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 #26, 8/24/17

What’s been going on!

Time for the big seasonal reset and we are ready for it!  It was a good time for us to take off as the weather was so grizzly but it has now broken for at least a week and we have a lot to do!  Everyone had a good break and rest in the various places we all escaped to, including total eclipse watching.  I, for one, will say that the eclipse was very cool and I was glad that I made the effort to see it but it did not change my life and I will not be chasing them around the world.

Fall crops continue to go in the ground and the obligatory cultivation, irrigating and other duties that happen with them are on the top of the to do list.  Time to mow down the summer cover crops that remain and pull soil samples for testing so we can be ready the end of September for the big annual soil preparation.

As usual the big focus is all about peppers.  We have a huge harvest to do tomorrow as they have hung on the plants for nearly two weeks and there are a lot of ripe fruit!  There is also some tying up and other plant management to do but we are getting ready for the first big roasting day on Saturday and the weather looks perfect!

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A wall of sweet Corno di Toro peppers

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #15, 5/26/17

What’s been going on!

Rain, rain, rain.  We are somewhere north of 4 inches this week and things are just soaked but no flooding.  We did push really hard on Monday, seeing the potential for too much water, and got all the peppers in the ground!

It is always a big job but with four of us we were on a roll and the soil was not so wet from the half inch of rain the night before that we couldn’t easily plant.  Even the no-till section was friable enough to tuck them in.  At one point every time I stuck the trowel in the ground I turned up an earthworm, always a good sign!  In the end 2800 plants that are now well watered in and already greening up nicely.

For the most part we have been able to work at least every morning this week and pick berries.  The sad result of the really heavy rain on Wednesday night was that it knocked a huge number of blueberries off the bushes that we just couldn’t get picked earlier in the week.  I do think this is the last week of blueberries for this year, only two weeks.

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No-till peppers happy to be in the ground

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #26, 8/24/16

What’s been going on!

We are back!  With the steamy weather having finally broken for a few days and everyone having had a week or more off there is spring in peoples step and minds.  Good break with Jennie spending time in Indiana with her family and Trish going all the way to Montana!  Betsy and I kept as low a profile as possible short of the many dinners out.

Lots to do this week including the endless mowing, holy crap can the grass grow fast.  A cultivation pass through all the fall vegetables that we did manage to get planted after the big rains and before everyone left for a week.  But the big job has been working in the pepper field both trellising and picking.

It is all about peppers for the next month or so as we work our way through the peak of the season and do we ever have the peppers to start roasting this Saturday!  All varieties, colors and heat levels.  Unfortunately the beautiful weather is not going to last that long so we will roast as far into the morning as we can bear it.  Remember to come to the stand first to get your peppers into the cue and then when you are finished shopping your roasted peppers will be waiting for you.  If you want a large amount roasted let us know and we will make sure to have them ready for you, they freeze great!

If you don’t make it to market this week, not to worry we will be roasting for months but the selection wanes over time.  You might also want to attend our next cooking class at A Southern Season Cooking School next Monday August 29th, this one of course all about peppers!  Working again with our friend and tomato guru Craig Lehoullier who is also a pepper grower and cook and the wonderful Caitlin Burke of the Cooking School we will have a great time and meal.  If you haven’t ever taken a class at the Cooking School not only will you learn a lot but you will have a great meal including wine for a really reasonable price.

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Super sweet orange Corno di Toro peppers, did I say we have a lot?

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #14, 5/18/16

What’s been going on!

Another rainy week ahead, at least it is cool, so some solace.  We used the beautiful days leading up to yesterday to cultivate as much as we possibly could as the weeds were biblical after the previous wet period.  While we did not get everything perfectly weeded we did get to most of it.

Always too much to do in May and so we are a little behind in getting the big planting of tomatoes suckered and tied up for the first time.  Got a good start on it Monday but now it will be too damp to break off the shoots (suckers).  If we do it when it is really wet then the chances for disease to enter those wounds is very high so we will just have to wait until the sun comes back out.

The other big job we are trying to get to is preparation for the big pepper planting next week.  The plants look perfect and will be really happy to get in the ground.  Just before the rain started yesterday we tilled the nine beds that get covered with landscape fabric for all the hot and fussy varieties.  Today or tomorrow we can lay the drip lines and pin down the fabric so we will be ready to plant first thing next week.  That just leaves the rolling/crimping of the cover crop for the no-till sweet peppers.  Go, go, go!

Pictures of the Week

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Thousands of pepper plants ready to go

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Freshly tilled pepper beds on a really gray day

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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.

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It is all about Red Bells right now

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #23, 8/27/15

What’s been going on!

Glorious almost fall like weather, at least a tease of what is to come.  Folks always ask why our peppers start so much later than other growers at market.  We purposely plant ours later in the spring for several reasons.  The first is if we try and push and put the seedlings into cold soil and night temperatures they will just sulk, we want them to hit the ground running and make big strong plants that will produce for a long time.  The other reason is, while we can have some green fruit in June and July what we are really after is sweet ripe colored fruit and the best conditions for ripening are in late August and September when we begin to have weather just like this, cool nights, bright warm days.

