Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #30, 12/15/10

What’s been going on?

Cold, cold, cold! 12 degrees this morning, second time in a week. This is just amazing and another record setting weather phenomenon. It has been hard to get much done outside so it is good we didn’t have any big projects we needed to get done. It is the beginning of the meeting season and I have had three board meetings in the last month and the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association conference so a little time at the desk has been welcome and needed. Soon we will have to buckle down to plan all of next years crops and order seeds, followed quickly by the time to do the end of the year books. Good thing we have plenty of fire wood to keep us warm with all of this indoor time.

We hope you all had tasty and sumptuous Thanksgivings, we thought the turkeys and produce were some of the best we have had. As promised I finally have had time to get the travel reports up on the website on Italy and Terra Madre and the Spain food explorations. I know some of you have already been to the website to see them but others will hopefully enjoy.

The winter looks to be filling up with the normal greenhouse work and other farm chores and further extra-curricular activities. The seed catalogs are just now starting to arrive in the mail and so our thoughts are turning to what new crops we will find to try this coming season. We do have the five new peppers from Spain and the new tomato from Italy for sure. Betsy already has the first Lisianthus plants up in the greenhouse and lettuce was seeded this week. All too soon it will be Ground Hog Day and spring will be peaking around the corner. If we don’t see you at market this Saturday, we hope that you all have a warm and satisfying winter.

Picture of the Week

Some cold lettuce and turnips under the floating row cover.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #29, 11/21/10

What’s been going on?

Wow! Two months since the last newsletter and I can tell you we have not been standing still. Here we are slipping up on the greatest of all food holidays and there is a lot to do but a brief recap of the fall first. The six plus inches of rain in late September came at the ideal time to not only ease the drought but to moisten the soil to make fall soil preparations and cover crop seeding nearly perfect. As we drove out the drive way on the way to Italy, for the Terra Madre meeting, a perfect rain was falling on the newly seeded fields.

The nearly three weeks we were in Italy and Spain was the longest we have ever been away from the farm in 30 years. Look for full reports with lots of pictures on the website, we will get them up after Thanksgiving. The Slow Food Terra Madre meeting was overwhelming as always, with so many people from 162 countries and of course the Salone de Gusto specialty foods show was eye popping. We had a great visit with our Italian family who again showed us hospitality beyond belief.

After Terra Madre we spent a week in Spain with Ben and Karen Barker of Magnolia Grill, searching for great food and ingredients. Not hard to find the great food and we went to many markets to find the new vegetables were looking for. We have brought back five new peppers and a new tomato to try and grow here. The country side was beautiful and their food culture is very different from what we have seen in other parts of Europe.

As we turned into the driveway of the farm and the headlights moved across the fields we could see that the rains had indeed brought up one of the most beautiful sets of cover crops ever. It was a crazy, hectic week trying to re-enter regular life: hundreds of emails, crops to plant for next spring, Thanksgiving crops and turkey details to catch up on, etc. Betsy was home for six days before flying to Tulsa, OK for the Assoc. of Specialty Cut Flower Growers conference. Two days later I left for nine days in Utah, hiking the upper Paria river area.

Home for three days now and we are in a sprint towards the special Tuesday Thanksgiving market (see the details below). Tomorrow morning I go down to retrieve the turkeys from the freezer plant and then we start the harvest of all of the vegetables to go with the dinner. Betsy has been busy while I was gone planting more anemones, ranunculus and Dutch iris for next spring. We need a rest from all our time off!

Picture of the Week

Beautiful Brussels Sprouts plants (unfortunately no sprouts for Thanksgiving) and awesome Celery

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #28, 9/22/10

What’s been going on?

So this guy is walking down Summer Blvd. with a set of old directions in his hand. He approaches what should be Fall St. and the directions say he should turn here. He looks left and right and sees, in the short daylight hours, the trees turning color and dropping leaves, it looks like Fall but it could be the drought and even though it is a cool morning the forecast for the days to come are for temperatures still in the 90’s. He is not sure what to do, the directions he has indicate that this should be the turn and way down the street he can make out a sign that says Winter Ave.. A suspicious looking character walks up and whispers that the rumor is that just down Fall St. things really change, you can get all the good stuff-cooler temperatures, shorter days and even…rain!

Welcome to the new first day of Fall, not the way is used to be, we will just have to use our imaginations this year. The forecast is for temperatures in the 70’s on Sunday and Monday with a chance of rain. Being pragmatists we will wait and see. Not much left out in the field and by Friday it will all be gone except for the pepper plants, the turkeys, some vegetables for Thanksgiving and a few rows of flowers for next year. All the Big Tops are uncovered for the winter, almost everything is mowed down, waiting for some moisture so we can disk it in. I ran the last of the irrigation water out of the upper pond to the lower one, just enough to get us to the end. The dock in the upper pond now stands on dry ground. Seems like fall, just doesn’t feel like it.

