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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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]

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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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!

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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.

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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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Hilde, Hildie or Hildy….

Hilde our new Jersey milk cow As I said earlier, during my absence from Cultured Palate, a lot has happened. So, I would like to introduce you to our new family milk cow. She is 1/2 Brown Swiss and 1/2 Jersey. The problem is the spelling of her name!

How would you spell it? Hilde, Hildie or Hildy?

My preferred spelling is “Hilde”!

So, while our family disagrees (playfully of course) about the spelling, everyone agrees that Hilde is possibly the best family milk cow we have ever had!

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Butchering A Cow

butchering a cow tips and techniques

“Butchering a Cow” might sound like a step-by-step tutorial, but I really just want to share with you how we butchered our steer Brisket (while encouraging you to also branch out beyond your comfort zone).

We purchased Brisket when he was a few days old from a local dairy (and steer-ified him soon thereafter). As his name implies, we considered him not as a pet but  future meat for our table. Last week, that happened – Brisket was re-located to our freezer.[Continue Reading]