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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #32, 11/20/15 Thanksgiving!

What’s been going on!

The big food week of the year coming up, hope you are ready, we are (I think).  This newsletter will cover both tomorrow’s market and the special pre-Thanksgiving market next Tuesday 3:00-6:00.  Jennie has been working hard while we were gone cultivating, protecting and harvesting some beautiful produce for the big Holiday eat fest.

Two years now without turkeys and I have to say it makes for a much less stressful week leading up to Thanksgiving.  There are times that we miss having the birds out there wandering around the fields but the daily grind of managing animals and then the final harvest adds so much more mental work to the program.  I salute those who raise and care for working animals year in and year out.

Betsy and I both had good trips, separately this time, quite unusual for us.  She went to northern Minnesota to just hang out with another old cut flower growing friend, talking, doing odd jobs around the farm, visiting neighbors, relaxing.  I was on the trail again in Southern Utah looking for cliff dwellings and rock art panels, great trip and beautiful weather.

We have a really busy early winter planned and you may see Jennie at market more than us.  I will still crank out a newsletter, it just may be irregular but we will definitely let you know what is going on.  Have a great Thanksgiving!

Pictures of the Week


A nice sunset after yet another big rain


Vibrant vegetables, ready to be covered for the next cold snap

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #31, 11/6/15

What’s been going on!

One of those crazy busy weeks with many meetings and trying to get a pile of things done before heading out of town next week.  The three days of board meetings for the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) fortunately landed during the extremely wet days (another 3.2 inches of rain).  Extremely inspiring and critical work being done by their staff, I would love to talk with those of you who are able, about becoming an individual donor to their work.

Betsy had a Farm to Fork picnic committee meeting, yes the planning goes on year round to make it a great event.  This weekend is the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Conference in Durham so I am putting the finishing touches on my workshop presentation.

The last of the pepper trellis is coming down and Betsy got the anemones planted and mulched and we pulled one of the little tunnels over them now that they have been well watered in.  With all of the rain, the cover crops look awesome.  The best early growth in years!

We had a great visit yesterday from the folks from Jamaica who I worked with last year on the Jamaica Farm Sustainable Enterprise Project.  In country for a few weeks to both see more organic farms of all sizes and to make connections for supplies, expertise and funding.  They will be talking about the project at the CFSA conference on Saturday.

Picture of the Week


Nkrumah Green and Nicola Shirley-Phillips in front of the tunnel they helped us slide over the anemones

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #30, 10/30/15

What’s been going on!

Trick or Treat, the entire growing season has felt that way at times but particularly this fall with the torrential rains an early freeze along with critters and equipment issues.  It has been a particularly difficult fall to get crops established especially the direct seeded ones like spinach and carrots.

Jennie has done a patient job of seeding (and in some cases re-seeding) and weeding only to have erratic germination or the grasshoppers eat down the new seedlings or the rains wash sections of beds out or the final insult of the deer or ground hogs getting past the deer fence and feasting on the mature crops.  It makes one question why you would want to farm or at least grow fall crops.  Despite all of it, we are managing to harvest some beautiful vegetables for market.

Similarly on the winter soil preparation side we got weeks behind with the rains and when it finally dried out the tractor turned on me which is why there was no newsletter last week as I raced to get it fixed before the next rains arrived.  As some of you know, I left market early last week to jump on the tractor to finish up the soil work.

It took all day Saturday and Sunday but I finally finished the tilling and raising up 15,000 feet of beds for next spring and spinning out the cover crop seeds over the top that will hold down that beautiful soil and help increase its fertility.  A few final touches on Monday just in time for the gentle rains to start.  Nearly a month late but with any luck (and no tricks) we will soon see a vibrant green hue to all of those fields.

Picture of the Week


A few bright spots such as this radiant celery grown inside the little tunnels

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #29, 10/15/15

What’s been going on!

No newsletter last week partly because we were working hard to catch up after all the rains and partly because I was undone at the prospect of a third Saturday in a row with rain.  We did have folks worried that maybe we had been flooded and that is why we didn’t send one out.

We did narrowly miss having the bottom field flood.  Saturday we were closely watching the river gauge at Haw River and when it crested at 22 feet we knew that we were in the twilight zone.  Above that level we will have water up into the crops for sure but at this level it all depends on how high the feeder creeks to the Haw River are and how much rain fell west of the Haw.  We are about 18 river miles from Haw River and it usually will crest down here about twelve hours after it peaks at the gauge.

Our bottom field is not right on the Haw River but about 2500 feet up our side creek and about 10-15 feet higher depending on how you measure it.  We know from previous floods what it takes to really hit us hard.  Of course the “bad one” was hurricane Fran with the 500 year flood level and we had water up to ten feet deep in the bottom.

