Last week we attended an ‘Alberta Beer Girls’ event themed: Four Ingredients of Beer … so, we showed up representing ‘Hops’ of course! The evening was fun with beautiful table decorations, welcoming setting and snacks not to mention amazing tasting of beers from event hosters, the Yellowhead Brewery. We felt like Rock Stars as we sat on the discussion panel with Red Shed Malters (representing the ‘Malt barley’ ingredient of beer) and the Yellowhead brewer (representing the ‘House Yeast’!) responding to questions from the crowd of incredibly knowledgeable and curious woman.
The evening reminded us what we love about what we do at Northern Girls hopyard. We love fun, we feast on knowledge, we seek out doing new and challenging things or innovations and, best of all, we love being part of a community. Thank you to the Alberta Beer Girls for welcoming us! We had a great time.
We’re very please that the Western Producer wrote a recent article on the Northern Girls Alberta Hopyard. The full video of the hopyard from the Oct 2015 issue of the Western Producer is available online here.
We have been out in the forest, poking about and exploring. What fun it is to discover the young shoots underneath last year’s growth or find the sprouts of familiar plants. The birds are returning too. A flock of sandhill cranes flies above but we can only hear their trickling sound as they fly northward. Spring is here and we are foraging for small delights in the forest: stinging nettle tops sit just above the damp floor, moss so intricate that it could hold a world of its own. And, best of all we make a discovery underneath the cured marsh grass lies mint shoots white from lack of sun but sweet and minty. What fun to follow the smell of last year’s mint plant to its base underneath the grass and make this connection to the senses: taste, sight, smell, touch.
The hopyard is brimming too with spring life and discoveries. In Belgium this time is about ‘white gold’ and we seek the young hop shoots yet to surface. They are so delicate – they define the word ‘delicacy’.
And food is the same personal journey of senses and discovery. The delicacies we harvested make their debut in Vancouver this week. Under the expert hands of Chef Andrew Winfield, River Café brings the prairie land flavours to meet the ocean in two collaboration events highlighting sustainable food. We proudly pass on the journey started in the forest and hopyard of Windhover to the tables of the fine west coast.
There are longer days now. I am thinking of the ground thawing and the lists of things to do. And right next to the lists sits ‘Hope’. Hope for an early spring, hope for a full dugout, hope for good health and healthy plants. Hope for enough wisdom to see us through the season. We are in the dreaming phase of Windhover (actually I hope that we never stop dreaming wild dreams!) and we suspend our disbelief some days with the knowledge of what we know to be true – that Windhover is a good idea. So with Spring around the elbow of March, we will begin another Windhover season. I am filled with hope and anticipation of good things ahead.
All of a sudden we are approaching the back-end of the summer when the work of the spring and early summer begins to reap results. I think of the cold spring and planting the final hops into the hopyard. I think of the worry over the young apple trees and wondering if the winter damage from the voles would be overcome. The spring time was a time of work to string the wires and then hang the cordage in the hopyard. Ben unfolded his poultry pasturing experiment. Des’ amazing irrigation schematic for both orchard and hopyard was put into motion. Patrick, Ben and Lacy trenched the irrigation piping and laid out the plant emitters. Lacy mowed the orchard to perfection. Catherine’s vision for the Windhover Orchard entry gate was activated. Pat’s practical nature focused on the pump platform. Aoife’s hop dance at midnight was worthy of a YouTube. This ‘certain work’ is the backdrop for Windhover’s accomplishments. The hops have stretched and followed the sun to reach the top wire to now branch with modest blossoms. The gate into the orchard has been installed. The orchard chickens have been processed and are in the freezer. Trellis wire and posts in the orchard is almost completed. The drip irrigation system has proven successful and essential. Hauling buckets of water to thirsty orchard trees almost seems a distant memory. Weeding, mowing and tending are ongoing.
We have many things to learn about how to honor and recognize these achievements which are sometimes individual efforts and sometimes are the efforts held by the community of family and friends. The ancient Sufi poet, Rumi, recognizes that each person has a desire for a specific kind work or motion that supports love within each of us. I am amazed how much we need each other and yet are such strong individuals shifting in the wind.
Love for Certain Work
Traveling is as refreshing for some
As staying at home is for others.
Solitude in a mountain place
Fills with companionship for this one,
And weariness for that one.
This person loves being in charge
of the workings of a community.
This other one loves the ways
heated iron can be shaped with a hammer.
Each has been given a strong desire
for certain work, a love for those motions,
and all motion is love.
The way stick and pieces of dead grass and leaves
shift about in the wind
and with the direction of rain and puddle-water
on the ground, those motions
are all following the love
they have been given.
It is the first week of June and we have finally (almost) completed Spring chores in the hopyard! The orchard is still a work in progress but will certainly get there in the next week or two. The feel and pace of Windhover’s hopyard sits in juxtaposition to that of the Orchard. The hopyard shouts out “hurry up, we are growing! We are growing!! No time to waste!!” and the Orchard responds with “Don’t worry, there is lots of time to get around to what needs to be done. Don’t worry be happy, We can wait…” Hops can stretch inches during a good growing day where the apple trees respond with a slow opening of blossoms. This contrast is lovely but certainly influences where we put our attention. At the end of a busy day in the hopyard, the calm of the orchard beckons. The orchard now has additional members other than the juvenile apple trees… it has a flock of chickens and a small clutch of turkeys. Check out ‘Poultry Pasturing’ and ‘Chicken Tractors’ for the idea of integrate management with which we are experimenting.
What better way to begin the Windhover Concepts diary than by sharing thoughts of the importance of surrounding people and environment. It is difficult not to slip into time worn sayings to express the joy and learnings gained from working and being together. Many hands make light work; or two heads are better than one, or it takes a village to raise a child … these sayings hold old wisdom that point to community where there is strength and kindness, compassion and support for reaching towards your best self and receiving from others. This is what Windhover Concepts is all about – celebrating a place of beauty on a landscape where there is space for ideas and creativity with others.
Windhover Concepts began as a heartfelt idea and has grown through community connections and activities. : the micro-brewing beer community; the hop growing community; the apple tree growing , hopyard building all with the support of the community of friends and family. It is tough work because sometimes it is easier and simpler and maybe faster to do things alone. Who wants to do all that explaining! And talk about talking!! But the fascinating thing is that what is achieved will be much less than if you led with a curiosity for the joy that occurs when a community is involved.
This week, we are selling 75 organically grown baby hop plants!! Growing organic hops is one of the projects of the Windhover Concepts. The hops – our Northern Girls, has been a journey involving a web of people. Whose idea was it to grow hops on Windhover? Who thought this could be done so far north in Alberta? The lovely thing is that we can’t remember whose idea is was. What matters is that this project has created an energy and has reached out to create connections with others and an environment. The idea and achievement is held by all those involved from the design of the Northern Girl logo, to the irrigation system set up; to the planting and re-planting and re-potting of the baby hops to the Village Brewery who will be planting the purchased Northern Girl hops.! This week marks once again the wisdom that sits in community where by working together you can become more than you ever could by working alone.