Roussanne Harvest 2014

Roussanne grapes

After working all year, it seems unbelievable that in a few short weeks the grapes will be gone for another year!

Exciting? Yes.

A bit sad? Yes – we have to wait a whole year to have acres of grapes to eat!

But, the thrill of harvest – and money in the bank – outweigh the sadness!

Our earliest ripening variety is Roussanne. To see how we determine ripeness see pH and Brix Testing. Roussanne is a French white grape variety. We have 7.2 acres of Roussanne which is contracted to 7 different wineries. Each winery has a specific acre of grapes which is 3 rows that are 1/3 mile each. And, yes, that is a looong row when you are out there working!

[Continue Reading]

ICF Basement Expansion

ICF Foxblocks ready to stack

For a chronological listing of our building projects with ICF (or insulated concrete forms), be sure to look through the new ICF Building Index tab in the menu bar.

In January 2012, we finished phase 1 of what will eventually be our basement built out of ICF (insultated concrete forms). We have been enjoying being in our own home but are so excited to finally be expanding it!

During my absence from Cultured Palate, we did some work you don’t know about yet so, let me fill you in before I share what we did last week!

[Continue Reading]

Building with ICF – Phase 2

digging with the backhoe


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.

[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]

Stormy Days and Water Leaks

storm is coming

One thing we do not see much of here in west Texas is rain. In fact just a few tenths of an inch are exciting! We do after all, live in a semi-dessert climate. It has definitely been hot with temperatures in the 100 – 108F range. And, since the first of the year, we had had a whopping 3 inches of rain.

This week, though, we have had rain – 2 1/2 inches! That brings the total for the year up to 5 1/2 inches!

We had water puddles!

We had beautiful storm clouds!

When I saw the scene in the photo below, I felt as though I was in an episode of Star Trek – the Enterprise was hovering in the clouds above and Captain Kirk was just beyond the barn saying, “Beam me up, Scottie”!  [Continue Reading]

Vineyard at Sunrise

sunrise over west Texas vineyard July 2013

For the past month we have been tucking the grapevines up into the guide wires and this week we finished! Tucking is done for canopy management and ease at harvest time. Thankfully the temperatures are a bit more moderate, only reaching the high 90F’s.

Normally, John and I have “mommy/daddy” time in the mornings before breakfast. We take time to have coffee in bed together and talk before properly starting the day. This week, however, we did something different – we had our morning coffee on top of the filter house. If you remember, for now we have a platform that looks out over the vineyard but eventually we will put a roof over it and make it a proper pavilion – the photo above is the sunrise over the vineyard that I took while there. It is so peaceful out there in the early morning hours! But, I must admit, getting out there so early is the challenge – morning coffee is also very good in the comfort of bed!

[Continue Reading]

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!!

[Continue Reading]

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”!

[Continue Reading]

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!