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Have fun!

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #5, 3/27/15

What’s been going on!

Classic spring weather.  We were all set to plant the very early tomatoes and cukes in the sliding tunnels and then they dropped the low for Saturday night down to 22 degrees.  Nope, we will just wait until Monday to put them in the ground and will instead move them back into the greenhouse for safe keeping.  The floating row covers will come back out from their summer storage to cover lettuce and some of the flowers.  The only thing we can’t do much about is the blueberries that are beginning to bloom, we will lose some early fruit but not the whole crop as many buds are not open yet.

Cold, wet day so what is more perfect than to be in the greenhouse seeding the big pepper array for this year.  Painstaking and tedious, Jennie and Lacey are up to the task.  Keeping the 28 varieties straight and in the proper numbers takes patience, nearly 4000 seeds.  A few new interesting varieties this year including four special datil pepper seeds, yes 4, given to us by a fellow whose family has been in St. Augustine Florida since the 1500’s where the datil pepper has been grown by the Minorcan community since the 1700’s and is central to their cooking.  Each plant will have a name and armed guard.

Remember the picture of the Christmas lights in the flowers to add just a bit of additional heat when it got down to one degree back mid February?  Here are the results, lots of beautiful Ranunculus for now, Easter and later.

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #4, 3/20/15

What’s been going on!

Ah the first day of Spring!  Feels like a long time coming and that the season is still behind despite the 80 degree temperatures this week.  Very little movement so far in the perennials, a few forsythia blooming, some green buds on the poplars and the blueberries are sending out flowers.

We know that it will all move fast soon and we must stay on schedule to keep up.  This week was time to slide the little tunnels and get ready to plant the very early tomatoes.  It is a two day process with the first day spent preparing the beds for tomatoes, cucumbers and other early warm season crops, including final tilling, irrigation lines, landscape fabric and building the trellis to support them later.

The second day we first have to unbolt the sliding tops from the rails, take off the end walls and other preparations so they will move easier.  Back in the day we used to slide them with just four of us but we must be getting weaker or they are getting heavier.  We now do it with at least six folks which means coaxing extra friends out to the farm for literally 10 minutes of work.  We only move two of the six tunnels by hand, the rest with the tractor.  This year I was able to get four students from my Advanced Organic Crop Production class to come out.

After the intense 10 minutes and after the additional helpers head off, we have an afternoon of rebolting, re-installing the end walls and general tidying the area but it is done and despite the yearly work of moving them we still think it is a superior system to stationary tunnels as far as soil health and production are concerned.

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Newly uncovered lettuces, almost ready for market and covered tunnels ready for tomatoes next week.

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #3, 3/13/15, Like a phoenix!

What’s been going on!

A week ago we were all complaining about soil so wet from weeks of snow and rain that many of the spring crops were in danger of not getting planted at all and certainly not on time but we have risen like a phoenix!

In the late ‘80’s and early 90’s we had many a wet spring and because of that we developed our soil management system so we would be able to prepare soil with only a few dry days after a significant rain.  With beds raised up in the fall, that drain fast, we usually only need three days but the previous weeks of sopping moisture that ended on Thursday it would be a test.  Friday, Saturday, Sunday.  Late Sunday we tilled up 10 beds in our only south facing field, which dries out first, for onions and some flowers, not bad but not perfect.

Monday was forecast to be the last dry day and we hit the ground running with our new all-star staff member, Lacy and one other person in addition to the three of us.  Three of them started with the 7000 onion plants while I prepared another 28 beds in the lettuce and spring vegetable fields, the soil tilled beautifully!

To have a break from the endless onion planting, after lunch they moved into the lettuce field and set out 4000 lettuce plants while I pulled out the seeder and rolled out 13 beds of beets, broccoli raab, carrots, peas, radish, spinach and turnips.  To top off the day we planted several more beds of flowers.  In one day we had just about caught up to our original planting schedule!

And then a bonus!  It did not rain on Tuesday so we were able to finish up the onions and get a few more beds of flowers and vegetables in the ground.  In 34 seasons we don’t think we have ever planted so much at one time.  It will not be perfect as to crop timing and we did miss a few plantings of the earliest things like turnips and radishes but we are much relieved.

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Happy onions

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4000 lettuce in front with seeded vegetables behind under covers to germinate

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Abundant Anemones

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #2, 3/6/15

What’s been going on!

Well we hope that all of you survived the crazy winter weather of the last two weeks.  Just a quick newsletter as we had intended to come to market each of the last two Saturdays but the forecast was so dismal that we decided to hold our cards but we will be there tomorrow morning!

