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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Building with ICF – Phase 2


digging with the backhoe

Finally!

I really can’t believe we have started!

Yes, this week John began digging out the dirt to expand the basement walls of our home which overlooks the vineyard! If you have been following our adventure of starting the vineyard and building our own home, you know that we are now living in what will eventually be the basement – we finished phase 1 at the end of 2011.

As you might imagine, we have saved a lot of money by building ourselves and had a lot of fun in the process! But, like everything it takes time and patience. Building the house must fit around vineyard work which pays the bills! So, our primary time to work on the expansion is now, after harvest and before pruning which will begin in late January.

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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]

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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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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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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EIFS on Basement Complete!


EIFS on basement finished

Hopefully, we are done with water leaks in the house! It will be so nice to enjoy a rainy day without worrying about mopping up puddles as the rain comes under the walls!

I am now in Georgia visiting my mother and sister but before I left, the EIFS (exterior insulation finishing system) on the exterior house walls was completed!

Since we are living in what will eventually be the basement of our home overlooking the vineyard, we wanted to wait to complete the exterior of the basement walls until the upstairs was finished. But, we got tired of puddles! So, what started as an effort to use up the EIFS materials that were left over from  building the barn, ended with completely finishing the walls of the house!

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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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