Monday, August 23, 2010

Hops Cones are Here!

After lots of tlc, our Nugget variety is finally producing cones.

Most of the hops plants were significantly stunted by the bug infestation. They also had a late start, so our hopes of having the bines climb to the top of the 20 ft. strings is not going to happen this year.

But it does appear as though we are going to have some really nice cones to harvest off of at least three of our Nugget plants. So far this has been a great learning experience for us and we sure have attracted lots of interest from friends and family.

Yucky Bugs!

It's just one struggle after another.

Just after the first flowers appeared on our Nugget variety...(the flowers are the little yellow pom pom shapes you can see if you look closely)

These nasty crawly things took over our plants.
I sprayed the plants several times with Boneem (an organic pesticide) to kill them, but nothing seems to work!

Our poor plants are curling up...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hot dry weather, thirsty plants

July 15, 2010 With no measurable rainfall in over 2 weeks, it was time to install an irrigation system for our plants. The closest running water source is half a mile away, leaving us no choice but to haul water out to the plot.

But that is not enough. While we are absent on the weekdays, the hops still need water to meet their growing needs.

Howard designed a drip irrigation system using an old plastic barrel and some irrigation hoses from our local building supplier.

The tank will supply water to the plants for several days. Woody the one eyed owl now has a place to perch as well. He is helping to keep the pesky birds away from the tender new growth on the ends of the hops bines.

The little yellow fluff ball at the center of this picture is the beginnings of a hop flower!

A New Bridge to the Hops Meadow!

July 15, 2010 Our "trusty" old bridge now lays in a heap 10 yds downstream from its original location.

In its place we now have 2 culverts, 24 inches wide by 20 feet long and 50 yds of concrete and gravel.

And a much more reliable and safe crossing to the hops plot. Yay! The Ford and Deutz tractors will now be able to go to work for us.

More Visitors to the Hops Plot

July 8, 2010
It is a good thing that we have cages around the hops plants. This cute little fawn seem to be looking for something new and interesting for dessert.

And next it invited its twin to help explore this tasty new delicacy.
Mom says, "Come along now, don't waste your time."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

4 Men, a 4 Wheeler, 4 Cheerleaders, and 2 Dogs

July 4, 2010: While we all should have been picnicking and swimming on a hot holiday afternoon, we instead took another tackle at raising the remaining 2 hops poles. Our friends, Jeff, Gerry and Diana, and Bret and Sara, and our daughter Laura graciously offered their hard work and support.

Some major crimping going on here in preparation for the raising....

Bret is twisting one of the guy wire anchors into the hard clay.
Diana, Sara, Laura and I served water and beer and chips for the occasion.

Molly and Gina supervised.

Time to operate the winch on the 4 wheeler.

Jeff is the winch operator and owner of this wonderful machine.

Up it Goes!
Higher and Higher!

almost there...

Now to bolt it in place...
Jerry works with speed and determination.

Yay!!! Three poles standing!

Howard likes being up high. Here he makes some final adjustments on the cables.
Okay you little hops plants. We have given you almost everything you need to grow tall and produce cones. Next week you will receive an irrigation system. For now, grow tall!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

3 People, 1 Dog and one very tall task

June 13, 2010

Today is the day. The 21 foot tall posts will become vertical. Howard has a crew consisting of 2 small unburly women and a dog. What are the odds of actually making this happen today? At least the weather is good, but the mosquitoes are awful.

After a morning of careful measuring, attachment and crimping of cables....

One of the poles finally went up. Howard pushed up on one end of the top cross beam while Laura and I pulled on a line attached to the other end of the top cross beam. It was kind of scary for a few moments as the heavy beam teetered back and forth as it reached the near vertical position.

Once the pivoting piece was bolted in place I could relax and take a couple of pictures while Howard secured the lines holding the pole in place.

One final task was to climb to the top of the post and adjust the cables and release the hoisting beam tied to the end of the cross beam. Luckily there wasn't any wind as I really don't think that my holding the cable was doing any good at this point.

It was getting late in the afternoon, we were tired and we had a 3.5 hour drive ahead of us. The remaining 2 poles are going to have to wait until our next visit. Time to pack things up.

