Vintage 2016 Harvest

Vintage 2016 Harvest

This morning we picked grapes for the Vintage 2016 harvest at Flat Creek Estate winery. There were about 21 volunteers who picked about 8 tons of Syrah and Sangiovese grapes from 30 rows. We arrived while it was still dark at 6 am so that  we would be ready to start picking at sunrise when it started to be light enough to see the grapes.

We were provided harvesting instructions by the owners and wine maker, along with coffee and granola bars. About half-way through the picking the chef brought out breakfast tacos and watermelon for everybody during out break, along with the water and Gatorade that was available under a tent. Here are my photos.

These are Sangiovese vines where we picked in Helen’s block (named after an owner’s mother). We started further to the left with Syrah.

This is a photo down one of the rows after most of these had been picked, although you can still see some on the right.

This is what it looked like with some of the volunteers that were working these rows. We have a picking buddy to work in pairs on both sides of the vines so that we make sure everything is picked. A small Kubota pickup drives up and down collecting filled buckets in 1/2 ton containers. It was amazing how many grapes we harvested in only four hours.

The Sangiovese grapes tend to be fairly large and hang in heavy clusters making it easier to snip them from the stems. Other grapes like Pinot Grigio, which we have picked before, are very small in tight clusters that grow very close the vine. Of course, you need to be careful that you don’t cut yourself with the clippers, and it’s a good idea to wear gloves.

Here’s a closer shot that shows some of the grapes hanging from the vine ready to be picked. There is netting covering the vines to protect the grapes from birds which has to be raised to allow picking.

Here you can see the grapes a little closer and notice how the stems are fairly easy to snip with one hand so you can simply catch a whole cluster when it drops into your other hand.

This is another shot that shows the grapes with some sunlight behind them so their color is more visible.

And this is a closeup of a grape cluster.

After we finished our picking we were treated to a mimosa in the Tasting Room (before it opened for the day) made from their Sparking Raspberry Wine mixed with Orange Juice.

All the volunteers will be able to attend a free Harvest Dinner (with wine, of course) prepared by the chef later in August in the Bistro, where they have many events.

We have been doing this for many years now and it’s always a fun experience. It’s great to help out and later enjoy the grapes we picked when the wine is finished, bottled, and available.

SXSWfm: Austin Connection – Mar 8

SXSWfm: Austin Connection – Mar 8

Austin Connection is a twice-monthly SXSWfm specialty radio show stream, hosted by Nathan Lankford of Austin Town Hall, is now available on MixCloud. It focuses on indie rock, indie pop, rock, electronic, and Texas music.

SXSWfm_biggerSXSWfm is the official internet radio stream of the South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival which will celebrate its 30th anniversary in Austin, Texas from March 15-20, 2016. This is a great way to discover new music.

Here is a brief description of his show.

Austin Connection is here to celebrate two great things: Austin music and SXSW. Over the years, the festival has given birth to a lot of great artists/musicians, but we wanted to make sure those in our own city didn’t go overlooked. It looks back at some of the great acts that have graced our city, while also looking forward to the sounds that are shaping the Live Music Capital of the World.

Austin Connection #5 (03/8/16) – 1 hr

This episode features tracks by Night Drive, The Ugly Beats, Annabelle Chairlegs, Troller, Colin Gilmore and more.

SXSWfm: Austin Connection – Feb 29

SXSWfm: Austin Connection – Feb 29

Austin Connection is a twice-monthly SXSWfm specialty radio show stream, hosted by Nathan Lankford of Austin Town Hall, is now available on MixCloud. It focuses on indie rock, indie pop, rock, electronic, and Texas music.

SXSWfm_biggerSXSWfm is the official internet radio stream of the South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival which will celebrate its 30th anniversary in Austin, Texas from March 15-20, 2016. This is a great way to discover new music.

Here is a brief description of his show.

Austin Connection is here to celebrate two great things: Austin music and SXSW. Over the years, the festival has given birth to a lot of great artists/musicians, but we wanted to make sure those in our own city didn’t go overlooked. It looks back at some of the great acts that have graced our city, while also looking forward to the sounds that are shaping the Live Music Capital of the World.

