Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Garden Report #95

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

My youngest son is a computer nerd and so is his cat!
• Writers write: When I was a young man, I believed that to compromise meant that you lost. As I got older, and hopefully matured, I came to realize that a couple of compromises and quite often, you got what you were after. Sometimes, the compromise worked out to be a better solution than your original gambit. Compromise, both offered and accepted, became more and more of how I worked.

     When I was in business, on rare occasion, I would find myself on the other end of a conversation with an unhappy customer. If I could fix the problem right away, it was done. Much easier for the both of us that way. Sometimes, the customer would put forward a request that was difficult to accomplish. My rule of thumb was to offer a compromise, meeting them half way, plus ten percent. I soon found out that those who were decent folks, would understand that I was trying to be fair, and agree. Those who were out for blood, usually saw my offer of a compromise as a sign of weakness on my part and they pushed harder. They were wrong.

     One day, about fifteen years ago, there was a lawyer sitting in my office. He was wearing his Brooks’ Brothers suit and a Rolex. He was making demands of me that were not reasonable. He was trying to intimidate me, thinking that in my jeans and t-shirt, I had just fallen off of the turnip truck. I extended to him an olive branch. I offered a compromise that would resolve his complaint. He demanded all or nothing and indicated he was about to sue. “Do what you have to do.” I said. What else could I say.

     He sued, thinking that I would fold under the presence of his downtown, law firm title. What he failed to realize was that I don’t back down. I am part Scot and part bull dog, which are in essence, the same thing. He should have watched the movie, ‘Braveheart’. I put on my fancy, Sunday go to meeting suit, and showed up in court. How much was he suing me for? Try $250. He must not have had much to do that day.

     He presented his case then it was my turn. I told the judge that I had tried to compromise. That I had offered a settlement. The judge looked at the lawyer, turned plaintiff, and asked him why he had not accepted the compromise? The lawyer looked embarrassed, almost sheepish. I presented the rest of my case and when finished, the judge tossed the lawyer’s case out. He got nothing.

     The news of my win and thus his defeat, spread through the legal community like a prairie, wild fire. The other lawyers in town knew that he had virtually nothing to gain by suing me and everything to lose, especially his reputation. Yet, he had preceded.

     So, was I gracious in my victory. Not at all. By this time, he had ticked me off, beyond belief. I ran into one of his partners and I sent a message to him: “Anytime you are bored and you want me to lay another licking on you, go ahead and file.”

     So far, no more law suits. In fact, his was the one and only time I was sued, in thirty-five years. Compromise works, most of the time.

     To finish off this rant/editorial, today, that same man is a sitting Queen’s Bench Judge. No doubt, he is older and wiser and now values olive branches.

• Readers write:

A nine petal lily in the center
     • Kathleen Livingston is a new reader and she sent along a photo of a nine petal lily. Most lilies have six, as you can count in the surrounding flowers. Dr. Wilbert Ronald, of Jeffries Nursery fame, is our resident lily expert. He comments that eight or nine petals is pretty unique and worth publishing here. Kathleen sent this bit of info along. “I am watching the resulting ovary develop and am fairly confident that this sport will re-appear next summer! Hope your readers enjoy counting the petals and the stamens!”

• Adela Hayko from Edmonton writes “Thanks Rod. I enjoy your Report. Nice pictures.”

Roberta and her pup, Gracie-both are readers
     • Bobby Sue continues on with her comedic studies. “Just as an aside, I found you particularly hilarious in this week's Report. I found myself giggling quite a bit, and it helped to make my day! Now, don't let this go to your head! I can hear you singing, "Oh, Lord, it's hard to be humble”.”

     • Neil Slater took in the afternoon workshops at The Folk Festival. Here is his take on one of them. “I only got to see a bit of Sunday afternoon at the Folk Festival. Arlo Guthrie was amazing, and had more people listening to his workshops than have attended many main stages in years past.”

     • Sandra Rayson puts some faith into the gardening business. Sandra knows that God grows the crops that we tend. “I read The Garden Report with interest; especially the part about not just depending on the sprinklers. I had come to that conclusion years ago, so prayed for rain frequently with good success.”

     • Rex Deverell, one of our many resident playwrights, has not responded for some time. He is still a reader and this week he writes “Good newsletter, Rod. Encouragement to the gardening weary. Now do you have any advice for us who have Orange Thumb (as in Agent Orange)?” I asked Rex for clarification on the ‘Agent Orange’ comment. Rex assured me that he was not sprayed himself, but he has an uncanny ability to destroy the plants that he touches, as did Agent Orange.

     • The Garden Report started out with a hundred readers and now we have over three thousand. The number of active readers goes up and down with the season, peaking in March through June. The readership has increased because of forwards from regular readers to friends and associates. Jim Tomkins reads us every Sunday and has told friends about the blog, including Joan Roy. Here is her first time response. “Thanks for including us on your list. Jim and Lynn have told us so much about your interesting blogs.”

     • Georgia Hearn is a regular reader and often a responder. This week she writes “Read #94 at seven a.m. and had a great laugh. I feel the same about all comments, but cannot comment on prostrate issue . But you are correct in that men have to get on board and I can just picture Dr. Joan ( I am laughing). You will definitely fall for that baby girl and be a great grandfather. Thanks for gardening helps. Everything you recommend has worked!”

     • Bobbi Jo Cook lives in Vancouver, studying to become a film/television writer. When she is back home in Regina, she works diligently to become my favorite niece (Ian and Denise Cook’s daughter). Full disclosure completed, she writes “I loved your last Garden Report.”

     • CJ Katz was in Kelowna on a bit of a break from her job as a professional eater. All of us should land that gig. CJ writes “We start heading back from Kelowna, tomorrow. The gardens here are doing well. I visited the Okanagan Lavender and Herb Farm. If you're ever out this way do stop in for a visit. The gardens are lovely, filled with sixty varieties of lavender, plus herbs, perennials and grasses. They have a store and cafe selling lavender products. The entire place is relaxing and meditative.” Rod’s note: Check out CJ’s book launch.  She’s just not a member of The Good Eaters’ Club. The girl can write and she can cook.

     • One of our resident actors and directors, enjoyed the genealogical bit from #94. Marcus Fernando writes “ Loved the grandparent photos. Strangely enough, I'd just been visiting family over on the island of Guernsey, where I grew up. I found my Grandparents' old photo album, dating to the 1930's. Pictures showed them before they were married, having fun together, striking poses on the beach. Of course, in the photos they were younger than I am now: how delightful to see that in some ways, the generation gap simply doesn't exist. In other, later photos, I can be found striking similar poses on those same beaches. Incidentally Rod: that photo of your Grandfather could easily be one of you, a few years on. Family resemblance or what? Maybe if I were to stick a moustache on the photo of your Grandmother, I might get a similar vision!”

