Peregrine Farm News Vol. 9 #22, 8/29/12 Turkey Reservations

What’s been going on!

Great farm dinners last week, it was good to see many folks we knew at both events and we certainly enjoyed everything we ate.  Many thanks again to the chefs and staffs at both Elaine’s and Panzanella.  The amazing cool August weather continues, sure does make getting things done a lot easier as our momentum has certainly been slowed.

As promised early in the year, this week marks the start of Turkey reservations.  We always wait until 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 65 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 through the end of the month.  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.

Standard late summer projects going on. Most of the big tomato planting has been taken out.  We are slowly winning the battle with the grass, maybe this big mowing push will hold us until the end of the season. Soil samples need to be pulled and sent in so we can be ready the end of September for the big annual soil preparation.  Pick pepper, pick peppers, pick peppers.

Picture of the Week

Happy birds in front of Betsy’s giant popping sorghum

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

Advertisements

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 9 #18, 7/19/12

What’s been going on!

Newsletter a day late as yesterday was turkey moving day, planting and on to Farmers’ Market so there was no opportunity to sneak away and write.  The first stage happened Tuesday morning when I was up at 5:45 to catch the eleven guinea hens while they were still a bit sleepy.  They have moved over to Liz’s Bushy Tail Farm where they will grow up and hopefully eat all of her ticks.  When the Barkers are ready Confit and Fricassee (or is it Grits and Gumbo?) will move on over to their house to live out their guinea fowl lives.

Yesterday morning I was out just after 6:00 (this damn heat!) getting ready for the move of the remaining 70 birds.  Turkeys are always a bit daffy when exposed to new things and so I wanted them to have 24 hours to get used to not having the guinea hens around before yet another new experience of moving to a new field.  By the time Jennie and Liz arrived at 8:00 I had the electric fences up, waterers and feeder moved; everything ready for the long walk.

Like last year I thought it would be less stressful to walk them the 200 feet down to their next location instead of catching each one, putting them in the truck, driving them down and then grabbing them again and setting them out.  I have to say that this group is not as cohesive and sharp as last years but it still seemed the best option.  30 minutes and a lot of patience we coaxed them past the gravel drive (they are easily distracted by bright objects) and the sliding tunnels to some nice green grass and the shade of some bushes.

Usually when turkeys move into a new lush area they make the “happy turkey” sound, heads down searching out new bugs and tender greenery to eat.  This outfit stood in the corner of the fence calling out and staring back towards the brooder.  Eventually they finally settled down and the heat drove them under the bushes and close to the waterers.  Finally late in the day they began to explore their new larger accommodations, another successful move.

Picture of the Week

6 feet per minute, through the scary narrow gate

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

Peregrine Farm News vol. 9 #16, 7/5/12

What’s been going on!

Hope you all had and good July 4th and are managing the heat well.  We spent the day with some early work before the heat set in (Betsy had to cut some flowers and I had to irrigate and attend to the turkeys) and then we hid out in the AC catching up on paperwork, reading and eating.  It is the peak of our tomato season and so there are lots of not-good-enough-for-public-consumption fruits crowding our kitchen counter.  Yesterday we made our first big batch of salsa for the season now that we also have serranos and red onions.  Betsy is headed towards making tomato juice and for dinner we took a cue from Ben Barker and grilled some fish then laid it on top of slices of what may be the biggest Striped German bi-colored tomato of the season (slices at least 6” across) and then topped it with some salsa fresca.  Do we have to go back to work today?

Speaking of tomatoes, if you haven’t already registered, our annual tomato class at A Southern Season is this Sunday.  In tandem with Craig LeHoullier who is the heirloom tomato guru who introduced Cherokee Purple, Chocolate and Green to the world, amongst others.  We talk tomatoes while Marilyn Markel cooks up a great three course meal using our tomatoes, wine included!  Not a bad way to spend another 100 degree afternoon.

The turkeys are three weeks old and it was time to let them outside.  The brooder building was designed for about 65 birds and having 83 in there, in this hot weather, makes it a bit tight.  As usual we pulled one of their field shelters in front of the brooder and connected the two together with sections of chicken wire.  To give them extra shade I also strung an old tarp across the gap.  Down came the front opening/gang plank and they were more than happy to get out and stretch their legs and wings.

