Monday, December 19, 2011

New Video Post

With the farm at rest, it is that time of the year that I try and find funding for our small farm. If it weren't for grants, cost shares, and other forms of financial aide, this farm couldn't survive. I have been working on a total of one really big grant and 4 cost share applications all at once.
Somebody said, "Wouldn't it be quicker to use a gun?"

Luckily I finished all except for the grant, where I am in the 4th week of work on it. I just finished a video that I am using to introduce my farm to the folks that are judging the grant. It ended up being a pretty good showing of just what we are all about, so I decided to post it here.

Enjoy it and have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fall Update.

It has been a pretty good year. We have had more visitors than last year and a more diverse amount of people as well. We had 525% increase in school visits and a 243% increase in tours altogether. Wow, sounds impressive doesn't it? Not bad for the second year. We will just leave it at that for now.

Ira B. Jones School ,and the Evergreen Charter School brought out large groups of kids and our Hops Harvest Tour and Family Farm Tour all brought lots of folks out to see our farm as well. Everyone had a great time and we hope this trend will continue.

The farm is slowly getting bedded down for the winter. I still have quite a bit of weeding and mulching to do as well as some more plowing for some expansion of hops and blueberries. Never ending. More importantly though, I have been trying to expand new ideas into our farm.

I am excited to be a part of some new developments here at the farm as I have just finished meeting with Eric Mader, the Assistant Pollinator Program Director, and Nancy Adamson, the Pollinator Conservation Specialist for the East region. Both work for the Xerces Society For Invertebrate Conservation headquartered in Portland Oregon. Hank Henry, of the East Technology Support Center for the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service), was also there.

I proposed making my farm a model for native pollination and they are going to be very supportive in this adventure by providing me with information about funding and technical advice through both the Xerces Society and the NRCS. I will be implementing a flowering hedgerow and creating a 1/2 acre native flower bed to add to the other wildflower and milkweed plantings on the farm.

The finished additions should provide an important model for the education of farmers throughout the country on the importance of the pollination of native insects and provide for the opportunity learn how to protect these species by increasing their habitat. It is all part of creating a more sustainable and productive farm.

Let's not forget that this is also grant writing time at the farm. All good small farmers are good grant writers! I am working on an energy grant and an infrastructure grant that should make the farm a true destination model sustainable farm!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

School Groups Arrive For Tagging Monarchs

  1. It was monarch tagging time for the third grade at Ira B. Jones School during Sept. 22-23. They just missed the largest amount of monarchs by two days, but we had enough to tag and release them for the kids to see over the two day period.

    The kids got to enjoy seeing all phases of the butterflies as we still had eggs, larva, and chrysalis for them to witness. They had a great time seeing all of these up close and seemed to be the most excited by just touching the caterpillars.

    After visiting the flighthouse, they learned a little about farming as they helped pick milkweed seed pods and as a reward, got to keep plenty of seeds to plant at the school for the future.

    Other things at the farm were also equally fascinating to them as they learned about alternative energy, and spent time feeding the fish and watching dragonflies at the pond.

    Our next big visit was from Evergreen Charter School, where we had 48 kids at once. These kids were the fifth grade class and I don't really think there wasn't anything that they weren't familiar with here on the farm.

    Not only did we have more monarchs for them to tag when they were here on Oct. 6, but they learned a lot about small farms and particularly about the history of our farm here over the past 160 years. They got to see some really old farming tools and learned about how the "old timers" were the best sustainable farmers.

    These kids also helped out a lot on the farm. They even brought work gloves and helped me prepare pots for blueberries, collect milkweed seed pods, and spread mulch onto my blueberries.

    What I thought was particularly exciting was to see the number of students who, when asked if they thought they would become farmers, raised their hands enthusiastically. Maybe, just maybe my little one day visit has inspired at least one new farmer for the future!!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The WLOS TV Person Of The Week Video

My farm was featured in the WLOS TV news segment called the Person Of The Week last Friday during the 6 pm. news.  The post all the videos on line.  Here is the link to the one with me in it.

