Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Garden Report #61

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

• Writers write: I was up early this Sunday morning. I had to do a bit of work at a ranch south of town. As I drove through the city, the evidence of Friday’s midnight storm was strewn about. Branches everywhere. Someone once said that windstorms are Mother Nature’s method of pruning out the weak branches. She did a very good job, even if she did not clean up the casualties. Dotted though out the blocks of houses were gardeners. The diehards were out, cleaning everything up in true gardener fashion. Gardeners persevere. It’s what they do.

Sharon's garden- Jackman's Purple Clematis
• Readers write:

     • Jean Freeman passed this story along: “I'm off to the bus for Saskatoon to see Love's Labor Lost and A Winter's Tale at Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan. God bless STC, on behalf of us who don't or can't drive, yet live in this province of vast distances and fascinating places and events that so often are taking place, way over there!"

     • Terena Murphy-Bannerman sent this report from France. “Hi Rod; just finished reading your July 17th report. I am in the middle of rural France and do not frequently have access to a computer. I spend a couple of weeks every year with old friends here who were practicing the organic lifestyle, before it became fashionable. Yves and Michele grow all their vegetables and preserve them for winter. They get together with neighbors to kill and dress the meat from community-raised animals, and they live simply but very well. Yves has a huge garden where the veggies are interspersed with flowers, as his father and grandfather passed down that hint on pest control that still works today. Huge dahlias beside the Haricot beans, roses beside the potato plants, etc. It has been a wet July here, and you should see the size of the slugs we picked off the lettuce today: maybe we could cook them with lemon and garlic for dinner?”

     • Marsha Kennedy writes: “Good morning Rod. I was in New Dance Horizons’ garden tour last weekend. I wanted to share my garden, not only to help NDH, but because I was enchanted when I went on my first garden tour some years back. I spent the remainder of the week catching up in the studio and went outside yesterday, to see that my garden had gone astray during a few days of neglect. I must get in their today.”

     • From Victoria, this bit from Sally Orr. “I thoroughly enjoy reading it every week.”

     • Jodi Sadowsky likes humor. “Thanks for The Garden Report. Too funny re: the dragon flies!”

     • Roberta Nichol wrote “I absolutely love walking in the Lakeview neighborhood. There are so many friendly people, walking their dogs, or simply out gardening in their yard. I am in love with several houses in the area, and how they have implemented their perennials. Wow.... just gorgeous.” Roberta is also an enthusiastic supporter of Classic Antiques at 1920 Francis Street (just north of Victoria Avenue).She reports that Anita and Doug Hutton, who operate the store, are very good at what they do.

     • Kristi Liske has been noticing the insects this year. “After many weeks of examining the flies and mosquitoes that have come into my yard and sadly, into my house, I was happy to see the dragonflies arrive for dinner. The arrival of these fine insects left me wondering.....have all the flies and the mosquitoes injected steroids this year? They are huge!”

     • Lyn Goldman has a restaurant recommendation. “I love your note about Winner's! And I found a new restaurant for you -- it's called Dynasty and it's beside The Wingate Hotel on Broad Street. Great Asian buffet, so fresh that they won't let you put something on your plate if they're on the verge of replacing it with a fresh batch. Please thank the head of the dragonfly committee for me, too.”

Police on the bridge trying to slow things down
 • A picture is worth many loud mufflers: A number of neighbors have been filing complaints with City Hall and with The Police Service, regarding the speeders and loud mufflers coming across the bridge. The police service has responded  and reader Jack Tunnicliffe provided us with the photographic proof. Here’s hoping we have a quieter summer.

• Garden Tip: This is a repeat of a repeat of a repeat. Found another lawn that needed aeration. The weight of last winter’s snow has been too much for most lawns to handle. Compaction issues are showing up this late because we had such a rainy, cool spring. If you want a recommendation, here it is: Call Drew (586-0828) at Mr. Caretaker and he will aerate your lawn. The price varies as to the size.

• You can look but never buy: I was at a store called JYSK. They had on display, two smaller desks. Both suited my needs. I tried to buy the first one. They had none left in the back. I tried to buy the second one. They had none left in the back. “How about I take the floor model?” I asked. Nope. You can only buy a floor model if it is discontinued. So I said to seventeen year old kid who was assisting me, “This is indeed an interesting game we are playing. I can look. I can choose. But I can’t buy. Why are your doors even open?” Stunned by my devastating logic, he mumbled, “Uh…that’s the way we do it here.”

• Garden Tip: It appears to be a good year for roses. One of the best things that a gardener can do for their roses is to remove the spent blooms. This encourages the plant to set new buds. If you are not certain as to how far you should cut the blooms back, there are many excellent books on the market that have illustrations. I have also found that roses in our area enjoy a shot of iron chelate. Iron chelate ensures that my rose leaves maintain a healthy, dark green appearance.

• Interesting: Over the years, I have had an opportunity to travel throughout the province, filming gardens. I have visited with people who have little income, and their gardens flourish. They make use of compost and they obtain their plants from friends and neighbors. They produce a great show and spend little money. I have also visited with people who have spent many thousands of dollars and they have very little to show for their money. The point which I assume you have already figured out, is: Regardless of the amount of money you spend on a landscape, in order for it to be a beautiful garden, it requires the loving hands of someone who cares. Money does not buy a garden, but love creates one that is priceless.

• Garden Tip: It is time to fertilize your trees, shrubs, perennials, hanging baskets and annuals. As recommended here, use a water soluble such as a 10 30 20 or a 15 30 15. Those ones have been very good for me over the years. As a cutoff date, I try not to fertilize any of my permanent plantings after August 15th. That allows the plant to harden off or prepare for the winter. I do fertilize my annuals and hanging baskets late into the fall as they are not staying for the cold months.

• She had it in her: Congratulations go out to reader Shawna Bell on the arrival of her baby boy. Shawna, along with her parents Wilbert and Sharon Ronald, operate Jeffries Nursery in Portage la Prairie.

• I understand: I was attending a national greenhouse conference a few years ago in Toronto. The convention sent a van to pick us up each morning. On the second day, I was seated beside a well dressed gentleman. I introduced myself and then asked “what brings you to this conference?” His accent indicated that he was from Quebec and that English, was definitely not his first language. He told me: “I am here as a visitor. Next year, I wish to be here as an exhibitionist.” I didn’t correct him. “ Yes, next year, I wish to have a chance to expose myself to many people.” If you think that was funny, you should listen to me speak French.

