Rain, rain, don’t go away

We finally received some much-needed precipitation yesterday and last night, about two-thirds of an inch in total. And wouldn’t you know that it just took getting the 1,000-gallon water tank out of storage, filled, and pulled out into the hopyard yesterday to finally get it to start raining! Check out the Cheese City Beer Company Facebook page for more pictures taken minutes before the downpour.

Throughout the growing season last year, we received several timely rains that really helped to establish all of the newly-planted hops and get everything off to a great start. But with a consensus of “long-term” weather predictions calling for a hot and dry summer this year, I’ve started to revisit some plans to install a gravity-fed irrigation system in the hopyard, thus making the watering process more uniform and efficient.

Tillering barley

The barley is now into the “tillering” stage due to the additional shoots that have grown from the original stem that initially emerged from the ground. These additional stems (“tillers”) also have their own grass leaflets and grow outward at a slight angle from the original stem. Check out the Cheese City Beer Facebook page for an additional picture where multiple tillers originating from a single seed can be identified, as well as another picture of the lush green barley field that has been helped along by this recent heat. Now we just need some rain!

Training hop bines

After the pieces of twine are tied directly above each hop plant, it is now time to train the hop bines (yes they are called bines with a “b” instead of vines with a “v”) onto the twine. This is all done by hand and is one of the several labor-intensive tasks involved with growing hops. To do so, I will choose the most productive-looking 3-5 bines (there are 3 in the picture above) and manually wrap each one after another around the twine in a clockwise direction. It is important that they are wound clockwise in the northern hemisphere so they can follow the sun as they grow skyward. If they are wound counterclockwise, as is done in the southern hemisphere, they will unravel themselves from the twine from which they were trained.

Stringin’ hops

This past winter I cut 1,700 pieces of baler twine measuring 20 feet long each in order use in the hopyard this year (that’s almost six and a half miles worth). By standing on the platform on the hay rack wagon, I can tie one end of each piece of twine to the top cable directly above each hop plant as my dad drives a tractor pulling the wagon up and down the rows. This involves a lot of starting and stopping as you can imagine. After I’ve tied around one or two hundred pieces on the top cables, I’ll then go through and tie the other end of the piece of twine to the bottom wire located between the poles about a foot off the ground.