As you all know by now this is our last week at Saturday Market for the season. Sure we’ll be back on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving for the special holiday market and to pass out the turkeys, and Betsy is threatening to make some guest appearances in December if we still have some produce left but we are turning onto Fall St. and going down it until we get to Winter Ave. Three weeks from tomorrow we will be flying to Italy for the Slow Food Terra Madre conference and after that to Spain to visit markets, eat more great food and search for new peppers to bring home to grow. Between now and when we leave there is still a lot to get done and hopefully I will have time to get another newsletter out but if not look for one when we get back with news of our adventures. As always we cannot thank you all enough for the support you give us and the farm, without you we would not be able to do what we do!

Picture of the Week

The early morning rays on a nearly empty farm

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #27, 9/14/10

What’s been going on?

Newsletter a day early as we have lots going on the end of the week. I first want to thank Bret Jennings and the Elaine’s on Franklin crew for a great farm dinner last Wednesday. For those that made it you know what I am talking about but the whole pepper inspired menu was right on the money!

Yesterday was turkey moving day, into a new area for a couple of weeks or so. I realized that the picture below is kind of a microcosm of the whole farm and shows many of the fundamental operating concepts we always try to apply. For those of you who have been here on a farm tour, this maybe familiar. What can be seen here is parts of the three, quarter acre, blocks that the Big Tops are set up over. The one the turkeys are in just has the rows of legs that support the hoops. It is in its “rest” year where we grow no cash crops but instead grow three sets of cover crops in a row to improve the soil and run the turkeys over it so they can add their goodness too. This cover crop is the summer sudangrass and cowpeas.

To the left of the turkey shelters is another Big Top block, this one had the flowers this year and if you blow the picture up you can see, through the turkey shelter, the red of the last of the crested celosias for the year. This block with be rested next year and it’s hoops moved over where the turkeys are. The far set of Big Tops was the tomato block this year and you can see two bays still covered with the last of the tomatoes and two bays uncovered for the winter. The flowers will move to here next year and the tomatoes will move to where the turkeys are now. Once uncovered (next week) we will plant winter cover crops in those fields too.

One of our key beliefs is that diversity leads to a balanced system which improves sustainability. So in just this one picture you see diverse cash crops (many varieties of flowers and tomatoes), cover crops (at least seven different kinds over the three year rotation), and breeds (Bourbon Reds and Broad Breasted Bronzes). What you can’t see is also a diversity in soil improvement/management practices like fertility from rock powders, cover crop and cash crop residues, and manure from the turkeys. Or disease and pest control by using the Big Tops to keep plants dry, trellises for better air flow and sunlight, turkeys to eat bugs, crop rotation, drip irrigation and many more techniques.

OK, professors hat off. And it’s a beautiful early fall day on the farm too!

Picture of the Week

Turkeys happy in a new field.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #26, 9/8/10

What’s been going on?

It is getting crispy and brown again out in the fields, at least where it is not irrigated. A few notable weather statistics from this summer. Because we all had our eyes focused on Earl last week it slipped by most people that both Raleigh and Greensboro set the records for the hottest meteorological summers (June, July, August) ever. RDU by two degrees! Most of these records are broken by a tenth of a degree or two, not whole units! The other record is still in play. Today will be the 80th day over 90, the record is 83 from 2007. We are already seven days ahead of the pace set in 2007, I am sure that one is going down too. I always like to think if we are going to suffer at least we should have a record to show for it.

Two reminders. Tonight is our farm dinner at Elaine’s on Franklin with Bret Jennings. What they are doing is a special pepper infused menu in addition to their regular menu so you can run either way. It looks might tasty to us:

FARM TO FORK W/ PEREGRINE FARM

SEPTEMBER 8TH, 2010

$45 per person

.

fried shishito peppers w/ japanese sea salt

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chile relleno w/ local goat cheese, abels black beans, cotija, cilantro & salsa verde

.

seed crusted n.c. tuna on olive oil mashed gold potatoes, spinach, cured lemon, fried parsley & sauce romesco

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spicy grilled marinated skirt steak w/ chilaquiles, corn & cactus salsa, cotija cheese & a chile-cerveza sauce

lemon verbena-jalapeno sherbet

Betsy and I will be there for sure, I will go just about anywhere for a good relleno!

The other thing to not forget about is reserving your turkey for the Holidays, as it will slip by faster than one thinks and the orders are rolling in.

