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  • Jamie Foley

Time as a Balm

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

August 21, 2020



We won't know until the afternoon that Steven has Salmonella poisoning, rather than the Covid-19 virus. Ryelyn, our daughter and her husband Chris, wear masks as a precaution, as well as our grandson Sheamus, Steven and me. We all sit under, what we call, the shed, a roof that slopes down as an extension to the eastern side of our two-story farm house. We have come here to wait out the rain, a break from setting bird netting in our two-acre vineyard.


Steven feels better this morning, although still achy and dehydrated. Sheamus and I took him to the hospital in Burlington yesterday afternoon for an IV and tests. He wasn't getting any better and I felt like I wasn't doing enough. What if he did have Covid-19? He hadn't been able to get out of bed for two days. Food and liquids raced through his system, as soon as he ingested anything. That morning, he fainted trying to get from the shower to the bed. He eventually had to crawl.


Whatever he had, Steven rarely gets sick and never to the point of not getting out of bed. We had lost two days of vineyard work and birds were gathering - yellow finches, robins, cardinals, Cedar Waxwings, and European Starlings, the latter in flocks. At first, they came in groups of three and four, sometimes lighting and darting singularly through the faded yellow and green vines. I watch the birds from upstairs windows in morning light. Today they congregate in large popular trees, twittering, lifting and landing, rising up in formation, 50, maybe 100 in number. I say to Steven, "look, look," as they take off into blue sky.


With Steven immobile, and Sheamus, a 10-year old, my only able-bodied helper at my side, we do our best to get the nets in the aisles, ready to hoist over each row of vines, but if we didn't get help soon or Steven, recovered, we were "dead in the water." It's times like these, I realize how much I rely on Steven and to a lesser degree, he on me, to keep the vineyard operations running, albeit, we have yet to sell one bottle of our wine. We still grow grapes, we still make wine, some day we will open our doors to the public.


It will take us another day and a half to finish setting the nets. My brother Pete comes to help, he spends the day and into the evening for dinner - fish tacos. He tells me how much he loves hanging out with us, working the property, breaking bread. We love having him with us too. Today when Ryelyn and Chris leave, they take three cabbages from our garden to make sauerkraut. It is their 12th wedding anniversary. They left us with bananas for Steven to eat - easy on his stomach. This is how it is on a farm. Family comes to help, and we get the job done.


I broke my foot this past winter and into the springtime all the pruning, tilling and spraying fell to Steven. He stayed ahead of these tasks and more: laying out a stairway, finishing off an outside porch, and ordering materials for a solar project. It is the second day of hauling nets out into the vineyard rows. We will take Steven to the hospital in the afternoon. Sheamus is trying to teach me how to swear without really swearing, like "son of a seahorse," and "mother flerkin," as I have now taken my shoes off and thrown them in frustration. I yell, "c**ksucker, motherf**ker" to the point that my Calm app on my cell phone has turned itself on, no joke. Sheamus asks, "what's that noise," as the sound of ocean waves peacefully lap shore from my back pocket.


I feel totally inadequate at the task at hand, nets of the wrong length pulled into errant rows, sweat running in rivulets down my face and onto my neck. We barely make a dent, and we're running out of time. (To be continued...)


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