Austin Connection #4 (02/29/16) – 51 min

Playlist

This episode includes the following artists and songs.

  • Built by Snow – All the Weird Kids Know
  • Sweet Spirit – Baby When I Close My Eyes
  • Moving Panoramas – One
  • Dana Falconberry and Medicine Bow – Dolomite
  • Jess Williamson – Blood Song
  • BOAN – Mentiras
  • Ramesh – Requiem
  • Plantation Band – True Colors
  • Monk Parker – Sadly Yes
  • Daniel Francis Doyle – What Do You Do With That
  • Tele Novella – No Excalibur
  • Hundred Visions – Embalmer’s Apprentice
SXSWfm: Austin Connection – Feb 15

SXSWfm: Austin Connection – Feb 15

Austin Connection is a twice-monthly SXSWfm specialty radio show stream, hosted by Nathan Lankford of Austin Town Hall, is now available on MixCloud. It focuses on indie rock, indie pop, rock, electronic, and Texas music (about an hour long).

SXSWfm_biggerSXSWfm is the official internet radio stream of the South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival which will celebrate its 30th anniversary in Austin, Texas from March 15-20, 2016. This is a great way to discover new music.

Here is a brief description of this new show.

Austin Connection is here to celebrate two great things: Austin music and SXSW. Over the years, the festival has given birth to a lot of great artists/musicians, but we wanted to make sure those in our own city didn’t go overlooked. It looks back at some of the great acts that have graced our city, while also looking forward to the sounds that are shaping the Live Music Capital of the World.

Austin Connection #3 (02/15/16) – 50 min

This episode features tracks from The Sour Notes, A Sinclair, Bayonne, The Black Angels, Holy Wave and more.

SXSWfm: Austin Connection – Feb 1

SXSWfm: Austin Connection – Feb 1

Austin Connection is a twice-monthly SXSWfm specialty radio show stream, hosted by Nathan Lankford of Austin Town Hall, is now available on MixCloud. It focuses on indie rock, indie pop, rock, electronic, and Texas music (about an hour long).

SXSWfm_biggerSXSWfm is the official internet radio stream of the South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival which will celebrate its 30th anniversary in Austin, Texas from March 15-20, 2016. This is a great way to discover new music.

Here is a brief description of this new show.

Austin Connection is here to celebrate two great things: Austin music and SXSW. Over the years, the festival has given birth to a lot of great artists/musicians, but we wanted to make sure those in our own city didn’t go overlooked. It looks back at some of the great acts that have graced our city, while also looking forward to the sounds that are shaping the Live Music Capital of the World.

Austin Connection #2 (02/01/16) – 59 min

This upload features tracks from Literature, Slugbug, Neon Indian, BOAN, Ghostland Observatory and more.

SXSWfm: Austin Connection – Jan 18

SXSWfm: Austin Connection – Jan 18

Austin Connection is a twice-monthly SXSWfm specialty radio show stream, hosted by Nathan Lankford of Austin Town Hall, is now available on MixCloud. It focuses on indie rock, indie pop, rock, electronic, and Texas music (about an hour long).

SXSWfm_biggerSXSWfm is the official internet radio stream of the South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival which will celebrate its 30th anniversary in Austin, Texas from March 15-20, 2016. This is a great way to discover new music.

Here is a brief description of this new show.

Austin Connection is here to celebrate two great things: Austin music and SXSW. Over the years, the festival has given birth to a lot of great artists/musicians, but we wanted to make sure those in our own city didn’t go overlooked. It looks back at some of the great acts that have graced our city, while also looking forward to the sounds that are shaping the Live Music Capital of the World.

Austin Connection #1 (01/18/16) – 57 min

This episode features tracks from The Strange Boys, Abram Shook, Flatliner, Deep Time, Shivery Shakes and more.