Far more extreme than what I wrote about three weeks ago.  We hit one degree on Friday morning the 20th and then stayed awake all night on Wednesday/Thursday the 25th and 26th to sweep the 7 inches of snow off the little tunnels.  We feel a bit punch drunk but still ready to go.

Weeks behind in our planting schedule, we hope to get some things in the ground this week but may have to do some unusual things to work around this wet soil and forecast for yet more rain on Tuesday, at least it appears to be warming up.

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The result of a long nights work

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #1, 2/13/15 A new year

What’s been going on!

They are baaack!!  Not like any kind of zombie apocalypse on Friday the 13th but the long winters nap is about over I guess.  We always feel that Groundhog Day is generally some kind of watershed date, after which the new season slowly begins to unfold.  Right now we are tending to agree with Punxsutawney Phil, more than his southern cousin Sir Walter Wally, that we are going to see six more weeks of winter.

The forecast for the coming week is really extreme, including the chance of snow next Tuesday on the heels of possible record breaking cold with high winds.  We are in batten down the hatches mode, covering and tightening every crop and structure we have.  We expect this kind of extended cold in December or January with crops that can generally take it but not mid-February when we usually do not see any more temperatures below 20 degrees, much less single digits (last night they had Monday morning at 9 degrees, they have since warmed it up to 14).

The greenhouse and coldframe is bulging with transplants waiting to get into the field.  We already waited a week to put out the first field lettuce to get past the last cold snap.  Sunday when it was 70 degrees we planted the first 1000+ lettuce, now we have it double covered as it really is not supposed to go below 20 degrees.  The place looks like a White Sale at Belks with so many crops covered with floating row covers.

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Lettuce covered in the foreground, more tender crops covered both inside and outside the little sliding tunnels

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The high winds make it especially difficult to keep covers on hoops over outdoor crops, Jennie resets the cinderblock weights for the billionth time

The real worry now is the anemone and ranunculus crops inside the sliding tunnels.  They look as good as they ever have but are also at very tender stages now that they are beginning to bloom.  So not only are they covered with row covers on hoops

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But for the first time ever we have run Christmas lights down the ranunculus beds, under the cover, to generate just a bit more heat right at the plant level.

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Every last trick in the book.  The result is there will be anemones for the Valentines Day market and it will be the warmest day of the coming week!

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol.11 #32, 12/18/14 Winter Solstice Edition

What’s been going on!

A beautiful sunrise this morning but the saying “Red sky in morning, sailor take warning” appears to be accurate for Saturday’s market, forecast to be in the 30’s with rain.  Don’t let that deter you from coming out, getting your Christmas dinner produce and visiting with us at our last market of 2014.

One of my favorite things this time of year is to get up quietly, leaving Betsy sleeping, stoking the woodstove and taking my coffee up to my office to watch the day come up with the first rays of sun through the big window.  Time to think about the coming day and many other things too.

Another good year just about in the books and the 34th season is underway in the greenhouse and in the field.  Only a few more end of the season projects to finish up like the last of the pepper trellis to take out so that field can be prepared for onion planting in early spring and moving of the Big Top hoops over next year’s tomato field.  The winter travel and meeting schedule is set and well underway, all too soon it will be spring again and we will wonder where those slow days of winter went.

Once again we feel fortunate.  Fortunate to be on this beautiful piece of land and to be able to make a living from it.  Fortunate to have great help, especially Jennie, and a great market with such supportive customers and friends.  If we don’t get a chance to see you on Saturday we hope you all have great holidays and thank you again for making it possible for us to do this thing we love.

Picture of the Week

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2015 tomato beds ready to be covered by the protective hoops

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #31, 11/21/14

What’s been going on!

Back from Jamaica, alive and well.  Sixteen days is a long time to be gone and Betsy and Jennie did a great job in keeping everything rolling and protecting all the crops from the unusually cold weather, 14 degrees two days ago, way too cold for this early in the season.

Jamaica was beautiful and interesting.  Enlightening, uplifting and depressing all at the same time.  It is certainly a place of deep contrasts between the touristy north shore and the poverty of the south shore, particularly the far eastern parish of St. Thomas where I was.  A good place to be working with small farmers to help move them both towards organic farming practices but also direct marketing of their products so they can make the most income possible from their efforts and help reduce the amount of food imported into the country.

The farmers were friendly, open, eager, hardworking and looking for a break in what has been a long line of difficulties including hurricanes, drought, diseases and unscrupulous exporters.  The Jamaica Farm Sustainable Enterprise project is a three and a half year effort that will bring in 70 volunteers with both farming and marketing expertise to work with 150 farmers from all across the island but particularly in the eastern end of the country.  I just happened to be the first volunteer to work with the first ten farmers, their fledgling farmers’ market in Kingston and look at the whole project from a 30,000 foot level.

More stories later but more immediately we have this big food holiday coming up.  Two markets in four days for you to get everything you need for the big meal.  Of course tomorrow 9:00 to noon and then Tuesday afternoon, the special pre-Thanksgiving market 3:00-6:00.  The weather looks perfect for both.  If you want to have us save something special for you in advance, for either market, please let us know as early as possible so we can set it aside.

 Picture of the Week

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Showing farmers in the Plantain Garden River plains how to use a walk behind tractor

 

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #30, 10/30/14

What’s been going on!

In my mind the first ugly, cold, wet weekend of the winter is always the first weekend in November.  Usually because it actually happens that way but it was imprinted on us 32 years ago this week when we finally moved into our “house”.  We had been living in a tent for seven months while we tended the first crops and began building a house.  The house was far from done, more like a big wooden tent but it did have a roof and walls and a woodstove.  The forecast for that weekend was the same as this coming Saturday, 40’s and rain, the thought of gritting it out under the tractor shed was not appealing so we moved in.  There was no insulation so we had to almost sit on the woodstove to stay warm but it was dry and a lot warmer than the tent would have been.

The first killing frost usually comes along just after that cold weekend too.  People always talk about the first frost when it gets below 32 degrees or frost actually forms on some surfaces and maybe damages some tender plants.  Statistically for the farm it is around October 21st but that is really of no concern to us.  Our defining line is 28 degrees that is when peppers and other warm season crops will actually die.  This weekend’s forecast has been warmed up some from 29 to 31 degrees on Sunday night but for us that is close enough to go ahead and clean off the pepper plants and call it a season.  Yesterday Jennie and I got about three quarters done, today we will finish.  One of the beauties of peppers is they hold very well in the walk-in cooler so we will be able to have them for several more weeks but Saturday will be the last day of pepper roasting.

No newsletter for the next several weeks as I will be out of town, in Jamaica.  Not a vacation, even though I am sure there will be some recreation involved.  I am headed down for a farmer to farmer exchange with a group of organic growers in the far southeastern tip of the island.  I will be staying at The Source Farm who is the lead in country to work with this group of over 40 farmers trying to diversify and improve their markets in Kingston.  Lots of stories to share when I get back but until then Betsy and Jennie will be at the Saturday markets while I am away.

Picture of the Week

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A beautiful fall morning and a very tired field of peppers

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #29, 10/23/14

What’s been going on!

Cover crops seeded!  Not up but everything is done and waiting on rain, unfortunately none in the forecast for maybe several weeks now, just as I feared, oh well, it will happen and we will enjoy the amazing weather in the meantime.

It has been a really busy week.  Betsy just back last night from the Association of Specialty Cut Flowers (ASCFG) annual meeting in Delaware where she saw lots of old friends, learned a few new things and oversaw the successful benefit auction to raise money for cut flower research.  Last week was also the culmination of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) 20th anniversary with three separate events and a board meeting, it is sometimes hard to believe that it has been 20 years already.  Sunday was the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) Crop Hop to raise money for their very important Farm Sustainability work which, amongst other things, has helped save hundreds of family farms from going out of business.

Last night I was on a panel with Amy Tornquist of Watts Grocery and Jared Cates of CFSA for the first of the Triangle Land Conservancy’s Wild Ideas speaker series.  We all shared thoughts on not only where the local food movement is in this area and some ideas of what needs to be done to help increase the availability and access to locally produced food.  A good discussion with about 70 folks.  Fortunately the calendar is clear for the next several weeks, whew!

Picture of the Week

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Two acres of soil and beds ready for 2015, just waiting for the rain

 

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #28, 10/15/14

What’s been going on!

Arghhh!!!!  Damn this rain.  Some of you may know that I am somewhat of a perfectionist, really more of “elegantist”, I know not a real word.  I always want to see beautifully crafted activities on the farm, a smooth flow of operations from one to the next, no matter how small or trivial I want things to feel like an efficient dance, elegant.  It is all about timing.

I have been pacing around for a week frustrated knowing that if I could have had one more dry day last week I would have had all the cover crops seeded and with this long rainy period they would be flying up in no time, perfect.  Normally we are lamenting that it is too dry to get soil worked or to germinate seeds uniformly but not so this fall.

Slowed down by a few too many off farm activities and a pulled back muscle I ran out of time.  The yearly soil preparation cannot be rushed, it takes a certain amount of time and passes over the fields to do it right.  Now it will take at least a week for things to dry out enough to finish up.  The later up into October we go the harder it is to insure good establishment of the all important cover crops.  Betsy says to get over it and I will but it will not be elegant, more like a foxtrot than a tango.

Picture of the Week

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After 6 days and over 2” of rain, hope on the horizon

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