Tag Archives: Growing

A-Photo-A-Day: Growing Green Onions.

Growing green onions in a glass of water in the window. I can cut off greens whenever I need them, and believe me they grow faster than I can keep up with them! Free is nice. Two notes, change water 1-2 times a week. Every 4-6 weeks take each onion out and remove the slimy outer layer. Put back in fresh water.


Filed under DIY, From the Garden, Photo Series, Vegetables, Vegetarian

A Grand Hopportunity – Chapter 5 – The Yard Dog Fresh Hop Amber {Extract}.

This recipe is the last chapter in the hubs hop posts, but it will not be the last brew we post. We will share several more successful extract brews before we switch to all grain brewing in the new year. Then we will start the adventure of sharing those recipes too! Enjoy.

Fresh Hop Amber.

This fresh hop recipe was very simple because I wanted to really get the flavor and aroma of this years hop harvest. Next year I plan on brewing a single hop beer with wet hops from each plant. This year I used both the Centennial and the Mt Hood (both of which were on their second year) in the same batch.

Since fresh or, wet hops, straight off the bine can lose around 80% of their moisture during the drying process it is important to use significantly more ounces of hops when you brew a fresh hop beer. I read on various sites to use anywhere from 3 to 6 times the amount of hops (in ounces) that you normally would for the recipe. The range varies so significantly because some hops will have a higher lupulin content then others depending on their vintage and their growing conditions. Since the hops I harvested were only on their second year I erred on the high side and went with the 6 to 1 ratio. (6 ounces of wet to equal what would normally be 1 ounce of dry). This beer turned out hoppy, and I like that.

Extract & Grains:

6 lbs of Light/Pale liquid malt extract

1 lb of Crystal 80

Bring 4 gallons of water up to 165 to 170 degrees. Turn off the burner and steep 1 lb of  the crushed Crystal 80 in a grain bag for 30 minutes. Keep the lid on during the steep to help hold the heat.

With 10 minutes left on your 30 minute steep begin bringing 2 quarts of water up to 170 degrees in a separate pot. Once the 30 minute steep is completed, pull up your grain bag and let gravity drain the liquid out of the grains for a moment. If you have a helper have them pour the 2 quarts of   170 degree water (sparge water) over the open grain bag as you hold it. If you don’t have a helper you can set the open grain bag in a colander and pour the sparge water over the grain into another pot or straight into your brew kettle. I try to press as much liquid out of the grain bag as possible at this point before setting the spent aside.

Now that you have steeped your specialty grains bring the liquid (wort) to a boil in your brew kettle. Once you reach your initial boil turn off your burner and add half of the liquid malt extract (about 3 lbs). Stir constantly as you add the extract to ensure that it all dissolves and does not scorch to the bottom of the kettle. Bring you wort back up to a rolling boil. Right as your rolling boil begins add your first hop addition and start you 60 minute timer. Here is the hop and adjunct schedule I used for the 60 minute boil (minutes count down):

6 oz of wet Centennials @ 60 minutes

4 ounces of Centennials @ 30 minutes (remove from heat and add remaining liquid malt extract here)

1 tsp Irish moss @ 15 minutes

6 ounces of Mt. Hoods at @ 5 minutes

I also used 1 oz of dried Mt. Hoods to dry hop the beer in a secondary fermentation carboy for 7 days.

Once you’ve finished your full 60 minute boil, chill your wort with a wort chiller or submerge in an ice bath. Cool wort to around 80 degrees and transfer to your sanitized primary fermentation vessel (I use glass carboys). Top off the fermenter to reach a full 5 gallon volume. Aerate  your wort by shaking it vigorously for minute or two and then thief enough liquid to take a gravity reading (be carful to keep everything sanitized during this process). Document your original gravity reading and either add the thiefed wort back to the fermenter or discard. At this point the wort should be at around 68 to 70 degrees.


Wyeast 1056 American Ale

Pitch (add) your yeast to the fermenter and aerate the wort for another minute. Plug your fermentation vessel with your fermentation lock and let the beer ferment for around 7 days at 68 degrees. Watch your fermentation lock and once you begin to see less than one bubble per minute transfer the beer to your secondary fermenter with 1 oz of the dry Mt. Hood hops.

Let the beer continue to ferment in the secondary for another 7 days (don’t worry if you bubble activity subsides). After 7 days in the secondary fermeneter bottle and store the beer for 14 days. The beer will be fairly carbonated by 5 to 7 days but when I tried the beer after 7 days it was still a little green. This beer tasted best after 14- 20 days in the bottle.


 Chapter 1.

Chapter 2.

Chapter 3.

Chapter 4.

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Filed under Beer, Dairy Free, Edible Plants, Garden, Vegetarian

A Grand Hopportunity – Chapter 4 – Harvesting & Storing Your Hops.

Harvesting your hops.

The harvest can take place anytime between late August and early October depending on the weather but you should begin paying attention to the moisture content in the hop cone as it gets to the later part of August. The hops will be ready to harvest when the petals of the hop cone are starting to become dry, but are still green and paper like. Also at the base of the petals there should be glands of yellow lupulin that are very fragrant. To really determine when the hops are at their peak freshness you need to smell them and touch them every day. Grab a cone on the plant and use your fingers to pull back the petals, shove you nose into the hop cone and take a big ol’ sniff. Also pay attention to the amount of lupulin present at the base of the petals. If you do this consistently beginning in late August you can notice the increase in aroma and the amount of lupulin. Once you notice the hop cone starting to dry and the fragrance has not necessarily increased in recent weeks you have good cause to harvest. If you notice cones beginning to turn brown or if they petals fall off the cone when you pry them open then it’s past the optimal time to harvest.

Harvesting the hops can be done on a ladder picking one cone at a time or you can cut the hops off of the growing structure and pick them from the vines while sitting in a lawn chair. I prefer to cut the ropes that my hops have been growing on and then put them in a large yard debris bag. I pour myself a beer and pull up a seat for the long and finger exfoliating process of removing the cones from the vine. This can take quite a long time but it can be enjoyable on a nice day. Since the hop vines have those short Velcro like hairs that help them hold while they climb, your fingers will be exposed to some wear and tear. If your hands are sensitive wear some thin gloves during this process. When we harvest our hops we place them in medium sized buckets so that we can take the initial wet weight of the product before drying them.

Yard dog helps.

Still helping.

Drying and Storing your hops.

Hops should be dried quickly at a very low dry heat. At home you can do this by building yourself an oast box using a box fan and some furnace filters or if the weather is pretty warm still you can simply set the hops in a single layer on screens to dry. To dry hops using a box fan, sandwich the hops in a single layer between two furnace filters and secure them together. Strap the furnace filter and hop sandwich to the back end of the box fan and turn it on low. This will pull air through the furnace filters and dry the hops in the process. This seems to work well but can take a long time if you have a lot of hops to dry. This last year it was fairly warm in our house when we harvested the hops so we simply put them on to the lids from some of our storage bins. We made sure the hops were in a single layer on the lids and we stirred the hops around every 12 hours for about two days. By the end of the second day most all of the hops were dry but still green in color.

Once dry we use a vacuum food saver to package the hops into one-ounce bags and put them in the freezer for storage. Packaging the hops in one-ounce increments or less is best because hops are generally added to beer recipes in similar (or smaller) increments. Sure you may have a recipe that calls for 2 oz of hops during the start of the 60 minute boil, but in that case you just have to open up two packages that you have vacuum sealed. If you package and store your hops in larger increments it is more likely that you will need to re-seal a bag, which can compromise the freshness of the hops. Once you have packaged your dried hops and sucked all of the air out of them, store them in your freezer until you need them.

To be continued…

Chapter 1.

Chapter 2.

Chapter 3.

Chapter 5.


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A Grand Hopportunity – Chapter 3 – Growing Your Hops.

Growing Your Hops.