Bella Vista Ranch

Bella Vista Ranch

For this Writing 101 assignment we were to write about one of four images (City at night, Map, Window, Mid-air jump) as the spark of our inspiration. I selected the Map since it was critical for a recent day trip so I thought I might do a travel post with some photos.

The Map

Without a Google Map to guide us into the Hill Country near Wimberley, Texas, we never would have found Bella Vista Ranch, where we wanted to taste their wines and olive oils.

Olives

There are over 1,200 olive trees in the orchard for First Texas Olive Oil Company, which were initially planted in 1998. The Texas Hill Country soil and weather is similar to the Mediterranean, and they have been successfully producing fresh olive oil using their own frantoio (olive pressing facility) every year since 2001.

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Their olive oils include:

  • Texas Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresco Blood Orange Olive Oil
  • Alfresco Garlic, Basic & Perman Dipping Olive Oil
  • Afresco Lime Blended Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Alfresco Roasted Garlic Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Alfresco White Truffle Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresh Basil Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Meyer Lemon Blended Extra Virgin Olive Oil

They also have various cured huge Sevillano olives stuffed with garlic, jalapeño, pimento, blue cheese, or combinations. Also available are raspberry, blackberry, fig & vanilla, or traditional balsamic vinegars. Additional offerings are blackberry, raspberry, or fig jams, as well as blackberry wine jelly, and raspberry chipotle sauce. Finally, there are spice pear, fresh mint, or good earth Virgin Soaps, which are a pure Castile soap containing olive oil as a base. They can also customize gift baskets for special occasions.

Vineyard

Their winery Bella Vista Cellars produces a range of Italian varietals, as well as blackberry wine. Here are some of the vineyards where they grow Viognier and Cabernet Franc. Available wines also include several blends: Texas Sunset, Texas Sunrise (dry rose), Dos Cabs, as well as Syrah. They have partnered with VinoShipper.com to process online orders. It’s very pretty out here in the hill country where they are located.

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Tasting Room

They have a fairly small tasting room available where you can do tastings of both their olive oils and wines. They provide orchard tours and formal tastings on Saturday at 10am & 1pm, as well as Sunday at Noon ($15 fee). However these were not available on their Labor Day special opening.

After our tastings, we decided to purchase the Viognier wine and Blood Orange olive oil to take home to enjoy. Actually we enjoyed salmon drizzled with blood orange olive oil tonight for dinner. Of course, we’ll have to come back again for more.

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Wimberley

IMG_7542We also stopped at Wimberley Square in the downtown, where there are many shops and restaurants. This large colorful decorated boot was just outside the Cypress Creek Cafe, where we decided to have lunch. Unfortunately, since it was very busy because of the Labor Day holiday, we had a long wait for our food to be served; actually somehow they lost our order ticket, but at least our lunch was free because of our inconvenience.

Maybe we would have had better luck at Wimberley Cafe right nearby on the square. There is the Ino’z Brew & Chew restaurant across the street next to Cypress Creek, although we didn’t know it at the time. Another option is Marco’s Italian Restatement & Pizzeria.

This was a very pleasant little afternoon outing for the day. I had a fasting diabetes lab test in the morning, followed by breakfast tacos at Torchy’s Tacos. Then we thought it would be fun to take a little ride and visit one of the many nearby wineries. After considering several of the ones where haven’t been yet, we thought the it would be nice to try Bella Vista Ranch. That was a great choice, and we plan to visit again. If you’re in the area, check them out.


This was the Day 4 assignment “A story in a singe image” for the Blogging U. course Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration, which provides writing prompts to “cultivate a daily writing habit and find inspiration in unexpected places”.

I hope you enjoy my blog and follow these daily writing assignments and other posts. Thanks for visiting today.

Cabin on Blueberry Hill

Cabin on Blueberry Hill

In April before our trip to Germany, we went on a short getaway to a log cabin in east Texas at the Etheridge Farm Bed & Breakfast in Kountze, which is located in the Big Thicket National Preserve north of Beaumont. It sounded like a good idea when we made the arrangements to meet friends who were neighbors when we used to live in the Dallas area. We made the reservations and agreed to meet there and stay for three nights.

