Peregrine Farm News Vol. 16, #25, 12/27/19, Happy New Years!

What’s been going on! 

As I sit here on a foggy Friday, at the end of the year, I think about how it is sort of an analogy to how this year has been.  Not in the dark or ominous or damp way but in the we can’t really see what’s ahead so what surprises are in store? way.  The decision to radically change our farming and life routines to part-year farming and semi-retirement was a bit of a leap into the unknown but has turned out mostly terrific.

The farming part of the season was the thing we were the most sure of and it went great and essentially according to plan.  We did feel the freedom of just being out here on our own, without any staff to manage or be timely too.  We have always loved the folks who worked with us but it is a whole other experience to have this beautiful, quiet place to ourselves and to work the schedule and hours that spoke to us.  A few days were more work than we wanted to do alone but generally we kept it to an amenable level.

Not going to Farmers’ Market the rest of the year seemed both wrong and liberating.  It was the first summer in 34 years that we did not stand behind a table and greet old and new friends alike and it was a bit disorienting for a while but we got over it pretty quickly, helped by almost weekly visits to the market to shop and get our people fix.  We certainly enjoyed not having to work in the field in the heat of summer.

The picture became less foggy with a wonderful late summer and fall of travel and kicking around here on the farm.  Great trips to the Rocky Mountain west and a family trip to Oaxaca, Mexico for the Day of the Dead celebrations were memorable and we have a couple more excursions over the next few weeks and then we settle in for the spring farming season.

And as we speculated it has been a bit of a mental lift to turn the crank and start up the farm for the next year after nearly 6 months off!  Fortunately it starts slowly with soil and bed preparations through the fall, then seedlings in the greenhouse and the first plantings which are smallish and spaced apart in time.  Easier to get the mind and body around the tasks that way.  The good news is the first beds of flowers look great and the first four plantings of Little Gem lettuce are in the tunnels along with Japanese Turnips and Radishes. The 39th season of Peregrine Farm is underway.

Because the Anemones look so good and are blooming earlier than they should be, we will be coming to market tomorrow to sell!  Mostly we want to be able to see all of you, wish you a happy New Years and as always thank you for making it possible for us to do what we do. If we don’t get to see you tomorrow we want you to know that without your support all these years and especially your kind words of encouragement as we head into this new phase, our lives would be much less enjoyable and certainly not as rich.

Pictures of the week

P1050100Anemones in the first morning light

IMG_20191102_094357Chiles and Mole in the market in Oaxaca

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Peregrine Farm News Vol.16 #24, 9/19/19 The Northern Rockies Loop

What’s been going on! 

What a tremendous trip the Great Northern Rockies Loop turned out to be! Beyond all the natural wonders of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming many of you know that Betsy and I went to college at Utah State in northern Utah and have a real place in our hearts for the landscapes of the Inter-mountain West.  It had been nearly 20 years since we were last there and this would be only the second time in 40 years since we graduated.

Flying in and out of Salt Lake City, I flew in a week earlier and with a friend spent six days backpacking in the Wind River Range with perfect weather, views and campsites like these.



We returned to the SLC airport for him to fly home and for me to pick up Betsy and head north.  First stop was Arco, ID and Craters of the Moon Nat. Mon.  Amazing lava flows and ecology.  Climbing through lava tubes was amazing.



On up through eastern Idaho marveling at the huge scale of the valleys and mountains and the irrigated agriculture.  A perfect evening in Hamilton, MT at the county fair and rodeo.


First thing the next morning we hit the two Saturday farmer’s markets in Missoula which I have been watching for some years now.  The original Missoula market is 47 years old, older than Carrboro, and has struggled some in the last few years


with competition from a newer and less restricted market only six blocks away.  We talked at length with the manager and vendors.  Both were good markets but there are lessons to be learned here about market management and rule making.


Days 4 and 5 we moved on up to Glacier Nat. Park.  Unfortunately due to the timing of other parts of the trip we landed in the park on Labor Day weekend- It was packed!  Lake MacDonald and the historic lodge were still beautiful


We escaped the crowds some by staying 14 miles away from pavement and the Canadian Border in an off-the-grid historic establishment.


The 6th day we were up before light to make the scenic drive over the continental divide on the Going to the Sun road and to beat the crowds to the top.  Beautiful day hike and a real view of what the park is all about.



We headed east to Great Falls stopping at the museum of the Plains Indian and later the Charles Russell museum to see his beautiful western art.  The next morning we spent hours at the incredibly well done Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center located on the stretch of the Missouri River where the five Great Falls forced them to portage 18 miles to get around them.