• Best year ever: What you ask? Is it a flower, a vegetable, a herb? Nope. It is the Canadian Football League. I have never seen so many close and well played matches. That’s it for sports, and now stay tuned for the weather.

A dragonfly eating a mosquito on Brad's arm
 • Very tasty: Have you ever noticed how many people who love to garden, love to cook? They seem to go hand in hand or if I wish to be fancy, they have a symbiotic relationship. So, my patio tomatoes are bearing lots of fruit and I needed to use up five ripe ones. I chopped the tomatoes into quarter inch chunks, added in two tablespoons of chopped, just harvested, Walla Walla onion, lots of fresh basil, oregano and a touch of mint. Dressed it with a splash of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, ground salt and ground pepper. Served it as an appetizer and received five star reviews from two people, besides myself. Shameless self promotion, but it was tasty, in a scintillating manner.

• Every neighborhood has one: I have always maintained that one of the best things about living in Lakeview is that we take great pride in our local lunatics. They provide us with color. I think I have crossed the line and I might now be in that group, the group the neighbors chat about. Friday night, I was on my way to bed at eleven. Then I remembered that I had not yet let Murphy, my dear Irish cat, in for the night. Every evening, he likes to take a constitutional walk along the brick pathway in the back garden. Usually, he greets me at the door but this night, I could see him chasing a vole across the neighbor’s lawn. I called to him. Of course he didn’t listen. He’s a cat. The vole ran out onto Regina Avenue with Murphy in hot pursuit, something that he has never done before. I gave chase, wanting to rescue him, which I did. He is safe. So where is the color you ask? Uh…I was on my way to bed and all I had on was my jockeys and a t shirt. There I was, running down Regina Avenue on a Friday night, in my underwear, chasing a cat who was chasing a vole. The really sad part is, I was completely sober. The neighbors did not call the police. They said “it’s just Rod.”

The gohers like to get high around our neighborhood
 Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in Regina

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Garden Report #60

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

• Writers write: The tomatoes are beginning to ripen in their pots, the daylilies are in full bloom and the shade from the American elm allows for a quiet breeze. It is that time of year to sit back with a glass of cold sun tea and to enjoy the tranquility of my efforts. I am content.

• Readers write:

     • Wanda Bellamy writes “I am enjoying reading your newest report while we have our first cup of coffee on our balcony in Lumsden. A beautiful and peaceful day in the country. We were expecting a lot of noise and commotion while Big Valley was on, but haven't really noticed anything other than a lot of RCMP in town. Have a great day in the sunshine!”

A University of Saskatchewan Lily
     • Gwen Barschel has this to say. “Rod, just read today’s installment, and enjoyed as usual. I have had the first of hopefully many raspberries from my garden, and have netted them to keep the birds off. Thought you would enjoy a photo of my U of S lilies, purchased as bulbs at Gardenscape in Saskatoon, a few years ago. I have been trying to find more for friends, but have not been successful, so I may be digging them up this year and sharing a few. You’re right, that sharing is one of the best things a gardener can do. Enjoy your week. Also added a shot of my ‘Knowlians Black’, really deep purple, morning glories. One of my most favorite plants.”

Knowlian's Black Morning Glory
     • From London, Ontario, Wendy Richardson wrote: “Just finished the Garden Report for today and really enjoyed as per usual. It’s almost like you are writing me a letter every week. Found the tips helpful about the peat moss because we have heavy clay here.”

     • Jennifer Cohen responds to the demise of the independent hardware store. She was brief: “Bernie really likes CMS for odd stuff. And it's close to a favorite of yours, Nicky's.” Rod’s note: CMS is Canadian Metal Services, a salvage shop and hardware store at Winnipeg and 8th Avenue. They are a ‘soup to nuts’ place. Maybe no soup, but lots of nuts.

     • Fringe friend and reader Courtney Siebring’ is now living in Halifax. She sent this along: “I've been following The Garden Report... I'm actually turning into a bit of a gardener myself. Domestic Artistry has become a fascination... I love it. Just tomatoes in pots this year and my regular flower gardens. But I'm building a compost bin from old wooden pallets and preparing some space to do square foot gardening next year. My neighbor Miss Ellen, has promised to teach me to can, once the tomatoes are ready and I have a freezer FULL of rhubarb.”

     • This short and sweet from Murray Wallace. “Good morning, Rod. Sunday am. I have enjoyed your Garden Report this past month. Keep them coming.”

     • Neil Slater has a suggestion for other great food places. “I'm often surprised when I read The Garden Report, for I seem to know so many of the people who email you. Today, it's Marsha Kennedy, but I've read of John Huston and many others. One of the best small stores is Tony's India Food Centre on Victoria Ave. If you need any eastern spices or Jamaican foods, Tony is your man! And don't forget the Ukrainian Coop; they have excellent food, too.”

     • Susan Rollins, who gardens near Craven, sent this message. “The daylilies you gave me last year are blooming and looking lovely, and the strawberries are busy producing strawberries. Thanks again for all your gardening suggestions. Even those of us who have been gardening for awhile can always use tips.”

• A great morning: My definition of a great morning is up early, tend to the garden, breakfast on the patio with a dark roast coffee and then a wonderful bicycle ride through Wascana Park. If the sun is shining and there is very little wind, then it moves from a great morning to a fantastic one. Guess who had a fantastic morning just before he wrote this?

• Garden Tip: Always pot up a few of your extra bedding plants into four and six inch pots. If you do this, you will always have decent sized replacements available for your flower boxes and beds. Trust me on this one, you will always need a replacement here and there, no matter how good a of a gardener you claim to be.

• Garden Tip: When replacing your garden hose, do not buy a cheap vinyl one. Do not be mislead by the slick ads attached to many hoses that proclaim themselves to be ‘kink free’ and so on. One hundred per cent rubber is the best way to go. It will cost you more money up front but it will last longer and cause you less grief. And less grief is a very attractive consideration these days, for most of us.

• Hot is the new cool: For the last eight weeks, I have been involved in a training program, Monday to Friday. I can’t get away for a cafĂ© lunch. I have to make my lunch every morning and eat it in my training room. Sandwiches could get quite easily boring, so I try to reinvent the wheel with different breads and buns, and fillings. One of my favorite toppings is hot, pickled peppers. At least to me, though some will disagree, there is not a sandwich that does not taste better loaded up with hot, pickled peppers. Just to be certain, I do not own any shares in the hot, pickled pepper company. Please don’t ask if I own any shares in the Tums’s company. That is confidential.

