Rain, Rain, Go Away!

Oswald Vineyard Sept. 2014

An anomaly has occurred here in west Texas – we have had rain, cloudy skies and cool temperatures for almost 2 weeks!

Most people would find this a relief from the heat, especially farmers.

But not grape farmers who are waiting to harvest grapes!

When we were contemplating the lifestyle change from corporate America to farm life, one appealing aspects was knowing we would be faced daily with our total dependence upon the Lord – unable to put our trust in a paycheck. That sounds really good doesn’t it? But it is harder than you might think!

One huge area that we have NO control over is the weather. From late freezes to thunderstorms with hail to early freezes – all is completely out of our control.

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Crock Pot Baked Potatoes

Crock Pot Baked Potatoes

One meal that our family enjoys is baked potatoes with all the toppings. Normally, I bake potatoes in the oven and it takes about an hour. That is not too long but, in the summer, the oven does put out a lot of heat. The bottom line is that during hot weather, I don’t want to heat up the kitchen if I don’t have too!

Maybe you can tell by the recipes I have shared lately, I have really been using my crock pot or more specifically, my roaster. With 5 growing boys and their farm boy appetites, my 6 quart crock pot (affiliate link) is just not large enough anymore, but my 22 qt roaster is! So, having just bought a case of potatoes, I wanted baked potatoes and I had what I thought was a brilliant idea – I would try them in the crock pot.

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Wine Making at Home

crushing grapes tips and tools winemaking

One day, the plan is to open our own winery!

Someday.

But, not today!

For now  we are content to make wine with our own grapes at home  – hobby wine makers, that’s us!

Making wine was the planned activity for Monday – to glean the Roussanne grapes which were left after harvest and begin the wine making process. The first and last plants of each row are always left without being harvested because they are so close to the end post. The Pellenc grape harvester is turned on and off over these plants which means even after harvest, we still have some grapes to eat or to make wine with!

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Tuttie Fruiti Red Wine Sangria

Make Your Own Fresh Fruit Sangria

Tuttie Fruiti Red Wine Sangria may sound like just another red wine sangria recipe but the secret is freshly juiced fruit juices. There is nothing as refreshing as sangria made with fresh fruit juices on a hot summer day! Now, not only do you have the antioxidant benefits of red wine but add to that the health benefits of fresh juice and you just can’t beat it!

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Roussanne Harvest Continues

Roussanne grape racus

The decision has been made and is unanimous – we love harvesting in the daylight!

Yes, nighttime harvests are beautiful with stars twinkling overhead and the invigorating cool night air. Last year, our first Roussanne harvest of the year was a nighttime harvest and it was beautiful!

But, less stress comes with the daytime grape harvests! You can see what you are harvesting, how clean the fruit is and how thoroughly you are cleaning the vines. While the Pellenc grape harvester does have lights, flashlights must be used behind the harvester to see how clean the vines are being picked – it is just more difficult!

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Pumpkin Pie Pudding

Pumpkin Pie Pudding

Who says pumpkin pie is just for the holidays?

I used to!

But, not since making Pumpkin Pie Pudding!

It all started when I was cleaning out my pantry. If you are like me, it seems there are always items (usually canned foods) that are lost behind everything else. This time, it was canned pumpkin that I bought on sale after the holidays – last year or maybe the year before, who knows!

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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!

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pH and Brix Testing

 

how to tell if grapes are ripe

How do you tell if a grape is ripe?

If you answered, “by the taste”, you are right!

But, there are also other measures of ripeness. For starters, there are the characteristics of the seeds. When grapes are unripe, the seeds are green and as they ripen they become tan and finally turn brown. Also, before ripening, the seeds are chewy and the pulp clings to the seeds but when ripe, the seeds become crunchy and the pulp no longer clings but separates easily.

If you are a winemaker, there are also other factors – chemistry stuff like pH and Brix.

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Never Fail Brownies – Better Than the Box!

 

Never Fail Brownies

Fruits and vegetables are seasonal – they come and go.

But brownies – ahhh…

Brownies are ALWAYS in season!

Have you wanted a brownie recipe that turns out great every time and is quick to throw together?

I know, a box brownie does, right?

Don’t worry, I’m not judging! After all, I only used box brownie mixes for years. Homemade brownies always turned out dry when I made them or the recipe was so involved that it took too much time. But, not anymore!

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ICF Basement Expansion

icf building blocks - great for diy'ers

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!

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