On south paralleling the Missouri River through more wide valleys of massive farms growing wheat, oats and other grains and making mountains of hay, to Bozeman where we spent time at the museum of the Rockies with many exhibits but most notably one of the best dinosaur displays anywhere.



The 8th day we avoided the easy two hour drive to Billings by going north and then east driving down the long and beautiful Musselshell River valley with more huge agricultural operations surrounded by mountains.



BIG wheat harvest going on

The following morning was devoted to the Little Bighorn Nat. Mon. a place I had always wanted to see.  Located in the heart of the Crow Indian reservation it is a somber place where the tribes had their last great attempt to keep their lands and way of life


Stretching over 4 miles of ridgeline, the over confident and overwhelmed Calvary did not realize they were up against 7000 Indians with 2000 warriors.  This is Custer’s Last Stand hill overlooking the Little Bighorn River and the site of the Indian encampment, the white markers are for the fallen soldiers.


In 1991 they appropriately changed the name from Custer Battlefield to Little Bighorn NM and built a beautiful circular Vietnam Wall like monument down the slope from Last Stand hill to commemorate the Indians involved in the battle.


It’s view out over the Crow reservation.


Day 10 was a huge day starting with one of the most beautiful drives in the US along the Beartooth highway up 6000’ to nearly 11,000 feet and over the plateau



To the NE corner of Yellowstone NP where we were treated to the huge Lamar Valley and lots of buffalo and some antelope.  On the lookout for moose, elk and bears we would only catch glimpses of elk and bear later on.


Of course we braved the crowds and were able to see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.


The second to the last day the weather was turning on us after weeks of clear blue skies.  We took in many of the geothermal wonders of the park including Old Faithful




and the historic Inn before heading south to the Grand Tetons.


By the time we hit Jackson Hole the rain was falling so there were no views of the mountains, oh well, we have been there many times before and will just have to remember the view.


The 12th day we drove familiar roads back to Salt Lake around Bear Lake and over the Bear Lake summit


Down Logan canyon to spend some time driving around campus and town including finding most of the houses we lived in before making the last of 2500 miles to the airport.


Great trip, I would recommend it to anyone, just time it a few weeks later to avoid the still large crowds in the National Parks just after Labor Day, fall in the west is a beautiful time to be there.

What’s going to be at Market?

We will be!  We are returning for one week only to roast peppers!  We will have a small selection of our own peppers and will be glad to roast peppers you buy from any of the other farmers at market.

We will have Red Bells and Red and Yellow Corno di Toro’s in sweet peppers.  Red and Green Poblanos and Anaheims and Serranos in hot peppers.  You never know what else we might drum up too.

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. 16 #23, 8/20/19

What’s been going on! 

Well it has been a month and a half and so far it is going as we expected.  We did pick tomatoes up until almost the end of July, taking most of them to our friends at ACME restaurant for their Tomato Festival and other uses.  All of the tomato vines and other crops are now gone except for the one row of peppers that we have begun to enjoy and freeze for this winter’s consumption.  The cover crops have grown beautifully and soil tests have been taken for next year.

I have also spent most of my July mornings building the long awaited screen porch overlooking the creek.  It was really a steamy project but it went smoothly and I was picking up the tools by noon each day.  Not done yet but close, with the electric just started and then the ceiling to put up but that can wait until later in the fall after we get back from the West.

Tomorrow I fly out early for a long backpacking trip into the Wind River Range in Wyoming after which Betsy will fly in and I will pick her up for our big loop through Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.  By Thursday evening I will be at 10,000 feet enjoying the cool temperatures and magnificent views!  When we get back it will be time to turn under all the cover crops and begin the soil preparations for next year’s plantings.  Look for pictures on Instagram and a newsletter when we return.

Pictures of the Week

IMG_20190722_101341Beautiful summer cover crops and new ones just seeded

IMG_20190801_113056 The screen porch

Hope to see you all soon 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. 16 #22, 6/26/19

What’s been going on!

The last week and the last markets for our 2019 season.  It feels odd and unknown in good ways and not at all conflicted.  Betsy and I have not had a summer off since we were 15, nearly 50 years!  That is the unknown part for sure, how will it feel to not have a daily responsibility when it is warm outside?  I am sure we will get used to it.

Now make no mistake we are excellent planners but primarily in the macro and medium scales, we learned long ago that the micro, day to day plans were strictly theory because on a farm, mother nature really dictates how each day will unfold and each week will flow.  As my mother liked to say “life is so daily”.  So we have lived our life each day knowing that “field corrections” would occur, Betsy would say we are good at triage.

