Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Trials and triumphs of growing grapes in a cold climate

Valiant grape cluster. Don't they look yummy!

I started testing this variety in our cold climate because I was assured they'd be fine. My husband made a trellis system for me and I planted them at the end of our horse field then surrounded them with some chicken wire. I was concerned the horses might try nibbling on the grape vines but I could have saved myself the trouble. They weren't all that interested.

Tom doesn't like grapes
The grapes didn't do very well. Between pests, and what I later learned was a cold 'well' right where I'd planted them, they were pretty pitiful. So I took some cuttings and started more in the greenhouse. These did very nicely and produced a respectable number of sweet clusters. They really do taste a lot like a Concord grape.

Well, to make a long story short, our house burned down, we rebuilt but just couldn't live there with the bad memories, so moved. The place we moved to had a limited growing area and I didn't bother with any grapes the first year. The next year I couldn't stand it any longer and planted a vine outside (didn't have a greenhouse this time). I protected it a bit and thinned the plant to only 3 clusters as per most grape grower instructions. They were nice and sweet when I sampled them but when I came out a few days later to reap my bounty all the clusters were gone.

Foxes Eating Grapes
We live in a fairly rural area so likely a fox or coyote helped themselves. They were nice and neat about it. The vine wasn't damaged in any way so I guess they just sucked off the grapes. Stinkers.

Before last winter I thought I'd try a light pruning and gave the plant a heavy cover for winter protection. We'll get warm days for a couple of days and then it plunges down as much as 20 degrees the following day - all with no snow cover. I mounded the vine with grass clippings and wood chips as high as I could and then, after attaching the vine pretty solidly to its trellis, I wrapped the unmulched part of the vine in four layers of floating row cover cloth.

And...We're Off!
Sadly I'm a lousy photographer so these aren't mine but they look exactly like this.

Man, did that ever work. I've got over 40 clusters growing on a single, small vine, mostly between 2 and 3 feet off the ground. Now I don't know what to do about thinning the clusters. How far apart should I thin? Ack.

Guess I'll do a bit of reading to make sure I do it right. Knowing that I can easily grow great vines with just a bit of fuss at the end of the year, I'm going to take as many cuttings as I dare and get my vineyard started!

Of course, now the vine will be really attractive to the beastie that ate the grapes last year. I've purchased one of those motion detector sprinklers though, so we'll see how they like a squirt of water in the face when they try to steal them.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

When Your Dog is Dumber Than a Bag of Hammers

Okay, so Spencer is basically a pretty smart little dog. He can send a text just as well as the next guy and he knows how to give you the 'ain't I the cutest thing' look to get pretty much anything he wants.

But he's a chewer. Generally he saves his chewing for the appropriate chew toy but he branched out when no one was looking and went on to bigger and better choices. I USED to have a pair of slippers something like this. Got them for Christmas last year.

Note the pom poms. A couple of months ago my daughter said, "Hey mom, what happened to your slippers?" I looked down and a pom pom was missing off of one of them. I was pretty sure I knew who the culprit was. Spencer's the only dog in the house and neither my husband nor I had taken to secretly eating pom poms. We waited to see what would happen. Spencer didn't get sick and didn't seem to rid himself of the pom pom in the normal way so I forgot about it, after taking the precaution of removing the rest of the pom poms.

About a month ago Spencer started throwing up. He was miserable. Took him to the veterinarian. She x-rayed him and found the pom pom stuck in his intestinal tract. Three days and $2,000.00 later he came home minus the pom pom (which the vet put in a baggie to show us - ick) plus a long batch of staples on his stomach. We took to calling him 'zipper belly'.

He was healing up nicely and all seemed well but about two weeks after that we noticed that his Kong Wubba, exactly like these, was missing a leg. Now these toys are extremely durable. I can barely cut off the legs with heavy-duty scissors when they get a bit tattered.

Again we waited. We couldn't believe Spencer had managed to get off one of the legs and if he had, how on earth had he swallowed it? But once again he became lethargic and stopped eating and drinking. Back to the vet we went and he had another x-ray. Sure enough the thing was in there. It made it through the stomach and past the first turn on its way out then got wedged and wouldn't budge. So another three days at the vet and another $2,000.00.

My husband said, that's it. If he does anything like this again, it'll be the last thing he does. But hubby is as big a push-over as I am so I'm not too worried.

Spencer's back to normal now, with more scar tissue on his belly than a major organ transplant patient. And because I doubt he's made the connection between swallowing things he shouldn't and suffering through the ordeal of an operation, he has no toys at all except for a hard rubber ball that can't be swallowed and can't be punctured. His scar is all covered over with hair so no one but us and his groomer know his shame. And he's a still a pretty handsome fellow after all his problems even if he's somewhat lacking in the brains department.

Man, this bow tie is strangling me!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Positive Affirmation Babylonian Style

Ruins of ancient Babylon

Part of late twentieth century 'New Age' thinking, positive affirmation refers to a positive mental attitude accompanied by a carefully worded written statement or 'affirmation', spoken confidently to one's self repeatedly. For example, one can think, write down and say over and over - "I am confident my environment is safe and divinely guarded". According to this thinking, doing so makes the words true.

Processional Way, Aibur-shabu: attribution: Jackie Craven

But there's nothing new about positive affirmation. The ancient Babylonians practiced positive affirmation to an even greater degree. The 'doctrine of the name' asserted that as long as anything had no name, it didn't exist. Once named, the name of the object or person was an image or representation of it much like a shadow or reflection is a representation.

Speaking the name can evoke the almost perpetual power that the knowledge of the name confers, though it is limited in practice by the impossibility of perpetual repetition. (1)

Since giving the name and speaking the name wasn't sufficiently powerful, writing it down could project the name indefinitely, giving it perpetuating power. That is why a single proper name came to be the god Ningirsu, in the temple of Uruk, spoke favourably on the subject of Urukagina with the goddess Baba. (1)

Anyone who repeated his name reinforced the action described, causing benefit to the man himself. City gates and walls in Babylon would have names designed to ensure good influences for the city, like, Bel hath built it, Bel hath shown it favour.  

god Marduk: attribution

The famous Processional Way in Babylon bore the name Aibur-shabu which meant 'the enemy shall never pass'. King Nebuchadrezzar's own name meant 'O god Nabu, preserve/defend my firstborn son'. Nabu is the Babylonian diety of wisdom and son of the god Marduk, Babylon's patron god. Powerful stuff.

Every time a person used the proper names for people or objects they reinforced the positive affirmation so not only could an individual benefit himself by speaking his own affirmation, so could anyone using the name, affirmation being built right into the name.

Unfortunately, positive affirmation wasn't too effective for the Babylonians. The confident positive affirmation given to the Processional Way by King Nebuchadrezzar, the enemy shall never pass, proved unsuccessful. In 539 BC the enemy definitely passed over the Processional Way, overthrew the government of Babylon and took the city, putting an end to the neo-Babylonian empire.

Demon Pazuzu: Although himself an evil spirit, he drove away other evil spirits and was frequently buried beneath household threshholds for protection: Wikimedia Commons
(1) Everyday Life in Babylon and Assyria by Georges Contenau