Debudding

As you can see from the picture, the vines are very vigorous in their growth. Not only is the canopy (the green along the vertical cordon wire) growing well but the vine is sending out plenty of growth along the trunk.

While this extra growth is a good sign of the health and output of the vine, we want the vine to focus its energy on canopy growth, fruit production and fruit ripening. To do this, we debud each vine. Each person takes a row and walks down the length of it. Stopping as necessary, we pop off the extra growth buds and shoots along each trunk.[Continue Reading]

Tallow

tallow

Lard and tallow from grass fed animals are full of fat soluble vitamins and actually good for you!

Both have a high smoke point so they are very stable and great for frying. The reason many people today render their own tallow or lard is to avoid the added hydrogenated fat. That is right – the commercial lard available contains hydrogenated lard. A couple of good articles which give more information on the health benefits and history of oils used are “The Oiling of America” and “Good Fats, Bad Fats” both on the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) website.

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ICF – What They Don’t Tell You!

If you have been reading Dimes2Vines for awhile, you know that we began construction on our home overlooking the vineyard in August 2010. We decided to use the Rewards Insulated Concrete Forms mainly because of their insulation value. We completed what will eventually be our basement and moved in the weekend after Thanksgiving, 2011.

We have been very pleased with our ICF home except for one thing [Continue Reading]

Grapevines Planted!

What a beautiful day to plant 2 acres of Petit Verdot and 1/3 acre Moscato Giallo. The wind was low and the temperature never reached the 90°F forecasted.

The 3,225 vines arrived via FedEx in a large box.[Continue Reading]

Modern Pioneer Woman

After moving from LA (lower Alabama) to West Texas, our time has been spent with starting the vineyard for the commercial production of grapes for the Texas wine industry. We now have 20 acres of grapes in the 3rd and 4th leaf. We will be planting 2 1/3 acres more this week. Most of the acreage is under contract and this year’s crop is looking good!

We have also completed phase 1 of our house building. Now, we have begun to plant fruit trees, vegetables (including an asparagus bed) and are planning a wind break of trees around the house. I feel as if we are modern pioneers making our homestead! I realize this sounds silly, but I feel that we are finally making this home.

As I write this, the winds outside are howling at 32 mph and the view out the window is brown with dirt. I wonder if Laura Ingalls has similar feelings of thankfulness to be inside rather than out on the prairie? I think she and I would have gotten along very well – kindred spirits, so to speak.

But, I digress – back to homesteading …

About a month ago, we planted fruit trees and boy did they look spindly! That did not matter though, after all, we had 6 peaches, 6 cherries and 2 pears and 1 apricot!

Planted in a line, behind the house, you could hardly see them :(

Now, however, they are budding and there is no doubt, they are there and alive!

You might notice the freshly mown grass in the picture above. It is courtesy of our oldest son at home. He was mowing and I could not help but laugh as I realized he had an audience – Buttercup and Emme were watching!

I know being a modern pioneer woman is much easier than living back in the real pioneer days.

I sure am glad there are no Indians to ride over the “hill”.

I sure am glad I have electricity.

I sure am glad I have indoor plumbing.

Your turn, what material “thing” are you glad to have?

Leave me a comment, I would love to hear!

Grapevine Propagation

This year, we are trying something new in the vineyard, maybe I should say “something else” new – grapevine propagation. The vines we purchase are grafted vines. This means that one type of vine is used for the roots (rootstock) and another for the fruit variety to be produced (scion). Normally, a hardy vine whose roots grow fast and strong does not yield the best fruit, if any. Conversely, the grape varieties producing the most desirous fruit, are normally more susceptible to disease and overall not as hardy. There are many different types of rootstock available which the grape grower can choose based on various characteristics. For example, we like those which are nematode resistant, drought tolerant and compatible with our chosen fruit wood.

When we purchase grafted vines from Novavine (our nursery of choice), we pay not only for the vine itself, but also, royalties for the rootstock. Our agreement states that we may not propagate new vines for use other than those we need to replace in our own vineyard.

