Month: October 2023

October 2023 Wrap-Up


A platter shaped like a witch's hat full of candy for Trick or Treaters.
Ready for the Trick or Treaters.

It is Halloween once again which means it is time for the October 2023 Wrap-Up. From a personal standpoint it has been yet another tough month. I have talked before of the feeling of having a shoe drop. Well, shoes are dropping all over the place. So many that my closet must be getting empty.

I realize everyone has time periods of difficulty. 2023 is mine. Hopefully, I will become a stronger person. Furthermore, I finally understand the anticipation of ushering in a New Year. I sure hope 2024 will bring more joy and less sadness, frustration and angst.

A Troubled Soul, A Troubled World

Other families and individuals are also facing grief this year. Most recent among the Hollywood set was actor/author Matthew Perry. Please click here to read my review of his incredibly honest autobiography, Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing. Condolences to all that knew and loved him.

And as difficult as my own saga has been this year, it has unwound in a nation that has strife but is not under attack from foreign invaders. Unrest continues in Ukraine and now in the Middle East. May peace on earth become a reality versus a holiday saying.

Those of us that have seen many trips around the sun understand no one wins in a war. There are only survivors. Unfortunately, casualties often include innocent children. What a waste of the future.

October 2023

Late fall ushers in cooler weather and final harvests for those of us in the north. This past weekend saw snow in the mountain west and cold rains elsewhere. Crisp air is warmed by afternoon sunrays only to bite once the sun retreats and the moon takes over. Animals know the seasons are changing. Around these parts, tarantulas are on the move, geese are flying south and squirrels are gathering acorns from my oak tree.

Kids are learning “new” Halloween ideas in October 2023 such as the Switch Witch. Apparently, kids can keep five pieces of candy and leave the rest on the front porch before going to bed and by morning the Switch Witch will have switched out the candy for a toy. I just learned of this from my first trick or treater. Perhaps a new kids’ book read in preschool, certainly a new tale for me.

Staying Positive in October 2023

In challenging times, it is difficult to stay positive. But a smile and a good attitude will aid in keeping the negatives of stressful times at bay. Seeking help from family and friends as well as professionals as needed is my plan. The blood pressure medicine is working and that is a blessing of modern science.

Thanks to all the loyal readers out there. The posts have been sporadic but overall readership has remained stable. Also, thanks to all who have reached out via email and phone. Positive vibes are so important!

Save What’s Left Book Review

Debut Novel

Book cover of Save What's Left depicting a small beach house next to a cubical McMansion.The debut novel, Save What’s Left by Elizabeth Castellano is hard to pigeonhole. The story is set in a beach town and yet more than a summer beach novel. The main character, Kathleen Deane, is a newly retired, middle-aged woman recovering from the shock of being dumped after thirty years of marriage.

Candidly, the protagonist lets the reader know that the marriage wasn’t bad but it wasn’t good either. So, after decades of muddling through life, her husband Tom decides to travel the world to discover the meaning of life.

Meanwhile, Kathleen decides a change of scenery will get her life back on track. She buys a beach house. Sight unseen except through a grainy video. Then the “fun” begins. Environmental activism stirs the growth of the lead character as she struggles to reshape her own identity.

Many Levels of Save What’s Left

The characters in Save What’s Left were quite unique. Some were likeable. And a few were grating. However, most perplexing is Kathleen. She becomes a strident advocate to save what’s left of the natural beachscape. Thus, much of the story is told through her numerous complaint letters concerning the McMansion materializing just outside the window of her humble home.

Castellano does justice to this theme of urban growth crowding out natural landscape in former rural areas. So, those from coastal areas grasp the dilemma immediately. Furthermore, the activism of the lead character and the roadblocks she encounters ring with truth.


Save What’s Left does have a storyline. Local corruption circumvents covenants protecting the seashore. Furthermore, the misconduct goes beyond the boardroom complicating Kathleen’s advocacy. And involving secondary characters important to the growth of the protagonist. Tangling matters more, Tom reappears. Their tenuous relationship weaves its’ way into the plot. Tom’s character is quite interesting.

Recommendation for Save What’s Left

I picked up Elizabeth Castellano’s novel at the bookstore for multiple reasons. First, the name jumped out at me. One of my favorite East Coast based jockeys shares the same surname. (Highly doubtful they are related, but one never knows.) Then, the fact it was a debut novel. I love giving new authors support. Finally, the cover design. A small beach house much like I grew up in juxtaposed with a sugar cubed McMansion.

I didn’t quite like a few of the characters, nor the plot structure. The numerous complaint letters often interrupted the action flow. (However, the letters are integral to the story.) Yet I could not put the book down! A key win for Ms. Castellano. I can’t wait to see what she publishes next.


2023 Fall Harvest Re-Cap

End of Season

The 2023 Fall Harvest is over for the most part. A few root vegetables remain in the ground. However, three nights in a row below the freezing mark put an end to the tender plants above ground. Overall, the yield was fair at best. A combination of wacky weather and a very tough year on a personal level for this gardener garnered poor results. But there were lessons learned as well as some success with respect to the root vegetables.

Underground Crops

Potatoes in a harvest basket.With one exception, the root vegetables were the stars of the garden this year. The white potatoes were actually grown outside of the big garden with limited access to irrigation. Yet, a small store of potatoes is still available from a mid-summer harvest. I attribute this to the abundance of rain in the early part of the season.

