Greetings Hop heads! July is half over and I’m finally sitting long enough to write a short update. We have seen all kinds of new growth over the course of this year, and have also been met with some new challenges. Among the most potentially devastating of these challenges is the emergence of the dreaded LEAF HOPPER throughout our yard.
As dangerous as this predator can be, we are confidant that we have fought back and saved most of the crop through our integrated pest management procedures, number one being the addition of over 75,000 beneficial Lady Bugs to the yard. We are not alone fighting this deadly parasitic pest, as many other farmers that I’ve spoken to are dealing with the same problem. We are still committed to organic practices, and refuse to use any spays or chemical compounds in our hop yard. Let the Lady soldiers do their job–we are praying, at least!!
Leaf hoppers are little green insects that attack the vegetation at the top of the canopy, injecting a poison into the leaves and ultimately preventing photosynthesis to take place. The poison essentially robs the plant of essential nutrients, causing cones to stop developing and leaves to curl with yellow edges that eventually turn brown and die. The Mash-up below shows the damage and how we have taken steps to stop the leaf destroyers in their tracks. We’re trying to nip this one in the bud.
We are happy to congratulate our hop partnered brewery at Roscoe Beer Company, NY on their victory as the #1 craft brewery in New York state. Thanks for the sign. More to come about our business relationship with Roscoe, but for now we’ll let the picture speak for itself!
We have completed milling our red oak planks, slabs, and assorted rough cut lumber thanks to Toby and his portable milling machine, and look forward to the renovation of our new building space in the coming months. Some pictures of the process:
Finally, some pictures of our plants showing the growth from June through early July, with some early Centennial cones.
So my friends, what do you get? Another year older and deeper in debt!
I’m sorry to open this uplifting post with such a negative vibe, but I’m trying to make a point. Unlike the song lyrics that I just quoted, my sentiment on this past year culminating with our recent Labor Day Harvest is nothing less than overjoyed. Please allow me to explicate (to use a term favored by my dissertation supervisor a few years back)!
Just a few pictures to get you in the mood, then here comes the sermon.
What I just shared with you is not my path to fame and fortune, it is my way of sharing God’s greatness with all of those who choose to stop by. The people in the preceding and upcoming pictures represent my amazing family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Remember–at picking time there is no “I’ll stop by tomorrow, or I’ll catch you after dinner”. There is only “I’ll be there to help”. None of the people who come to the picking party get paid, none of the people who are pictured here are forced to sit for several hours picking hops. They do it because they want to help! They do it, I think, for the same reasons we do it. They do it because it gives them a sense of what is really important in a life, what really matters among communities of human beings. We want to share our happiness with our closest beings, and what better way to do that than to sit unplugged for a few hours and celebrate who we are, NOT who we are trying to become!
WE ARE ETERNALLY GRATEFUL TO THOSE WHO WANT TO HELP! All we can offer these people is a roasted pig, some drinks, and a few hops to pick. I have an idea that they come and help us for some deeper purpose.
Being a person who comes from a loving Italian family who still reminisces about the best times of our lives being represented by the hours we spend enjoying each other’s company around the meals of family get-togethers’, I have some ideas why the hop picking party is so satisfying. For one, I truly believe that the greatest joy in life comes from the bonding that occurs when we are involved in common goals that cement our relationships together. Although some would comment that we can not depend on volunteer labor for our profit, Alva and I would come back with “The volunteer labor is our profit”.
What we mean by that is that we realize a whole summer’s worth of tending to our Hops in the few hours that we get to spend with our family and friends during the harvest. Whatever money we make from the sale of the hops goes back into the farm to make next year’s experience better! Secondly, how many of us spend our lives chasing the dollar without taking the time to relax and see life from a different perspective than that which is thrust upon us by our media driven world? I believe there is a lot to be learned from those who lived a much simpler life.
We grow Hops because we have land suitable for growing hops, because we need something wholesome to do when we retire, and because we love the way we can bring people together when its time to celebrate the harvest! Our Hop farm is a representation of who we are and what we believe in.
It is in this light that I leave you with the following pictures that I believe capture the true spirit of why we do this. Brothers, sisters, friends, spouses, parents, neighbors, grandkids, great grandkids, cousins, nieces, nephews, in-laws, business associates; basically a whole community of people enjoying each other’s company. Right here at Orange County Hops. God bless you all, thank you for being such an important part of our lives!
With love and respect,
Alva and Papi
“I would rather spend my life trying to get happy than die trying to get rich”
Hello Hopheads from the summer of 2016 here at Orange County Hops. School is out, the hops are growing faster than the weeds, and the weather has been beautiful so far this growing season. Ed and Jerry just finished cutting the hay yesterday, and the big yield indicated how favorable the 1st half of the growing season was for grass.
Our hops have begun their budding process with very tall cascades and chinooks that are on pace to double our yield from last year. May was an average month for rainfall, and although June has been extremely dry, most of our plants received ample water from our irrigation system and have responded favorably. We are constantly tweaking, fixing, and working on this system, and find it is not as reliable as we had hoped when we installed it three years ago.
Perhaps our irrigation troubles have contributed to the slow growth of most of our centennial crop, which in its 3rd season has yet to keep pace with the other two varieties. This may be our last attempt at growing centennial. Next year we might replant some of those weaker rows with a variety that grows better on this farm.
In any event, we are focused on the buds which you can see are plentiful and hearty! Here is a skyward view of one of our cascade beauties!
We are enjoying our time on the farm this summer. Alva’s new farm vehicle has been a favorite chariot for all who visit. It provides a very efficient way to get around the farm!
We are grateful to Papa and Uncle Jay of Golf Cars of Coastal Carolina for this wonderful addition to our farm
As with most of my updates, I will share with you some of the wonderful wildlife that frequents our property. This huge snapper decided to come out for a sunbath and I was lucky enough to get a good photo before he sank back into the water.I would estimate his shell to be an oval about 16″ x 20″. I would not like to encounter him in a dark pool of water!
