Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #38, 12/18/13 Winter Solstice edition.

What’s been going on!

Last newsletter of the year and as I have been working on the end of the year bookkeeping we are reminded of just how challenging a season it has been.  No disasters this year just too much wet weather for optimal growing conditions.  The old saying “A dry year will scare you to death; a wet year will starve you to death” rings true and we have always preferred the drier seasons even though we do sometimes worry about if we have enough water for irrigation.  The good thing for farmers is that there is always next year.

Preparations for 2014 are already underway with seedlings in the greenhouse, bulbs in the field and the seed catalogs rolling in.  The first tweaking’s of the planting schedule and crop mix has begun, most of it will be finalized in the coming weeks.  The most important piece of a successful year to come is already in place, great staff.  Jennie of course is here year round and doing a good job of keeping us straight, Liz will also be back for one more season albeit for fewer hours as her farm and life begin to require more of her attention.  It gives us great confidence and joy to know that they will be here.

We may be a bit irregular over the coming weeks both in newsletter and market attendance as we are headed into the meeting season and will be gone a fair amount.  Our plan is to be at market every Saturday in January and most of them in February but you will see different faces each week at our space as the three of us rotate through.  As the year ends and winter officially begins on Saturday (sure feels like it started weeks ago) it gives us great comfort in knowing that we have such wonderful support from all of you, it gives us a reason to go out every day and make things grow.  If we don’t get to say it on Saturday, thank you and have an enjoyable holiday season, we will see you in January.

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A brilliant day with winter crops protected under their blankets

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #37, 11/22/13 Thanksgiving!

What’s been going on!

The family travels went well, lots of driving but mission accomplished.  While we have seen each other at family gatherings over the years it had been 42 years since I had stepped foot onto my aunt and uncles (and now my cousin’s) farm in northern Mississippi.  Amazingly it looked pretty much like I remembered it except the buildings and distances were much bigger back then.

We raced back home and the week has been a busy one since.  Turkey harvest day went smoothly and the birds ended up being much larger than normal this year.  Last year we had almost no birds above 15 pounds which had never happened before.  This season we have very few below 15 pounds, lots of leftovers!  We are now focused on our favorite eating week of the year.

The weather forecast for both the Saturday and Tuesday markets looks less than desirable, cool and rainy.  In between we will have a hard freeze on Sunday/Monday.  To that end we are harvesting as many of the outdoor crops as we can today while it is warm and will wait until Monday to pick the indoor crops that will go to the Tuesday Thanksgiving market.

The special Tuesday pre-Thanksgiving market (3:00-6:00) is always a bustling and produce beautiful afternoon.  We will probably not be in our usual space as all the vendors are parked in the order that they arrive.  Look for our big white truck and there will be signs to point folks to which shelter we are in.  Dress warmly and with rain gear.

Pictures of the Week

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Our Norman Rockwell turkeys

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Celery and Baby Chard

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #36, 11/8/13

What’s been going on!

This is absolutely one of my favorite times of the year.  The light is so clear and strong, the angles low.  The colors of the remaining leaves on the trees are mostly radiant yellows with some bronzes and the greens of the recalcitrant beeches.  Mornings in the 30’s that give one the permission to stay inside for but longer and savor the light and the coffee.  Afternoons in the 60’s, in the bright light you can still work in a T shirt.

A slow and leisurely breakdown of the pepper trellis this week, the last big job for the fall.  Last year as I was busy building Jennie’s apartment I set her out alone to take down the trellis, she was frustrated by the task.  This year we have taken our time in the favorable weather to get the job done.  Many moving parts and layers that were put in place in multiple stages, over many months, now have to be taken out in the reverse order.  Three or four layers of support wires and strings have to be pulled out and rolled up.  100 metal T-posts and the corresponding 200 plus wooden cross arms have to be pulled up and carried to the truck at the end of the field.  The irrigation lines that run down each bed coiled up and finally the tops of the plants mowed off so we can pull up the landscape fabric that covers the hot pepper beds.  Nearly done, no need to rush.

The Italian travelogue is now finished; you can read it here if you want.  No newsletter next week, I will be off to a family reunion in Mississippi.  Betsy and Jennie will be at market on the 16th as usual.  The morning after I return is turkey processing day, one we look forward to (no more daily bird management) and don’t look forward to as it is their only bad day, ever.  After that we are definitely into winter mode, firewood cutting, winter projects (a few things to finish up on the new building), maybe some blueberry pruning, plenty of time around the woodstove.

Picture of the Week

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The first rays of morning sun from my office window

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #35, 11/1/13

What’s been going on!

We’re baaack! and still a bit mentally groggy from both travel and the amount of things waiting for us when we got home.  Jennie did a great job while we were gone, probably better than we would have done, it’s all the emails, phone messages and such that we are digging through.  We had a great time and will have a full report coming next week but wanted to get a newsletter out before market tomorrow to let you all know what was going on.

First three important updates: 1. Tomorrow is the first day of the Saturday Carrboro Farmers’ Markets Winter hours, 9:00-12:00 starting with the bell (no sales allowed before 9:00).  2. All the turkeys are now reserved.  3. We will be roasting peppers tomorrow, probably for the last time for the season.

When we got home we were glad to see the cover crops coming up well despite the dry conditions since we seeded them, hopefully we will get some rain today.  We also knew that we had the killing freeze last Friday night (25 degrees here at the farm) and the peppers are now black and dead.  We choose not to go through any kind of heroics to cover a quarter acre of plants as we think the returns are marginal this late in the year for the difficulty in involved.  Jennie did strip the plants of all available fruit and we now have a cooler full that we will have available for the next few weeks.  The rest of the crops look really robust but continue to slow down their growth with the shorter and cooler days.

We did make it to a number of markets around Umbria and I would have to say that while we saw a few interesting items they did not look as robust as we have seen before and never as beautiful as our own amazing Carrboro Market.  I am not the only one who thinks this.  We have a number of customers each year who have returned from a trip to Europe and come back saying that our market is every bit as diverse and the products better looking than what they saw there.  Reminds us of how fortunate we are here in central NC.  I will expand on this when I get the full post done but we did see a few new crops but unfortunately missed the black celery festival but did manage to eat some.

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This was one of the better local producer displays we saw

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #34, 10/17/13

What’s been going on!

Success!  It took just about everything we had but we managed to get all the soil worked, cover crops seeded and flowers for next spring planted.  Just another piece of a strange weather year to work around including only a few hours of sunshine in a ten day period.  Soil didn’t work up as nice as I would have liked but good enough and ready for the winter and all of next year.  This is maybe the most important week/job of the year as it sets the farm up for the whole next season.  All the tomato and pepper beds for next year are set, the lettuce beds for early spring are up, and on and on.  Two acres all ready, 200 beds just waiting to be planted sometime before next June.  Whew!

If that hasn’t been enough there has been plenty of other meetings, classes and other things going on.  We did have a great cooking class at A Southern Season last night focusing on peppers.  Our now frequent co-presenter at these classes, Craig Lehoullier, more famous for tomatoes than peppers was again fun to work with as he is just about as crazy about peppers as he is tomatoes and comes from a home gardener perspective.  The Cooking School staff did a great job with all kinds of dishes including a delicious Chile Poblano relleno in nogado sauce.

So tomorrow Betsy and I get on a plane for Italy and are we ever ready!  Once again into a food filled exploration of Umbria with Ben and Karen Barker.  Nearly daily stops at the best farmers markets in the region to search for potential new crops, display techniques, seeds; and then afternoons spent eating the local food and seeing the historical sights to be followed by leisurely evenings “reviewing” the day’s activities.  A week with the Barkers and then our usual visit with our farm family near Torino which is always a treat.  We will come back with many stories, hopefully a few new ideas, until then Jennie is in charge and will be at market the next two Saturdays.

Picture of the Week

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Another grey day but a farm ready for next season, doesn’t look like it now but this will be a field full of lettuce next spring!

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #33, 10/10/13

What’s been going on!

What is that saying “be careful what you wish for”?  Didn’t expect nearly two inches of rain on Monday or that it would continue to be damp through the week.  Only a week to go before Betsy and I leave for Italy and the cover crops have to be in the ground before we leave, no way around it.  Had hoped to get back on the tractor tomorrow but todays rain may push us back to Sunday between wet soil and having to get everything ready for market.  Argh!

Nothing else to do but read, cook and eat, or maybe go out to eat.  We are looking forward to an event this evening at ACME restaurant in Carrboro.  Billed as a Slow Food Ark of Taste dinner it revolves around our friend and fellow fellow in the Southern Foodways Alliance’s Fellowship of Southern Farmers, Artisans and Chefs Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills and his compatriot and chairman of the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation, Dr. David Shields.  Kevin Callahan of ACME is a great supporter of sustainable and local food and the menu will looks luscious, there may be a few seats left.

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At least the Kale is happy with this weather

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #32, 10/3/13

What’s been going on!

Made it to October and one last shot of summer like weather, had to happen.  Slow progress on the fall soil preparations because we now need some rain to help make the soil easier to work.  Still most of the mineral amendments have been spread and the first pass over the fields with the disk to cut in the crop residues is done.  Rain forecast for Sunday, Monday and into Tuesday should do the trick.

The Carrboro Farmers’ Market Fall Harvest Potluck last Thursday was again a great event with lots of delicious dishes from the chefs and restaurants that shop at the market.  Perfect weather and of course a perfect location.  We have so many chefs and community volunteers who support the market and make these kinds of events possible, we can never thank them enough.

Heads up, we have one more Southern Season cooking class coming up the evening of Wednesday October 16th.  Again with our friend Craig LeHoullier of heirloom tomato fame but this time all about chiles as he grows those too.  We may even bring the roaster and set it up on the balcony next to the cooking school class room.  The menu looks really good and there are still seats available.