• Low maintenance daylilies: These plants are members of the hemerorcallis family. My experience says that they must be planted with a good amount of sunshine. I have tried to grow them under dappled light (overhanging tree branches) as some sources have suggested. They lived, but never thrived. Once moved to a sunny exposure, they bloomed prolifically. I have also found that once established, they require very little maintenance and can exist on a degree of neglect, including forgetting to water them on a regular basis.

Martagon Lily
 • A lily for the shade: There is one lily that performs well in the shade. It is called the Martagon Lily. I have one planted in my back yard and while I am not an enthusiastic member of the cheer squad, it does have its features. I included two photos this week from when it was in bloom.

• Free kisses: Nothing to report here. I just throw stuff like this in every now and again to see if you are paying attention. Okay. So it is misleading advertising. Here’s your damned free kiss. Was it worth the complaining?

• Please don’t touch my food: I went for a walk this week. There is a national chain restaurant that faces Albert Street with its back door on McIntyre Street, which is where I was walking. There were four kitchen staff outside the back door, having a smoke. I could use many adjectives to describe them, but suffice to write, you really, really, don’t want these people touching your food.

• A paler shade of white: This is my first year growing the White Wave Petunia. I have been growing the original pink variety for many years and I have been pleased with its performance. The White Wave is an excellent performer and it appears to hold its flowers longer. The flowers are a ‘clean’ white and they do not ‘dirty up’ as they wane. As with Pink Wave, shearing the White Wave is mandatory to achieve a full plant.

• Other news from the garden: My dianthus has been much improved over other years. I have been getting out there regularly, with my scissors, removing the spent flowers. That appears to be the secret. I have not grown the lime colored Sweet Potato Vine for several years. I just fell out of love with it. I planted three of them this year as an edge plant in a large clay pot. They have performed just fine and are looking great. The heat has sent the pansies on a holiday until September. The roses are not in bloom but they are loaded with buds so the second show will be a good one. The shade plants including the ferns and the Snow on the Mountain are extra tall this year, due to the wet and dark spring. Usually, this means they will have an earlier collapse due to the heat. When extra tall, a plant usually lacks strength.

• Good job: While attending university, I would often hitchhike to school, rather than ride the bus. I would simply hold up my thumb at the corner of Elphinstone and Dewdney, and someone would pick me up. Over time, there were four different drivers who would regularly give me a lift to school. One of those regulars was Alan Blakeney, the Premier of the Province. The first time Mr. Blakeney picked me up, he apologized for having to drop me off at the corner of Albert and College. He explained to me “I work in the park.” I was so tempted to ask him: “Work in the park? What do you do? Cut the grass?”

• Today’s thought: As long as you have a garden, even a small one, you will always have something to do.

• Today’s second thought: Never ask a gardener how things are growing this year, if you have to be somewhere important in the next two hours. Note: There are many adaptations to this one.

• Sadly: The Reverend Bob Gay passed away this week. Bob was the Downtown Chaplain for many years, working with any and all. He was also a strong supporter of the community and its various arts programs. You could always count on seeing Bob and his wife at the various theater performances. My mother worked with Bob back in the 1970’s and she thought the world of him. She was impressed with his willingness to serve the poorest of the poor. When she passed away this winter, our first thought was to ask Bob to conduct her funeral, which he did.

• Attention single guys: I got dragged into Winners/Homesense and JYSK on Saturday by a certain someone who I share a house with. Let me tell all of you single guys looking to meet women, both of these stores are filled with females. Great looking ones, in all age brackets. Something for everyone. So why head to the singles bar when you can go to stores likes these? All you have to do is flag one down and ask her for her opinion of the throw pillow you are holding. Shameless scam. Needless to write, I was not allowed to do anything other than to record the experience.

• Farmers’ Market: More and more veggies are showing up including one of my favorites, Walla Walla onions. Lots of Saskatoon berries and Sharon Wallace is now selling her incredible pies.

• God bless the dragon flies: Earlier this week, we had a swarm of dragon flies arrive in our yard. They buzzed around for several hours, feasting on the mosquitoes, and then they were off to the next buffet. After they left, very few mosquitoes. Sitting outside was a real treat. I would like to personally thank the head of the dragon fly committee, for their fine efforts.

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in Regina

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Garden Report #59

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

My neighbor- The Saskatchewan Legislature
 • Writers write: I was up early on Saturday morning. I wanted to get into the garden to ensure that everything was looking wonderful, before the heat of the day. I finished my horticultural duties and I headed off to visit some of my favorite shops. My first stop was at Maple Leaf/Oscars on 11th which is a combination bakery/butcher shop. They are so old school there. I love the place and it was packed with customers, which is always nice to see. On Victoria Avenue, I said hello to Carlos at The Italian Star Deli. He is everyone’s friend. Then to Orange Boot, which produces some incredible loaves of old style bread, including a killer ‘Saskatchewan Sourdough’. They only opened their doors as a family business in January. It was their dream to bring good bread to Regina and by the lineup out the door, their dream is coming true.

     Then down to The Farmers’ Market. Every now and again I hear someone pitch The Farmers’ Market as a cheaper alternative to grocery stores. Not true. Food is not cheaper at The Farmers’ Market, but that is not why I attend or do the hundreds of others this warm morning. I take it in because I can find certain foods and qualities of foods that I cannot find elsewhere. Now, as big of a supporter as I like to be, you need to be forewarned, not everything at The Market is first rate. You have to be prudent.

     The other reason for my showing up is for the social aspect. I always allow at least an hour as I run into old friends and we chat. It is nice to connect with people who were in Grade One with you or grew up in the same neighborhood. I finished off with a quick hello to The Roughrider’s former coach, Ken Miller, and it was time to leave. Friends, butter tarts, beets, carrots, and a new crop of Saskatoon berries. The pace is slower and life not so frenetic. It’s the way I like to shop.

• Readers write:

Chinese Catalpa Tree at Brandon, Manitoba
      • Andrew Morton sent along the photo of the Chinese Catalpa tree. planted in Brandon, Manitoba at Patmore Nursery.