With them out in the open we finally got a chance to get a count how many guinea hens we were sent by mistake and the number is eleven.  It turns out that the Barkers want a couple of them for pets and tick control over at their place.  We told them that was fine but we first had to choose the right pair and give them appropriate names.

These are the Guinea Hens Confit and Fricasee next to one of the turkeys

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 9 #15, 6/27/12

What’s been going on!

Newsletter a day late, had an unexpected visitor yesterday morning that ended up taking up the whole morning.  Here is where I was when I was interrupted:

Wow!  A look at the forecast brings a great shake of the head in disbelief that such hideous weather could possibly follow a day as succulent as yesterday and a morning as bright and clear as this one.  Possibly five days of 100 plus degree temperatures with higher humidity, really??  This is certainly a stretch of temperatures to brace oneself for, plan the days carefully and for early exits from the field.  We must also irrigate early in the mornings to get the most from the tiny amounts of water that the drip irrigation lines deliver to the base of the plants while getting the field chores done.

The turkeys are now two weeks old and growing fast.  The extra eight or nine “runts” that came with the order are now clearly looking like a different bird.  In years past, with other hatcheries, we have had roosters chicks added in to make sure that there were enough birds in the box to keep them from being jostled around too much during their trip with the USPS.  I called our hatchery and asked if they had done such a thing and they said they never did that but if a mistake had happened they might be guinea hens or pheasants.  After a quick Google search for two week old guinea hens and I am suspicious that is what we have.  If so, it is not so bad in that Liz, who works for us, wants some guineas for her farm to eat the ticks.  We’ll know better what they are in another week or two.

An important note for the coming July 4th week.  Because the 4th is on Wednesday the market will be held on Tuesday instead.  That will allow you to get all of your holiday meal and picnic needs in advance and just in time.  Until then, stay cool!

Picture of the Week

A brilliant, cool and low humidity afternoon

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 9 #13, 6/13/12

What’s been going on!

Early morning as the phone rang at 6:30, it was the Post Office in Graham notifying us that the, now two day old, turkey poults had arrived.  Hatched on Monday, immediately put into a ventilated box, taken the PO in Michigan and flown here.  It is always hard to believe it actually works but it does and there are now 88 little chirping Broad Breasted Bronze’s running around in the brooder.  Only ordered 74 and usually they put a few extras in but never this many.  There are about 8 or 9 little runts in the group but they are looking really healthy and active so we will see how they do, could be the reason we got so many extras.  For more turkey stories and pictures you can check it out here.  Here we go again!

Another nice rain for us but as usual not as much the rest of the world seems to get.  While parts of the Triangle got pounded with big rains and accidents on I-40 and such, we got a half an inch.  In our area we continue to be under this insidious prolonged stretch of below normal rainfall, going back several years now.  If you look at the US Drought Monitor map we are just listed in abnormally dry but are within a boundary that they label as “long term dominant impact e.g. hydrology, ecology”.  What that means to us is the ground water has still not been recharged enough for the springs to be running well.

As I mentioned in last week’s newsletter, the creek is just about dry already and while I know that there really are not any farms, or even houses, up stream that would be pulling out a lot of water, I just had to go check.  So Sunday I drove around the greater neighborhood to every place the creek crosses a road (5) to see if it was running any better at some point upstream, it wasn’t.  Now Big Branch or Reedy Creek, (it is called both) is not a long stream, four miles at best, and there is not a lot of watershed to feed it so when the springs are low it has a big impact on its flow.  I also checked on the stream flow gages, on line, and all of the gaging stations in the Haw River watershed were showing substantially below average flow rates, damn!  Here is the gage at Haw River which has jumped up over the last few days but is headed back down.  We just have to hope that we continue to get these nice weekly rains so we can stretch our captured pond water out across the season.

Pictures of the Week

A flurry of activity

A birds eye view

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 8 #23, 8/31/11 Turkey reservations

What’s been going on?

Well it was a blustery market Saturday but not too bad really. Other than a bunch of leaves and sticks blown down we had no damage here at the farm and even had four tenths of and inch of rain and then another four tenths on Monday, so we are feeling pretty good about how the storm went. Most of the farmers that I have talked to had similar experiences with most having even less rain than we got.

