On days like today it’s hard to believe we ever left St. Louis! We have had some crazy weather that feels just like home. 60 degrees one day, snow the next. We had our first big thunderstorm, which the dogs were none too pleased about. Jake was not too pleased about the hail we got. Luckily it was a brief stint and only lasted a minute. As was our power outage this morning that lasted a few hours. We are currently waiting on the ground to dry out a little before we can complete our next task: ground anchors, cable, and coir!
You may be thinking, those poles look pretty tall… and Jake and Jenn are a little challenged in the height department, how will they reach the tops?! An excellent question! My resourceful and clever husband has designed and built a platform, not completely unlike scaffolding, that will be picked up by our new pallet forks, strapped on, and transported around the hop yard, via tractor. (Me driving my husband around 20 feet in the air… woo hoo. Talk about nerve wracking! If only we had that big life insurance policy we talked about JK) Now for those of you concerned about safety, have no fears! We already own rock climbing harnesses, so Jake will be anchored to the platform! Plus it’s pretty dang sturdy! (overbuilt) Still, it’s a very good thing that neither of us has a fear of heights.
We’ve also been waiting on someone to come remove those trees we mentioned and apparently, now that the ground is dry enough, today is the day! A man with a bulldozer showed up as I type this! Ha! (3/22/18)
Last week we finished setting and packing all of the poles! I am very very grateful to have that step done. It was not for wussies, let me tell you. While the weather was nice we took advantage and sprayed an herbicide on all of our rows and then spread some composted manure as well, to help add nitrogen and organic matter to the soil. It only took about 2 hours for Jake and I to spread manure on approximately 1,600 square feet of ground. I feel pretty good about that, as it included two trips to the compost pile to reload the tractor loader and our 5’x8′ trailer. All that unloaded via hand shovels.
We have a well company coming out this week to begin work. We’ve had some hiccups in that area as well, but I do believe we a have a solid game plan in place now. The well that is closest to the hop yard has a very low yield rate (only about 1 gallon per minute and we really need closer to 7 or 8 gpm and the maximum well capacity is only 1,440 gal/day and we have the potential to need almost 2,000 gallons). So as a solution they are digging a trench from where the well is, to a location higher in elevation than the hop yard, and burying a 1700 gallon storage tank. That way we can keep that storage tank full and have access to the amount of water we need for irrigation. With the tank being at the top of a hill, we will be able to gravity feed our drip irrigation system.
While Jake has been hard at work in the barn (aka his workshop), I’ve been diligently working on said irrigation system. Instead of assuming you all know what drip irrigation is, I’ll give you a brief run down of what it is and why we’re using it. So, hops need a LOT of water, BUT do not like for their leaves to be wet! Plus when they get to be 18 feet tall, its a whole different headache to try water them at that height! Another factor is downy mildew, which we will refer to often in hateful undertones, as downy mildew seems to be the bane of a hop growers existence. Downy mildew thrives in wet conditions and likes puddles. It can be splashed from puddles up onto the plant and then it’s big trouble! (extremely hard to get rid of by removing the plant from the ground) So in order to not only prevent all of these issues, but to also have a very efficient use of water, we will use drip irrigation! Drip involves one mainline running the short length of the hop yard (about 100 feet) and will have drip line that attaches to the main line and runs along each row of poles/plants. We will have emitters in the drip line that drip (lol, sorry couldn’t help myself) water into the soil on either side of the hop plant. It gets water directly to the roots where we need it, wastes less water, and causes less issues with mold and mildew. We can also inject fertilizer into the system which will be super handy, and again, efficient! It’s not a terribly complicated process but it has a lot of nuts and bolts so it’s been time consuming. Although since the weather hasn’t been cooperating with us, that is okay by me.
Back to ground anchors and cables. In order to support the weight of the bines, and in order for the bines to have somewhere to go, we have to run cable along the tops of the poles and to keep the end poles upright we will use guy wires (more cable) attached to the ground with the 4′ ground anchors. We purchased 2,500 feet of 5/16″ 1×7 (seven single strands of cable that total 5/16″ diameter) galvanized cable to accomplish this. So far we have cut the tops of all of the poles to about 18 feet and installed eyescrews. The 16 poles running on either end have larger eyebolts that are on the outside of the pole and will have the guy wires anchored to the ground. All of the interior poles have eyescrews in the top. It was an emotionally taxing experience, driving the tractor around with Jake 20ish feet off the ground. Tomorrow we plan to install ground anchors and on Tuesday we plan to run the cable. And then the main infrastructure is complete! (minus the seasonal attaching of the coir (the twine like rope that will run from the cable down into the ground that the bine will grow up. I promise if you stick with us it will all make sense in the next few weeks)
On side note, we had our driveway re-graded and had more gravel delivered! We now have a parking area! Jake has luckily gotten better with a box blade on the back of the tractor. Also, we’ve visited several new breweries: Clinch River Brewing, Schulz Brau, and Last Days of Autumn Brewing. All of which were awesome. Through the brewers at Clinch River, I’ve met a group of women called the Pink Boots Society. They are a non-profit whose goal is to encourage and educate women in the beer industry. I had my very first brew day with them today and it was very cool! I also picked up a growler of my favorite beer so far, their Berries and Cream Ale. Mmmmm.
Things are moving right along and we are thrilled with the amount of progress we’ve made! Pictures coming in an hour!!!!