     • Jean MacKay is a proud Scot, as if there is any other type. She writes: “Good Day, Rod from your Scots friend. My family came from Ayrshire Scotland, although earlier than yours did. They were Hutchison’s. We MacKays came home from Scotland last night and had a great time. We stayed in a castle near Inverness for five days and then bused on to Edinburgh for, no kidding, The Fringe Festival! Our hotel was a few feet away from the action!”

     • Ann Anderson is getting caught up on her Garden Reports. “I've been on vacation, away from my computer, and finally sat down to read the last four issues of The Garden Report. As always, you've brightened my day. I always enjoy the photos. The garden photos make me envious of those with a yard as my four balcony pots pale in comparison. While your grandmother might have been a "tough broad", her flawless skin looks as though she was made of delicate porcelain. I can't help rolling my eyes at men fearful of having a prostate exam. Have they heard of the indignity of a pap test? Thank you again for sharing your gift of words. Take care.”

• Garden Tip: If you have a bit of powdery mildew showing up, try spraying with a sulfur product called Defender. It is an organic. Powdery mildew shows up quite often on caraganas. It looks as if someone has sprayed a light coat of white paint. It can also show up on lawns, especially in shaded areas.

• Give my regards to Broadway: With College Avenue being closed for construction, I have been using Broadway Avenue to get over to the east side of town. I have been impressed with all of the improvements to the housing stock in this neighborhood that was built in the 1950’s. Residents are putting new paint, brickwork, steps, walks, windows and landscaping into their residences. It is always a positive sign when a neighborhood is renovating their housing.

• Garden Tip: If your lawn is appearing under watered in spite of all the rain we have had, chances are that the soil is compacted and the water has been running off of it instead of draining down into the subsoil. Soil aeration is a good thing for a lawn and it is not restricted to the spring time. I usually have my lawn aerated every fall. Give Drew a call at Mr. Caretaker at 586-0828. He always does my lawn and is very reliable.

• A perfect Sunday: The sun was shining, there was a light breeze, The Symphony was playing as were other bands, and to make a Scotsman’s heart beat with joy, it was all free, no charge, gratis. We arrived with our lawn chairs in tow and joined the other five thousand people taking in the afternoon. Wow! Don’t you just love the sound of the cannons firing in synch to The 1812? And where else can you listen to classical music while munching on a fully loaded, foot long hot dog?

Trial rose #291-I am giving this one a test
• Good gardeners share: Courtesy of Michel Touchette, I am now growing a trial rose, #291, faithfully reporting to Michael how it is doing. This week, it is in glorious bloom. Was that reporting or bragging? I can’t tell the difference any more. If you are a dedicated rose fancier, and wish to take a look at our new baby, fire off an email and we can set up a time for you to peruse a new rose.

• Garden Tip: Stu Wass was in town from Indian Head for a garden visit. Stu and I were talking about the work and effort that goes into gardening. He had an interesting comment. Stu said that he is tired of hearing from people that we should plant perennials instead of annuals, because they require no work. Not true. Perennials do require a degree of attention or else they look terrible. First, and foremost, perennials must be divided to maintain their youthful appearance and vigor. This is a major issue often overlooked by some gardeners. My daylilies and strawberries, get divided and given away every three years or so. This is one of those years to do so. If not, the strawberries don’t produce worth a ‘fill in the blank’ and the daylilies choke themselves out, early in the season.

• Garden Tip: Speaking of dividing, around the middle of September, most lilies that are overgrown, can be dug up, the bulbs divided and replanted or given away. I find that most Asiatic lilies really enjoy a division every five years or so. When you do replant the bulbs, remember that they thrive with more sun than shade. Plant your lilies eight inches down to the base of the bulbs and plant the bulbs, pointed side up. Peat moss, bone meal and bulb dust all assist in promoting better growth.

• Saskatchewan humor: According to reader Dave Calam, a sure sign of a Saskatchewan person with no friends is someone who has to buy zucchini at The Farmers’ Market. Another variation of that joke is this one. People in Saskatchewan lock their cars during August and September, so that gardeners don’t leave a bag of zucchini in their back seats.

• Saskatchewan humor #2: Along the same lines, my tomato plants have been producing heavily this season. I have become so desperate to find homes for all of them that the Jehovah Witness’ who call at my door are being handed tomatoes in exchange for their Awake Magazines. Soon, they will be afraid to call on me.

• It’s true: When the provincial government destroyed SCN and then removed the Film Tax Credit, many of these film people said they were going to move elsewhere, because there was no work for them in Saskatchewan. Well, it is happening. I have lost several friends to other provinces because there was nothing left for them here. Along with that, my friends who are too entrenched here to move, often due to their age, are now working in other fields. One of our well known actors is stocking shelves at a grocery store to pay the bills. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with stocking shelves. It’s honest, hard work. The question is, why is he not acting?

• It’s true #2: This week in the newspaper, there was an article about the effects of reduced funding from The Province for Dutch Elm Disease control. The Province at one time, did a fifty/fifty share with local administrations to remove infected trees. Now that funding has been cut and small municipalities are left on their own. They are not keeping up and Dutch Elm Disease has totally surrounded our city. The past few years, Regina has been losing a handful of elm trees each year and the urban forest can handle that. We can replace those few trees. Here is the question: What would Regina’s older areas look like if we lost half or two thirds of our urban forest? It has happened before, especially in Minnesota. When I took DED courses, we were often shown two photos of a town in Minnesota. One, before Dutch Elm Disease arrived and one after. Not to be melodramatic, but it was as if we were looking at a war zone, with the destruction of their trees.

• The Farm Report: Harvest of winter wheat is well under way, south of town. Farmer Reg Gross tells me that some parts of his fields are bringing in 90 to 96 bushels. Of course, there are other parts that were too wet to seed and they are bringing in nothing. He is expecting an average of close to eighty bushels and acre. Reader/farmer Brian Lowe, has begun to harvest his crop of peas, north of town by Zehner. I have not seen any canola or spring wheat being combined as of this writing, but soon. The earlier planted spring wheat is just about golden. The later planted spring wheat is half green and half yellow.

'Valiant' grape are perfectly hardy in our area and produce
 • The Apple Report: This is not about computers. Nope. This is about real apples, as in ‘apple apples’. I have tasted a ‘Hardi Mac’, a ‘Norland’, a ‘Honeycrisp’ and a ‘Harcourt’ recently, as they ripened. All are hardy for our area and all were very, very good. There is something special about a prairie apple. If you tend toward the sweeter side of life as I do, then note that ‘Harcourt’ apple is one of the sweetest.

• The new, old, folk music: Peter Sawchyn at Sawchyn Guitars on Dewdney, across from Bushwackers, has been filling a void in the Regina music scene. Peter has started up a series of house concerts at his shop, featuring some of the original performers from the folk scene. Last night, Roberta Nichol sang the lyrics that have spoken to her over the years. Another night, Ray Bell filled the shop and coming up on September 15th is the duet of Patty Tutty and Norm Walker. If you remember the ‘Four D’ Coffee House in River Heights, you will enjoy this gig. Get your tickets early as the shop only holds thirty people.

