The dried flower buds of a British climbing plant, which grows wild in many parts of England; but for the purposes of commerce and brewing, they are usually cultivated in extensive plantations, where they require the growth of some years before they attain perfection. To cultivate it with success requires extreme care, considerable experience, and a large capital; yet perhaps of no plant is the harvest so precarious, from an unfavourable season, and the depredations of insects. There are several varieties of it, as the red bind, the green bind, and the white bind. It is propagated by nursery plants, or by cuttings. These are planted in little hillocks, formed by digging a hole 12 inches deep and 18 inches in diameter, and filling it up with fine mould, mixed with manure, and the original soil. In the centre of the hill is set a single plant, and round it half a dozen others. The hills are about 9 feet asunder. Cuttings are set in February and March, but sets, or nursery plants, in autumn. In April, if the season be favourable, the binds require tying to poles, which are stuck in the earth. About Midsummer they are pruned, and the produce given to cattle.
In September they are usually ready for pulling.
Chestnut is reckoned to make the best poles, and ash the next - the poles are from 18 to 24 feet in length; three poles are sufficient for a single hill, or two poles where the plants are vigorous. The large poles are not required till the first winter after the plantation has been formed, and it is advisable not to take any produce the first year. The picking is performed by men, women, and children. Proper baskets and bins or cribs being in readiness, the plants are cut off close to the ground, and the poles drawn up; these are placed upon the bins, with the plants upon them, and three or four persons on each side pick off the hops. After this, they are dried in a kiln; and when dry they are carried into, and kept for five or six days in a room called the stowage room, until they are in a state to be put into bags. This is done through a round hole or trap, cut in the floor of the stowage room, exactly equal to the dimensions of the mouth of the bag, and immediately under which, to a frame of wood, this mouth is fastened.
In each of the lower corners of the bag a small handful of hops is tied; and a person called the packer places himself in it, and by a heavy leaden weight, which he constantly moves round in the places where he is not treading, presses and forces the hop3 down in a very close manner into the bag, so fast as they are thrown to him by another labourer. The work thus proceeds until the bag is quite full, when each of the upper corners has a few hops tied in it in the same manner.
The usual way of extracting hop poles, by pushing them backwards and forwards till they are sufficiently loosened to be raised up out of the ground by hand, subjects the hops to injury, by shaking and bruising them, while the poles themselves are frequently broken. These inconveniences are avoided, and a considerable time is saved, by the application of an apparatus invented by Mr. John Knowles, of Farnham, who took out a patent for it in 1830. The nature of the contrivance, and the intention of the inventor, are well expressed on the title of the patent, which is for H a certain instrument or machine for drawing up hop poles out of the ground previous to picking the hops, and which, by drawing the poles perpendicularly, will greatly save them, as well as prevent the hops from being bruised, called a hop-pole-drawer, by lever and fulcrum." In the annexed engraving, Fig. 1, is shown a portion of a hop pole, and the application of the lever and fulcrum in raising it out of the ground; a a is the pole b the lever, and c is its fulcrum, which has a broad base, with a short spike to prevent its slipping when the pressure is applied to it.
Fig. 2 shows a plan of the lever with its iron jaws, which are made to approach each other, that some part of the opening may fit all sizes of poles; and they are serrated to prevent their slipping upon the poles.