Pellenc AP25

We have a new toy in the vineyard! It is the Pellenc AP25. What, you might ask is that? It is a battery powered tying machine used to anchor grape vines to either a bamboo stake (for new vines) or wire for older vines. This little baby was not cheap but it is already proving its worth!

Soon, we will be going through the vineyard with a pre-pruner. The pre-pruner will cut off and shred last years growth from the vines. The amount cut off is adjustable and we will leave 2 buds per spur. Our vines are trained up to 4 ft and then 2 arms are tied down horizontally in opposite directions on a wire forming a cordon.

Each arm is allowed to grow 2 ft along the wire. From these arms, upward growing spurs have the buds for the new growth.

Each bud should produce two bunches of grapes. Optimally, we want 20 buds per plant – 10 evenly spaced over each 2 ft arm. These will yield 5 to 15 lbs. of grapes per vine. You can see the fuzzy white bulges in the picture below.

With the pre-pruner we will cut the vines back so that each spur has 2 buds. We will then come through and hand prune, cleaning up each vine to achieve the 20 buds per plant.

Before pre-pruning, it is important to replace any dead or weak arms. This is done by pulling down a healthy looking arm from last years growth to replace the compromised one. The Pellenc AP25 is used to tie down the arm to the cordon wire.

You can see from the picture below, the bulk of the Pellenc AP25 is worn at the back of the waist. (The jeans are designer, by yours truly – call for pricing!) This back part holds the battery pack and the roll of ties. For tying down mature arms, we are using a standard tie designed to last 12 – 14 mths. They look much like bread bag ties. When training our new planting, we will be using paper ties designed to degrade in 8 – 10 mths so that they do not girdle the fast growing young plants.

The handheld part of the Pellenc AP25 looks like a space age gun. You can hopefully see the line of brown ties coming from the back pack and feeding into the rear of the gun.

The open tip of the gun is positioned over the vine and cordon wire (in this case) and the trigger is pulled.

The Pellenc AP25 does the rest. The tie is extruded, twisted and voile!

Until now, we have all had our own hand tapers and done our own pruning (or training, as the case may be) and taping as we go. The old tapers, pictured below, just didn’t last even the season – we went through 19 of them!

To date, we are finding the Pellenc AP25 to be very fast and feel that while 6 or 7 of us are pruning, 1 person using the Pellenc AP25 will be able to keep up with the rest. Pellenc proports one person can do 12,000 ties per day. We will see!

 

End of an Era

Six diaper pins

Our 3 year old is now officially potty trained!

This would be a milestone for anyone, but for us, it is the end of an era. An era spanning 26 1/2 years.

Our oldest son was born ten days before our first anniversary. Little did we know that our first year would be one of the few periods of time in our married lives without diapers.

Diaper bags took the place of purses. Why carry both? It was much easier to throw my wallet and lipstick in the diaper bag. I think I have gone through at least 8 – 10 diaper bags. They were stylish, of course, and though they did not define me, they became my main fashion accessory. I like big purses so my diaper bags were also big. Maybe I should say, they were mutli-functional bags.

Having used cloth diapers for the past 26 1/2years (except occasionally splurging on disposables) I have seen the decline in diaper quality over the years. I am not talking about those cute ones available now with covers that use snaps rather than diaper pins. Being a hard core cloth diaper mommy, I stuck with diaper pins and plastic pants. Plastic pants which, by the way, as the quality decreased over the years, your fingers could go through if you were in a hurry and pulled them up on your toddler too quickly! My reasoning for not investing in the latest cloth diaper craze was, of course, financial. While still less expensive than disposables, they were much more costly than if I just stuck with what I had. After all, how many more children would I have?

So, here we are, twenty-seven, almost twenty-eight years from when we started. I am finally trading diapers for big girl panties for the last time and a diaper bag for a purse.

Think you detect a bit of sadness?

I do like purses – big metallic ones and big ones in pop colors – that’s undeniable.

I guess I just have to face it – the end of an era has come!

Maybe the girls will let me carry the grandchildren’s diaper bags.

Or …

Maybe, I should go shopping for a new purse!

 

Photo Credit: © Depositphotos.com/bradcalkins

 

Walk, Walk, Walk

I got new walking/running shoes for Christmas!

I decided years ago that I could not afford “Not” be fit. Back in 2009, I detailed some of the exercise regimens that I have enjoyed through the years. From walking, running, bicycling to exercise videos, I have enjoyed variety. For the time being though, I am really enjoying walking.

Here is west Texas, it tends to be very windy. For those not-so windy days, our 18 year old mowed a walking path around the vineyard which is about a mile long.  When it is too windy outside, I like the Leslie Sansone walking DVD’s. “Walk, Walk, Walk” is one of Leslie Sansone’s favorite phrases in her “Walk at Home” DVD’s. As it turns out, maybe more of us should adopt that very phrase!