At 7:00 p.m. when the river peaked in Haw River the water had already risen to about two feet lower than the irrigation pump so we went ahead and pulled it out assuming the real crest was still 12 hours away.  The next morning when we went down to see how high the water was it had already gone back down, problems averted this time around!

The saddest part of the last two weeks is that our great summer staff person, Lacey, has gone off to her winter pursuits and will not be coming back next year as she follows her dream of being in the circus (really).  She kept all of us on our toes and laughing.  Now we will have to find someone excellent to fill her shoes.

Picture of the Week


The creek is just on the other side of those trees and the water level about 3 feet below those crops.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #28, 10/1/15

What’s been going on!

Storm preparation mode.  Haven’t had a stretch like this since 2008, at least that we can remember.  That late summer, early fall we were coming off of a dry period just like this year when several tropical storms hit us in about a week and we had over 13 inches of rain over a two week period.  During the September 6th Saturday market, tropical storm Hannah arrived with high winds and 4 inches of rain.  It shouldn’t be that bad this Saturday but it does look to be wet.

Our first concern this weekend is the potential of the Haw River flooding our bottom field where the peppers are this year and part of the fall vegetables.  With 4 inches of rain this past week the river is already up some and if we get hit with the high end of the 5-9 inches forecast it could be a problem.  Fortunately we will be able know it is coming and will at least be able to pick a bunch of peppers and pull the irrigation pump if it gets that high.

Our second concern is obviously the track of hurricane Joaquin, which yesterday looked like it was potentially on a Fran track but today looks to be trending further out to sea.  As the last dryish day to get things done, we went ahead this morning and uncovered the last of the Big Tops and battened down other things in case the wind does really get up, better safe than sorry.

Tomorrow looks to be a really wet day but we are hoping some of the forecasts are correct about less rain on Saturday.  Of course you all will come on to market because it is the market’s Pepper Festival with lots of good things to eat.  Like last week, we will bring the roaster to market but we will just have to see how windy it is.

Picture of the Week

9-6-08 008 - Copy

This is what the well-dressed market shopper looked like in the middle of a tropical storm in 2008

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #27, 9/23/15

What’s been going on!

Happy first day of fall, we made it!  This is the reward for all the hot work of the summer, the weather and light are brilliant and we feel like we can work and work, or not.  Sure things slow down at market some and the days get shorter but it is such a nice change of both crops and projects that it is refreshing.

Unfortunately it looks like fall will be ushered in with some sloppy weather starting tomorrow afternoon and lasting into Sunday.  The worst looks to be Friday but Saturday might be quite soggy too.  In anticipation we not only have gotten caught up on planting but picked peppers today instead of Friday and tomorrow we will harvest the greens and other more tender vegetables.  We will bring the roaster to market, we have roasted in the rain before but we will just have to see how windy it is.

The fun job today was digging Sweet Potatoes.  We don’t grow many, mostly for us to have some and still have some to sell at market.  It reminded me that this is storage root harvest season, what does that mean?  We mostly think of root crops like radishes and beets but this time of year we are also digging those root crops that have been growing all summer and can be stored for all winter use.  Sweet Potatoes are certainly one of those crops along with our Baby Ginger, Jerusalem Artichokes (coming in Nov.) and Turmeric root.  Just another sign of the arrival of fall.

Picture of the Week


And all of a sudden they appear from underground

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Peregrine Farm New Vol. 12 #26, 9/18/15

What’s been going on!

A really pleasant event last evening at the Carrboro Market’s Harvest Dinner.  Perfect weather to go with good dishes from the twenty plus chefs that shop at and support the market.  The setting under the market pavilions is always beautiful and the assembled crowd of market customers and supporters has that real feel of community.

The Harvest Dinner is both a celebration of the season and the market but also a fundraiser to help extend the markets budget so that we can increase our outreach to many groups in the Carrboro and Chapel Hill area.  Food access programs, kids cooking classes, working with local businesses, farm and food education events of all kinds are examples of the forward thinking that has made the Carrboro Farmers’ Market the leader and innovator in local markets and one of the best in the country.  It is why it is the areas epicenter of the local, sustainable food movement.

While something like 90 percent of the markets budget is from stall rental fees from the vendors and market has been self-supporting for all of its 37 years, fees can only go so far.  We have never wanted to rely on grants, as many non-profits do, so events like the Harvest Dinner and the new Market Perennial Program help us to continue our forward momentum.  Just like WUNC’s Sustainer program you can sign up for a regular donation to the market.  Betsy and I are also “Perennials”, as are a number of other vendors and community members and even though we pay our share of stall fees, we know that the market has been the single most important part of our business for the last 30 years.  Even on a farmers budget we know that we need to contribute to the market as it has contributed to us for so long.

Picture of the Week


It is all about Red Bells right now

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #25, 9/11/15

What’s been going on!