No more Wednesday markets for us, just not enough produce to fill out two markets well. We are moving into the full dismantling phase of fall farm chores as well. Only four rows of tomatoes left, the first of the Big Top covers come off today, the little tunnels are getting cleaned up and the all the wood oiled for the winter. By the end of next week the only things left in the field will be the peppers and a few rows of flowers. If it would just rain a bit we could begin to get soil ready for cover crops.

Picture of the Week

The green irrigated peppers, the dry mowed fields, the big poplars turning yellow and dropping leaves

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #25, 9/1/10, Turkey Reservations

What’s been going on?

Ah, September at last and a hurricane on the way, sort of. It was fourteen years ago this week that Fran roared across the Piedmont still carrying 80 mph winds with it as it’s eye passed just east of the farm. Those of us in the area will never forget that storm or the week that followed, cleaning up without power or water. Now our senses are on high alert anytime a big storm is on the track that Earl is on just in case. This time we don’t plan on taking all the plastic off the greenhouses but we are still watching all the storm reports carefully.

As promised early in the year, this week marks the start of Turkey reservations. We always wait until Labor Day when we have a better idea of how many birds will actually be available. By the time they get this old they are usually pretty hardy but even now we can lose some to one thing or another (like the two that died last week). There will only be about 85 birds available this fall with the majority being the larger Broad Breasted Bronzes (about 60). All the information about what kind we have, how much they will be and the order form is now on the Website for easier access.

Look for the order form near the bottom of the page under “How do I reserve one of the special birds?” You can easily download the Word document there. We will also have the order forms at Market on Saturdays through the end of the month. I can also tell you that already, with the “Frequent Flyer” reservations, nearly a third of them are spoken for. I will continue to update how many are available on the website. Don’t wait too long.

Typical end of the season chores going on. The guys are beginning the mulching the blueberries today, later in the week more of the early tomatoes will be taken out. The last of the huge pepper picks will happen the end of the week as this is the peak of the season and there will be much fewer fruit on the plants from here on in. Cleaning up, mowing, getting ready for winter cover crops.

Picture of the Week

What else, turkeys on the morning strut.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #24, 8/25/10

What’s been going on?

And just like that the magic of mid August occurs. New transplants to the area always ask “So how long does the heat last?” My standard answer is that it can be in the 90’s and bad from beginning of June until mid September but… in mid August the nights do begin to get cooler and the days get noticeably shorter. I think that it is just the little bit of optimism that is sparked when it is a few degrees cooler and heading in the right direction, towards fall.

The battle with the weeds, particularly the crab grass, wears on. Some years, when the rains come just at the right time, the crab grass gets a foot hold and really takes over. We have been through the peppers several times pulling it out of the rows and the paths get mowed every week to keep it at bay. Even under the Big Tops, where you would think a lack of water would slow it down, it will get up to knee height before you know it. It is like the kudzu of the grass world, seems to grow a foot overnight. In fact the grasses are by far the worst of all the weeds. The broad leaved weeds are much easier to control and manage, they grow from the top of the plant. Grasses are far more cunning. Their new growth comes from down in the stem and when small, from under the soil surface making them much harder to kill with an easy cultivation. Only a few weeks left in the battle for this season, the troops are getting weary.

Don’t forget the Terra Madre delegate Fish Fry fundraiser on Saturday at Johnny’s in Carrboro, starts at 6:00, runs until the fish runs out. Anna, Sarah and Sabrina have been working hard to prepare for this tasty event. Another event on the horizon is our first ever farm dinner with Bret Jennings at Elaine’s on Franklin on Wed. Sept. 8th. It will focus on peppers, especially chiles. Bret has spent a lot of time in Mexico over the years and does great things with peppers. The menu is looking really mouth watering.

Picture of the Week

The crab grass is trying to win and it has stunted the peppers some but looks like there are a few red bells

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #23, 8/18/10

What’s been going on?

I was reading somewhere the other day the thoughts of one of our fellow farmers talking about having SAD (Seasonally Affective Disorder) but in this case the summer variety. As you probably know SAD is a combination of too little daylight and I think melatonin production that leads to depression in the short days of winter. In our cases (I say collectively for other farmers as well) this long day version is from too much daylight resulting in too much melanin and heat! We are all dragging around waiting for this summer to be over, looking for signs of true cool weather to come. A little respite this week, only in the low 90’s! Shouldn’t complain, talked to some farming friends in Texas yesterday who have been running in the 100’s for weeks. They are thinking about a summer house in Minnesota for next August and just not growing anything during that time.

