Homemade hops equipment

This is the small square hay bale rack wagon my dad and I repurposed into a hopyard cabling/stringing/harvesting piece of equipment last year. By bolting and welding on a platform, with a floor at 13 feet high off the ground, we’re able to pull it up and down the rows of hops to accomplish several tasks at the height of the upper cables. Each of the hopyard poles are 18 feet high off the ground with a cable strung north and south along each row.

Blades of barley

The Cheese City Beer barley has emerged and has been up for a few days now. This picture was taken early in the morning so you can still see the droplets of dew on the tips of several of the blades. At this point it basically looks like blades of grass that are growing in evenly-spaced rows. This type of barley is referred to as 2-row barley. 2-row barley is the most popular type of malting barley and I’ll be discussing this in more detail in future posts. Check out the Cheese City Beer Facebook page for a few more pictures.

Green growth

The plant on the left is the same one from the picture that I posted on April 13th. You can see that the pinkish shoots are now entirely green and the tallest have grown to about 10 inches. I used the straw from my barley last year to mulch over all of the hop plants for insulation during the winter as well as future moisture retention and weed control. The plants in each row are spaced three feet apart from each other and there are 1,700 plants in total (i.e., 17 rows with 100 plants in each).

Grain in the ground

Several days with temperatures in the 70’s and a light breeze finally dried out the soil enough to plant the barley this past weekend. In total, I planted 15 acres of barley using the seed that I saved from the barley that I grew and harvested last year. This year’s crop was planted at an average of 85 pounds of seed per acre using the grain drill pictured above. I also planted a quarter of an acre of hulless oats (i.e., oat kernels that allow for the inedible protective outer shell or seed coating called the hull or husk to easily be removed after harvest).

Spring has sprung

And they’re off! This season’s hop shoots have emerged and started their ascension upward. You can see all the little pinkish shoots, they kind of look like little asparagus spears, jutting out from the hop crown (i.e., the name of the plant’s permanent root stock in the ground that keeps sending out shoots year after year). Each of these are only about 2 inches right now, but they’ll be 20 feet before you know it.

2016 prep work

The early preparations for 2016 have started! Even though it is still too cold and wet to plant barley, I’ve been able to catch up on some necessary maintenance on the hopyard.

The honey locust and black locust trees (poles) and logs (anchors) have made it through their first winter. In order to add further structural support, I’ve ran cables from the top of the end-poles down to the anchors in the ground. This should help to stabilize the whole hopyard due to the increased weight of this year’s production. I’ve only completed this for the north end so far, but added the south end to my to-do list.