From Texas to Maine

Gateway ArchAs I mentioned last week in Oswald Vineyard May/June, a lot has happened in the past few months, one of which is a family vacation. As you might guess, we take very few getaway trips and when we do, we normally visit family in Georgia. Which, by the way Mom, we are planning to do later this summer!

Not that we need an excuse for a vacation, but if we did, the wedding of a niece in Maine was the perfect one. Years ago, when John had a “real” job, he had a 6 week business trip to the Boston area. Having only 5 children at the time, ages 8 mths – 7 yrs, we all went. The children and I did a lot of site seeing. We visited places like the Boston Children’s Museum of Arts and Science, Plymouth Plantation, and probably the highlight of the trip, the Armor Museum in Worcester, MA. Needless to say, we had a blast and made a lot of great memories which I wanted to relive now with the children still at home.

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Oswald Vineyard May/June 2014

Oswald Vineyard June 2014

When I last posted in March, Change is Good, I had no intention of continuing Cultured Palate. What you might ask, has changed?

Well, I am still very much enjoying being more concentrated on and more  accessible for my family. But, I have been touched by the emails, comments and questions about what is going on with us now. So, I thought I would revisit those of you who have taken the time to get to know our family with periodic updates.

A lot has happened in these few months – we have a new milk cow, took a 5000+ mile trip to Maine (in our 15 passenger van) and have a new vineyard toy imported from France – but, I will tell you more about all that later!

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Drilling a New Well

drilling rig set up and drilling

The time has come to drill a new well. In the almost 6 years that we have lived here in west Texas, our water levels in each of the wells have dropped. Unfortunately, it is not just us, it is everyone in this area. When we bought the land in 2007, there were already 3 wells on the property. At that time, after test pumping to see how much water they could produce, we put submersible pumps down 2 of them.

In 2008, we began the vineyard and could continuously irrigate 10 acres at a time, pumping more than 120 gal. per min. Now, the wells refill rate allows us to irrigate only five acres semi-continuously, pumping ~50 gal. per min.

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Vineyard Work Post Harvest

vineyard Oct 16, 2013

Now you can see the vineyard after harvest. If you look carefully,  you can see in the upper left, a drilling rig – to the left of the barn. No, we are not drilling for oil! We are drilling a well to a deeper aquafer for water- but, more about that later!

You might think that since our last grape harvest of 2013 is finished, we would be kicking back and relaxing.

That is what our children thought!

Wrong.

Quite the opposite is true.

We have finally finished hoeing the vineyard (all 27 acres of it!) for the last time of the year.

Yes, it was a wonderful workout, great exercise and time to work together as a family. But, ask any of us and you will get the same answer – we are glad to be done! In fact, “glad” doesn’t accurately describe the feelings experienced upon completion.

We had to hoe for 3 reasons. The main one was to remove all the organic material from under the vines – this was a safe haven for wintering over bugs. Secondly, we wanted to get rid of the weeds before they went to seed (especially the tumbleweeds) and since we were so close to harvest, we were limited as to what could be sprayed. And thirdly, a dirt mound had built up under the vines as a result of tilling (discing) the rows – next year we will be going “no-till” so this will not be a problem.

To keep the weeds under control we can spray Roundup. But, since this can also kill vines, we like to minimize our use of it. So, that brings us to our latest activity…

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Homecoming and Harvest Preparation

Before I tell you how close harvest is, let me just say, it is so good to be home!

Don’t get me wrong – I had a wonderful visit for 10 whole days in Macon, Georgia with my mom (aka Mimi) and my sister (aka EC). But, you know the saying, “there is no place like home!”.

Mimi and EC

We had fun just spending time together not to mention all the eating we did! We went to a favorite hometown cafeteria, the S & S Cafeteria, three times! Yep, you read it right, 3 times. And, each time I ordered the liver and onions. It was just that good! We also visited the Grits Cafe in Forsyth, Ga. and the Cheesecake Factory in Atlanta. Before you ask, I did order (and eat) the Turtle Chocolate Cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory but only after a salad! No regrets, just indulgence.

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Laughter is the Best Medicine

Laughing bear

How many times have you heard, “Laughter is the best medicine”?

Many think it is a biblical quote. While the actual quote is not found in the Bible, the origin of laughter as the best medicine is found in Proverbs 17:22 -

A joyful heart is good medicine,

But a broken spirit dries up the bones.

Movies and videos are one source of laughter for our family. It never ceases to amaze me how our children can see a movie one time and memorize the lines – from that one viewing! A favorite game played while doing vineyard work is the movie line game. While I am not very good at it, it is fun to listen to the children bounce from one line to another playing off the previous comment.

