Greetings from Macon

How is your geography?

Do you know where Macon, Georgia is located?

Macon is just south of Atlanta. If you picture Georgia as a frying pan, Macon is right in the middle!

Macon, Georgia is my hometown – I was born and raised there.

Now, I am sitting in the sunroom of my mom and sister’s condo in the hot, humid, muggy – but sunny – central Georgia town. I have been here for over a week visiting and have had a wonderful time with the two of them. I must confess, however, I sure miss home!

I left John and the children at home to drive with our oldest son and his family to visit Mimi (my mom) and EC (my sister). They stayed for a week and left me here to drive back a week later.

If you have been reading for awhile, you will remember that John’s mom died in November (2011) and his dad in February (2012). I have always valued family time but these events, as well as, just getting older has brought a renewed awareness of how short life is and the need to make the most of the moment. Hence, my trip to Georgia.

I have been able to get them started on the GAPS Diet while here so I hope to hear of great physical improvements in both their health. Besides visiting, I have been cooking, running errands and shopping. We have watched a movie every night – staying up usually between 12MN and 2Am each night. I like to read after going to bed so I have been up later than either of them. And of course, late nights mean late mornings and I have had the luxury of sleeping until 8 or 9 each morning.

On the home front:

John tells me they have strung the wires, tied the bamboo in place and have been training the new planting of Petit Verdot and Muscato Giallo. I will be sure to post pictures of the progress when I return.

Buttercup began running fever, not eating and dropped dramatically in her milk production from 7 gallons per day to about 3 gallons per day. It turned out she had worms and her rumen was out of wack. We purchased her from an organic dairy which used apple cider vinegar as a de-wormer and we continued that treatment. This however called for bigger guns and John used a drench to kill the worms and fed her probiotics to re-balance her rumen – maybe we should put her on GAPS!

As an early birthday present, John bought me a Shih-Poo puppy. Sprinkles was picked-up by our oldest daughter and her husband on the return trip of their vacation – after I was in Georgia. I am looking forward to seeing her and will definitely be sharing her with you through pictures. Housebreaking seems to be a challenge at this point and they are threatening to change her name to Puddles!

The garden is producing and they even hoed it for me!

Obviously there has been a lot going on (as usual) and I am looking forward to getting back into the middle of things!

Just remember as you go about the hustle and bustle of your life to take time and spend time with those important to you. Life is short and we are never guaranteed tomorrow.

Coleslaw

Coleslaw might remind you of picnics – it does me!

I love it when my plate is dripping with the sauce from the coleslaw – especially when there is a hot dog or hamburger bun to soak it up!

Especially with the heat of summer upon us, I have been making meals consisting of two or three salads. Cool meals are so refreshing after working the morning in the vineyard heat (90 – 101F). It is amazing how much heat the stove puts out and salads help keep the house cooler. I think I will just quit cooking ;)

And, while I really like coleslaw, I don’t like the thought of grating all that cabbage! But, thankfully, that is what a food processor is for! I use my Bosch Universal Kitchen Machine to get the job done – and it does! So, since I now have no excuse, I had to find a healthy coleslaw recipe.

Using  homemade mayonnaise with olive oil, and honey rather than sugar which is in so many coleslaw recipes, the following recipe is a healthy and tasty version. With our family size, I normally start with 2 heads of cabbage and adjust the amount of sauce to cover it well – remember, I like to see the sauce swimming on my plate! Anyway, this recipe doubles, triples, quadruples … easily – just make more sauce to cover that cabbage!

Coleslaw Recipe

Ingredients

3 c. cabbage shredded

3  carrots, grated

1 onion, chopped fine

pickle relish (optional)

Sauce:

Procedure

1. Combine all ingredients.

2. Mix sauce and pour over cabbage mixture.

3. Mix well.

4. Chill and serve.

Enjoy!

Vineyard – June 2012

With the rain that we have had so far and the hot weather, the grapes are doing wonderfully! The vines are loaded with grapes.

Below are pictures of each variety and their clusters. [Continue Reading]

June Sunset in West Texas

As always, the flat terrain here in West Texas provides views of beautiful sunsets. The colors are so vivid and gorgeous!

Rogue Cows!

Have you ever seen the damage a herd of rogue cows can do to a vineyard and a garden?

