Heavy Hearts


sprinkles the shihpoo as a puppy and older

Have you ever noticed how situations, circumstances and lives can be changed in a matter of minutes? Life is fleeting and this was brought home in a very real way to our family this week through our little shihpoo, Sprinkles.

For our family, Tuesday began like any other day. We woke up and began preparing breakfast. While breakfast is being prepared, our 5 yr old feeds the outside dogs, Snowball and Cotton, both Great Pyrenees. This particular morning, Sprinkles was also outside and decided to help Snowball eat her food. This was never a problem when she shared the dish with our cat Lolli. As you can see, they would both plunge their heads into the bowl at the same time![Continue Reading]

Butchering A Cow


Brisket - soon to be butchered grass fed beef

“Butchering a Cow” might sound like a step-by-step tutorial, but I really just want to share with you how we butchered our steer Brisket (while encouraging you to also branch out beyond your comfort zone).

We purchased Brisket when he was a few days old from a local dairy (and steer-ified him soon thereafter). As his name implies, we considered him not as a pet but  future meat for our table. Last week, that happened – Brisket was re-located to our freezer.

Now, before I go to far, I want you to know that I took lots of photos and had trouble deciding which ones to show you! Those selected will hopefully help you get an idea of the actual process we went through. The described event is not something we dream about nor relish, but our farm life has become very practical, very real and a million miles away from the Douglas’s and Green Acres. We have taught our children to realize that not all animals are pets and there is a cost for everything. They know that most cows are raised for milk and meat – hamburger tastes delicious, but it is because the cow is no more! It is important to be reminded, in our society of instant gratification, that there is more to our food than the sanitized, FDA approved packages on the shelf at the local grocery store.

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No More Milk!


Emme 11-7-13

It is sad.

Then again, it is good.

First, the sad part:

We are no longer milking Emme, our family milk cow. Needless to say, we are really missing the fresh raw milk… and cheese… and yogurt… But most of all – the ice cream!

That’s right, no more ice cream for dinner – I mean literally, dinner consisted of ice cream many nights. If you remember, we had many flavors of ice cream like Blueberry, Coffee and of course, Vanilla, for dinner on hot summer nights through the end of September. We have reverted to our time living in Switzerland and adopted the European tradition of having our biggest meal midday and a light dinner in the evening which, after all, ice cream is! It was especially refreshing after working in the vineyard heat all day.

Now for the good news:[Continue Reading]

Dogs and Porcupines Quills


Snowball's spines

Who knew – dogs and porcupines don’t mix!

Well, ours don’t anyway!

After losing Bob, a much loved dog to coyotes, seeing a coyote not more than 80 ft from me in the vineyard in broad daylight, and waking to a coyote circling our chicken pen one morning, we decided to get pro-active in protecting our farm.

About the same time, friends were leaving the area and offered us their great Pyrenees, Cotton, whom they felt would make a good family dog and would adjust to us easier than a cross country move. Cotton very quickly adapted to our family and has become a valiant worker in protecting us from the coyotes. In fact, she worked all night running from one end of the property to the other and slept all day – the job was almost too much for her!

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Emme


Emme 10-13

I thought I would give you a break this week on Family Friday’s from the vineyard work/harvest and update you on our family milk cow, Emme.

Well, almost.

Let me just say before moving on to our escapades with a family milk cow, our last harvest is scheduled for tomorrow. We will be harvesting all of our Italian reds, Aglianico and Montepulciano, at one time. They will be harvested separately but since the crop load is so much smaller than normal (thanks to the late freeze) it is just not cost efficient for the winery to send an 18 wheeler twice. Plus, they are both ready to harvest.

Now, moving on to life outside the vineyard and yes, we do have one   ;)

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Unrest in the Barnyard


Buttercup

If you follow Cultured Palate on Facebook, you already know that last week we sold Buttercup, one of our family milk cows. It was definitely a more emotional experience than I was expecting.

I cried.

Some of the children cried.

And, the other cows cried.

Really!

Brisket and Emme moooo’d off and on all night and even the next day!

It definitely caused unrest in the barnyard!

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De-Budding the Vineyard


De-budded grapevine rows

It is that time of year again – time to de-bud the vineyard. We have prepared for planting and planted 5 new acres but now it is time to take care of the older vines.

You might wonder what de-budding means – and, I can’t wait to show and tell you!