Friday, August 26, 2011

WLOS TV Person Of The Week

Larry Blunt, co-anchor of WLOS-TV newscast came out to the farm with Emmy nominated cameraman Leighton Grant earlier this week to interview me as the "Person Of The Week" to be tentatively aired on September 9 here on Channel 13. It will be available on line as well.

It was a beautiful day for the shoot and I was fortunate enough to have Agriculture Extension Agents Melinda Roberts, who was interviewed for the segment, and Sue Colucci who came along for technical support. Also on board for an additional supportive interview was my good friend Fox Watson, local celebrity, musician, and movie star.
Melinda is getting set up for her interview in this shot above as I scoot out of the scene.

They interviewed me in three of the sections of my farm, in the butterfly flight house (as shown above), at the hop yard, and around the blueberries. I gave them the history of our small farm and how we were trying to change it to survive with new alternative crops and ideas.

Here is a rare behind the scene shot of the real director of the farm and of the shoot today. None other than the famous Martha Burnette, taking a break from all of the tension of the morning!

During Fox Watson's interview, only one question was ask. Fox did such a good job answering it that Larry said, "Gosh, he just answered anything else I could ever ask!" Fox had to leave shortly after this for his movie role in the up coming independent film, "Ghost Of Old Highways".

We all had a great time as usual as any visitor does that comes to our farm. In between all of the fun, during the serious parts of my interview, I tried to let Larry know about all of the support that my farm gets from folks like the Extension Service, WNC AgOptions Grants, ASAP, a great bunch of volunteers from good friends and especially my wife, my mother, my sister and her son who have helped in just about every aspect of this adventure.

The farm's success is totally due to every single one of those mentioned above. They are all the real "Persons Of The Week" as far as I am concerned. Oh, and I do want to add one more to the list. It goes without saying that I truly do thank WLOS for choosing me to represent the small farms in Western North Carolina and giving me the air time to do so!

All photos credit to Charlene Blevins.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Wall St. Journal and Hop'n Blueberry Farm

When the phone rang, I carried on a conversation with a female that went something like this....
"The Wall Street Journal, oh yea, what took you so long!"
Turns out, it was for real. She soon realized, after talking for nearly 2o minutes, that it was just my nature to say something like that. It was published today on the "online version" enhanced article about the beer industry in Asheville and me, of course.
Here is the link:

There are some more great media events for the farm coming up very soon.
Meanwhile, there is no stopping how much work has to be done here. It is the peak of weed season and so far it is weeds 4, van 1
We are hoping to improve!

Also, the Biltmore Estate just bought a lot of hops from me for a huge sold out "beer pairing" food extravaganza featuring world renowned beer brewing legend, Garrett Oliver. My hops are everywhere these days including some weddings.

Our Farm And The Wall St. Journal

The Wall Street Journal Got Us

There are some really big media events coming in the next day or so about the farm. Meanwhile here is something just published today in the Wall Street Journal about our farm and growing hops. When they called for an interview, I just carried on like it was somebody "messin" with me and I said, "what took you so long!"
Here is the site, check it out.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Hop Harvest Tour Success

Saturday proved to be a great success here at the Hop'n Blueberry Farm. After three years of supplying Pisgah Brewing Company with fine fresh fantastic hops and promoting their production of that fine beer made from the fresh picked hops from our farm, I decided it was time to cash in on the marketing of that success of that beer, called, non-the-less, "Burnette's Brew".

I approached Pisgah with a great marketing scheme that promoted both our businesses. I suggested that we do a joint adventure with a tour at the farm followed by a sampling of "Burnette's Brew", then letting the crowd leave the farm for a 5 mile journey to Pisgah Brewing and a tour of the their brewery and more beer.

One thing I know from the past is that folks that are interested in hops are also ironically interested in beer! I think everyone here had a great time. I could see their intent facial expressions linger on every word I said about growing hops and the struggle of our small farm.

Then I noticed one guy in the last line of the listeners that eased off toward the beer line.
I tried to speed things up, talking about my farm and all the tours and research we were doing to no avail. It was like a collapsing card house or sand castle. Slowly at first the lines followed suit leaving my hop yard and going to the beer tent.

