April was coming to a close and our seven hundred and fifty-nine hops needed to be planted. I also needed to celebrate my 30th birthday. Light bulb moment. Plan a planting party for the first weekend in May with everyone I know. What an idea! Don't bring gifts just bring your enthousiasm for digging holes! This could have been a tough sell but fortunately I convinced 18 friends from Vancouver who made the trek over the Duffy or through the Fraser Canyon, while pushing through high elevation snow flurries and avoiding unexpected roadside ungulates, respectively. Include the brothers et al from Whistler (5) and a peppering of our limited local contacts (4) and we had a serious party on our hands!
After distributing a few dozen cups of coffee around and rousing a few stragglers from their tents, we began prepping the field. This turned out to be a larger task than we we thought. Fifteen rows needed to be tilled up, cleared of surface rocks, 150 tractor buckets of compost needed to be spread, and of course, the planting.
Hal worked the Woods rototiller in a not-so-traditional fashion by working one 5' section at a time across the field. A dedicated Heather assisted Hal in keeping within the planned rows.
With the soil loosened, myself and a few well-trained tractor operators started depleting our massive compost pile one bucket load at a time. At this point, the compost had been breaking down for just two months and microbial activity had slowed producing a fine organic blend ready to add to the hop yard.
The storm clouds started to develop by mid-afternoon and it appeared as though my sunny weekend guarantee was going to backfire in my face. Backfire with hail, to be specific. The change in weather was marked by a strong wind gusts twisting around the confluence of the Cayoosh and Fraser Rivers.
Workers rested on their shovels to witness the change in atmospheric energy and contemplated returning to the shack to change into more weather-proof apparel. This was a good idea, as a rain shower turned into hail and back to rain. Despite the terrible conditions, there was a cheery mood in the air with the crew donning their uniquely-coloured rain jackets!
By this time, we were ready to get the plants into the ground. What better tool to use than the classic maddock?
We spaced the holes 3.5' apart and filled them with organic amendments including bone meal, kelp meal, canola meal, and ash collected from burned ponderosa pines from around the property.
Productivity did eventually slow to a stand still but only after the entire acre was prepped and about 300 hops were planted into the ground. Job well done! Silliness ensued...
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