• The man knows of what he speaks: I have a Greek friend, named Gus. Sounds like the beginning of a joke, doesn’t it. Gus has one of those hard to pronounce, for me at least, last names. To distinguish Gus from all the other Greek Gus’ (or should that be Gusii?) I nicknamed him ‘Burger King Gus’. Everyone inside the Greek community and outside of it always know who I am talking about. Gus does some developing around town and is much more in the know than I am. He told me two years ago, the condo development at the former site of The Plains Hotel, called Capital Pointe, was iffy. His exact words were “you can believe it when you see it”. He told me that the condo called The Gardens on Rose and the other one over at 15th and Broad would be going up long before Capital Pointe. I asked why? Fair question. He said that the people at The Capital Pointe project did not know what they were doing. After two years, he has been proven right. The lot sits fenced in with absolutely no signs of construction. But they sure did publish some great looking artists drawings in their full page, newspaper ads.

• What’s wrong with this world: I was in my local credit union, on Hill Avenue. This old fart comes over to talk to me. I didn’t’ know him but he seemed to know me. I figured that he was probably the father of one of my friends. Finally, I asked “who are you?” Turns out he is the younger brother of one of my friends. This is not fair.

• Garden Tip: As I walk through the neighborhood, I am struck by how many of the hanging baskets and containers, which looked really nice through May, June and July, have deteriorated. To keep it simple: Most of the baskets I have seen are starving. “Feed me” they are screaming in plant language. Give your baskets and pots a good shot of fertilizer, I use 10 30 20, now. You still have a full six to ten weeks of enjoyment left so don’t’ let them deteriorate.

• Plant sale: Mike Liske from Classic Landscape has a few plants left over from a big job. He has them priced to move. I don’t have anything to do with this, but I will put you in contact with him, if you have an interest. Here is his extra’s list:

• 2 - Top Graft Dwarf Korean Lilac regular $150 Selling at $100 (the heads are a bit light but will look good in one to two years time)

• 8 - Siberian Iris regular $12 Selling at $7

• 3 – Bergenia regular $15 Selling at $10

• 8 - Stella D'Oro Daylily regular $12 Selling at $7

• 1 - Nest Spruce regular $100 Selling at $60

• 1 - Globe Blue Spruce #10 regular $200 Selling at $120

• Beyond words: My mother, when she was babysitting her first born grandson in 1977, called me. She just wanted me to know that the baby had presented her with a “perfectly formed poop.” Now, I might be a gardener and gardeners are supposed to be somewhat of experts regarding manure, but this was too much for me. I had to ask. “Mom, what does a less than perfectly formed poop look like?”

• The Grandpa Report: In the last few weeks, I have been bombarded with emails that predict I am about to lose my crusty exterior. The bulldog/pit-bull part of my personality is about to disappear. They suggest, I will become this feminine version of myself. Bah, humbug!

I think I will bite the next person who writes such things, just to prove a point.

Grape vines are a lovely screen
Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in summer’s still here…Regina

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Garden Report #94

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Murphy on his way to his first formal
• Writers write: I was sitting with Ingrid Thiessen at The Folk Festival. She mentioned that by this time of August, she is losing her enthusiasm for all things growing. I get that. We approach our gardening season with such gusto in May, that carries into June and then there are the hot days of July. Now we are into the ‘dog days’ of August. We ask ourselves: “Do I really want to get up at day break to water? Do I really want to cultivate the shrub beds, one more time?” I get it. I am not immune to rolling over when the alarm clock rings, wondering if I really have to get up. And when I come home from work, pinching my geraniums is not always my first priority as is a hot shower.

     I reached down deep this week. I reminded myself of the edict from Vince Lombardi, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Okay. Truth or dare? Truth. I did not quote any football mantra. I just decided to settle into a few hours around the yard and boy, oh boy, I had let a few things slide. I got out the scissors, the pruners and the hedge clippers and went to town. Things looked better or at least, a little neater. Then I fertilized the lawn, the shrubs, the containers and the flower beds. That felt better for me and hopefully the plants, too. The white fly had migrated from the Virginia Creeper to my beloved tomatoes and they got a shot of Endall, an organic. No one screws with my tomatoes. All in all, it was only three hours and it was fun, once I got started. Getting started is always the hardest part, at least for me, but once underway, things flow and I remember why I garden: There is no other hobby, art or craft, that can leave one feeling so good after the sweat has dried. Gardening is not illegal, immoral or fattening. But it is addictive, that much all of us will vouch for.

• Readers write:

     • We have not heard from Marsha Kennedy for quite some time. When she writes, she always has some nice things to say. “I have been quiet all summer. I have been neglecting my garden. My garden became wild, though still beautiful in a chaotic way. I frown at the plants that have become bullies and feel great satisfaction at yanking some out when passing through the yard. Gardening takes diligence and discipline. Thanks so much for another Garden Report. When reading your Report, it makes me feel like I live in a small town, with wonderful people surrounding me. Thank you for being our community's story teller. Thank you for your generosity. You deserve a big hug.”

     • Ted Bowen relates to the funny side, as well as the importance of a yearly prostate check up for us men. He writes “A few years ago during my annual physical, Dr. Joan started to slip on the glove. I said, "I really hate this; do we have to do it?" She replied, "What about me - do you think I like it? Now spread 'em!" And I did.”

Reader Michiel Verheul
     • Michiel Verheul owns a lovely greenhouse in Alberta, supplying plugs to production houses. He also acknowledges that us men have got to take prostate cancer seriously, and do what we can to combat it. He writes: “Could not agree more on the prostate thing. I have mine checked every year. Good for both of us as ten seconds of discomfort (not even pain) far outweighs the agony of the disease. Prostate cancer is one of the more curable if caught early. I am sure it was the same with mammograms forty years ago and now women realize it saves lives. Us men are just a bit slower to catch on. Keep up the good work.”

     • Roberta Nichol has decided to switch careers and become a comic, rather than a folk singer. When she read that my first grandchild is going to be a girl after raising three sons, she just had to be funny. “So we have a little girl joining the McDonald clan? How sweet! I'm really happy for you two. Now Rod, this means that you'll have to soften up even more, and tap into your more gentle, female side. You have a little princess coming soon, so you best be prepared. No more running around in your underwear, inside or outside. You must be a sterling role model, an example of what you would like to see her marry someday. The jig is up, Rod.”

     • Keith Carpenter gardens in the Vancouver area. He had a bit of a giggle last week. “Thank you for the laughter at the expense of the big box stores. The ‘expertise’ that they give I find, too often, trickles into the independent garden centers and ends up shaping the views of how the real garden centers should do business.”

