing like receiving that little treasure in your mailbox. Writing in one and mailing it out takes only minutes and you feel good, the recipient feels good...... I love doing that, to this very day. I admit, I don't do it as regularly as I used to, but I do have a box of cards in the house that are perfect for those occasions. Just a sweet little gesture, like a hug. I, too, am old school on this one.”

• Colleen Mahoney writes “Thanks for the reminder (in #127), Rod - I was at Canadian Time buying potting soil for my calla lily!”
Pussy willows setting bud on April 19th-despite the snow
• Garden Tip: With the incredible amount of snow cover this spring, many plants have been bent out of shape. Not to worry. They will recover their form. Do you remember how we had the same concern in the spring of 2011? Yet, everything that was bent out of shape made its way back to near normal conditions. Now and again, there will be a shrub or tree that requires a bit of pruning or shaping.

• Last week’s symphony: Wow! A massed choir of three hundred voices, give or take. I tried counting, but I kept getting the heads blurred together. The audience was almost to capacity, what with the families out to support the choir members. Friday night, we shared the intimacy of a gig at Sawchyn’s Guitars with forty people and the next night, a world class concert hall with an audience of two thousand, listening to a classic being performed. Regina is offering more and more opportunities for all of us and now, The Junos!

• Fifth Wall/Fourth Wall: Reader Ed Heidt argues that my reference to “breaking the fifth wall” when an audience speaks to the actors on stage should actually be the fourth wall. In my calculations, the fourth wall is the ceiling and the fifth is the one that separates the audience from the stage. Okay, okay. So Ed is right.

• Coyotes in disguise: Many years ago, I was at a function at The Hotel Saskatchewan. I left around midnight, walking south along Scarth Street. There was a brick building and a house, close together. There was a group of four people, waiting to mug someone or to steal a woman’s purse. They stepped ever so briefly out of the darkness into the shadows and I could just make them out. I stopped, turned towards them and asked “do you want something?” They said nothing and stepped back into the darkness. They were waiting for an easier target. One of the first things I learned about punks is that they prefer an easier target. They don’t want to go after someone who will give them a run for their money. I also realize that as I age, I become more and more, a potential target. I will have to choose where I walk with greater care. I often think of these people as coyotes, hanging around for the easy kill. I have no sympathy for purse snatchers before the courts because I know how they choose their prey.

• Bright, sun shiny days: There is still, lots of snow on the ground and we are long overdue for a typical spring. That is the down side. On the upside, I certainly am enjoying the sun being up before six a.m. and lots of light after supper. Celebrate these longer, sunny days.
'Queen Bee' petunia

• Garden Tip: To pinch or not to pinch, that is the question. I am a pincher. Relax. Your bottom is safe in my presence. I pinch my tomato plants. I like to pinch back the leader so the plant develops more strength, laterally. I don’t want a really tall plant. I want a really strong one. I also pinch back some lateral buds to increase the strength of the stock. I also pinch back other plants, especially geraniums. I have written here before, that visitors often comment that my geranium pots are first rate. There is no such thing as a ‘green thumb’. To turn your geraniums into super stars in the garden, just do the following three things on regular basis: a) provide lots of sun, b) water and fertilize regularly, 3) pinch the blooms back regularly. There are those gardeners who cannot bear to pinch. They believe in protecting all blooms and buds. Those gardeners have tall, skinny geraniums that personally, I would be embarrassed to show.

• New book: Reader Sherrie Tutt is also a writer. She has a new book out called ‘Promenade’. The book is a mystery, set in a small town in Saskatchewan, next door to a First Nation.

