Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #34, 12/18/15 The Holiday edition

What’s been going on!

Hurtling towards the end of another season, this one certainly full of crazy weather swings that made one pause and wonder, like this recent amazing warm spell and yet more heavy rain to put us about 10 inches above normal.

Folks ask this time of year “how was the season?”.  Farmers say it with a sideways glance searching for some solace or comparison to how theirs went.  Non-farmers ask out of general interest or pleasant conversation.  If I didn’t know the exact details I would certainly say it was much worse than last year with all the difficulties and resulting various crop short falls but the truth is we are going to end with a slightly better year than 2014 at least on the income side, amazing to us.

As we head into 2016 and our 35th growing season we have much to plan for and much to reflect on.  We know that there are multiple reasons we continue to have a successful business but foremost is all of you.  Without such a supportive and appreciative group of people who come to get our products week in and week out it would not be possible to do what we do, either financially or mentally, for that we are very thankful.

The other great luck that we have had is the excellent people we have been able to find and work with here on the farm, they make our days easier and more enjoyable.  With Jennie here we also know that going forward Peregrine Farm will continue to be innovative and sustainable.  We hope to be able to wish you all a happy holiday season on Saturday or at the special Christmas market on Tuesday, if we miss you, may it be full of warmth and fun.

Pictures of the Week

unnamed

Warm enough for this toad to do some insect control

P1010895

The miracle of a few Christmas anemones

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

Advertisements

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #33, 12/4/15

What’s been going on!

We hope that everyone’s Thanksgiving was warm, fun and full of great food.  Ours certainly was as we go over the my brother’s house for a leisurely gathering where we all share the cooking, eating and drinking duties and then can quietly slip home and sleep in our own beds.  What could be more simple and filling?

We have made it to another December.  It used to be that November was really the end of the produce season other than the odd collard and butternut squash and we would have to work to have good greens for Thanksgiving and then pack it in for the winter.  December would come in and clamp down hard, sure we would have a few warm days but the nights were consistently cold.   Not so much anymore.

While the days are still short so that nothing really grows much but with good row covers, unheated high tunnels and just a degree or two warmer it is now fairly easy to hold those crops and not have them damaged by cold.  December is now a fairly robust month at market and January is when the tables are filled with more durable goods.

Picture of the Week

P1010861

A brilliant December day after yet more rain

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #32, 11/20/15 Thanksgiving!

What’s been going on!

The big food week of the year coming up, hope you are ready, we are (I think).  This newsletter will cover both tomorrow’s market and the special pre-Thanksgiving market next Tuesday 3:00-6:00.  Jennie has been working hard while we were gone cultivating, protecting and harvesting some beautiful produce for the big Holiday eat fest.

Two years now without turkeys and I have to say it makes for a much less stressful week leading up to Thanksgiving.  There are times that we miss having the birds out there wandering around the fields but the daily grind of managing animals and then the final harvest adds so much more mental work to the program.  I salute those who raise and care for working animals year in and year out.

Betsy and I both had good trips, separately this time, quite unusual for us.  She went to northern Minnesota to just hang out with another old cut flower growing friend, talking, doing odd jobs around the farm, visiting neighbors, relaxing.  I was on the trail again in Southern Utah looking for cliff dwellings and rock art panels, great trip and beautiful weather.

We have a really busy early winter planned and you may see Jennie at market more than us.  I will still crank out a newsletter, it just may be irregular but we will definitely let you know what is going on.  Have a great Thanksgiving!

Pictures of the Week

P1010848

A nice sunset after yet another big rain

P1010852

Vibrant vegetables, ready to be covered for the next cold snap

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #31, 11/6/15

What’s been going on!

One of those crazy busy weeks with many meetings and trying to get a pile of things done before heading out of town next week.  The three days of board meetings for the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) fortunately landed during the extremely wet days (another 3.2 inches of rain).  Extremely inspiring and critical work being done by their staff, I would love to talk with those of you who are able, about becoming an individual donor to their work.

Betsy had a Farm to Fork picnic committee meeting, yes the planning goes on year round to make it a great event.  This weekend is the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Conference in Durham so I am putting the finishing touches on my workshop presentation.

