Peregrine Farm News Vol. 18 #7, 2/19/21

What’s been going on!

We certainly got lucky with the ice storm that didn’t happen, we are feeling for our friends in Texas and other places who have been taking the brunt of this winter’s fury, that kind of weather is usually more ours to worry about.

We have not really talked much about what it is like to slowly close down and take apart the business we worked so long and hard to build.  For so many years we were focused on building things, improving systems, growing our infrastructure and that of the local food system, learning, learning, learning.  If we had not been that way, we would not have had the successful business we ended up running but over the last two years we have been in the reverse process.

Once we made the decision that the party was over we started to identify what equipment we would no longer need and how to manage the land and buildings so that it would be the least maintenance for us in the long run.  There will still be a lot to maintain as we do have 26 acres, 8 of that are open and have to be mowed, 4 major buildings and 6 outbuildings.  We have begun to sell off some things like the big high tunnels and some greenhouse seeding equipment but will have much more to go after this spring when we take out 5 of the 6 sliding tunnels and really finalize the list of things like fencing and trellising, seeders, row covers and more.  Decisions will need to be made about refrigeration equipment and irrigation pumps but that is all just stuff.

We have talked some in the past about how we personally cleared, with chainsaws, two additional fields to what was already open when we bought the place.  Each one nearly two acres in size and years in the making.  We for sure are not going to let that land or any of the rest return to trees, partly for all the work we put into turning it into productive farm land but also in case anyone wants to farm it in the future.  Over the last two years we have been removing all of the deer fencing and smoothing and seeding down those growing areas to pasture grass to preserve the great soil we had developed and to make it easy to mow once or twice a year.  All of the underground irrigation supply lines are still there if someone wants to use them someday.

In many ways it has been therapeutic, returning the place to how we found it originally but actually better and it has reminded us of how much work we put in in the beginning and how valuable it was in our formation as people.  It is not a sad process but more like letting a caged bird fly free.

Pictures of the week

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The “blueberry” field before we cleared it

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The clearing process

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The finished product

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In production, blueberries in the far back corner

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Everything back in grass except the blueberries

What’s going to be at Market?

Us! Finally the Anemones are cooperating! 

Stay safe and well and we hope to see you all at the market soon!

Alex and Betsy

If you know folks who you think would be interested in news of the farm then please feel free to forward this to them and encourage them to sign up at the website.

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 18 #6, 2/12/21

What’s been going on!

Just a quick note to let everyone know that we will not be at market tomorrow.  Call us fair weather farmers it you want but looking at the forecast and the small amount of anemones that we have harvested, it looks like the smart decision for us is to stay home around the warmth of the woodstove.

Be careful with any ice, stay warm, hope for the return of the sun, see you next week!

Stay safe and well and we hope to see you all at the market soon!

Alex and Betsy

If you know folks who you think would be interested in news of the farm then please feel free to forward this to them and encourage them to sign up at the website.

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 18 #5, 2/5/21

What’s been going on!

Yet another gray and wet day.  I heard the other day that it has rained 50% of the days since the first of the year.  This is one of the many reasons that farmers are putting up more and more high tunnels, to be able to control at least some of the variables thrown at us by the weather.  Not a perfect solution but at least it makes it possible to grow some things out of season and during inclement periods.

Yesterday we planted the last of our indoor beds to lettuces, spinach and radishes.  We also put the first crops out in the field, peas and some more lettuce.  How is it even possible to do that when it has been so cold and wet?  The cold part is a small gamble but historically we don’t have temperatures below 20 degrees after February 1st (it was 21 degrees yesterday morning!), which is the level at which lettuce can be damaged or even killed without protection.  We do cover it with floating row cover immediately.

The wet part we manage by tilling the beds weeks in advance during a dry spell and cover them with large plastic “silage” tarps to help keep the soil dryer and to pre-germinate and kill weed seeds in the top inch of the soil.  We then pull the tarp off, give the top of the bed a light rake and plant.  It is a careful dance this time of year to fool mother nature.

Picture of the week

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Silage tarp over prepared beds next to the first outdoor crops protected under row cover

What’s going to be at Market?

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 18 #4, 1/29/21

What’s been going on!