A full bench at Cherry Lane Greenhouse
• A Canadian icon: We are fortunate to have Canadian icons, those people who shine through the arts and politics. Our icons are so different than the American icons. We have these people, who are not polished by p.r. firms and are not smooth, but they are real, so very real. They are Canadians, at their core. People such as Tommy Douglas, Joey Smallwood, Charlotte Whitten, Peter Gzwoski, ‘Stompin’ Tom and Rita MacNeil. Rita passed away this week, at the all too young age of sixty-eight. She rose to national prominence when she performed at Expo ’86 in Vancouver. When you listened to Rita sing, you heard a piece of Canadiana on the stage. With her, Cape Breton Island always shone through and through, the land of my father. When she sang with her choir, ‘The Men of the Deep’, you were moved, often to tears. These were songs about people who had tough lives and yet they carried on. She was a woman, not with a conventional beauty, but a beauty nonetheless, that was appreciated by Canadians. She was so real and so much a part of who we are. Through recordings and videos, we get to keep her. ‘A Rita MacNeil Christmas Special’ will be broadcast for years to come and many of us will watch it every year, smiling at the woman we came to love, the woman we called Rita.

• Upcoming theater: Jodi Sadowsky, our local producer of The Regina Fringe, has her own show coming up. Running from May 8th until the 12th, Jodi is in ‘Kafka’s Monkey’. The show is being produced by Golden Apple and the venue will be The Artesian on 13th and Angus. Support your local artists and take in Jodi’s show. Many of you will remember her from her last solo, ‘See Bob Run’. She always provides a good night of theater.

My cousin Ricky and I-his 60th
• Not this dude: I was lying on a gurney at The Pasqua Hospital this week, waiting for a procedure. The nurse in charge asked if I had any body piercings that were not visible. I started to laugh. She asked “what’s so funny?” I explained to her that my private parts are without adornment, I have no tattoos and I don’t dye my hair. “I am too old school for any of that stuff, but thanks for asking.”
• Boys night out: Sixteen of the male readers of The Garden Report got together on Friday night. We took in ‘The Battle of the Prairies’ which included a supper and ringside seats for the Olympic style boxing. We had more than our quota of fun and friendship before the evening was half over. So, sixteen men. Did we talk about women? No way. We have grown beyond that. What did we discuss? Dessert. Yep, what’s looking good on the dessert buffet was our Number One topic. Now, when we say “that little sweetie is tempting me,” we are referencing the Saskatoon cobber. Did you really expect something else from us?
  • Clan Kerr rallies: A week ago Saturday, us Kerr began to assemble in the village of Lebret to celebrate Cousin Ricky's 60th birthday.  My extended family is large, as our grandparents had a dozen kids (my mother was Number Eight) and they in turn, each had a bunch more.  I cannot walk down the street without running into a cousin or two. Worldwide, there are now over a million of us Kerr within the Clan, so let that be warning to the Campbells and the MacKenzies!
    The war council of Clan Kerr and a few cronies!

• Thanks for reading….Rod McDonald in Regina

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Garden Report #127

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

'Ruffled Velvet' Sibirian Iris-great for the sun
• Writers write: For the second week in a row, I have nothing that I wish to include in this section, but there is no shortage of things to read.

• Readers write:

• Sherrie Tutt addresses the issue of limping football players. “As to the knees, as an old orthopedic nurse, I can tell you that football is hell on knees. Tackles force knees to bend in directions they were never meant to go. Show me a big guy, over the age of forty, who is limping and I'll give you even money he once played the game. Also, I loved two of your pictures, especially the planter filled with bright flowers was just what I needed to get through another snow day and the stepping stone about old gardeners ‘going to pot’ kept me laughing a good five minutes. My begonias are thriving, thanks to your good advice. Keep the bright things coming, if only in pictures.”

• Dave Calam brightens our day with a touch of humour. “Many thanks, Rod, for another fine edition. I don't know why this came to mind. Nothing to do with The Garden Report, but I think you and your readers will like it. It comes from my friend Phil Holcomb, a great coach and mentor. "If a man tells a woman he will do something, he will. There is no need for her to remind him about it every six months."”

