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Ted shares more emails

Welcome everybody! The presses have rolled again and I’m still catching up with more focus on emails. You’re now reading the Singing Gardener page in the July/August Grainews issue. It’s hard to believe, but we’ve reached the point of mid-summer. Where have the weeks and months gone? Reminds me of a sign I once saw along the T-Can. Highway that said: “Time flies and then eternity.”


May I, Ted, say “thank you” to the numerous folks who wrote with a willingness to share their experience concerning earthworms. The subject has been covered quite well and here’s one final email in that connection.

Back in late May, June Crone who lives southeast of Edmonton, about 90 miles from the Alta./Sask. border sent the following: “We were so infested with these worms, that if I managed to chisel a potato out of the hardpan, there were worms sticking out all over what dirt was left. We tried everything — heard about gypsum — went to our local fertilizer company and got two five-gallon pails of gypsum. It is calcium sulphate — similar to what drywall is made of. It is also a type of fertilizer. Pretty cheap! Broadcast it over my garden (which isn’t very big), in the flower beds and some on the lawn. Tilled it into my garden and planted it. When I dug my potatoes, very few worms. Next spring, did the same thing. Practically no worms. My soil is rich and soft, and a pleasure to work. One of the best lawns in town too! Hope this cheap solution is of some help. I know I was desperate when we tried this. Enjoy your column. June”


Let me briefly tell a story. Katy (not her real name) and her husband (both now retired) owned and operated a family bakery. It was back in the days when people who had celiac and other digestive distress didn’t really understand what their problem was. Katy told me how customers came in and placed their orders for gluten-free bread. In a nutshell, Katy described how the loaves were made way back then — 25 or 30 years ago. “Ordinary bread dough was made in the usual way using white wheat flour. It went through its stages until it was what we called panned. The dough was next literally placed in a pail of lukewarm water and washed like a dishcloth and rinsed and washed and rinsed several times again until the water was clear. Then the dough was cut and weighed into one-pound, four-ounce sizes and put in bread pans to proof, but it didn’t rise as high as other bread because a lot had been taken out of it. Then it was baked off.”

Katy chuckled and I did also when she told me, “It was almost what you would call holey bread because it was quite coarse. The loaves had big holes and the tops were not smooth, but instead looked very rough with peaks and valleys. The loaves were not heavy but slices didn’t toast well because they wouldn’t colour brown. Customers called it gluten-free bread. It was only made by special order; not a regular bakery item.”


Thanks to Bill Silversides for his email. He reminds us that spelt has gluten and gives us this food for thought: “Can you imagine gluten-free wheat flour? Spelt, kamut, triticale, rye are the same — if you take out the gluten there is nothing left. Spelt has bran throughout the kernel so is more a whole wheat flour when ground and sifted. Spelt is tolerated by a lot of people who are not celiac but are badly upset by wheat.”

Also, thank you Bill for the vivid account of your home area. Sounds like a real outdoors beauty spot that beckons the hearty tourist. Here’s his description.

“We live in Fernie, B.C. in the winter. The largest town in the Elk Valley — skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, logging, five nearby open-pit coal mines. Summers we spend at Rosen Lake — 50 km southwest in the Rocky Mountain trench. As the crow flies the two places are about 20 km apart but over a 1,800-metre mountain range. We grew up on farms in Sask. We are in a backwater where mail comes five days after everyone else has received theirs. The vegetable garden produces mostly leafy greens, sugar snap peas, carrots and tomatoes. Lots of dandelion and chickweed to add to the salads. There were 900 daffodils of 15 varieties in bloom at one time this spring. Have about 115 rose bushes. Later flowers are not quite as prolific. We fenced for deer, but wapiti and moose ignore electric fence. So far only one moose has intruded. Cougar, black bear and grizzly wander by at will.

My wife is a retired teacher. I retired from teaching, automotive mechanics and parts sales one after the other over the past 30 years.” You’re a good guy Bill and we appreciate having you as a Grainews subscriber. — Ted


A Winnipeg gardener whom I shall call Albert sent the following email during mid-June. He opens by saying: “Greetings to the Singing Gardener. With this wet weather, gardening is boot season. I have used sawdust in the garden, as the soil is quite solid muck. The sawdust was from a lumberyard site and was not chips. It was thinly applied during the mid-spring season and rototilled into the soil. Did not use anything else with the sawdust and no fertilizer. Have been gardening many years. It was the family means for produce for the winter. I have not noticed a decline in the nitrogen level in the difference of green colouration in the growth of the vegetables. However, by the second year using sawdust — the root crops were more straight (carrots and parsnips) and round shape (beets and potatoes) — as the soil becomes looser in fashion. By the fourth year the sawdust has become very well mixed into the garden soil.

Re: tomato seedlings. With putting out tomato transplants, I have found preparation is fixing the problems before they occur. Blossom end rot is an important disease that spoils a lot of the fruits. A method that I have used, to prevent/control this disease is via transplanting method: — dig a hole for the tomato seedling — add powdered milk (use skim milk/no name) reduces the cost — cover with some soil — place transplant into hole — add soil to remaining hole and around the tomato. Experiment in powdered skim milk amounts — used various degrees of a teaspoon of powdered milk with each tomato transplant such as — 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, one full teaspoon. Blossom end rot was less of an issue with this calcium source. With higher amounts, results that I found — 1/4 and 1/2 teaspoon gave similar results (no disease was visible) — anything more, appeared to have no further effect. I hope that this works for your garden. Thank you.” (name withheld by request)

Note from Ted: Keep the above information in mind when planting next year’s tomato crop. However, even now you can still sprinkle a teaspoonful of dry powdered skim milk on soil surface around each tomato plant, work it under and then water it in.


… whether you’re youthful, a senior or somewhere in between? It seems mostly the million-dollar stories make the big headlines in the mass media whether they are disasters, crime, punishment and so on.

To tell you the truth… I like what I call the good news two-bit, half-dollar and silver dollar stories that touch and speak to a person’s heart. How about you? If you’ve got such a story, especially as it pertains to gardening and farming experiences and are motivated to share with our family of Grainews readers, then send it along to me.


… and all the kids have passed. After thinking back to my school days and younger years I came up with the following:

Twenty-six letters is what I get,

When I repeat the alphabet,

I start with A and end with Zed,

’Cause that is what the teacher said.

Each told me that I’d pass the grade,

Then get a job, someday be paid,

Thank you teacher, thank you Mom,

That’s when my schoolin’ first begun. †

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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