Wet Hops Brew

IMG_0735 Wet hops does not sound very enticing, but actually it refers to brewing with freshly harvested hops instead of the more common dried hops. Ideally, fresh hops should be used within 24 hours of harvest; and the beer should be consumed quickly before the volatile aromas have diminished. As a result, wet hops beers – or harvest ales, as they are also called – are only available for a few weeks and in limited quantities.

Thanks to the warm summer, we have had a decent crop of Tettnang hops for the first time this year. We decided to use it to brew a wet hops IPA. This is going to be a seriously hoppy beer, using 2 pounds of fresh hops in the brew and another pound for dry hopping (i.e. adding to the secondary ferment without boiling it).

Tettnang does not exhibit the strong pine or citrus notes that are typical for the Pacific Northwest; but it should have a nice floral aroma while also being a good bittering hops. Check back here in late September to find out how this one turned out.

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Garden Giants IV

IMG_0288Every year in the garden is different. Last year the favas were the undisputed stars of the spring garden – this year they look pretty rough because they had to compete with corn.

But we have a new freak vegetable to take their place: the parsnip. We decided to let a few plants go to seed, as the flowers are considered excellent attractants of beneficial insects. We expected them to be about the same size as carrot plants, but they continued to grow and grow. The tallest topped out at about 8’ – truly a giant among vegetables.

Runner-up for ridiculously tall plant this year: foxglove.

 

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Variations on Hugel

Thoughts on hugelkultur posted on the Brandon Triangle site.

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Wenas Campout

IMG_0136This blog has been very heavy on the gardening content lately. It’s time for a change of pace.

This Memorial Day weekend we took a break from gardening to join our friends Todd and Kei Chi at the annual Audubon Society campout in the Wenas River valley near Yakima. Since 1963, bird watchers and nature lovers have been coming together to spend an extended weekend in this wonderful place. The birds are definitely the main attraction – you can regularly encounter over 120 different species – but the Wenas valley is also remarkable for its wildflowers, hilltop views, and diversity of habitats.

Wendy and I are not exactly avid birders, but at this gathering of bird enthusiasts it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement. Birders may be considered a bit of an oddball group, but they are extremely welcoming and love to introduce newcomers to their passion. When you take the time to look closely – and with the assistance of some high-powered binoculars – you quickly gain a new sense of appreciation for birds. The variety of shapes, sizes, color, and behavior is amazing. We also became more aware of the different calls and songs of various species, ranging from the raucous call of the Nutcracker and the tin horn sound of the Nuthatch, to the sweet trills of the many kinds of warblers.

Some of the birds native to the area are quite rare and birders come from all over the world to see them. We were lucky enough to encounter several of these, notably the White-headed Woodpecker and Lewis’ Woodpecker. Our night-time quest for the Flammulated Owl was not successful, but for us novices it was just as much fun to observe common species such as Red-winged Blackbirds, Kingbirds, or Turkey Vultures.

One of the highlights was inspecting Bluebird breeding boxes. Volunteers visit these weekly to track breeding success. We were assigned a set of 15 boxes and asked to note number of eggs, number and age of hatchlings, species, etc. It was a rare opportunity to see these beautiful birds up close.

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Here are some more photos.

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Tough Lessons

This gardening year has been a bad one for all kinds of pests and diseases. I recount some of our experiences on the Brandon Street site.

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