The forward to David Pye’s book, “The Nature and Art of Workmanship*” starts out thus:

“The phrase “workmanship of risk” means that at any moment whether through inattention, or inexperience, or accident, the workman is liable to ruin the job. It is in opposition to the “workmanship of certainty,” in which the quality of the result is predetermined and beyond the control of the operative.”

Over the weekend, I suffered the ruin of a job that surprised me. As I’ve written earlier, this was a poor apple year for us, and it took me a big chunk of a day to gather enough for the 6 gallons of cider I needed to make some cider wine. Once gathered, washed, and pressed, I added the necessary ingredients to the juice, let it sit the requisite 24 hours, added wine-maker’s yeast, and stood back to await the bubbles. They never came.

I have no idea what might have gone wrong with this batch. I sniffed the escaping gasses from the jugs many times each day and convinced myself that the magic was happening. By Monday morning, I threw in the towel, and added more campden tablets to kill off whatever yeast had drifted into the mixture, and intended to get some fresh yeast and try again. As I thought about it, I decided not to risk it, and dumped the whole thing down the drain. Having a sugary liquid sitting at room temperature for several days made me a bit nervous about what might have begun to grow in there, so I threw in the towel.

Hopefully the lesson was learned, and I’ll be more careful in the future with my yeast. Having this failure under my belt will make me a better vintner, I hope. David Pye’s statement about risk rang true to me as a result of this disappointment. It made me realize that I could spend all my time doing things I know exactly how to do, or I can try new things. My personality tends towards the later, so I guess I’d better learn how to accept some bad results now and then.

*The Nature and Art of Workmanship,” David Pye, Cambridge University Press, 1968

2 Responses to “Failure”

  1. Mel says:

    It seems that brewing of any sort is an exercise in experimentation. We had to dump a batch of beer earlier this year as well – a Scottish Wee Heavy that was turning out to be more of a ‘You boiled potatoes in this water, yah?’ We’d gotten the starches out of the grains rather than the sugars due to a fluctuation in temperature.

    Another batch had to be re-pitched with fresh yeast because the first vial had died in shipment (too hot outside). Thankfully beer is a little more forgiving than fruit when it comes to leaving it sit around. 🙂

    • admin0 says:

      It kind of makes you appreciate all the things that are done for us, and how helpless we would be if technology would regress a hundred years or so.

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