Good bye hops meadow. See you in two weeks.....

Unwanted Guests!

June 12, 2010

Upon making an unannounced entrance to the hops meadow, we encountered some uninvited guests.

Apparently, hops are considered a delicacy by the deer residing on our farm, since there is plenty of corn and greenery to eat.

Since firearms season is still 5 months away, we needed to apply a barrier method to keep the deer out of the hops.

I constructed 4 ft tall cages to place over the hops. My daughter, Laura helped although she is not pictured here.

Gina (our Black lab) supervised.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Establishing the Trellis, Chapter 1

This post is wordy, but needs to be here so that we may look back and appreciate the hardships we encountered along the way.

May 29, 2010 Howard purchased lumber and more hardware to construct three 16 foot tall poles for our test row of hops plants. The local lumber yard did not carry beams this long, so the beams were constructed in 2 sections, bolted together. The poles needed to be sunk into the ground to a depth of at least 3 ft., so the total lengths of the poles are 19 ft.
A shorter beam was attached horizontally to the top of each pole to allow two separate cables to run the length of the hops plot. There would be strings extending from these cables to the ground next to each hops hill. This would allow for the adequate aeration of the vines during the growing season.

May 30, 2010 Howard completed construction of the poles at our farm yard. Having access to electricity and cold beverages helped expedite this task. Especially since it was 90 degree weather!

May 31, 2010 Upon transporting the poles back to the plot to be erected, Howard encountered a mysterious visitor. A very large turtle (at least a foot long shell) had planted itself in a hole close to our Hallertauer hops. We were wondering what kind of creature was making strange "hole like" tracks in our strip of worked up soil. It seems the turtle was appreciative of the loose dry soil as a place to lay its eggs. We had no idea that turtles this big resided on our farm. We are continuously amazed at the endless variety of animal species who choose to make their homes on our farm.

Anyways, this was the beginning of a very frustrating day.


After finally getting our old Deutz tractor started and fixing its flat tire, Howard managed to hitch up the old post hole digger and head out to the hops plot to dig the holes for the mighty poles. I drove out ahead of him and waited. When he finally arrived, he had a funny look on his face and stated, "the bridge made a strange sound as I drove over it". I shrugged my shoulders and said, "let's get going here"

The three holes were dug with ease with the big old equipment. Thank goodness we didn't have to dig these holes by hand. One foot beneath the topsoil, rested the purest clay I have seen since visiting a pottery studio. I made a couple of clay marbles just for fun.

It was time to go up to the house for lunch. I left ahead of Howard and drove around the apple tree to the bridge and stopped the truck dead in its tracks. The tired old bridge was no longer horizontal. It rested at at least a 20 degree angle in front of me. Perhaps if I floored the accelerator I would cross the bridge and launch the truck 10 ft into the air.

Howard was able to straighten the bridge back out with some beams he had stored at his nearby deer camp settlement and the truck barely crossed the unstable bridge. The tractor was definitely marooned back on the meadow for now.

The gracious neighbor behind our farm allowed Howard to drive the tractor over his land to the next road south (Hansen) of our farm. It was then a three mile drive via roads to get the tractor back to its shed.
That was enough hops farming for one weekend. We watered our baby hops plants, mulched them and bid them farewell for the week.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A trip to the Big Hops Farms

With the rhizomes planted and nothing better to do while waiting for the hops plants to sprout, we left Michigan for a week of family vacationing in the Pacific Northwest. We attempted to climb to the rim of Mt. St. Helens on the eve of the 30 year anniversary of it's eruption.

Then we did some hiking in Mt. Rainier National Park.

Then we visited the Haystack Rocks coastal region of Oregon.

Then finally...we visited two major hops farms south of Portland Oregon.
Goschie Farms, Near Silverton Oregon
Rogue Farms, near Independence Oregon

We studied the trellising systems and irrigation systems they had established. We took lots of pictures and scribbled lots of notes and measurements. We also noted that the hops plants in those fields were at least a month ahead of ours in size and growth.

Now back to Michigan to check on our baby hops plants (hopefully) and to set up a trellis system for our first year plot.