      • Paula Grolle learned how to pinch geraniums from an old-timer. Here is what she wrote: “In 1979, I was given a pink geranium by my elderly neighbour, who had a great garden. Every fall I brought it into the house and put it on the window ledge, where it bloomed all winter. Out it would go for the summer etc. It made 3 house moves with me. That is why I always buy pink geraniums; so I can remember the guidance he gave me when I was just starting out. His first words of advice were to take off the flower when it was half spent.”

     • Michel Touchette is a regular reader and as well, he is recognized as one of Canada’s top nurserymen. Michel had this to say about planting trees in the right spot. “I am amazed, but not surprised, when someone plants a Mountain Ash in a low spot. I simply say to the customer, the name is Mountain a couple times, then their eyes flicker. The same applies to Colorado spruce planted in gumbo and the tree is dying. Colorado is the home of the Rockies. Water moves away from the trees roots quickly. On the Prairies both trees will do well under normal conditions, until you have a year like this year.”

     • Doreen over at The Marian Center wrote: “Just received The Garden Report and this issue caught my attention in a big way. Last time I was in Cypress Hills, I searched for orchids. No luck. Might have been the wrong time of year. Maybe I didn't know where to look. Those photos that Marsha Kennedy took are fantastic.”

     • From Marsha Kennedy. “I am taking a break from garden work and just read your garden report. Always a Sunday treat, Rod!”

     • Ann Anderson wrote, in what I can only assume is ‘tongue in cheek’ style. “Hi Rod, I read part of your message at home on Sunday, but have to wait until Monday to read the rest on my computer as my Blackberry will only display part of the message. It's a Garden Report cliff hanger ... What will happen next? Did the tomato survive? Will Rod end with a story from his childhood? I can hardly wait to get to work on Monday mornings thanks to you!”

     • Reader Elaine Wurm did not write, she spoke. She said that she loves reading The Garden Report because it has the feel of a small town newspaper, in an electronic format.

     • Wendy Richardson, who gardens in London, Ontario sent these kudos along. “Love reading the garden report, love your humor and the tips as well. Spent the afternoon in the garden today as it was a gorgeous day, sunny and about 27, with low humidity which is very much appreciated. Our tomatoes are spectacular this year and I can hardly wait until they ripen. We may even have some by next week. I love the summer and being outside. Our back yard is an oasis of peace and tranquility. Hope that you are enjoying yours as well.”

• Garden Tip: This week is not the right time of year to be moving any plant. If you have to move a plant at this time of year, best to do it in the early morning when it is cooler. Best to do it on a rainy or cloudy day. And best if you dig as big of a root ball as you possibly can. Ensure that the plant receives a nice shot of water after transplantation and do not be alarmed if it flags for a week or two.

• Garden Tip: One of our readers wanted to know about cutting back a mockorange that is predominantly dead in the center. Every now and again, a shrub cries out for a haircut. A hair cut is not proper pruning, but as I wrote, every now and again. When you cut a shrub back that has massive amounts of dead branches within it, you give that plant a second chance. An opportunity to renew itself. If it is a mature plant, the root system is usually strong enough to provide that opportunity. Best to do a hair cut in the spring, so that the new growth has a chance to mature and to harden off for the winter.

• Prayers can be answered: I was crashed on the couch, Monday night. It was nine p.m. I was channel surfing, sipping a cup of tea, wishing I had a pastry or some other decadent treat to accompany my warm cup. The doorbell rings. Who can that be? None of my friends are out this late. They’re home watching The National with Peter and Wendy and Amanda, right? Why, it’s Norma, my next door neighbour. She has in her hands a plate, with six pieces of gourmet dessert including cake, tarts and pavlova. It was almost a religious experience.

• He loves Regina: Rob Gee, who performed his play ‘Fruitcake’ at The Regina Fringe Festival last week, has fallen in love with Regina. He was impressed with The Fringe, the people, how friendly we are and the support he received for his performances. Rob is from England and he is performing this week at The Winnipeg Fringe. He will be back next year.

• Sometimes we don’t hug enough: I was at my school reunion a few years back, and an absolutely gorgeous woman came over and gave me an affectionate hug. She also proffered a kiss and told me how happy she was to see me. I had no idea who she was, but dammed if I was going to deny her this opportunity. Throughout the supper, she would toss a wave and blow a little kiss to me. I liked this reunion. Why are people always complaining about reunions? Finally I asked one of my classmates who this beauty was, as I still had no idea. He told me. I was shocked. “Her” I said! “Skinny, flat chested, scrawny, gawky, whiny, nerdy…her? What is this? Cinderella at the ball?” My classmate, who was equally impressed as to how the duckling had morphed into the swan, spoke for the two of us: “Who knew?”

• That’s it: At the same reunion, my high school sweetheart and Maureen were engaged in a conversation. The old flame said “I wonder how it would have turned out if I had married Rod?” To which Maureen replied “Well, for starters, you would never ever get to hold the remote.” That’s it? That is how my life is defined? As a remote control hog? Somehow I thought there was something more to my composition, then again, perhaps not.

• Garden Tip: Hanging baskets are the most susceptible of all our gardening projects to the elements. Especially wind and heat. Best to always check for watering requirements, every morning. I have seen hanging baskets that were dry in the morning, wilt at lunch and be cooked for supper. I think I’ll lie down now.

My garden with the evening sun shining through
 • Garden Tip: I have never seen a garden that had too much peat moss in it. Peat moss is a wonderful, organic product that can be used to break up the heavy clay soil in our area and in sandy soil areas, it adds substance to the soil structure. You should use it when planting trees, shrubs, and perennials, as well as bulbs and annuals. I also find that peat moss is an excellent choice as a ground cover to retain the moisture. One of the problems is that many people think that installing a bag or two will do the trick. Here is a hint: Every second year, I recover my beds in the spring or the fall with a layer of peat. I think nothing of purchasing fifteen bags for my urban garden and it’s not that large.

• Gardeners share: I have written this many times, good gardeners share. They share their wisdom, their time and often their plants. It’s all about karma. Wednesday night, reader Denise Cook dropped off a basket filled with strawberries from her garden. Tasty and so good for your body and soul. I would never stoop so low as to suggest others provide similar gestures (unless you really, really want to), but I would recommend that you share your bounties with friends and neighbors. It’s the Canadian thing to do.

