Friday, May 28, 2010

Scientist Envade The Hop Yard

On Wednesday, five scientist came to the farm and spent a couple of hours working in my hop yard taking leaf samples for tissue analysis. In the above picture from left to right are Rob Austin, Jeanine Davis's assistant Tyler, Bill Yarborough, Scott King, and our very own Sue Colucci.

Rob and Scott are soil scientist at North Carolina State University and have received a grant along with Jeanine Davis at the Mountain Horticulture Experimental Station in Fletcher to study the nutritional aspects of hops.

Bill Yarborough is the soil expert for Western North Carolina and works with the Haywood County Soil and Water Conservation District in Waynesville. Sue Colucci is a dual Area Specialized Agricultural Extension agent for Henderson and Buncombe counties and is our regional pathologist.

There are four farms in the area that are presently being studied. A complex soil structure analysis has just been completed and this tissue sampling will complement that report. We should be able to determine more accurately the nutritional needs for the plants.

I am very excited to be a part of this study and hope that these folks get more funding to continue studying the feasibility of growing hops in Western North Carolina. You can see more about this project by going to and reading an article about this project in detail.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Raleigh News and Observer Article

Jay Price, staff writer for the Raleigh News and Observer, recently interviewed me about the Hop'n Blueberry Farm's adventure into hops farming. You can check out the article online at

The butterfly flighthouse is still a work in progress. The frame is up and much detail is being planned for the eventual finish. I am so tired, that you will have to come back to see pictures and find out all the progress.

The above photo shows Tony shooting grade on the greenhouse site. It is 40 x 16 and will be covered in shade cloth. More pics to follow.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Cascade Hops Flowering Now

Cascade Hop Flowers
I noticed the burs of the Cascade hops yesterday. Almost all of the plants are simultaneously flowering at the same time. I have allowed 4 vines to climb and they are at around 15 + feet in height now.

I have been pruning and weeding and have a lot more to go. My experimental project with cover crops is now out of control! I am far behind on getting rid of the cover crops of Crimson Clover and Winter Rye. It is going to take some real time to catch up.

One reason I am so far behind is the construction of the green/flight house. I have been working full time on this project now for 7 days. I hope to get gravel on the base by Monday. Then start putting up the frame work. I laid out the final foundation grading and drainage for the house and waterfall were done today as well.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

You Think You Had A Bad Day?

Really now, how many things did you have go wrong today? Well, I am here to make you feel better about your rotten day, if you are in that category. And if your not, then just read this and see how good your day was comparatively!!!
This was the first day for the actual construction of my greenhouse after all preliminaries were completed like grading, receiving and unloading the greenhouse kit, purchasing and hauling the concrete and wood, getting my good friend Tony over here to help me, and calling up my part-time employer and telling him I would not be in this week.
Right off the bat, within 15 minutes after Tony arrived at 8 AM. trouble started. I had borrowed an 3-point hitch auger to help me drill the 22 holes I needed for the greenhouse/butterfly flighthouse, each of which was 30 inches deep.
I had never hooked one up and had to go through a learning curve which cost me a snapped 3/4 inch 5 inch pin that nearly hit Tony in the brain! After I wiped the sweat off of my brow and continued on, finally getting the device to work, the tractor broke down. The transmission froze up. I worked on it for 2 hours almost burning out the clutch in my truck as I tried to haul it up to level ground.
Meanwhile, Tony worked on digging the first hole for the greenhouse post by hand. He hit a rock, believe it or not, here at the North Fork Rock Nursery, at 12 inches down and had to dig out the hole twice the diameter in order to get it out. I still was having the stress of my life trying to free up the transmission with bolts, steel plates, oil soaked hands, and a lot of cussing.
When I finally got the tractor moving, I realized that I still had work to do on it and had to take the plate off again and beat things with a hammer. 20 minutes later, I ran out of gas before I could dig the first hole.
Before that, I realized that the grade was off where the greenhouse site was and I had to grade it with the tractor. A process similar to brushing your teeth with a shovel. In other words, something that takes a lot of practice and luck and shouldn't be done in the first place.
It was getting late in the afternoon by this time and I started noticing that my neck was burning. Yep, I had severe sunburn going on. Not having a minute to myself, my exposed skin to the clear blue, 80 degree temps, had played havoc on me, burning me to a crisp! Plus, I was getting dehydrated and not thinking straight.
Now comes the fun part. The second hole I was to dig with the now working tractor and auger, I hit a rock again. It cost us another hour of digging, pounding, and cussing. We finally got it set and called it a day at 7pm. this evening.
There is always a silver lining and I am still trying desperately to figure out what it was today. Maybe it was the fact that Tony helped me and didn't expect to get paid. Maybe it was that it didn't rain on us. Maybe it was the fact that if I didn't have a bad day, I wouldn't have any day at all!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Hop Pruning

It has definitely been a pruning time here. I am playing catchup with the hop vines. Check out the video that I posted on YouTube about that. It is best to double click on the video to watch it in wide screen on YouTube. Also click on the 780p to watch it in higher definition. It is located just below and to the right of the video where 360p is located. Put your cursor on it and you can then select 780p.

I have been busy finishing putting in the water lines for irrigation of my milkweed and for water supply for the butterfly flight house that will be erected this week. The site has been graded and a 160 foot row of butterfly attracting flowers has been planted next to the fight/green house.

I am expecting to open the butterfly exhibit by July and possibly earlier. I will be focusing primarily on Monarch butterflies, but will have other native species in the house for observation including Swallowtails, sulphurs, and painted ladies.

Plants inside the flight house will be host plants for these butterflies and I should be able to get several generations of these butterflies for the rest of the summer. There is a lot of work and planting to be done before all of this happens, so stay tuned for the grand opening.