We were spared disaster when a neighbor’s herd of Black Angus cows got out and went roaming – through our vineyard and garden. If you have been reading Dimes2Vines for awhile, you know that our milk cows, Buttercup and Emme love grapevines and grapes. Apparently, the Black Angus that investigated our vineyard are either not as fond of grapes or they were just not hungry. They did eat some of the Roussanne grapes and knocked off some of the canopy from the Aglianico and Montepulciano, but nothing to amount to severe damage.

The garden however, did suffer. Especially the asparagus. While they did leave some ferns, other were eaten or stepped on and broken.

They also seemed to enjoy the beans and peas.

I held back tears as I looked, but then had a consoling thought: Better the garden than the vineyard!

So, John and the boys herded the herd down the rode, back to the neighbor’s pasture. All  - 7 cows, 1 bull and about 7 calves went peaceably.

T-Posting

Now that our 2 1/3 acres of new vines, Petit Verdot and Moscato Giallo, are growing well, it is time to put the trellising in place. Our trellis consists of cordon wire strung on 4 ft high t-posts and VSP wires strung on 6 ft high t-post. VSP post’s (vertical shoot position) hold extra wires which support the canopy and keep it from sprawling on the ground.

For these varieties we will have a t-post every two vines – two 4′ and one VSP. The cordon wire is attached to the posts 4′ off the ground. So, the first step is to drive all these posts into the ground. To do this, we rented from another grape farmer friend, a tractor (with GPS to keep our rows straight as an arrow) and t-posting rig . The bundles of posts are placed on the platforms on either side. The people stand in the middle of the bundles. This sound easy, but the bundle of 200 6′ t-posts weighs ~1500 lb. and the bundle of 200 8′ t-posts weighs ~2000 lb! Since we wanted to get it done sooner than later, we also got a tractor/loader that helps us out.

Marks were made yesterday which line up with the existing posts, continuing the whole vineyard uniformity. As the tractor is  driven down the row of new vines, the t-posters yell when they see a mark. He stops the tractor, they position a post on the mark and the hydrolic ram  pushes the post into the ground.

Everything works fine until a t-post hits the caliche – a calcium carbonate rock layer – which often bends the post. Therefore, each post is watched closely as it is being driven into the ground. If it bends it must be straightened and the process begun again.

As the tractor is driven down the row, even the younger children have a job. Beside each plant, a bamboo stick is placed and pushed into the ground. This will later be tied onto the cordon wire and give support to the growing vine. Once the young vine reaches the cordon wire, the bamboo continues to help support the trunk until it matures and woods up.

We were able to t-post about 1/3 acre an hour. Once completed the rows are much more defined. Stringing wire is the next project!

 

Coyote Update

Yesterday, (Thur 6-7-12) started off very exciting!

It all started about 7:30am. Now I must confess that if I am not milking, I sleep until I must get up – not because I am lazy but we have been working until dusk, eating dinner about 8pm, getting to bed around 11p – 12mn ….. many excuses! Anyway, yesterday morning, I woke wide awake from the land of nod, to our 14 yr old son, telling his 19 yr old brother in a very excited tone to get his gun -quick. As I came to the land of consciousness, I realized the hens were in an uproar – clucking and squawking and making all kinds of noise. Sure enough, a female coyote was circling the pen, fixated on which was to be her chicken dinner. There was a stiff breeze blowing in our direction, so our 19 yr old was able to ease out the back door (just the screen was closed) and get a clear shot – BANG – one down! And, all the chickens survived – both the coyote and the gun!

If you have never been threatened by coyotes, this may seem cruel. But, after having them become so bold as to come very close to the house in broad daylight, within 80 ft of you in the vineyard in mid-afternoon (with everyone talking and laughing), lose livestock to them and be concerned for the safety not only for your animals but even you small children (our youngest is 3 yrs old) drastic measures must be taken.

Not only are all ears open for any unusual noises but we also have baited traps set for them. One was completely empty yesterday morning of the poisoned meat, so whether the same female that was shot ate it, or her mate – last night was extremely quiet. No howling at all – it was almost eerie!

I would also like to assure you that we would not put out the poisoned meat if we had dogs around nor are the traps a danger to people, namely our children.

I appreciate all the emails and comments after I shared in Wednesdays post about Bob missing and the problem the coyotes have become. From the emails that I have received, there are plenty of people who have simiar problems with coyotes. Please keep the suggestions coming because baited traps are not possible in all situations where the safety of  people or other animals would be in question.

If you have any other suggestions please leave a comment.

 

Watch Out!

Beware all you drivers out there, we have a new automobile operator in our family!