Possibly the coldest night of the year tonight, we will see.  Everything is covered and the tunnels are battened down.  The blizzard of 2021 earlier in the week turned out to be a dusting but we are always happy when we don’t have to go out in the middle of the night to sweep the tunnels off to prevent them from collapsing.  The biggest snows have all been from the end of January to the beginning of March but really once we get out of the end of this month we begin to breathe easier.

Like Hurricane Fran, we are still scarred by the record snow the end of January 2000 when we had 20 inches.  I had been gone for a week to meetings in Georgia and drove home that afternoon.  Betsy said that they were calling for some snow but probably not a lot.  We went up to Burlington that evening for another meeting and by the time we got out it was snowing pretty hard.  By the time we got home we knew this was serious and stayed up all night, going out every hour to sweep the tunnels off, alternating with each other.  When morning came we were just about hallucinating from the lack of sleep and the physical exertion.  Some things you never forget or want to re-live.

Still not enough flowers to justify coming to market this week so we will stay home and be warm tomorrow.

Picture of the week

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It was beautiful in the aftermath

What’s going to be at Market?

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 18 #3, 1/22/21

What’s been going on!

So yesterday was the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century not sure exactly the importance of all that but it also was the anniversary of the coldest temperature ever recorded in North Carolina.  January 21st, 1985 it got to minus 11 degrees here at the farm.  The week before we had been out in T-shirts picking rocks out of our new cleared blueberry field.  Doesn’t seem like we will be seeing those kinds of extremes this winter but we do seem to be having an awful lot of cloudy days which are holding the crops back.

Last winter was a warm one as well but with much more sun and higher average temperatures.  Last Saturday all of the farmers were comparing notes and generally agreed that with so much cloudy weather the crops we moving much slower than last year.  Last season we were able to start market the last week of December and had a steady supply all the way through.  Not so this year, while we started last Saturday it was just a tiny showing and this week we have harvested on a handful of anemones so will be skipping market again tomorrow.  We hate to be inconsistent but it is what it is.

Now that we have finally passed through the Persephone period and the days are get longer quickly it should help to kick things into gear.  Folks have asked when the Little Gem is coming and it should be right on schedule the end of February.

Pictures of the week

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The first 4 plantings of lettuce growing well

What’s going to be at Market?

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Peregrine Farm News, Vol. 18 #1, 1/1/21 Happy New Year!

What’s been going on!

I had planned on our usual end of the year missive but decided that it would be much more fitting to start the New Year looking forward and just let 2020 slip away.  Not that we are not thankful for many things from last year including the incredible support from all of you, the wonderful Carrboro Farmers’ Market (still the safest place a human could be in public), this beautiful farm that we have been able to hide out on and of course, that we haven’t gotten Covid!

We are looking forward to all the good things that 2021 will bring.  Hopefully a less rainy year, Covid vaccinations for us by summer and the return to somewhat normal routines.  We have planned a bountiful spring for our 40th growing season and what we intend to be our last for public consumption.  I promised Betsy last year that this would be our final season and further agreed that we would stop the end of April shortly after our 40th wedding anniversary.  I think retirement is the present for 40 years of wedded bliss.

We look forward to gardening and growing food for just ourselves and family.  We look forward to travel and eating at restaurants again.  We look forward to spending time with friends and family and just kicking around here on the farm with whatever project we dream up. 

We also hope for a quick recovery for all of those folks who have been severely impacted by the corona virus both physically and economically, especially our friends in the healthcare, hospitality, entertainment and service sectors that have shouldered the brunt of the losses and pain.

As a sign of the changing times we had a tremendously beautiful sunrise the other day and with it a huge murmuration of birds- thousands and thousands of starlings and crackles I assume, with their eerie cackling and swooping, acrobatic flock displays.

Pictures of the week

What’s going to be at Market?

We plan to be back in January 9th with the first and small harvest of Anemones!

Stay safe and well and we hope to see you all at the market!

Alex and Betsy

If you know folks who you think would be interested in news of the farm then please feel free to forward this to them and encourage them to sign up at the website.

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #25, 10/13/20 The Election Issue

What’s been going on! 

