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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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 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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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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Building with ICF – Phase 2

digging with the backhoe

Finally!

I really can’t believe we have started!

Yes, this week John began digging out the dirt to expand the basement walls of our home which overlooks the vineyard! If you have been following our adventure of starting the vineyard and building our own home, you know that we are now living in what will eventually be the basement – we finished phase 1 at the end of 2011.

As you might imagine, we have saved a lot of money by building ourselves and had a lot of fun in the process! But, like everything it takes time and patience. Building the house must fit around vineyard work which pays the bills! So, our primary time to work on the expansion is now, after harvest and before pruning which will begin in late January.

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Dogs and Porcupines Quills

how to remove porcupine quills

Who knew – dogs and porcupines don’t mix!

Well, ours don’t anyway!

After losing Bob, a much loved dog to coyotes, seeing a coyote not more than 80 ft from me in the vineyard in broad daylight, and waking to a coyote circling our chicken pen one morning, we decided to get pro-active in protecting our farm.

About the same time, friends were leaving the area and offered us their great Pyrenees, Cotton, whom they felt would make a good family dog and would adjust to us easier than a cross country move. Cotton very quickly adapted to our family and has become a valiant worker in protecting us from the coyotes. In fact, she worked all night running from one end of the property to the other and slept all day – the job was almost too much for her!

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Drilling a New Well

drilling rig set up and drilling

The time has come to drill a new well. In the almost 6 years that we have lived here in west Texas, our water levels in each of the wells have dropped. Unfortunately, it is not just us, it is everyone in this area. When we bought the land in 2007, there were already 3 wells on the property. At that time, after test pumping to see how much water they could produce, we put submersible pumps down 2 of them.

In 2008, we began the vineyard and could continuously irrigate 10 acres at a time, pumping more than 120 gal. per min. Now, the wells refill rate allows us to irrigate only five acres semi-continuously, pumping ~50 gal. per min.

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Stormy Days and Water Leaks

storm is coming

One thing we do not see much of here in west Texas is rain. In fact just a few tenths of an inch are exciting! We do after all, live in a semi-dessert climate. It has definitely been hot with temperatures in the 100 – 108F range. And, since the first of the year, we had had a whopping 3 inches of rain.

This week, though, we have had rain – 2 1/2 inches! That brings the total for the year up to 5 1/2 inches!

We had water puddles!

We had beautiful storm clouds!

When I saw the scene in the photo below, I felt as though I was in an episode of Star Trek – the Enterprise was hovering in the clouds above and Captain Kirk was just beyond the barn saying, “Beam me up, Scottie”!  [Continue Reading]

Vineyard at Sunrise

sunrise over west Texas vineyard July 2013

For the past month we have been tucking the grapevines up into the guide wires and this week we finished! Tucking is done for canopy management and ease at harvest time. Thankfully the temperatures are a bit more moderate, only reaching the high 90F’s.

Normally, John and I have “mommy/daddy” time in the mornings before breakfast. We take time to have coffee in bed together and talk before properly starting the day. This week, however, we did something different – we had our morning coffee on top of the filter house. If you remember, for now we have a platform that looks out over the vineyard but eventually we will put a roof over it and make it a proper pavilion – the photo above is the sunrise over the vineyard that I took while there. It is so peaceful out there in the early morning hours! But, I must admit, getting out there so early is the challenge – morning coffee is also very good in the comfort of bed!

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