     • Gail Aubin of Carman, Manitoba has an opinion regarding speaking French. “Regarding the French topic: I am pretty good at holding my own, en Français, so I will tell you my take on this. French is like English: You may not understand a Scots brogue or a Southern twang. The same with the French language. I find that some Manitobans, Quebecois, other Francophone Canadians and European French have that same ability, to stump us a bit. It is very thrilling to go to the Quebec country side and use this lovely language.”

     • Marg Hryniuk has something to share and a question. Here it is: “Have you noticed a bigger, better crop of sowthistle this year, or is it just my imagination? I think the bellflower battle is lost, but the scentless chamomile population seems to be reduced. Again, maybe my imagination?” Any thoughts from other gardeners?

     • Kathleen Livingstone is a first time responder. “Hi Rod. I’m a new subscriber. Love your newsy newsletter.”

• Garden Tip: Good gardeners share. I have written the preceding line many times. Reader Jack Lyster told me this story. He went out to Van Décor for some repairs on his truck. Van Décor is run by reader Ian Cook. Ian has a large garden. After he repaired Jack’s truck, he gave him some vegetables right out of the garden. Good karma all the way around.

• Garden Tip: Now this is not really a tip. More or less bragging. My tomatoes are ripening at a fast and furious pace. I have not only been giving them away but the other day, so many were ready to go that I made a lovely pot of tomato soup. Added ingredients included fresh basil and rosemary from my garden and then I finished it off with a squeeze from half of an orange. The orange in the tomato soup was a gift idea from veteran chef, Mieka Wiens. Bless her and her culinary skills.

• Garden Tip: If not already done so, your last application of fertilizer, whether for your lawn or for your shrub beds, must go down right away. The usual cutoff date that we use is August 15th and that has passed, or didn’t you notice? Fertilizing too late into the fall stimulates new growth that is susceptible to cold damage. What you want to happen is for your plants to naturally harden off and slowing down the growth is a part of hardening off.

Galardia cultivar-good choice for the sun
• You can’t teach an old dog: I called Number Three Son in Edmonton. I went out of my way to be nice and polite to him. I put on my best manners. After a minute, he said “go ahead Dad. Get it over with. Growl. Bark. Do what you have to do.” I did not disappoint. After all, I am part Scot and part bulldog.

• Folk Festival: Sunday night was packed. Simple statement. How packed? The lineup to get in began at noon and wound its way down Victoria, up Scarth and headed west along 12th Avenue. The gates didn’t open until five p.m. People were jammed in, this side of the sardines metaphor. Same thing as last year when K.D. Lang was the headliner. The Festival will soon have to deal with its success, which is great. Much better too successful than wondering why people are not supporting it. I remember when fifteen hundred was a big crowd. Arlo Guthrie brought quite a few of his family, including three daughters and at least half a dozen of his grandkids, to perform on stage with him. When he said the ‘family band’ would be accompanying him, he was not being flippant. Very good show from him and the kids. Emmy Lou Harris closed the festival and I had been salivating, anticipating her performance since March. I was disappointed in that there were some of her hits missing from the show. No doubt, as an artist, she gets tired of singing the tunes that made her a major act, but her audience, or at least the people sitting around me, wanted to hear them. This was not my favorite festival music wise, but as I have written before, I pay my money and I take my chances. As usual, there were some really great filler acts, in between the headliners, as the stage crew set up. Good vibes sitting with good people, many thousands of them.

• Garden Tip: I have written this before but gardeners need reminding. Good gardens are always built in layers. A little bit here, a little bit there and then a pinch of a spent flower accompanied by the pruning of a branch. If you are not renovating, changing, improving your garden, in other words moving forward, then rest assured, you are going in the other direction.

• Not nice, but poetic justice: Those readers who volunteer in any community group will be able to relate to this story. Several years ago, I was the volunteer treasurer for one of our many community groups. Not big bucks at all. Our budget was five hundred for the year. I did the job for two years. After the second year, we were wrapping things up. I got a phone call from a woman who was a part of this group, but who had never attended any of the business meetings. And as far as I knew, she had never contributed any money to the group. Got the picture? So, to no one’s’ surprise, she says to me: “My husband and I were wondering what you did with all the money?” There was an easy answer for that question. I said “Gee…I wished you would have attended all of those business meetings you missed. Everything was explained and accounted for at them…but thanks for calling.” And I hung up. Now you know why I have never run for political office or the diplomatic corp.

Bud Boughen's Yellow Twig Dogwood
• Speaking of polite/not polite: My friend, the late Bud Boughen, was a very hard working member of the nursery trades. He owned Boughen Nurseries in Nipawin. Bud was easy to get along with, provided you didn’t cross him. Every now and again, he would get a call, asking for his advice. Some such thing as “are birch trees hardy here?” Bud would give his answer and the caller might respond “no they’re not.” Rather than argue, Bud had a unique way of handling the caller. He would simply ask “then why did you call me if you already knew the answer?” That left more than one person scrambling for something to say.

• Not polite, but to the point: I had a family doctor who had a sign up in his office. It read: “I am sorry if my diagnosis does not concur with the one you downloaded from the internet.”

• Garden Tip: Just a reminder, it is illegal to prune elm trees before August 31st in our province. This is to reduce the spread of Dutch Elm disease, which if not controlled, will destroy much of our urban forest.

• Garden Tip: Still getting lots of emails regarding Forest Tent Caterpillar. The two controls for this insect are Ambush and BTK. Chanting mantras will not work, sorry aging hippies.

• Not surprising: I stopped by a job site that a reputable contractor was working on, just to say hello. The job site is not in my neighborhood. I asked how things were going and he said that the customer was fine, but one of the neighbors was always complaining. I pointed to one of the many houses close by and asked if it was that neighbor. It was. He was surprised that I knew which house the complaints were coming from. I am not psychic. I wished I were, then I would take in more of the horse races. What I did know was that particular neighbor complains all of the time. And to anyone who will listen. Amazing how we get known for certain things, regardless of where we live.

• And the award goes to: Writing of complainers. There is a woman I know who complains about the smallest of things. I knew that I was in the midst of greatness when I attended a funeral, as did she. After the service, there was a tea and a lunch. We were in line together. She complained that the caterer had not cut the grapes off of the stems, leaving them intact as a bunch. Wow! In my worst day possible, and I have had more than one in my lifetime, I could not possibly find that to be a complaint. And the award for ‘World’s Most Insignificant Complainer’ goes to…

• Is it just me: Has anyone else noticed that the fifty pound bags of water softener salt are a lot heavier than they were thirty years ago? I used to be able to lift them, no problem at all. Now I get someone else to do that for me. And the big bags of peat moss. I used to unload a semi of those things and stack them neatly. Now, I ask someone to help me get two into the back yard. What is going on here? Do you think they are filling them much heavier to give us more value for our money? Must be what’s happening. It couldn’t be me, or could it?

Goats eating weeds in Wascana Park
• A good plug: I trust that all of you have been reading CJ Katz’s restaurant reviews in The Leader Post, every Wednesday. She explores some out of the way joints and fortunately for us, the paper gives her enough space to get into the nitty gritty of what’s being served. All members of The Good Eaters Club should take note: This is required reading to maintain your membership.