It has been an enjoyable and reasonably busy three plus months.  The weather, particularly in August, was so horrible with high humidity and heat that it limited our field work but we have picked away at various cleanup projects, tried to keep up with the mowing (impossible at times) and are close to having all the beds ready for planting for next winter/spring, just a little composting left to do.  The fall cover crops have never looked so good due to the copious rain and we will soon be planting the Anemones and Ranunculus.

Betsy has spent an incredible number of hours working on the local elections and with the Alamance County Democratic Party, keeping up the website, calling seniors to tell them about absentee voting and many other duties.  I have helped some as well but hers has been almost a full time job most days which brings us to the next 3 weeks leading to Nov. 3rd and our election message to all of you.

Most of our focus has been on getting local candidates elected as that is where the change has to begin, especially here in Alamance County.  We need better people on the school board, the county commissioners, in the NC House and Senate.  We absolutely have to have a change in the US Senate and the White House.

We all have to vote and make sure everyone we know votes!  There can be no excuse.  We have no control now over what will happen with the Supreme Court, that die was cast in 2016 when too many people didn’t vote and that mistake will hang over the nation for the next two generations but we can make headway going forward, if we vote.

Here is what you need to do now.  If you are registered to vote and have gotten an absentee ballot, send it in or deliver it in person to your Board of Elections immediately, don’t wait.  It is almost too late now to get an absentee ballot as it takes up to 10 days for them to get it to you.  Follow the directions exactly, including the kind of pen to use and where to sign and witness, etc.  Do not try and deliver it at either an early voting or regular voting location as that just slows down the voting lines. 

It is best if the absentee ballots are at the county Board of Elections by the last week of October.  If you live in a state like North Carolina which prepares to count absentee ballots as they come in, before Election Day and includes that count in the Election night totals great.  If you live in a state like Pennsylvania or Wisconsin that doesn’t start counting them until Election Day or after, only vote absentee if you have no other choice or are very concerned about Covid 19.  We want as many votes as possible counted on Election night.

If you are not registered to vote or know people who are not then, in North Carolina and many other states, you can register and vote at the early voting sites.  If you are not registered to vote don’t wait until Election Day, as while they will let you vote a provisional ballot, it is basically a vote that will not be counted.

Make sure you vote early!  The forecast is for this to be the highest turnout election since 1908 and the lines will be long, even with early voting but you have many more days to get it done including Saturdays and some Sundays in certain counties.  Early voting in North Carolina starts this week on October 15th and continues until the 31st.  Do not wait until November 3rd unless you absolutely have no choice.

We need to have massive, overwhelming numbers vote so that there is no question as to the outcome and this is where this relational organizing comes in.  More people will vote if we contact people that we have a relationship with versus total strangers and they in turn contact people they know who might be on the fence about voting.  The nearly 800 people who get this newsletter is one example of this.  There is another whole texting campaign where you text three people you know who may not have voted yet and ask them to text three people they know.

There are many other things that we all can do like phone banking, literature drops, poll watching and more but if we all just do two of the things above- voting early and getting people we know to vote then the outcome will be huge and we will not have to protest in the streets after Election Day like in Belarus.

Betsy and I have voted in every election for the past 44 years, no matter where we were and this is, without question, the most important one yet.  In the 17 years we have put out this newsletter this is the first time it has not just been about the farm but unusual times require unusual actions.  VOTE!

Picture of the week

The last of the peppers, beautiful cover crops, the first fall color

What’s going to be at Market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #24, 7/2/20

What’s been going on! 

We want to thank everyone who left kind notes and comments, bottles of wine and other good things last week as well as emails and other communications.  For those who were confused (or didn’t read close enough) about if it was our last market ever the answer is no, just for this season and 2020, we will be back in January for what we do intend to be our last season.

People ask “But what about the tomatoes!?!”  Yes there are tomatoes left on the vines and we are picking them as usual but now what is left are going to four restaurants, friends and family and to a food bank.  This planting of tomatoes will produce for about another 3 weeks, maybe 4, to the end of the month but the volume and quality slowly drops off to nothing.  Already the Cherokee Purples and Greens are near the end of their fruiting.  There will be plenty of tomatoes at market, you will just have to find your new favorite producer.

“But what will you do with all your time?”  As Betsy likes to point out we have 26 acres, 4 main buildings and 6 more outbuildings- there are always things to work on, maintain and enjoy.  This summer and fall we have a few large projects including painting the house roof, working on the greenhouse roof, some small projects around the house to go along with cover cropping and soil maintenance, getting the tunnels ready for next season and the endless mowing.

The one thing we won’t be doing much of, we are sad to say, is travel.  We hadn’t planned to do any big trips until after the election in November as we both, but primarily Betsy, are very involved in the local campaigns as we have to get the current bozos out of office, then we can go away with some confidence.  We cannot say too often or too loudly you all must VOTE! And you have to get everyone you know to vote.  On top of that you need to contribute money, volunteer and we are recommending everyone apply for an absentee/mail in ballot.  With Covid-19 it will take some pressure off of the local precincts and be a safer alternative.

It has been possibly the best six months we have ever had business wise.  The warm winter and generally good and long spring led to consistent crops with very few failures or waste.  Combine that with the incredible demand, driven by all of the change to people’s lifestyles because of Covid-19 and it has been a remarkable half a year even if it was a strain physically and mentally.  We sincerely hope that all of the people new to the Farmers’ Market and purchasing local food will continue their new and improved buying habits and not just revert to Food Lion or Costco for all of their produce and meats as the pandemic eases.  We know that a lot will slip back to those old habits but we encourage you to think about how important it is to you, your health and the health of the local food system and economy.

Finally to update our fundraising to contribute to Campaign Zero to help end police violence in America, we ended an impressive month helped with yet more large donations from Ellie and Jim, Jean, Lydia and others.  The final total for the month was $1397 and we rounded it up and have donated $1500!  Thank you all, you have been amazing but don’t stop there in the fight for racial equality!

This pandemic is going to be with us for a long time yet, many months at least and well into next year I am afraid.  We all need to do our part, you know the three W’s, to get this mess under control.  We are pretty much self-isolating for a few weeks and then will begin to have people over for socially distant visits.  We may show up at market to do some shopping but we plan to spend large parts of everyday in what Betsy refers to as the Summer Palace and you can visualize us there, reading, working and enjoying the beauty of the place.

Picture of the week

P1050618Betsy’s hammock is ready on the screen porch, the grill and chairs set on the deck, the creek is babbling away below and the wine is poured!

What’s going to be at Market?

Not us and we will be radio silent for the most part but expect a newsletter from time to time.

Stay safe and well and we hope to see you all at the market!

Alex and Betsy

If you know folks who you think would be interested in news of the farm then please feel free to forward this to them and encourage them to sign up at the website.

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 17 #23, 6/24/20, Last market of the season

What’s been going on! 

The last week for our 2020 season and some of you may say what?!?  Especially for the 100 or so folks new this spring to the newsletter, this has always been the plan and part of our semi-retirement, you can read about it here.  It has been 27 weeks since the start of our season but the last 16 weeks since the coronavirus took over the market and our life has felt like a sprint.  60 year olds don’t sprint anymore and we are more than ready for a long break.

We have taken our job of providing the community with healthy food and flowers for the soul during this unsettled time as an important service.  Building an online store, doing curb pickups for those especially vulnerable and essentially changing most of our market practices to pre-orders and sanitation has been interesting, exciting, stressful and not as much fun.

We have been proud members of the Carrboro Farmers’ Market for 35 years and could not be more gratified to see how the market, the Town and all of the customers have responded to the Covid-19 restrictions and changes.  Like you we miss the interactions, the conversations about food, farming and life.  We miss introducing people to new vegetables and flowers, how they taste, how to use them.  We miss the hugs.  That being said we have also been overwhelmed by your support, kind words and smiles through the masks and car windows, keep it up!

Look for a newsletter next week with some further thoughts about the season and what we have planned for the summer and fall.  If we don’t get to see you on Saturday, take the virtual hug.

Picture of the week

P1050606The only thing left in the field is a bed of lettuce and some callaloo, planned obsolescence!  Soon to be planted to cover crops.

What’s going to be at Market? Continue reading