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Turkeys grazing away next to freshly disked field

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #31, 9/25/13

What’s been going on!

So as my gut indicated the Food Dialogues panel that I participated in last week was essentially an infomercial for Big Ag.  The panel looked somewhat balanced on the surface but there was no give and take allowed.  The moderator asked specific questions to specific panelists, after they answered it went on to the next question and panelist.  Very hard to have a “dialogue”, I tried as best I could to counter some points and to represent the sustainable/organic ag community but it was difficult in such a one sided forum.

Not sure about the other panelists but at least the large conventional farmers were definitely coached on what to say.  The basic message was GMO’s are totally safe, confinement (a term they never used) animal production is all about taking the best care of the animals and almost no antibiotics are used and we are all just family farmers.  Not sure how the video will be used on the internet but at least there were no more than 400 people who watched both in person and online.

Back on the farm fall preparations for winter are well underway.  Only a few summer crops left to finish up.  Our small crop of sweet potatoes and the tuberose bulbs were dug today to make way for soil turning.  Only two Big Tops left to uncover as soon as the last flowers are cut in the next week or so.  All empty fields have been mowed close and are ready to have mineral amendments added and then disked in.  In a week or so we should have all the fallow ground tilled, beds raised and cover crops seeded.

It is Liz’s last week before she starts her own fall and winter farm sales.  This last month is always a bit schizophrenic for her as she is busily tending her own crops while working here too.  By the time Friday arrives we will have everything we can finished up to take advantage of her good help, we will miss her presence all winter but she will be back in the spring.  Jennie has been working hard as well on the fall/winter fields and they look great despite the earlier setbacks and the large numbers of worms this fall.

 Picture of the Week

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It is amazing how fast the cool season crops grow, remember this field from 3 weeks ago?

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #30, 9/18/13 Turkey Reservations

What’s been going on!

I have the chisels and stone tablet out preparing to permanently record for posterity “2013, the most amazing and pleasant late summer weather ever”.  The radiant fall days are the reason to live in central North Carolina but they usually don’t happen like this until October.  Now the first day of fall is Sunday but still…

As promised last week, today marks the start of Turkey reservations.  We always wait until after 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. There will only be about 50 birds available this fall and they are all the larger Broad Breasted Bronzes.  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 either at the top of the page or near the bottom 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. I can also tell you that with the “Frequent Flyer” reservations, nearly a quarter of them are already spoken for.  I will continue to update how many are available on the website.  Don’t wait too long.

Tomorrow I am participating in an interesting panel discussion in Raleigh called The Food Dialogues.  This is the third such event I have been asked to be a part of in the last month.  All three have been organized by big commodity Ag groups as listening or information sessions and I am usually the token sustainable/organic farmer in the group.  Ostensibly they just want to have an open discussion about how our food is produced for the enlightenment of the public at large.  My gut feeling is that Big Ag is trying to improve their image, especially in relation to GMO’s and pesticide use.  You can actually watch it live on the web if you want or I will let you know how it went next week.

Picture of the Week

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True signs of fall, long morning shadows and the Big Tops uncovered for the winter

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #29, 9/11/13

What’s been going on!

It was a proud day Monday when the kids graduated from high school (tears and sniffles, etc.), I mean the turkeys moved from the brooder to the field.  Fully six weeks old, not sure how old that is in human years but more than ready to need more room to roam.  A different first move this year because we are raising them much later in the season than we have for the past 10 years.  Usually their first move is down below the hydrangeas and viburnums so they have more shade and shrub protection from potential flying predators.

Over the following 10 weeks they move up hill through the blueberries and various fields of either old cut flowers or summer cover crops, changing fields every two weeks or so.  This year we only have a few weeks left until we start tearing up all the fields, that are now finished for the year, in preparation for winter cover crops, so there is no time to rotate the birds in the usual pattern if we want them drop some poop on at least some fields.  So this year they are starting at the top of the hill instead.

The good thing about the first stop on the turkey tour is it was a shorter walk for the birds from the brooder to the field, yes they walk, slowly, very slowly (here is a picture from last years walk).  Fewer distractions along this grassy walk and after not too long we had them in a lush green summer cover crop of sudangrass with lots of shade and bugs to eat.  A successful start for some happy birds.  Look for the turkey reservation form and information next week.

Only two weeks left to get your tickets for the Carrboro Farmers’ Market Chefs’ Harvest Potluck, Thursday September 26th.  If you attended last year you know how great an event it was, if you didn’t then don’t miss out on this one.  Many great dishes from over 20 local chefs and beer from Six String Brewery and wine from Benjamin Vineyards.  It is a beautiful event under the market pavilions that raises money for improvements to the Market facility.  See you there!

Picture of the Week

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Beautiful day, cover crop and happy birds

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