hops

Preoccupied

Sandwiched around a very pleasant and relaxing trip to New Jersey, so that Liam could see his grandparents and so that my father-in-law could take his daughter to a Yankee game again, it has been harvest time here at Olson & Son Hopyard. Pictured are some of today’s pickings. Newports, to be more specific, drying in the garage.

It’s been a busy week. I’ll return to my normal sporadic posting soon enough.

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They don’t all have to be about Liam

I try not to use the blog to complain about things. Parenting Liam isn’t always easy but I never want the blog to make it seem harder than it really is and so even though I have more than enough material to make this post about our frustrations with Liam’s summertime extended school year and why we’ve pulled him out of it, or the difficulties we’ve been having with his medical supply company, or the rather serious problems we’ve recently had with the nursing company and an unfortunate incident with one nurse in particular but I don’t want to get into it all. It’s exhausting enough to live through these things, summarizing them for all of you just isn’t how I want to spend tonight. Maybe I’ll get to those things in a post sometime soon but recent history suggests otherwise. We’ll see. Instead here’s a post about hobbies. My hobbies and the things that make me happy (other than being the luckiest husband and father in the world), peeling back the curtain to talk about me instead of my son.

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I used to play Base Ball. Not a typo, that’s how the game I played was spelled. For a few years before Liam was born I was a member of the Providence Grays Vintage Base Ball Club. Put in overly simple terms, think baseball meets civil war reenacting. We played the game according to the rules of the game in 1884. Competition is fierce but there is also a dedication to historical accuracy where-ever possible. Differences from today’s game include things like the pitcher being 10 feet closer to the plate and from a pitchers box. No mound. 6 balls for a walk and still 3 strikes as an out. Foul balls don’t count as a strike and hit by a pitch? well dig back into that batters box my friend, there aren’t any free bases in vintage ball. Oh and there was one other big difference, what was it again? . . . . Oh that’s right. . . .no gloves. (Catchers obviously being given a padded glove but our own catcher’s mitt looked more like a gardening glove than the opposing team’s catcher in that picture.)

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In addition to historical accuracy in the rules, uniform and equipment are to be as close to genuine as possible. Our team’s catchers equipment was as old as the 1910’s and you’ve never really played a doubleheader in august until you’ve done it in all wool. I kid you not. All wool.

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But back to the gloves, and where I’m going with all of this, my second full season with the team I broke a few bones in my hand misplaying a fly ball in the outfield. It’s a fairly common occurence in vintage ball but believe me I have seen far worse injuries to others and was lucky enough to get back on the field during the same season. Even without any injuries, my soft hands would end up pretty swollen and puffy for a day or two after a weekend of playing and so when Liam was born I was unable to get back into the routine of playing.

I tried once, and made it to a couple of practices the spring of 2009 but would quickly realize that once Liam came home from the PICU (and even more so while he was still admitted) I wasn’t going to be able to spend the time necessary to be a part of the team playing 35 games a season. Worse than the time though, I couldn’t help but worry about my hands. My fingers. An 8 french suction catheter takes a level of dexterity that would be impossible with swollen and puffy fingers. Changing a trach in an emergency would be pretty difficult with a busted hand. My career as a Vintage Base Ball player would sadly come to a close.

I needed a new hobby.

I needed a hobby that would keep me close to Liam.

Christmas 2009. Waiting for me under the Christmas tree in our new home sat a gift from my sister, my brother and his wife. My first fermenter, siphon hoses, bottle capper, hydrometer, and the ingredients to make my first batch of beer, and with it an obsession was born. I had so much fun brewing my first few batches of beer that year that the next year I decided not only did I want to make my own beer but I’d like to do it with ingredients that I grew in my own backyard.

Given that I’m a couple hundred acres short of space to grow enough barley to brew, the idea of the Olson & Son Hopyard was born. A few internet orders later and I had rhizomes for Newport, Chinook, and Willamette hops in the ground. It takes a few years once you plant hops. Bines the first year, a small harvest the second, and tell everyone you know that you have hops to give away in the third was what I was told.

This year being the third year for these plants I can attest to its truth.

If you follow me on instagram (Pressuresupport) this year you already know about my obsession with my hop plants. But if not, here’s just a few of them

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Liam checks on my early spring work. It is called the Olson & Son Hopyard for a reason.

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A gift from Karin, this guy minds the hops for me.

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These are the Willamette’s, and those lines are tied to a bow rail. A bow rail meant for my father’s boat Jenny IV. Jenny meant quite a bit to our family and the fact that we lost her to a fire still makes me sad but now she will always live on in the hopyard.

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These are gooseberries and in a few days I’ll experiment by making an IPA with Chinook hops from last year’s harvest and these gooseberries that I grew this spring. I can remember eating gooseberries until I was nauseous from these very bushes when I was a kid. They were in my Nan’s yard. They would be dug up and planted at my aunt’s place for a while but when she wanted to get rid of them I jumped at the chance to plant them at my house. Gooseberries only grow on branches from the year before and not on new growth so it has taken a few years to get a crop large enough to use but as we speak I have a pound and a half of berries, some of which are just waiting for a month-long bath in secondary fermentation with some beer.

From Jenny’s bowrail to my Nan’s Gooseberries, we’re all about tradition and family here at Olson & Son’s.

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and this is what these little beauties look like today. Newport, Chinook and Willamette from left to right. We are just about a month away from harvest time and at this point I don’t think I’ll be able to do it alone. If you’re local to RI expect a call, I’ll need people to help snip them off the bines. I can pay you in beer.

And so that’s what I do when I’m not working, or parenting, or putting off blogging, I’m out in the hopyard. Tending to my crops.