I know, I know…a communication failure is simply a failure to communicate.
Mea Culpa….but I have two damn good excuses.
1. Harvest, and the psychosis leading up to harvest (commonly know as “The rush to harvest”)
2. I had the best part of middle finger, on my left hand, amputated after losing a fistfight with a still-running chop saw. (Ouch!)
First, the harvest:
It came early this year…real early…and that was expected, what with no winter, early bud break, double pruning, outrageous shoot growth, viscous tip pruning/thinning/cluster dropping, blah, blah, blah.
Twelve of my closest disciples (oh for the love of dog, that was a Freudian slip…I meant to say “OUR FRIENDS”) arrived at dawn on Saturday, August 16. They began picking, and I continued my stressed out psychotic behavior from the previous month, running around taking down nets (the entire vineyard got netted this year to fend off birds). Sal and I had already harvested and frozen the Viognier (it came ripe two weeks earlier). The total for the day was enormous, and that despite the dropping of bunches, leaf pulling and severe pruning throughout June and July. We had 3000 pounds of fruit. I estimated that my daughter, Anne, and I dropped (yes, to the ground) an additional 1800 pounds of fruit in June and July. (Dropping the selected ‘weak’ clusters gives the plant the ability to sustain the bigger, better bunches through the rest of the growing season….kinda like not being picked for choose-up teams on the playground…some make it, some don’t.)
The clusters were trimmed, cleaned of the worst dirt and muck, and we added the thawed Viognier bunches, and stored all of it in 32 gallon barrels in the underground wine room for three days. That brought the temperature of the clusters down to 62 degrees.
But, I am getting ahead of myself…after the harvest we proceeded to eat and be merry. Lunch was oh-so-good, and Sal outdid herself again. Thanks Sal! I was able to get the equipment cleaned within a day or so; then packed it away.
After that cold storage (called a cold soak among winos), We brought the grapes up to 72 degrees (great for the start of fermentation) and did the crushing/de-stemming (thanks Anne for the help!)…let the ‘must’ (They gots terms for everything in dis hobby!) sit for another day, and then inoculated it with yeast. This year I used two different yeasts, splitting the harvest roughly 40-60 between the two yeasts. This ‘primary’ fermentation was finished in seven days, so I used that time to clean and scrub my barrels (most in their third year of use…a few in their second year of use…all stored since bottling of last year’s wine, filled with water). The must got bladder pressed (removes the skins and seeds) and put in the now sparkling clean (I hope!) barrels. I pitched bacteria for the malo-lactic (secondary) fermentation in those barrels, set all the barrels with new airlocks, and cooled down the wine room to 62 degrees.
I have to tell you, putting all that wine into barrels, placing them in a dark, cold, wet room and closing the door…well, it’s a surreal experience. I find myself reliving all of the mistakes of parenthood and wondering if that very same technique might not have resulted in better children.
Now, the Chop Saw Incident
Saturday morning, September 6…Sal heads off to the manicurist for her bi-weekly rumor session, er, ah, “appointment”. I proceed to try to finish off the mahogany trim on the big deck (I built two of them this summer….a big one and a little one!) Cup of coffee in hand, everything is going swimmingly, until I forget that the blade is still running and try to extract a piece of mahogany a few seconds too early. Oopsie…or rather…”whackata-whackata-whackata…”, the middle finger of my left hand is no more….and I get a one way ticket into the house of pain (kinda like racing your bike, but, well, not.) I call Sal, but her cell phone is off, I call the manicurist, but her cellphone is disconnected, I call the salon, and am put on hold. I finally get through and am told, “Can’t this wait?..she is doing something important, and besides, I don’t even know if she is here now…she might have left.” I know, it didn’t make sense to me either….there must be some code ring/oath/secret club thang going on in those places! I give the woman on the phone my kindest regards, but ask if she would “pretty-please” try to find my lovely princess. Sal does get to the phone and I tell her, calmly, that because of the great pain (and the ingestion of enough painkillers to choke Babar, I think it best NOT to try to drive myself to the ER.
Sal arrives, shovels me into the car, and speeds off to Sharp Grossmont. (aside… despite horn honking, emergency lights flashing, and bright lights, hardly anyone moves out of the way). We get to the ER, and the guy behind the desk (after the weapons check security screeing) points “Thataway”.
Long story short, I get a super good (male) trauma ER nurse, a cool ER doc, who gives me morphine (I know, I am NOT supposed to like it THAT much!). The doc takes photos of the wound, carefully wrapping and unwrapping the hand, and I get scheduled for surgery (the hand surgeon is 8+ months pregnant, and happens to be the wife of the ER doc). She is ultra cool and looks at my hand like we used to look at grasshoppers in 2nd grade science class. I wake up that evening in the post-op room, clear out the cobwebs, and Sal drives me home. Another day in the life.
Funny stuff that has happened since:
Ghost pains/feelings – Occasionally, the fingernail, or tip of the middle finger (non-existent) hurts or itches. Weird.
I have used this incident to learn valuable lessons, the greatest of which is to try to do without pain meds during recovery, plus ‘borrow’ all the pain meds your friends have stashed, so that, gleefully, you can hoard, and then, count, all the different vials you have in your medicine cabinet, much like Scrooge McDuck in that goofy Mickey Mouse “A Christmas Carol” short.
Sal secretly enlisted my daughter Anne in a pact to rat on me (inform Jan) if Anne ever sees me using power tools unsupervised. Less than a week after the accident, Anne is texting Sal about my failure to abide by agreed upon usage of power tools. Anne, however, lets the cat out of the bag, and tells me about the plan, after busting my chops pretty good. Sal would be proud! I make some lame-ass excuse up about how ‘battery operated’ tools are not really ‘power tools’ and try to ignore the violation, which is impossible, because, well, you know, I was caught red-handed, and Sal knows, and ….blah, blah, blah.
I get my ‘share’ of the bill from the hospital (after tax manipulations, non-profit shenanigans, and reductions in cost by the hospital). Our insurance company has been billed, or paid. In the spirit of good consumerism, I call up the Sharp Grossmont billing department to let them know I got the bill and will be cutting them a check. Before I get that far, though, the guy on the phone offers to reduce the bill by 25% if I pay “today”. so I do…I don’t have to profess poverty, I don’t have to complain..all I did was call. Remember that tactic, campers!
Saturday morning barrel ‘tastings’ are now fully begun. Weekend life has never been better. Ta Ta for now! I promise to post more frequently as the convalescence lengthens.