• Old school: There was a time when every neighborhood had its own hardware store. The one man band type of hardware store. It was a place where you could find ‘things’. The guy running it always seemed to know what you needed, mainly because he had been there for thirty years. He had window screens, a key cutting machine, paint and fence staples, which for some reason I was always buying. They are all gone, save one. Rosemont Hardware on 4th Avenue, across from Martin Collegiate, is still open. I was over there this week, and he still sells nails by the pound, weighing them on the old balance scale. And the fellow running it has been there for the required thirty years, so he knows what you are talking about, even when you are not certain what you have just described.

• First one: My first tomato ripened on the vine Friday. It is allocated for tonight’s salad, served with basil and oregano from the herb garden. I would invite everyone over, but it is only one tomato.

• Favorite times: Sure, I love Christmas and my birthday. But I also love blueberry season, which is in full swing right now. Big, fat, juicy, sweet blueberries. And I could write another twenty or so adjectives.

• Two degrees of separation: There was young man selling Saskatoon berries from his orchard at The Farmers’ Market. I bought a pint. I asked him what variety of bush he was growing and he responded “Martin”. I told him that variety was developed by my beloved mentor, Dieter Martin, in Langham, Saskatchewan. He had heard of Dieter and he was excited to meet someone who actually knew him.

Geranium pots accent my pillar steps
 • Thought for the day: A garden is a place we go when we want to enjoy life.

Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in sunny Regina!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Garden Report #58

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

A closeup of a 'Lady Slipper' Prairie Orchid
 • Writers write: The Garden Report has grown in its first year. We now receive, some weeks, thirty responses. I try to include as many as I can without redundancy. Readers should know that I do correct all spelling mistakes that I spot, and most grammar errors, without being ‘The Grammar Commandant’. As an aside, I have been nailed three times by readers for spelling mistakes and that is okay. It makes me a better writer. I also do something that is not always considered kosher. I have on occasion, fixed things. When someone sends in an obvious wrong word i.e. using spatula when they clearly meant spectacular, then I repair that mistake. I realize that one day, someone will take great offence. That is almost guaranteed to happen. I never change or omit the meaning or intent of a response and I always include ones that are critical or in non agreement. That’s how I do it. Just wanted that out there.

• Readers write:

     • Jeannie Freeman remembers gardens from the past. She writes: “HALLELULIA!! That's for the roses (especially the bushes of little yellow roses that grew on many prairie farmsteads and in town backyards because the pioneer women brought them west, along with their rhubarb roots). Halleluiah as well for the mock oranges, which I have loved ever since Bill and I could finally afford to move into our first rental house, on Retallack St. Our lovely old house had a mock orange by the front door, lilacs under the kitchen window, and a yellow rose bush by the back fence! Heaven!! I love your Winston Churchill story, and all his other quotes. A wise man.”

     • Laura Ross sent this along. “Good Morning Rod: Thank you again for The Garden Report. Summer has finely arrived in the Queen City. If you know of someone who would like to share some of their dark, purple irises, please let me know. I have come to really appreciate the look of irises in the garden. I think the fireworks this year were spectacular, a great way to end Canada Day. Thanks again for the report see you in the back alley.”… Laura

     • This arrived from reader Wanda Bellamy. “Good morning Rod & Maureen. It was great visiting with you July 1st. Please forward The Garden Report to my new email, we don't want to miss it when we move.”

     • Short but sweet from Kate Berringer. “Hallelujah! (as you asked). Also, love the Fringe too. I’m doing one volunteer shift this year and hopefully taking in some shows.”

     • Ken Alexe really enjoyed The Fringe commercial that I produced for the festival this year, as did many of you. It received a lot of air time. Ken wrote: “Your unique combination of skills and background as a TV producer and Fringe performer have, once again created a great product that has played extremely well with audiences.”

     • Alan Bratt is also a strong supporter of Bob Anderson, over at Concept Media. Here is what he wrote. “Greetings Rod: Ever since you recommended him, I have been taking my Fringe printing to Bob Anderson. Not only does he get the work done when I expect it, it is done before I expect it, and it is done better than I had imagined it. And he is real nice guy.” Rod’s note: Now, if only we could find someone in the eaves trough business, just like Bob.

     • Lyn Goldman is thrilled that the bloom is on her rose, and yes, I am playing with words. I am always pleased to read of another gardener’s success. Here is what she wrote. “I have roses blooming all over the place! Never had more than 3 or 4 before.”

'Lady Slipper' Prairie Orchid

     • Marsha Kennedy was the photographer for our prairie orchids in the attachment. She was at Cypress Hills. She had this to say as a way of commentary. “I saw lots of striped and spotted coral root and the conglomerate rock site was all in bloom with wild flowers. The photo attached is the white ladies slipper with striped coral was in the camp grounds where we camped. There was some rain but it was all worth it.”

Cheryl Hutton in a recent play
      • Cheryl Hutton out of Calgary, sent along a photo of a show she recently appeared in. She also had this to say about The Garden Report. “Sitting on our front porch, coffee in hand, Aaron reading a book, cat purring away between us, and me with my laptop catching up on a few weeks of Garden Reports. A perfect Sunday morning, truly. I was at a BBQ last night with some friends of ours and one is an avid gardener. He said he loves to share perennials, because you think of the person who gave them to you every year. Thanks again for your lovely writing. Love how you finish the reports with a cute anecdote or story. The last one of "F" for effort was made even better by your ability to always find the right button to the sentence. Ending it with "Close enough" made me laugh out loud. Thanks for that. Oh - and glad to hear you can't always salvage plants in the cold and rainy weather - makes me feel better about myself…”

     • Rhonda Rein is pleased that her tomato plant, which suffered greatly a month ago, has now improved. She writes “Thanks Rod! It was as if you read my question of the week for you! I was going to write in and ask you when we should remove the bands on our elm trees. So thanks once again for a very informative blog, love them and keep them coming! PS – also thanks for the tips on my tomato plants that were dying a few weeks back. Drainage holes have been established now and it’s looking great! See my attachment.”

     • Nathan Harvie is a new reader from Edmonton. This is his first response. “Just finished reading #57 a few minutes ago, entertaining as always! Thanks for putting me on the list.”


      • Bob Anderson didn’t mind me giving him a mention in last week’s edition. Here is what he had to say. “Thanks for the plug Rod – much appreciated. I read your newsletter weekly – always entertaining.”

     • Keith Carpenter lives in Vancouver and he is a regular reader. He sent this along. “I still enjoy all the insights to prairie living in your Garden Reports.”

