Computer Security – Protect Yourself!

Concept of computer security with laptop and chain

Have you checked your computer security lately or have you become slack? It is so easy to think that would never happen to me! Why take the time and thought to worry over something that will never occur. After all, who would be interested in me, my identity or my computer?

The answer:  Hackers!

Often, it is nothing personal and many times is an automated program. Often, the culprit is merely trying to gain pageviews for a certain web site to increase the google pagerank by redirecting the visitor. If it is identity theft, the culprit stands much to gain – from money, investment information to credit card numbers. It is definitely well worth the time it requires to protect yourself with easy to perform computer maintenance.

Think about the security of your computer:

  • Passwords – are they strong? A strong password contains not only letters (both lower and upper case) but also numbers and symbols. In addition, don’t write passwords down anywhere and do not have your computer remember them. Be sure to choose something other than family birth dates, address, phone number or other common combinations of such information.
  • Install and activate firewall software. Keep all software updated!
  • Install and activate antispyware. Keep all software updated!
  • Run antivirus software and keep it updated!
  • Beware of emails that sound to good to be true.
  • When buying online, designate one credit card to use for online purchases. Many credit card companies now offer a virtual number for a one time use, take advantage of these.
  • Be careful when sharing personal information online, especially in chat rooms or forums.
  • Do not give account information unless you have initiated the phone call or online request (ie. gone to the official website yourself, not being redirected from an email).

Unfortunately, sometimes no matter what steps are taken, leaks occur. Not to long ago, I received a call from our credit card company asking to check some unusual charges to our account. Thankfully, they did check as we had not make the purchases in question – over $500 worth of purchases! In fact, the card in question was still in my purse! When I questioned the security agent about how it occured with the card in my purse, he replied that often, thousands of combinations of numbers are tried until the culprit finds one that works. In this case, I had used the credit card for online purchases but was unable to trace the point at which the card was compromised. Remember, never give out personal information over the phone. The agent gave me the last 4 digits of the credit card but never asked for my account number or any personal information.

Use common sense and take the time to protect yourself.

I understand that these steps cost more time, but in the long run, they could save a lot more than time!


Photo Credit: ©


Pruning and Training in the Vineyard

Pruning and training in the vineyard is the consuming work during the spring and early summer of the year. With 20 acres of grapes, there is plenty of work for everyone! First, the dead wood must be cut out. Because of the wind here in west Texas, I have not taken any pictures of pruning.

Now, we are training the varieties from the 2009 planting. If the vine has gone dormant and weathered the winter well, it is just a matter of cleaning up the new buds. This is done by popping or cutting off the new buds so all of the energy for growth is directed toward upward growth. The first priority is to get the vine up to the cordon wire. Then, the growth is directed laterally in two arms going in opposite directions.

In the picture below, you can see a vine which was planted last spring (2009). It was trained last year. If left unattended, a grape vine will make a bush. To train a grape vine, the most vigorous and well oriented or straightest sprig is selected and taped to the bamboo. A 4 ft piece of bamboo supports the upward growth until it is tall enough to reach the horizontal wire or cordon. The vine pictured below had not made it to the cordon wire before winter came.

Now you can see the same plant pruned. The vine is up to the cordon wire with one arm which is taped to the south. Taping the first arm toward the south is done for a couple of reasons: it makes the vineyard uniform and also the strongest arm is facing into the wind – our winds here in west Texas are predominately from the south/southwest.

Here you can see a vine being taped:

We use a tape gun which uses green tape and staples. The tape can be pulled so that loose loops are made so as not to inhibit the growth, yet tight enough so as to hold the vine. If the loop is taped too tightly, the tape will girdle the vine and cause death.

Last week we completed the initial training of 5 acres of Aglianico and 5 acres of Montepulciano which we planted in 2009. An additional 5 acres of Roussanne, also planted in 2009, were hurt by late  spring freezes. We will begin training them next week. This week we are going back through the Montepulciano re-taping the new growth.

Needless to say, a lot of hours and a lot of sunscreen are going into our family vineyard!

Springtime in the Vineyard

Now that spring is here, the work has really picked up in the vineyard. We have 20 acres of grapes planted in 3 varieties. Roussanne is a French variety and is white. Aglianico and Montepulciano are both Italian reds.

In 2008, we planted 2.3 acres of Roussanne and 2.8 acres of Aglianico. This year, these are what is called “third leaf”.

In 2009, we planted 5 acres each of Roussanne, Aglianico and Montepulciano. These are now “second leaf”. As you can see if you compare the pictures, there is a big difference in growth between the second and third leaf plants. Lord willing, we will have a small harvest off the second leaf plants and a larger one off the third leaf ones.

Also, that is rye you see in-between the rows. We planted it last fall as a cover crop to stop the wind erosion and crowd out the weeds. It has been cut once (see the straw) and should be cut again soon to minimize the water it takes from the ground. The little as you see there really helps. In 30 mph winds (with 50 mph gusts) there is very little blowing sand in the vineyard – which means we can still work (pruning and training) comfortably.


Also if you are interested, you can buy decent imported selections of each of these wine varieties at World Market.

Bees Swarming

Bees swarming! This is what was found one morning when we got the vineyard:

After investigating on the internet, we found that this is what happens when there are two queens. One leaves taking her following with her to a temporary location. The queen is in the middle of all the honey bees for protection.

Seven to ten scouts are then sent out to find a permanent location to build their hive. Upon returning, the scouts each try to convince the swarm that their location is the best. Once one has convinced the others that theirs is the better choice, they swarm to the new location and begin their new home.

The swarm stayed in the vineyard for three days before moving on.

Too bad we did not have a hive box for them – we could have had our own honey bees!

The Garden is Planted!

The garden is officially planted and it was definitely a family affair! It took us several hours on Sunday afternoon to complete but I am so excited to have it finished.

The garden spot  is  in the middle of the rye which has been planted as a cover crop – to hold the soil from blowing and to prevent the soil from washing. A while back, John laid irrigation drip tape (underground) where we wanted the rows to be. Last week a friend shredded the rye for us so, all that was left was to prepare the rows. First, using a tractor, John broke the rows which are 200 ft long.

We then smoothed the rows with rakes and made furrows. For the beans, peas and corn, we planted double rows – one on either side of the drip tape.

The tomatoes, squashes  (summer yellow, zucchini, butternut and pumpkins) peppers (bell and jalapeños),  cucumbers, watermelons and cantaloupes were planted in single rows. I will be adding some more tomato plants as well as some zinnias (they make such pretty cut flowers for the table and are so easy to grow!).

We have had a lot of rain this year so far and the ground is still quite moist. To help the seeds get started, we placed a soaker hose in the row to add more water. Now, we pray, wait and watch!

Below is a picture of the finished garden. You might wonder why we have all the buckets and milk cartons out in the garden. They are used to protect young plants from the west Texas wind! The buckets are protecting the peppers and eggplants. They will be left on for the duration of the summer. The milk cartons (blue) are protecting the tomato plants. Once we put up the trellising and the plants reach it and are taped to it for support, we will remove the cartons.

Syrup, Pancake and Waffle

As you might imagine, with a family having 10 children, we go through the pancake syrup! Not to mention that we have pancakes almost every morning so, we definitely use a lot of pancake syrup!

To save time, I have saved two syrup containers (1 gallon each) and make enough to fill both at one time. [Continue Reading]

It’s 5:00 Somewhere!

What does 5:00 mean to you?  To our chickens it means, time to get out of the chicken yard and out into the open range!