Ramble On

Monday, May 4, 2015

@hawksbillhops - Final Prep Day

The view from the hoop house - where the raspberries grow!
On Wednesday afternoon I received a text message from David with some photos - he and Eric had completed the trellis and now everything was set for planting.  This thing was all set to come off!

I had made plans to be at the farm on Friday to help with final preparation for our planting event on May 2.  Of course there was a drenching spring rain on Thursday, giving us one more thing to worry about - would the ground be too wet to plant, or too muddy to let people out there in anything but boots?

Like he has done several times already on this journey, David reassured me that that time would be on our side, and things would take care of themselves.  There's an old saying, "Luck is where preparation meets opportunity" - maybe Hawskbill Hop Yards is going to be a case study for that one.

The field visit with VT.

One of several reasons we planned to meet on Friday morning was an expected meeting with some folks from Virginia Tech - since hops are still a nascent crop in Virginia, albeit a fast growing one with an increasing number of farms every year, this team wanted to come by and have a look at our set up.

We met for about an hour talking about the crop and about the experiences we're already hearing about from the other farmers, comparing hops to grapes as a crop - getting down to the science of the plants, and confirming or developing strategies for dealing with known threats, such as mildews and pests.

We're not shy about the fact that we're not going to be organic on this farm, it seems the crop is too susceptible to issues once you get to this scale (we'll have 800 plants on one acre this year), so we have a number of strategies all set for fungicides and pesticides which we will use at the appearance of these threats (although in the case of the mildews, we're going to be proactive).

A final look at our preparations - ready to plant!

Following a lunch break, I came back to the farm, and worked with David to mark out the rows.  We planned to put the plants on 3-foot centers; we ended up with 13 rows and we can have up to 66 plants per row.  One row was to be left empty bordering the two rows of the CTZ, to provide air flow on both sides of those, and we put the Goldings on the far west row so it has air as well (both are mildew susceptible).  

So with all the rows marked out, all we had left to do was double check our logistics, hope that heavy rains would hold off, and send out a final note about the field.

On Saturday, May 2, we'd put in the 800 plants and at last we'd be a hop yard!

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