Unexpected challenges in the vineyard
Winter is a respite when the vigneron forgets problems of the past and begins to dream again of things green and growing.
I always look forward to winter after our challenging County growing seasons. Crazy weather, hard earth and cranky equipment are par-de-cours in running a Prince Edward County vineyard. It’s a career for both dreamers and masochists!
With the busy holiday season behind us I was ready to recuperate from holiday excesses. I planned to spend the quiet winter months making wine and sharing it with restauranteurs who might like to feature a nice County pinot or chard on their wine lists. In the quiet season, there is still a long list of things to do, including the ever-present pressure of generating enough cash flow to keep the lights on in the winery and contribute a small amount to the lives of our busy family. Even so, with the vineyard asleep for the winter, there would be more personal time.
For me, nothing gives more clarity than a peaceful jog through a winter wonderland. So I strapped on my shoes and lumbered down the snow-covered path to our lane.
Almost immediately — disaster. My left foot landed in a ice-filled pothole, hidden by the snow. My leg slid violiently outwards, with all my weight and speed behind it. I crashed onto the gravel with a painful thud. I thought I only suffered some bruises until I looked at my left foot, which was unusually askew. “Oh no,” I said softly to myself.
A trip to Picton Hospital to reset my ankle in a cast; surgery in Belleville to pin multiple fractures together again with plates and screws; back to our winery home with Tylenol and narcotics. And there I sit with my leg elevated, contemplating my relative helplessness. My daughter Ellie and my wife Micheline are nursing me along and wonderful friends have offered help with whatever I needed.
There could have been no better timing for an ankle break. It takes about 4 months to recover nearly completely, which will put us near mid-May. Vineyard work starts mid-April, but tractor driving at that point will be possible wearing a walking cast.
Any other time of year and I would have had to hire at least two people to cover the things that I can’t do any more.
Because of our medical system I can expect a full recovery. In another epoch or even another country in current times, I might have been crippled for life.
Positive thinking aside, this is really humbling, even a bit depressing. A random occurrence can come out of nowhere and hobble one’s dreams.
Now I’m reliant on other people. I do need to hire help to finish my wines because I can’t safely lift a case of wine, crawl up a ladder or lift up a lid from a tank. Moving a pallet or barrel is out of the question, unless I am using the forklift. I love my family and friends but I’ve always valued being independent and highly capable, so it’s a big change.
Perhaps that is a blessing too — entrepreneurs struggle with delegating tasks, trying to do everything themselves. I also welcome the humility. It keeps things real.
So breaking an ankle brings an unexpected challenge for our tiny winery business and a whole new chapter in personal development.