• Things do change with time: I have been back to work on a few projects since April 2nd. I am only supposed to be working part time, as in three to four hours a day. Some days I get carried away and I arrive home after nine or ten hours of work. My Mrs. said to me “you come home dirty, tired, exhausted, grumpy and crabby because you overdid it. So what’s changed from thirty years ago.” I thought it would be obvious to her. My moustache is now white, whereas thirty years ago, it was reddish brown. That’s what has changed.

• Farmers’ Market: There has never been a greater choice of vendors and products than this past week. Wow! I always enjoy a good visit with Albert Hodel, one of the Hutterite vendors. Albert is selling a sweet, Spanish onion which is a Walla Walla. Albert and I agree that Walla Walla onions are amongst the finest. They grow so well in our area and taste great. Lots of green and yellow beans and a bit of corn is showing up. There is a vendor who is selling a garden relish that she cooks up. Very tasty indeed, from a place called Rocky Acres Orchard.

• Garden Tip: Chatting with Mike Liske from The Classic Landscape Company. He wants gardeners to remember this: No matter how much money you spend on your landscaping, you still have to look after it to make it work. Price paid does not relieve you of the need to water, prune and fertilize. Another thing Mike points out is that even with the best of irrigation systems, the garden still requires managing. You cannot set the timer and expect to do nothing else. Sometimes, you have to turn your system off and water by hand those plants that need watering and not water the ones that are wet. I have written before, watering is an art and a science and it requires forethought and experience to get it right. Good gardeners pay attention to the proper way of watering.

Sorry for the sideways shot-I couldn't get it turned aound
• Garden Tip: If your daylilies are looking like this, they are too thick and need to be thinned out. You can give them away to friends and neighbors or replant them, either or. Most books will tell you to move your daylilies in the spring, but my practical experience has taught me that you can move daylilies even in the heat of August.

• Once a Dewdney Avenue boy: I grew up on Dewdney Avenue, a stone’s throw from Taylor Field, so you know I have green blood. ‘In the Huddle’ with Rob Pederson and John Lynch is the best football show in Canada. Better than anything that TSN puts out. It is a one hour show, starts at seven p.m. on Tuesday nights, Channel Seven, and it always has great guests. We watch it (or should that read I watch it) religiously. A football show with brains and no clichés. Watch it, I say. Unless you are a Blue Bomber fan. In that case, take two pills and call me in the morning.

An inground fountain
 • Symphony under the big sky: The RSO has a great program planned for today, right behind The Royal Saskatchewan Museum. It’s free, it’s a good time and we will see many of you there. Enjoy the real cannons in The 1812 Overture.

• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in sun drenched Regina

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Garden Report #93

Sunday, August 12th, 2012
In a month or so, it will be tulip planting time
• Writers write: I got an email regarding the fundraiser for prostate cancer this November. That triggered me to write this. I get my prostate checked, every year. My dad developed prostate cancer, which spread to stomach cancer, when he was only fifty-eight. He died at sixty-four, and it was a painful death. I watched him shrink from 170 pounds until he looked like a concentration camp victim. Prostate cancer can often be controlled or eliminated, if caught early, that much we know.

     Here is the problem. Many of my friends are unwilling to get their prostate checked. They are embarrassed by the procedure and they tell me “I’m not letting another man do that to me.”

     Here is my take on the procedure. Yep, it is uncomfortable, for all of ten seconds. But for ten seconds of discomfort, I can handle that. I would much rather put up with that than be sitting in the urologist’s office and having him say to me, “if only we had caught this six months ago, we could have saved you.” I have lost a few friends to prostate cancer and I have this as a goal: I don’t want either you or me to be one of those statistics.

     Here is what I want to happen. If you are a wife, encourage your husband to go for the dreaded check up. I know. I hear from many of you that your man refuses to do that. If he wants, he can talk to me. I am obviously not embarrassed. If you are a man, just go. I will lay down the gauntlet. If you don’t go, you are being a really pussy. Real men get a prostate exam, after fifty (some say younger), every year.

     Here is something funny, to finish this off. Joan Baldwin is a medical doctor. She lives a block north of me. One night, Joan and I were talking about this subject. She said: “Five years ago, most of you men did not know you even owned a prostate. Now, you are forming support groups.” So?

• Readers write:

     • From England, Cheryl Ann Smith responds to last week’s comments about dialyzing at home. “I was really touched by your reflection on the development of dialysis. How it used to be, how it is now, and how it may be one day. I was touched by your choice to live in gratitude for what is available to you today, rather than bitterness for having the disease or for what isn't yet in place. It's an attitude that draws people from all over to laugh, hope, see differently. Thank you. And I loved the photos that put faces on the beautiful children, old Murphy and more gorgeous flowers.”

     • Iris Lord works at The Kidney Foundation. She was also moved by the dialysis discussion. “Dear Rod- as an employee of the Kidney Foundation responsible for raising the money in Saskatchewan for research, I sometimes forget what I am doing. Dialysis patients don't come into my office too often, and I can't just walk into the dialysis unit. Those who benefit from my hard work are not so obvious. Raising funds for anything is difficult, but raising funds for kidneys is even more difficult. Thank you for reminding me why I am here.”

     • Donna Burton used to work at Lakeview Gardens, ran her own horticultural firm and now she lives and works in Vancouver. She writes “It is just before work and I am having a cup of coffee and reading your Garden Report. Thank you for keeping me informed about what is happening in the garden and around the community in Regina. I just wanted to share with you, that I am very happy that things have progressed with you being able to have your treatment at home. This will make your life more tolerable than having to go to the hospital three times a week. I remember taking my mom to the hospital for her treatment and the anxiety it caused for her. So this sounds like home dialysis is easier on the body, mind and spirit. Now I will get back to reading the rest of The Garden Report”.

Canadian Artist Series Rose 'Campfire'
     • Joanne Crofford loved the photo of newbie readers, Sebastian and Pascal. “The photos of plants and flowers are always appreciated, but could anything be more beautiful than the two little human flowers. Just blossoming.”

     • Mike Liske writes in regarding gardening with rocks. “Rod, in my opinion, rocks and boulders should be used to enhance the plant material, not draw your focus to the stone. I would much rather say “look at that rose”.

     • Marcus Fernando is responding to one of last week’s topics: “On the subject of sanctimoniousness, which comes with age, I have always been a crusading, tub-thumping, card-carrying anti-smoker. As a university student in the 80's, and a young actor for some years afterwards, this clearly did not fit in with the expected pattern of behavior for someone of my age. Eyebrows were raised. Discussions were commenced: Was it for religious reasons? Damn! I think I've finally grown into my sanctimoniousness!”