As promised early in the year, this week marks the start of Turkey reservations. We always wait until 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 65 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 through the end of the month. 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.

Standard late summer projects going on. Most of the big tomato planting has been taken out with just a few rows of Big Beefs and Cherokees left to “milk” the last fruit from. The crab grass in the peppers is trying to take over so today we will try to beat it back with the mower one last time which should hold us until the end of the season. Soil samples need to be pulled and sent in so we can be ready the end of September for the big annual soil preparation.

Picture of the Week

They are getting big!

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 8 #18, 7/20/11

What’s been going on?

A quick newsletter today, too damn hot to not get out there early. We had a great Tomato Day at market last Saturday, great crowd, perfect weather and lots of tomatoes to taste and sell. If you were there you know how pleasant an experience it was. We also had a very pleasant Farm Dinner at Panzanella on Monday with a good turn out to taste the seven special dishes that Jim and crew made out of our produce. It was all good but I really liked the bright fresh taste of the tagliatelle with sungold and Roma tomatoes. It was good to see everyone who came. One more summer farm dinner this Thursday (tomorrow) at Fosters Market in Chapel Hill. Tim is using both tomatoes and peppers this year. It was a fun event last summer and Betsy and I will be there and I am sure I will talk a bit about the tomatoes in the dishes.

Well the turkeys graduated from High School with flying colors last Friday. It was time to move them to the field and this group is so brilliant that we actually walked/herded them the 400 feet from the brooder to the blueberry field where they will hang out under the bushes for the next several weeks. We usually catch them, load them in the truck and drive them down and then set them out into the field, but this group has behaved so well that I thought it would be less stress on them to walk them down, it was.

The final test was the first night, had they adopted the new mothership? They had spent a few nights in the portable shelter but in front of the brooder they knew as home. It is always a first time learning experience for the birds but once they get the hang of it, they act like they have done it for years. At dark I went out to herd them into the shelter and close the door for nighttime security. I rounded the corner and they were all pre-loaded and ready to sleep, and they have done it every night since, amazing! So this group is well on the way to graduate degrees!

Picture of the Week

They have already thrown their mortar boards off into the bushes

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 8 #16, 7/6/11

What’s been going on?

Well we made it to July, hope everyone had a good holiday weekend. We are in tomato mania at the house right now. The counter is covered in those tomatoes that are not “stable” enough to go anywhere but from the field to the house and then into our stomachs. It is a tomato (at least) at every meal and then other uses are dreamed up as we go along. Hot weather and a house full of cookbooks can lead one into dangerous territory.

Just in the last week we have made Betsy’s favorite Tomato and Basil risotto, several different batches of salsa (with our red onions and serranos), a yellow gazpacho, oven roasted some Blush tomatoes for later use on dishes, Betsy has made a huge pot of tomato sauce (to be frozen for all year consumption) from the new Slow Food Presidia variety we brought back the Torre Canne from Puglia, sandwiches, tomato salads and just plain eating as one walks by. If you want to try more of our varieties and not cook yourself, there are at least three tomato dinners coming up using our tomatoes and at least five restaurants using our toms.

The turkeys graduated from elementary school yesterday. Three weeks old and growing fast, we let them outside for the first time. This group is not timid, usually when we open the front ramp of the brooder they all mass at the opening, blinking at the new world and wait around for the one brave soul who will actually walk out there. Sometimes it takes them an hour or so to get the courage up. Not this group, they were down the ramp and into the grass in minutes! I take that as a good sign that they will be good foragers when we finally take them to the field in two weeks.

They will spend a week running in and out to the new mothership, protected by the chicken wire surround. Next week we will move the mothership back and surround it with the electric net fence to give them more room and to get used to the mild shock of the fence, this is like moving from middle school to high school. Finally the last night or two they will sleep out in the mothership. At five weeks of age they will graduate from high school and go to college, into the blueberry field and on to greater and more interesting things. When you are a turkey, you grow up fast.

Picture of the Week

A turkey’s eye view of the new world

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 8 #14, 6/22/11

What’s been going on?

