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.

[Continue Reading]

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!

[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.

[Continue Reading]

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   ;)

[Continue Reading]

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!

[Continue Reading]

Pellenc 4560 Grape Harvester in Action – Video


Pellenc 4560 grape harvester

As you might remember, last year John and the boys made a trip to California to see a Pellenc 4560 grape harvester in action. And, then, we purchased it! I must say, it is one amazing machine. So amazing in fact, that I thought those of you who can not physically join us for grape harvest might like to see a “mini” version through video.

With that in mind, last week while harvesting an acre of our Roussanne grapes (a white, French variety and our earliest to ripen), we videoed the process. This is an example in which I use “we” loosely! It was actually our 17 year old daughter doing the videoing. She looked like a sports photographer running from one end of the vineyard to the other and back again. All to make sure there was enough good video footage to give you taste of grape harvest. Well, not literally a “taste”, you will have to visit us for that, and if you can, you are welcome!

[Continue Reading]

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!

[Continue Reading]

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.

[Continue Reading]