     • Robert Barbour from Ituna is a first time responder. He asks: “Hi Rod. I receive your Report from a friend in Regina and really like it. I have read in gardening magazines, in particular Organic Gardening, about planting a green vetch in the fall and tilling it into the soil in the spring as a green compost. My question is, do you know of a store or garden centre that sells the seed in Regina as I would like to give a try?” Rod’s answer: You could try The Saskatchewan Wheat Pool. I have purchased odd ball grasses from them in the past. If not, give a call to Early’s in Saskatoon. They carry soup to nuts when it comes to seeds.

     • Jackie Arnason has this to say about The Exhibition. “I too remember when the Regina Ex was the highlight of my summer. Back in the day, my oldest daughter was working at the Glencairn playground and we made a zillion paper flowers for her float. Then I started to volunteer at the Ex and spent thirty-five summers enjoying the ambience, the fun and the food. Sadly, last year cured me of this as there is nothing left for those of us who don't gamble or climb, screaming off of expensive rides. Whatever happened to all the artists, cooks, needle workers and wine makers who used to display their wonderful works?”

     • Jodi Sadowsky agrees with Jackie about The Ex. “I agree about the Regina Exhibition, as well. A waste of time and money.”

     • Roberta Nichol was there at the very first, Regina Folk Festival. Here is her remembrance. “I have to say that the beauty of The Folk Festival is that it is multi-generational. It doesn't seem to go out of style. It's not trendy. The young, the not so young, and even children, all arrive in droves. And to think that this wonderful Folk Festival started with Richard Jack, and his friends Terry Yuzik, Ken Chesko and Glenn Wolfe. They decided to create a Folk Festival in the Newman Building of the University. It was magic. Magic! And a sixteen year old Roberta Nichol passed the audition, and was absolutely honored to be singing. I was in the company of musical royalty: Humphrey and the Dumptrucks, Don Freed, who would have been about nineteen and a fifteen year old Bob Evans sat in the audience, dreaming of when he'd be up there, too. Soon to follow: Rob Bryanton, songwriter extraordinaire and a fifteen year old Jack Semple, with all that big, curly hair, who was so shy he couldn't look up when he played.”

Some of Stew and Shirley's containers
     • Stew and Shirley Wass love to garden in Indian Head, a community rich in good gardeners. They sent along a nice photo of their containers. Here is what they had to say. “Just had to get our two cents worth in. First thing Sunday morning, The Garden Report, a cup of coffee, and a trip to the bathroom, and not necessarily in that order! A year ago we sold our home of nineteen years in beautiful, historic Indian Head and moved into a duplex with much less outdoor space. To accommodate our need to grow lots of colorful flowers, we've taken to growing our favorite dahlias in large containers. We loaded up the front of the barrels with wave petunias. The dahlias were just beginning to bloom profusely.”

• Garden Tip: I have been noticing our annual outbreak of whitefly, especially in the Virginia Creepers. Try some Trounce or Endall. Both are organic. Remember to spray the bottom side of the leaves. Another tip is to spray the plants with water. Whitefly hate to be disturbed and this can help move them along, to your neighbor’s yard. Good gardeners share, even their pests.

• Garden Tip: If you want your roses to rebloom, then deadheading is a must. You must remove the dead flower and its stem back to a complete set of leaves, which is usually five or seven leaves. This encourages new buds to form.

This is one of the roses being trialed-#291

• In town: We had Michel Touchette, from Jeffries Nursery out of Portage La Prairie, for supper last Sunday. Michel is a very, well known member of the nursery trades and he has been trying with great effort, to look after the Morden rose research. As many of you know, the federal government cut funding to horticulture and the roses developed at Morden were in danger of disappearing. Michel, along with several others, have been developing and promoting The Canadian Artist Rose Series. Coming out next year is ‘Campfire’ named in honor of Group of Seven artist, Tom Thompson. Michel shared one of those new introductions with us.

• Garden Tip: The last time to fertilize your lawn in Saskatchewan is coming up. August 15th is considered as being that date. Now, in the box stores you will find many promotions for fall fertilizer. Ignore them. They don’t know what they are talking about. Was that subtle enough?

• Learn from your mentor: My beloved mentor listened patiently as an old time gardener lectured him on sedum. I asked him why he listened, and he said, “the man had a story to tell and I let him tell it.” This week, I stopped into a box store to pick up a tropical plant for a project that I was working on. The woman in charge of the greenhouse asked me about the plant, and I referenced it by its common name. She corrected me with another name. I explained that her name was the Latin name and the name I had used was the common name. Most plants have two names. She insisted I was wrong, that her use of the Latin name was the one and only correct name and that there was no other. For a moment I was tempted to explain my pedigree to her and then I remembered how my mentor handled those situations. My response to her insistence that I was wrong? I said “how about that? I learn something new every day.” I walked away. No fuss. No muss. Thank you Dieter.

• Speaking of chain stores: I have mentioned this before. It drove me crazy when some anonymous caller would ask my advice and then complain that it did not match that which they had obtained at Canadian Tire. That’s right. The same Canadian Tire where the manager did not know what a dianthus was, let alone a zinnia. I had one woman tell me that Canadian Tire was expecting their shipment of tulip bulbs any day. The problem? It was May!
 • Speaking of tulips: Tulip season is coming up. You normally plant tulips, sometime in September or early October, after the frost has leveled your annuals. As readers know, I go overboard with tulips, planting as many as a thousand to fifteen hundred bulbs in my own garden. My pitch? Tulips give you a burst of color in your garden from mid April until early June, long before you dare plant your petunias. Tulips and other fall bulbs are frost tolerant and they provide a joy to everyone’s heart, after a long winter. Did I say winter?

• Garden Tip: There has been an outbreak of Forest Tent Caterpillars in the city. They weave a cocoon that resembles a clear, plastic bag, attached to the branches of mature trees. Two treatment options. BTK is an organic and it takes about three to seven days to work. Quicker results can be obtained by using Ambush which works on contact and has a residual affect with leaf chewing.

• We have a winner: We were on our way to Da India Curry House on Tuesday. They were closed. So I asked the Mrs. if she felt adventurous. “There is this place over on the twelve block of Albert. A rough neighborhood and it looks a little scary. I drive by it on my way to the north Albert dialysis clinic. Do you want to give it a try?” She agreed. We pulled into the small, out front, parking lot. The name is Tandoori Kabab Touch. It is a Pakistani joint, not Indian. Don’t ask me to explain the difference. They are Moslem, so don’t even think of asking if they have a pork dish. We walked in. It is much bigger than it appears on the outside. We were the only customers. That made us nervous. The woman who greeted us was very friendly, the place was clean and the food in the kitchen smelled wonderful, so we took a chance. We were rewarded with a meal, fit for royalty. Filled with flavors, deep and savory. We had two kebabs from their tandoori oven, one with beef and one with chicken. We had a curry dish with cottage cheese and green peppers. Add in some rice, raita (a yogurt salad), two chutneys and some naan bread, baked with spiced onions. Knock my socks off, good. With two chai teas, no dessert, tax and tip included, it was sixty-four bucks. There were some leftovers that we packaged up for the next day. Regular readers know that I am rarely impressed with most restaurants, but this one has flavor coming out the kazoo. Mark it down as a winner.