We already have plenty on the calendar for the next seven months until we are back at market, the macro plan.  July will first be filled with dealing with the last of the crops, tomatoes and cucumbers to the restaurants, taking it all down and seeding the last of the summer cover crops.  I will also finally start on the long awaited screen porch project.

Late August and early September we will be off on a long trip west to Utah, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.  Back in time to get the beds and soil prepared for next season and seeded to the winter cover crops and to enjoy the brilliant fall weather before we head off to Mexico on a family trip the end of October.

November and December we will slowly start up the next growing season with planting the anemones and ranunculus and the first rounds of vegetables in the sliding tunnels, while the greenhouse starts to fill with transplants.  January sees weekly planting and tending of the winter crops and then we will be back to market in early February.  In between there will be short trips and other diversions.

We will not be strangers as you will see us from time to time at Market including next week at Tomato Day, in the aisles at Weaver Street Market, at a table at Pizzeria Mercato or other places around town and we will send out a newsletter once a month or so to bring you up to date on what we are doing.  We thank you for your support and encouragement as we head into this new strange world.

Picture of the Week P1050076Still a lot of Sungolds out there but at the very tops of the plants

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 16 #21, 6/20/19

What’s been going on! 

The day between Juneteenth and the Summer solstice, the longest day of the year.  A lot to reflect on with these days but after nearly two weeks of uncommonly cool weather there is no question that summer has come back full force this week with the heat and wicked humidity.

A little over two weeks ago I seeded half of the summer cover crops of cowpeas and sudangrass on this seasons fallow field and the good rains have brought them up thick and beautiful.  Under the new Peregrine Farm management plan we have the luxury and space, for the first time ever, to alternate fields in production.  This is a more extensive versus intensive way of managing soil and producing crops but it allows us to really beef up our soils by adding a lot of diverse of organic matter sources (different cover crops and compost) and to be able to rest the soil with a whole year of cover crops and minimal tillage.

This has been the way that we have managed the sliding tunnels from the beginning with a year of intensive plantings followed by a summer and winter off to let the soil have time to recuperate.  Now with the outdoor plantings we have one quarter of an acre in production and one quarter acre just in cover crops, building healthier soil for the following season.

As soon as we harvest the last produce next week we will plant the rest of the summer cover crops in that field followed by a huge winter cover crop to be followed by another summer cover crop in 2020 after which we will raise up beds, spread compost on them, seed one more winter cover crop and they will be enriched and ready for production in early 2021.

Picture of the Week

P1050071A beautiful stand of cowpeas and sudangrass, getting ready for 2020.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 16 #20, 6/13/19

What’s been going on! 

People always ask what do you do about insects and diseases as they think those are the worst pests we deal with but I always say that the four legged walk in pests do way more damage than the flying or crawling kind and this past week has been ultimate example of that.

It started last week when a deer got inside the fence (the deer always do whacky things when having fawns) and ate several hundred dollars worth of lettuce, radicchio and escarole.  We protected the remaining lettuce plantings by surrounding it with the electric net fencing that we used to keep predators away from the turkeys all those years.  Then the squirrels started to eat all of the first ripe tomatoes, especially the tunnel nearest the tree line, now you are making me mad!

Betsy then reported that she thought that something was pulling the new cucumber vines off the trellis.  When I picked tomatoes on Monday it was a horror show of half eaten fruit and I also noticed deer tracks all around the tomato tunnels too.  We had lost, at least, yet another $200 in tomatoes.  Now we are talking a battle.

We surrounded the tomato tunnels with more turkey netting and that would take care of the deer and any opossums, raccoons and groundhogs but the squirrels can run right through the gaps in the net.  Finally Tuesday when I saw a groundhog running out of the cucumbers I knew who had been pulling the vines off the trellis. This was a triple whammy!

Now we try and work around most of these issues with fencing and electricity and for that past 5 years Jennie’s dog had kept the groundhogs and deer at bay.  For the past 7 days I have been on patrol and suffice it to say that many squirrels and one groundhog have moved on to their final pastures.  This morning’s tomato pick yielded much better results!

Picture of the Week

 P1050067Look close and you can see all the tomatoes thrown away and the netting protecting them now.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 16 #19, 6/5/19

What’s been going on! 

A slightly earlier newsletter this week because we wanted to let you all know that we will not be at the Wednesday Market this week.  Alex has a Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) Board meeting this Wednesday and Thursday and we just can’t swing both things.  RAFI is one of the many organizations we have worked with over the years and it does incredible work in all areas of sustainable agriculture particularly agricultural policy and helping to save family farms.

The Farm to Fork Picnic went off without a hitch on Sunday and we had a great time with the folks from Pizzeria Mercato serving up a delicious cucumber salad from the beautiful cucumbers that Betsy picks daily.  It was great to see all of you that made it and many other new faces that we met.

The scary event this week were the back to back hail storms we had on Friday afternoon and evening.  In the 38 years we have been farming we have had few hail storms and never two in the same day.  The first had the biggest hail up to golf ball size and had us really worried for damages in the field but for the most part it was limited to some holes in leaves, you may notice some in Saturday’s lettuces.  It reminded us of the 1984 hail storm we had that beat up the blackberries so badly that we did not have a crop in 1985, thankfully it was not that big!

Picture of the Week

 P1050063We slipped the bullet with these big hail stones!

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 16 #18, 5/30/19

What’s been going on! 

Yep, it’s hot but not completely unheard of at this time of year.  If you look at the climate history for this area we have had temperatures in the 90’s as early as March and in the 100’s the end of May and in early June.  It is not what it should be though as the average high right now should be the low 80’s putting us 10 to 15 degrees higher than normal and for this many days in a row is disconcerting.

I have written before about the effects of high temperatures on tomato pollination.  Days above 90 and nights above 75 degrees cause a number of problems with pollen viability and its ability to move to pollenate.  Tomatoes are self-pollenating so this is not an issue of bees or no bees, but the pollen itself has to be good and the flower parts have to be able to receive the pollen.

This is all bad enough for field tomatoes but you put them under a tunnel, even one wide open and the temperatures jump more.  We have been watching these hot spells get hotter, longer and earlier in the tomato season for a number of years now and its effect on fruit set and consequentially fruit to eat in July and later.  For the first time ever we have covered our tunnel tomatoes with a 30% shade cloth to help with both fruit set but also the quality of the final product in reduced heat stress problems like cracking, sunscald and yellow shoulders.  Old dogs, new tricks.  Part of adapting to climate change.

Picture of the Week

P1050060Looks cooler in there doesn’t it?

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 16 #17, 5/23/19

What’s been going on!

 It is a steady, even, push this week and next to pick as many blueberries as we can and get the rest of the farm chores done and then we can slide into a more leisurely and summer like schedule.  We are out every morning now at 7:00 a.m. partly to beat the heat (which has not been too bad so far) and get a few things done before any berry pickers arrive at 8:00.

It is a smaller crop this year than last and it will be short and sweet.  We anticipate picking the last berries next Friday, the heat is certainly making them ripen fast, concentrating everything into two weeks instead of the usual three.  That is okay too, we only have so many additional helpers and we can only focus on it for so long.  For the first time ever we have had several market regulars come out to help and it has been quite entertaining to get to know them better, hear new stories and tell our old stories to them.

Another milestone this week as we planted the last few crops for this season.  One more round of lettuce and callaloo and that is it for this year, we should have had some champagne but had too much else to do that day, typical.  Betsy reminds me that we have five weeks left after this Saturday.

Pictures of the Week

P1050053The scare eye balloon protecting the blueberries

P1050052 The very last crops for 2019

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 16 #16, 5/16/19

What’s been going on! 

Blackberry Winter rolling right into Blueberry Summer.  Three mornings in the 40’s two in the low 40’s maybe high 30’s, cold enough to give a little damage on the tender basil leaves.  A few glorious days but starting tomorrow we head straight into the oven.  One forecast I looked at has fourteen straight days in the high 80’s and low 90’s!  That will push all of the summer crops and strain the last of the cool season crops.

In preparation we have opened the tunnels wide for good air flow and have given all crops a big drink of water and will head into our summer irrigation routine of every other day watering to keep everything moist and happy, got to keep those tomatoes growing strong and filling out the fruit!

The blueberries will ripen fast too and while we will probably pick a few tomorrow the season will start in earnest next week and last a little over two weeks.  We are still looking for more blueberry pickers, if you know anyone who might be interested please have them contact us.  This is not pick-your-own but paid work.  We pick every weekday morning, 8:00-noon.  We will take folks who want to pick one day or every day.  $10 an hour, cash.  It happens to be the most enjoyable harvest job on the farm, cool mornings, birds singing, stand up work.

Picture of the Week

 IMG_20190516_121507Tomatoes looking great, almost to the top of the trellis and wide open, ready for the heat.

 What’s going to be at Market? Continue reading