Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #36, 11/9/17

What’s been going on!

Raw, raw couple of days.  There are experiences in life that etch themselves so deeply into your being that they surface whenever the conditions or situation are similar.  Like knowing that something hot will burn you or that a barking dog with teeth bared can raise the hair on the back of your neck.  Usually these are survival lessons we have learned.

This kind of weather is exactly one of those for Betsy and me.  Our first year farming, in 1982, had been one of excitement and struggle as we planted and tended our first crops while trying to build infrastructure on this blank piece of land.  I was on the farm full time and Betsy was working in the kitchen at the Fearrington House.  In late March we moved into a tent next to the only building on the farm, a 20X20 tin roofed equipment shed that I had built the fall before to house the tractor and tools.  It allowed us to save money on rent and to be here to work as much as we could and not have to commute.

Spring moved into summer and we had to get a real house built but progress was painfully slow between trying to save the crops from biblical weeds, not having two dimes to rub together and building it mostly by myself.  By the end of October we finally had it dried in with just black board on the outside and the plumbing and electric roughed in but there was no insulation or sheetrock.

The first weekend of November we were staring down days of cold rainy weather that herald the end of beautiful fall and the beginning of winter.  After 7 months in the tent we did not relish being cold and damp so we rigged up the woodstove in the new house and moved in, not optimal but at least we were warm and dry!  By Christmas we had it insulated and the sheetrock up but it would be another six months before we would have running water and more electricity than what an extension cord from the temporary power pole could deliver to four plugs.

It was those days and many more like them that made us tougher and resilient enough to succeed in this business but as we sit here with the 40 degree drizzle outside and a fire in the woodstove it all comes rushing back like it was yesterday.

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 Our blackboard house in the spring of 1983

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #35, 11/3/17

What’s been going on!

The last dark working morning, the sun does not hit the fields until nearly 10:00 a.m. which makes for cold conditions to get any work done much less harvesting wet vegetables. Fortunately the unusually warm fall has left us with only a few really cold mornings so far.  The killing freeze did not come last Sunday so the peppers live to see another week or two.

This is one of those happy/sad times of year as the main part of the season winds down we are looking forward to a bit slower time with shorter Saturday markets and less field work but we also lose our daily staff who we have worked alongside for months now.  Laura reduced her hours weeks ago as school started and last Friday was her last farm day.  Kyle has one more week and then he will be gone with maybe a few days here and there through the winter.  Even more sad is they both will not be coming back next season as they move on to build their own farm operations, we will miss them.

A little bit more planting to do for the winter and early spring but by now almost everything is in the ground.  Yesterday the anemones went in carefully prepared beds so they can give us bright flowers in January.  The action is almost entirely in the little sliding tunnels now with a few spring flowers left to go into the field.  Cover crops are coming up nicely and there is really only one big job left to finish the main season and that is taking out the peppers whenever that first freeze finally comes.

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Lots of lettuce and other greens in the little tunnels and the last of the Ginger and Turmeric staying warm

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #34, 10/26/17

What’s been going on!

First thing, I apologize to those of you who tried to reply to last week’s newsletter and it bounced back.  I had typed in the new return email address wrong, my fault but have it corrected now.  As part of integrating Jennie into all things Peregrine Farm we now have a joint email address so all three of can see messages and better respond to everyone.

News of the market renovations is becoming somewhat clearer.  We now know that we will be moving to just across the aisle from our regular spot and next to Chapel Hill Creamery.  It will feel like the end of the earth as we will be the very last vendor, farthest from what will be the main part of the market in the parking lot between Town Hall and the market shelters.  You will just have to come on down to see what beautiful food we will be offering.

The start date is also official.  We will be in our regular location for the next two Saturdays (28th and 4th) and then across the way starting Nov. 11th for the next 5 months.  Remember that market hours change to 9:00 on Nov. 4th.

Not only will vendors be taking up roughly 20 parking spaces in the lot between Town Hall and the market but during construction the small lot next or our spot and the lot next to Bim Street will also be closed.  There will still be parking along Bim, Laurel and Fidelity Streets, in the lots across Laurel, in front and behind Town Hall and the many other lots on the adjacent streets.  There is still plenty of parking within 100 feet of the market so just find your new regular space.  We are also more than happy to help carry items to your car or hold them while you get your car and can pull up right behind our space on Laurel Street.

As to real farm news, we are closely watching the forecast for the cold nights coming Sunday and Monday.  Probably won’t get down to the 28 degrees needed to kill the pepper plants but we will begin the final pepper pick over the next two days just in case and it is about time anyway.  We will cover a few rows to allow them to keep ripening over the next few weeks but the end of pepper season is in sight.

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Cold 40 degree morning harvesting radishes and waiting on the sun to arrive

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #33, 10/19/17

What’s been going on!

Now we are talking real NC fall weather but a close call yesterday morning with 34 degrees and some patchy frost in spots.  The peppers live to produce yet more fruit a while longer.

Great working weather and we have been taking full advantage.  One more part day on the tractor seeding cover crops and the big fall soil preparations will be done.  It has taken a bit longer than usual due to many interruptions in the process from extracurricular activities but finished just in time for some rain early next week.

A typical extracurricular activity today as we will be attending a meeting with the Town of Carrboro about the renovations that are about to start at the market.  If you have not read the many notices from the Farmers’ Market or in other places we want you to be aware of how the fall market will go.

Much needed improvements to the market site are scheduled to start in early November and last through March.  Re-grading of the grassed areas, better drainage, a new bathroom building and more!  During that time all of the vendors in the outfield and probably the vendors under the shelters on the outfield side (that includes us) will be relocated to empty spaces on the other side of the shelters or into spots in the Town Hall parking lot.  Yes we will lose some parking spaces for customers but there is ample parking within 100 feet of the market.

We know that all of you will take these temporary changes in stride and not let a little movement keep you from coming to market.  The Town is working very hard with us to complete this project during the slower winter months so we can be back up and running at full capacity when the busy spring season returns.  We will keep you apprised of where we might be moving to so you can still find our beautiful fall produce.

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Early warmth down in the pepper canyons

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #32, 10/12/17

What’s been going on!

Crazy July weather in October!  Gray, gray days with record low highs, super high humidity and tying records for daily high temperatures this late in the year, just ain’t right.

It took a day or so to recover from the Southern Foodways Alliance symposium, partly from the activities and then the 11 hour drive home through the rains from Hurricane Nate.  A great weekend with some really great presentations on Latino culture, food and civil rights in the South.  Outstanding meals from some of the Souths leading Latino chefs and excellent music!

Back to reality, spent much of the last two days on the tractor mowing crops and turning soil getting ready for the winter cover crop sowing.  The bit of rain we got the last few days has been just enough to make the soil work beautifully.  If all goes well, it will be done by Monday before the next rains come in.

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Another gray day

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #31, 9/28/17

What’s been going on!

One more day of summer temperatures and then maybe we are finally to real fall weather, let’s hope!  It has been good weather for mowing and crop cultivation to control the weeds.  While there is still more planting to do most of it is for over winter production and will be in the sliding tunnels.  If we can get good weed control in the field now then the fall crops can roll on without much more attention short of water and harvest.

Probably no newsletter next week as Betsy and Alex will be off to the 20th Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium in Oxford Mississippi.  Every year the SFA has a theme for their programing that runs through all of the events.  This year it is the Latin South which we have been looking forward to both from a cultural perspective and of course the food.  This will be our first Symposium but we know that it is filled with scholarly discussions and talks with lots of great music, food and drink throughout.

The Southern Foodways Alliance documents, studies, and explores the diverse food cultures of the changing American South.  We find it a great group for us to be aligned with as it gives us insights into the crops we grow and how they fit into our region.  We have also been honored to be included in the Fellowship of Southern Farmers, Artisans and Chefs some of the most talented and smart people we have ever been around.  While we had a long run with the Slow Food movement (and still keep abreast of what is going on) we have felt that the work that SFA does in the south resonates more with what we are doing and of course where we are.

Jennie and company will be at market next weekend with the full array, including the pepper roaster, so don’t hesitate to preorder as we will all be keeping an eye on emails.

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Early morning light across the farm

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #30, 9/21/17

What’s been going on!

One of those weeks where the calendar is packed.  A lot going on with the various nonprofits that we work with and serve on their boards.  Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) had a full day facilitation training that was a great learning experience and the tools will come in handy.

There was also a retirement party for the last of the founding NCSU faculty members for the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS).  We have worked with this group for nearly 25 years first to envision what a big organic research farm could be and then advising along the way as it has grown into a national leader in food and farming systems.  We have been honored to be associated with these people and they have always treated us as equal members of the team.

Tonight is the Carrboro Farmers’ Market’s Harvest Dinner at the Market.  A great evening with food from many of the chefs who shop at and support the market.  It is a fund raiser for various market projects but more importantly it is a wonderful way to visit with farmers, chefs, customers, volunteers, town officials and anyone who loves the market.  I think there may still be tickets left.

