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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #22, 8/20/15

What’s been going on!

Students are back and so are we!  Despite the dampish week we have been back at it since Monday.  Good time off and we even got to the point where we couldn’t remember what day it was.  Lacey was the winner with a week in Maine, Jennie got in a trip up to D.C. and a few days camping in the mountains.  Betsy and I knocked around doing a variety of things including a scenic tour of Eastern North Carolina with stops in Wilson, Kinston, Pink Hill and Clinton!

Before heading off, Jennie and Lacey worked hard to get more fall crops in the ground and cultivate the established ones so they were in good shape for the week while they were gone.  Since their return the planting and cultivating has continued and we are right on schedule.  The tearing out of the tomato plantings has begun with the little tunnels completed but the Big Tops still to go.

As projected, pepper roasting will begin this Saturday with mostly Anaheims and Poblanos and a few Corno di Toros.  The sweet Red, Yellow and Orange Bells are running a bit behind but should give us some for next week.  Don’t worry we should be roasting through October.  The weather looks to be clearing and actually a fairly pleasant day to commence with the hot job of running the roaster.

Picture of the Week


Another foggy morning, super tall Poblanos in the foreground.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #21, 7/29/15

What’s been going on!

Our 80 year old neighbor used to say about farming and living in the country “It’s nothing but a maintenance job!” and there are times that I think he was completely right.  We have so many buildings and machines and miles of fences and irrigation to keep up that it seems that I can just go from one repair to the next and never run out of things to work on.  Another farmer friend told me that he had 80 tires alone to keep air in and rolling (we only have about 40).

We also have an “aging infrastructure” that makes it all the more likely that work will have to be done on it.  The thing that you have to hope for is that multiple things don’t break down all at the same time, not so lucky this week.  The main mower for the tractor has been at the tractor dealership for weeks now because I did not have the right tools to do the repair and because it is 20 years old it took some time to get the correct bearing for it.  That is OK because we have multiple mowing machines to work around it being missing, that was until the riding lawn mower deck needed to have some welding done on it, fortunately that repair only took a day.

The big issue right now is our big tractor drawn rototiller is out of commission until a part arrives from California (hopefully today).  We are busy planting for fall and cannot be without it for long.  A 25 year old Italian made tiller makes the availability of parts more difficult but the good thing is because we bought heavy steel and a well-built machine this is the first time we have ever had to work on it.  There is always a learning curve the first time you take something apart but after many hours it is all back together just waiting for Fedex to arrive with one last piece.  We should be back up and tilling by Friday!

The important maintenance job that needs to be looked after next is that of body and soul.  After 22 straight weeks at Market with only really Saturday afternoons off we will be taking our summer break after this Saturday’s market, you can see the fatigue in the eyes of most of the farmers at market now and we are no different.  We will not be at Saturday market on the 8th and the 15th.  Look for Jennie and Lacey at Wednesday market today and the 5th with the last of the tomatoes.  No newsletter until the 19th.  When we return on the 22nd, we surely will be full of vim and vigor and a booth loaded with peppers.

Pictures of the Week


Foggy this morning, some of those pepper plants are already 5 feet tall


Some serious Italian steel

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #20, 7/22/15

What’s been going on!

We had another interesting first time experience recently when I recorded an hour and a half podcast for Chris Blanchard’s Farmer to Farmer Podcast series.  Chris was a farmer and now is consulting with organic farmers and has started doing these interviews with mostly organic vegetable farmers from all across the country.  If you have great stamina you can listen to the whole thing which is wide ranging but the following is a breakdown of the major subjects if you want to skip around.

Starts with an intro; minute 5- where we market and how we got started; min. 10- how we financed the whole thing; min. 20- record keeping and crop planning; min. 30- high tunnels and tomatoes; min. 45 our transition plans with Jennie and retirement; min. 65 efficiency, labor, equipment and farm design.  We recorded it over the phone so the sound is a bit funny as I sound out of breath.

Friday we have another interview for a profile of Peregrine Farm to be in yet another book, this one about successful small farms under 5 acres in production.  This will be, I think, the seventh book we have been included in over the years, something we never imagined.

Planting of fall crops picks up over the next few weeks with many flats seeded at the greenhouse and celery, turnips and radishes all in the ground already.  In the next few weeks we will plant or seed leeks, carrots, beets and Romanesco broccoli.  We even harvested the first of the winter squash yesterday, I know it seems wrong when it is 90 degrees but that is how the timing works here in NC.

Picture of the Week


Another steamy morning, summer cover crops with late flowers behind

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #19, 7/16/15

What’s been going on!

So while our tomato crop is slowly decreasing towards the eventual last pick and our summer break in early August, our weeks and markets still revolve around what tomatoes do we have, do we have enough for the various outlets and who is going to get what.  Sure there are other things going on like trellising peppers, and the first plantings of crops for fall harvest and mowing and mowing and mowing.

For 20 years tomatoes have been one of our obsessions when we discovered that there was a world of possibilities past just a red tomato.  Nothing against a good red tomato but the range of colors, flavors, textures and sizes available has lead us down a trail that at first was overwhelming and now that we have winnowed out many varieties leaves us with trying to describe the ones we grow to all of you who want to pair them with different foods and dishes.  What is best with mozzarella or for sandwiches or in a salsa?  Gives us plenty more to think about for years to come.

To that end, that last tomato event of the summer, for us, is our Southern Season cooking class with our friend and heirloom tomato expert and preserver Craig LeHoullier who has a great new book out Epic Tomatoes.  We have done this class many times in the past where Craig expounds on heirloom tomatoes, their history and stories and I talk about how we grow them and which ones we have found that work best for us.  Always great food prepared by Caitlin Burke from our fruit.  Next Thursday the 23rd, seats still available.

Picture of the Week


Tomatoes are not the only red thing we grow, amazing crested celosia

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