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!