Time to fertilize your lawn
• Folk Festival time: So far, so good. We took in Friday’s gig and it was a slow start. There were five headline acts and the first three did not do it for us. I often explain The Folk Festival in the same way I explain The Fringe Festival. You pay your money and you take your chances. Sometimes you hit gold, other times you go for a walk. Who knocked the proverbial socks off of us and our friends? Mavis Staple. Even at an advanced age, she still has what it takes to get an audience shaking their booties. Jim Cuddy followed her and while I am not a big fan of his, he certainly does hire first rate back up musicians. They really impressed me. It was a good time. The wonderful people to visit with, including sharing the event with our resident landscape architect, Ingrid Thiessen, and her husband Lawrence, and it was the right vibe, all night. Sunday night, the closer is Emmy Lou Harris and we can’t wait. For those curious, yes, I did pass around the popcorn again. I explained to the old folkies surrounding us that it used to be joints that were passed, now it’s the popcorn. That joke sold. We’re pathetic.

• Farmers’ Market: Fresh beans, both green and yellow are available and looking good.

• Grampa Report: Due to modern technology, I can report that if you are knitting something for our grandchild on the way, then I suggest you think pink.

Our Legislative Building at sunset- photo by Jan Pederson
 • Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in ‘What? More rain!' Regina, Saskatchewan

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Garden Report #92

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

Murphy having a cat nap in the garden
• Writers write: The Kidney Foundation has an online newsletter that they send out once a month to patients, families, caregivers and friends. At the bottom of this month’s newsletter, there was this statement: “Just forty-five years ago, kidney disease was a death sentence. Today it’s not. Research is the hope for the future.” For obvious reasons, it resonated with me.

     Maureen tells the story of how, as a student nurse, they were called in to a room to look at the brand new, never seen before, dialysis machine. The year was 1965. I asked her what they were doing prior to that for us patients. She said “we gave you a shot of morphine to help you pass over to the other side and we gave your family a box of Kleenex. Families would plead with us, asking us to do something to save their loved ones and there was nothing we could do.” I think about that story as I head up to my bedroom, where the health district has installed my own dialysis suite. I think about how some things have gotten better.

     I get to dialyze at home with my wife and my cat wandering in and out of my bedroom, with my computer, my television and my cup of tea. No longer do I have to go to The General Hospital, three times a week and sit there with thirty-six others, watching the clock tick down on our four hour treatments.

     One day, sometime in the future, they will be able to clone our kidneys. There will be no need for anti rejection drugs as the new kidney will be compatible with our bodies. Dialysis will be viewed as the dark ages of renal failure. Until that time comes, most of us patients have a lot of gratitude for the people who worked so hard to invent, develop and improve the dialysis machines we have today.

• Readers write:

     • We received this from Randa, Judy Burlock’s daughter. “Dad forwarded this week's Garden Report to me and we wanted to send you a note. Dad says to thank you for your beautiful tribute to our Judy. We both enjoyed your cute little story about her. Not only was she a smart, kind and sexy 40 year old then, she was a smart, kind and sexy 70 year old too! Thank you for continuing to send your Garden Report to Mom's email. We are looking forward to your next issue.”

     • Terena Murphy Bannerman has an opinion about my ability to speak French. Here it is: “Your story about speaking French took me back. After growing up in Ireland, I spent a couple of years in France, then after being back in Ireland for a month, moved to Canada. In Toronto airport, waiting for the plane that would bring me to the prairies, I got chatting to two Quebecoise’s. When they heard that I was bilingual, they happily started chatting in French and to my horror I could only understand about half of what they said! Happily, I had not lost all my French during that month in Ireland, but was having problems understanding the accent and all the slang. So, perhaps that's why people don't understand your perfect Grade 9/10 French? Maybe you speak ‘French French’? Gardening happily in the lush valley.” Rod’s clarification: Terena, I was too subtle with my words. My perfect French is anything but perfect and that is why French speakers always respond in English. They can’t understand my pronunciation. Even my nephew, Ryan McDonald, when he was a French immersion student in Grade Three, would say “Uncle Rod, that is not how you pronounce those words.”.

      • CJ Katz loves great food and coffee. I wrote that The Broadway in Saskatoon makes a wonderful latte and she has another tip. “If anyone is in Minneapolis, they must try Caribou Coffee. They beat any coffee shop, hands down. It's exceptional, full bodied but not bitter, complex with layers of flavor and a lovely nutty round finish. I haven't had a cappuccino like that in years. By the way, my cookbook, Taste: Seasonal Dishes from a Prairie Table will be out at the end of August and it will be available at Chapter's, McNally Robinson's, Amazon, Safeway and Co-op.”

     • This from Georgia Hearn. “Wow! Thanks Rod. A wonderful start to my Sunday. I agree that the Farmers Market is a treat to visit and you cannot rush. There is so much to see and do and meeting friends. Have you tried the Russian Cafe and Deli? Plain and simple, good food in a lively Russian theme. Nice change.”

     • Kate Berringer is a big fan of The Farmers’ Market. Read on. “Great Garden Report again, Rod. Just thought I'd jump in on the produce price discussion. I am only too happy to pay more for produce at The Farmers’ Market. Not only do we pay for superior quality, I consider it a privilege to live where produce can be grown so readily. So I am happy to support local folks who make their living this way! I think of buying locally as a way of donating to support the economy of this fantastic place in which we live.”

      • Penney Pike always makes me laugh. Enjoy this bit from her: “Just got The Garden Report. A nice break from watching the Olympics. I love the Olympics. All those different sports with exceptional athletes. Every four years I always get inspired to maybe stop laying on the couch, eating bon bons and actually move every now and then...maybe this year.”

      • Roberta Nichol checks in with us. “Being the President of the Good Eaters' Club, I'm feeling a little bitter about your gastronomical experience at Calories and The Broadway Roastery. I should have been there. But I'm happy that you reported back to all of us. I'm glad to read The Good Eaters' Club has a growing membership! It's wonderful that Cheryl Geiger-Paul reports her culinary findings while in Budapest. I guess that would make her a Member-at-Large. Talk about an allegiance to the Club! Good on you, Cheryl!”

     • Jana Kutarna is a well known artist within our community and she has discovered the online version of The Garden Report. She writes “Rod, I enjoy your jokes in The Garden Report. Hope you enjoy the summer.”

A small part of my container garden
     • Robert Stedwill is a first rate member of The Liver Lovers Club. I am not making this up. I am a member, he is a member, and there is actually a club that goes out to eat liver and onions. Now stop your griping. It’s our money. Robert sent along short but sweet kudos. “Also, thank you for Thje Garden Report.”

