Today is the day a bounty of fragrant hope cones, pregnant with bitter/spicy deliciousness are being harvested.
As I stand, shaded by the girthy monstrous trellises, heavy under the weight of opportunity and flavour, I marvel at how magnificent it is to be a hop farmer. My tastebuds dance with anticipation of the brews that we soon be extracting from these magnificent bines.
Then I woke up…
So. Turns out that there are a couple of very important ingredients to growing hops, both of which I didn’t pay enough attention to:
Water and time.
As I mentioned in my last post, the arrival of our little legend, Asher McDonald, into the world during November sucked up almost all our time over Summer. Leaving me to sweat through dozens of 40 degree days… I was sweating for 2 reasons. 1. It was fcking hot and 2. I was imagining my hop family dying of thirst.
In my absence, Roger and our tenant in the house, Sheen, did their best to keep the plants alive through the use of a garden hose… alas, it wasn’t enough and we lost about 30% of them to the heat.
Or, another way to put it – 70% of them survived!
Of the 40ish surviving plants, only 3 of the Mt Hood bines yielded cones, which isn’t the end of the world considering we weren’t expecting a yield from the first year.
Another positive is that the harvesting was done in about 25mins.
Here’s me lowering the hops down to the old man through the use of my soon-to-be-patented hop cable tensioning contraption.
As I look at other hop farmers Facebook posts, with their army of workers picking day and night to harvest their bounty, I debate whether or not to embarrass myself by showing the size of my half-filled bucket.
Next year it’ll be different.
What I learned from my first year as a hop farmer:
- Hops are heartier than I thought. It takes a fair amount of negligence to kill them.
- I should have installed irrigation at the start.
- I should have used a few tonnes of woodchips to mulch the beds, this would have retained water and subdued the weeds