Lots going on

Well there are a lot of things going on right now.  If you remember from a previous post, I was laid off from a job that was far from desirable.  Well, the good thing about knowing a lot of people in the agriculture industry is that I was offered 2 jobs by Tuesday afternoon...I was laid off the previous Friday.  I was pretty proud of myself.  The company I accepted a job with, is really the ideal situation.  Ever since getting involved in the dairy industry back in 2006, when I moved to this town to go to college here, I have absolutely fallen in love with this aspect of the the ag industry.  Dairymen are some of the most amazing people  Working 24/7 365 days a year is pretty admirable.  The ONE good thing about my previous job is I was able to be a huge part of the beginnings of the National Dairy Producers Organization.  Because of this, I had the privilege of getting to know all the brand new board members, which were dairymen from across the country.  Not only did I get to talk to the board members, I got to get to know so many of the organization's members.  Such amazing people.

Anywho, I will be selling a wide array of dairy products to dairies in my county and as far north as I want to go.  Pretty amazing.  It is a husband and wife team that own this company, and they are such wonderful people.  I am really excited to be working with them.  I think know it's a great career choice.


We went to Chris's parent's place the other night, which has 20 acres that Chris farms, and we Chris tested the sugar levels in the grapes.  I didn't really do much besides follow behind him and ask questions...you know, the usual.  :)  When he was done picking various grapes, he started checking for other stuff and that is when I kind of tuned out.  Not that he isn't overly entertaining, but I noticed a killer sunset happening and wanted to catch it.  Again...only with my iPhone camera.  I really should start carrying my good camera around more often.  But the good thing about using my phone, I have an an app called Instagram and it is amazing thing for these 'smart' phones.  I used two different filters, but they each turned out pretty cool.

Harvest starts this week!! The fields are disced and Chris still needs to terrace before it is fully ready.  I will document that and tell and show you what that's all about.  Get excited!

Hope you all have a fabulous week.  I'll be back before the week is over because we will start picking at the end of the week.  So much to blog about over the next few months!  Then the first and second week of October, we will move into our county fair time.  As you can see, this is a busy time of year for us!

Info as promised

Well, a few posts ago I promised I would show you...all 3 of you that read this... :) how to test sugar in grapes to test their readiness for harvest.  Well, guess what we did tonight.  Tested 2 of the 3 properties.  Was testing for sugar anything like I thought it was?...no.  Simple, yes but a totally different process than I thought.  I thought it was some sort of thing that you poked into a grape and tested it's sugar, but boy did I assume wrong.  But I'm glad I finally learned the right way.

So here goes. (I apologize in advance for the quality of the pictures.  I hardly ever carry my good camera with me, so my phone has do all the work.  With bad lighting pictures are way sub-par)

First, you start with the refractometer.  

Pretty fancy looking, huh?  Nothing like I had expected.

Now, when testing sugar, you don't want to test your boarder rows because it won't give you an accurate reading.  Rule of thumb is to go 10 rows in from the edge and then 10 vines in from the beginning of the row.  Chris wanted an average, so he walked down a row about 8 rows in and selected 1-2 grapes from several bunches in one row.  Picking smaller ones, larger ones, lighter green & darker green.  He put them in a baggie and smashed them up, making them into a mush with plenty of juice.

Next step...

See the baggie is Chris's left had?  He is pouring a small amount of juice onto that slanted glass plate, the part that is pointing towards the camera, on the bottom.  Once the glass plate is covered in grape juice, he puts the plastic flap down and the reading begins.  

The refractometer kind of reminds me of a kaleidoscope.  You know how you look through one end of it and point it at the light and see all those cool shapes and colors.  Well, this was far from seeing cool shapes and colors, but I still love learning about how all of this is done.  You look through the eyepiece on the other end and there is a vertical line with a bunch of numbers on it.  Ranging from zero to maybe 40 or so, maybe higher, I didn't pay that close of attention.  

ANYWAYS, you look through it like this...

and you see something that is similar to this

Source is here

See the faint shaded area at the top?  You read where the bottom of that hits, so this one is reading a  24 1/2 to 25.   At our home place tonight, the reading was right at 19.  Which is higher than Chris was expecting, so that is a great thing!  When you pick, you want the sugar to average around 22 or a little above, so we don't have very much farther to go.  He is thinking about another 10 days or so, then I can show you the picking and drying process.  I know, you can hardly contain your excitement.

Well, I told you that as soon as I learned how to do this, I would show you.  I hope you learned something new today, just like I did.