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Photography Class

west Texas sunset

After finishing the greenhouse EIFS  we began the EIFS on the barn. But, I have decided to make you wait to see pics until it is completed rather than give you bits and pieces at a time!

So, in the meantime, I thought I would share my newest project – photography classes!

After last year’s grape harvest, my splurge was a camera. Not just any camera – a nice one! I bought a refurbished Nikon D90. I knew this camera was way more camera than I knew what to do with but I wanted to learn.

Now, I am not a techie by any stretch of the imagination! If it weren’t for John and the children teaching and helping me, I would be lost! So, as I read through the camera manual, all I could think was, “I can’t do this” or “I can’t figure it out!”

But, 4 weeks ago I started an online photography class through Institute in Photographic Studies. I am not only learning about all the different buttons and menus on my camera (and how to use them) but also about composition, lighting, shutter speed, aperture ….

I actually know and understand what those words mean – I am so excited!!

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YEAH – The House Sold Party!

Al house sold

If you have been around for awhile, you know that we moved from Alabama a little over 5 years ago. We left a very comfortable lifestyle (thanks to corporate America) to relocate in west Texas and start a vineyard.

Unfortunately, our nearly 5,000 sq ft home about 40 minutes from Mobile was put on the market just in time for the housing crash.

And, there it sat!

For a little over 5 years that beautiful house – our dream house, the one we were to grow old in – sat unsold!

But, in a quick flurry, the right person came along and it sold!!!

Now, we are Texans for good – hopefully!

So, this past weekend, we had a “Yeah – the House Sold Party”!

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Texans for Good – Hopefully!

Al house

You may have noticed that there was no Family Friday post last week. I have a good excuse – I was in Georgia visiting my mother and sister before heading to Alabama to clean the rest of our stuff out the house we had lived in for 20 years before moving to Texas to start the vineyard! We had a great time and even celebrated our son’s thirteenth birthday!

Collage Macon

When we decided to make a lifestyle change and leave the corporate world behind to embrace the simpler lifestyle of owning and working a vineyard, we put our house near Mobile, Al on the market. That was slightly over 5 years ago! Unfortunately, our timing was terrible – we put the house on the market right as the housing crisis hit and the bottom fell out! I say our timing was terrible but the Lord’s timing is always perfect! I think if we had sold the house 5 years ago, we would have been tempted to expand the vineyard more quickly, and I do not think we could have kept up with the additional work .

Looking back, I am thankful for all the lessons we have learned during the past 5 years. But, it has not always been easy. In fact, it has been down right hard many times! We have definitely learned a lot about frugal living and working together as a family! Despite all the challenges, the lifestyle change has been wonderful for our family!

I would like to share with you pictures of the house that we built intending to grow old in and now are thankful to sell!

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Rain, School and Doughnuts

Today on Family Friday, I thought I would give a quick run down of our week and end with the highlight!

We have had extremely cold, wet and windy weather here in west Texas. This is why be started pruning the vineyard early – so we would not have to prune in this type of weather. No one likes pruning with 41 mph winds! It is just not pleasant.

So, we have spent the week intensely doing schoolwork. Nobody has complained because they know the alternative is to go outside and prune!   ;)

We are expecting John’s brother, Joe to arrive this afternoon and will pick him up at the airport. Mary, John’s sister has been here for a week and is helping us prune, as well as, motivating us to knit and hook rugs!

The highlight of the week though, was last night’s supper. We had homemade doughnuts! Now, doughnuts may sound funny as a meal, but ours are healthy. Our oldest daughter and her husband gave us a bakery doughnut rolling pin for Christmas.

doughnut roller

Once the dough is mixed up, we use a normal rolling pin to roll it out and then go over it with the doughnut roller. One pass is made with the doughnut roller and then a second to cut the remainder of the dough. It is so much easier than cutting out each individual doughnut and hole.

dough rolled with doughnut roller

Since the dough is only rolled out once, the doughnuts are much lighter and fluffier than when we rolled, cut out doughnuts and re-rolled the dough until all was cut and cooked. As you can see, the number of doughnuts made for our family is impressive. Making our own doughnuts, besides being healthier, is much better easier on our budget!

dough rolled

Once deep fried the doughnuts are iced and eaten. Oh, and to balance out the meal, we had fresh, cold, raw milk. Mmmm!

doughnuts ready to eat

Even though we make homemade doughnuts once or twice a month, this is the first time since I have been on the GAPS diet that I have indulged and …  they were delicious!