During the month of July we will continue in our efforts to tend to our crops, weeding, watering, and nurturing. Stay tuned for the next rainy day here in the Hudson Valley when I will probably turn to the computer keyboard once again to provide another update. Until then- stay cool, stay healthy, stay positive, and enjoy the days ahead as we watch nature work her magic. Hop to it!
I know the calendar reads April 3, 2016, but the farm shows a scene more reminiscent of February. No, wait! In February we had no snow and an average temperature of about 50 degrees. So when was the last time the farm looked like this? The whole farm hasn’t been snow covered since March of 2015! That’s right! This is the most snow we’ve had all winter, and it comes at a time when the trees have buds, the grass has greened, and the hop buds have already popped from the crowns. Notice the strings are already hung. That tells you that we have had a great start to the season. Just 2 days ago, the afternoon high in Walden was 74 degrees.
OK, now that I’ve shown you the reality of what I wish was an April fools joke, I need to back up a couple of weeks and show the progress that March brought to the farm. Somehow I missed the opportunities to update the blog in February and March, mea culpa, so please allow me to escape the pain of winter in April by turning back the clock and enjoying the memories of the early spring that March brought us–if only for the short time I am writing this blog.
Punxsutawney Phil promised us an early spring. He was right on target for March. Papa, Farmer Jim, BJ, Alva, friend Ron, and I were able to get all of the strings hung over two days during our spring break during the third week of March. Over 2000 strings hung in 2 days! Wow! This was a new record for the farm. I will take this time to thank all of those people mentioned because without their generous support and hard work, none of this would be possible.
I’ll start somewhere in mid-March with the first signs of spring. The turkeys came back and paraded across the driveway to let us know that something was in the air. Sixteen hens waddled through the row of white pines as if they were on a mission. They were moving fast enough to keep just ahead of whatever was moving them, but didn’t appear to be threatened.
Then it hit me! The hens were not running, they were flirting with Tom, who casually pushed his ladies from behind, chasing them to a more secluded area where he could show them what Toms do. Keep herding Tom, eventually they’ll come to the stream and then you’ll have them cornered!
During our spring break we were pleasantly surprised by Uncle Jay who appeared out of nowhere on Sunday afternoon with a present from him and Papa for Alva. Speaking of Tom’s and hens, I couldn’t be a happier Tom to have the pleasure of being married to my hen for almost 34 years. She doesn’t always get in the spotlight but she is the true beacon that guides my family. What a great surprise for a lady who deserves nothing but the best! Thanks to Papa and Uncle Jay for giving Mama her own OCH Hop cart, which I call “Nanny’s tractor”. Alva said it was the greatest gift ever!
We also have added a new design to our hop trellis system. I installed a new wire only a few feet off of the ground for each row. These new wires allow us to anchor the strings without poking those annoying W clips into the soil for each plant. The new system also gives me much more room to use the weedbadger because the V doesn’t start until the plants hit the low wire.
Here is a picture of the newly hung strings anchored to the low wires. The soil around each crown has been prepared with the aid of my weedbadger. This machine does a great job of removing weeds and promoting soil health without the need for chemicals or back busting labor.
After an intense couple of days with the aid of awesome volunteer labor our strings were all hung. Thanks again to Papa, Jim, BJ, Ron and Alva for your efforts. Now we can go to sleep at night thinking of the great spring weather coming…
Some more work awaits us as we’ll have to train the little bines to find their newly hung coir wires, but we are ready for that task a couple of weeks ahead of last season. This season is our third season with hops in the ground, and promises to be our best ever. Hops generally take three years to fully mature. After three years of root development, a little wet snow on the top should not have any measurable effect on the plants themselves. Even if the little bines pictured below suffer an early death from a killing frost in days to come, the crowns will send up new healthy shoots to replace them. My only real concern with this cruel April fools joke that mother nature played on us is that we will not have a crop of those delicious hop shoots to fry up this spring, or to pickle for consumption throughout the year. We’ll see how that plays out.
Thanks for reading, please join us in praying for warm weather and fair skies and be sure to watch for my next update on what’s hoppening on the farm. See you all at TAP NY at the end of the month. Until then,
Welcome to winter. Well, it’s supposed to be winter, but the lack of snow and the lack of consistent cold air has made the first two months feel more like early March than December and January. Here we are on January 18 and there is no snow yet. We did have a trace amount a couple of times but neither shovel nor plow has been employed thus far.
The warm air has remained and thanks to El Nino we’ve been able to do some extensive work in the hopyard to get ready for next season. All of the plants have been marked with flags to make it easier for me to till around them with the Weed Badger. This is a great tool and we are sure glad we purchased it. I am planning on installing small poles and a low wire in each row before next season to make it easier to use the Badger during the growing season. The idea is to eliminate the “W” clips that typically anchor the hop strings and install a wire about 2 feet off of the ground for the length of each row. This wire will provide a bottom anchoring point for the strings, which will make it easier for me to cultivate around each root crown without interference from the “V” trellis design. This will be shown in my next blog update.
Besides the field work, we have been busy developing and promoting our latest Hop product line of Culinary treats. We had some extremely favorable responses to our pickled Hop shoots from last spring and will continue to explore selling them on the market next season, but our focus right now is on our delicious home-made Hop Cheese. With the help of Alvas sister and brother in law Terry and Greg we have begun promoting a Hop Cheese made with fresh whole leaf cascade hops and scamorza curd that we call “Cascamorza”. At this time we are trying to get a couple of restaurants interested in serving our cheese.
Of course making the cheese is only half the fun. The other half is eating it! Our cheese is molded into loaves and ready to eat within a week of curing in the refrigerator.
Greg and I are still perfecting the recipe, but each batch we make tastes delicious. I think with a little more time I might even be able to turn Greg into a Hophead!
In the end, we are just as excited about the culinary uses for our Hops as we are about the traditional use for beer. I must say that the real joy of this whole Hoppening doesn’t come from the hops themselves. The joy comes from spending time with and sharing these experiences with our family and friends. Where there is work to be done and plants to be grown, there are always family and friends near by to lend a hand, share a beverage, and have a few laughs. That’s why we’re successful, and we never feel like we’re living in that empty nest. Stay tuned for more blogging, more Hops, and more adventures as we continue to look towards spring and the third season of Orange County Hops.