The last of the pepper trellis is coming down and Betsy got the anemones planted and mulched and we pulled one of the little tunnels over them now that they have been well watered in.  With all of the rain, the cover crops look awesome.  The best early growth in years!

We had a great visit yesterday from the folks from Jamaica who I worked with last year on the Jamaica Farm Sustainable Enterprise Project.  In country for a few weeks to both see more organic farms of all sizes and to make connections for supplies, expertise and funding.  They will be talking about the project at the CFSA conference on Saturday.

Picture of the Week

P1010449

Nkrumah Green and Nicola Shirley-Phillips in front of the tunnel they helped us slide over the anemones

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

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

What’s been going on!

Trick or Treat, the entire growing season has felt that way at times but particularly this fall with the torrential rains an early freeze along with critters and equipment issues.  It has been a particularly difficult fall to get crops established especially the direct seeded ones like spinach and carrots.

Jennie has done a patient job of seeding (and in some cases re-seeding) and weeding only to have erratic germination or the grasshoppers eat down the new seedlings or the rains wash sections of beds out or the final insult of the deer or ground hogs getting past the deer fence and feasting on the mature crops.  It makes one question why you would want to farm or at least grow fall crops.  Despite all of it, we are managing to harvest some beautiful vegetables for market.

Similarly on the winter soil preparation side we got weeks behind with the rains and when it finally dried out the tractor turned on me which is why there was no newsletter last week as I raced to get it fixed before the next rains arrived.  As some of you know, I left market early last week to jump on the tractor to finish up the soil work.

It took all day Saturday and Sunday but I finally finished the tilling and raising up 15,000 feet of beds for next spring and spinning out the cover crop seeds over the top that will hold down that beautiful soil and help increase its fertility.  A few final touches on Monday just in time for the gentle rains to start.  Nearly a month late but with any luck (and no tricks) we will soon see a vibrant green hue to all of those fields.

Picture of the Week

P1010443

A few bright spots such as this radiant celery grown inside the little tunnels

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #29, 10/15/15

What’s been going on!

No newsletter last week partly because we were working hard to catch up after all the rains and partly because I was undone at the prospect of a third Saturday in a row with rain.  We did have folks worried that maybe we had been flooded and that is why we didn’t send one out.

We did narrowly miss having the bottom field flood.  Saturday we were closely watching the river gauge at Haw River and when it crested at 22 feet we knew that we were in the twilight zone.  Above that level we will have water up into the crops for sure but at this level it all depends on how high the feeder creeks to the Haw River are and how much rain fell west of the Haw.  We are about 18 river miles from Haw River and it usually will crest down here about twelve hours after it peaks at the gauge.

Our bottom field is not right on the Haw River but about 2500 feet up our side creek and about 10-15 feet higher depending on how you measure it.  We know from previous floods what it takes to really hit us hard.  Of course the “bad one” was hurricane Fran with the 500 year flood level and we had water up to ten feet deep in the bottom.

At 7:00 p.m. when the river peaked in Haw River the water had already risen to about two feet lower than the irrigation pump so we went ahead and pulled it out assuming the real crest was still 12 hours away.  The next morning when we went down to see how high the water was it had already gone back down, problems averted this time around!

The saddest part of the last two weeks is that our great summer staff person, Lacey, has gone off to her winter pursuits and will not be coming back next year as she follows her dream of being in the circus (really).  She kept all of us on our toes and laughing.  Now we will have to find someone excellent to fill her shoes.

Picture of the Week

IMG_2939

The creek is just on the other side of those trees and the water level about 3 feet below those crops.

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

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.

Picture of the Week

9-6-08 008 - Copy

This is what the well-dressed market shopper looked like in the middle of a tropical storm in 2008

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

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.

Picture of the Week

IMG_2921

And all of a sudden they appear from underground

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

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.

Picture of the Week

IMG_2909

It is all about Red Bells right now

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

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.

Picture of the Week

IMG_2900

An Asian greens view of the storm damage

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading