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Sarah O'Herron
August 18, 2020 | Sarah O'Herron

Summer Newsletter 2020

Dear Friends,

We are often asked by people what we wish we knew before we started a vineyard and winery, and our immediate answer is always some variation on, “I wish I were a better mechanic.”  This is not the romantic answer that the questioner tends to be hoping for and we are often met with a quizzical look and a totally different question.  At the risk of seeming to whinge about a job that I truly do love, and is never, ever, ever boring, let me recount a bit of a conversation that I had with Ed this morning:

Ed: Hiya, how’s it going?

Sarah:  Fine here.  You were gone early this morning, how is the farm?

Ed:  Whew!  Typical morning of disasters – don’t worry – nothing dire and all under control, but…

Sarah:  Oh, no!  What’s going on?

{Brief background interlude:  We need to spray the vineyard today to protect against potential fungus.  We try to spray as little as possible and with the most gentle products we can use, so we push the window between sprays as long as we can.  There are thunderstorms in the forecast for this afternoon, so it is pretty crucial to our operation that we get the spray finished soon.  Very soon.}

Ed:  The new tractor is acting up again.  Yes, the one that we just got back from the dealer.  Something is going on so it isn’t giving enough power to run the sprayer.  We had to pull the de-leafer off the other tractor so we cold use it to spray.  That was a task unto itself.

{Second brief background interlude: We have just purchased a new leaf remover which will help us to remove the leaves from in front of the fruiting area of the vine.  Doing this opens the fruit to the sun so that it will ripen better and better sun exposure reduces the risk of the fruit being damaged by diseases.  The timing of this is less crucial.  It is a matter of days rather than hours, but still very high on the To Do list to get this piece of equipment going.}

Sarah: Yikes!  What happened?

Ed: We could not get the hose from the de-leafer off the tractor.  In fact, we eventually had to cut the hose. 

{Third brief interlude:  This piece of equipment sits on the front of the tractor but is powered from the back with compressed air that runs through a giant hose across the top of the tractor cab.  The hose in question is 4 inches indiameter and made of reinforced rubber.  Cutting it is no small feat.  But, we need that tractor freed up to spray and soon.  Did I mention that one of the things that we spray most, and is in the mix for today is sulfur?  Sulfur is a great fungicide – it is organic, has no risks of developing resistance and is very effective.  Its one downside is that it comes in a powdered form, which loooves to clog up sprayers.  If the mixer on the sprayer is not kept running for any significant length of time the sulfur will sink to the bottom of the tank and it is basically a hot mess. So the clock is ticking...}

Ed: Four guys were pulling as hard as they could, but no dice.  I called the dealer and they said, “Oh, yeah, that hose has so much pressure on it, that it has to be super tight, so we get this problem a lot.  Your best bet is to jam a screwdriver into the connection and try to wiggle it around the edges before you try to remove it.”  Would spraying the connection with Pam work?  Hooking the hose up to another piece of equipment to help pull?  Dealer: “Worth a shot…”  So, we just need to fix that hose end so we are ready to go once we get the tractor running well again.

Sarah: But the spray is going fine now?

Ed:  Yes, but I forgot to mention that once we got it rolling, it was only working on one side.  We had to take it all apart to try to hunt down the clog and could not find anything wrong.  Eventually, we found a ball bearing clogging one of the outlet hoses…

Sarah:  A ball bearing?  What is a ball bearing doing in a spray hose?  From where?

Ed:  Yeah…we have no idea.  We took apart the other side as well and there was nothing like that.  We can’t find anywhere that is missing a ball bearing, and it seems to be working now, so…

Sarah:  Fair enough.  Have you figured out what is wrong with the first tractor? 

Ed:  We spoke with the dealer.  Apparently there is some kind of switch/setting that limits the power to the PTO {the part of the tractor that sends power to equipment}, but they don’t know how it got turned on and they don’t know how to turn it off again.  They are sending a tech out to see if they can sort it out.  If they can sort it out, we can give the de-leafer another shot… At this point, I glance at the clock as I am putting my coffee in the microwave to reheat.  It’s 9:24. Here’s hoping that your mornings have fewer looming storm clouds, broken hoses and mystery ball bearings.  But at the end of the day, when we get to raise a glass, it is all worth it!  (Especially on the days that Ed deals with the glitches…)


Sarah (and Ed)


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