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.

[Continue Reading]

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!

[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]

Move That Dirt, Baby!

backfilling ICF basement walls For a chronological listing of our ICF (insulated concrete forms) building, please see the ICF Building Index found in the menu bar.

Our ICF (insulated concrete form) basement is finally beginning to look like a basement! There is now dirt against two sides rather than just dirt mounds. It looks amazingly better!

After finishing the first coat of the EIFS (exterior insulation finishing system) we decided to wait about the final color coat until the roof is on. But, until the lumber is delivered for the roof and interior walls, we began back-filling the walls that will not be exposed.

Disclaimer: This is one of those times that I use “we” loosely – I actually did not move any dirt but I was there to cook for the fellas, bring them water (hydration is important) and take pictures!

[Continue Reading]

10 Ways to Save Money Juicing

10 ways to save money juicing

You might think juicing is expensive, especially for a large family.

I did too – And, it can be!

But, do you remember the saying, “Where there is a will, there is a way”?

There are ways to make juicing fit into the family budget!

One of the benefits of juicing is your body’s ability to absorb all the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, chlorophyll, etc. – they are delivered much faster to your body in liquid form since the body doesn’t spend time breaking down the bulkier items like fiber. So, for the family’s health, I think it is worth making juicing budget friendly!

[Continue Reading]

3 Steps to Beautiful Stucco – DIY!

3 steps to stucco collage

I love the look of stucco!

Especially since we are going for the “Tuscan” look in our vineyard home, stucco is what I want!

Real stucco is applied in multiple layers and is very labor intensive. But, we have found something that gives the same look as stucco but is more durable and easy to apply – great for do-it-yourself’ers like us – it is the exterior insulation finishing system or EIFS for short.

For a bit of background, we have done several building projects using insulated concrete forms (ICF) including our house overlooking the vineyard, filter house, barn, and greenhouse. You can find a chronological index of these projects in the ICF Building Index tab in the menu bar.

[Continue Reading]

My New Juicer and a Raw Carrot Juice Recipe

Juicing Bandwagon - Breville juicer and carrot juice recipe

Sometimes I am late jumping on the bandwagon and this is one of those times.

The bandwagon I’m talking about is juicing. I really enjoy carrot juice but to take the time to do it is another story. It is not so much the juicing but, the clean-up afterwards. You know, the juicer itself – it can really be a pain to get clean!

Then again, there are some juicers that leave quite a bit of juice in the pulp. Cheap, frugal or whatever you want to call it, when I see the pulp still wet with juice, I think I need to run the pulp through a second time – talk about a mess! Imagine trying to ring the feed spout with pulp that has already gone through the juicer – take my work for it, it is messy! Well, that has all changed – thanks to my new juicer!

[Continue Reading]

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!

[Continue Reading]

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!

[Continue Reading]