Olson & Son Hopyard

Final day for orders. 

 

photo by Olson & Son Hopyard media director and CFO Karin.

 
Hard at work brewing beer this weekend here is the Olson & Son Hopyard and Brewing crew, with assistant brewer holding on to the 30 minute hop addition of .75oz of Chinooks. 
Just a quick not to remind everyone that today is the final day for orders of your very own Olson & Son Hopyard t-shirt, until next year. Click this link to order. 
Thank you all so very much for your interest and enthusiasm for our little project. Every t shirt sale helps us not only keep this fun hobby going but more importantly helps us maintain Liam’s medical equipment and needs. 

Your generosity has floored us all and I am so happy that so many of you have joined in the fun. I can’t tell you how much it cracks me up that in about three weeks people all over the country will be rocking their O&SH gear. 
Cheers! And thank you. 

5 days left 

   This morning I posted this picture of my Willamette hops to Instagram. Aside from maybe a shot here or there during brewing this fall it will be the last picture of the hopyard’s season. 
Which for me is kind of sad. 

Four years ago when I planted four rhizomes (one variety didn’t make it) the last thing I expected was for dozens of people all over the country to eventually start interacting with me in so many different ways. But in taking so many pictures of the Hopyard year after year a strange overlap occurred between parents of children with complex medical needs and disabilities and hop farmers, homebrewers and even some professional Brewers. What’s funny is that now I get questions from homebrewers and other beer folk about Liam, and questions from special needs parents and other medical folk about beer.

 It’s a special little community you’ve all created, and I couldn’t be more proud or humbled by it all. 

So when I decided to sell Hopyard t-shirts and set a goal for printing 50 of them I wasn’t exactly sure we’d make it, despite Karin’s assurances. As usual though, she was right, and I was wrong. Within 36 hours 50 shirts had been ordered fairy teeing a printing of as many as we can sell. What amazed me more than the amount though was who was buying. People we have never met before. Some were from people that didn’t even follow me on social media but had heard about the sale on Facebook or from some big hop farms who had seen the sale because of a hashtag and passed it along. 

The Olson & Son Hopyard shirts aren’t only going to friends and family. These shirts are going all over the country, to be worn by homebrewers, hop farmers, and special needs families all over the place and it absolutely has blown my mind. Thank you to all of you out there who have ordered, and Thank you to all of you who have shared. 

There are 5 days left to get one these beauties. They make awesome gifts, look pretty sweet and once this sale ends they won’t be sold again.

  
If you are able, and you enjoy the content I share here on the blog or on Twitter, and Instagram, Please help support the Hopyard and help us support the medical equipment costs associated with Liam’s medical needs by sharing this link far and wide before September 1st. 

The Olson & Son Hopyard staff aren’t just here in Riverside Rhode Island. They’re everywhere that have heard of Liam, and everywhere that like to see my photos of growing a backyard hopyard. 

Join The Olson & Son Hopyard team: A FAQ

It is adorable (and amazing, and humbling, and I am grateful for it) how you all humor me sometimes. The conceit being that the Olson & Son Hopyard is anything more than three plants spread across what is barely 24 square feet wedged between a 6 foot fence and my garage.  Barely bigger than anyone’s personal garden, the hopyard has taken on a bit of a life of its own on Instagram and Twitter. And so it was, this weekend when I posted this picture of the “& Son” part of Olson & Son, hard at work during our Newport and Chinook harvest, that the question came.

“Do you sell the T-Shirts?” someone asked in a comment.

“If you think people would buy them I do.” I put it back out there to see if anyone else would answer. And answer you did; with comment after comment letting me know that there is some interest in owning a shirt just like Liam’s. So now is your chance.

In honor of the 2015 Olson & Son Hopyard Harvest I am launching a t-shirt sale of a one time only limited edition printing session of Liam and my hopyard work uniform. These things  have been so exclusive to this point, that although she was the one to design and purchase these first two as a father’s day gift two years ago, Karin doesn’t even have one (I guess I’ll have to fix that now).

She might not have one yet, but as long as you act before September 1st, this is your chance to get one of your very own Olson & Son Hopyard Tee Shirts.

What follows is me interviewing myself about the decision to put something silly out there into the world and asking you to give us your money for it.

 So, uh, First of all, how was the harvest? 

It was great thank you for asking! Still far from over, we only harvested the Newports and the Chinook yesterday. The Willamettes are still a few weeks away from being ready to pick. Easily got over a pound of each variety but won’t know total weights until the drying is done and I vacuum pack them all. Willamettes were the hot plant this year though so I’m expecting even more weight on that plant than these two so we should have a great overall season yield.

 

Is that a lot of Hops?

Not really. It’s more than enough for my needs as I haven’t brewed with any commercially bought hops in over two years but I don’t really brew as much as I’d like to. As far as yeild per plant it’s not bad at all. I take very good care of these plants and they’re strong producers of flowers every year since I planted them in 2011.