Growth patterns & Watering

The initial signs of life from the rhizome come when the bines begin to break through the ground during the spring. This generally happens when the weather begins to warm and when there is more sunlight.  If this is the first year of growth on the rhizome you should be carful that the young bines do not get broken, stepped on or chewed up. If they break they will most likely die and if you only have one our two bines coming off the rhizome you could end up loosing the whole plant if they are compromised. Once a rhizome is on its third or even second year you won’t have to worry as much because you will likely have more bines that break through the ground than you will know what to do with (during and after year 2 you will actually need to prune during this initial growth period to keep the plant in check). The bine of the hop wants to grow upward and it is important to train the hop bine onto a rope or a structure by the time the bine has grown to over a foot tall. If the hop grows too tall without support it will not be able to hold itself up and will fall down to the ground. If it does not break it will continue to try to grow and find something to climb on. You can grow your hops horizontally but it requires more work because you have to wind the hop along the horizontal structure daily. While manually winding the hop horizontally on the structure it is easy to break them so be carful if you try this. I would not recommend that you try to grow your hops on a horizontal structure during the first year unless you have a good amount of bines that shoot up from the rhizome. This is because the probability of breaking the bines while training them horizontally is high. During the first year try to train at least two bines onto each rope section so that if one breaks you still have another active bine. If you have plenty of bines to work with and you aren’t worried about the hop spreading out then train multiple bines on multiple ropes.


As the hop bines continue to grow make sure they are receiving ample water. If it is raining constantly such as it does in the Pacific Northwest you may not need to water as often spring. However it is very important to keep the rhizome moist yet not waterlogged during the first year. During the second year and beyond you can soak the ground around the hop with more water less frequently to keep it well watered. However if you saturate the rhizome when it is too young it may rot. When you water the hop make sure to water all around the base of the rhizome and don’t water the leaves themselves as this can promote the growth of mildew.

The hops will continue to grow higher and higher as the weather gets warmer and they begin to get full days of direct sunlight. During the early summer the bines may grow as much as 6 to 8 inches in one day. Once the hop bines reach their high point they will begin to grow shoots sideways from the top of the plant. These side shoots will spread out horizontally at the top of the plant and you will notice the little green spiky balls developing in around the leaves. These little green spiky balls will eventually develop into the hop cones that you will harvest.

Spiky green balls!

Pest Control

During the growing season it is important check the hops regularly for pests which will vary in severity based on your location. The most common pests in the Northwest are aphids and to a lesser extent caterpillars. Aphid control can be done by yourself using soap spray, but you may notice the presence of aphid munching lady bugs develop on the hop naturally, or you can introduce them yourself. Lady bugs love hops because they attract aphids and they can be your best ally in keeping the aphids at bay. However there are different types of lady beetles. For instance the imported Japanese Lady beetle is highly invasive, and although it helps control the aphids in the same way as the common lady bug does, it can multiply at an exponential rate which can be bad for the hop (and your property). We dealt with a pretty heavy dose of Japanese Lady beetles one year and had to hand mange their extermination. If you see their eggs just squash them, if you see their larva, squash them. I spent a good 5 to 10 minutes each day looking under the leaves of the hops during this time and eventually the Japanese lady beetles subsided to just a few mature beetles that kept the aphids in check.

To be continued…

Chapter 1.

Chapter 2.

Chapter 4.

Chapter 5.

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A Grand Hopportunity – Chapter 2 – Locating Your Hops.

Locating Your Hops.

Once you decide on the hop variety or varieties you want to grow, make sure you have selected a suitable location for them to grow.


First and foremost the hops are going to need a lot of direct sunlight. 12-15 hours of direct sun should do the trick. If you pick a spot that receives less direct sunlight its fine and your hops will likely grow, but don’t expect to see a large yield. Make sure they are not going to climb up anything you don’t want them on and make sure you can get access to the top of the plant during the harvest season so you can get them down. This can be a little tricky if you build the hops a climbing structure that is as tall as they would like (around 20 ft). So consider how high you can make your hop structure and where you can situate your ladder in order to harvest in the summer, and re-rope in the spring. The best hop structure I currently have hops growing on is a telephone pole support wire at the front edge of our house (this is not the telephone pole, which could impart toxins into the final product). The difficulty with this structure is that if I let the hops grow too high they will hit the telecom lines. To solve this issue I cut the top of the primary bines when they get to a height where I feel like I can still safely harvest them without needing a cherry picker.