2015, year two of our growing hop experience has come and gone in a flash! The summer of 2015 turned out to be one of the hottest and driest on record, but never fear, our irrigation was near! Overall we were blessed with great hop growing weather. Thanks to the tremendous amount of friendly support we received, our crop nearly doubled from last year. The video shows one of our main additions, the dual function oast/cooler that helps us manage our product.
Before I begin what will be a long and overdue blog of the eventful harvest that occurred near the end of August, I want to pay homage to the generation that made all of this possible and those whose continual efforts create a support net that would make Spiderman jealous! Behold, Nanny, Papa, and Uncle Coochie. Thanks for everything!
The weather during the last weekend in August was optimal for hop picking, a time to celebrate the end of summer with a bountiful harvest waiting to be picked with family, good friends, and new acquaintances who were eager to lend a helping hand. Alva and I could not believe the amazing turnout, 62 adults who stopped by to sacrifice their day off to hop picking duty. Let me be clear, picking hops is not glamorous, not exciting (no matter what Tom S. says), and can tend to become monotonous very quickly. Nevertheless, our tireless crew, with several new faces, weathered the workload quite efficiently. Our gratitude goes beyond words, for without these helping hands we would have to rely on the efficiency of a rented picking machine. We did employ a machine with a crew, and were pleasantly surprised that at the end of the day, in the battle between man and machine, MAN WON!!!
While the lady of the house was organizing the food crew, I focused on coordinating the machine, pickers, and harvesting crews to work together. Joe and Laura, members of the Mohonk Valley Homebrewers Association were among the first to arrive. Thanks to them for setting the pace for everyone else!
The first part of the harvest involved the harvesting crew, whose main responsibility was to cut the bines and deliver each cut row to the two assembled crews- the manual pickers and the machine crew. The harvest crew consisted of a dedicated team that worked diligently without a break from first cut to beer time! Obviously the reward at the end became an incentive to finish the harvest as quickly as possible. Still, the dedicated pick and sort crew, equally working hard, had product picked and sorted faster than the machine most of the day, and each had a continuous pile of bines on the ground to keep the pick and sort operation going.
Once the harvest crew began rolling, the machine crew, led by the Hudson Valley Hoptometrist, joined the fun and began setting up the machine. To keep things real, I enlisted the services of my good friend and experienced farmer Jim, King Kraut, to help the machine crew set up and configure their flow rate. Jim is equivalent to what Robert Duval meant to Michael Corleone. Without my King Kraut adviser, I would be just another teacher growing tomatoes in the summer who calls himself a farmer. Thank you conselieri! Before you knew it, both man and machine crews were off and running, and we had ourselves a hop-picking party!!!
Now you might be asking, why would so many people volunteer their day off to stand around a table and strip hops off of a bine?
Perhaps it had something to do with the challenge of beating the machine?
OK, calm down cowboys, the ladies are beautiful, but most of the participants had something else in mind when they volunteered to help. Here is the lady of the day, our inspiration to make quick work of the hops so we could enjoy her savory flavor:
Now of course that lady couldn’t be cured without her own crew. There’s the pigmaster Dan with his minions of pork!
Some of our friends needed to help sort the machine pickings, and even with their expert skills, the machine couldn’t keep up!
So here we are, the weekend after, cleaning up the dead piles of strings, tending to the oast, getting ready for our pilgrimage to our favorite brewmaster to deliver our crop, and enjoying a visit from Alli and Andrew who drove all the way from Ohio to visit with BJ, Becky, and the grandkids!
Speaking of Becky and the grandkids, much love and thanks goes out to my daughter in law for filming all day with not-so-little Jimmy litterally hanging off of her hip. Here’s one shot where not-so-little Jimmy gets a cameo.
This harvest ended up to be a fantastic success for us, even if we didn’t realize the full potential of our planted crops. We witnessed a tremendous effort by a great group of people who we call our family and friends. And as they say, the most value in any life comes from sharing your favorite experiences with people you care about. I’ll take that over 1000 lbs. of hops any day!
Thanks to everyone in front of the camera, those who didn’t make the film roll, and everyone who was part of this celebration. You know we couldn’t have done it without you. We hope you will join us again next year, as we look forward to a bigger, fuller, and more bountiful harvest. We are lucky to have family and friends like you, and we look forward to sharing the harvest with you again. 250 lbs. this year, 1000 lbs. next? Who knows…
Until we meet again, hopheads, stay tuned for some winter updates on the farm, and our new product line of hop foods which are under construction in the kitchen! We’ll be unveiling the hop tastic foods soon. If you want a sneek peek, go back to the first photo posted in this post and look at what CTO Papa is holding up to the camera– HOP-A-LICIOUS!
Until then, stay the course, weather the storms, and pray for an early spring!
July arrived and we were off to Cooperstown for our fist mini-camp of the summer,a business trip built around a Hop Conference. We attend as many of these things that we can in an attempt to expand our knowledge and answer questions we have about increasing our production efficiency. This one proved to be informative, and although most of the information wasn’t new to us, we did manage to come away with some valuable nuggets that will help us down the road. For instance, I bet you didn’t know that a Hop plant likes its water at the most extreme heating times of the day. Now you know. Water them often and when the sun is the hottest! We also spoke to some other NY Hop farmers over lunch and talked about the number 1 maintenance issue for organic farmers- WEED CONTROL!!!
Weeds can get pretty dominant if you don’t find a way to control them. Hops will outgrow weeds, but weeds compete with the hops for valuable soil nutrients and moisture. Weeds also attract destructive insects to your field. We briefly struggled with Japanese Beetles this year but now that we’ve gotten a handle on the weeds the threat has decreased significantly.
Thanks to our son BJ, along with Butch and a couple of hired helpers, who helped us clear the rows from weed growth. Nothing beats hand weeding, and believe it or not, there is a technique to it. I think BJ is the newly crowned weed champion, not an easy feat for over 1000 plants!
After carefully exposing the strings, irrigation tubes, and bine rootings, we were able to cut down the rest of the weeds with a push- type weed wacker that operates like a push mower with strings instead of rotary blades.
