While technically not totally finished for the 2017, the majority of the projects have been wrapped up. Harvest, processing and drying went fairly well. We’re still waiting on the new yard to really set their roots and get going. This was their first year in the ground for a full growing season and we’ve taken extra care the last few months since harvest to give them a good head start on 2018.
Both yards have had some rich mushroom compost added in a circumference near but not directly on the crowns. This will encourage the roots to stretch out and down for those nutrients as they work into the soil, building the base for a stronger root system as well as the health of the plant, hops and leaves in 2018. We then covered each crown with a few inches of straw to protect them from the Winter winds, ice and snow. The insulation will also give them a good start in the next season to help them out compete the weeds.
Soon we’ll be putting “Big Red”, our IH674 tractor, to bed for the Winter as well. We could run it all year long, however only being up at the Farm one day a week, it makes more sense to prep it for a long Winter’s rest. Some day we might consider adding a plow or even a rear-mounted PTO snow blower to help with snow removal, but that’s for a different day. As such, in a week or so we’ll top off the diesel tank, pull the battery and wrap the tractor to protect it from the elements. We did discover a very small leak as the fuel line comes into the injection pump and fortunately it’ll most likely just need a new set of washers…let’s hope! I do truly love learning more and more about the tractor, the engine and transmission. All of it however it can be frustrating when I have bits and pieces of knowledge about what could be wrong and how to properly fix them.
Once the small hopyard was finished, I then decided it was time to dismantle the hops platform. Now this is probably one of those tasks I should have someone else assisting me with as it involves heights, heavy pieces of metal and wood…oh yeah, and wind and ice! Speaking to my brother over the phone as he was working down at the house, he did offer to come up and assist however I hadn’t made the final decision to take apart the platform and heck…I put it up and took it down on my own last year so, hey, how bad could it be?!
Well…I got the upper protection railings removed easily and dropped those to the ground below. It’s amazing how much different it feels to be on top of that platform just moments after the railing is no longer there. It’s like the ground below is trying to pull me off the platform to the ground some 16′ feet below. 16′ isn’t “terribly high”, however I am no longer “terribly young” and falling to the ground or bouncing off the deck of the platform below would not be ideal for anyone. I no sooner got the railings off and made my way down the ladder to start the next level and WHOOM…the ladder slipped backwards on the deck below due to ice that had formed. I didn’t fall far as the ladder came to rest on the next level down about 6′ below, but it caught my breath lets just say that. I’ve fallen enough climbing to date that I know to stop everything, make sure nothing else is about to give way, and took a good minute to check out how I was feeling and to check myself out for bumps, bruises or breaks. Yowza…should’ve taken Mike up on his offer 😉
I then proceeded to screw in a footer at the base of the ladder, something I’ve been thinking about all season long, so that it couldn’t happen again. I’ll also be securing the top of the ladder to the scaffold frame as well. During the season, someone’s always at the base of the ladder securing it. Anyway just know…that was the first and last time a ladder slipping will happen on that decking!
With the adrenaline subsided, I continued to slowly and safely dismantle the remainder of the platform. Again, next year it’ll be a two-person job regardless. The next trip up, I’ll be moving the platform and scaffolding sections down to the barn where they’ll be covered from the elements. We’ll also then be covering the wheels on the trailer to help extend the life of those tires.
All in all a pretty productive day. Weather was what I recall as classic November from my childhood…some snow, cold winds and gray skies. It was heartening to see and work in actually given the way Winters have been warming the last decade or so. Our Davis Vantage Vue weather unit has been a God-send to keep a realtime status of changing weather conditions up at the Farm since I’m 90-minutes away in State College the other six days of the week. It’s also giving us great historical information. You can find it here if you’re ever curious of the weather up that way.