Late newsletter, the second of two big storms in the last week strafed us yesterday afternoon, so I didn’t get to it last night.  Lots of sticks and debris blown around and a few small chainsaw sized limbs.  Some of the fall vegetables got knocked around and should mostly stand back up but it has been a hard start for that field for sure.  Betsy’s plume celosia took it the hardest as it was by itself out in the middle of the field with no windbreak.

Everything else looks OK but wet.  Another inch of rain, makes it three inches in the last week and a half.  One of those odd times of year when all of a sudden we are wet but the creek is dry and we have been starting to pull water from the upper pond which is our last surface water, after that we have to resort to using well water but I am sure that we won’t need to now that we are this far into the season.  If we hang on just a few more days then it looks like real fall weather will arrive.

Great class last week at A Southern Season, it was good to see so many familiar faces there and I thought Caitlin did some really great pepper dishes.  I spent a good part of several days this week pulling soil samples for soil testing, 25 in all.  We are really fortunate to have such a good soil testing lab run by the NCDA and if we have them done in the fall it is even free!  We try and do soil tests every year in the early fall so that we can amend our fields this coming month as we get ready for winter cover crops and all of next year’s plantings.

What we are monitoring and adding are the important minerals for plant growth and really just four of them Phosphorus (P), Potassium (K), Calcium and Magnesium.  All the rest are minor nutrients and are in sufficient quantities in our soils.  In our weathered soils we have to replace these more mobile nutrients mostly because every time we sell a tomato or a flower we are exporting nutrients off the farm.  What we use to replace them is crushed rock, it is heavy and expensive to mine and transport so we want to add just what we need so the soil tests are crucial to do a good job.  It is all just another part of the business.

Picture of the Week


An Asian greens view of the storm damage

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #24, 9/3/15

What’s been going on!

Fall tugs at us, tempts us and then moves away.  Last week in the mid 80’s, this week back to the 90’s.  It is the hopefulness of cool weather and clear days, of a more relaxed pace and different kinds of work after the months of hot and humid summer.  It starts in early August with a few mornings when you walk out and it is not in the 70’s, as the month progresses you realize that the days are getting noticeably shorter and your morning routine is more rushed, compact, before we have to go out and start the work day.

We see the first poplar leaves turning yellow, the persimmons moving from green to orange, the deer beginning to form groups for the fall rut.  The lettuce we planted under shade cloth, just over a month ago, in an attempt to keep it a bit cooler now begins to stretch and twist looking for more light, do we take the shade off even though the days are still hot, yes but wait for a cloudy day to not stress it too much.

We know that hot days can last up into October but the nights will get cooler and cooler as the earth slowly gives up its summer heat.  The fall crops grow fast in the brilliant light of September, they have to get to size before the first frost comes or they will never make it.  Lots of planting going on these weeks at the same time we are tearing out the tomatoes and mowing down summer flowers and cover crops.  In a few short weeks it will be time to turn under almost all the fields and seed them down to the winter cover crops.  Until then fall will be wrestling itself from the grips of summer.

Picture of the Week


Tomato destruction, vines off the trellis fence, trellis coming down, a dirty job

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #23, 8/27/15

What’s been going on!

Glorious almost fall like weather, at least a tease of what is to come.  Folks always ask why our peppers start so much later than other growers at market.  We purposely plant ours later in the spring for several reasons.  The first is if we try and push and put the seedlings into cold soil and night temperatures they will just sulk, we want them to hit the ground running and make big strong plants that will produce for a long time.  The other reason is, while we can have some green fruit in June and July what we are really after is sweet ripe colored fruit and the best conditions for ripening are in late August and September when we begin to have weather just like this, cool nights, bright warm days.

Green chilis and Poblanos are the same, the closest we can come to the high light desert environment of New Mexico and the Southwest is this time of year which is also our driest time of the whole growing season.  Cool, dry nights in particular give us nice thick meaty walls and average heat levels that we wouldn’t get in hotter wet weather when the fruit grow really fast.

Just in time for the peak of pepper season we have another class at A Southern Season Cooking School next Thursday Sept. 3rd, this one of course all about peppers!  Working again with our friend and tomato guru Craig Lehoullier who is also a pepper grower and cook and the wonderful Caitlin Burke of the Cooking School we will have a great time and meal.  If you haven’t ever taken a class at the Cooking School not only will you learn a lot but you will have a great meal including wine for a really reasonable price.

We will have the pepper roaster there to demonstrate how it is done in New Mexico and the menu looks delicious.  Arugula and Pepper Salad with Warm Olive Oil; Parmesan Polenta Squares with Romesco Sauce; Chili Relleno Casserole; Roasted Sweet Bell Pepper Crème Brûlée.  There is still room in the class so be sure to sign up to learn all about peppers and some ideas for how to use them.

Picture of the Week


Standing in the Celosia Big Top looking out over fields getting ready for fall

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