Within minutes I had an audience of 13 die hard home brewers in front of me and a line of 60 other thirsty folks in the beer line away from me. Oh well, I had basically said my piece, and, really, I was probably more ready for a cold drink of brew than they were.
Martha taking pictures

Hats go off to my helpers for the day. Brent, my sister Vicki, wife Martha, and my mom for manning the money tent and to Seth, who took on the sole responsibility of parking cars coming to the show. There is not a day here on the farm that I don't have the help of some of these folks and I am sure it is the same of most of the small farmers in WNC. Thanks across the board for all of the volunteers that help make our small farms possible!! And thank goodness I have a wife that is most tolerant.
Mom, Seth, and Brent

One last thought, this will not be the last hop tour! Keep in touch!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Hop Harvest Tour At The Farm

It is that time of the year for the revealing of this years best overall pale ale ever. The "Burnette's Brew" produced by Pisgah Brewing Co. will be available around August 1st and is made from hops picked fresh from the vine to the kettle in less than 6 hours. MMMmmmmm, it is good and good for you!

There is a limited 20 kegs produced so be sure and test it out at Pisgah or other popular establishments in Asheville. Be sure to get some this year. And one sure fire way to sample this brew is to come out to our farm on August 6 at 1 pm. and join me as I give a hop harvest tour of the farm. You will learn just about anything there is about growing hops and be able to sample that delicious aromatic fresh beer.
Here is a press release for the occasion:

Grand Hop Harvest Tour and Sampling --showcasing hops from the vine to keg.Hop’n Blueberry Farm and Pisgah Brewing Company invite you to experience a dual hop tour on Saturday, August 6, 2011.

Arrive at the Farm (24 Middle Mountain Road – Black Mountain) by 12:45pm for a 1:00pm tour. Then take a short drive down the road to Pisgah Brewing Company (150 Eastside Drive – Black Mountain) to continue your experience. Tickets are $8.00 per person and include a beer sample (or two).

Pisgah Brewing Company has been producing a “wet hop” beer with fresh hops grown at Hop'n Blueberry Farm for the last three years. This unique beer only happens once per year when hops are picked and added to the brewing process at the brewery within hours after leaving the farm.

The tour will start at the farm, where owner Van Burnette, will share information about growing hops from the ground up going from the vine to the kettle. Van will also talk about the many other things his farm is producing including the new butterfly flighthouse and exciting new crops for Western North Carolina.

The farm tour will end with a sampling of Pisgah’s wet-hopped beer, appropriately named "Burnette's Brew". According to Burnette, “This is the best batch yet with a fresh aromatic taste that will delight anyone. With an addition of more fresh hops obtained from Blue Ridge Hops in Madison County, the flavor is even more pronounced.”

After the farm tour, participants will leave for Pisgah Brewing Co. where they will enter the brewery to hear about hops from the kettle to the keg. Once the tour is complete, participants are invited to the taproom to purchase other great Pisgah beers along with more “Burnette’s Brew.”

Tickets are limited so be sure to get over here to secure a place for the tour!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Life After Harvesting Hops

Life does not stop after the first hop harvest. It is business as usual because I don't cut down my vines. I allow them to produce cones again for a 2/3 smaller second harvest. These hops are for friends, and other home brewers.

Check out the latest YouTube video here.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hop's Get A Media Boost

How can I describe a paradoxical day? Well, it has to do with weather and media. Today was my delimna on this situation. First of all it was Saturday, not that it matters to me as a farmer, but because it is my wife Martha's chance to maybe relax from her stressful job. Second, and a big drive for me was that there was cold front in town and cloud cover her that offered an opportunity for me to work on my hop yard with long sleeves on (protctetion against the abrasive irriating vines).

The trouble was that I did not get to work until 1 PM. I had an obligation to go over the Mountain Horticlulture Experimental Station in Flecture, NC. to visit their newly established hop yard.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Black Mountain Primary School Summer Camp Visits

It was a cool day for a change here. Temperatures were in the range of what I would call comfortable, average. And what was even more comfortable here was a fantastic visit from the Black Mountain Primary School's After School Care and Summer Camp Program that came out to see and learn about butterflies.

