Welcome to the News of the Farm

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All posts have been categorized by year, or crop or some other way.  If you want to look at all the posts that talk about tomatoes, for example, you can either click on that category in the right hand column or on the word tomatoes at the bottom of the post.

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And of  course any of the words highlighted in orange are links to other information that will open in another page.

Have fun!

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #17, 7/1/15

What’s been going on!

5” of rain in the last 5 days, that’s enough for now thank you, at least the wicked heat wave has broken.  Unfortunately it looks like a good chance of rain every day for the next week.  Mostly it makes it hard to get any kind of outdoor planting done.  The really sad thing is most people’s tomato crops are out in the field and if they get this much rain not only does it make the foliar diseases start to run up the plants but the ripening fruit will split open making them unsellable.  The beauty of the Big Tops is we can avoid most of those problems or at least slow them down, good thing as we are nearing the peak of our tomato harvest.

Let’s talk 4th of July market.  This will be the third time in the 20 years since the market moved to Town Hall that the Saturday market has been on July 4th.  When that happens the market is moved out onto Main Street in front of Town Hall so they can set up for the afternoons holiday celebrations on the Town Commons.  It is quite a festive atmosphere out on Main Street with all the vendors jumbled up in random sequence.  The hours are shortened to 10:30 so we can get out of the way before the parade arrives at the Town Commons.

Make sure you come down to market early and enjoy the shady cool of the morning under the trees along Main Street and get all the good food for your afternoon festivities.  Here is information about parking and the hours, it is all very easy.  Make sure to look for us, probably somewhere in the middle of the pack!

Pictures of the Week

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A gray, wet morning but happy tomatoes under the Big Tops

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2009 4th of July market on Main Street

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #16, 6/25/15

What’s been going on!

So let’s talk about something that actually likes the heat, Lisianthus.  Originally native to the prairies of Oklahoma and Texas, the Prairie Gentian knows something about hot conditions.  Then the Japanese flower breeders have taken it and worked their magic with stem length and many color and petal variations but this is not an easy crop to grow.  As one of the first to grow it in this area, since 1987, we have learned a thing or two about it.

Not all flower crops are created equal.  Some are easy to grow like zinnias and sunflowers, either from seed or transplant they grow like weeds, don’t need to be trellised and give consistent results.  Lisianthus in many ways is difficult.  The single hardest thing is producing good transplants which are started from almost invisible seeds and then can take up to 20 weeks to grow big enough to move out to the field and then you can hold them too long and it will stunt the whole crop, so many people just by expensive plugs but we grow our own.

Once moved to the field they initially grow slowly with only a tiny rosette of leaves until they begin to send up long slender stems with all the flower buds at the top, creating a very top heavy plant that has to have support.  So we work hard to keep the beds very clean and weed free with leaf mulch and many hand weedings and then build a trellis, with lots of posts to hold the netting that will keep them from falling over.  Of course you can imagine how cutting flowers out of the netting can only be a bit frustrating and slow.

If all is done right not only can we get multiple stems from each plant but it will regrow and give us a second smaller crop in the fall.  Besides the beauty of Lisianthus, they have about the longest vase life of any cut flower.  All of the above combined should lead to stems worth $3 a stem or more but because there are a fair number of producers of it in the market it remains a bargain but not all do as good a job as Betsy does.  Enjoy it over the next month while it is available.

Picture of the Week

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A near perfect crop of Lisianthus

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #15, 6/17/15

What’s been going on!

Ugh!  100 degrees.  It could have slipped up gradually but instead it had to go straight up from the low 80’s to near the century mark.  It is all about early mornings, shade and lots of water, both for the plants and the farmers.

At least the hot and dry waited until most of the spring crops were finished.  It reduces both the amount of water we need to irrigate with and the amount of time it takes to get the whole place watered.  We can only irrigate a half an acre at a time due to the distance we have to pump water and the size of our pump.  Right now it takes us nine hours to water everything, every other day.  If it had hit a month earlier it would have taken 12 hours or more.  We try to irrigate as early in the day as we can so the water will be more effective except for the remaining greens which we water last so that the evaporative cooling effect is the greatest in the heat of the day.

Even with very efficient drip irrigation we are still pumping about 10,000 gallons of water every other day just for our acre and a half or so.  You can imagine what those farms in California have to pump for thousands of acres of crops where they get almost no rainfall!  At least we might get a little cooling and rain from the remnants of Tropical storm Bill, this weekend before it heads back towards 100 next week.  Stay cool out there!

Picture of the Week

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Weeding in the peppers, chasing the shade across the field

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #14, 6/10/15

What’s been going on!

The Farm to Fork weekend was a great success.  Long and tiring for those of us who help to put it on but all three events turned out really well and it seems as if all the participants had a good time.  We did not attend Friday night’s dinner at Duke Gardens but all reports were that the food from the five chefs was all fabulous and rumor is our blueberries were in the desert!

Saturday was a long day with market and then the Sustainable Ag. Lecture at the new Rickhouse event space in Durham.  Beautiful space, great talk from Paul Greenberg about the state of the fishing industry and local fish, I need to fine time to read his book.

Sunday could not have been a more beautiful day for the Picnic and it went off without a hitch.  Of course it was impossible to get around to sample all the dishes but everything we had was tasty.  We had a great time with our friends from ACME restaurant and our Trotter Shotters were a bit hit.  Corned pig trotters over a smoked green onion grits soufflé with a fennel and torpedo onion salad on top.  By the end of the weekend we were ready for a rest!

Picture of the Week

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Set up and ready for the crowds

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #13, 6/3/15

What’s been going on!

A gray and drizzly Wednesday, unusual for June but that does not stop the preparations for market or the blueberry pickers from filling buckets.  We used to joke back when we were in the blackberry business that in June our table was comprised of beets and blackberries, tough combination.  Thankfully we now have a much wider array of crops to harvest from.

It is sometimes a hard part of the season as cool season crops are on the wane and the warm season ones are moving slowly without hot days and sunshine.  Betsy is out every day talking to the zinnias and gloriosa daisies, which have been tempting her for a week with some color but refuse to open more than a few a day.  She refers to this kind of harvesting as milking a chicken, hard to get much with so much effort.

Fortunately it was warm and dry enough Monday to get some cultivation done including the tractor cultivation of the winter squash.  Years ago we bought a special implement for behind the tractor to hopefully speed up our weeding chores.  Known as a tine weeder it has springy steel rods or fingers spaced every two inches or so that rake down the beds behind the tractor pulling the small weeds out and breaking up any soil crust.

The problem is that we usually have all the irrigation in place and so we can’t use it without removing all the water lines, it ends up being faster to just do it by hand.  The winter squash are generally the one exception and it does a great job if we can get to it when the soil is the right moisture level.  Monday it was perfect.  We will probably go over it one more time in a week and then they will be good for the rest of the season.

Pictures of the Week

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Freshly cultivated winter squash

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BLT’s anyone?  Tomatoes on the way

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #12, 5/28/15

What’s been going on!

We hope that everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend and took full advantage of the amazing weather.  We missed the newsletter last week as we were pushing hard to get the peppers all planted before last Friday, almost.  Just 3 beds shy of finishing but the rest were tucked in the ground on Monday.  Perfect conditions for transplanting the 2800 plants, which got a big watering in with yesterday’s 1.5” of rain.

This week’s big push is blueberry picking!  Despite the cold spring they started right on time and with force this week and we are working hard to find enough people to get them harvested.  Five folks out there today and maybe as many as eight tomorrow.  They look good, lots of big fruit.

Only barely over a week left to get your tickets to any one of the three (or all of them) Farm to Fork Weekend events.  Expanded this year to three days to raise even more money for training programs for new farmers.  It starts on Friday (6/5) with a special five chef dinner at Duke Gardens.  Saturday evening is the very affordable CEFS Sustainable Ag. Lecture with fisheries expert Paul Greenberg and a tasty fish dinner.  Then Sunday of course is the Picnic itself, we are working with our friends at ACME this year and the food will be great!  If you can do all three there is a discounted price of $275, for an incredible selection of foods, farmers, chefs and discussion.

Pictures of the Week

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Two very happy pepper planters, Lacey and Jennie headed to the field

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Maybe the best Campanula we have ever grown

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #11, 5/15/15

What’s been going on!

Glorious end of the week.  As I was delivering to one of our restaurants yesterday one of the cooks said “today is one of those days when I really like cooking” and I replied “it is one of those days that I really like farming”.  If the weather was like this all the time we would get bored but it is nice to have it when we do and it helps us get a lot done.