Heat anyone? High 90’s today, it will be another great afternoon at the Farmers’ Market. At least it looks like the weather will break a little for Farm to Fork on Sunday afternoon, they are calling for 90 with a slight chance of thunderstorms, if we are really lucky it will be like last year when the storms went around us but also helped keep the temperature down a bit. Next year F2F will be back in late May and more reasonable weather chances. By the way, F2F is sold out and did so very early after tickets went on sale so make sure that you look for the announcements next year if you didn’t get a chance this time around.

One group that is happy with the heat are the new turkeys. Yes turkeys are back in the house, literally the brooder house. They arrived last Thursday and look really great. The little day old poults arrive unfeathered, with just their down coats and so they need to be kept around 90 degrees for the first week or two so they don’t get chilled and until they start to grow real feathers. We have heat lamps in the brooder at night but these days we turn them off during the day and they are very happy in there at 95 degrees from the sun.

We have changed up the turkey program a bit this year in that we are only doing the Broad Breasted Bronzes and no Bourbon Reds. I have wrestled with this decision for some time and feel somewhat a traitor for not continuing to help preserve the heritage breeds but there are compelling reasons, quality of life and economics. The Bourbon Reds, while more charismatic and beautiful to look at, are a pain at times to manage because they fly and fight with each other, I am getting too old to be chasing birds around the woods like last year. The other is that they are much more expensive to raise and with feed prices extremely high this year we would have to charge too high a price in my opinion.

On the other hand the Broad Breasted Bronzes are the first step from a heritage bird towards the modern industrial turkey. Yes they can’t naturally breed because of their size but they do very well outside on pasture. They forage pretty well, don’t seem to be anymore disease prone than the Bourbons and take only half the time to reach maturity without flying or fighting. Another factor is that you told us after last Thanksgiving that maybe you even liked their flavor better. So with that in mind we have 70 all singing, all dancing Bronzes in the brooder, now the adventure begins.

Pictures of the Week

The brooder with the window we call turkey TV and the what you see on turkey TV

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #29, 11/21/10

What’s been going on?

Wow! Two months since the last newsletter and I can tell you we have not been standing still. Here we are slipping up on the greatest of all food holidays and there is a lot to do but a brief recap of the fall first. The six plus inches of rain in late September came at the ideal time to not only ease the drought but to moisten the soil to make fall soil preparations and cover crop seeding nearly perfect. As we drove out the drive way on the way to Italy, for the Terra Madre meeting, a perfect rain was falling on the newly seeded fields.

The nearly three weeks we were in Italy and Spain was the longest we have ever been away from the farm in 30 years. Look for full reports with lots of pictures on the website, we will get them up after Thanksgiving. The Slow Food Terra Madre meeting was overwhelming as always, with so many people from 162 countries and of course the Salone de Gusto specialty foods show was eye popping. We had a great visit with our Italian family who again showed us hospitality beyond belief.

After Terra Madre we spent a week in Spain with Ben and Karen Barker of Magnolia Grill, searching for great food and ingredients. Not hard to find the great food and we went to many markets to find the new vegetables were looking for. We have brought back five new peppers and a new tomato to try and grow here. The country side was beautiful and their food culture is very different from what we have seen in other parts of Europe.

As we turned into the driveway of the farm and the headlights moved across the fields we could see that the rains had indeed brought up one of the most beautiful sets of cover crops ever. It was a crazy, hectic week trying to re-enter regular life: hundreds of emails, crops to plant for next spring, Thanksgiving crops and turkey details to catch up on, etc. Betsy was home for six days before flying to Tulsa, OK for the Assoc. of Specialty Cut Flower Growers conference. Two days later I left for nine days in Utah, hiking the upper Paria river area.

Home for three days now and we are in a sprint towards the special Tuesday Thanksgiving market (see the details below). Tomorrow morning I go down to retrieve the turkeys from the freezer plant and then we start the harvest of all of the vegetables to go with the dinner. Betsy has been busy while I was gone planting more anemones, ranunculus and Dutch iris for next spring. We need a rest from all our time off!

Picture of the Week

Beautiful Brussels Sprouts plants (unfortunately no sprouts for Thanksgiving) and awesome Celery

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