Next Thursday is our Harvest Dinner at the Eddy Pub in Saxapahaw.  They do a series of dinners throughout the year, each focused on a single farm that supplies them with ingredients.  Next week is our turn and the food and people will be enjoyable.  Fall starts officially tomorrow and it is always a busy time but it sure is starting with a bang.

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Fall crops really looking good!

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #29, 9/13/17

What’s been going on!

We feel like we slipped a bullet with Irma moving so much farther west than originally forecast, under an inch of rain and just a bit breezy.  We will take that but feel for the people in Florida who now have weeks and months of clean up to do.  Thankfully it looks like Jose is going to stay out in the Atlantic.

The peak of pepper season the last few weeks, with some slowing of the ripening with all of this unusually cool weather for early September but still always an amazing amount of peppers to pick.  Peppers are our second largest and most important crop after tomatoes but the season is so much longer and less perishable that tomatoes.

The growing season unwinds slowly after the rush to get them planted and while they too require a support trellis they don’t grow overnight like tomatoes seem to do so that part of the management is more relaxed and can happen at different times and over days.  Harvest also carries less pressure because the fruit is much less fragile than a juicy tomato and they keep much longer on the plant or in the cooler.

We have to pick tomatoes twice a week and constantly be selling them within days but that intensity only lasts six or seven weeks.  Peppers on the other hand we only pick once a week, sometimes every other week, but the season is long from the first few pods to the last pick at first frost it spans over four months.  A marathon not a sprint.

We do harvest twice a week but one day is hot peppers or the small varieties and the other day is the sweet bells and Corno di Toros.  Shishitos and Padrons we have to pick three times a week to ensure just the right size fruit.  It usually takes a half a day each time between searching for the pods tucked down in the plants, cleaning up the bad fruits and sorting and grading on the tailgate of the truck into ripe, part ripe and seconds.  It is a nice crop to end the summer season with in a steady and calm way.

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Long rows of Red Bells to pick

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #28, 9/7/17

What’s been going on!

A glorious, cool 54 degrees this morning after the cold front passed!  The long shadows of September mornings that reach over most of the fields, even mid-morning, this time of year makes us aware that the season is really changing.

While our focus is on planting and cultivating the cool season crops we are keeping a very close eye on Hurricane Irma and where she might go.  None of the scenarios being considered are good news short of an abrupt turn out to sea.  We are certainly preparing for a good amount of rain and at least winds in the 20 mph range on Monday and Tuesday but ready to batten down more if it changes.  We already uncovered the tomato Big Tops and will at least uncover half of the other set of Big Tops, partly it is that time of year and the rest is just in case.

Otherwise we are into one of the best parts of the year with great working conditions in the high clear light and pleasant temperatures.  The little tunnels are completing their turn over from summer crops to cool season planting.  The big planting of tomatoes will be pulled out over the next week too.  Soil samples have been taken so that the end of the month we can begin all of the winter soil and cover crop work.  It all starts to run fast now, have to enjoy it while we can.

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Tomato Big Tops uncovered waiting on the sun

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #27, 8/31/17

What’s been going on!

Second Labor Day weekend in a row with the remnants of a tropical storm passing by and bringing rain on Market day.  Last year it was Hermine, this year Harvey.  What bit of rain that we might get will not slow us down at market and is nothing compared to what has happened in Texas.  We feel deeply for the people in and around Houston, for what they are going through now and what lies ahead.  We lived in Houston in the early ‘70’s and experienced several floods but nothing on the scale they have been through in the last week.  Send help their way, whatever you can do.

We have been getting quite a bit done in advance of the rain coming in today by picking all the peppers yesterday as well as planting yet more fall crops.  The peak of fall planting occurs for us right around Labor Day, especially fall lettuces which all need to be in the ground by mid-September and if we get behind there is no catching up.  With the days getting shorter fast, it is a matter of enough daylight to grow the plants to maturity before both the short days and cool temperatures bring growth to a halt.  The rain will water them in nicely.

Only three weeks until the Carrboro Farmers’ Market’s fall Harvest Dinner on September 21st.  A fun community event and fundraiser for the market.  Supported by over many local restaurants who each prepare a dish for the potluck style dinner.  It is always enjoyable to visit with people not in the shopping scrum of Saturday morning over a meal.  Get your tickets while they last!

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Kyle mulching collards with the pepper field behind

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