Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Harvesting Hops with a One Year Old

It was gorgeous this past Saturday morning. Sunshine filtered down through our still-green maple leaves, warming the porch against the chill of a light early autumn breeze. Uli was spending the day with her grandparents. Justin, though fighting a cold, needed to bring in the hops or run the risk of their ruin on the vine. He headed up to the garage roof (where our hops have been trained to grow) and cut down swathes of vines, bringing them up to the front porch where Ilse and I took over.

Harvesting anything--much less delicate pinecone/berries off a sticky ropy vine--along side a one year old would not be a first choice for many of us. It wasn't mine. 

I initially tried to distract Ilse. Gave her the scooter to climb on, necklaces to rattle, a horse figurine to gallop about, all while corralling her on the porch so she wouldn't tumble down the front steps and bash out her four adorable teeth. She would have none of that. No busywork for her, please and thank you.  She was interested in what Mama was doing.  

I readjusted my expectations and showed her the vines, the hop flowers (berries?) and demonstrated how to pick one and place it in the paper bag I was using to collect them. Lo and behold, she eagerly followed my example, scouring the vine I was holding, plucking each and every hop she found (they're the same color as the leaves; it's easy to miss clumps, but she was thorough) and after picking one she'd drop it gently into the bag. 

We worked together steadily and quietly for at least 25-30 minutes. (If you've been around a 13-month old lately, you know that's a significant amount of time.) There was little need to talk, we were both intent on hunting the light green cones, snapping them from their stems, and collecting them in the bag. Ilse was, in fact, a great help. And she was so content! It reminded me of the quote: 

" If I were to establish a primary principle, it would be to constantly allow the child's participation in our lives ... To extend to the child this hospitality, to allow him to participate in our work can be difficult, but it costs nothing. Our time is a far more precious gift than material objects. "     ~Maria Montessori

And then she was done. At first I was irritated. Was she not a wonder-baby after all? Where had her focus gone? Then she approached me, put her hands on the vine I was holding to pause my work, and signed "all done" repeatedly. I checked the time: 9:45am. Naptime. She wasn't giving up on the work, she knew it was time to have milk and to sleep. She was keeping me on schedule. I was embarrassed for not giving her more credit. 

I nursed her, put her down for her nap, and Justin and I continued working with the remaining vines. When we were done we had gathered more than 5 gallons of hops (about 5x what we'd harvested last year--our first year). 

Ilse woke and wanted to help sweep the driveway. I should have gone in to get the child-sized broom so she could have worked alongside me, but I didn't (Mama fail). 

We let the hops sit in the sun for a couple of hours to ensure they were completely dry of any morning dew, and then we began to weigh and bag them, an ounce in each bag by weight.

We ended up with around 50 ounces of hops, divided into 1 ounce bags, then vacuum sealed into larger bags for freezing. Justin put them up for sale on Craig's List (we don't have the time to make beer this year). 

Justin's proprietary hop blend (mostly Fuggles)--would be great for English-style brews

All sorted out and cleaned-up. A very good day. 


Anonymous September 11, 2012 at 3:12 PM  

Ok, this is AWESOME! Aren't children just miraculous? Thank you for sharing!

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