Over the years, one particular rootstock that we used in the vineyard has turned out to be not as good a fit as we hoped – about a third of those original vines have died since we planted them four years ago. Novavine has helped us and over the years has provided replacements (free or price reduced). This year, we want to replace the dead ourselves (about 600 plants) with a different, stronger rootstock also used in our vineyard.  We will let the rootstock grow two years – so it can catch up to the neighbor plants in the row. When its root structure is developed, we’ll graft the fruit wood to it.

You can see in the picture below a rootstock plant (unpruned) that is already growing prolifically. (We’ll try to graft this plant with new fruit wood in the next weeks.)

While we were pruning the vineyard this year, we kept 12″ – 18″ cuttings of rootstock plants (like that above, yet still dormant). These cuttings were buried into a “nursery row”  to keep dormant.

Now as spring is upon us and the vines are budding out, the cuttings were dug up and given a drink in a bucket of water.

You can see the small buds coming out of the side of the twig – they are white with yellow tips.

At the replacement site, we dug out the dead vine and roots and formed a bowl of dirt with a shovel. We rented a  water drill (from a neighboring grape grower) and used it to deepen the center while filling it with water.

This farm-made water drill, is just a piece of steel pipe with teeth welded on the end like a drill bit. Water is pumped out the center while you wiggle/twist the handle to cut into the dirt and make the hole.

The rootstock twig is placed in and dirt filled around. We added enough dirt to leave a 6″ or so depression - for watering later in the summer. A 5 ft piece of bamboo is stuck in next to the newly planted twig. As it grows, the twig will be tied to the bamboo for support until it reaches the cordon wire.

Needless to say, everyone is involved and there is a job for everyone! That seems to be the way of vineyard life!

Everyone, that is, who is anyone, And, Bob is not! He just relaxes in the shade, which for the moment, happens to be under the wheelbarrow full of wire clips!

It’s a dog’s life!

Kitchen Ferments

How many kitchen ferments or, to put it another way, fermenting things can one kitchen hold? Since we have been on the GAPS diet and I have learned the probiotic benefits of lacto-fermentation, my kitchen is full of ferments! Does this show an addiction? I am saving money making them myself! But, after all, how many jars can one kitchen hold?[Continue Reading]

Vineyard Blooming!

In the last 2 weeks there has been an amazing change in the vineyard. From the dormant brown we have moved to the vibrant green of new growth.

 

New shoots from 8-12 inches are already grabbing onto the wires for support.

Needless to say, we all get excited about the blooms which are soon to be grape clusters. Even our 3 year old knows how to spot them!

Last year’s harvest was not as good as it could have been – extremely cold winter followed by extremely hot summer and punctuated by no rain. But this year is brand new and looks promising with the vines full of new blossoms – we are farmers!

Trying to control our excitement is always a challenge; we must be realistic. There are plenty of thing that could happen between now and an abundant fall harvest. Right now we face the potentials for late frosts (last year our last was May 3) , thunderstorms full of hail and high winds (which can inhibit pollination or even blow the tender shoots right off the vine).

But this is the life that attracted my husband and me from the start … to have daily reminders of our complete dependence upon the Lord!

Asparagus Bed

For an update – see Asparagus Planted.

One of the things I really enjoyed during our years in Switzerland was asparagus. Now, you may be thinking that of all the things to enjoy, why asparagus? In Switzerland, Spargel Zeit (literally “asparagus time” in German) was a festive season. It signaled the beginning of Spring, the time when flowers were beginning to grow and bloom after a long cold winter, which brought a renewed sense of hope and life.

I had never eaten asparagus until we moved to Switzerland and after moving back to Alabama, I wanted my own asparagus bed. For one reason or another, it just never happened. Now, however, since we are a “farming” family, it seems like perfect timing. So…[Continue Reading]

Homemade Hoop House

When we started the tomato, bell pepper and jalepeno pepper seedlings in egg cartons several weeks ago, I knew transplanting them would be necessary. The young seedlings would not stand a chance if planted directly in the garden with the West Texas wind. Transplanting them into small pots was not an option – I have no space for so many little pots! So, we decided to make a hoop house. If you are not familiar with a hoop house, it is a miniature green house. They may be purchased complete or as a kit. But, like most things, making it yourself is much more economical. Ours cost under $20![Continue Reading]