It is one of those transition weeks when we are planting new and taking out old.  Jennie and Lacey have been working hard getting ready to plant the peppers, planting the quarter acre of winter squash and other summer vegetables and flowers.  Lots of cultivating and trellising going on too, with suckering and tying up tomatoes being an important task.

Betsy and I have been the destruction squad, mowing down the remnants of old crops- ranunculus gone, Dutch iris gone, half the lettuce field gone.  The last of the winter cover crops mowed, fields being turned under for new crops and summer cover crops.  It always feels good to renew, especially when the crops you turned under did well and are now making way for more good things to come.

Picture of the Week

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The long field at the very top of the farm, winter squash going in the ground

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #10, 5/6/15

What’s been going on!

Possibly the best week of the spring so far.  Cool mornings, low humidity, highs around 80 and no pollen, you can have the windows open day and night.  Makes for happy farmers and plants.  If we are lucky we have one week like this each spring and then it runs up into the upper 80’s with humidity, ugh.

There is always discussion about why California is the salad bowl of the nation and there are 5 main reasons why.  1) they have really good soils, up and down the state, 2) they used to have lots of really cheap irrigation water subsidized by you and me, 3) they used to have cheap labor and 4) they used to have cheap fossil fuels to ship it across the country.  The 5th reason is they have the perfect climate, low humidity for some crops, coastal fog for other crops, with cool nights and sunny days.

The 5th reason is why they can grow cool season greens so well, they can move production south to north or inland to the coast to always have the perfect conditions.  The ideal average temperature for optimum growing conditions for crops like lettuce is 60-65 degrees, we have that here in Central NC for about three weeks each spring, the last 10 days of April and the first 10 days of May.  Welcome to the perfect week.

So enjoy not only the weather but the bounty of cool season crops at market because they don’t get any better than they are right now and next week it is supposed to be in the upper 80’s.

Picture of the Week

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The spring vegetables literally growing before our eyes

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #9, 5/1/15

What’s been going on!

I keep trying to get the newsletter out on Wednesday but is has been a busy, busy week and still a bit hung over from the Farm Tour.  The Farm Tour weekend is always long and the wet weather, especially on Saturday, made it even more tiring.  It was good to see all the people interested in what is happening on small farms and we hope that it was an informative visit to Peregrine Farm.

Between rainy periods we got the last of the Big Tops covered, it is the final big spring hurdle that always takes just the right combination of people and weather conditions to get it done smoothly.  Now Betsy’s most tender flowers will be protected from excess rain as they begin to bloom.  One more big spring chore to do, pepper planting, but that one can be stretched out over a few days and multiple sections to the work.

It also dried out just enough to turn under the beautiful crimson clover and oat cover crop that will feed the winter squash.  The last few years we have gone back to clean cultivated winter squash production instead of the no-till system we had used for many years, mostly in an effort to reduce some weed populations that had become too high.  This now allows us to use crimson clover as the nitrogen source for the squash as it matures earlier than the hairy vetch that we use in the no-till mix and should provide plenty of nitrogen to grow a good crop.

Picture of the Week

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A beautiful spring day and crimson clover cover crop

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #8, 4/23/15

What’s been going on!

Earth Day yesterday.  For us, every day is Earth Day, we have spent most of our lives working to make our environment better, to manage the small piece of the earth that we are the caretakers for in a way that will make it as good or better when we pass it on and to educate others on how to do what we do.  Thinking globally, acting locally.

Betsy and I were 13 when the first Earth Day happened, an impressionable age for sure but we both had grown up running wild in the outdoors that surrounded our homes.  We played in the creeks, walked the hills, examined the frogs and flowers and trees and we could feel the changes being wrought on the natural world.  It is a large part of why we became farmers, to live and work outside but in an intentional way.

The first Earth Day was 45 years ago.  20 years ago Betsy had an idea that people would better understand what we do as sustainable farmers if they could come to the farm and see for themselves.  Teaming with Weaver Street Market for their Earth Day celebrations and CFSA as a fundraiser for their work the Piedmont Farm Tour was born.

The Farm Tour is this weekend and we are back on after a three year hiatus to help mark that 20th year.  Saturday and Sunday afternoons 2:00-6:00, rain or shine (looks a bit damp for Saturday).  If you have never been on the tour, it is a self-guided tour that includes 40 farms (no, you will not be able to see them all) for only $30 per car.  Stuff as many folks as you want into one vehicle and come on out.

Picture of the Week

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The magnificent Viburnum Macrocephalum at their peak for the Farm Tour

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading