Welcome to spring!
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,