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

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