My brother-in-law, who is a doctor in Maine, told me about a recent study done at the University of Pittsburgh. There the scientists found the more that older people walked , the better their cognitive abilities and the larger their brain became. Thus, walking helped prevent Alzheimer’s. While trying to find the research on Google, I found the article “Keep Walking to Stay Mentally Sharp” by Dr. Gary Small, Director of UCLA’s Longevity Center which included the following:

Aerobic conditioning may be improving our mental acuity in several ways. Exercise gets the heart pumping more blood to the brain, which appears to reverse cellular deterioration associated with aging. It also stimulates the growth of new synapses — the connection sites between neurons — and makes brain cells more responsive to external stimuli.

 

My take away from the above quote, is that any exercise, whatever it may be as long as it gets your heart pumping and therefore aerobic, is healthy and may not only improve the quality of life right now, but also help prevent Alzheimer’s.

So, I am off to increase my cognitive abilities and enlarge my brain!

Walk, Walk, Walk!

West Texas Sunset

As you know if you have been reading Dimes2Vines for very long, moving from the lush green of lower Alabama to the deep brown of west Texas has been quite a change in geographical surroundings! From tall green pine and oak trees to flaaaaaat brown fields, it is just different.

One thing, however, that west Texas has that can not compare to the east is beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Now, I confess, I see many more sunsets than sunrises (unless it is my turn to milk Buttercup) but both span the horizon. And out here, you can see the horizon unobstructed by trees. We are now enjoying the sunsets from our own house as the sun sets over the vineyard. Every one is different yet gorgeous!

Redecorating – Refinish It!

As I posted last week in Redecorating – Paint It!, painting furniture is an easy and economical way to add pizzazz to a room. An alternative to painting is refinishing the furniture. Of course, practice makes perfect and the more pieces of furniture you refinish the seemingly easier it becomes. If you have never refinished furniture, give it a try. It is surprisingly, not difficult and the results can be beautiful. Whether it is an antique, a yard sale find or just a piece needing a face-lift, refinishing it yourself could be the solution to your problem.

I chose to refinish a dresser and two nightstands that had been in storage. They are part of a bedroom suite which belonged to my parents. The furniture itself is very good quality but the finish was worn and cracked.

While there are many chemicals on the market to dissolve and remove the finish, I have had good results with scraping the finish off. I use a stiff putty knife held perpendicular to the surface.

With even pressure, I pull ithe putty knife toward me scraping the finish off.

Even pressure is very important. Without it, ripples can be made in the wood. Normally, the ripples can be sanded out, but it is much easier if they are avoided.

Once the finish is removed, sand the surface using fine sandpaper. Fine steel wool may also be used. Once the surface is smooth, clean and dust it to remove any residual dust.

You are now ready to apply stain, if desired. I am using Early American stain by Minwax. Dipping a small rag into the stain, cover the raw wood evenly. According to the can directions, leave the stain on the desired amount of time. The longer the excess stain is left on, the more is absorbed into the wood and the darker the finished piece will be. I left the stain on about 10 minutes and then wiped off the excess. You may reapply to darken if you desire. Allow to dry for 24 hours before applying a protective finish.

I use polyurethane in a satin finish as my topcoat. It is durable and adds a richness to the appearance of the piece. The method of application is similar to staining. Using a small rag that can be thrown away, dip into the polyurethane and apply a very thin coat evenly to the surface. One coat is usually sufficient but if you desire another coat, allow it to dry 24 hours. Once dry, use a piece of steel wool and very lightly rub over the entire surface. This is to knock off any bumps that may occur due to dust or other foreign debris. Once smooth, brush off and vacuum to remove the residual steel wool. You may now reapply polyurethane as desired. Since these pieces will be in the girls’ room, I only applied one coat.

Both stain and polyurethane must be cleaned up with mineral spirits.

Garden Preparation

 

Besides being enjoyable, having your own garden is not only economical but also provides your family with a healthy source of fresh vegetables. Our garden spot, pictured above, looks desolate now and the pink flamingos look lonely – but wait until June!

While I am not planting yet, we are preparing. Our garden is on part of what once was an 65 acre cotton circle. As a result, our soil must be supplemented. We do this with home grown manure. We have access to a pecan shelling company in the little town near us. Most people have their pecans shelled and leave the shells with the owner. So, we pick them up and spread them in the chicken yard. The chickens love to peck through and find the morsels of pecans left in the shells. (This is a great way to supplement the chickens’ feed!) Between the decayed shells and the chicken manure, we have great compost!

The boys worked on spreading the compost over the garden and are preparing to till it in. You can see the color difference. The garden dirt is reddish while the manure is a rich dark color.

 

Here in our area of west Texas, we have a problem with nematodes. In fact, in the vineyard, when selecting the root-stock for our vines, one requirement is that it be nematode resistant! In the garden, they really take a toll on our squashes! Our next addition to the soil will be something to kill nematodes!

While we will not actually plant the garden until April or May, the time spent preparing and planning now will hopefully make for a more bountiful garden.

40 Frugal Living Tips Revisited

“Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without!”

