Two years ago we had a 30′ x 72′ high tunnel built, with a wooden kickboard and heavy chicken wire where the sides roll up to keep it secure. My husband planted 54 grapevines in a range of carefully selected varieties. They grew rapidly in the temperate plant-friendly enclosure, safe from pests and predators. No spraying, no special treatments needed; just some water and attention. Last summer brought weeks of sweet harvest, but since it was our first yield it was only enough to share with friends and family while giving us plenty of juice and jelly to can.
The high tunnel was a big investment and we hoped it would start paying off this year. We had reasons to be optimistic with plants 6 to 9 feet tall, healthy and brimming with grapes. Well, I should say they WERE brimming with grapes.
Something got into the enclosure a few nights ago. My husband mowed between the rows Friday, checked the plants on Sunday. He went in on Wednesday to find the place devastated — plants bent, limbs broken, and nearly every ripe grape gone. Some enterprising creatures, probably raccoons, bent the chicken wire to gain access and gorged themselves a few nights in a row.
My husband wasn’t pleased, but he wasn’t all that upset either. He’s got some perspective.
A few weeks ago he was complaining of numbness in his fingers. He figured it was some version of carpal tunnel syndrome. It came and went, so he tried to avoid overworking that hand. But one afternoon the numbness traveled up his arm, even reached his mouth. I took him to our local small town hospital. All his tests came back normal showing no cardiac problems, no infection, until the imaging test of his brain. It showed a brain bleed, a stroke. Not long after he was on a helicopter, being life-flighted to the Cleveland Clinic.
My 45 minute drive to join him there was the longest drive of my life. Seeing him conscious and able to speak when I arrived was a blessed relief. He spent two days in neuro ICU where they determined he’d actually had not one but two small strokes. He’s home now, with no more impairment than some lingering numbness. Many specialist visits, tests, and medical bills later it seems he’s going to be absolutely fine.
This week he’s securing the high tunnel with welded wire fencing (1/2″ x 1″ openings) around the sides. It should protect the few grapes left. We’re already grateful.