Green chilis and Poblanos are the same, the closest we can come to the high light desert environment of New Mexico and the Southwest is this time of year which is also our driest time of the whole growing season.  Cool, dry nights in particular give us nice thick meaty walls and average heat levels that we wouldn’t get in hotter wet weather when the fruit grow really fast.

Just in time for the peak of pepper season we have another class at A Southern Season Cooking School next Thursday Sept. 3rd, this one of course all about peppers!  Working again with our friend and tomato guru Craig Lehoullier who is also a pepper grower and cook and the wonderful Caitlin Burke of the Cooking School we will have a great time and meal.  If you haven’t ever taken a class at the Cooking School not only will you learn a lot but you will have a great meal including wine for a really reasonable price.

We will have the pepper roaster there to demonstrate how it is done in New Mexico and the menu looks delicious.  Arugula and Pepper Salad with Warm Olive Oil; Parmesan Polenta Squares with Romesco Sauce; Chili Relleno Casserole; Roasted Sweet Bell Pepper Crème Brûlée.  There is still room in the class so be sure to sign up to learn all about peppers and some ideas for how to use them.

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Standing in the Celosia Big Top looking out over fields getting ready for fall

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #22, 8/20/15

What’s been going on!

Students are back and so are we!  Despite the dampish week we have been back at it since Monday.  Good time off and we even got to the point where we couldn’t remember what day it was.  Lacey was the winner with a week in Maine, Jennie got in a trip up to D.C. and a few days camping in the mountains.  Betsy and I knocked around doing a variety of things including a scenic tour of Eastern North Carolina with stops in Wilson, Kinston, Pink Hill and Clinton!

Before heading off, Jennie and Lacey worked hard to get more fall crops in the ground and cultivate the established ones so they were in good shape for the week while they were gone.  Since their return the planting and cultivating has continued and we are right on schedule.  The tearing out of the tomato plantings has begun with the little tunnels completed but the Big Tops still to go.

As projected, pepper roasting will begin this Saturday with mostly Anaheims and Poblanos and a few Corno di Toros.  The sweet Red, Yellow and Orange Bells are running a bit behind but should give us some for next week.  Don’t worry we should be roasting through October.  The weather looks to be clearing and actually a fairly pleasant day to commence with the hot job of running the roaster.

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Another foggy morning, super tall Poblanos in the foreground.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #5, 3/27/15

What’s been going on!

Classic spring weather.  We were all set to plant the very early tomatoes and cukes in the sliding tunnels and then they dropped the low for Saturday night down to 22 degrees.  Nope, we will just wait until Monday to put them in the ground and will instead move them back into the greenhouse for safe keeping.  The floating row covers will come back out from their summer storage to cover lettuce and some of the flowers.  The only thing we can’t do much about is the blueberries that are beginning to bloom, we will lose some early fruit but not the whole crop as many buds are not open yet.

Cold, wet day so what is more perfect than to be in the greenhouse seeding the big pepper array for this year.  Painstaking and tedious, Jennie and Lacey are up to the task.  Keeping the 28 varieties straight and in the proper numbers takes patience, nearly 4000 seeds.  A few new interesting varieties this year including four special datil pepper seeds, yes 4, given to us by a fellow whose family has been in St. Augustine Florida since the 1500’s where the datil pepper has been grown by the Minorcan community since the 1700’s and is central to their cooking.  Each plant will have a name and armed guard.

Remember the picture of the Christmas lights in the flowers to add just a bit of additional heat when it got down to one degree back mid February?  Here are the results, lots of beautiful Ranunculus for now, Easter and later.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #23, 9/4/14

What’s been going on!

It is all about peppers right now despite too many other projects, events and other distractions.  Peppers have a way of sneaking up on us.  They can hang on the plants for weeks and then all of a sudden they turn color.  Tomatoes we have to pick twice a week to keep up and if you don’t then they become stinky bags of water.  Peppers on the other hand we only pick once a week (except for the shishitos and padrons which we have to go through three times a week to keep the size just right) and then we just pull the ones that are ripe.

We knew the season was slightly behind due to the cooler weeks in July and August but with the hot weather the last few weeks things have moved along.  This morning I walked out and bam! the whole field looked red.  So today we will start the harvest to split up picking the bells from all the rest and help spread out the job.  We have to wait until the plants are dry so we don’t spread diseases up and down the row, that puts us in the limbo zone between late morning and too hot in the afternoon.  Harvesting peppers is also one of those jobs you can only do for so long because they are just at that difficult height; not low enough to fully bend down or tall enough to stand up, tough on the back, even good ones.

Just to add a level of difficulty to the week our nephew is getting married on Saturday up in the mountains.  All week Betsy has been calmly gathering up all the flowers needed including ordering some from as far away as California.  She will be driving up early tomorrow morning to get set up to do all the arrangements, bouquets, corsages, etc..  Don’t get any ideas, she only does wedding flowers for close relatives and extremely dear friends, too many dangers with unknown brides and mothers.  So she will not be at market on Saturday and I will have to leave market a little early to drive up in time for the ceremony.  This is the balance between family and being all about peppers.

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Lots of red bells

 

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