     • Marcus Fernando writes about the over use of salt, from his home in Birmingham, England. “ I'd like to add my weight (what there is of it!) to your salt in food campaign. My problem is the salt which they put in food in restaurants. Every time we go out for dinner, I end up waking up in the night with a raging thirst. This, of course, never happens with home cooking. The reason is the amount of salt they add to the food, and of course they do this just to enhance the flavor of the food. Nowadays I'm so used to having low-salt cooking at home, that when I eat out I'm increasingly aware of the taste of the salt...rather than the flavor of the food. Unnecessary, unappetizing, and unhealthy!”

• Garden Tip: Once again, the creeping bellflower has taken over gardens in Lakeview (my neighborhood). I keep a clean garden, a very clean garden, but even I have to go on patrol, scouting this invasive plant. On Saturday last, I was canvassing and found fifty of this scourge, growing in my garden. You have to know where to look. Best to lift up plants such as peonies and strawberries and often, there are seedlings growing at the base. I even found four growing in my Snow on the Mountain patch, which is almost unheard of. Here is the problem: most people are not eradicating the plant. Some are even cultivating it in the mistaken belief that it is an ornamental perennial. As this plant has continued to spread, it is now dominating some yards. If you want to be organic, just pull them out by the root, especially before they flower and set seed.

• Garden Tip: In the country more so than the city, field columbine is once again a major problem. This plant was appropriately named ‘strangler vine’ by the people at The Classic Landscape Company. The plant weaves itself into ornamentals, and once that occurs, it is difficult to remove. Best to get it when it is young.

• Garden Tip: When the summer heat hits your yard, invariably there will be casualties. Best not to leave pansies or impatiens in the full sun. They prefer a bit of shade, as do your ferns. If your pansy pots stop blooming, do not despair. Simply move the pot or the container to a shady area, trim back the plants and they will start blooming when it cools down. Some years, they don’t rebloom until September, but what a great fall plant.

Persian Yellow Rose
 • Garden Trivia: Jeanie Freeman wrote in about the yellow roses that have bloomed all across the prairies, for a hundred years. Did you know that the name of that rose is ‘Persian Yellow’. It is very prickly, very tall and extremely hardy. Also, everyone please note: This rose was brought to Canada by my people. Yes, you read that correctly. Scottish immigrants brought the rose with them from the old country, as early as 1840. I would like all of the other ethnic groups to please say ‘wow’ in your native language. Thank you.

• Did you know: While the bulk of our readers are Canadian, we also have regular readers in fifteen other countries. Did you know that while most of our readers are from the broad, cultural mosaic, we have a very large number who are from the theatrical, writing and art’s community? Did you know that several of the largest greenhouses and nurseries in western Canada are regular readers and co responders?

• Oh yeah: Roberta Nichol wrote in this week, insisting that I know next to nothing about women. And her point is?

• Could I have a second chance: I was fifteen years old and the legendary Luella Lovering was my Grade Ten English teacher. She was in her seventies and had been teaching for a very long time. I actually adored her, but I would never have admitted that to my buddies. She was a fine teacher. One day, she was returning assignments that had red marks all over them. They were grammatical corrections. She was attempting to soothe our battered egos by saying “Keep writing and don’t worry about making mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. I should know, I am not perfect.” There it was. You heard her! She said “I am not perfect.” For whatever reason, I decided to help her along with that assertion, her being an English teacher. I said out loud (with forty-five years of regrets) “Did you know that when you write on the chalkboard, you never dot your ‘I’s’ or cross your ‘T’s’?” It was about two seconds after I spoke those words, that I realized how wonderful it would be to have a time machine, reset the clock and delete what I had just said. Apparently, she did not appreciate editorial critique. Can you spell detention?

• Garden Tip: There are several Mountain Ash that are not doing well this year. Too much rain. Mountain Ash prefer well drained soil. If your tree has yellow leaves that give themselves up easily, then it should benefit from a dose of iron chelate, often sold under the trade name of TruGreen. Note to yourself: Do not plant a Mountain Ash in a low lying area.

• Garden Tip: I have been asked to look at a few lawns that, in spite of our rainy spring, are showings signs of dehydration. There is a simple explanation to that apparent contradiction. There was so much snow this past winter, between three and five feet in many yards. That much snow is a heavy weight on the lawn below. Compaction occurs and water, even lots of water, runs off. Easy remedy. Aeration. Do not listen to the idiots out there who say that aeration is strictly a spring thing. You can aerate a lawn any time of the year. It will open up the soil so that water, air and fertilize can percolate down into the root zone.

• More six year old humor: Best joke I ever heard from a Grade One girl? Q. What is the difference between broccoli and boogers? A. Grade One boys don’t eat broccoli.

• Thought for the day: If I take the time to count my blessings, I have less time to complain. Now go drink your herbal tea.

• A true prairie boy: Ron Atchison was a legend as a Saskatchewan Roughrider football player. He played from 1951 until 1966. Ron and his wife Brenda, were regulars at Lakeview Gardens and I always enjoyed my chats with Ron. After all, as a little boy growing up on Dewdney Avenue, I thought Ron and all Roughriders walked on water. One day we were talking about his career on the field. He said “some of us get our fifteen minutes of fame in one lump and for me, it got spread out over several years.” He told me that he rarely went back to Taylor Field, that he didn’t want to hang onto something that no longer existed. Ron was always kind and humble when we spoke. After football, Ron made his living from something he really enjoyed. He was a carpenter. He worked with wood. He was a prairie boy, through and through. Ron passed away about a year ago.

• Garden Tip: For those of you new to tomato growing, it will assist your plants if you prune them. Tomato plants that have been pruned are stronger and will maintain their fruit in an upright position.

• Love clean: We had a quick supper at 13th Avenue Coffee House in between Fringe shows on Saturday night. The food is always flavorful there but that is not what I want to talk about. I had to pee. I hate, I absolutely detest dirty washrooms. Their washrooms were spotless. I like that. I knew you would appreciate the sharing.

• Garden Tip: Visiting with one of our readers this week, she has a pot of floppy geraniums. I showed her how to pinch the blooms off, once they are spent. She is reluctant to do this, as are many of you. I will say this as clearly as I can: If you want beautiful geraniums, become a ‘heavy pincher’. You are doing the plant a favor by removing blooms, past their prime. This is not a theory. I have done it for years and it produces the finest of geraniums.

