As many of you are already aware, what started out as a promising year for hop production took a decided downturn. Several weeks of non-stop rain played havoc with the plants and in the end half of the third year plants had died. Seeing plants that I had tended for so long wither and die was heart breaking.
However, all was not lost. The remaining plants continued to forge ahead. Even as their brethren (actually they are female, sistern?) turned brown and crispy, they held course and in time the spurs that become cones were visible. I did not dare hope, yet the cones continued to develop.
A few days ago I noticed a few cones that looked good enough to pick. So I got out the ladder and climbed up to see what was developing at the top of the trellis. I was quite surprised to see that a substantial number of cones had developed in the upper reaches of the plants. Many of the cones, though ready to pick, were smaller than normal. Still, a significant number were of good size.
I happened to be brewing that day, so I used some of the fresh picked hops in that brew. I dried the others and there are still more waiting to be picked. While the harvest will be nowhere near what we anticipated in the early spring, I do think it will be bigger than last year. All things considered, that is quite an accomplishment.
One nice thing about hops is that they tend to get stronger every year and spread readily. Given this, I suspect that the remaining plants will be able to fill in the gaps left by the departed. Our first year plants, some of which amazed us all by producing cones, should be on line for a good harvest next year. So let us be thankful for the harvest we got this year and look forward to next year.