|To reach the tops of the bines, which ranges from 9 to 16 |
feet in our yard, we use this cage mounted on the
fork lift apparatus on David's tractor.
David had planned for the harvest to begin this week. There is a lot going on in Luray over the next few months, and some of the produce crops are ready for harvest too, so we were pulling the trigger if we were close to optimal dry mass. It was good luck that the results of our second test showed that the hops were in the zone - 25% dry mass, so the plants were ready!
To begin the picking, David and a couple of the guys head out into the hop yard with the tractor and our lift. The lift is made from a repurposed stock tank - we took out the plastic liner and left the metal container cage. This is mounted to a pallet so that it can be lifted by the tractor.
A harvest crew member goes up in this bucket and cuts away the bines from the trellis. From there, we have someone stationed on the ground to collect them on a trailer. Then they are pulled over to the pole barn for picking by the ShenPaCo team.
|Here's 78 pounds of wet hops, fresh from the 2016 harvest!|
Hops picking is a focused, but fun, activity. Last year we organized an event around it, and we will likely do that again in the future, but we couldn't make that work this year with everything that is going on in town.
At the end of the day, David told me they'd picked two rows of hops, and we had yielded 78 pounds. The remaining three rows appear to have more hops than this on them, so we'll see how we do at the end of it all.
The first load went into the oast for drying on Tuesday, and should have been ready to pack on Thursday - I don't have a report back on that yet, but should have something to write about it in my next post, which will be next week!