• Jean Mackay wants to know if anyone has San Marzano tomato seeds. She writes “Rod, have you ever grown these great tomatoes? A quick search of the Internet did not show any in a seed catalogue? We just came back from a week in Sicily which included a day with a chef who cooked a great lunch, including pasta ‘Norma’. I have the recipes on line, if you wish I can email them to you. Today with this tedious weather, I planted some spinach seeds in a pot indoors, I get a bit garden crazy this time of the year. Oh well, temperature can change rapidly in the spring in Regina. Thanks again for The Garden Reports-love them!” Rod’s note: Sherwood Greenhouse grows them as a bedding plant and Stokes’s sells them as a seed.

• Larry Levsen over at Sherwood Greenhouses is always a good sport about sending us updates for new plants. Here is a new petunia. “ I've been busy moving snow. Attached is a new spreading/trailing petunia called Petunia ‘Rhythm and Blues’. It is a new, long life hybrid that shows a jazzy colour pattern, deep blue flowers, surrounded by a bright white scalloped rim.”
'Rhythm and Blues' Petunia

• Hockey has lost viewers, mainly due to the violence. Frank Flegel is a part of that group, but he still loves the game, just not the punching type. “I tuned out NHL and Junior hockey, years ago, for all the reasons mentioned by others in an earlier Garden Report. Cruising through the channels one boring evening, I happened across the game between Canada and Denmark in The Women’s’ International Championship and immediately became a fan. It was fast, end to end, skillful and, at times, hard hitting hockey the way the game should be played. No fighting, cheap shots or anything else and the refs. didn't have to separate the players at every whistle. The crimes that led to penalties seemed more accidental than deliberate. Of course, Canada dominated and the score ended 8-0 but it was a joy to watch.”

• Cheryl Ann Smith tosses out this compliment. “Beautiful! Really nice to put a face to your family. Rayanna is such a little cutie.”

• Roberta Nichol is affectionately known as ‘The Grandmother’ of The Regina Folk Festival. After all, she was there at the beginning. Roberta shares this: “As for the Regina Folk Festival: I'm happy that it has become such a howling success. It started from practically nothing. I know. I was there. It hobbled, limped and crawled up to what it is today. Those early members never gave up. I wonder if the current Guild administration know the names of these people? I have to say, I, too, am not all that impressed with the insane size of the crowds, and therefore, have not attended an evening show for about five years. If the organization is aiming for such attendance, I also suggest that more diligence is used regarding porta-potty maintenance. Last year, during the day, the situation was absolutely disgusting. I do enjoy the workshops very, very much, as there's always a place to sit and be comfortable.”

• Heather Lowe sent along the photo ‘Lots and lots of snow’. She tells us that they had to clear the snow to access the grain bins, as they had a delivery quota for their grain.
A snow drift and Heather and Brian's farm

• Garden Tip: If not already done so, it is time to pot up your calla and cannas lilies. As we have such a short growing season here in Regina, I always suggest a head start so that those two plants are garden ready by the end of May.

• Garden Tip: Again, the two products that I suggest gardeners use when getting ready for the spring are Pro Mix which is a quality potting soil and a starter fertilizer such as a 10 52 10.

• Give me a break: Every year, when I had the garden center, there was this woman, a self styled apostle of garden terminology correctness, who would make a point of reminding me that Pro Mix has no soil in it, therefore, I should not be calling it a potting soil. Fine. Pro Mix is technically a soil less mix, but it is used in the same manner as a traditional potting soil. Since the arrival of the soil less mixes, greenhouses have been able to increase the sizes of the hanging baskets grown. Back in the day, when a soil based mix was used, a twelve inch basket would have weighed too much to hang from a hook. Now, with Pro Mix and similar products available, gardeners are hanging sixteen inch baskets with no problems.

• Garden Tip: Writing of correct terminology, the evergreen trees that you see growing in Regina are not called ‘Christmas trees’. Most evergreens in Regina are from the spruce (Picea) family and a few are pines (Pinus). Pines tend to grow better in a sandy soil and quality specimens are found growing at Pilot Butte/White City. Regina has such a heavy clay soil that pines do grow here but they never are the specimens that are found elsewhere.