The trunk of the vines should be clean and free of any green shoots. These green shoots (or suckers) take energy from the vine to grow, produce and ripen fruit. We want all the energy to be focused on the part of the vine which runs on the wire horizontal to the ground called the cordon. Each vine should have two arms, one coming from each side of the trunk and growing  along the cordon wire.

Since we had such severe freezes as the vines were budding out and to some degree the vines sustained damage, they are putting out an exceptional amount of suckers this year! Unlike the first picture, before de-budding the vineyard, you could not see underneath the rows to the far side of the vineyard there was so many suckers!

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The G-Rated Barnyard?


Brisket

Having a large family and farm animals makes for educational opportunities almost daily. This week, however, our attempts to maintain a G-rated barnyard have been almost futile! We have had not one but two family milk cows in heat. That’s right – both Buttercup and Emme came into heat. We had thought that Buttercup was pregnant and I will be taking her to the vet for a double check but our foolproof method of determining a heat cycle says otherwise!

What is our foolproof method …. Brisket.

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Snowball


snowball

We have a new dog.

Not just any dog – we have a new great Pyrenees.

As I have shared before, we have a big coyote population here in west Texas. Not only are they a threat to our cows and chickens, but we have lost a dog and a cat to them. The day after our beloved Bob went missing, our 19 year old son shot a coyote circling the chicken pen which is not more than 100 feet from the house – in broad daylight about 7:30 in the morning!

So, after looking for an Anatolian shepherd, a friend gave us Cotton, a 1 year old great Pyrenees. She had turned out to be the best defense against coyotes ever! She works all night, running from one end of the property to the other, making her presence known and keeping us safe from coyotes.

Poor Cotton, she works all night and sleeps most of the day. After hearing her working throughout the night, we decided that the job was just too big and she needed a helper. I began to look on Craigslist but, I admit, I was very sporadic about it. Our oldest son, who faithfully scours Craigslist for “deals”, emailed me one morning about a great Pyrenees – 8 months old and best of all – she was FREE!

We picked her up the next day!

Snowball has fit right in – after learning to submit to Cotton   ;)

Snowball, Cotton and Sprinkles (a shih-poo) play together making quite a funny looking threesome!

While we continue to prune the vineyard, the three dogs provide much entertainment with their shenanigans! One of the funniest things to see is Cotton and Snowball reaching up to eat the raisins off the vines. Since Sprinkles is too short to reach the raisins, we feed them to her.

Snowball is still young and we have only had her for a couple of weeks but she is already part of the family!

 

Cotton – Our New Coyote Defense


It has been quite awhile since I gave you an update on the coyotes which have claimed the lives of a beloved dog, cat and numerous chickens. In “Coyote Update“, I relayed the story of our 19 year old son’s shooting a coyote who was circling our chicken pen in broad daylight. This happened the day after our corgi, Bob, had disappeared. We also strategically placed poisoned meat around, since there are no neighbor’s dogs in the area. For a time, the coyote’s howls were quiet around here. Unfortunately, it did not stay quiet long enough!

Thanks to a reader’s comment and subsequent emails, I was in contact with an Anatolian Shepherd breeder and was looking forward to a litter being ready around the holidays. Then, friends in the area who were moving back to Nashville, TN asked if we would be interested in their Great Pyrenees, Cotton. After very little discussion it was unanimous – Cotton had a new home!

Being almost one year old, Cotton has needed little training except to learn that she did not need to pluck any chicken feathers. She did not kill any, but one in particular went about somewhat indecent for a few days!

Each day for about a week, we would walk her on a leash around the boundaries of the house, pasture and vineyard. And, that is all it took – she is now a wonderful watchdog! She is up in a flash when a coyote howls.

You might wonder how Sprinkles (the shihpoo) and Lolli (the cat) have reacted. The two, are still  best buddies and continue to eat and drink out of the same dish at the same time!

Sprinkles, being the extrovert social butterfly that she is, welcomed Cotton into the family at once. Lolli, however, took a bit longer to come to terms with the fact that there was indeed an addition to the family.

Sprinkles and Cotton play together with Sprinkles running circles around Cotton.

Sprinkles runs and ducks in and out of the vines at the vineyard -poor Cotton cannot seem to manage darting with the speed and agility she needs to keep up with Sprinkles.

When they are all tuckered out, they lay down to rest and just look at each other!

They have given us many laughs!