Once we get the rows neatly trimmed and free from oppressive weed growth we use our new piece of equipment called a Weed-Badger to keep them clean. We were late this year getting the machine in time to get a jump on things, so we are still playing catch-up, but next year we should be able to handle the weeds with the machine before they get established. Anyway, it does take 3 years before the hops fully mature and have enough root support to consistently reach the top wire year after year, so we’re still in the nurturing phase. We feel good about our progress and are looking forward to another decent harvest at the end of August.
Check out the WWC (World Weeding Champion) on his record setting pace of 1 fully weeded row per hour, a feat not matched by anyone else! Check out his awesome technique. Incidentally, as of this writing, unlike me, King BJ has not mistakenly pulled one bine out of the ground!
Now that the weeds are under control and the cones have emerged in full bloom, we can begin to focus on our new processing and storage facility, a project with many dimensions and infinite usage possibilities. Stay tuned for the next installment which will highlight some of our progress with that project.
Here is a picture of the side door to our fully insulated plant. So far I’ve completed a back door ramp and this side door stair entrance deck. All of the wood used came from Toby’s lumber mill, rough cut and natural, just like we like it!
I could continue to ramble on, but its already 80 degrees with a forecast high of 92, so I better close and get busy pulling weeds. Only a couple of rows to go, I’ll try to finish one today before I keel over from heat exhaustion!
I’ll leave you with a quote from Tom Hanks as he spoke to Gina Davis in the movie “A League of Their Own”. This is something that I keep on my desktop and was especially helpful during the 5 years I spent writing, reading, and revising my dissertation. Hanks said, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great”
I guess I’m going to have a great day. I hope you do too!
May and June were very busy months on the hop farm. We still had snow on the ground on April 10, delaying the growing season by a couple of weeks, but once things started growing we were unable to keep up with the weeds once again due to a delay in our acquisition of the WeedBadger machine. Couple that with the tedious process of hanging all of the strings, and we have the unwelcome result of a stunted growth pattern in our yard. Alli returned home to help hang the strings.
Thanks to Papa for his loyal work on the tractor, Alva for her dedication to the cause, and Ryan and Aaron for helping clear enough weeds so we could locate the plants for stringing.
Once the WeedBadger arrived I was able to get the weeds under control, at least from one side. I’m still waiting for the attachment that will enable me to complete the other side by sweeping out the weeds without ripping up my shallow irrigation.
You might say we’re experiencing growing pains right now, but hey, I was informed from the beginning that it takes a full three years for a hop yard to mature, so as long as we continue to make progress I’m not going to complain. Not in public, anyway!
Speaking of progress, our new Oast House/ cold storage facility arrived last week and is ready to be adapted for our use. What looks like a full size refrigerated trailer will serve as a multi-functional building once it is electrified and prepared for the farm. We are excited about that!
I believe we are about 2-3 weeks behind last year in terms of our crop growth, but as you can see from these photos, all three varieties have sprouted spurs which are the beginnings of new hop cones.
In July we will be attending a Hop workshop in Cooperstown so look for our next update sometime soon. I will close with a picture of my two beautiful grandchildren, one of whom looks like he is modeling a fez, one of my many hats.
Lots of things are growing around here! I consider myself very fortunate to have the opportunity to be a part of all of this. A very dear friend of mine passed this month leaving behind a wife and four sons. In his memory I am reminded that each day is a gift, each memory is to be cherished, each smile to be returned, and each season to be respected.
I think it is important to keep both feet on the ground but only one hand in the dirt. That way, we still have a free hand to enjoy whatever God gives us. He gave us this day…
April 14th, 2015 Posted by Mike AntonelliHops
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April brings promise of new life and certainly new growth here in the Northeast. Winter has all but slipped away, with the last bit of snow disappearing into the soggy turf as the spring sun warms our fields. We have much to be grateful for, the usual things that we should never take for granted– like good health, family, and friends. Spring has a way of reminding us that life itself is precious and so fragile, especially when we catch the first sings of life after a seemingly endless stretch of cold, grey days when the snow kept piling up to heights that I haven’t seen in quite a few years.
I look at the budding hops and I can hear my 4 month old grandson laughing with a robust giggle. I see my 2 year old granddaughter running from room to room as if she was being chased by a friendly ghost daring her to win the footrace. I laugh too at all of this because it reminds me of the promise of spring, a new beginning and a season meant to warm the coldest of hearts. That’s the beauty of spring and grandchildren, they remind us of what is possible from the very beginning of life, when innocence rules the day, and peace turns quiet nights into dream-filled slumbers. Welcome spring!
I also had a change of seasons in my life this spring as I completed my Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Boston University after an eight year journey. There were times during the degree process that I felt I would never see the end. Well, as they say, those days are history. Just like the winter. If you follow my blog you will see my new moniker of Dr. Papi at the end of my new posts. Many thanks are due from me to my parents, my wife, my family, and my professors for believing in me throughout and helping me realize my goal. I am fortunate to have had the insight and expertise of Joe Lovano and Us Five to make my research ideas come to life. You are all a great part of my new story, and I thank you for being there. Below is my presentation to Joe who holds the final document in his hand.
Back to the Hops, no word yet from NY State on the status of our grant application, but we are moving forward anyway. Our new WeedBadger attachment should be arriving just in time for spring weeding to begin. We plan on cutting the first buds and trying our hand at cooking with hop shoots. When the second growth emerges, we will begin the stringing process. There is lots of excitement in the air, TAP NY is only two weeks away, and Allison returns from Ohio the week after that. Lots and lots to be thankful for.
I will close with a picture that reinforces my optimism every time I look at it, the return of the Bluebirds to our back deck. More to come…
Until we talk again, be well, and enjoy this wonderful weather!
December 24th, 2014 Posted by Mike AntonelliHops
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Cheers to all! Best wishes in the new year!
Season’s greetings, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of our friends and well wishers. We have been working behind the scenes getting ready for next season. Among our new year wishes are an oast house, a new barn, a baling machine, and a hops harvester. We’ll take it one day at a time, and hope 2015 proves to be as opportunity-filled as 2014 was.