• True story: Over the years, I have delivered hundreds, if not more, gardening seminars. Now and again, there will be someone in attendance who decides that they know as much or more than I do. Fair enough. So, why do they attend the seminar if they already know everything? Beats me. One afternoon, I was holding a seminar in the greenhouse for about thirty people. Every time I said something, a woman seated in the front row, would add in her two cents worth. Exasperated by her unwanted comments, I attempted to embarrass her. I offered her the microphone saying “would you like to come up here and tell us everything you know?” Knock me down with a feather! She took the microphone, stepped up to the podium and preceded to speak for ten minutes. What did I do? I waited until she ran out of steam and then I took the mike back. There are some people you just can’t embarrass.

• True story #2: I was speaking at a seminar at The Regina Exhibition Grounds. It was a good sized audience of eighty or so. There was a gentleman seated in the audience, who every time I made a statement, would shake his head to disagree with me. It was really unnerving. I would say “marigolds grow in the sun” and he would shake his head. Wrong, wrong, wrong! I tried not to focus on him but it was difficult. He had drawn me into his negativity. I finished up the seminar and afterwards, there were half a dozen people hanging around, wanting to chat. At the back of the group was the disagreeing gentleman. I was fully expecting him to explain to me that I should be finding another line of work. Instead, he offered up “that was such a great seminar. So informative.” While he delivered those compliments, his head shook side to side. The man had a palsy. Nothing more.

• True story #3: When acting on stage, every now and again, an audience member will break the theatrical fifth wall and address the actors. As theater is live and without a safety net, the actors are stuck with what happens in the audience as well as the action on the stage. I have had audience members speak to me, as well as cell phones going off and other distractions. You don’t like it but you learn to adapt. One of the funniest audience/actor interactions came at our Regina Globe Theater, many years ago. They were doing ‘The Christmas Carol’ and ‘Scrooge’ was being his despicable self. A six year old boy spoke up, saying “you’re mean!” Everyone heard his comment. The actor, staying in character, responded “how dare you address Ebenezer Scrooge?” Funnier than all get out, cracking up the audience, all the while letting everyone know – no talking during the performance!

• Great similarities: It is interesting to note, that when an actor performs for either a children’s audience or a senior’s audience, there is always the same danger, that if you are too funny, your audience will wet themselves. Just saying.
'New Day' orange gazania

• Brown’s Social House: This is a chain restaurant. Think Earl’s or Joe’s Original. It is filled with loud music and people out for a good time. The atmosphere is best described as a party. The front, glass house section is the most quiet part of the restaurant, but it was still loud. The service was good. I asked the waitress “what is the best thing that you like to eat on the menu?” She said that the burgers were supreme. So did CJ Katz in her Leader Post story. I ordered the ‘OMG burger’. Two five ounce patties with bacon and cheddar cheese. The meat was first rate, it was well prepared and you get some top notch fries with the order. They offered me a choice of white or malt vinegar for my chips. That made me happy. The burger and fries were seventeen bucks. You can get a cheaper burger and fries at many places, but not a better one. You pay for the quality. Maureen had the ‘Cowgirl’s’ salad with chicken. It was tasty and a very interesting selection of ingredients. The only complaint was the feta cheese on the salad was skimpy, a mere dusting. A glass of house wine for the Mrs., the burger, the salad, tax and tip included was fifty bucks. Pricy, but we got something for it. The woman beside us was having the fish and chips. It looked good and the menu said it was halibut, my favourite fish for that meal. I asked “how is it” and she said it was excellent. Having agreed to engage my company manners while out in public, I did not ask the woman if I could taste from her plate and she did not offer. Damn!