So we march on thinking about fall and other pursuits. One thing for us to look forward to is our return to Italy and the fourth Slow Food Terra Madre conference. We will be one of the few folks who will have been to all four meetings and we never expected that to happen. We are excited this year to be part of a small delegation from the Triangle that includes Sarah Blacklin, the Carrboro Farmers’ Market manager, Sabrina Lopez who is wrangling the market’s EBT and Truck Bucks token program and Anna Child who wears several hats including a coordinator for the Core Sound community supported fish project.

The Terra Madre meeting is a gathering of farmers, food artisans, chefs and educators from over 150 countries and is a unique opportunity to interact with other like minds from around the world. The organization pays for all of the participants housing, food and transportation costs in Italy. The expense is getting there. There are several fund raisers being held to help Sarah, Sabrina and Anna to pay for their plane tickets including a fish fry with Core Sound seafood on August 28th at Johnny’s store in Carrboro. If you are interested you can also donate online at the Triangle Slow Food website. Betsy and I feel that exposure to this world event can be an illuminating experience for anyone who attends, so we want to make sure these ladies are able to go. Betsy and I are paying our own way but they could really use some help to offset the cost.

Picture of the Week

The opening ceremonies from Terra Madre 2008, Carlo Petrini speaking

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #22, 8/11/10

What’s been going on?

Can we have another week off and come back to cooler temperatures this time? “Week off” would be a misrepresentation of the facts, somehow it seemed we like we were over scheduled and just went from one thing we needed to do to the next. Sometimes that happens when what appears to be open time gets filled with all the things you haven’t gotten done the last few months, you know like getting the car tires rotated. We did have several enjoyable meals with friends and I did escape to the mountains for a few nights. In between there were tomatoes, peppers and flowers to pick; turkeys to move, water and feed; soil tests to pull, mowing, mowing, mowing. We’re back and ready to face the end of the season.

It does seem like with the heat and the rains that the grass and weeds are in overdrive. Some of it grew a foot in a week so the first job for the guys was to join in with us to try and beat the grass back so our collective quality of lives would be better. We are now in the early stages of taking things apart for the winter. I know it’s only August but when you spend most of the year building and installing things to support and grow plants, you have to pace yourself on taking it all down. Already we have taken out some flower trellises and lots of irrigation lines. Today the earliest tomatoes get pulled out of the little sliding tunnels to make way for Thanksgiving and winter vegetables and flowers. They gave us all they could over the last ten weeks but now look really sad.

The next few weeks we will continue planting vegetables for Thanksgiving and, believe it or not, flowers for next year. Leeks, Collards, Beets and Carrots next week and then in early September the first of the overwintered flowers like Larkspur and Bachelors Buttons. The cycle sometimes seems surprising in it’s timing but after years of doing it we’ve gotten used to it and know that it is what has to happen. Soon it will be time for winter cover crops and all the rest. What week off?

Picture of the Week

It was 51 degrees at 6100′ last Saturday, hmmm.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #21, 7/28/10

What’s been going on?

And the skies opened. Wish I had carried my camera with me yesterday afternoon as I drove into town, I have never seen flooding on the Old Greensboro Hwy. like that, several places where you had to slow to a crawl to get through the water. Of course I started the day irrigating as I have gotten to the point where I just don’t believe the forecast unless it is for 70 percent chance or better and then I need to see it on the radar. When it is really hot, it is hard to catch up on soil moisture with drip irrigation if you skip a day. It started to rain lightly around 11:00 and I turned the pump off, 3.2 inches later and I can rest for a few days, irrigation wise.

This heat and extreme swings in rainfall have many of us farmers beginning to think about how are we going to change our operations to meet the challenges of climate change, both practically (how do I continue to grow the crops I am used to) and quality of life (do I really have to grow crops in the summer?). Yeah I know, some think climate change is not happening, what ever. I can tell you after thirty years of wrestling with what nature throws at us, the climate is changing and the extremes are getting more extreme. It is those extreme events that determine the success or failure of a crop year, not if the average temperature has gone up .1 degree. We all know there is no such thing as normal or average weather anyway. Betsy and I do have a firm rule, make no big decisions in July!

The good news is we have almost made it to our summer break. As many of you know we take the first week of August off, a tradition we started many years ago. It has been 22 straight weeks without a break or hardly a day off, a long time to run. So after market this Saturday we will change gears for a few days including not going to market on the 4th or the 7th. Always timed for when the early tomatoes have finished up and before the peppers really hit full stride. The staff gets a week off with pay so they will actually rest up too. We have no real plans other than hiding out here and going out to eat. There are still turkeys to feed and crops to water but that doesn’t take too much out of a day. So no newsletter next week and look for us back on Wednesday the 11th.

Picture of the Week

A wet morning, at least the cover crops are happy

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