Was the work and money spent all year worth it?

Without a doubt.  Even if I didn’t use any of the hops it would be worth it as aside from being between my wife and son wherever they are, my favorite pace to be in the summer is between my garage and that fence watering, pruning, taking pictures of, smelling, feeding, and staring at my hop plants. The pictures I send out online always seem to get positive reactions and I’ve made friends with people because of those plants. Add on top of it that I get to use them to make beer and it’s a win, win. But I’d be lying if I said I couldn’t use a few extra bucks in my pocket to keep it going every year.

So now you’re selling shirts for what is in essence a home garden? 

Yes that is exactly what I’m doing. But to be fair, I was asked about  doing it online, and the positive response when the idea was put out there was definitive. I am selling a one time printing of the same shirt that Karin had made for me and Liam as a father’s day gift two years ago. I am using Booster.com because it is the “fundraising arm” of Customink.com and I really like the quality of the shirt and did not want to take a chance of quickly switching to another printer like cafe press to set up my own online store front. That will come soon. A bit of fun with the people who follow the hopyard on Instagram, this is all a bit of an experiment.

So this is a fundraiser then? Is it for The Liam the Lion Fund(which we as family have supported all these years)?

Well yes and no. To both questions actually.

In the interest of full disclosure, there are multiple purposes for this fundraiser. Yes, most of the proceeds will go to the upkeep, maintenance, and remaining payments on Liam’s wheelchair access van, (The additional ramp motor  and power supply needing their own specialized maintenance every 6 months) but some will also be set aside for hop ropes, fertilizer and  if possible a bit for some grain and yeast to keep this wacky homebrewing, and hopyard project that garners so much interest on Twitter and Instagram chugging along year after year. but let’s be honest with ourselves. It gets pretty cold in New England and heating oil isn’t cheap.

And Winter is Coming.

So this isn’t a sanctioned Liam The Lion Fund fundraiser per se, but it is a bit of a run through for them though. The plan being to gear up for some online fundraising efforts for the Liam the Lion Fund in 2016. Bathroom renovations for Liam’s safety while getting in and out of the tub as he grows bigger and bigger, will need a wider net for fundraising as you can only hit up family with church dinners so much in 7 years.

And you think people will buy these?

No actually, but Karin does, and she’s super smart, and also enough people said they would on instagram that I just had to strike while the iron was hot. I set a goal of 50 shirts and if we don’t sell 50 then it won’t be printed and no one will be charged but if we sell more then 50 then a printing will go and the sky is the limit! If we sell a bunch more than 50 we might be able to pay off Liam’s van completely, freeing up needed cash each month for his other supplies. Even if people are buying them solely to help Liam, because I know he has so many fans out there, they can do so for just that reason and they get a great looking shirt out of the deal for their trouble. It just makes me feel better than say, putting ads all over the blog.

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Well if it’s a hopyard then why don’t you just sell some of those hops to make money off of all this?

Well because just paying for the shipping would be too much to make it worth while and there isn’t so much that I’d make more than ten bucks. Much of the hops will probably be given away to friends who brew beer too. Besides, I think that the story of the Olson & Son Hopyard is worth more than the hops are. I think that instead of selling hops or tee shirts, we are selling being a part of Liam’s story. We are selling our family. We are selling this blog. I have other ideas for upcoming projects, such as the decorative holiday wreaths we are already making with this year’s bines, and possibly even a book of photos and essays of the hopyard. They’ll be more business than fundraiser. But they’ll be selling the same idea.

Ok, ok, I’m sold, take it down a notch, geeze, you don’t have to pour it on so thick (“selling our family”??? ….ew) what do I need to do now.

If you want to be a part of the Olson & Son Hopyard team and look like you work here at the coolest non-money making, non-crop selling, hopyard in all the land.  Follow this link to the Olson and Son Hopyard Limited Tee Booster page and order. They only come in one color because that’s the color of Liam and my shirt. This is a one time deal and all orders must be in before September 1st. Depending on the success of this project we may do a new limited edition every harvest where we can experiment with other options. Have to come up with a tattoo logo for that.

If you already have a closet full of novelty tee shirts would you be so kind as to tell your friends on facebook and twitter about us and our cool t shirt, send them here for the link. Even though they won’t understand buying a shirt for what is a fake hop farm unless they already follow us, it would be pretty awesome, since I’m not entirely sure we’ll be able to sell 50 of these things.

 Ok, Anything else to share then before we go?

Only to say thank you to everyone who keeps visting us here on the blog despite my sporadic posting, and to those who follow us on instagram and twitter for updates on both, the boy and the hops. Both are doing very well this year!

And also to share this photo I took today for no other reason than because, this is what the monday afternoon of a three day weekend which included the annual hop harvest looks like. Sleepy family time.

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.