• Souvlaki burgers: I know. I have told you about these before, but made at home, they are so much better than store bought and less salt. I had two pounds of fresh ground pork on Sunday, I added in two ounces of lemon juice, two teaspoons of basil, two teaspoons of oregano, one teaspoon of thyme, one teaspoon of garlic powder, one/half teaspoon of salt, one/half teaspoon of fresh ground, black pepper, one tablespoon of hot sauce, one/half of a medium onion, chopped and onto the barbecue they went, in four ounce patties. I cooked them on high to get a grill mark, then I flipped them, reduced the heat to low until cooked through and served them with a feta cheese/lemon juice/olive oil salad. It takes a Scotsman to teach the Greeks how to do it right. Sorry Nick, George and Gus. I just might have to leave town after that statement or else never get another pizza delivered.

• Free tickets: I still have a few tickets for The Battle of the Prairies, Olympic style boxing, this Friday, the 19th. Bouts begin at 8:00 p.m.

• Language debate: One of our readers raised the question of whether the word none should be followed by the verb were or was. I checked in with several of our wordsmiths and the argument can be made for both sides. Here is the unofficial ruling, from me. If the word none is being used in the context of not one, then the singular form of was is appropriate. Example: None was left (not one cookie was left). If the word none is being used in the context of not any, then the plural form of were is appropriate. Example: None were left (not any cookies were left). Now that I have done my part to ensure that the English language is as confusing as ever, I rest. Please don’t ask why there are no cookies left. Obviously, I ate them.

• English made clear: Here is an amusing take on our language from one of our resident word smiths, Marcus Fernando. You just know he is an expert because he speaks with a BBC accent. “I tend towards the ‘let's not debase the language’ school of thought, but I also have to accept that the literal use can evolve into a colloquial use. For instance, if I were to say "It's not what I'm used to", it is grammatically incorrect, ending as it does with a preposition. However, the grammatically correct alternative: "It's not that to which I am used", sounds ridiculous and has very little impact, other than making one out to be a pedantic git!”

• Best of times: Peter Sawchyn over at Sawchyn Guitars is not only a first rate guitar builder, he also likes to throw parties. Every now and again, Peter hosts a concert, in his shop. Often, the musicians are the folkies who founded The Regina Guild of Folk Music, many years ago. This weekend was the reunion of ‘Everyday Dirt’, a jug band specializing in blue grass and roots music. It was a great time. We were there Friday night. The place was packed and it was ever so reminiscent of the old, ‘Four D’ but without the thick haze of blue smoke. The band knocked themselves out, playing standards as well as their own compositions. I don’t think they have played together for thirty years or so, but you could not hear that separation in their music. I love the fact that we have been getting some great concerts and shows in funky venues such as Sawcyhn’s shop, The Artesian, The Artful Dodger and The Creative City Center. All new venues within the last year or two.
Roberta Nichol is  part of 'Everyday Dirt'

• Sadly: This week, we lost a long time neighbour with the passing of Alex Young. Alex and his wife Linda anchored the far, south corner of our block, for many years. When someone passes, you can think of many things to say about them and the finest compliment I can give to Alex was: He was always fun to be with, no matter where we were. He had this lovely, quiet sense of humour and a twinkle in his eyes.

• Thought for the day: Happiness is not a destination, rather, it is the journey.

• Let them eat cake: We have now tried three different cakes from Auntie Meme’s Cakes (Arlene Sauer). The lemon was my favourite and Maureen fell in love with the chocolate one that we shared last night. It has four layers. We have also had the maple walnut one as well. Her cakes are excellent and you can order them at 535-3098 (don’t forget the 306).

• Lost habit: Sending out thank you cards that were both detailed and expressive was a common occurrence at one time, but no longer. Today, it is a rare occurrence. I received two this week. One from Jodi over at The Fringe and the other from Lisa at
This is a pot of my geraniums, last October
The Humane Society. They were appreciated and their arrival made me wonder, why don’t all of us send out more of these little packets of joy and thanks? No phone call, no email can take the place of a thank you card. Call me old school on this one.

• Old School #2: Maureen wonders: Will hats make a comeback, what with the popularity of Don Draper in ‘Mad Men’? If they do become a fashion accessory again, I want to hear a bit more Sinatra. Somehow, hats and Sinatra go together.

Thanks for reading...Rod McDonald in Regina

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Garden Report #126

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

Alium or 'Blue Onion' is a fall bulb that blooms in the spring
• Writers write: I have nothing to say this week and rather than force a stilted conversation, I will remain silent. This is not the first time I have been mute. My friend Larry was dying from liver cancer in 1999. He wanted to get his affairs in order before he passed. He went out one afternoon and purchased his casket. He phoned me that evening and included in our conversation, was the bit about buying the casket. I was floored. I didn’t know what to say. I sat there, mute. Finally, Larry broke the silence by uttering “I never thought I would live long enough to see the day when Rod McDonald had nothing to say.” I finally mustered my voice with my Scottish roots shining through, asking “did you get a good deal?”

• Readers write:

• Ingrid Thiessen is not a fan of telemarketers. “Harassing calls hit a nerve with me. I could go on at length about this one, but no doubt you will have a flood of responses. If you don't, I can send my lengthy epistle.”

• Lauretta Lane lives out in The Qu’Appelle Valley. She is a big fan. “Like all of your readers, I look forward to The Garden Report. I really appreciate your wit and wisdom ( I agree with almost everything you say, so I think you must be wise). Thank you for the articles on plants, restaurants, theatre, etc. and thank you so much for featuring animals from The Regina Humane Society. The best dogs I have ever had were from The RHS. I suspect that your readers would be the kind of people who would, if possible, provide good, forever homes for these lovely animals.”

• Robert Stedwill has this to say about hockey. “I enjoyed this week's Report. Your comments on hockey are right on. I came to Canada at 14, learned to skate on a lake, and my first games were with goals at least three or four hundred meters apart! Boy did I learn to skate! My first NHL game, with me in the stands, was between Detroit and New York. What really turned me off professional hockey was during the Canada/ Russia series, Alan Eagleson gave the Soviet Union fans the finger, for jeering the Canadian fighters. I started watching junior hockey then, here in Regina, and really enjoyed the calibre of play and their energy. The turnoff came when I took my son to his first game at the Agridome, only to see young teenage girls hammering on the glass when fights broke out, cheering on the Pats player. That's when I quit making ice rinks in the backyard each winter and put up a basketball net. Five a.m. hockey practice was not my cup of tea; Victorian or otherwise.”

• Kirk Bellamy also weighs in on the hockey story. “Thanks for your hockey story. It brought back great memories. We played shinny a lot. Always Montreal against Toronto. We were Normy Ullman, Dave Keon or Maurice Richard...and that didn't change year to year. I also played on our school team. No parents, probably because it was outside. No equipment either. I stopped a slap shot with my shin one time. Everyone watched, waiting for me to crumple in pain. I didn't...catalogues as shin pads saved the day. Thank you Eaton’s.”

'Marie Victorin' rose
• May Blois is a grandmother and a former hockey fan. “Your reference to hockey. I used to love watching hockey and now, I can't stand it. It isn't just hockey either Rod, all sports seem to have gone down the drain as far as just getting out there and playing the game is concerned. Parents have gotten ridiculous as well. My grandsons played some sports and a few of the adults acted like two years olds having a tantrum. I felt like smacking some of them. Back to hockey, not sure if the sport itself can be saved but possibly, if adults start behaving, perhaps the children can again have fun.”

• Roberta Nichol is one of our many foodie/readers. She writes “Go, CJ! What interesting information on quinoa. I did not know that! A fruit, related to the humble beet. That is really neat. I love quinoa. I have a great salad recipe that lasts me throughout the week. Very tasty, with lemon juice, olive oil, grainy mustard, chickpeas, dried cranberries, and finely chopped scallions.... mmmmmm!”

• Lisa Koch, over at The Humane Society, is pleased that The Garden Report publishes ads for adoptable animals. She writes “thank you for providing a forum for these (animals) to be shared!”

Rayanna and myself in my writing room
• Talk is cheap: Brad Crassweller, who owns Outdoor Expressions Landscaping, was one of my student employees, almost twenty-five years ago. He called to chat about a landscape plan he is working on. I was looking after my granddaughter at the time of his call. He heard me talking to her. He alleges, that I have softened up, that I am no longer the rough, gruff, hard driving man that I was in the eighties. There is only one way to find out if I still have it: He should make me his foreman, on a job site, and see if I am still a softie or will I crack the whip? I will give him a hint: He should have a masseuse standing by after I get through with him, a stiff shot of whiskey and comfortable bed so he can curl up with his teddy bear. Grrr...grrr...grrr!

• Garden Tip: No more pruning elm trees, it is illegal until September 1st. Where you can access other trees, knock yourself out. The main problem is not timing but amounts of snow. This is a most unusual year. Last year, I was through pruning by this day, even the larger yards.

• Naked Bean: No, not the name of a porn site, rather the name of my new, favourite cappuccino shop on Broad Street, across from The CBC Building. I have been there four times, now, and I love the bite of their coffee. I enjoy coffee with a big, full flavour, and I absolutely adore one with added bite.

• Cherry Lane Greenhouse: This is a local, independent operation, out near Grand Coulee, on the east side of the town site. Maureen and I stopped in on Monday, to see how their crop is coming along and it is doing just fine. They are busy, moving up their plugs (baby plants) to larger pots, all the while, trying to deal with the snow which is everywhere. They are continuing to find some new and interesting plants to grow, which is a good thing. Also growing some great plants are the people over at Sherwood Greenhouse, behind CTV, and Dorn’s Greenhouse, south on Highway #6. As you might have noticed, I am trying to promote some local operations. If you are east of Regina, take a look at the beautiful hanging baskets you can find for sale at U and K Greenhouses, Indian Head. They are about six kilometers north of Highway #1on your way to the lake.
Cherry Lane Greenhouse

• Grampa’s report: How many times must I sing ‘This Old Man’ in order to get a baby to go to sleep? The correct answer turns out to be twenty-two. The good news is that I do not have to be a great singer to lull my granddaughter to sleep. She is not a critic for The New York Times, just a baby. Patrick, Lisa and Baby Rayanna have returned to their home in Edmonton, so I will not be seeing them for a few months. Perhaps they can come down this summer.

• Garden Tip: When thinking of planting trees, shrubs and evergreens at your residence, be cautious about purchasing plants at the box stores. Last year, I looked at the apple trees that The Home Depot were selling. None were hardy for our 2b/3a growing zone. Sadly, most of the box stores have purchasing departments somewhere in Ontario and they do not buy the plants that we need here in Regina. Buyer beware is never as important as it is when dealing with any of the chain stores.

• Old football players: Maureen comments: “I have noticed that whenever we run into one of your old buddies, that you played football with, that all of you now walk with a limp. How bad is football on the knees?” Good question. Lots of studies are looking at concussions in football and hockey players, but I don’t know how many are looking at how we walk, later in life.

Daylilies require very little care when established
• Garden Tip: When planning a vegetable garden, always save a bit of room to plant a clump of marigolds. Most insects do not like the smell of marigolds and they tend to stay away from that area. Now, marigolds are not the be all and end all of insect control, but they are one very useful tool that a veggie gardener can use. I also use diatomaceous earth to ward off creepy/crawly insects. It is an organic product that is not poisonous. Rather, it works through a mechanical methodology. Also, on my shelf for insect control are Trounce and Rotenone, both of which are organic and if used properly, safe. Just because a product is labelled organic, does not imply they can be used in a random or haphazard fashion.

• Garden Tip: When transplanting new plants, I always check the roots. If the roots are spiralling around in a circle, that means they are ‘root bound’. Best to unravel a few of those roots prior to planting. If done so correctly, those roots will begin to grow in a downward fashion, which is what you want them to do. Another thing I usually do is pinch off any blooms when transplanting. I want most of the energy to go into setting strong roots, not a spindly bloom. Once I have strong roots growing, I know that a plethora of flowers will follow. Please congratulate me on the use of such a fancy word.

• Chip off the old block: Patrick is starting to get involved with cooking, just like his old man. I barbecued some back ribs over Easter, low and slow, six hours at 200 F., using a marinade/basting liquid every hour. When they were finished, I asked Patrick to chop the ribs into single serving pieces. He did so and initiated a quality control tasting. He told me “they need a touch more lemon to finish them” and he was right. A sprinkle of lemon put the ribs over the top, which is a good thing. My basting sauce is lemon juice, olive oil, hot sauce, liquid smoke, oregano, basil, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper.
Three generations

• Good flavours: Some readers will remember the sitcom ‘Sanford and Son’ that ran back in the 1970s. One of the best lines came from old Fred when he was in the hospital. Fred was complaining to his buddy Grady, about hospital food. He said: “When you burp, you can’t taste nothing.” When you eat at my place and you burp, it is an entirely new meal, or else I didn’t use ‘nough garlic.

• Regina Fringe Festival: This year’s festival will be from July 10th ‘til the 14th. There will be eighteen acts. You can go to the website to see who will be performing. There is the usual mix of old time favourites along with brand new performers. Returning favourites include Rob Gee, John Huston and Eric Dewaal. For ten bucks a show, you can’t go wrong. The best theater, ever, as always.

• Regina Folk Festival: As readers know, I have been a fan of The Folk Festival for over forty years, through the lean times and the good vibes. We were there in the late sixties and early seventies, when the magic happened indoors and the marijuana smoke was so thick, you got stoned, just by breathing the air. We were there in the ‘80s when it rained, watching from our pup tent, wrapped in sleeping bags to keep warm. In the nineties, when times were tough for The Festival, I sent them my cheque, a year in advance, telling them I believed they would succeed. Last year, I was not thrilled about two things. One was lining up for a few hours, just to get in the gate. Even at The Rolling Stones concert, there were 45,000 of us and we were through the gates in under sixty seconds. Secondly, selling so many tickets that we were as tight as sardines in a tin. I love my folk music, with neighbours close enough to share our food, but not close enough to start any rumours. We have been contemplating attending the afternoon workshops and passing on the main stage evening concerts. That would be a departure from what we usually do but times change. Perhaps, when it comes down to the wire, we will cave and be there cheering our little hearts out, all night long. Right now, I am hesitant to purchase tickets.

• So true: There is a proverb and with all things wise, it is attributed as being a Chinese proverb. It is: “A man must be careful not to arouse the ire of his wife, as sooner or later, he must fall asleep, and preferably, with both eyes closed.”

• ‘Mad Men’ premiere: A two hour season premiere on Channel 43 (AMC), Access Cable. This is a well produced period piece. Great writing, great acting and the set design is bang on. They capture the machismo as well as the chauvinism of the period. Two of our readers, Jean Freeman and Lyn Goldman, were copy writers during this time frame, in television, just like the character of ‘Peggy’ on the show.

Soon, we will be planting a flower bed, just like this one!

• Sadly: Two people from our community passed this week. Ed Schropp who sold pickles and jams at The Farmers’ Market for twenty-six years, died on Friday. Ed did the selling and his wife Linda, did the canning. He was a great gentleman to visit with every Saturday. The second passing was of a long time patron of my garden center, Adeline Flengaris. She loved her plants and when I was just starting out, she was one of my regular customers. Both will be missed.

Spring has to arrive, sooner or later
• Free Boxing Tickets: I am one of the sponsors of The Lonsdale Boxing Club’s ‘Battle of the Prairies’ coming up on April 19th. I have free tickets for any reader who wishes to attend. The boxing begins at 8:00 p.m. and it is held at The Connexus’ Arts Center.

• Thanks for reading...Rod McDonald in Regina