Our Goal for this Blog

Over the years we have received and continue to receive numerous phone calls and emails asking many different farm related questions. Our thought is that we would try out a blog to keep people up to date on what we are doing here on Puterbaugh Farms and at Hops Direct.

We will just jump right into where we are at in the growing season with a very brief look at what it took to get the hops to the stage they are in now. If interest is actually shown and people are looking for more information we will continue through the winter and pick up the beginning next spring, which will allow everyone to get a feel for what a full crop year looks like from a hop grower's perspective and all of the many challenges involved. We hope you enjoy.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Craft Brewers Conference

As we were going through photos today we stumbled across some of our booth that we use when attending the Craft Brewer's Conference each year. The conference occurs in April each year. The 2008 conference was held in San Diego and next two will be in Boston '09 and Chicago '10. Our family attends the conference because we like to show everyone what we are all about, which is being a family farm... We would encourage anyone who is living in the Boston or Chicago areas to come visit our booth at the conferences if you have a chance. The main attraction is that we almost always bring a full bale of hops (200lbs.) with us, and most people cannot believe how large, heavy, and fresh the hops are in the bale. Of course we also have prizes for the people who are able to correctly identify the variety of the bale by smelling the hops.

As you can see we built a mini version of a hop trellis complete with the actual wire we use in the fields, most are blown away by the gauge of the wire and the fact that a real trellis setup is about 2.5 times higher that the mini version we set up. (in the front right are our pickled hop shoots that we traditionally serve with cheddar cheese cubes to guests, you either love or hate them)

Beside the door on the left side is bale of hops, this year we brought a Willamette bale of hops with us. The nice part is that we normally never have to take the bale home with us, because normally someone really wants to take it.

The hops covering the wire in near the back of our booth are actually silk hops. They actually look pretty good, even up close. Another thing to note is that we used a single disc (from the disc's we run through our hops) as the base for our poles. (please disregard the picture of pumpkins on the computer screen in the background that's just a part time hobby of ours, the younger cousins love selling them in the fall)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What do we raise?

As always the questions we receive lead us to most of our postings. Many are wondering what varieties we actually raise here on our farm and why we choose to raise the ones we do.

The first part of the question is simple, we raise fourteen different varieties at this time. We raise the old mainstays Cascade, Cluster, Willamette, Nugget, and Galena. We like to grow small amounts of what we would consider specialty hops which include Tettnanger, Mt Hood (not extremely common in Washington), and Magnum. Of course we also have super high alpha varieties as well including some of CTZ varieties. For mid alpha we have Chinook and Centennials.

The question of why we choose the ones we do is a little more complicated to answer. We select varieties based on numerous factors... Ideally we like to have a hop that fits well with our soil profile and climate conditions. Hops such as the Tettnanger, Magnum, and Mt. Hood for instance do not grow extremely well in our area because it is too hot, which is why we have very limited acreage of these varieties. Each variety also has a pickability factor, that is the rate at which we can run the hops through our machine, which can be extremely costly for some of the varieties that are notoriously harder to harvest.

Two of the most important factors would be the price of long term contracts for each variety and how the varieties fit into our harvest schedule. For instance, even if there was one variety that was receiving the best price across the board we could not plant just one variety. There is a specific time frame in which each must be harvested (our harvest is 45 days long), and we have a target date for each type of hop we raise so that they can all be harvested at their peak. This is only possible with great diversification of varieties.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Patience they are not ready yet.

I have been receiving more emails and have read on many forums that people are beginning to pick their hops. From most of the pictures I have seen posted they do not look mature, so be careful out there. Since our cones are almost developed at this point we will begin to start posting pictures of them so you can see what we are looking for to determine harvest times. But since harvest is still three weeks out for us it seems a little premature to start doing so. In our hop yards we like to see uniform timing of blooming and the formation of the cones so that the entire yard matures at the same time.

In our mature Centennial yard cones have already formed. Please note that although these look like fairly sizable cones we will not be harvesting for at least another 21 days, that is why I would stress patience to those who grow hops at home. Currently on our farm it looks at though the Centennials may actually jump the Cascades in harvest order this year.

On another note here is a picture of one of our super high alpha yards taken on July 28, 2008 (yesterday). As you may notice there are no cones forming, in fact we would be excited to see more leaves and laterals and foliage... This yard luckily will be one of the last ones harvested in our season (around September 24th) so it has a little bit of time to try to put in one last growth spurt.

Here is a picture of one of our sprayers at work in the morning. We use large usually 400-600 gallon Air Blast sprayers in our hop yards. Notice how there is coverage all the way from top to bottom (0-18 feet), as well as coverage through the rows to the sides. When spraying we drive down every row as the vines have a tendency to twist and turn a lot when they are getting pushed around by the air movement. Complete coverage is essential.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Don't break the mainline!!

Today I was out changing the settings on our automatic timers for the drip irrigation in one set of hop yards as per my uncle's instructions. Of course man is smarter than most machines so there was no way to make them do what we wanted them to. (we even stooped as low as reading the instructions, don't recommend doing this... waste of time) But more importantly midway through I noticed a small ravine running down one of the rows. Tomorrow's project is to fill the whole thing in, it's only a 14 mile drive in our loader and back so that's a good hour plus sitting on the loader with flashing lights (we don't have a trailer big enough to haul it). As always photos will help tell the story.

So there was a rather small trail leading down a row... I decided to follow it out of curiosity.
The hole began to open up a bit more as I continued to walk down. Since our hop yard is on a decent pitch I assumed it would only get worse.
As you can see the ravine is pretty big. Tractors no longer will fit down the row with out falling into the holes that were created. The saving grace was that it ran straight down on row instead of sideways across the field, which would have been a major mess.
This hop was not as lucky as the rest. It's a little hard to survive 90 degree heat with no soil around your roots.
Hops are tough though. These one have fallen down 3 to 4 feet to the point were the twine is holding them up. Upon closer inspection I notice that most of the rhizomes were out of the soil and only the roots were reaching into the ground.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The New Shirt!

Many fun things happened today on the farm, but almost all of them were topped by the arrival of our newly designed shirt. To this point I had only seen computer sketches of the shirt, but today I was able to wear the real thing. Below are photos of the shirt onto which all the names of varieties we raise have been added.

On another note we have been throwing around ideas about how we are going to start selling the 2008 crop. We currently have a few different options on the table. One of these includes opening up the sales of whole hops (leaf or flowers to some) as soon as possible after we have competed the harvest of each variety (this would be about 5-7 days after they are harvested to give time for them to stabilize in cold storage and to be tested by the state for alpha acid readings and such). The ramifications of this method would be that we would not have all of the crop available at the exact same time, because we harvest nonstop for 45 days. Some of the first varieties harvested would include the Mt. Hood, Tettnanger, and Cascade soon after. Pellets of course would not be available until sometime after the conclusion of harvest probably mid to late October for whatever variety we decide to run through the mill first.

Comments on either the shirts or the 2008 crop are welcome.

Here is a view of the front of the shirt. We will probably be using a darker colored shirt with the same colored artwork, one of my friends has the shirt on right now and just left the house so I cannot post a picture of it tonight.

As you can see the artwork wraps around under the right sleeve to the back of the shirt which contains the names of more hop varieties.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Past, Past, Present

We thought you might be interested to see the progress our hops have made in a three week span. These photos were taken of a first year Centennial hop yard. For the past three weeks we have had temperatures in the upper eighties to the mid nineties, which is ideal for hop growth. We are looking forward to another three weeks of this weather and hope for significant growth because the babies have a long way t6 grow.

July 3, 2008 Rhizomes finally have established their roots and are just beginning to grow.

July 16, 2008 Row in picture same as above. (If only the hops grew as fast as the weeds...)

July 24, 2008 Picture taken three rows to the west. Notice the significant growth over the past nine days.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

We hit water!