A new lawn - well watered
 • Way to go: Chad Jacklin, who has been renovating The Artesian on 13th Avenue for almost two years now, has done a fantastic job. He has been very creative in his alterations to the building and it is a special place for performers and audiences.

• Fringe Festival: The Regina Fringe was well organized and a real treat to attend as an audience member. Kudos go out to Jodi Sadowsky for all of her efforts as the Producer. We love The Fringe for its sense of democracy. Performers ranged from seasoned veterans who have performed almost everywhere, to those who are on their first outing. We witnessed the genius and brilliance of Jem Rolls, Rob Gee and Colin Godbout. One of our Regina readers, Alan Bratt, had a show this year that he had written. Its theme was how we treat the elders within our community. He pointed out that when we turn people into objects, then we do things to them, rather than things for them. It was very well done. If you are reading this on Sunday, there is still time to catch a show or two as this is the last day.

A new lawn left unwatered
 • Fringe folklore: Maureen and I started organizing Fringe Theater in Regina, back in 1998. Our first endeavor was to bring in Shannon Calcutt in ‘Izzy The Clown’ and John Huston performing ‘Shylock’. Some of our readers will remember those early beginnings. Both shows played back to back on a Friday and Saturday night in March. We had to plead, cajole and beg to get seventy patrons out for Friday and fifty for Saturday. Fringe was so new to the people of Regina that there was one lady who thought it was a ‘French Festival.’ We went on to produce nine more Fringe weekends under the name of The Regina Knot-a-Fringe Theater Group. We operated under that name for legal reasons. If you were a part of our family, it was mandatory that you ‘volunteer’ to work at these shows. My brother in law and youngest son ran the lights, my sister ran the box office and the rest had to take tickets and usher. We produced these weekend events until The Fringe Festival officially started in 2005. Now we clap and cheer.

 • Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in sunny Regina

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Garden Report #57

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

Pink peonies from my garden
• Writers write: Regular readers know that The Regina Fringe Festival is this week, July 6th to the 10th. It has been a tough haul for the festival. First, getting the thing launched in 2005, and then getting performers to stage their shows here. Here is the bottom line. Winnipeg and Edmonton draw performers from all over the world. There is a huge waiting list to get into those two festivals. Why? Because there are supportive audiences in Winnipeg and Edmonton. Artists actually have an opportunity to make a few dollars for their efforts. Fortunately for us, some of those top performers from The Edmonton and Winnipeg Festivals have decided to showcase their talents at The Regina Festival. Each ticket (and they are only ten bucks) goes directly to the artists and trust me, they do need each ticket sale. But that is not the only reason you should take in The Regina Fringe. The real reason is much simpler. It is the best theater in the world.

• Readers write:

     • Finding someone to do a small repair on the house is always a difficult proposition. Reader Jennifer Cohen empathizes with that search. She sent this note along: “Please let me know if you manage to get an eaves trough fixer...and good luck.” Rod’s note: So far Jennifer, no one has called me back. Surprised?

     • Laura Harris is performing at The Toronto Fringe this year. Each year, she promises to make it to Regina but so far, no Laura. She did send this sentiment along from The Garden Report. “ I hope you are well and your garden looks lovely!”

     • Mike Liske from The Classic Landscape Company is tired of the rain but he does see an opportunity. This is his new business plan. “I've come to the conclusion that I'm going to get into the business of ark building...once the ark is built I'll gather up 2 of every kind and I'll set sail.”

     • This response from Morag Hurn. “Hello Rod, yes free always gets my attention, I would love one of your strawberry plants. I have been wanting to plant some. I think they are really pretty in a garden, and taste good to boot.”

     • “Rod: Loved this issue. Many of my friends that I have shared The Report are now hooked. I would agree...the iris, bleeding heart and poppies are spectacular this year. My poppies are about 6-8" across and the most fabulous orange you have ever seen. The only problem is that everything is about 10 inches higher than normal.” Georgia Hearn

     • Reader Jeanie Freeman is back in town after a tour of England, Wales and Scotland. The real question is not did she have tea with The Queen, rather, did she bring us any Licorice Allsorts?

     • Chris Pasterfield weighed in with his experience regarding Taylor Motors. “Must add my good news to your Taylor Motors serial as yours is a predominately good news blog. We have purchased six vehicles from Taylor Motors and haven’t had a terse word with the organization on tire and parts repairs, warranty work…”.

     • Roberta Nichol has enjoyed the running commentary of ‘God Bless St. Mary’s.’ She writes: “Kate Berringer couldn't have possibly said it better re: St. Mary's Church. To me, what she said about Christ embracing ALL people, was bang on. I think that's what has turned me off of most organized religion. Too much judgment among so called Christians.”

     • Sharon Nowlan is a Regina actor who is now living and working in Toronto. She is also a big fan of The Garden Report. She sent this note along: “It's a great year to be at the Regina fringe! Hope you're able to see some shows. I just finished doing the Montreal and Ottawa Fringe with Canuck Cabaret; now off to Toronto. But my heart will be at the Regina Fringe!”

• One of my favorite people is Peggy St. Goddard. I should send her a bill for that statement. She is a regular reader. Recently, Peggy wrote that she received some excellent service at one of the box stores in the east end. She did not mention which one. She also had this to say about tires: “My husband and I have 5 vehicles - in regards to tires, we too have had nothing but great service from Graham’s!”

Flowering crab in bloom
• Garden Tip: Reader Jack Tunnicliffe appreciated the tip on how to reduce mosquitoes. Here it is again. On Sunday morning, we were having a brunch outdoors and then planning to work in the garden for the remainder of the day. One problem. Lots of ‘skeeters’. I poured concentrated Trounce into my hose end sprayer, set it at fifty mils per liter and gave the garden a quick spray. It is organic, easy to apply and it works, unlike those ‘miracles’ you read about on the internet.

• Garden Tip: It is a good idea to fertilize all summer long, your bedding plants and newly planted perennials, shrubs and trees. I use a water soluble 10 30 20. I have had good results with it. If you cannot find that one, try a 15 30 15 which is more common.

• Short but effective: So the story goes, Winston Churchill was asked, after the war, to deliver a motivational speech at a graduation. He was expected to speak for some time, perhaps an hour. He stood up and delivered these six words: “Never, never, never, never, give up.” And he sat down. It took a few moments, but the enormity of what he had said sunk in and he was cheered by his audience. Love those Winston stories.

