Monday, May 25, 2009

Welcome, the training of the bines

Welcome to the Bitterbine Blog! There are are few reasons why I started a blog detailing the progress at the Bitterbine Farm.

First, I hope to keep in touch with my extended family who mainly reside in Ontario. Having a Catholic background you might guess that I am part of a rather large family and it's simply too difficult to reach out over the phone, e-mail, or snail mail on a regular basis. Instead, I thought I would join the world of blogging as an alternative means of keeping in touch.

For those who are interested in actually growing hops yourselves, well then you are in luck! My second goal with this blog is to document our hop-growing project every step of the way. I hope to shed some light on the biology of Humulus lupulus, report on how the varieties fare in the unique climate of Lillooet, British Columbia, talk shop from a farmer's perspective, and generally showcase the herculean growth potential of hops throughout the summer season.

Lastly, The Bitterbine Blog will act as a show-and-tell of sorts. Every week we will have photographs of the hops as they train themselves up a ten-foot trellis, and hopefully lots of pictures of friends and family helping out as farmhands along the way!


Last weekend, co-CFO (Chief Farming Officer) Tim Hazard, my brother Paul, and our amazing neighbour Hal fixed the trellis system of the hop nursery. The week prior, wind gusts in excess of 80 km/h tested the structural integrity of this 10' trellis system, causing the posts to sway widly in all directions despite the guy wires. We decided to make some adjustments to the design by affixing the posts to each other with 1"x4"s to form a more unified structure. We think the changes produced a much stronger system. Special thanks to Hal for his sage advice! We will need to continually monitor the trellis as the hops begin to grow upwards adding hundreds if not thousands of additional pounds of vegetation to the system. We'll keep you 'posted'.

We were also surprised to see our hops taking off in their vertical pursuit for more sun! First out of the gates were the Willamette plants, with bines about 3 feet long by May 22nd. This particular variety originated from Left Fields Farm, the home of the coveted organic Crannog (pronounced with a long, drawn out 'O', NOT Crann-awe-g) Ales Farmhouse Brewery. The other 9 varieties came from a large conventional hop farm in Oregon. We think that the organic upbringing of the Willamette rhizomes is the reason for its early, vigorous growth to date. However, once established at our hopyard, all 10 varieties will soon produce certified organic hops!

At three feet in length, it was definitely time to train the hop bines up their respective climbing routes. We tossed 20' lengths of braided sisal over the horizontal trellis rope and brought a line down to each pot where we wrapped the bines clockwise in an east-west direction. The bines stuck like glue to the sisal with their velcro-like stalks. I'll have to post a macro-shot of the bine stalk to really demonstrate its gripping abilities. It's quite amazing!

Enjoy the blog!

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