HOPS

Living on a hop ranch, I embraced the gifts of nature. There is a different dance for each of four seasons. Hop growth begins with the gentle awakening of spring. The hop bines* begin to slowly wind their way up the twine to reach trellis-top by mid-summer.  Branching outward, the plants produce a rich, deep forest. On cue, a multitude of small delicate flowers blossom and begin their transformation into cones. With hop cones full and fragrant, autumn’s shorter days signal the commencement of harvest. In a whirlwind of activity, the doors to the shop buildings burst open to send the specially designed combines to the fields; to activate the picker machines which separate the hop cones from the leaves and stems; to fire up kilns which dry the hops; and to begin the dance of the baler which sends a rhythmic cadence into the night air. A full army of trucks constantly go between field and shops from dawn until dusk. With the last hop picked, dried, and baled, activities cease, giving way to the deep slumber of winter. In this respite the ground is replenished, preparing for spring’s awakening. The dance begins again…

*Hop Bines: The hop bine is the climbing part of the hop plant that grows around a vertical support such as twine, wire, or (in the pre-agricultural days) trees. Its rough stem has downward-pointing bristles to aid in gripping the vertical support. Bines are similar to vines, however vines are climbers with tendrils.