Storage onions were a mixed success. The number of onions was on par with recent years. However, the size was considerably smaller. A combination of haphazard harvesting along with a lack of rain in the latter part of the season created this outcome for the 2023 fall harvest.

Unfortunately, the beets tied for the worst performance of the year. Less than a dozen including the three that are still in the ground. Fortunately, carrots were good and those not harvested remain in the ground covered with straw to store until they are needed. As are the leeks.

Star of the 2023 Fall Harvest

The best crop production is the sweet potato. These root vegetables are tricky to grow this far west and north. Since they are a family favorite, I have found a nearly foolproof way to grow them.

First, Centennial Heirlooms are the type I grow. They are ready to dig in 100-110 days. Therefore, most years will produce a crop with our late May for a last freeze and mid-September for a first frost as the averages. Even the short 2020 season produced enough to store into the late fall.

Second, the slips are started by the end of March allowing enough time to grow to transplant size. I am still experimenting with water versus a growing medium as to how to produce the healthiest transplants. Ordering slips through the mail can be a back-up, but often they are too stressed to survive.

Next, a warm ground is required before planting. I achieve this by raising my sweet potato crop in raised beds. The soil warms faster inside the metal rings I use. But if you don’t have raised beds, a black tarp put in place in late spring will also work.

Finally, I water them and leave them alone. Instead of picking by the calendar date and curing for two weeks, I wait until the first frost. Then early the next day I “dig” them up. The raised beds allow me to dig with my hands instead of a pitchfork. The frost makes them sweet. But a delay in gathering the tubers will ruin the crop. This year’s harvest yielded about 20 pounds. Plenty to feed two through the winter.

Sweet Potatoes in a harvest box.

Above Ground Crops

The 2023 fall harvest of tomatoes was fair. The dry spell in August and September coupled with the cool temperatures of June resulted in the tomatoes not ripening until very late. Green beans fared even worse. Nary a green bean until mid-September. Only a few meals worth.

However, a crop of shell beans performed well enough to plant again. Harvesting dry beans is labor intensive. And the beans should have a storage life of about four years.

Evaluating the 2023 Fall Harvest

Even though the 2023 fall harvest lacked in numbers, the produce from one’s own garden is impossible to beat. Keeping notes and taking pictures will remind me what works and what doesn’t. The information also helps with crop rotation. A smaller harvest also makes one appreciate the bumper crops. Furthermore, the yield is a reminder that crops like animals need attention. I am looking forward to a better year in 2024.

Dead Mountain Book Review

New Release

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child pen a new winner in the 2023 release Dead Mountain. The latest in the Nora Kelly series involves a cold case mystery.  How did nine veteran climbers perish under unusual circumstances? Of course, Halloween as the date of the event adds to the eeriness.  Furthermore, only six bodies were recovered in the aftermath.

For those unfamiliar with the series, Dr. Kelly is an archaeologist frequently contacted by young FBI agent Corrie Swanson to either give expert opinion or handle ancient finds uncovered during investigations. Previously, the two teamed up in several Preston & Child novels including The Scorpion’s Tail. Both women are strong likeable characters. Neither gives up until the truth is found.

Dead Mountain- A Cold Case Never Closed

Two young men stumble over human remains inside a cave. In the process of verifying the remains as ancient, Kelly and Swanson stumble upon more skeletons. But these remains were much younger. Thus, the Dead Mountain case becomes active once again.

The story line is actioned packed. The FBI takes a lot of heat for never discovering the truth from the 2008 event. Backstories of the families and former agents create a nice subplot. Additionally, Dr. Kelly’s brother Skip lands in hot water once again. This subplot mostly serves to show the corruptness of Sheriff Hawley. The bones were discovered in his county. To be honest, Skip is a character that grates on one’s nerves, even if he’s with the good guys.

Top Secret Bunker

At the heart of the mystery is a secret bunker originally built to protect President Eisenhauer. Agent Swanson surmises the scared hikers were headed for the safety of the bunker. Perhaps the remains of the still missing final member of the expedition will be found there. Unfortunately, she cannot gain access. Instead, she is ordered to cease and desist with the investigation. Furthermore, she is ordered to pretend to continue investigating. Naturally this does goes against her moral compass.

So, Agent Swanson pushes on with the help of Dr. Kelly. They discover the missing hiker and his journals and camera-only to be ambushed. Fortunately, Swanson’s new mentor Agent Sharp and Sheriff Watts arrive just in time. Watts reveals his feelings for Swanson adding just the right touch of romance for the end.

Terrific Duo

Preston & Child the talented duo behind Dead Mountain are prolific authors. And they work well as a team. Each also writes solo books. Both have a long list of impressive credentials. So, it is not surprising how well researched their books are. This is important to me because nothing encourages me to stop reading a book more than inaccurate details.

Praise for this duo is found in the previous blog posts Library Book Sale and City of Endless Night. To be honest I have read more of Mr. Child’s work since supernatural thrillers are often read in this household. For anyone with a non-fiction preference, Mr. Preston brings fine detail to all of his work. Needless to say, I enjoyed Dead Mountain and highly recommend this novel.