Sunday, August 30, 2009

The 2009 Hops Harvest

Today, we harvested all of our homegrown hops.

We started our hops bines in 2007, with the purchase of 12 initial rhizomes from   Georg built a 14 foot high, 36 foot long, single wire trellis with 12 full height biodegradable climbing ropes for each plant.   Following the clear instructions from Freshops, we planted one rhizome at the bottom of each climbing rope.   And then we waited.

By the end of the 2007 growing season, we had 3 foot to 6 foot tall bines, as expected.   The energy of the plants was being spent on developing a strong root system.   Spring 2008, after a cold winter, shoots soon appeared and the bines grew really well.   In September 2008, we harvested a few ounces of hop flowers and were very pleased with ourselves.   We used the hops to flavor one batch of homebrew.

But this year, we had our first true hops crop!   Nearly all the plants reached the top of the 14 foot ropes and started working their way down again.   The main bines were as thick as a finger.   And the flowers were bigger and in beautiful dense clusters.

Harvesting 14 foot tall bines, which by nature do a fabulous job of adhering to the ropes, is a challenge.   Ladders help.   And figuring out how to unwind the bines from the bottom helps, too.   It is the kind of work that requires a quiet patience.   Like most farm work.

After a few hours of work, and earning the multiple scratches from the rather itchy plants to prove it, we had gathered a whooping 10 full gallons of hop flowers!   They are now air drying and will soon be packed in the freezer for preservation until Kearsarge Meadows' BrewMeister, Georg, uses them to add wonderful hoppy flavor to his beer recipes.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Henniker Chili Fest

We will remember the weekend of August 22 -23, 2009 for two key events.

First, this was the weekend Hurricane Bill skimmed past New England, given those on along the shorelines a bit of excitement, but no real troubles.

Second was the Henniker Rotary Club's Annual Chili Fest at Pat's Peak.

The Henniker Chili Fest is a great afternoon out, with it's Classic Car Show, BBQ, arts & crafts vendors, and of course, the famous chili cookoffs. The 2000 or so people who attend the event, get to taste test over 40 chilis, then cast their votes for their favorites. And despite all of the threats of foul weather, the clouds held onto their rain until we got back home again.

We tasted between 30 and 40 different chilis. An ounce of each. Yes, that's approximately a QUART of chili. Our votes went to "Vindaloo", who used a lot of Indian spices to give their chili a very unique taste, and "Chappin" who had a very sweet chili.

We are already looking forward to the 2010 Henniker Rotary Club's Chili Fest.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Watching The Radar

Horses.   All day grass turnout.   Summer weather.   Thunderstorms.   Keeping safe.   That pretty much sums up summer time horse turnout management.   :-)

Most of our weather comes from the west, allowing us to see it approaching if we happen to be looking out the kitchen window.   However, if we're sitting at a computer, radar is our friend.

My favorite weather radar site is this one from
Radar.Weather.Gov and allows me to view weather coming from all directions via the Adjacent Radars arrows.

I first learned about this site when a colleague at Sun Microsystems emailed out a warning to everyone in the Nashua office about a strong front speeding its way to New Hampshire in July 2005.   Thanks, Eric!

The storm of July 2005 was quite intense, rather terrifying, and caused a lot of damage including shearing many of our tallest trees and washing out the entrance to our driveway, as shown in this photo.   While we have not seen a storm as strong as that since, we still listen for rumbles of thunder, keep an eye on the skies and watch the radar whenever thunderstorm alerts are posted.

Like today.

New School Season = New Evening Grooms

"What happened to Summer?", seems to be the favorite question around these parts.   With June and July being a total wash out, August is providing the only true taste of summer.   And September is only 10 days away!

With the new school season starting up, we will be saying "So long & good luck!" to two of our employees, both of whom work in the afternoon / evening shift bringing in the horses and feeding dinner.   One is off to College!   Congratuations!   The other is entering the High School Senior year and will be deciding which College or University to attend after that.   Both will be missed!

We're now looking for 1 or 2 local people to replace these great kids.   It's a good physical job for someone with horse experience who wants to earn a bit of cash working no more than 2 hours per day on a friendly, beautiful horse farm.

If interested, contact us via our farm website,

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Declaring War, Again

Too many emotions are experienced when a small scale farmer such as myself comes to find a collection of beautiful, soft, silky young chicken feathers on the driveway, feathers of young hens you know, young hens you raised from chicks.

Once again, another predator has made off with 2 young hens.   Both of the girls were born on March 23rd this year and were just starting to test their mature hen voices.   In another couple months, they may have started laying an egg here or there.   But, really, they were still babies.

Over the past few nights, twice I have seen a fox trot down our driveway around 2 am.   It sets off various alarms, including the dogs.   What a great way to wake up suddenly.   Anyway, it looks like that fox has been scoping out the farm, smelling chickens, and learning they hang out around the manure pile, where they eat fly eggs and various bugs.   One kill was done there, in the hen's own safe zone only yards from their box stall where they roost at night.   There is no sign of the other hen.

So, he came.   He found a plentiful source of food.   He killed.   And now you can bet your bottom dollar he will be back.   Most likely tomorrow or the next day.

This time, I will be waiting.   Yes.   This is war.   Again.