The structure your choose to grow your hop on doesn’t need to be extravagant, but if you like to make cool structures or have some tall existing structures that are accessible, then use them.  However, keep a few things in mind. The hops will want to wind themselves (generally clockwise) around whatever structure they are growing up. If the structure is too wide for them to wind around they will eventually just flop to the ground or fall over themselves and break.  Choose a structure that will still allow the hop to see as much sun as it wants. Also, if you are very fond of the structure that it is growing on, make sure you won’t damage the structure when you try to harvest the hop as the bines will wind themselves into a very tight weave as they grow up a structure. Don’t expect to simply un-wind them off of the structure during the harvest. By far the easiest structures to harvest from are simply ropes that the hops grow up and around. Ropes can be strung up from stakes near the rhizome to a nearby pole or to a cross wire between two poles.

This is not tall enough.

This is tall enough!


Hops are rhizomes and during the first year the rhizome will spend most of its effort establishing its root structure. That’s not to say that it won’t grow tall, but don’t expect to get a high yield of fragrant cones the first year. Hops really come into their own during the second or third year and beyond. If you are buying and planting your own rhizomes, make sure they still have some life to them when you get them. They will look like a small stick or end of a root and should have what look like small nodes or potato eyes sticking off of them (only one or tow are necessary). These little nodes are the beginning of the bines and need to be facing upwards when planted. Plant the rhizomes so that the bines on the rhizome are one inch below the surface of the soil in a good bed of compost and dirt. Pile more dirt on top and lightly pack the dirt around the rhizome so that it will stay upright. Hops can be planted soon after the last frost or even during the early spring when you may still have a few frost days. If you plant the rhizome and notice that you are still seeing some cold weather, just add some mulch to the top of the rhizome to keep it warm. Since it is in the ground it will be fine unless you get some serious cold weather that freezes the ground an inch deep. For watering, treat the rhizome like any other seed you would start. Keep the ground around the rhizome moist but not water logged.

Nodes on a hop rhizome. Each node becomes a bine.

To be continued…

Chapter 1.

Chapter 3.

Chapter 4.

Chapter 5.


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A Grand Hopportunity – Chapter 1 – An Introduction to Hops.

All should know and appreciate that I have a helper in the garden and the kitchen. This is not the canine helper that is always in my shadow making sure I have everything I need. This is the hubs. He helps me every night when I make dinner, he does the dishes, and he enjoys everything I cook!

But as I said he helps me in the garden too. A LOT! He is going to do a five part guest post series that crosses the garden and kitchen, in his realm….BEER!

An Introduction to Hops.

The Hop is very rewarding plant and is very easy to grow and maintain. Hops are most widely known for contributing flavor to the best tasting beverage in the modern world, BEER! Sure there is beer that can be made without the use of hops but the average American beer drinkers’ palate is not as fond of those beer styles thus most of the beers purchased in America today have been brewed using hops.  Hops contribute a couple of elements to beer. First and foremost they flavor the beer providing various bitter flavors and aroma notes depending on the style of hop that is used and when it is combined with other ingredients in the brewing process. Hops also aid in the preservation of the beer and give texture to the foam or head of the beer.

In certain parts of North America some may have trouble growing hops, but generally speaking if you live between the latitudes of 35 degrees north and 55 degrees south, have 120 frost free days and plant the rhizomes in a spot where they will receive a ton of sun (15 hours or more) you should be fine. Hops can be grown outside of these latitudes, but it is less likely that they will produce cones and the lupilin necessary for using them as a beer ingredient.

The Humulus Lupulus (hop) plant is a perennial climbing plant that grows from a rhizome and can reach heights of around 30 ft. Hops are often thought of as a vine, but they do not use tendrils to attach themselves to a surface or structure. What grows out of the rhizome is actually called a bine, which grows upward by grabbing onto surfaces with tiny hairs that cover the outside of the bine. It feels a lot like really fine Velcro. The hop bines’ main goal is to grow upwards and will wind itself up and around anything that it can be trained onto. The bines grow fast, as much as 18 to 20 inches a week and need full sun and a lot of water in the hot and dry summer months. As the bines grow, large leaves will shoot off of the main bines and once it reaches the full heat of summer (usually around July) little hop flowers that look like little spiky green balls will appear on shoots near the leaves. These green spiky flowers will develop into the hop cone known as the strobile. The strobile will eventually be made of a central stalk covered by 20 to 50 petals called bracts. It is under these petals that the magical yellow lupulin that gives the hop its flavor and aroma, will grow. The resinous lupulin and the alpha acids they produce are what differentiates the verities of hops. Some have a very bitter and spicy flavor while others can be almost citrus like and piney. Hops are categorized by their alpha acid content in order identify the level of bitterness they will bring to the beer recipe. To this regard beer recipes can use one type of hop or many different types of hops at various stages in the beer boil to impart specific flavors. What this means is that, if you are going to brew with the hops that you grow in your on yard, and you don’t want to buy any additional hops from the home brew store, you need to consider what style of beers you want to make. If possible diversify the variety of hops you grow based on their alpha acid content so that you don’t limit yourself when you want to brew a wider spectrum of beers.