Brenham

We stopped for lunch in Brenham, which is about halfway between Austin and Houston on US 290. We ate at Yumm! Sweets & Eats right on the square across from the courthouse, which was a nice place to stop, and my soup and sandwich was very good. On the way to the restroom on the sweet shop side of the place, I spotted this bicycle all lit up with white lights and had to take a photo, which really turned out pretty good.

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While we were finishing our lunch, we noticed there was a guy across the street by the courthouse cleaning up stuff on the grounds, but he was dressed in orange stripes with a guard nearby that had a gun in a holster. Then we realized that they must be having the prisoners in the jail doing some work in the community.

Then a little later a county sheriff pulls up right in front of the window where we were sitting. He got out of his car and walked around the back to the rear door where he let out another man who was dressed in grey and black strips with handcuffs holding his wrists together. The sheriff escorted across the street over to the courthouse, so I assume that he must have been transported from a county facility to appear in court for a trial.

Usually there are lots of wild flowers around the Brenham area, but we didn’t get any photos this time since we were trying to meet out friends and didn’t want to linger too long. Also, it was somewhat overcast that day so the photos might not have turned out that good anyway.

Brenham Ice Cream is also located there and that’s a fun place to stop. We’ve taken the tour in the past, which was very interesting. Since they recently have had some issues with listeria contamination that is now being addressed, we decided not to get any ice cream this time.

Cabin

I have included some photos that I took of our litle Cabin on Blueberry Hill. It’s named that because you can pick your own blueberries there on their farm, and in fact there were a bunch of blueberry shrubs growing just to the left side of the cabin.

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Porch

IMG_3637There was a covered front porch with a swing at the end. Also, we noticed there were carpenter bees flying around and into holes they had burrowed into the wood beams above, and we were so sure about them although the owner told us that they will not bother us (and they really didn’t).

IMG_3641There was a cute little sign for the Cabin on Blueberry Hill, along with the obligatory Texas star hanging on the wall of the porch next to the front door. The overhead light was helpful too since it gets very dark out there at night, and they also provided some flashlights as well as if we needed to get around at night. For example, we had dinner in the main farm house the first night and needed to find out way back to the cabin after dark. Although they had a string of lights across the trees leading to our cabin, it was helpful to see where you were stepping too. You can see how they applied the logs over the former barn so it wasn’t really an original log cabin, but an adapted barn with a log veneer siding. They had lots of old stuff (“antiques”) throughout the cabin, including these things on the porch.

IMG_3639However, I don’t think the oil lamps or lanterns actually had wicks so they didn’t work. But they did leave bug spray which was helpful because there are lots of mosquitoes in this part of Texas since it’s more humid, and there are ponds nearby and quite a bit of standing water on the farm in places.

Bedrooms

There were two bedrooms, but they were not enclosed like I had imagined. They were open at the top and there was only a hemp weave cloth covering the entry (no door) that you could criss-cross to cover it at least. But you could hear everything in the cabin (like our friends in the other bedroom). Our room had two twin beds so our friends could have the other one with the king bed (because they’re larger than us).

IMG_3646     IMG_3643

Entry

Inside the front door, there were several storage cabinets and entry way with steps down into the main living area. The bedrooms are the left and right. Also there was a little writeup about “The Cabin on Blueberry Hill” on the side wall.IMG_3653

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Living area

The owner told us that this cabin used to be a barn, and it was converted into a log cabin. The chickens were where the bathroom is now on the left side. The horses were in the kitchen area where there was a small refrigerator, microwave, sink, and stocked cabinet with utensils and supplies.

IMG_3647     IMG_3649

There was this interesting newspaper advertisement with old-time prices on the wall in the kitchen. IMG_3664

Living room

There were several chairs available for sitting in the main part of the living area, with a dinky 12″ TV available with only local channels. Another negative was the lack of WiFi in the cabin or even a cell-phone signal which was frustrating. If you went outside you could get access to a 4G data network for internet as well as cell phone, but not inside. However, I figured out I could get a cell signal near the window in the bathroom so I setup a personal hotspot on my iPhone which provided me a temporary WiFi network inside the cabin which I used from my Mac laptop to access the internet.