This year’s NEHA conference in Morissville, NY proved to be very educational for us. We spent two days meeting other hops enthusiasts including a long time friend whom we hadn’t seen in a while. Jarret and I used to teach together and traded homebrew recipes when we first started brewing over ten years ago. When my first all-grain recipe was produced in my newly created brew sculpture, Jarett was my assistant. It was a fantastic surprise to run into him and catch up. It’s great to see that he too will be incorporating Hops into his farming life.
Another surprise was our visit to Josh, the head brewer at Roscoe NY Beer Company. Alva and I were merely passing through town on our way up to the NEHA conference when we stopped by Roscoe to say hello to Josh. Josh was eager to pour us a sample of his new Eagle IPA, a very tasty brew indeed! When he told us he brewed it using our 2014 Orange County Hops we were ecstatic! We definitely needed a growler to take with us! Thanks to Josh for this delicious brew and for being the first commercial brewery to use our product in a beer!
So far this fall and the early winter have been relatively mild here in the northeast. As I write this on Christmas Eve we are expecting temperatures in the 60’s with heavy rains. Not quite the December I remember, but then again, last year I was so busy constructing the trellis system I didn’t notice the weather.
This year I have taken advantage of the warm weather and lack of snow cover to clear some brush around the property. It has been quite a shock for me to stand in front of the picture window and look out over the Hop field without having the need to plant poles, string wires, or install anchors. Last year was such a blur. So much happened. I can only imagine what the new year may bring. It has been rather refreshing to reflect on all of this and take time out to remember the friends and family who have made our 2014 so memorable and so fruitful. We are truly blessed to have you in our lives.
In closing I would just like to say thank you to all who have been a part of our new beginning in 2014. In some way, big or small, you have all given us something to cheer about! Cheers!
Speaking of joys, the greatest gift we received this fall was the addition of our new grandson to the family, James Michael born on 11/19/2014. Welcome Little Jimmy!
Alva and I hope the season inspires you all to look for the blessings in life and celebrate each other!
God Bless you, and may you find the Hoppiness you seek!
August 30th, 2014 Posted by Mike AntonelliHops
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Orange County Hops Harvest 2014
Welcome hopheads to the August update of Orange County Hops, LLC. We picked and plucked our brains out over three days beginning on Friday, August 22, 2014 and ending on Sunday August 24, 2014. When all the weighing and sifting was complete we estimated we harvested almost 140 lbs. of the wet cones which worked out to about 35 lbs. of dry product for sale. Alva and I are elated with the outcome of the first harvest.
The first order of business is to formally thank all of our friends, neighbors, and family for their generous donation of time and labor. Again, without your help, we’d still be picking.
The Hop Harvester Wagon that Jim and I built turned out to be the star performer during the harvest. It made it possible for us to harvest bines from ground level to eighteen feet high with ease of mobility. The lower floor provided a huge chamber for bine storage while the upper deck allowed two string men to work comfortably side by side, increasing the efficiency of our Hoperation.
Once we had a couple of rows cut and in the wagon, it was time to return to the picking station where our courageous volunteers stood ready to pluck and sort, separating cones from bines, leaves, stems, and other unmentionable parasites that were coming along for the ride.
These photos are from our Saturday picking crew:
Before we gave the crew a well deserved meal, we surveyed the harvest. Three full trays of Cascade ready for the drying chamber. Here’s what a full tray looked like and a photo of the trays inside the makeshift oasthouse formerly known as “Alva’s garage bay”.
Last but not least, our first Hop Harvest would not be complete without our very own Youtube video! Visit our youtube channel simply called Orange County Hops for more. We would always love to hear from you. Drop us a line on this blog or email email@example.com.
We have a limited amount of freshly packaged whole leaf cascade and chinook hops for sale to home brewers. Make sure you get yours before we sell out!
As always, thanks for visiting. Until next season, be well, and stay the course!
July 31st, 2014 Posted by Mike AntonelliHops
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This morning I woke up to the first rainy day since the beginning of the month and decided that I should provide an update before July was gone! Whew! Just made it. So much has happened since the last update that I hardly know where to begin. Did I mention the lack of rainfall this month? Not to worry, our custom irrigation system was completed by the end of June by our friends at Pro Tech Irrigation of Albany, NY. They did a super job on what turned out to be a very labor intensive project. Each plant received its own drip emitter that delivers 1 gallon per hour to the plant on an automatic schedule.Here are a couple of pictures of the crew during the installation.
All tubing and system parts were buried just below the surface. Most of this was dug by hand. Our thanks to the Pro Tech crew for a job well done.
The plants grew several inches a day throughout June and reached their seasonal height by the first of July! One rogue plant that we nicknamed Hero made it to the top wire, while most of the others settled in at about 10-12 feet.
By the middle of July our first cones emerged, and the hop yard was established! Sunshine remained abundant, water was plentiful, and the little hoppers grew up! July also brought our beautiful daughter Alli home for a visit. I quickly schooled her on the fine art of removing the pesky Japanese beetles from the plants. My method is simple, safe, and efficient: forget the traps that lure more insects than they catch, forget the chemicals that harm the environment, and use the secret soapy water tap a trap!
For those of you who need a further explanation, you just need a wide mouth jug, some water mixed with laundry detergent, and a free hand to tap the leaves harboring beetles. The insects fly straight down before flying horizontally, hit the soapy water, and drown. OK, it sounds cruel, but after all these are bugs that will eat the leaves and damage the plants. A steady removal ritual every day for about two weeks helped minimize the hop crop damage. Allison is pictured here in fine form for bug removal.
Alva is simply happy to have Allison join the fun, as am I. Great job Alli!
The final chapter of this update contains the progress report of the farm equipment that we built for harvest time. We started by purchasing a used 14 foot running gear from a local dairy farm, and next put in an order for our friend Toby to mill some rough cut lumber for a wagon. The design of the wagon is borrowed from a Morris wagon with modifications suggested and designed by our farmer friend Jim.