Sebastian and Pascal - officially our youngest fans
     • Happy papa, Marcus Fernando, sent along a photo of new born son Sebastian. Accompanying the new born boy is his big brother, Pascal, who has been regularly featured here. Exhausted mother is Tina Hoffman. Many readers will know Marcus and Tina from The Fringe Festivals.

• Garden Tip: As the summer progresses, it is best for most gardeners to enter the garden with a pair of garden scissors in hand. Hanging baskets, potted plants and others can benefit from a bit of a clean up or haircut to be metaphorical. I also take my scissors to my herbs as cutting them back makes them stronger. Of course, I bring in the cuttings for my kitchen.

• Brian’s Crop Report: Reader Brian Lowe has been farming north of town for over fifty years. He has clarified my crop report from last week by adding more detail. Here it is: “Peas weren’t paying squat in the spring when seeding plans were put together. They’re paying better now, about 8.50 per bushel. Flax pays about the same per bushel as canola, but doesn’t yield as well on average and straw management can be a challenge. That’s all for now!” This explains why I only saw two quarters of flax on my trip to Saskatoon.

• Neighborhood barbeque: Several of the neighbors got together last Sunday evening for a barbecue/pot luck supper in Rotary Park. A great time with a good bunch of people. Three deadly desserts to choose from including June Blau’ rhubarb crisp. This dessert would be on my last meal request, prior to execution. Interesting to note that while all of us are growing older, none of us are talking about selling. As I have written before, this is a ‘feet first neighborhood.’ You raise your kids, your kids leave home, you grow old, one day the hearse comes along and picks you up. A feet first neighborhood.

A bit of lamium
• Garden Tip: I was out and about this week. The Rusty Shovel, located behind Toy ‘R’ Us, has a nice selection of pots and fountains. I also had a moment to visit with Larry over at Sherwood Greenhouses. Larry has some bedding plants left and they are looking nice. So, if you need to fix up an area for an upcoming wedding or reunion, he still has what you need. Larry is also selling some veggies, grown in the Qu’Appelle Valley. I bought a pound of young carrots from him for three bucks and they were very tasty.

• The Ex versus The Folk: When I was a kid, The Regina Exhibition could not come quick enough. We lived only a couple of blocks away and we were ever, so aware of its ominous presence. Scotsman’s’ Sunday was set up day and there was no charge to enter the grounds. Monday morning started out with The Children’s Day Parade and we participated most years, through The Dewdney Playground. I loved the midway, the carnival atmosphere, the junk food and the grandstand entertainment. That was then. This is now. The Ex no longer does it for me. I am apathetic at best, annoyed more often by what it represents in our culture. It’s lure has been lost and its siren call no longer seduces me.

     What I look forward to now during our summer is The Fringe Festival in early July and the upcoming Folk Festival, August 10th to the 12th. Why? Laid back people. No all encompassing consumerism. Great music from genres that I am not familiar with. There are no night crawlers at The Folk Festival or rigged games of chance. Just decent people, sitting in lawn chairs, tapping their feet to the beat of the drummer on stage. You can talk to the people sitting beside you. You have something in common. The music has brought you together. Last year, I bought a couple of large popcorns and passed them amongst those of us sitting close by. It was a great way to say “Hello there. I’m okay. You’re okay. We’re having a great time.” If you go to The Folk Festival, I suspect you will experience something that has occurred for me, every year for forty years. While I enjoy and appreciate the headliners, there will always be at least one group who I have never heard of, who will knock my proverbial socks off. Talent and passion from a sleeper group.

• Back in the old days: When The Regina Folk Festival was first getting going, back in 1968 through the seventies, you could expect to hear some local talent up on stage, in between the imports. Our regular reader/responder, Roberta Nichol was one of those performers and what a talent she had. She was such a mainstay of The Folk Festival that some referenced her as ‘The Mother of The Folk Guild’ and as time progressed, she was promoted to ‘The Grandma’. You have not experienced folk music until you have listened to Roberta sing about her favorite foods and the enduring love of her grandparents. Of course, they are two separate songs, just thought I should clarify that one.

• Back in the old days, Part #2: Forty years ago, there were joints being passed all over The Folk Festival. Now that my mother has passed away, I can acknowledge that I just might have been one of those doing the passing. You didn’t need to smoke a joint to get high. All you had to do was take a deep breath and there was enough cannabis sativa mixed with the oxygen that you were eating Cheezies until your fingers turned orange. Today, we are much older and hopefully, mature. If someone lights up a doobie, we are a self policing group. We turn on the offender and point out that there are many children present and that he should not set a bad example for the kids. With age comes a degree of self righteousness and a bit of sanctimonious behavior. How the times have changed. Who knew it was going to change in this direction.

• Some didn’t leave the sixties: We were invited to a friend’s birthday party. He is an artist so it was not surprising that there were many artists in attendance. A group of five of them were in a corner, chatting away, smoking dope. They called me over. “Hey Rod! Come on over and get high with us.” I walked over, but not to smoke. I bawled them out. I said “Come on guys. At our age we are supposed to be having a group discussion about our prostates, not smoking dope.” They stared at me. They didn’t know what to say. I guess I shouldn’t have used my ‘dad’s voice’ to bawl them out. I wonder if I will be invited to this year’s party? With any luck, they were so stoned that no one will remember what I said.

• Garden Tip: Now that our tomatoes are starting to ripen on the vine every day, here is a great way to serve them. I slice them fairly thick, dust them with a bit of Montreal Steak Spice, a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Then I chop up some freshly harvested basil, and sprinkle that on. For my grand finale, I take a bit of goat cheese from The Farmers’ Market and place little smears on each tomato slice. I serve that as an appetizer or a side dish with our meal. There are never any leftovers from that plate.

I know how to use chopsticks but no awards
• Flavors of India: This place, east on Victoria Avenue, has won a number of ‘Best of Awards’ from Prairie Dog over the last few years, and deservedly so. The food is decent, served hot from the kitchen and filled with flavor. The naan bread, baked in a clay oven, is very special, served hot and crisp. We were there Tuesday night and enjoyed our supper. The meal with two chai teas and one dessert came to fifty-six bucks, tax and tip included.

• Garden Tip: When working with rocks as with plants, work in groups. I drove by a front yard this week that had utilized some larger rocks in their front yard. It appears as if they had used a tape measure and evenly distributed a dozen of them. The best way to landscape with rocks is to do so in groupings with perhaps one larger one, isolated as a feature. The same should apply with office tropical plants. In many a office, they will have a small budget of two hundred bucks and purchase five good sized trops. Then they will spread out the five trops, evenly across the space. Doing that ensures the plants get lost. What would look much finer, is to place all five plants in one area, creating a focal point. Almost an oasis affect. Gardening with rocks. I am indeed appealing to three per cent of my readership. “Sigh” is the sound he makes, unheard, due to the nature of the written word.

'Autumn Joy' Sedum-a great bloomer in September
• Thanks for reading…Rod McDonald in sunny Regina