It’s been an extremely busy past few weeks harvesting about 75% of my hop crop this year. Luckily, my parents graciously agreed to help me hand pick the hop cones off of the bines since my harvester is still not working as efficiently as I’d like it to. Since I now need to start harvesting my grapes, and start working on other beer-related tasks, I plan to have the majority of the remaining bines custom-harvested by another hop grower that has invested in a much more effective machine.
All of the little hop burrs have now formed into hop cones on my early-maturing varieties of hops, especially the Centennial pictured above. The hop cones look like smaller versions of pine cones with papery-textured green leaflets that vary by variety with regard to their size (some varieties are twice the size of others), shape (circular, oblong, teardrop, etc.), and color (lighter and darker shades of green).
Yesterday my dad and I combined about 8 acres of my barley since it was mature and the moisture content was at about 16.5%. After unloading the combine into a gravity box wagon, as seen in the picture above, we unloaded the wagon into an auger that sent it up and into one of our false-floor grain bins. The grain bin has a fan that allows air to be run from underneath and up through the grain so that it will dry down to a little less than 13.5% moisture. This moisture content percentage is necessary to be able to malt the grain.
The numerous little hop burrs are now present on each of my seven varieties of hops. These grow on the sidearms of the bines and each burr will turn into an individual hop cone. These cones have actually already developed on my earliest-maturing variety, Centennial.
One of the most noticeable features of hop bines may be their excessive vertical growth, but it is actually their lateral sidearms which extend horizontally from the main bine that are most important. It is on these sidearms, which are easily identified on the single bine in the picture above, that the actual hop flowers and corresponding cones will grow. When the sunlight hours are nearing their peak duration during the growing season, the hop plant will start to put less energy into its vertical growth and will prioritize on the development of its sidearms and horizontal growth.
The barley is starting to look more like barley now that the heads have emerged on some of the stems/tillers. The heads, also referred to as the spike or ear, contain the florets that will eventually become each individual grain of barley. The long hair-like wisps that extend upward from each floret are called awns. The timing of heading, number of florets on each head, and length of the awn can vary significantly between different varieties of barley.
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.