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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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]

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]

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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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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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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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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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!

veraison - grapes are ripening

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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