We started drilling a well late last week and have successfully hit water. It's always nice when things turn out like you hope. We also just received a new piece of machinery for our pellet mill we have here on the farm to pelletize our hops before we send them out to brewers. The piece we a little heavier than expected which made unloading it a fun problem to solve. In the end we had to use two forklifts, one of each side of the truck, then we had the truck drive out from under it while the forklifts remained in place. Now we have to figure out how to install it, considering this piece will be housed about 15 feet off the floor. Tomorrow we will be getting out the tape measures to solve this dilemma.

The well drilling equipment at work near the picking machine.
Pellet mill upon arrival, weight approximately 7,500lbs., width 8', weight distribution - very uneven and on one small pallet. This all adds up to make a very interesting morning of trying to move the mill.

Lots of future cones are in development in this hop yard.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Now we wait

Currently we are just waiting around for cones to mature. This does not mean we are doing nothing, but I can think of nothing exciting to share right now. Mostly life consists of fixing broken pipes, cleaning up graffiti on our machinery for the fourth time in two weeks, taking flat tires to town, and keeping on top of the pest and disease situations. We have also finished getting one of our picking machines completely prepared for harvest and are moving onto getting the other one ready as well. Please email me some questions if there is a topic you think I could touch on between now and harvest time.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Arching Hops

There comes a time in every season when the hops reach a point we can no longer drive a tractor down the rows without taking the risk of getting the strings and bines caught tearing the bines to the ground. To combat this we use a method called arching to pull the bines from each hill together in a group allowing more room for the tractors to pass down the rows.

Arching was more common in the older fields that were planted in the 7 x 7 format, but we sometimes still have to arch on the newer fields as well. When arching, one pulls all the bines from the hill together by hand then proceeds to wrap and tie a small piece of string around the whole group, usually the strings are about two feet long and tied three to four feet from the base.

Here is the string we use to arch our hops together. In the photo there are 4 bines pulled together all coming from one hill. This string is placed at a height of about three feet.

Close up of the knot used when we arch hops.

This is the view up a row that has been arched, notice how all of the bines on each hill are tied together about 3 feet off the ground. This allows the tractor to pass through with ease, in cease you are wondering we use a large cab tractor in the hop yards.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Hop Picking Machine and Kiln

People have often asked, "What is a hop picking machine?". Some think it is a vehicle that we drive through the fields somewhat like a combine or grape harvester. In reality we have a building we call our hop picking machine. They are very large and highly immobile structures that contain a network of moving parts which work to separate the cones from the bines. Our goal on the farm is to have less then 1% leaf and stem in our cones by the time they are sent to the kiln to be dried.

Hop picking machine (foreground) with the kiln in background.

The truck will be driving through the two large doors seen above and will pull up under the hooks seen in the photo below. The bines will be placed one at a time upside down on the hooks by hand to be run through the machine.

Conveyors running from the machine to the kiln and back. The conveyor in the foreground takes the wet hops to the kiln to be dried while the other returns the hops once they are dried to the baling room. (One bale in the United States weighs approximately 200 pounds)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Transition from burrs to cones.

Over a short period of time the burrs will begin to develop into cones. The bracts will form at the top of the burr moving their way toward the bottom. Once this transformation happens, we have baby cones on our hands. In our hop yards some of the bines will bloom a little earlier than others meaning we have hop cones forming at different stages in our yards.

Here on the farm our Cascades are beginning to turn while the super high alpha varieties in most cases are just beginning to burr. Everything here on the farm has to be planted so that we can harvest each yard at or near its peak. This means we must have varieties that reach maturity at different times throughout our harvest schedule.

Once again I'll leave it to the photos:

Bracts beginning to form near the top of the cone, they will continue down to the bottom forming a complete baby cone (these are Cascade).

Here are some complete baby cones, super high alpha.

Sometimes one bine will be an early bloomer, check out the Cascade on the left compared to it's friend on the right.

By the way the powdery mildew has been terminated this time around. Notice how it has turned brownish instead of bright white.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sweet Shirt!

The internet has been down in Mabton, Washington so I have been forced to dictate this post over the phone to my fiancee (she's a great sport).