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Cotton

The owner had several dogs that occasionally roamed the property. One of them apparently likes to catch rabbits, and we spotted some guts along the path near the cabin that one of the workers told us was a rabbit that the dog must have caught and ate the rest. We asked him if he could please clean it up so we wouldn’t have to look at it going to/from breakfast in the main house, which he did for us. Also, there was a cute little white dog that kept coming around, especially at happy hour in the evening, looking for attention (and handouts). Apparently, he belonged to a neighbor but comes over here often (we saw him every day). We had to give him some Cheetos.

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Hiking

We went hiking on several trails in the Big Thicket which was nearby and scattered all over the area in various sections.  There were large pine trees with lots of pine cones on the trails, as well as pretty wild flowers like the thistle.

IMG_3668     IMG_3667           IMG_3681      IMG_3682

Pitcher plants

Big Thicket has four carnivorous plants which eat insects – pitcher plants, sundews, bladderworts, and butterworts.  Of particular interest, we were interested to see the pitcher plants and we saw many of them on the Pitcher Plant Trail. We also walked the Sundew Trail but did not notice any sundew plants.

Pitcher plants are passive plants that do not use movement in the capture and digestion of insects. They  capture insects by luring them to the mouth of the trap with color, nectar, and/or scent. After an insect lands on the lip of the flower and begins to enter the mouth, it comes to a waxy inner surface that causes it to slide down the funnel. Downward pointing hairs lining the lower portion impede their ability to climb back out of the plant’s trap. The bottom of the pitcher is filled with a fluid that drowns them and then because it contains digestive enzymes, decomposes the proteins and soft body parts so that it can be absorbed into the plant for nutrition. Only the insect’s exoskeleton remains.

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Meals

Each morning we enjoyed a lovely home-cooked country breakfast in the lodge dining room that was prepared by the owner, Ann Ethridge, along with guests who were staying in other cabins. Also, we chose to have dinner the first evening as well, and it was very good also. The second night we drove down to Beaumont where there were lots of choices for dinner. She was very hospitable and friendly, and runs the place herself with some additional help for maintenance, etc.. Although she is in her 80’s, she seems quite active and handles  everything quite well since her husband passed away several years ago.

Shortened Visit

We were planning to play golf at a course nearby, but unfortunately we went back home a day early because our friend was having some medical issues. Almost immediately after we arrived, he started having problems with strong allergy-like symptoms which caused him breathing problems and discomfort. It became even worse overnight and he was not able to sleep much. In fact, the second night he spent most of it in the recliner in the living room since it was worse lying down. He uses a CPAP machine to help him sleep during the night because of his sleep apnea, but because his nose was so stopped up he could barely breathe when it was on. Also he had heart bypass surgery in the past and takes pills for his heart as well as anti-depression medications, but he forgot to bring them along with him on the trip.

Because the rooms were not completely enclosed, his breathing problems (and related complaints) prevented us from having a peaceful night as well since it was interrupted many times because of his situation. He was convinced that there was something in the cabin that was causing it, although we didn’t have any problems. So our friends decided they wanted to go back home earlier than planned, and we also decided to leave as well since we had intended to spend the time with them. The owner was very understanding and didn’t even charge us for the extra day. When he returned home, his symptoms seemed to disappear, so we don’t really know what caused him to have the problems that he did. Anyway our visit was shorter than planned.

Travel Considerations

Although it was nice to see them, we’re starting to realize that traveling with them might not work out. Also they have physical limitations that even makes walking somewhat difficult, and we really like to be active, so we can’t enjoy many things with them anyway. We have tried quite a few getaways with them in the past several years, but each time there have been some issues because of their limitations. After each trip we have realized that it might not have been a good idea, but then we have tried it again with similar results. But this time, we couldn’t even sleep very well ourselves because of their breathing noises, night conversations, and depressed mood.

Unlock Your Mind

This is the Day 1 post for Writing 101 – Unlock Your Mind. The objective is to just write for 20 minutes without thinking about it – just stream of consciousness. So here goes.

