Saturday, November 7, 2020

Picking hops from the bine

I'm reading the fifth book in the Maisie Dobbs series (An Incomplete Revenge, 2008), which has Billy Beale and others leaving London to go "pick hops" in Kent.  I'd heard the word "hops," but I could not have defined it if asked.  I just knew it was related to beer, somehow.  At first, I actually thought "bine" was a typo for "vine."  I got my dictionary off the shelf to look up "hops" and "bine."

Word of the Day #1
hop / häp / noun = a twining climbing plant of the hemp family, used in brewing beer; the dried cones (flowers) of the hop, used in brewing to give a bitter flavor and as a mild sterilant.  Example:  "You might find me picking hops with the Beales, if I have to," Maisie Dobbs said to Billy Beale (p. 20).
Word of the Day #2
bine / bīn / noun = a long, flexible stem of a climbing plant, especially the hop.  Example:  "I've seen them growing, seen the men out stringing for the bines to grow up and the women banding-in and training the shoots along the strings in late spring.  But I know nothing about the actual business of hop-picking," Maisie told Billy (p. 20).
In definition #1, there's a word I don't remember ever seeing:  sterilant.  So it becomes the third word I need to look up.

Word of the Day #3
ster·i·lant / ˈsterələnt / noun = an agent used to destroy micro-organisms; a disinfectant; a chemical agent used to destroy pests and diseases in the soil, especially fungi and nematodes.  This example is more of a definition:  "A sterilant is a chemical that is applied to inanimate objects to kill all microorganisms as well as spores."
The black-and-white photo at the top comes from an article about London Hop pickers c. 1900-1949.  If you look closely, it sure looks like a twining vine around the man (in my opinion).  Now go take a look at the nineteen historical photos in the article I found.  Don't you wonder what job these two men on stilts did?  Look how tall the hops are in the picture.  Maybe they are the "men out stringing for the bines to grow up" that Maisie mentioned.

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