The first group were the first and second graders. Cindy Debrull, the camp director warned me that this group loved to get their pictures taken and it was easy to see.
After a session of butterfly lifestyle with some videos that I have produced in the study area, the kids were eager to get to the butterfly house to see the wonders of the butterflies up close.
We had just missed seeing two monarchs hatch out from their chrysalis and also had just missed a caterpillar changing into a chrysalis. Both of these events are going on now for the next week or so.

Some butterflies landed on our visitors and the kids were awful excited to feel the butterflies on their hands. They didn't want to leave but finally had to because they stayed passed their lunch hour.

In the afternoon the third through fifth graders got to come out and had just as good of time as the earlier group.

I am always amazed at how much these young folk know about butterflies and farms. It makes me glad to see. Maybe there is hope for the small sustainable farms and the insect pollinators that make them work!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Our First Hop Harvest For 2011

Our hop harvest was completed on time Friday in conjuction with Pisgah Brewing Company's beer kettle boil. The fresh hop beer, called Burnette's Brew, will be available in about two weeks.
This is the special brew done by Pisgah for the last three years that features hops that are picked from my farm fresh and put into the beer making process within six hours after the pick. Called a "wet hop" beer, this brewing technique has to take place within 10 hours after hops are picked.
This year I was able to get Blue Ridge Hops, located near Marshall, NC. to bring in an extra 10 pounds of their certified organic hops to add to recipe with my 12 pounds of chemically free hops, making for a nice hoppy aromatic pale ale that taste really good and is probably good for you as well!
Watch the process below from my post on YouTube.

Monday, July 4, 2011

New Sculptures Arrive At The Farm

My friend, Dan Foy, landscaper and lawn care specialist, is also a very unique garden sculpturing master. Today, the 4th of July, he brought a new addition to the farm. A unique red, white, and blue butterfly on a sunflower. Dan's talents are really spectacular when it comes to unusual one-of-a-kind yard and garden art.
We already have one of Dan's replicas of a Native American grain grinders that not only looks like a part of real American history, but also serves as a bird bath/or in our case a butterfly bath!

I pondered a while on where to put Dan's five foot high work of art. Then it came to me as I was looking at my hops that I am going to harvest this week. What a perfect location. High atop my 18 foot trellis pole for the cascade hops!

Here is a shot of the new art on my slanted hop poles down near the Collins flighthouse. I was able to frame Dan's butterfly with one of the many blooming sunflowers on Nectar Lane, the walkway up to the flighthouse.

It is a great time to visit the farm and the butterflies and hops are at their peak right now. There are many, many, native butterflies and flowers in bloom at this time. The start of the most active butterfly season will be this week. Make a date to visit.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Three New Events To Talk About!

Yes folks, we welcome the Hop Rod to our marketing campaign. Thanks to a matching grant from ASAP and initial design from my nephew Charlie Cort with final design and assembly by Precision Graphics in Black Mountain, we proudly unveiled the creation today on my vintage 1960 Volvo 544 that originally belonged to my Grandmother with 53.000 actual miles.
This vehicle is as unique as our farm is, no question about it.

The sleek design and Swedish integrity made this America's first truly compact car for the market. It's own marketing featured this car as the best floating car on the market if it fell into a lake or the ocean (go figure)! More pictures will follow.

The second thing I wanted to talk about was ASAP's Family Farm Tour. This seemed to be a great success to our farm. We increase visitation by about 30% from last year. Most of the time it was non stop and I was able to get the point across about our farm to about 130 people. Exhausting, but most beneficial.

Here is a quote for Beth who emailed just after her visit. She bought one of my native blueberries and wanted to know how to care for it.

"Your tour was great! I LOVE the butterfly house, and I knew absolutely nothing about hops before yesterday. What an operation! We only went to 2 other farms yesterday & none were as good as yours....Anyway I really admire your trying to preserve your families farm land as well as taking some really big risks while working really hard, I'm sure, & even maintaining a great sense of humor! Hang in there!"

Now that was the only email that I have gotten so far from the tour, but she said post it by all means. How could I not!

The third and final thing on the farm is our first hop harvest coming up next week. I have been in contact with Pisgah Brewing and they are ready as well. My harvest will not be as bountiful as last year, but the "wet hop" beer will happen again with this organic and locally active brewery.

