Have you ever thought about how much of life is waiting?

Waiting for Christmas. Waiting for birthdays. Waiting for a special event. Waiting at the doctor’s office. Waiting for things to get better. Waiting for rain. Waiting for cool weather. Waiting for hot weather …….. The list can go on and on.

We are waiting for harvest. Our first machine harvest has been delayed several times for various reasons: weather and availability of equipment are just a couple of reasons. The biggest reason to wait? The brix.

Brix is the measure of the sugar content in the grapes. Our Roussanne is currently hovering around 24 which is good. But, we would like it to get higher. 25 or 26 would be wonderful. Sunshine is a major factor in the brix. The higher brix found in more mature fruit makes a more flavorful wine. As of now, harvest of the Roussanne is tentatively set for Tuesday.  The Aglianico will be machine harvested sometime in October. As the waiting period increases so does our anticipation!

What are you waiting for?


A New Day

The sunrise always signifies a new day, a new beginning filled with renewed hopes and dreams. I have said it before and it still holds true – west Texas has the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets. I realize this is because there are no trees and you can see the whole horizon but still, they are beautiful.

Today we will be hand harvesting two tons of Roussanne grapes. We hope to be finished by lunch time – many hands make work go much faster! The remainder of the Roussanne will be machine harvested Friday or Saturday.

Have a wonderful day!

Painting the ICF Exterior

When it comes to paint color, for me there is no choice other than yellow. In most cases anyway.

The outside of our house in Alabama was yellow. I enjoyed it, so why mess with a good thing? The natural choice for the new house was yellow. The problem is it is so difficult to tell the actual color from a little color chip. I know the tricks: take it outside in real daylight, take it to the place where it will be used…. But when it comes down to it, I feel like it is still hit or miss within shades.

The  name of the color choosen is “Buttercup”. I admit, I was drawn to the name. After all, Buttercup is a nice milk cow and a pretty flower. How could I go wrong? Well, if anything is wrong, it may be a bit bright. Would I change it? I don’t think so but I do have time to think about it. All this will be covered with stucco after building the first floor .

I have pictured the girls painting but just for the record, the boys all painted too!

Some got in to it more than others. Since it was water based paint, I was not too worried. Accidents do happen. Fingers in the paint. “Accidentally” touching a sibling with the paint roller. You know how things just happen.

Mmmm! Does that taste as good as it looks?

What’s wrong with yellow eyeshadow?

How did this happen?

We will apply a second coat, to the house that is, on the next calm day.

A House With a View

Once the first floor of our new house is added, this will be the view:

That first dark green line, in the distance, is the vineyard. The house is positioned so as to overlook the vineyard. The plan is, Lord willing, to continue adding acreage to the vineyard and bring it closer to the house. Eventually, the vineyard will surround the house.

Treasure Hunt

You may have noticed that there was no post Tuesday.

Normally, the reason for me not posting could be any of the following: there was nothing going on and I could not think of anything to say, the internet is down, I am sick or there is no reason.

But Tuesday was different.  I, we, the whole family, were busy tearing our house apart. A treasure hunt of sorts.

I looked down shortly before breakfast and realized the main diamond in my wedding ring was gone – GONE!

Talk about a sinking, sick, want to throw-up feeling.

So, we spent the next few hours looking everywhere. The kitchen, bathroom, kitchen and bathroom drains, bedding, drawers, clothes’ pockets, closets …. We were on hands and knees with another person holding a spot light hoping to catch a glint or glimmer. We went through the vacuum bag and trash bags.

Unfortunately, we did not find it. Needless to say, I was bummed all day.

Later a verse came to mind which is speaking of wisdom:

4 If you seek her as silver,

And search for her as for hidden treasures;

5 Then you will discern the fear of the Lord,

And discover the knowledge of God.     Prov. 2:4,5

I realized that just as we were all seeking my diamond, a hidden treasure, so we should be seeking wisdom – God’s wisdom.

We will continue to look for my diamond and I am hopeful that it will turn up eventually. I also have a renewed zeal to seek the Lord in my everyday life. Seeing Him in each circumstance. And, teach my children to do the same.

Thermo Plastic Olefin

Thermo Plastic Olefin (TPO) is a durable plastic roofing material used for flat roofs. Since our basement roof will be flat until we add the first floor and my brother-in-law was able to get a wonderful deal on it, we are using TPO for our temporary roof.

We had several 10 ft wide pieces, as well as, several 3 foot wide sections. So, the first step was to roll out what we had and see how best to utilize it.

Next came the seams. Pieces were overlapped, some sticky stuff placed in between the layers, glued and then pressed together. I hope that was not too technical for anyone!

To provide insulation, we used the pink foam board. Two layers of foam board were put down on top of the plywood decking. The first layer was screwed down and the second layer glued to the first. The TPO was then rolled out over the foam.

An overhang was left around the top of the insulated concrete forms (ICF) which will be glued down and secured with strips of wood. The bucket are filled to provide weight to hold the TPO down until it is completely secured. We would not want this west Texas wind to get under it and lift it off!

The corners remain to be finished. The excess is cut and that same black sticky stuff is used to secure the pieces together.

