Oak barrels and oak cubes, staves, dominos, etc.
Once you get used to the process of keeping your barrels well maintained it is fairly simple to keep them conditioned and well cared for. I've found that after four to five years the barrels stop infusing any character, and are good for neutral storage. This is when I add barrel alternatives like staves and such.
I love oak cubes as well. The cubes are convinient, inexpensive and easy to deal with. The biggest factor is space saving vs barrels.
Anyway, back to cubes. I sink my cubes in the primary and weight them to keep them under the cap in a fine mesh sack with some sterilized marbles. When I rack, I go ahead and give them some fresh cubes, but I go ahead and let these guys float free. I also mix the oak cubes by toast and type. That is I'll mix two ounces of med toast plus American Oak with two ounces of Heavy toast French oak and I like the results I get.
Here's a link to an article in Wine Business Monthly that discusses the space issue and the large reduction forecast in oak barrel storage for some major wineries.
http://www.winebusiness.com/html/Monthl ... taId=38023
Mead . . . it's what's for dinner!