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!