Garden

First Check on the Spring Garden

Wanting to let the sun heat up the farm and beehives, I planned to perform the desperately needed landscaping maintenance on the garden aisles. However the weedwacker would not continue running instead shutting off a after about 40 seconds of idling, or whenever I opened the throttle at all. The blisters on three fingers and the intense DOMS in my shoulder blade attest to how many times I got it started. Was it bad gas mixture that sat all winter? Was it the carburetor that a knowledgeable mechanic found to be on its last leg a few months ago? Either way, my desire to be independent from petroleum powered machinery was reiterated and the most time-consuming task on my to-do list was not attainable.

So I spent the time wandering and weeding the garden beds. The hops and asparagus were already sending shoots out of the ground while the buds of grapes and blueberries were beginning to swell.

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Emerging Asparagus

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Emerging, nitrogen hungry hops with symbiotic, nitrogen-providing clover companion planting

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Swelling grape buds

Notice the similarities between young hops and asparagus shoots? They can be harvested and prepared in the exact same manner. I will elaborate on this more in the future.

 

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Garden

Absentee Gardening

This year the plan is to set and forget. I am going to deeply mulch the garden beds and leave them be as I will only be able to check in once or twice a month. I’ve got a plan for produce self sufficiency that I will expand upon in the future.

Other than groundhogs, water will be the anticipated issue, does anyone have any suggestions for plants don’t require much in the way of thirst?

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Garden

El niño year causing garlic top growth in winter

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This photo kind of hurts my eyes. I must have had HDR on for some reason so I apologize for that!

Fall planted garlic is not supposed to form top growth until spring! Winter has finally arrived after much of December seeing temperatures in the 70 degrees F.

If you are concerned about the effect of unseasonably warm winters on the success of garlic, fear not. Most reading I’ve done on gardening forums has assured that the top growth will die back in when cold finally sets in only to regrow in the spring causing no harm to the clove-bulb development that we seek.

Anyone else seeing this? Or has anyone had this happen in the past and want to provide some additional reassurance?

 

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Garden

Drying and storing hops

I’m using the hops that I didn’t send to the local brewery to practice the drying process. Once picked, hops need to be dried so they don’t mold while also kept from exposure to light. The latter needs to be observed all the way until the finished beer is consumed. Light exposure activates the photosynthetic tissue in residual hop matter that flavors or bitters beer resulting in the distinct “skunk” flavor that has actually become a characteristic flavor of some European beers packaged in green bottles then shipped to the US.

So I use discarded beverage trays lined with discarded screen in combination with time to dry my hops. Mild heat or airflow can be used to speed the process but I avoid mechanical processing and strong airflows that might dislodge the pollen looking resins that contain the desired acids/flavor/aroma compounds. This is only mentioned because some people use tumble driers or even clothing driers!

I start by weighting a specific amount of hops that will be kept together through the entire process. The process is to fill a tray loosely with a layer of wet (aka fresh) hops. Then repeat by stacking the next tray atop the previous tray:

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When the test sample of hops loses 80% of it weight, I store them in ziplock bags, squeeze the air out then freeze. If I’m feeling less lazy, I’ll vacuum pack the hops in a food saver. When I am feeling conditionally lazy like with this batch, I’ll spend 5 hours brewing a batch of beer just to avoid the 20 seconds it takes to toss the hops into a freezer.

Note: this is just my casual process for harvesting poor quality first year hops. Usually hops are mostly green, but my centennial hops were overripe thus overdried on the vine while the cascade hops were underripe with the first frost bearing down that weekend. So I harvested and processed them together!

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Planting trees to play tricks on potential customers

I love hops as well as the creative beers in which they are used so I aspire to to be a small hops producer. I have good relations with various breweries in the area and hope to court those that are sustainably oriented.

But I also want to instill some good natured confusion upon those that visit the farm.

A cool tree that stuck with me from studying forestry in college is the Hophornbeam, Ostrya virginiana. Its flowers resemble green hops and turn brown as the flowers sheath the new fruit.

From wikipedia:

“Ostrya virginiana 2” by Eric Hunt – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ostrya_virginiana_2.jpg#/media/File:Ostrya_virginiana_2.jpg

I will plant a pair of these at the farm entrance. Think of the possibilities! I can jest that I’ve grafted hops to a birch tree and am the first ever producer of tree hops. These trees will serve as a good conversation starter!

 

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My go-to garden ground cover

Many, many times previously, I’ve mentioned my prefered ground cover of buckwheat and clover. Since even immature buckwheat helps soil structure, I tried to sneak in one last planting before frost with seeds from the earlier plants:

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To be completely honest, I’ve planted a few different clovers and I’m not longer aware which variety is depicted above. It is either dutch white, crimson or medium red clover.

Since the first frost occurred, all of the buckwheat is gone as I explained here. Yet the clover is still thriving and a deep green!

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Anecdotal: Basil + Asparagus = ladybugs

Here is a ladybug nymph molting on my asparagus fern adjacent to the bolted basil:

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There are hundreds of nymphs in the asparagus beds, including the one without basil so I’m not sure how much the basil has to do with it. I decided to bolster the predatory insect population with additional mail order ladybirds. That discussion will be saved for the off season downtime!

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