Saturday, October 3, 2015

Book Review of A LONG TIME GONE by Karen White

a long time gone is the story of the Walker women of Mississippi. It centers
around present day Walker woman, Vivien, childless and abandoned by her husband, and 1920s Walker woman, Adelaide, Vivien's great grandmother.

Upper Mississippi River

Everyone has their own reasons for choosing a book. I love a mystery and was first attracted to the puzzle found in the back blurb. When an ancient cypress growing toward the rear of Walker property is hit by lightning, the old tree keels over exposing roots with a grisly secret tangled amongst them - the long buried body of an unknown woman. I wanted to find out who she was and why she was buried there. And so I began to read.

I was drawn in by the setting - where it took place and when it took place. I looked up the area to learn something about Indian Mound, Mississippi. After a bit of research I found that Indian Mound was a fictional town. (correct me if I'm wrong) However, I also learned  that Mississippian culture had been a mound-building Native American civilization from about 800 to 1600AD. Clever.

Monks Mound
The roots to the identity of the unknown woman buried on Walker land stretched all the way back to the 1920s and prohibition. The 18th Amendment banned the sale, production, importation, and transportation of intoxicating liquors. Prohibition was supposed to reduce crime but it backfired horribly. Tell people they can't have something and they suddenly develop an insatiable desire for it and will get it any way they can.


Rebellion against prohibition gave rise to bootlegging. Smuggling the illegal alcohol became big business and bootleggers used bribery, armed guards and medical licenses to circumvent the law.


With fortunes to be made, bootlegging attracted a huge criminal element and gangsters fought to control local bootlegging activities. Ruthless criminals like Al Capone did not stop at intimidation and murder to maintain dominance in this lucrative business.

Al Capone

As if that weren't bad enough, the KKK broadened its message of hate to include Catholics, Jews, foreigners and bootleggers. Their membership surged upwards to almost 8,000,000.

Klu Klux Klan

Bootlegging, gangsters and the KKK invaded the lives of normal law-abiding men and women with disastrous results and the characters in a long time gone were no exception.

The more time I spent in the 1920s, the more attached I became to Adelaide and her story and the more concerned I was that events from this dangerous period had spread their pernicious roots into the present.

When the identity of the woman under cypress tree was revealed I'd either be relieved or despondent. My anxiety kept me turning pages.

If you've enjoyed Kate Morton's, the Secret Keeper and the Forgotten Garden, you will enjoy a long time gone as well. Although a quicker read, a long time gone is a poignant story that will stay with you well after you've said goodbye to the Walker women of Indian Mound, Mississippi. A five star read for sure.

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!