We are really excited about the new hop shirts we got in and have been wearing them non-stop! In our opinion it is some of the greatest hop artwork we have seen to date.

I was able to take some really great photos today and am hoping to post them tomorrow (dead powdery mildew!, hop cones forming, and arching, which I will explain later).

Pictures in hop fields are awesome!

I love this sky.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Are my hops in bloom?

In the past couple days, we have had many people ask how to tell if/when their hops are blooming/cones are forming/or if they have spurs or burrs.

It is already past the time in our season where most of the lateral growth occurs. The laterals will leave the main stem. Usually this happens near each set of leaves that are on the main stem, and you will note that the leaves occur in pairs and the laterals normally shoot off in pairs from opposite sides of the main stem. After the laterals have had a chance to grow the hops begin their next stage.

The formation of hop cones (on the farm we do not call them flowers) will be on the lateral growth not the main stem of the bine. Currently we are at the stage where they new cones are in the form of small burrs, which look like little spiky balls.

I believe photos will help more than words:

Close up of hop cones beginning to form.

Nice shot of burrs forming in a super high alpha yard taken today.

Check out all the lateral growth coming from this Cascade.

Closer view of the Cascade from July 3, 2008. Note all the cones beginning to form on the laterals.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hop Powdery Mildew

Another major disease we deal with here on the farm is hop powdery mildew. Powdery mildew is a relatively new disease to our area and farm during our third generation of farming. There are some varieties we raise on the farm that are resistant to powdery mildew; these include our Nugget and Cascade. Most all of our other varieties are susceptible to powdery mildew with Galena and the super high alpha varieties (CTZ) being some of the worst.

Powdery mildew has been difficult to manage and can lead to low yields if it gets out of hand. Like downy mildew, powdery mildew starts out in or near the ground, but powdery mildew works its way from the bottom to the top of the bines very quickly, while downy mildew normally stays around the crown. All of our yards are checked at least once a week by professionals as well as by us when we drive around daily.

Burn-Back and stripping are one of the best ways to help control and defend against major powdery mildew outbreaks.

Sadly I do have a few pictures of powdery mildew:

Powdery Mildew spot on a leaf found about five feet from the ground. This is something we would rather not see in our yards.

Close up of burn-back in a high alpha hop yard, notice the foliage browning from the ground to about four feet up.

View down row of super high alpha's that have recently been burnt back.

Links to more information on Powdery Mildew:

Oregon State University -Plant Disease Control:

University of Idaho - Plant Soil Entomological Sciences:

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I'll leave a note next time I leave town.

I apologize to everyone who came looking for new posts this past Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The author of this blog, me, left the farm late Wednesday night for Phoenix to be a groomsman in a good friend's wedding. Between now and then I have experienced severe Internet withdrawals, but lived through it and have great ideas for more posts in the next week, daily of course.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Hop Yard Height/Size

We have received a few questions regarding the height and size of our hop yards. All of our trellis systems are built with 21-23' lodge pole pine poles, which are placed in the ground to a depth of about 3-4' each. This gives us a ground to top wire height between 18-20' for all of our hop yards. The hop yards themselves range between 9 and 20 acres. During the winter and in early spring we will post more about our trellis systems as this is when we do most of our maintenance on them.

Me standing at the edge of a hop yard, I'm 6'1" just to give an idea of how tall the trellis is.

Strings going into the hills nearby where I am standing in the photo above.

Close up view of how the coir strings are tied off to the top wires. These knots are tied single handed so that two coir strings can be attached simultaneously.

Here is a link to maps showing images of some hop yards, the picture above show me standing in the hop yard (20 acres in size) directly Northwest of the little red pointer tag on the map. The yards located to the north are all square 10 acre yards:


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Hop Downy Mildew

Hop Downy Mildew is a fungus specifically related to hops (Humulus Lupulus), its only host. Downy mildew can be diagnosed in many different ways, but at this stage in the season downy mildew appears as dark blackish spots on the underside of leaves near the crown, hopefully not at all though. In the worst cases if downy mildew is not controlled it will rise up through the bines where it will start to infect the cones, if not addressed before bloom.