                                     ——  My husband

At the end of 2009, I posted “My Top 40 Frugal Living Tips.” Now, 2 years later, it is encouraging to review it. If you have been reading Dimes2Vines for a while, you know the last 4 years have been challenging, to say the least! Starting a 20 acre vineyard from scratch is a lot of hard work. Hard work without an accompanying paycheck!

With a large family, frugal living has always been a part of our lifestyle but became significantly more important. Now after our first successful harvest, we are continuing our frugal lifestyle. Why? To be good stewards. I am not talking about a miserly lifestyle. Rather, we are continuing to work together for our common family goals.

These goals include expanding the vineyard – we are planting another 2 1/3 acres of grapes this year – and finishing our house which overlooks the vineyard. Hopefully, we will continue the Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) upward after this year’s havest in Oct. 2012.

Many items on my top 40 list seem to be common sense things but they are also easy to forget about, such as, #16 adjust your thermostat, #17 turn off lights and #18 turn off ceiling fans when leaving a room.

In fact, as I review the list, we are still practicing them all – from tithing (#1),to writing down all expenses in my budget book (#2) to using VoIP as our phone rather than cell phones (#40).

Don’t underestimate the power of the “little things”. The little things can quickly add up! Each of the 40 tips alone may seem insignificant, but, together they can amount to great savings.

Broccoli Nut Casserole

broccoli nut casserole

Broccoli has gotten an undeserved bum wrap! After all, it really does taste good. But for some reason, children do not gravitate toward it. I am not sure why either!

Broccoli has always been one of those “play” foods in our house. I mean, we have joked about broccoli and especially fresh steamed broccoli resembling trees or bushes. “Who can eat their trees first?” or “Who can make their trees stand up?

So, I am just not sure why broccoli is considered by many to be an offensive vegetable!

Broccoli is a vegetable my mother served when I was young. In fact, Broccoli Nut Casserole is one of my mother’s recipes that was only served at Thanksgiving and Christmas times. We always looked forward to it. Broccoli Nut Casserole was just one of those traditions that was not questioned.

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Redecorating – Paint It!

 

Redecorating can easily mean spending lots of money, but, it does not have to. With phase one of our home completed, I felt it time for some sprucing up in the interior design area. One very budget friendly way to add pizzazz is to start with pieces of furntiure you already have or a yard sale find and paint it!

You can see the difference in an old dresser before:

After painting it is ready to hold our 6 year old son’s clothes:

There are a few things to be aware of before you begin.

1. There are 2 types of paint commonly used on furniture, latex and oil based.  If the piece of furniture is already painted, you need to know what type of paint is on it. To do this, take a cotton ball wet (but not dripping) with nail polish remover. Gently rub the painted surface in an inconspicuous spot. If the paint is latex, a small amount of color will show on the cotton ball. If the paint is oil based, the cotton ball will be clean.

Why is this important? If you use a latex paint over an oil based paint – it will peel. The pink trunk below was the toy box  from my childhood. It was painted with an oil based paint.

This does not mean you must use an oil based paint which seems to take forever to dry and smells terribly. But, the surface must be primed. I use a primer product made by Kilz for oil based paint. It is available in a spray,  a paint can, and either of these are available in a regular or an odorless version. The same pink trunk now primed with Kilz primer for oil based paint. I also taped old newspaper to the inside to protect the surface not to be painted.

Finally, the “new” blue trunk painted with latex paint is better suited for the boys’ room.

I personally prefer using latex paint because there is very little odor, drying time is much faster and clean up is with soap and water rather than mineral spirits.

2. The surface should be clean and smooth. Gently sand the piece with fine sandpaper to roughen it up. This allows the new paint to adhere better.

3. Work in a well ventilated area. The wind here in west Texas makes painting outside many days almost impossible. I painted the furniture pictured in the middle of the kitchen with the windows open. I did use the spray primer on the toy box so the priming was done outside.

4. Protect your work surface. I always spread newspaper or plastic on the floor.

5. You will need a paint brush and an old rag to wipe up any drips.

6. Read the back of the paint can for specifics about drying time and time needed between paint applications.

7. Clean up your brush with soap and water if using latex paint and mineral spirits if using oil based paint.

A Sad Day

Because of more problems with our internet, I was unable to post the introduction to Bob and Monty when I originally wrote them last week. I debated as to whether or not to post them as written. If you read them, you will remember that several of the pictures included Squiggles, our red and white Pembroke Welsh corgi. It is with great sadness that I write – Squiggles is no longer with us.

While we were away one evening, she wandered from home which was very unusual (as far as we know anyway) and someone shot her. Our neighbors all knew her, so, our assumption is that someone mistook her for a coyote. (There has been a problem with rabid coyotes this year.) Although I do not see how, it is also incomprehensible that someone would be so cruel as to shoot a dog and leave it to suffer.

Needless to say, it has been very sad for all of us and many tears have been shed. In light of the suffering that other families are experiencing, I know this may seem trivial. But, while Squiggles was just a dog, she was a great dog and had her place in our family. It is one of those lessons that as parents we must deal with and help our children through. Death is a reality – we will all face it.

This life is temporary and fleeting – make the most of your time and be prepared for eternity.