DIY Farm Brewery: Part 2 - Building the Gardens

DIY Farm Brewery: Part 2 – Building the Gardens

The overgrown fields before we began building the gardens.

The overgrown fields before we began building the gardens.

 The alpacas from the previous farm had been long gone before we purchased the property and as a result the fields were overgrown, and divided up into many separate pastures, which were full of wooden posts and electrical fencing. John removed the fence posts, created a jig to wind-up the electrical wiring and de-installed dozens of metal gates all before he could bush hog the field. This was the summer before we opened the brewery and we decided to hold off on planting that year and instead observed the landscape we had to work with throughout the seasons.

Below are in-process photos of how we began to convert the pastures into gardens.

The following summer this space became my blank canvas, the place I had been dreaming of as a productive and creative outlet and the inspiration for many of our farmhouse ales.

 After tilling, we took advantage of the hillside slope and created berms and swales to help capture the water after the rains so that it would slowly permeate into the soil instead of running down and eroding the hillside. We carved out a 1 acre section to intensely farm and planted it with 5 different kinds of hops, many herbs, vegetables, flowers, and fruit. Everything grown was used for beer production. During that first year we were able to make beer from our lilacs, spruce tips, maple sap, tomatoes, coriander, rhubarb, strawberries, lavender, horehound, anise hyssop, hyssop, wild bergamot, pumpkins, lemon balm, blueberries, marigolds, nasturtium, and beets. Our hops produced flowers the first year but not enough to make beer with, fortunately a kind and generous neighbor donated a truckload of cascade hops which we immediately used to wet hop a beer.

Here are some photos from our first year:

Over the winter we had time to reflect and make improvements to a few gardens, moved some plants around to make them happier, and expanded the gardens to make more room for the plants we desired most or hoped to experiment with this year. We also expanded our outside seating area to provide visitors more seating in our beer garden. We are currently in the process of building out a commercial kitchen with wood fired oven, so I reserved some of the garden space for future pizza toppings.

 Perhaps the project I am most excited for is the planning of a wilder garden, a place to escape to and sit down to get lost in your thoughts. At this point in the crazy season we won’t likely start planting until next spring, which means I have a lot of time to daydream about this project.