Being Prepared After the Cow Calves

Calving-  be prepared I love farm life – the simplicity of it – the self-sufficiency of it – the joys – the satisfaction of it all!

But, as much as I enjoy our lifestyle of home education, working together in the vineyard and having a family milk cow and other farm animals, there are times when I get discouraged.

Last week was one of those times I was ready to throw in the towel!  Not on the whole life but on certain aspects You have probably experienced the same feelings – oh, please tell me you have and that I am not alone in this!

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A Calf is Born!

Newborn Calf

What you are about to read and see is the actual process of delivering a calf. If you are squemish, you may want to blur your eyes at the photos as you continue reading.

Hilde finally calved and has a beautiful, light brown calf!

This delivery was the most eventful yet – the calf was breech! A breech calf is one that comes out feet and bottom first. The normal presentation is head first – well, you see the front hooves first and then the head.

When we purchased Hilde, she had been bred (impregnated) with a Brahman bull. Hilde is a Jersey and Brown Swiss cross and is larger than a full Jersey but, a Brahman is even bigger. When our vet checked her, he cautioned us to watch her during delivery because the calf could be rather large – meaning, she would need some help getting the calf out.

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Backyard Bees

Bees With all the excitement and work surrounding grape harvest, I forgot to tell you about the new additions to our homestead – Honey Bees!

We have been wanting to get into beekeeping for quite awhile. Partly for the enjoyment of beekeeping; partly for sustainability and self-sufficiency; and partly for money saving. But assuredly, for really good honey!

I have been buying raw honey in 5 gallon buckets for years. Now, we will have our own locally produced honey – you can’t get more local than your own backyard! Having our own bees will not only save us money but also adds another dimension to our homestead giving the children a different experience.

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Making Wine at Home from Montepulciano Grapes

Montepulciano Grapes

Grape harvest is the most exciting time of year for us – it is the culmination of the year’s work! When the mechanized harvest  is complete, most of the grapes are gone; but not all. During harvest with our Pellenc grape harvester, the first and last plants of each row are partially missed as the shakers are turned on and off. Thus, a few clusters of grapes are normally left on those vines. Also, every now and then, an arm of the cordon hangs lower than planned (usually because it is loaded with fruit) and gets missed by the shaker bars (positioned to pick the bulk of the fruit at 3-5 feet off the ground).

So, since all the family enjoys drinking our wine and John enjoys making it, once we are finished harvesting a variety, everyone has to tote a 5 gallon bucket and with clippers in hand,  off we go.

That is exactly what we did after the last Montepulciano grape harvest – we gleaned grapes!

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How to Tell if Your Cow is About to Calve

Hilde a Brown Swiss Jersey Cross

Remember Hilde?

She is our family milk cow that we bought back in March. She was giving about 3 gallons per day and was suppose to calve in July. Hilde is half Jersey and half Brown Swiss – a combination that gives rich creamy milk that is good not only for drinking, but also cheesemaking.

In anticipation of her calving, I had the vet check her to make sure she was bred (pregnant) before we dried her off. “Drying off” is the term used for stopping the milking of a cow. It gives them a rest period before calving and beginning to produce milk again. We dried Hilde off the last week of May knowing she was due in July.

Well, July has come and gone and guess what – no calf![Continue Reading]

Oak from Tennessee

oak hardwood stacked and drying As many of you know, we have been building our home overlooking the vineyard out of ICF (insulated concrete forms) and you can follow the chronological progress in the ICF Building Index. We have recently back filled the ICF basement walls and are winterizing the vineyard before finishing the new expansion.

In the meantime, we have been planning the building materials necessary for the upstairs which will be the main living area. We are planning a post and beam construction – but the exposed beams not bearing all the weight. Thanks to John’s brother, Joe, we were able to buy 22 tons of beautiful Oakridge, Tennessee white oak at a fraction of the local west Texas price!

The 22 tons of wood had to be unloaded from the 18 wheeler and then re-stacked to dry properly – that meant moving 44 tons of wood around here – whew, I’m tired just thinking about it![Continue Reading]

Why I Say “No” to a Smartphone

 

3 reasons I say no to smartphones 600

As you read the title, you may have thought, “who in their right mind would say “no” to a smartphone in this age of technology?”

The answer – Me!

Not that I haven’t been tempted. First there is the convenience of a computer at your fingertips. Then there is accessibility. Not to mention peer pressure – sometimes I feel that I am the only mom in the world without one!

It does make me feel better to know that I am not the only non-smartphone carrying mamma – did you know that two thirds of Americans own smartphones? The average American spends 34 hours/month using mobile apps and browsers – that is a lot of time![Continue Reading]

The Last Harvest of 2014 – Montepulciano

Montepulciano grape harvest

Yesterday was quite a day – 30 tons of Montepulciano grapes later and all the grapes of 2014 are harvested!

It took about 7 hours. 7  joy filled hours of watching the fruits of our labor fall off the vine – actually they were shaken off by the Pellenc harvester! But no matter – they are headed to or already at the wineries – YEAH!

What a relief. We wondered if harvest would ever come this year! The clouds and rain just kept coming and caused harvest to be delayed as we waited for the grapes to ripen – the ups and downs of it all, the emotions, the realization that ultimately, no matter what we do, the Lord is in control.

We are thankful for a safe and bountiful harvest! The fist 20 tons of Montepulciano grapes were harvested last Saturday for Duchman, another 6 tons were harvested on Tuesday for Christoval and yesterday’s 30 tons went to Perissos, Hye Meadow and McPherson Cellars. We are looking forward to some great wines![Continue Reading]

How to Protect Yourself Against Ebola

How to Protect Yourself From Ebola

The news is filled with reports of the Ebola virus.

Fear is definitely in the air!

With its appearance in the US and yet another confirmed case of the Ebola virus here in Texas, the big question on everyone’s mind is “how to protect yourself from Ebola?”

The Ebola virus as certainly been the topic of quite a few of our family’s conversations the last couple of days! Even our younger children are concerned and as parents, we are trying to answer their questions honestly without raising alarm – that can be challenging! It is especially challenging with the conflicting and changing information that is coming our way!

Before I go any further, I want to say that  propagating fear is not my intention but I want to encourage you to think for yourself, be aware and be prepared. Sometimes simple awareness and being prepared makes a big difference in the outcome.

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Aglianico Grapes – Here They Come!

Aglianico Grape Harvest

Wednesday, October 7th, marked the first Aglianico grape harvest of 2014. We finished harvesting the Roussanne grapes about a month ago, before the rain began. Because of the rain, cooler weather and cloudy days, the Aglianico and Montepulciano grapes have been slow to ripen.

But, the wait is finally over and harvest time is here!

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