Don't miss their wet hop beer, "Burnette's Brew", named after me of course. Coming later this month.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Why We Call It The Hop'n Blueberry Farm

There is a reason we call the farm Hop'n Blueberry and that reason does happen now. In these two pictures you can see some Jersey Highbush Blueberries (what few I have) and Cascade hops. Both are getting close to harvest. The hops are unusually early, and there aren't that many. Let's look at them first.
I think, the early warm spell, the low latitude, and varieties are a major factor about how hops are going to do in this area. In my opinion, it doesn't look good, but I am just one of a growing number of those studying the possible next replacement crop for tobacco in Western North Carolina.
North Carolina State University has taken some major interest in this crop and have started hop yards in both Raleigh and at the Mountain Horticultural Experimental Station in Arden. Being in at the ground level, my small hop yard has had close scrutiny by those involved in the experimental project.
Here is my summary:
I think that the day length is a major factor in early cone production. That is an unconfirmed observation. Vines are producing cones before the mass of vine growth is finished. Every since my plantings, cone production has remained the same or has decreased.
I have pulled every Centennial vine up and replanted with Nuggets that I root pruned this year. The variety that I thought was doing the best in my yard. So far the new plantings are at best 4 feet high compared to, lets say, the cascades that I bought 3 years ago from Oregon that reached a height of 20 feet the first year.
I could go on, but for now, lets see.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mrs. Hall's Fourth Grade Class

Mrs. Hall's Fourth Grade Returns

My sister brought out another one of her fourth grade classes to visit the farm today. There were plenty of butterflies to be seen in the flight house and plenty of fish, dragonflies, and other pond animals to see at the pond.

My mother came out to help once again as the senior chaperons along with three other men who either taught at Ira B. Jones Elementary School in Asheville, NC., or who were parents of kids there today.

We really like these eager young people when they come out and explore the farm and learn about the monarch butterflies and farming. They seem to know about as much as I do at times. I hope that they get the chance to come out this summer with their parents and learn more.
Watch the video here:

Friday, May 27, 2011

Monarchs Are Emerging From Their Chrysalis

Yesterday 7 monarchs emerged from their chrysalis. They remain in the usually green chrysalis for 11-14 days. Sometime during the end of this period, the chrysalis shell clears up and the butterfly can be seen tightly wrapped inside, as seen below

Then, after waiting patiently, the shell cracks and the emerging butterfly pulls itself out into the world. The whole process takes about two minutes.

Once the monarch has completely emerged, the swollen abdomen starts pumping fluid into the stunted looking wings.
It will hang upside down for several hours until the wings are hardened off.

Then it flies off, generally in a northward direction looking for food, a mate, and milkweed. This generation will only live for about two weeks as an adult.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ira B Jones Elementary School Visits The Farm

Vicki Hall's 4th grade class arrives for a tour of the Hop'n Blueberry Farm and butterflies

The kids get to see freshly hatched monarchs in the caterpillar house.

After listening to my monarch metamorphosis and migration, and seeing videos that I have made for U-Tube with caterpillars and chrysalis' hatching, the kids were eager to visit the fight house that now has 6 species of native butterflies in it and is loaded with flowers and plants that have eggs and caterpillars on them.

The butterfly house offers a close encounter with the butterfly

The farm really enjoyed these eager-to-learn students and we hope that they can take back with them some reason to help keep butterflies and other pollinators free from insecticides. This is a must for small farms across Buncombe County that are dependent on this process to keep native plants ready for the next generation.

And, we hope that the plight of the migrating monarch will have some support in future with this next generation of learned scholars.

We offer tours regularly from now until October of the farm. Bring yourself, your family, or your friends out to learn about butterflies, alternative crops like hops, milkweed, or ramps. The farm itself is just a magnificently scenic place to visit if you just want to enjoy a family farm that is located in one of the most picturesque spots in Western North Carolina.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Very Busy Time On The Farm

I have recently declared all out war here on the farm against all predators. Seems I have all kinds of problems, least of which are weeds! I have been on constant weed pulling patrol lately, tending each plant separately. Lets see, that's 250 blueberries, and 140 hop plants, and, 500 feet of butterfly nectar plants! My hands and knees are never without dirt on them.

I recently noticed a new problem with my new blueberry starts that I rooted from soft stems last year. They were whacked off at the base. I quickly contacted both Bill Cline, NCSU Blueberry Expert, and our very own Sue Collucci, dual Ag Extension agent for Henderson and Buncombe counties and small fruits and disease expert. Now these are people we can be proud to have as part of our agricultural community. Contact your state representatives to keep these jobs from being lost!

Yep, both agreed that varmints were to blame. Rabbits in particular. I got tons of rabbits. Seems that they just love to chew on soft hardwood tissue, just to piss you off it seems, cause it appears that they even leave the leaves? The incriminating evidence is the angular cuts on the stem as these two photos show.

Now, I will have to either cage the plants as they are put into the field, or, it's rabbit stew at the farm!!

My next varmint seems to be my neighbors now. They have increased traffic on my property and have diverted water breaks that lead to my irrigation system without my permission. It has caused me much headache and damage. They are city folk that don't realize what farming is all about or respect private property. I now have to repair my system and seek some retribution from these irresponsible actions. If I don't already have enough to do!!!

My first school group arrives this week. I will post the news from that later this week. Then the farm is booked for the most of June during the weekend, which is a good thing. I will have my annual family reunion, followed by a booked party, then the Family Farm Tour at the end of the month sponsored by ASAP.

Whooo, if you read all of this, think of how I must feel!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hop'n Blueberry Farm in Mountian Express Magazine

Cinthia Milner did a very accurate article on the farm this week, May 17, 2011. Check it out at the news stand now or online at www.

Oh yes, and the monarchs are coming again. I have my 5 instar caterpillars changing into chrysalis for the last few days. I have 30 in the house and 100's in the milkweed field. Can't wait for the grand opening on May 20, 2011. I will have a very large selection of all phases of butterflies at the butterfly house.

Come see us!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Farmers Life

I really want to know if there is a farmer out there that doesn't know as much about the weather, or better, more, than our local news forecasters do? If you don't, then you better try and find yourself another occupation.

Thankfully, weather has been a hobby of mine since I was around 7 years old. I have been keeping weather records for 35 years every day. I am just about as aware of what is going to happen as Ben Franklin flying kites, but yesterday fooled me.

We had a storm roar through here that gave me about a 45 minute warning. I had just listened to the news and there was no indication of an approaching storm, but I could plainly see the shift in wind direction, temperature, and cloud formations to know that I better get moving.

I had just finished winding some of my hops and stopped winding the rest, knowing a wind was coming and could easily break the delicately wound vines. I turned off my gravity feed irrigation system from the creek by the house, and barely got my wheelbarrows turned over when the storm hit with fury.

Lightning the length of the state of Florida streaked form cloud to ground, winds briefly topping 45 mph, and pea size hail along with 1.1 inches of rain in 35 minutes hit the farm taking a toil.

Damage was moderate here on the farm. All the remaining blooms on my blueberries were knocked off and 15 hop vines were broken off of the twine. Oh well, I have lost approximately 10 pounds of blueberries ( I didn't have that many here that I allowed to bloom) and probably about 20 pounds of hops were lost--new hop vines will come back, but will cone up before full growth of the vines.

I am showing a picture of my blueberry bush damage with some blueberries present and some with flower damage.

There is crop insurance that you can get on some of your crops. If you are in full production and have substantial investment in your crops, you may want to consider getting some. Be aware of the weather, and by all means listen to what is going on out there. Severe weather is on the increase, don't think for a minute that this will change. There is even a possibility of frost tonight!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Monarch Eggs Hatching

I do believe that I work harder on the weekends than I do during the week, which means only one thing--I get no rest. This weekend was no exception, especially with the giant honeydew list my wife Martha had for me. Actually, it was OK with me.

Have you ever heard of the saying,"the shoemaker's daughter goes barefoot"? For me, it is a common occurrence. There is so much weeding and fixing and cussing going on here at the farm, that I have little time to do those things right next to the house. Martha strongly suggested that we do them today, and how could I resist her puppy dog pleas.

So, I put off working on stringing up the hops, at least for the first half of the day , and got busy on her list. All was not that bad. As I was watering the milkweed seedlings I have growing here, I was able to get some really good shots of some monarch eggs and caterpillar hatching.

The monarchs, during the last two weeks, have laid hundreds of eggs on my milkweed and the cats are emerging and eating there way to wings. I got some good still shots of them emerging from the egg. The first meal they have is the egg shell.

I am showing three pictures here, the first on is of a monarch egg close to hatching, note the black head at the top of the egg sack. The second one shows the newly hatched caterpillar after it has eaten it's way through the egg shell . Red arrow is the egg shell, yellow arrow is the newly emerged caterpillar. The third shot shows just how small the caterpillar is. I am looking forward to opening the butterfly flight house in a couple of weeks, with butterflies, caterpillars, and eggs galore. Be sure to come and see us.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Stringing Up Hops

It is finally time to get the hops off of the ground and wound up the twine. I have been waiting for this, but have also been a little behind in getting it done. The weather has been somewhat wet and I have had other pressing projects at the farm that have needed attention all at once. But at least I have gotten to the first step-----"getting started!"

I use round bail bailing twine that I get from local farm supply stores for my twine. It seems to hold up through the season and is cheap. You get something like 15,000 feet of it for less than 40 bucks. Looks like for me, it is enough for 4 years at my current production of 135 vines.

Cutting the line to lengths takes some time, a good project for beer drinking friends one afternoon. They feel like they are doing something yet not stepping on anything! All kidding aside, I have had some really good help over here this year from friends at work, like Brent and Phil. I have another friend, Seth, who is also young and very energetic and who is going to grow some hops himself. They have saved me countless hours.

Once the lines are cut, I lower the main line and tie them to my permanently mounted hooks and raise it back up tying up the bottoms on my stakes at each plant. For stakes, I have made them out of pressure treated wood. They last and work well. I don't tie too tight, it is all tricky, but works so well.

Now comes decision time, picking my strongest looking vines to be trained clockwise up the twine. I usually pick three of them and cut out all the rest. This time next week, I will be back there cutting all the little ones trying to come up and maybe stripping the leaves off of my main vines up to around 18 inches to allow for air circulation.

I'll tell ya, these things are worse than having a house full of babies! From here on out, I will have to be tending to them every day and taking care of them. Make a man thirsty!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

First Monarchs Sighted

The weather broke this afternoon after cloudy conditions for 2 days and a heavy 2.4 inch rain. I went down to the milkweed patch to check on the condition of my plants and saw at least 3 female monarchs laying eggs.

My plants range from 1 inch to 7 inches tall. The Monarchs chose the smallest to deposit their eggs. The plant should be around a foot tall when the caterpillars hatch out and have plenty of tender leaves to eat.

These monarchs are pretty worn looking indicating that they have traveled far and are at the end of their short life. Monarchs in general left the Mexican forest three weeks ago. It is conceivable that the really worn butterfly that I took a picture of could actually have been one that overwintered in Mexico. She seemed to respond to me when I said, buenas dias!

The first picture is the freshly deposited egg next to my finger. You can enlarge the image by clicking on it. The second picture is the female laying an egg on a young plant. I expect caterpillars in time for the opening of the flight house in May. Come see them!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ramps Are UP

The ramps are looking good now at the farm. They first started breaking ground around the 15th of March. It looks like they are all in good shape with all of the rain and cooler temperatures lately. It was actually warmer in February than March by 5 degrees!
The picture above is my two year old ramp seedlings. Even though they are still small, they are almost ten times taller than their first year. It takes 18 months for the seeds to germinate. This means that I planted the seeds of these ramps over three years ago.

This is the reason that many of our native wild herbs and medicinals are so fragile. It takes so long for them to mature and when they are harvested and poached illegally, which is happening more and more, they are susceptible to becoming extinct.

Folks, if there is one thing I can say about all of our native plants, it is to only take what you need and plant a seed in its place. If it is a root crop like ramp, you can harvest them sustainably by leaving most of the bulb in the ground. The stem and leaves have just as much taste and it will be there next year!

Help save our native populations of plants. Ask me how you can help.