• Garden Tip: It is time to remove the bands from your elm trees. Actually, it was time three weeks ago, but I have been busy reminding you of other things to do. If you leave the bands up for too long, it will soften the tree bark. Not a good thing.

• Garden Tip: Best time to water? As the sun rises. Seriously. Worst time to water? When it is so stinking hot that you create a steam bath for your lovely pansies.

• Old school service: Bob Anderson at Concept Media and I have been doing business since 1971. You can assume that we have an ‘established relationship’. Bob has done all of my printing and layout work for The Fringe, Lakeview Gardens and my theater productions. He is one of those old school business people who says “I can do that for you” and he does it quickly and well.

• Times change: When Bob (from above) and I connected in 1971, printing was not what it is today. I will never forget Bob being so excited when he got a high speed printer with a metal printing plate on it. The excitement was because he no longer had to work with paper plates. He showed me his new toy and said “I can attach the printing plate, fill it with ink and paper, press this button, step back and watch it print five thousand copies!” Bob now tells me that what he produces in a day would have taken eight people to print thirty years ago. The magic of computers.

• Blooming this week: There are bushes all over the city with white blooms. The bushes, or at least the mature ones, are five to eight feet tall. They are mockoragne. Mockorange are predictable bloomers. They put on a great show every year from June 25th ‘til July 10th. If you cut a bouquet of the flowers, and leave them on your kitchen table, the next morning you will be greeted with the aroma of oranges. Thus the name. Roses of every description are in their full glory, especially after a thirty-four degree day. Can I have a hallelujah?

• Love it: Fresh basil is finally growing with the aid of the recent heat. I adore it in so many of my dishes. I have not tried it on porridge yet, perhaps tomorrow. My spearmint has taken off and found its way into some sun tea. The first batch of strawberries has turned red and have been consumed. Love my prairie fresh strawberries.

Ivory Halo Dogwood-newly planted, not full size
• Salt you say: Yep. I am still on my high horse about the levels of salt in processed foods. I was in Safeway on 13th this week. I picked up a package of sliced roast beef, turned over the back label and read the information. 43% of your daily salt! That is not a misprint. Three thin slices of prepared roast beef on one sandwich, and you have just ingested half of your recommended daily intake (including the bread and the mustard). Why do they do this, to us? Food companies can’t sell us food laced with morphine or heroin, but they can load us up with enough sodium to keep The Titanic afloat.

• The final say: For three weeks, there has been a thread here regarding Taylor Motors/Michelin Tires. The manager of Taylor’s has sent this response, which I have left unedited. It is time to move on to other things, so this will be the last posting of the subject. Taylor’s know how deeply they alienated me four years ago as a customer, but there are always two sides to every story. Here is theirs. “I’ve recently become aware of the thread about Michelin Tires/Lexus and with your readers’ permission I’d like to weigh in with comments from Taylor Lexus. Most important, I want to apologize for the comment from our service advisor. It was inappropriate and I invite you to call me at your convenience to discuss this further. Second, I see some follow up comments on the blog about tires and I would like to offer the following… vehicle owners are sometimes surprised when they read their owner’s manual to see that the section on Tire Warranty refers them to the tire manufacturer and not the vehicle manufacturer. No tire warranty information is provided. In fact, dealerships are instructed to refer customers to the tire manufacturer for warranty concerns. REPLACEMENT tires are different and Michelin offers a “limited warranty, which covers defects in workmanship and materials for the life of the original usable tread, or for 6 years from date of purchase, whichever occurs first”. For the 2007 model year Lexus Canada was including Tire Road Hazard coverage with the vehicle purchase. This provided you with 3 years or 50,000 kilometres of Lexus coverage. While you were within the mileage allowance you were outside the time allowance. It is important for your readers to also know that tire warranties only remain valid with scheduled tire rotations. Taylor Lexus has not seen your 2007 vehicle for service in your 4 years of ownership but it is safe to assume that your mechanic has been doing these rotations for you. Thank you for allowing me to respond to the comments on your blog and I again invite you to call me at your convenience if you’d like to discuss this further.” Dale Kane, General Manager, Taylor Lexus Toyota Scion.

• Great ‘rag’: One of my favourite magazines is ‘The Gardener for the Prairies’, published in Saskatoon. The new edition (Summer of 2011) has a wonderful article on hostas, one of my favourite plants. There is also a mention of The Garden Report, as they enjoy reading it at their office. They wrote “He offers his insightful and often amusing thoughts on gardens, food family and philosophy. Always a fun read.” Contact information was published and now we have many new readers, all courtesy of our friends 250 kilometres to the north. And a big welcome to our new readers.

• Zen: Maybe this is me being too Zen but here goes: Most of us avoid burdens. They are heavy and uncomfortable to bear. Yet the weightlifter seeks out heavy objects to lift, so that he can become stronger. Perhaps our burdens, make us stronger? Okay. Now go drink some herbal tea, grab your copy of ‘Howl’ and chant ‘om’.

• Class act: A few years ago, I was at a party and the conversation turned to The Regina Pats during the early sixties. I mentioned that as a little boy, my favorite player was Norm Beaudin. The party ended and life went on. About three weeks later, I received a letter with an autographed photo from the aforementioned Mr. Beaudin. He is now living in Florida. He thanked me for my ‘fan support’. One of his cousins had been at the party and had relayed my comments. As a former ten year old, I was thrilled.

Cranes feasting on my native ferns
• Speech, speech: I think I speak for all gardeners when I write: the early morning sun with the birds singing, makes getting up much easier than when the winter solstice surrounds us.

• Cute and true: We have to end this Garden Report with a cute but true story. I don’t know why, perhaps it is an obscure law. In 1975, I was substitute teaching for a month at George Lee School in the north end. The teacher was on medical leave and I got a month’s work. It was a Grade One Class, not really my forte. Regardless, there I was with thirty, six year olds, runny noses and all. I had one kid who knew some choice language and he used it regularly. I got notes from parents about his specialized grammar. One afternoon we were doing a basic exercise. A is for apple, B is for butter, C is for cat and so on. When we arrived at the letter ‘F’, his hand shot up and he was screaming “I know! I know!” I took a deep breath and said “Okay…why don’t you tell us.” To my great relief, he announced in a clear and loud voice, “F is for effort.” Close enough.

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in Regina