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Ted’s final column of 2017

Singing Gardener: Plus, a request from a psychologist and kids' letters to Santa

Apart from amaryllis or coloured bracts of a poinsettia, few other plants can warm the heart like an enchantingly beautiful cactus in full bloom during Christmas and New Year festivities. Characteristically, a true Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera x buckleyi) has side pendant branches with segments that are decidedly arching.

So what does yours truly, Ted, have to say in this my final Grainews column to close out the year 2017? A variety of subject material includes an email from a Toronto psychologist searching for information about her late grandfather. Hopefully someone out there in Grainews land may be able to assist her.

Also, excerpts from letters that kids write to Santa Claus. Our children are an amazing bunch. We thank God for them and ask for his constant care and protection.

More than once someone has asked me the following: What am I doing wrong? My Christmas cactus refuses to produce flowers! Read on and you’ll find some answers.

If you’re a first-time reader to this page, my tip of the hat means “you’re welcome,” and glad to have you aboard. Can I count on you to stick with me? So come along and join the rest of the crew. We’re all one great big family that loves to read Grainews.

Greetings from Ontario

Hi Ted, I hope this finds you well! I’m a psychologist in Ontario and I completely agree with you that “the best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.” I have just finished reading a couple of your articles on water dowsing that came up on Google when I was researching orgonite pyramids.

Your articles piqued my interest because my late grandfather, Ernest Fraser Blackburn, a farmer in Dauphin, Manitoba was a dowser. He used to call it “Witching a Well.” It’s a long shot, as my late grandfather was born in 1904 and died in 1988, but I was wondering if you might be able to put me in touch with any Manitoba dowsers who might have known him.

He had a farm six miles south of Dauphin in the Burrows district toward Riding Mountain and frequently provided dowsing services on neighbouring farms as a personal favour to others in the area. He was born in 1904, was married in 1933 to Edith Mary Harman, loved horses and calling square dances for the community. He retired within the town of Dauphin and resided at 121 Forrest Avenue. He died in 1988 at the age of 84.

My dad, Bill (Blackburn) left Dauphin in the ’50s and wondering what time frame you would’ve lived there while working on air at CKDM? I haven’t been to Manitoba in years, but am certainly overdue for a visit. It would be a pleasure to see you perform if I am ever in the area. To get in touch, I can be reached at [email protected]. With kind regards, Susan Blackburn, Toronto, Ont.

It’s very interesting that you’re a singing gardener, poet and journalist. I was able to find you singing ‘I Love Tomatoes’ on YouTube and enjoyed listening. Your other songs sound entertaining also, but I wasn’t able to find them.

Followup from Ted: Yes, it’s true: I was a youthful whipper-snapper kind of DJ at CKDM Dauphin for a number of years before moving on to other stations. Among my fondest memories is travelling with Bev Munro and the Pembina Valley Boys as MC at some of their live stage shows and doing live in-studio country music programs that were broadcast and sponsored by a soft drink company.

Today, many former Manitobans including any who practised water dowsing may now reside in other provinces. Regardless of where they now live, if any can be of assistance to Susan Blackburn please contact via her email highlighted above. Thanks.

What kids write to Santa Claus

Children are full of curiosity, imagination and dreams. They have a special knack at revealing their innermost thoughts in letters to Santa. And with Christmas close at hand, here are some examples.

Eight-year-old Maggie writes: Thank you Santa for the dollhouse last Christmas. Would you be able to stop by and play family with me?

I’ll stay up late if you can. Maybe we could tell Bible stories. Do you and Mrs. Claus have any kids?

Timothy who is seven years old asked his mother to help write this letter. Dear sweet Santa: I wonder if people in places far off from Canada have Christmas. Do they eat turkey and stuffin’ with cranberries, pray and sing carols? My dad sometimes thinks he is you. Could you set him straight that he is not?

Hello Santa: I’m giving this letter for you to my mom to mail at the post office. I am in Grade 2 and doing good in school. I have a boyfriend and like him real lots but am too young to get married. Whatever you bring me for Christmas is OK. — Esther, age eight.

Brodie who is 10 wrote to Santa and asked: Santa I wonder whether you recycle at the North Pole, Canada? My mother and dad are teach- ing me to recycle because I want to help save trees on the planet from being cut down and made into paper.

Katrina in Grade 1 printed her letter plain and simple. Sweet Santa: You are good and kind and so am I. Love you lots.

Hunter, age nine in Grade 3 writes: Santa, I hope you can stay at my place long enough on Christmas Eve to drink some milk and have my mom’s homemade cookies that are really good. There won’t be enough for all your reindeer but maybe you’ve already planned for that.

Poppy, who sat on Santa’s knee at the mall, gave him her letter that said: I am six and have been a good little girl and always listen to my mom and dad. They read to me lots so could you bring me some storybooks for Christmas.

We are so grateful for our youngsters. No wonder ’tis said: Christmas is for children.

What triggers a Christmas cactus to bloom?

The more I discuss this subject with others, the more information I’ve compiled. One Christmas cactus grower told me “outdoor exposure during summer prompts future flower buds to develop. I condition the plant outside in partial shade, dappled or filtered light (not direct sunlight) between mid-June and mid-September; then it’s brought indoors.”

Other folks never put their potted Christmas cactus outdoors, but keep it inside at the same spot year round, giving it a weekly quarter turn toward light.

If a Christmas cactus has never bloomed or produces just a few flowers, some indoor conditioning in low light and coolish location should be commenced by end of September or mid-October. About 15 hours of darkness and nine hours of low daylight help snap it into budding.

Ideally, a room temperature between 10 and 15 C is ideal. During this adjustment period give it very little water and only when soil has become almost dry. Occasional misting with water can help pre- vent leaf pleats from shrivelling.

Most cacti prefer acidic soil with a pH range that’s close to 5.5. When watering, this can be achieved by adding one-half teaspoonful of apple cider vinegar to a litre of melted snow, rainwater or tepid tap water. Allow it to sit first for a few hours. Other cacti growers periodically add leftover diluted weak tea to soil. The tannic acid in tea does the trick. Unless your cactus has outgrown its pot, repotting isn’t necessary. Matter of fact, doing so too often can lead to trouble, as they do well even when pot bound. That old adage still applies: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Last column for 2017

Here are some lyrics extracted from a couple of seasonal songs I’ve written.

Christmas Card
After all there is a reason why we celebrate this season,
Something special happens at this time of year,
Spirits rise as families plan to be with loved ones if they can,
I’m coming home for Christmas that is clear.

Happy New Year all
In the coming new year may all of its days,
Bring good things to you and good things to me,
Then let them remain ’til it’s New Year’s again,
With a heart full of love let it be.

About the author


Ted Meseyton

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.



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