Jim is pictured below during the assembly process. It took the two of us two days to build the finished wagon.
The hop harvest wagon has yet to be named but is designed to catch the bines as they are cut from the bottom and the top. The platform safety railing rises 13′ 2″ off the ground, which safely allows anyone near 6 feet tall to reach the top wire for either installing or removing strings. Jim also suggested that we could rent this wagon out during the off season for an elevated view of the hilltop sunset. Of course the driver of the tractor would be required and included in the package price. There might also be a market for renting out as a deer blind, but we’ll see about that!
I will close this update with pictures of two more of our beautiful family members– our very pregnant daughter-in -law Becky and our precious little granddaughter Addie. At 20 months she is by far the youngest member of the hop crew, but we like to educate ’em young. You go, Addie girl! Pick your first hop!
Time for me to sign off, there’s work to be done. Weeds to pull, and grass to mow. Until we meet again my friend, be well, don’t worry, and be Hoppy!
June 9th, 2014 Posted by Mike AntonelliHops
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June update 2014
Wow! Here we are one month later and the hops are growing like crazy. Its hard to believe how far we’ve come in such a short time.
I thought for a while during May that we would never finish the strings, but thanks to many loyal friends, neighbors, and family members we have had a lot to celebrate recently. We estimated about 2000 strings went up. Alva trained most of the plants, but she had some quality help as well.
We had family, neighbors, and friends stopping by to check on our progress at various times, and of course we put them all to work. BJ helped anchor the strings as I tied them up on the trellis. Papa drove the tractor as usual.
The photos below shows three generations of Antonelli men hard at work. Papa, Papi, and BJ. Looks like BJ is doing most of the work. Nanny helped us cut the strings. We used 10 spools of bailer twine to make the supports for the bines.
The McCarthy’s pitched in and lent a hand. Owen caught on real fast on the proper technique for training bines. Tyler still has a little growing to do before he understands the concept of “wrapping the plants.”
Thanks to Uncle Buck, Brendan, Owen, Tyler, Steven, Jacie, Uncle Stinky, Nanny and Papa, BJ, and always Alva. Many hands, many hours, many strings, and a few laughs later we’re up and growing.
It wasn’t all work and no play. We took time out to take a few candid shots. Papa and Alva shown here posing with the gorgeous mermaid mascot for good luck. It looks like the hops approved!
At the end of the day, Alva and Jacie took a moment to relax and enjoy the afternoon!
Uncle Stinky drove up from NC to lend a hand and insisted that we hang together. I’m not sure this is what he had in mind. Talk about brothers being close! There’s a bucketload of jokes that could go with this one, but I’ll just leave it at that!
Like I said before, June is busting out all over, but especially here at Orange county Hops. This photo was taken around June 1st. The next two photos are from June 7th and 8th. I’m sure Jim’s black dirt mixture has a major role in the rapid start for our plants. We plan on applying a natural brine of “black tea” within the next week or so. Our permanent irrigation system will be installed this Saturday. Mother nature has been right on target with a weekly dose of rain to bridge the gap until our irrigation is ready.
As always, I will close with a note of thanks to all of our supporters, well-wishers, hands on helpers, and blog readers. Stay tuned, take it slow, and watch the little hoppers grow. Until we speak again, peace-
May 6th, 2014 Posted by Mike AntonelliHops
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A Hoppy Day
Alva and I are truly blessed to have such wonderful friends and family willing to lend a hand at a moment’s notice. Without their help, we never would have completed this planting in one day. Thank you to all!
Here’s how it happened:
I spent two days with CTO Papa preparing for the planting event. Day 1 sent us up to Dutchess Hops at Easternview farms. My Chevy Colorado was just large enough to hold the 4×4 palate in the back that housed our 1000 hop plants. We wrapped everything in tarps to prevent wind burn and took the scenic way home. Once we unloaded the plants we were ready for the next step.
Day two found us loading manure from Jim’s farm and getting my dump truck stuck in the mud. No worries, My 86 Chevy one-ton (Sally) was not lying down on this job. Toby provided some New Holland loader power to help me spin my way out. Three loads and some soupy ground later we decided we had enough and it was time to prepare the field with the final step before planting.
Papa drove the tractor after I loaded the utility trailer with “Jim’s Secret Mixture” black dirt. Then the fun really began. I started making hills for planting. The idea was to provide a fertile hill for each plant that would keep the roots above the mud and at the same time provide a shot of “super grow” to each plant. It took 2 or three shovels of the good stuff to create each hill. We finished 8 rows before I tired.
Day three turned out to be the most amazing! We actually had 2 different crews show up to help, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Everyone pitched in to make light work of it all.
The morning crew featured the Clan Valleau- Jim, Billy, Shane, and Nicole along with Alva, Papa, and me. Jim ran the roto tiller between the poles, Billy and I continued to shovel the hills, and Papa drove the tractor. Shane and Nicole started the plants while Alva prepared the food, took pictures, and made sure everyone was outfitted with the proper implements for the job. One of these implements is a spacing tool that I used to make sure each plant was 48 inches apart. Two bamboo sticks and some duck tape did the trick!
The other tool that made its way around is called a Hop Bar. Uncle Jimbo is pictured here using it to make the perfect hole! I stumbled onto the Hop Bar by accident. A friend of mine and fellow teacher happened to mention to me that he purchased the Hop Bar while antiquing in the Cooperstown area. Thanks to Glenn for letting me scientifically try the Hop Bar to see if it is worth its weight. The answer is yes! The hop plants fit perfectly into the holes made by the Hop Bar. A simple tool, but very valuable for planting hops.
Before we knew it the late morning was upon us and the afternoon crews took over for our morning crew. Farmer Jim helped out with the shovel (his self-proclaimed specialty), and our family members stopped by to lend a hand.
Tom, Tommy and Terry from Alva’s side, and Jacie and Steven from my side.
Later on we also had help from Ray and Uncle Coochie.
The weather couldn’t have been better, the company was great, and Alva and I couldn’t have been more thankful. Here Alva is demonstrating the proper shovel technique for Uncle Coochie’s benefit. One of my favorite photos happens to be below. My Dear and my Deere. I think this is where they came up with the slogan, “Nothing runs like a Dear”. In the end, it was more about a great day with family and friends. The memories will last a long time. Let’s hope the hops last as long!
