Peregrine Farm News Vol. 8 #15, 6/29/11

What’s been going on?

Finally a good rain last night but only four tenths, nineteen days since the last real rain, sure a tenth here and there but with temperatures in the mid and upper 90’s, they don’t count. We have to pump water unless it is a quarter inch of rain or more and then that only buys us a day and we have to irrigate in the tunnels no matter what falls from the sky. So lets talk about drought. There are two kinds of drought, one is a long period without rain that can effect the soil surface water and things like crops and gardens. That is an agricultural drought and right now we are classed as being in a moderate agricultural drought. Places like Texas (where in some places it hasn’t rained in nearly 300 days) and New Mexico where they are literally burning up, are three more levels down the scale in the worst classification of “exceptional” and eastern North Carolina is one level down from us in the “severe” class.

So we all can feel and see an agricultural drought, no rain and we have to water our gardens and crops more and more as the soil dries out. The more difficult kind is a hydrologic drought, when it doesn’t rain enough for a long period of time. Sure it rains and things look green because the top soil has sufficient water but the water is not getting further down to recharge the aquifer, the underground pond. We are also in a hydrologic drought here too but it is harder to see and feel. At RDU (I can tell you we are much drier than RDU) there has only been 70% of normal rainfall since the first of the year and 9 inches below normal in the last year.

We can see the hydrologic drought here on the farm, first as our shallow springs dry up that feed our two ponds and then finally as the creek that borders our property runs slower and slower until it dries up altogether, as it did last Tuesday. This is a major creek, with at least two mill dams (one on our farm) built on it to harness the water power in years past. So it means that all the springs that feed the creek have dried up too. So now we are down to irrigating with the water we can see in the two ponds (of which we lose up to a quarter inch a day just in evaporation) and water we can’t see in the underground pond from a 500 foot deep well we drilled in the historic drought of 2002.

We had a number agricultural droughts in the 80’s, some of them historic for the time, but we would always have wet winters that kept the ground water recharged and our creek never ran dry. During the last decade we have seen the creek run dry at least a half a dozen times. So what we really need is some steady, regular precipitation particularly during the winter to recharge the underground pond. The good news is we will be OK for this summer as we have enough water between the ponds and well to make it through but many famers don’t have the infrastructure that we have invested in over 30 years. If we are lucky they are predicting slighty above average rainfall for July through September, let’s hope they are right.

Picture of the Week

Our creek, Big Branch, not so big right now. This is the other end of the 900′ long line from creek to pond

What’s going to be at the market?

Lisianthus, the queen of all the cut flowers, more and more. The brilliant summer Dianthus in dark reds and purples. Zinnias are here for the summer along with the Gloriosa Daisies (Black Eyed Susans). Sunflowers are back. A little more Plume Celosia and maybe the first of the Crested Celosia. The fragrant Oriental Lilies and more Asiatic Lilies too. Betsy will have mixed Bouquets as well.

Tomato supply is increasing nicely. Cherokee Purples, our early red Ultra Sweet, the yellow Orange Blossoms and a larger amount of Sungolds. We are beginning to get some more heirlooms out of the main planting with a few Cherokee Greens, pink German Johnsons, yellow Kellogg’s Breakfast and Oxhearts for sauces. More red Big Beefs and Romas too.

I hate to say it but maybe the last week of Summer Crisp this week until late August, in both green with red tints and a very dark red. More Lacinato Kale (Toscano Kale, Black Kale, Dinosaur Kale, Cavalo Nero). Leeks are still coming but not sure for how many more weeks. A little more Basil to go with the tomatoes. Plenty of our cured sweet Red Onions. The aromatic green fleshed Galia Melons are here for a week or so. The first smatterings of Peppers, Purple Bells, Shishitos and Padrone, Jalapenos and Serranos too. Cukes!

As a reminder if there is anything that you would like for us to hold for you at market just let us know by e-mail, by the evening before, and we will be glad to put it aside for you.

Hope to see you all at the market!

Alex and Betsy


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