Truly, Winter is coming and today it felt like it was almost upon us!
Temperatures are still in the average realm for this time of year, however the winds have picked up greatly. The windspeeds are close to what I’ve felt walking these fields in late December and early January.
I actually totally enjoy the weather this time of year…reminds me of being in the mountains. Having been almost blown off my feet many times on peaks in Colorado and the Adirondacks, catching small glimpse of those moments always brings a smile to my face. As such, the wind this day was a welcome friend.
The day began with…wait for it..WEEDING…by hand, for hours at a clip! Ah the life of a Certified Naturally Grown farmer! I had one row I wanted to finish weeding and weed whacking this day, as I knew I wouldn’t have time for the very final one. I’ll save that for next week. As the hops bines have shrunken to almost infinitesimal heights since harvest on top of now being buried in a plethora of healthy weeds, making sure to weed everything BUT the hops was a challenge. I clear about 2’ around the hop crown and work to break up the soil surrounding it. I then cover the crowns with some additional soil so as to protect and insulate them during the cold and icy Winter months that will follow.
Once I had a full row weeded by hand, I then returned with the weed whacker and homemade shield. The shield is a 2’ tall section of HVAC duct that I secured to a long handle. I place the shield over the hop to protect it as I weed whack all the standing growth in between each hill. Earlier in the process, my Dad and I would then follow with a flame weeding. However at this point in the season, the wind is always blowing, much too hard to risk having a stray ember catch a portion of the field on fire. We’ll revisit the flame weeding in the Spring.
Just as I was finishing the weed whacking, I got a text from our local landscaper. We’d been in touch about him picking up and delivering a load of mushroom compost from our the composting facility. He showed up right on time and we got the load dumped in our new composting/mulch area near the large hopyard. I then sped back down to the barn, parked the car and got the trailer cart hooked up to the golf cart and headed back up to the hopyard to begin spreading the compost.
It seems odd to some to be using a golf cart for this type of work, but honestly it works quite well. No gas and oil to worry about, we always charge it at the end of the day. Simple controls, has a full set of lights, a hitch to pull the trailer and some extra room for tools. Now we’re not pulling a ton of compost, but for what we are working with, it does the job really well! I was able to load up two carts full and spread it around the hops crowns. Yup around, not on. We spread it about a 1’ or more in a circle around each crown. The idea is as the nutrients soak into the soal, the roots of the hops will then seek out those nutrients by spreading out. This increases their length and depth and will help the hops mature and grow stronger.
I worked in the wind and the rain right after it turned dusk, then headed back down to the barn as I still had tools and equipment to clean and put away. It’s a good habit I learned from my Dad and Grandfather and really try and stick to it every single work day. Once everything was back in it’s place and the barn locked back up, it was time for that familiar hour and a half drive back to State College.