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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hay, Hops, Walnuts, It's Late Summer

Rowdy is enjoying his favorite wallow on our evening walk

Last week as I was writing, Sam was home raking and baling hay.  I had to leave here and go home to help put the hay up in the barn.  Of course, prior to putting it up in the barn, it needs to be picked up out of the field.  We use our truck and flat-bed trailer to do this.  This particular hayfield is about 4 acres and is long and narrow, bordered on one side by the road and on the other side by the creek. 

 Once the hay is picked up, it needs to be put UP into the loft and stacked in such a way as to get in as many bales as possible.  This year we had the help of an electric conveyor, but I was too busy stacking hay to get any pics.  Maybe on the next field.   I should mention our neighbors Judy and Charlie were a huge help.  Charlie is our farm-sitter when we are away as well.

Sam thought we would not get much hay this year, but we got approximately 450 bales!  Who's counting, right?  I am.  I figure that will cover December, January and February when 50 alpacas will go through about 5 bales per day.  We have another field to cut yet and also have an order in for 300 more bales from a local farmer.  Another hope is that I can downsize my alpaca herd somewhat!

 This loft is stuffed full. It is hard to tell from the photos how high this is actually stacked, but I think those white doors are about 15 feet high.  I do NOT like heights!

Now the field is all nicely mown and we can walk through it on our evening walks and take Rowdy to one of his favorite swimming holes in creek again.

I may have mentioned in past posts that Sam enjoys a good pint of beer and has been brewing his own for many years.  2 years ago he planted his own hops and last year planted more.  I think he is looking at having a nice HopCrop this year, though whether it will be enough for his needs I do not know!  Hops are a fruit that grow on a vine and they are what give beer its "bitter" taste.  Sam is a big fan of "Hoppy" beer.  I am not a big beer fan, but in general I do not care for the hoppier beers,  I prefer maltier beers. 

This is one of the vines he planted last year.  He had a hard time with these as something likes to eat the hop plants, so they are not very big this year, but this one is doing fairly well.


 Here is a close up of the hops.  They are about ready to pick and Sam will either use them right away or dehydrate them for use at a later time.  The hops are grown from a root, or rhizome, and will come back every year.

We have an abundance of black walnut trees on our property as well and this year, most are just loaded with nuts.  The black walnuts are not the same as the English walnuts you buy at the grocery store for baking.  They are a more bitter nut.  They are also exceedingly hard nuts to crack!  They have an outer hull, which needs to be removed, which is not as hard as it is messy.  I have heard of everything from hammers to running over the nuts with your car to hull them.  In the past, I have used a hammer to break the hulls and peel them off.  The hulls have a very oily dark stain in them which will stain everything it touches, so gloves are recommended.   You can even soak the hulls in a bucket of water and make a natural dye for wool.  However, I have never done this as it makes a rich brown dye and I already have alpacas that color. 

Anyway, when we get the first good frost, and then the sun comes up in the morning, you can hear the walnuts dropping from the trees.  This is when you collect them and hull them.  Once they are hulled, you spread the nuts, still in their shells, on a screen in a dry place and let them dry out for a couple weeks.  Then you can attempt to crack them.  Since the nuts are so plenitful this year, I will probably try this again.  I think I will use Sam's bench vise to crack them.  There are nut crackers out there that make claims of cracking black walnuts, but I have not found one yet!

For some reason this tree, which is down along the creek, has lost most of its leaves already.  But that makes it easy to see how many nuts are on it.

I have had little time for fibery pursuits other than the Spin-Off judging, though I did finish the rugs that were on my loom except for tying the fringes on the ends.  I will be dyeing like crazy here soon, but first I must get through Labor Day weekend.  I think I have 14 people staying on the farm with us!  Yikes!

Isn't this beautiful?  This was early morning one day this week.  I just love the clouds and the lighting.  Very dramatic.

And here is a picture of Ginger, doing what she does on our walks these days:  Bringing up the rear!

If I can drag myself up over our hills when I am her age, I will feel pretty darn good, even if I am bringing up the rear!

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