If you have ever upholstered furniture, these corners are much like some of the cuts you make to fit the fabric to the furniture piece.

It makes a nice snug corner. Notice the duct tape on the thumb? It is a makeshift, in the field (and sometimes at home) band-aid. Duct tape really is amazing stuff! Did you know it will even help get rid of warts? Not that I have any, but if you do, put a piece of duct tape on top of the wart and leave it for a week, check it and put another piece on if needed. To speed up the process, put duct tape on after using a wart remover.

Now, back to the corners…. It makes a nice snug corner! The excess will be trimmed off when it is secured.

Painting the exterior will be next and then the TPO can be secured across the top of the ICF. We have bought yellow (my favorite color) paint and are just waiting for a still day to paint. Here in west Texas though, it seems that every day is a windy day!

Goals Almost Accomplished!

Framing, TPO roofing, work, work and more work!

If you remember, my brother-in-law leaves today, Monday.  He has been here a bit over a week and we have had so much fun! While he came out to help build the new house, I think he may have worked harder than he anticipated! These guys have worked every day, all day, until 7:00 in the evening. Our goals for the week included framing the walls and putting the roof on the basement.  The goals were almost accomplished. Framing the walls were finished the early part of the week. They began the roof on Thursday. Since it will only be temporary until we add the first floor above, we are using TPO (thermo plastic olefin). It is a plastic flat roofing material which is very durable. My brother-in-law was able to get an awesome deal from a roofer so it was very economical.

The progress on Thursday included a lot of thinking. Floor joists (roof rafters for now) were begun. Notice “the thinker” sitting and well, thinking!

They were able to put up about half of them.

Friday’s work started with completing the joists.

The decking was next. Plywood (we used Advantech) was nailed over the joists.

The decking was finished on Saturday. It is amazing how having a roof adds perspective to the inside. It gives size and definition to the rooms. It also makes a cavernous, echoing, loud space! I will definitely be using rugs!

So at the end of the day, thinking was begun for the TPO roofing. Since we had several 10 ft sections as well as some scrap 3 ft pieces, how was the best way to lay it out?

I know you are all sitting at the edge of your seats waiting to hear how we did it but … I must leave you hanging. We have to get ready to go to the airport. The brother-in-law would be disappointed if he missed his flight. That would mean he has to continue working and I think he is ready to leave so he can get some rest!

More later!

Pickled Okra

Make Your Own Pickled Okra

Pickled Okra is a wonderful addition to many meals. Our family especially enjoys it as a side to Cheese Fondue. And pickled okra is not normally slimy!

Okra is one of those vegetables that our garden can really produce – much to several of the children’s chagrin – They don’t like the slime!

Besides putting okra in stews and soups, I normally pan fry okra with bell peppers. When okra is pan fried, it seems to lose some of its sliminess. It is the slimy texture that most people do not like – even some of my own children. But, I think it is important for children to eat what is put before them, without complaining, even if it is not their favorite – it is a matter of gratefulness.

My daughter-in-law has made pickled okra and commented how easy it is but, I did not believe her. From my perspective, t just looked like it was a lot of trouble. Now that I have made my first batch, I see how easy it is!

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Framing the Walls

Once we hand harvested the Montepulciano, we were able to start work on the house again. Hopefully, we can get a lot done before next week’s harvest. John’s brother is visiting so, the goal is to get the roof on before he leaves!

Since we used Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF), the exterior walls went up very quickly. Now, we are working on framing the interior walls. Here are a few pictures:

It may be difficult to envision, but there are three bedrooms on the south side.

The north side of the basement will be the kitchen, dining area, living area and bathroom.

Next comes the roof (which will eventually be the floor joist of the first floor).

Grape Harvest – Montepulciano

I can not believe how time is flying! Christmas will be here before we know it! Until then, we have a lot of work ahead of us.

We harvested our first Montepulciano (a red Italian grape) by hand. From 5 acres we harvested a bit over 2 tons. These 5 acres were planted in 2009 and are second leaf. Last year was difficult for grapes. We had two periods of unusually warm weather, early in the year, which caused the grapes to bud. These periods were followed by freezes which killed the buds. As a result, we were not expecting to have a harvest on the second leaf. Thankfully, we were pleasantly surprised.

To harvest a small yield by machine is not cost efficient so, it is normally done by hand. That is, unless you own the harvester! So, we began, equipped with clippers and 5 gallon buckets. Each person harvesting worked on one side of one row. Thus we proceeded to work through the vineyard from south to north. The direction is not important. I just thought I would throw it in so you would know. And, now you do!

While we harvested, we naturally ate. Everyone was involved. In the eating of course, but also the work. Our youngest sons supplied empty buckets as we filled them.

Not to be outdone by his younger brother:

Others took turns driving the tractor down the rows.

The tractor pulled a trailer which carried bins. Each bin holds about 800 lbs of grapes. The 5 gallon buckets were emptied into the bins. Once filled the bins were put on a truck to be shipped to the winery. Don’t worry – we took her out before loading and shipping!

It was definitely a family affair. Even Buttercup loves harvest. Grapes are her favorite!

Next week we should begin machine harvesting the remainder of the vineyard.