War, Wine and Wit

Writing Home: Civil War Letters from the Hinchey Family Archive
by Mickey Schlosser and John Robortella; edited by George M. Tomczyk (2013)

This attractive book presents more than 60 unabridged Civil War-era letters that have survived for more than 150 years. Most were found in the family papers at the Hinchey Homestead, which was built in the 1870s in Gates. Today, the homestead is overseen by the Gates Historical Society, and these letters, linked to Gates and Irondequoit families, have been deciphered and published together with background information, period photographs and illustrations.

Many Civil War soldiers found themselves far from home for the first time. Letters were a primary means of communication, and due to the high standard of public education at that time, literacy was widespread. Most of these letters were written by J. Ansel Booth (1826-1908), who served with the 140th New York Volunteer Infantry that fought in some of the most famous battles of the war.

An epilogue includes an eye-witness account of the funeral train carrying President Lincoln’s body when it passed through Gates on its way to Springfield, Illinois.

Biographies of the writers are included and reveal more about their lives. Readers will appreciate this book for its thoughtful presentation of primary source material from the Civil War era. It is indexed for ease of reference.

Publisher: Gates Historical Society
Website: gateshistory.org
Edition(s): softcover

Wines of Eastern North America
by Hudson Cattell (2014)

Today, the eastern U.S. and Canada are major wine regions. Hudson Cattell, a widely respected author who has written extensively on Eastern grapes and wine, has penned this valuable resource. Cattell, cofounder and longtime editor of Wine East magazine, focuses on the growth of the wine industry in eastern North America following the end of Prohibition – 1933 in the U.S. and 1927 in Ontario – to present day.

The reader learns of challenges facing the pioneer grape growers who had to find grapevine varieties that could survive the extremes of the eastern U.S. and Canadian climate. The material is organized chronologically and covers such topics as the wine industry’s development in the 1970s, the growing pains in the 1980s, consolidation in the 1990s and trends of growth in the 21st century.

Appendices provide extensive information on such topics as the origins of Eastern wine grapes and a state-by-state account of the early wine history. Maps, black and white photographs illustrating people integral to the subject, and a bibliography enhance this volume. This valued history and desk reference will be enjoyed by casual readers, wine lovers and those in the wine industry for years to come.

Publisher: Cornell University Press
Website: cornellpress.cornell.edu
Edition(s): hardcover

1880-1881 Day Book & Weather Journal
by Edwin C. Barton; deciphered and researched by Leona Jensen (2013)

Local history writer Leona Jensen purchased a tattered daybook and weather journal written in 1880 to 1881 by a grape farmer in Pulteney, located on the west side of Keuka Lake. Jensen hoped this volume might reveal interactions with her husband’s ancestors who lived in that area at the same time.

While no family connection materialized, Jensen became intrigued by the volume’s owner, Edwin C. Barton (1817-1899), as she deciphered and transcribed his words. The temperature, wind and weather were recorded three times a day by Barton on the property he named Lake Farm. His workers are mentioned with the chores they performed. Many were related to Barton, and an index of those he identified is included.

The hardest part Jensen admits was coming to the last page and realizing it might be the only such record of this farm, which has survived. By researching Barton’s roots in Columbia County, the author added interesting biographical details. She even drew an “imagined land map” for Lake Farm. Newspaper advertisements and articles from 1880 and 1881, photographs, maps and other illustrations convey what grape-growing was like.

Available at Long’s Cards and Books in Penn Yan, or send a check for $43.30 (includes postage, handling and sales tax) to Leona Jensen, PO Box 181, Dresden, NY 14441.

Publisher: Geneva Printing Company
Website: genevaprinting.com
Edition(s): softcover

A Year of Nothing New
by Kristin Skarie (2013)

Want to cut back on what you consume? The basis of this title is the author’s decision to curtail her spending for an entire year by not buying anything new. Kristin Skarie chronicles her experiment, focusing on conserving resources and local living in the Finger Lakes where she resides.

Skarie tackles this timely topic with an energetic and engaging style. An educator and entrepreneur, Skarie offers readers a simple toolkit, “Tools for Living Lean and Green,” divided into 11 categories that deal with everything from using energy to shopping and driving.

The reader is encouraged to reflect on the consumer choices and decisions he or she makes, especially as related to gardening, eating and shopping. To promote an interactive reading experience there are “How To…” checklists, such as “How to engage support from friends and family.” Thought-provoking questions are posed at the end of chapters under “Ponder this…” headings. Skarie includes blogs, reflections on what she learned and an epilogue on her second year. Readers are encouraged to take “Ten Easy Steps” and start their own “Nothing New” experiment.

A listing of local and global sources along with a bibliography for further reading makes this a valuable resource.

Publisher: Nothing New Publishing
Website: nothingnewpublishing.com
Edition(s): softcover

Fishing the Finger Lakes
by J. Michael Kelly (2013)*

Here is the angler’s ideal companion for fishing the Finger Lakes. It covers 11 lakes, beginning in the east with Otisco Lake and spanning the region to Conesus Lake in the west. These freshwaters offer salmon, trout, bass, muskellunge and walleye, among other species.

J. Michael Kelly, a former columnist for Syracuse’s Post-Standard newspaper and contributor to many outdoors publications, presents a thorough summary of each lake for fishing enthusiasts. Along with tips on when to fish these lakes are details of the physical characteristics of each lake – its location, elevation, mean to maximum depths, surface area and the fish commonly found there.

Kelly also includes other bodies of water, such as tributary rivers, streams, smaller lakes and ponds. Separate chapters deal with trolling for trout and salmon, bass fishing, shore fishing and ice fishing, among other fishing options. The author’s knowledgeable and personal writing style will appeal to both novice and experienced angler alike. Appendices present fishing regulations, contact information for fishing guides, and public boat launches. Photographs of prize catches and numerous maps enhance this title’s appeal and usefulness.

*Watch for an excerpt from this title in a future issue of the magazine.

Publisher: Burford Books
Website: burfordbooks.com
Edition(s): softcover

Fishing the Great Lakes of New York
by Spider Rybaak (2014)

This new title will appeal to those who want to fish New York’s north shore – Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, their tributaries and the Thousand Islands region. Author Spider Rybaak, an angling authority who writes on the outdoors, has two previous books on fishing in New York State to his credit. This book will insure anglers know where, when and how to have a successful fishing trip.

A detailed overview of available fish species begins with the brook trout, also called natives, speckled trout or squaretails. “Brookies,” as they are also known, happen to be New York State’s official fish. For brook trout and numerous other fish species, the author provides helpful descriptions of distinguishing colors, size and distribution. Captivating any angler will be details of the record catch in the state for each species, noting the location, date and size of the fish.

The book includes only those waters open to the public and easily accessible. For each of the 63 sites there is extensive information on the location’s physical characteristics, along with key species, and the sizes of the fish anglers can expect to find. Directions, site specific details such as available parks, boat launches, and piers, along with contact information make this a valuable resource.

Publisher: Burford Books
Website: burfordbooks.com
Edition(s): softcover

The Chesterfield Hours
by Gwyn Parry (pseudonym for David Druschel; 2012)

This novel is a light summer read, especially for those who enjoy British humor. While it has a contemporary plotline and is set in the U.S., author David Druschel, a Finger Lakes native, has a writing style reminiscent of such satirical British writers as P.J. Wodehouse and Evelyn Waugh.

The tale is told by an unlikely hero who is employed as a sixth grade teacher and referred to by the single name of Chesterfield. His cozy world unravels when his wife, tired of waiting for his legendary fortune to materialize, leaves him for a more promising prospect. Chesterfield’s gentlemanly credo forbids him from initiating a divorce. Instead, he engages in e-mail subterfuge and challenges his wife’s paramour to a duel. The antics of Chesterfield’s school colleagues, along with those of a disruptive student, his gold-digging wife and madcap parents are woven into this fanciful plot. When the hero’s English-born mother dies, her cocktail-swilling ghost begins appearing, not only to him, but to other characters as well.

Comedic canine capers, Super Bowl wagers and mayhem in a fitness gym await readers. Ultimately, the protagonist accompanies his new love, “the smashingest girl ever,” to visit her well-healed parents on their wine estate in the Finger Lakes, where the amorous and monetary dilemmas are resolved.

Publisher: CreateSpace
Website: thegwynparryhours.com
Edition(s): softcover

by Laurel C. Wemett