Our 16 year old daughter passed her driving test and is licensed to drive alone. While she is very responsible, the mother in me is anxious – will she be careful, will she get lost, will she wreck?

Knowing her:

The careful part is unfounded – she is.

The lost part – well, that is part of learning – being able to drive yourself while thinking about which way to turn is just part of learning. After all, how many times have I said, “if I’m not driving, I don’t pay attention to directions and where I am going”?

The wrecking part – I have instilled in her the defensive driving part, but, accidents do happen. This is where faith come in. Faith that she is in the Lord’s hands and He is watching over her, whatever happens.

It is not like this is the first time to have a 16 year old driver. This is the fifth time – only five more to go!

Being a mother is difficult. I guess I should say, the letting go and letting them grow up part of being a mother is difficult.

 

 

Unbelievable!

I have not been very prolific in my writing this week but our week got off to a difficult start. In fact, Monday about 9:00am, I thought, “I can not believe this!”

Bob, our wonderful, obsessed with “fetch”, corgi was gone!

Bob who stays right with us in the vineyard – except if it is hot and he wants the filter house shade.

Bob who never wanders.

Bob who stays inside at night, had gone out to oversee the morning milking with the two milkers. After the milking was finished he stationed himself outside by the door. We had the windows and door open and heard nothing. But, in about an hour, when called to eat, he was gone.

Needless to say, he is greatly missed. After exploring the area around the house and surrounding roads (multiple times), we have basically given up. I guess there is the slim chance that as a male, he caught whiff of a female in heat. The problem is, there are no females around that we know of.

I miss Bob! So does everyone else! It is amazing how much a part of your family a dog becomes!

The coyotes have been coming closer to the house, but then again, it was broad daylight and we heard nothing. Nevertheless, we are actively pursuing coyote extermination. They have served the purpose of keeping down the rabbit population in the vineyard and up till now, have not posed a threat. We have a known den of them on our land – at least we know the general area. And, I bought bullets for our gun. Now, I am not a pistol packin’ Mama, but I can shoot!

Last week we jumped out of bed about 11:00pm because they were so close to the house. Thankfully, we found before they did, that we had carelessly left the chicken-pen open. We are much more careful now!

Saturday, after working in the vineyard all morning, I had gone to get some water at the filter house. After drinking my fill, I started back to work. Almost to my row, I looked up and there about 80 ft away was a female coyote looking at me! Now, I am not normally brave and I am not sure what possessed me, but I started yelling, waving my hands like a madwoman and took off running at her! I scared her so much she turned tail and ran – thankfully! I really don’t know what got into me!

We are also looking into miniature sheep which would be pets, but also, weed eaters and debudders in the vineyard. They would make easy meals – or maybe snacks – for the coyotes. At this point, I just feel as if our lifestyle has been invaded.

Anyway, we must do something.

We have bullets and we have set a couple of traps. If you know of anything else, please let me know – Leave a comment!

 

Continuous Brew Kombucha Update

You might remember my telling of the two 3 gallon tea container of kombucha fermenting on the top of my refrigerator. Remember, kombucha is a slightly carbonated drink made from sweet tea. It is full of probiotics, B vitamins and enzymes plus making it at home is economical. Everyone is excited to have enough kombucha to drink it daily. John drains each dispenser from the spout into a 5 gallon keg and we have it on tap in the kegerator. The children think it is wonderful to be able to help themselves! This method is called a continuous brew system – it works great and allows the microorganism to remain undisturbed while starting the next batch.

I knew the tops were not tight fitting which is good because the scoby needs air circulation. What I did not realize, however, is that as the tea fermented the tops popped up allowing critters in! Awful isn’t it? We had fruit flies invading and contaminating the scoby. Not to gross you out, but, I had maggots on the scoby – yuck!!!

Fortunately, the scoby (which you can find from my affiliate here) forms in layers. The older the scoby, the thicker it is. I was able to peel the top layer off without harming the scoby and begin a fresh batch.

I had already been looking for larger containers because we have been running out of kombucha before the next batch was ready. I was able to find 4.75 gallon glass beverage dispensers at Sam’s Club – I bought two of them! They came with wrought iron stands and glass tops which I boxed up and have in storage. To solve the air circulation problem but still keep critters out, I covered each jar with a double layer of cheesecloth and secured it with a rubber band.

So far so good, and, I think they look much nicer!

 

This post is part of: Kombucha Challenge