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Garden Overload

Well, I think our summer garden is close to being over.  We've had an absolute overload of spurge of that has take over.  I think when you pull out one plant, a bajillion more pop up in its place.  Darn them!  AND, those dang squirrels have killed it as well.  For the winter garden, we will have to figure out something to take care of those little buggers.  Chris went out one day a few weeks ago to water it and noticed a small hole.  Well, if anyone knows how squirrels work, they burrow and dig out big GINORMOUS tunnels underground.  Once the water started flowing down that row, there was no turning back now.  The hole swallowed all the water and it just got bigger and bigger and bigger.  We normally just turn the water on and go out about an hour later and turn it off.  Well, after an hour or so, none of the garden had been watered, because of this squirrel hole.  Chris told me about it, I didn't believe him.  The next morning we went out there so he could show me how big it was.  He was able to step into the hole and he was in above his knee before his foot touched the bottom.

This is the hole a few days after we discovered it.  It has now eaten that entire tomato plant that is in the picture as well as a jalapeno plant that is in the next row over.  Pretty much can't water those rows because the hole just keeps getting bigger.  

Chris said we are going to have to bring a front loader in with a bucket full of dirt because if you try and disc it before filling it in, the tractor will get stuck in the hole.  That would pretty much be the opposite of awesome.

However, there are some plants that are still producing, like the 4 Roma tomato plants and the squash plants.  The squash is pretty much done, and boy let me tell you...we have eaten A LOT of squash this summer.  I think I've made at least 2 batches of Zucchini bread and I think we were having squash with our dinner maybe 4 nights/week.  Lots of squash my friends, lots.  

However, we got tired of eating it all the time, so I heard from a friend that you can grate it and freeze it for baking with later.  Great idea, especially since we have one of those handy dandy food saver machines that sucks all the air out of the bags and seals them shut.  

Chris picked the squash last of the squash...

Just some small ones :)

And a few days ago I picked just a couple of our Romas that were ripe.

Just a few.

My goal was to do some canning this summer.  Well I never got around to buying the right equipment, and it makes me really nervous to can tomatoes, so...why not freeze them??  So, since I don't have a job anymore (well, until next week :)  Yes, it took me a day and half, but more on that in another post.  It's gonna be pretty amazing, I think) I have had time to preserve some of our summer garden to be used for later.  When we aren't so tired of eating the same thing over and over again.  

Well, 2 days ago, I grated those zucchini you saw in the picture above (not the crook neck, not sure if you can use those to bake with).  I ended up with 12 cups...holy crap.  That's a lot of squash.  I broke them up into 2 cup packages, because that's what the zucchini bread recipe calls for and that's an easy number to remember if I want to use it for something else.  Vacuumed sealed it with one of these and they are now residing in the freezer until a later date.

I only grated my thumb once.  It still hurts.

And remember those tomatoes above?  Those were just the ripe ones for that day.  There are LOTS more to be picked over the next couple of weeks.

Well, today I blanched them, took the skins off, sealed them up and threw them in the freezer.  

There is a lot of pasta sauce and salsa to be made with these tomatoes!

I think I will look back and be glad that I did all the work to preserve these fruits and veggies instead of just tossing them.  It will be nice to have zucchini bread in November and fresh salsa in December.  

If you want fresh tomatoes or vacuumed sealed ones, let me know...we are going to have enough to almost fill our freezer.  I'm not even joking.

Change in DMO

Well, our lives have changed a lot in the past 3 days.  I got laid off from from job on Friday.  Most of you will have the initial reaction of feeling sorry for me, but really it is a huge blessing.  Without going into too much detail, the situation at my work was way more stress and heartache than it was worth.  Yes, the pay was nice, and that is the biggest downfall about this....we now have to stick to a budget.  However, allowing me the freedom of not getting yelled at every day for whatever problem he was having that day, makes up for the lack of a steady paycheck.  I now have some time to get the house arranged the way I want it and to just relax from the stress that I have been put under for the past 19 months.  NINETEEN MONTHS I have put up with him.  I'm kind of proud of myself for not giving up.  I finally got him to tell me that it really comes down to him having to make cuts because he is running the business on borrowed money.  He just can't afford me.  I was the one and only bookkeeper in this company.  I kept track of all the income, the bills, I billed all our clients, kept track of all the commission that needed to be paid out to all our sales people and I ran all the payroll.  Makes sense to me that the first cut that is made is the one that handles all the bookkeeping.  But that's just him. his decisions don't make sense.  After years of screwing clients out of money and making other people fix the problems he has created, it will come back to bite him in the rear-end.  Eventually.  

For the people that still work there.  I have become friends with them.  They are all great people, and I feel that everyone that works for this man is a saint.  We are thankful for the jobs that he has given us, however to be treated like crap on the bottom of his shoe, day in and day out, is not worth a million dollars.  

I walked away with no hard feelings.  He is who he his and it will never change.  It was 19 months of working for a bipolor, multi personality man that has no idea how to run a business.  It is really unfortunate because there are dozens of clients that are suffering because he is too money hungry to even care that what he is doing to so way beyond wrong.  I'm glad my name is not associated with his business any longer.  I wish everyone else there the best of luck, and I hope you continue to get paid.

When God closes a window, he opens a yet much bigger door!   

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