We’re taking a little getaway trip for 3 nights at a bed & breakfast at a farm in the country in southeast Texas. We are going to meet friends who were neighbors for many years when we used to live in the Dallas area before moving to Austin. It’s a quaint 2-bedroom log cabin with front porch with swing. Of course, we get breakfast each morning, but we also signed up for dinner the first night after we arrive.

It’s located near the Big Thicket National Preserve which we plan to visit, do some hiking, rent some kayaks or canoes, etc. Also we will probably golf at a nearby course one day. It will be interesting to just explore a new area, and spend some time with our friends.

On the way, we will get a chance to see all the wild flowers that appear in Texas in the spring, such as Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrush, Mexican Hat, etc. we will passing through Brenham where Blue Bell ice cream is made so maybe we can stop there. We’ve taken the tour before, but maybe just stopping for a cone might be good.

Well that’s about the end of my 20 minutes. I will get some nice photos for my blog. It will be fun!

Anderson Mill

Anderson Mill

This is my final fifth post for the Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge.

Thanks to Terri at Perspectives On… for nominating me for this challenge. I had been planning to try some photo challenge blogging events recently, but hadn’t quite to started yet so this little nudge helps.


We were reading a article in the October 2014 issue of the Texas Co-op Power magazine from Pedernales Electric Cooperative, which is our electric utility in the Texas Hill Country: The Wheel of History: Volente’s Anderson Mill. It sounded very interesting and is very close to where we live, on Volente Road off Anderson Mill Road near the intersection with Bullick Hollow (2222), although we had not visited it since we moved her almost eight years ago now. So we decided to check it out on a nice Sunday afternoon back in October, but I never got around to post the photos on my blog so this seemed like a good opportunity to get that done.

This Anderson Mill is a replica of a gristmill that was built by Thomas Anderson in the 1850’s on Cypress Creek; it was completed in 1965 and dedicated to his granddaughter. As you can see in the photos, the water wheel sit works and it even drives a grinder which you can see inside the door of the wooden building. They actually use it to grind corn into cornmeal in bags that you can buy; we got one for ourselves that we used to make cornbread muffins from a recipe that was included, and gave another to my sister and a friend.

Apparently, the mill was used for making gunpowder during the Civil War, but it then changed over to grinding corn and other uses after the war ended. There a lots of artifacts on shelfs and the walls inside the building but they posted that no photos should be taken; also there is another associated stone building nearby where they had many displays about life from that period on both floors.  I was able to capture the water splashing off the water wheel from the back of the building as well a plain shot without water from the front side. The grounds are very pleasant, and there another building used by the Garden Club where they quilts on display for sale. It is only open one Sunday every month, but it’s an interesting place to visit.


The Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge rules require you to post a photo each day for five consecutive days and attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction or non-fiction, a poem or simply a short paragraph – it’s entirely up to you.

Then each day, nominate another blogger to carry on this challenge. Accepting the challenge is entirely up to the person nominated, it is not a command. And actually everyone can join in. So feel free to if you like the idea.


I’ve been pleasantly surprised that I have received responses for my challenge invitations. Julia at Julia’s Odyssey accepted my challenge in my Day One post on Lake Texas Water Levels. My Day Two challenge to Elizabeth at Tea and Paper in my post on SXSW @ The Dogwood was also accepted. Then Kay at Sky Blue Daze responded to my invitation in my Day Three post on Becker Vineyards – Feb; she indicated her participation would be later since she’s going on vacation where there is no internet for blogging access. For the challenge in my Day Four post on World War II Pinup Nose Art, I notice that Sandi at Sappy as a Tree has not be very active lately so maybe she will participate sometime later when she has the time.


I would like to invite Joan at Retirement and Beyond to join the party. I have enjoyed her blog since Photography 101, especially her photos of Ireland, travel, and scenery. She also seems to like participating in photo challenges so it seemed she might be a good candidate to join this challenge. As mentioned before, it is totally up to you to accept this challenge.