This a good page for learning about the different verities of hops, their average alpha acid contents, and some of their history. http://www.freshops.com/hop-growing/rhizome-information/#rhizome_variety_list . The freshops website is also a great resource for growing information and also a good source for buying rhizomes.

I don’t think I can stress enough how important it is to decide what type of hops you like before you deciding on the rhizomes you plant. If you know nothing about what type of hops you like then you have a lot of research to do, and by research I mean drinking beer. The best way to know what you want is to research the beers you like and look up clone recipes of your favorite beers so that you can identify what types of hops are used. So put forth the effort to drink your favorite beer as a “research project” and troll around the internet or on www.hopville.com looking at beer recipes.

To be continued…

Chapter 2.

Chapter 3.

Chapter 4.

Chapter 5.

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Garden Itch.

Garden itch….tickles me, makes me think of lake itch…and of being a kid in the Midwest. Anyone from the Midwest knows lake itch!

For my birthday, the hubby got me a series of gardening classes through the Oregon Tilth. The first one was this past week and was about growing greens year round. The class itself was good, but nothing spectacularly new to me. However, it did do one very important thing for me. It lit the fire. This weekend had to be a planting weekend to ensure that I do not get behind…which always seems to happen to me. Also, this weekend was cloching weekend. We MUST dry out that soil to make it workable. It will also give me a place to harden off the seedlings I just started and allow me to plant outside in about a month!

Friday after work, I got to go to a nursery wholesale store, OBC Northwest, to purchase things for my garden. They sell to the public, lucky for me. We got agricultural grade plastic for much less expensive than the stuff at Home Depot or Lowe’s would have been, and it has a four year warranty, won’t crack or discolor and is made to be outside. This is great because every time we use that plastic that is made for painting it ends up being a waste of money. This stuff worked great and was durable and easy to install. We also got frost guard, a soil thermometer and lots of plant labels for my seedlings.

Saturday I got to go get the needed PVC to make the rest of my hoops. Last season we only pre-installed half of the hoop systems. We ran out of time and knew we would need to retrofit the others this year. Eric installed them while I weeded around some bulbs that are starting to come up. I also noticed strong buds on the azalea and new growth on the peonies. I removed some leaves around the peaking tulips and noticed the day lilies that the neighbor pawned off on me last fall were breaking ground.

Sunday we installed the plastic. This year we employed a sand bag method to hold the plastic down. This way there won’t be any damage to the plastic in strong winds, and the sand bags are easier to move than bricks. We used 5 bags, 50 pounds each of sand to fill 28 sand bags. We only cloched three of the boxes. Should we decide we want to cloche the other four in the front yard, we will need 28 more sand bags.

Supervisory Ski

The ends of the cloches are always a pain! I like this folding method we developed and I am going to invest in some adhesive zippers so I can get into them.

Supervisor Cactus

I also seeded several flats of early season items, broccoli, greens, cabbage, kohlrabi, quinoa in the house. Hope to get them outside under the cloches in a few weeks. I also hope to be able to plant peas, beets, turnips, carrots, radishes, kale, and chard outside in the next few weeks. These veggies in particular don’t like to be transplanted, so I have to direct sow them. With luck the cloches will do their job and this will be possible!

The critters that are already in the garden were looking perky this weekend. The Brussels are starting to leaf out and the garlic is looking good. Can’t wait for the very first harvest of the year!!!

Brussels Sprouts


Happy planning!

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