Bernie – Our New Shih-poo


Bernie Our New Shih-Poo

After losing Sprinkles, our much loved  shih-poo, it took a while to find another dog to be our inside house pet. Considering the circumstances of her death, we decided against another shih-poo. But the dilema then became what to get.

Living in what will be the basement of our home with 1500 sq ft for the 9 of us, a large dog inside could become a source of irritation – especially for those in the family that are not true dog lovers! So, while a big dog would probably not be the best for us right now, I knew I wanted some type of a poodle mix because any dog bred with a poodle will have little to no shedding.

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Veraison – the Grapes are Ripening!


montepulciano grapes showing veraison

Veraison has occurred – What an exciting time of year!

From now through harvest (and especially harvest itself) we really see and enjoy the fruits of our labor   ;)

You may have never heard of veraison and to put it simply, the grapes begin to change color which shows they are beginning to ripen.

According to  Wikipedia, veraison is:

 a viticulture (grape-growing) term meaning “the onset of ripening”. It is originally French, but has been adopted into English use. The official definition of veraison is “change of color of the grape berries.” Veraison represents the transition from berry growth to berry ripening, and many changes in berry development occur at veraison.

For us, it means we can eat ripe grapes again – no more green sour berries for us!  Since everyone else is also scouring the vines for the ripening grapes and quickly gobbling them down, the challenge at this point is to find the berries going through veraison before anyone else does!

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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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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.

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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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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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