1000 beautiful hop plants found a new home–Cascade, Centennial, and Chinook–now we’re sitting back and watching them grow.
Until next time, many thanks, take it slow, and watch the little hoppers grow.
April 15th, 2014 Posted by Mike AntonelliHops
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April rain, Easter vacation, warm weather, and Nanny and Papa’s return from the deep south are all welcome events here at Orange County Hops! We could use a little less water so my recently drilled concrete anchors would hold a little better, but I’ll stop complaining right there because I know the mud will eventually dry up and I’ll be looking for the sweet rain to help my Hops grow. In the mean time, mother nature has provided me with some pretty heavy boulders to keep the anchors from pulling out.
Let’s get right to the point. Today’s blog is dedicated to the one and only Papa Jack, who has just taken over the roll as CTO or Chief Tractor Operator. Yes, it is an important roll here during construction, and Papa does have relief from Alva and BJ who drive a pretty awesome tractor as well, but let’s give Papa the spotlight here. He is also CFD (chief financial donor), and the man who has the most free time on his hands. I will soon be doubling his pay, but don’t tell him yet.v
Since our last update, we have completed the east-west wiring, and all the north-south anchors. Some of the anchors were poured into water holes, and are suspect. A little help from the back hoe and some very large rocks should help them out.
This past weekend we focused on the north-south wiring system. Once again the bucket lift performed wonderfully, and lots of help from BJ, Alva and CTO Papa Jack made it painless, except when Papa Jack went a little too fast with the tractor.
Alva, the CPE (cheif photographic engineer) wanted an explanation of a V trellis system. How are you going to run those wires? I tried but the best I could do was give her a demonstration.
For those of you who are visual learners, Alva provides the ground level photo of what the finished rows look like.
And last but certainly not least, another image of our newly ordained CTO, Papa Jack, doing what he was assigned to do, driving us around as we inch closer and closer to the final stages of hop field #1 and prepare for the arrival of plants next month. As always, check back regularly to see what’s Hoppening here at Orange County Hops, leave a comment, or drop us an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Did I mention that I have great neighbors? Frank stopped by two weekends in March to lend a hand. The snow continued to blanket the field, but at least it kept the mud down. Frank and I surveyed the topography while I explained the task at hand: Finishing the East- West support wires. It makes the job so much easier when I have someone to drive the tractor so I can focus on the bucket rig and tend to the aerial chores.
Frank Lends a Hand
make them nice and even at the top
My son BJ helped me get the tops all cropped the day before, so now it was time to finish stringing the yard. I started with 10,000 feet of 5/16th aircraft cable, and worried that I wouldn’t have enough to finish the job. The spool looked very small as we unwound the wire for the last few rows.
Frank held the anchor lines while I wrapped and clamped the tops. We tethered each pole on the most western row to a sturdy oak or maple on the wood-line.
We had just enough 5/16th wire to finish the main rows, but I had to double up on the 1/4 wire to make the last couple of anchor lines. I’m sure they will be strong enough. Anyway, after 2 weekends working through the early spring weather and fighting the cold and snow, we had completed another phase of construction. Thanks to Alva for driving the tractor and taking photos; Thanks to BJ for driving the tractor and helping out as well; Thanks to Frank for the same.
At the end of the day its all the people who spent time on this project that I’ll remember. Dad is expected to join the hop crew in April and spend the summer on the farm. Stay tuned!
Orange County Hops is a new hop farm in Orange county NY. We welcome your visit and encourage you to follow our story here. Although we are currently under construction, we intend to have our hops fully planted and growing by May of 2014. This is no small task, but we are making progress on the infrastructure and will have our first 1.5 acre hop yard ready for planting as soon as the weather permits.
Hop Yard 1
We are deeply indebted to all our family, friends, neighbors, and partners who have helped us get our hop farm off the ground. 18 feet off the ground to be precise. Our yard construction updates can be found under the menu All About Hops on this site. Alva provides the photos, Jim provides the heavy equipment, Papa provides the funding, Justin provides the expert advice, and BJ, Ray, Dan, and Shane provide the muscle. Of course we have a bit of comic relief from Uncle Buck and Pineapple Larry now and then. Without the help, love and support of all of you we would still be thinking about the hop farm instead of building it. We are eternally grateful to all for what’s hoppening!
If you are a hop farmer or someone interested in hop farming we would be happy to talk to you about the process.We can be reached by email here: email@example.com
If you also are hop farming in the Hudson Valley, leave your link and I will post it on this sight.
We are planning on planting over 1100 new hop plants this spring consisting of Cascade, Centennial, and Chinook. Please check in regularly to monitor our progress.
Once again, thanks for visiting and keep in touch!
February 13th, 2014 Posted by Mike AntonelliHops
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Winter 2014 at the hops farm
Hop Update 2/13/14
Snow has returned to Orange County Hops and put our hop yard build on the ice, so to speak. As I write this blog today I am watching the snow bury the hop yard even deeper. We are in the middle of a blizzard expected to last for 24 hours and deposit an additional foot or more of the fluffy white stuff to our existing base of 12″. “Nothing to be done, Nothing to be done”, as one of the character’s in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot would say.
Well, at least we have a great view from inside the cabin as we sit in front of the wood stove. I am amazed at the single small bird that flew by through the wind and the snow. How can that little bird defy the elements? Where is it going?
I try to understand how harsh nature can be, but I can’t get past the fact that I’m witnessing a fierce storm from inside my cozy lair. I’ll bet that little bird wouldn’t mind trading places if it had the chance. Still, the presence of the little bird makes me realize that the snow will indeed end, the sun will return, and the building of the hop farm will commence. We just might have to wait a while.
“Nothing to be done, Nothing to be done.”
There is much to be thankful for, and even the snow has beauty. Our hop yard waits under the white blanket with poles standing firmly into the air, and I am thankful that I had the opportunity to install them all before the frost turned the soil into a 2 foot ice pack as stiff as a layer of solid concrete. In one half of the hop yard the east-west wires are holding the trellis firmly in place. The other half of the yard waits patiently for spring.
