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, September 18, 2008

One way in, two ways out.

After the hops have rolled "dribbled" off the dribbler belts they are ready to exit the machine on a series of conveyors. These conveyors will lead the hops to the kiln.

Sometimes we face problems like the one below, where there are too many hops for the conveyor to handle... if this is the worst thing that happens during the day, we are happy. Honestly though if this really does happen it causes a lot of problems because the machine will back up, chains can fall off, motors will overheat, and belts will break. A watchful eye on the amount of hops moving through the machine is a key to a successful day. We control this flow by changing the rate at which the vines are pulled into the machine. Usually this is somewhere between 18-24 vines per minute.

Trash is the second way out of the machine. A series of paddled chains carry the trash to its harvest resting place, a very large ever growing pile. This photo was from the second day of harvest. We are not almost thirty days in and the piles are very large now.

View from the far side of the pile.

This view gives glimpse of what the wooden paddles on the chain look like. They are spaced about 18 inches apart on the chain. The trash can be seen floating down. Leaves, stems, and coir.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Dribble Belts

Here are some great photos of the dribble belts. The hops fall out of a shaker onto what we call the harp (below on the right). The harp helps to separate the hops on their way onto the the dribble belts so that they are not all clumped together. The dribble belts are a series of belt that are all moving in the same direction.
The dribble belts are all moving in a upward direction from their slope (which is adjustable and is changed for almost every variety we have). The idea behind these belts is that the hops which are round will roll down and fall off the belt while the leaves and stems will not roll off. They will travel all the way to the end of the belt where they enter a trash conveyor. (this view is from the top the belts are moving away from you)

The is what the belts look like when looking back at them (belts are moving toward the camera). The hops can be seen moving over the top of the first couple belts. but as you might be able to see the uppermost belt has more hops then the next two in the photo. Most of the hops will fall through on the first three or four belts.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Pictures inside Machine

This is a view of the hop vines leaving the main picker. Almost all of the cones and leaves are stripped of the vine as it moves through. The hop vines in the photo are moving from left to right on pinched between a set of moving chains, which are out of view above the top platform.

View across the dribbler belts back toward the main picker. On the nearside of the main picker are to conveyors leading up to the left and right (that form a v in the photo. The one going up to the right leads to the Tumbler.

These are the hops dropping onto the Tumbler the step after the main picker, arm picker and breaker. The tumbler will remove most of the larger stems (laterals) that were pulled off during the trip through the main picker. It will also remove a small amount of the leaves. Everything taken out during this stage is sent back around through the arm picker and breaker for a second trip around (there are enough hops left on the laterals at this point to justify sending them back through the machine again).

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sweeping and Hanging

There is one other important job that is done outside the machine by the tracks, sweeping. At one picking machine are between 6-8 people who work the position of sweeper/hanger. These persons rotate between sweeping the floors and hanging the vines on the trucks. Usually three will be up in trucks hanging and the rest will be on the floor with brooms and pushers feeding the hops into the small holes in the floor onto conveyors that lead into the picking machine.

We sweep the floors because many of the hops from the vines that are making their way up the tracks fall to the ground. A majority of the material that falls off is individual cone and complete laterals as the vines are pulled loose from the bed of the truck. It is also common for two vines to get stuck together on the way out of the truck, one will fall to the ground in most cases. These vines are not swept into the machine as they have a tendency to plug up the belts forcing the machine operator to shut the machine down to pull the vine out of the bottom. Therefore, all vines that fall are thrown back into the truck, which is no easy take especially when picking established hop yards with lots of foliage and hops on the vines. Best guess is that your dragging around 30-40 LBS of vine that are 18 feet long, sometimes more than one at a time. We usually try to throw them back on the truck when the hangers have finished unloading. This creates less chance of the vines becoming tangled, which would cause them to fall again.

Sweeping loose cones and laterals that have fallen to the ground below the hop vines moving across the track above.
Fallen vines being straightened out to be thrown back up onto the trucks. Once on the trucks the hangers will re-hang the vines. Fallen vines cannot be pushed through the bottom of the machine... this causes too many problems.
The vines are being wrestled back onto the truck. Notice that it takes three people to move this mass of hops. One person can reasonably throw two vines back on a truck, if the number is higher there is not a chance.
Sweeper sweeping hops into the conveyor running below the floor. To the left of the man sweeping is the conveyor leading up into the bottom of the main picker.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Hop Shirts Now Available

We have received our newly designed short sleeve shirts.

All are printed on American Apparel 2001 Short Sleeve T-Shirts (Asphalt colored). Sizes run from S-XXL.

The shirts can be found in our Hop Shop (at the very bottom): http://www.hopsdirect.com/hops/shop.html

Please do ignore the first shirt entry as I somehow managed to lose editing capabilities after saving the file. It is now lost somewhere inside computer land.

Here is a view of the shirt from the front. The artwork wraps under the right arm to the back.

The back looks like this. Please note that our web address, www.hopsdirect.com (without the underline), is located on the late sleeve of the shirt in the same "font" as the names of the hops.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Hanging Hops

Here on our farm we still do most of our picking the old fashion way, hanging the vines, instead of running a hop combine other folks in our area do. The trucks pull into place below a set of hooks on tracks. The driver of the truck and one other person, normally called a "hanger", will begin to place the hops onto the hooks. This is a job that can be very tiresome... I'll explain hanger rotation later.

As I noted earlier the part of the vine nearest the ground is located by the cab of the truck and the top of the vine is toward the back. This is important because the hanger will grab the vine (bottom end) and place it onto the hook, pulling the hook into position so that a chain with teeth spaced about every three feet can come by to grab the took pulling the whole vine upward out of the truck. When the hanger moves the hook into position it triggers the release of the next hook in line to move into position to receive another vine. Usually the driver and the hanger will hang vines back and forth, that is the hanger will hang one while the driver is picking one up... then the driver hangs his while the hanger is grabbing his next vine... and so one until the truck is empty and all the vines are moving through the machine. (I read this over once and believe it makes sense to me, but I see this stuff everyday, so I apologize if this is just a confusing mess of words. Please do enjoy the photos though.)

View of truck inside below one below each set of tracks. As you can see the vines on the hooks are being taken upward on the tracks. Rough estimate of the height would be around 22-25 feet at the top of the tracks. There are three more trucks waiting to enter, but we always keep them off the cement until the truck in from has cleared out, that way the floors can be swept.

Here the three trucks are lined up right below the hooks. The driver in lane one is my cousin (red hat), he and the hanger are waiting for hooks to return from the top. This means that either they are really good hangers or the machine broke down... I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he is a good hanger, which is the truth.

One of our longtime employee's nicknamed "Cowboy" lifting a vine to the hooks.

View of truck from above in the machine at night, this photo was take near the top of the tracks. Note the small hole in the floor between the first and second truck from the bottom, we will cover its purpose next.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Release of our 2008 Crop

We just received our first couple State of Washington Department of Agriculture "Brewing Value Certificate" documents. We are required to have our crops inspected and certified by our State before we can sell any hops from the respective lot they belong to. Now that we have received these we have posted the following varieties in our online store. Centennial, Cluster, Mt. Hood, Tettnanger, Willamette. We are now harvesting Cascades, which means our first lot should have a certificate sometime in the next week.

There is a chance the pound you order can be seen in the picture below.