Downy mildew can attack hops very rapidly when there are conditions of high humidity and stagnant air in the hop yards (see Burn Back and Stripping). Most of the damage inflicted by downy mildew occurs at the base of the hop, wrecking havoc on the crowns themselves promoting root rot and infecting the shoots in early spring when they rise out of the ground. Here on the farm if we see downy mildew in the yards we do our best control it with increased airflow and the removal of infected crowns from the yards.

Luckily I do not have any pictures of downy mildew at the moment (this is a good thing for us), powdery mildew is another story though. Please feel free to look at the following sites for more detailed information on downy mildew:

Oregon State University Plant Disease Control:

University of Idaho Department of Plant, Soil, & Entomological Sciences:

Monday, July 7, 2008

Burn Back or Stripping Hops

Once the hops reach the top of the wire we either burn back or strip the bottom of the bines nearest the ground. What this entails is removing the leaf and lateral arm matter from the hill to about three to four feet off the ground. We do this for a variety of reasons. One of the major factors is that it helps to increase airflow through the hop yards thereby creating an environment that is less susceptible to mildew.

Burning back or stripping does not lower our yield per acre, due to the fact that a vast majority of the cones will form on the uppermost regions of the bines. In fact removing the growth toward the bottom of the hop allows them to focus more energy toward the top, instead of wasting it on leaves and laterals near the bottom which don’t produce a lot of hops.

Here are a few photos of a yard that has been stripped by hand, which is normally reserved for fields in which mildew is major issue:

High Alpha yard that has been stripped by hand, notice how you can see the twine with only two or three bines wrapped around it.

View across high alpha yard at ground level, notice how there is no foliage remaining near the top of the hills.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

1st Year Hop Yards

In the Yakima Valley we are known for some of the greatest hop growing conditions in the world. This means that in normal years a 1st year hop yard can achieve 60-80% yields. In our current season due to abnormally cool conditions the 1st year hop yards are struggling their way up the string.

Our target date on the farm for having our hops reach the wire (the point where the coir twine is tied off to the trellis, usually about 18-20 feet) is the Fourth of July. So that the hops can start focusing on growing more lateral arms where the blooms will later occur.

Here are some photos I took of some 1st year yards on July 3, 2008, trust me they did not reach the wire by the 4th.
1st year yard only a foot off the ground.
1st year Centennial's in the foreground with mature Centennial yard behind them.
1st year Willamette's making better progress than the rest, because they love the cooler Oregon Willamette Valley like weather (hence the name Willamette).

Friday, July 4, 2008

Drip Irrigation Systems

As mentioned yesterday we also use drip irrigation systems (drip) on Puterbaugh Farms. Any new acreage that we plant has drip. There are numerous benefits to using drip in the baby hop yards. With the drip systems we only run our water sets between 2-4 hours once every other day when temperatures are cooler, sometimes we run them daily when the temperature pushes toward triple digits. All of our drip systems are equipped with timers so that the valves change automatically from one to the next. In theory, this would save time, but we still have to keep a watchful eye on our pumps to make sure there is still water flowing. A three hour set, on a timer, without water is useless. Currently we are running four separate pumps with timed systems.

The ability to put fertilizer directly into the water right after it exits the pump is priceless for raising the baby hops. We are able to calculate our fertilizer application with great precision and do not have to use a tractor to apply it. This is not an option in traditional ditches.

In a nutshell we cut the watering time from 36 hours in a traditional ditch system to 2-4 hours with drip and we no longer have to stand there with a shovel all the time. On top of this we can enter the hop yards at any time with a tractor instead of having to wait until the fields dry out enough to run tractors through them.
Drip line running down row of baby Centennials.
Mature hop yard with drip being watered, notice how dry the middle of the row is compared to fields having ditches.
Valve assembly with timer on top.
Close up of timer, this one runs a 3.5 hour set from 11:30 AM to 3:00PM.
Water box in foreground with a pair of pumps and sand filters the large round steel objects, fertilizer unit on the far right.