Year Two: SPRING: The hop yard is bustling with action. Glowing green leaves start to show their faces to the sun, along side tender grasses. No one prepared me for weeding the hop yard. Not surprising, when you have righteous soil, (high potassium, but everything else is well balanced) with a little added compost, that you also have righteous grasses.
After the holidays, our hop yard was glowing green with early spring vegetation. On our daily walks, we thought, "soon we will have get out here and weed"... Easy to put off when its 40 degrees outside. We should have weeded then.
Now its April, and the monstrous grasses and clover have taken over. They are now 5 to 6 inches high, and our little precious hop plants are burried, and shaded by their menacing presence.
Time to start operation, 'Free the Hops'. Did you know it takes approximately 5-6 hours per row to free the hops?
I didn't realize how long it would take, nor did I realize how old I was. Not until that first row was complete and I stood up, walking like a cave-woman, hobbling into the house to wash my mud caked hands, did i feel all of my 49 years. I needed to soak in a bath, and have someone massage my fingers that were stiff from blisters, and cuts. Now I know I could use gloves, but is that really getting down and dirty with the plants. I bitched and complained about weeding, but it has to be done, and there is no better way to really learn about the plants then to get down and dirty with them. Or so my husband told me while we worked side-by-side on the rows.
Hour after hour, pulling up grasses, and squishing grubs, freeing hop plants, my complaints simmered down. My body aches are still prevalent, but the thought of having hours to be quite with the land, to learn how the hops generate new shoots underground, that emerge long beautiful tendrils. I've started to appreciate weeding season. Don't get me wrong, I'd still prefer to do anything else other than weed, but I don't hate it. I kinda like it. I think Wendell Berry nailed it when he wrote,
"We have the world to live in on the condition that we will take good care of it. And to take good care of it, we have to know it. And to know it and to be willing to take care of it, we have to love it."
The Hop Yard
We are trying an experimental way to growing hops, the side trellis design. We retrieved old heart wood pine trunks that had been burned out by a fire in 2005, from a friends property, and drove those into the ground at an incline. We planted our plants closer than traditional hop yards, due to the short trellising feature of creating hedges of hops. We will see how this works out. All of the studies that we have read, which aren't many, seem to tell a story of moderate success growing hops in this fashion. We will keep you posted here on how well this works.