I too will wait patiently for spring, as I think about the work that needs to be done, as I watch the blizzard from inside the cabin, and as I try to appreciate the strength and the beauty of winter. I am thankful for all the family, friends, and neighbors who have helped me get this project 18 feet off the ground. Their support has made this hop farm possible. Sitting here watching the snow has reminded me of that. At some point in the day, I’ll put on my boots and hat and stroll out for a walk through the storm if only to see what it would feel like if I had indeed traded places with that little bird. Even if it was only for a moment.
The goal this weekend was to wire the first six rows with anchors. I was lucky today to have Beege and Pineapple Larry along to help out. Beege arrived first. We used the bucket lift to place the 1200lb. Spool of wire into a homemade cradle that we placed into the back of the dump truck. Beege backed the dump into position and helped me unroll the wire from the spool. We placed the wire through the pole eyelets and wrapped the end poles. Then we secured the runs with clamps. Before you know it, we had two rows done and were securing the fourth anchor of the day. That’s when Pineapple Larry showed up.
The crew- (l-r) Papi, Pineapple Larry, Beege, and Copper
Pineapple Larry needed a job to do. He was extremely eager to hep out, but he looked confused. Beege and I tried to get him to look up so we could explain the process, but apparently Pineapple Larry is afraid of heights. He wouldn’t even look up!
“What do you want me to do?”- Pineapple Larry
We gave Pineapple Larry the job of cutting the wire after we tightened the runs with a come-along and a couple of haven grips to pull the wire.
Pineapple Larry cutting the wire.
Now we had to find something else for Pineapple Larry to do.Beege and I decided it would be best to let him drive the tractor. Anything that would keep him grounded. I don’t know which was more interesting– teaching Pineapple Larry how to drive the tractor–or watching Beege struggle with rolling up the tangled mason twine.
Everybody has a job to do!
Next it was on the the East yard where the mighty, mighty oaks tethered our anchors. I wrapped each end post twice and prepared the oaks to receive the anchors.
Wrapping the end posts.
I drilled each anchor oak with a pilot hole and then inserted 7″x 1/2″ lag bolts to secure the anchors. I am so happy to incorporate these border trees into the project! I’m thinking that someday they might provide a foundation for a Hop yard observation deck!
Securing the anchors.
Turnbuckle awaiting anchor wire.
After a hard day’s work, with perhaps 30-40 times up, down, in, and out of the bucket lift, I decided to call it a day. 3 rows were complete! We went inside to enjoy a warm fire, some cold beverages, and watch Pineapple Larry’s girls and sweet little Addie–our granddaughter– play with the dollhouse. Pineapple Larry’s girls provided us with some interesting music.
Music by Rae and Penny
Addison gave us her best impersonation of Uncle Pineapple.
No, Pineapple Larry! Don’t look up!
On second thought, perhaps she was just laughing at what happened to my favorite work jeans after 40 times climbing in and out of the bucket. OOPS!
Are you friggin kidding me?
Anyway, a good time was had by all. The next day I finished the other three rows, but it wasn’t nearly as exciting as this day with family and friends sharing work, dinner, and a few laughs together.
Until the next time– Don’t worry, be Hoppy!!!
Hop yard update No.3. Happy new year to all. The preceding week was very productive in the hop yard. Thanks to Uncle Buck’s bucket lift I was able to successfully crop the first six rows, cutting poles to a level and uniform height. By the time I was into the second row I lost that shaky feeling in my knees. I’m not used to moving in a plastic can so high above the ground. Each time I moved the rig I needed to re-set the outriggers, so I was only able to finish 2 rows each day. Still, without the equipment I would be Johnny-on-a-ladder-who-lost-control-of-his-bladder. Sounds like a good lyric. No, not quite as poetic as a Billy Joel song, but kind of funny nevertheless. Must be the visual. With a strong melody it just might work!
I used mason twine to set the level from one end of the row to the next and cropped each pole in the row with my chain saw. Each time the pole-top fell to the ground I wondered what kind of sound I would make if that was me falling. Chuckle.The bucket lift worked like a charm!
After completing the sixth row I ran out of string. Oh well, that gave me an excuse to take New Years day off and cut a load of firewood with Pineapple Larry. We sure know how to have a good time! 🙂
Today brought a big surprise! My wire and hardware delivery! Wahoo! It arrived right before the impending snowstorm.
Copper started barking. Alva noticed a big truck parked at the end of our driveway. Then I got the call from the dispatcher. I went up to meet the driver in the snow. He was quick to tell me that the pallet weighed 2300lbs. and he would drop it off right there because he wasn’t authorized to come down my driveway. Great. Now what?
I told him I’d be right back with the backhoe. Unfortunately, mother nature had a different idea. You see, diesel backhoes don’t like to start when the temperature is below 15 degrees.
Plan two: I’ll pull up with the dump truck and you can roll the pallet from your lift-gate right on the back. Nope! The back of the dump truck was too high and the pallet was sliding when it hit the gate. Not good. Traffic was heavy on the highway, snow was flying around. The tractor- trailer was only partially off the road and was listing towards the shoulder. There was no way to prevent the heavy load from sliding onto the pavement when it hit the slippery lift-gate. I was inside the truck helping the driver push the load. Every time we got to the lift-gate he got nervous. However, failure was not an option.
Plan three: I’ll drop the side of the dump body and pull up under the gate. We decided to unpack the load and roll the spools of wire by hand one at a time. BRILLIANT! Human ingenuity at its finest…Once again I was saved by the equipment. Thank you dump-truck-removable-side-engineer. I’ll be sure to toast you later.
Thank you Johnny-truck-driver-with-patience. I’m glad you had a sense of humor. Way to call your dispatcher and chew him out in front of me. My wife did the same thing while we were unloading the pallet!
I suppose as a dispatcher you get a lot of that! Let it snow, let it snow! Stay tuned for the next hopupdate when the yard gets wired….
Peace and prosperity to all in the new year,