Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #2, 1/27/17

What’s been going on!

A quick note to let you know that Betsy and I survived the March on Washington and will be at market tomorrow.

The crowds were staggering and we were exhausted when it was all over and we finally got home at 2:30 a.m. but glad we went.  Below are pictures you didn’t see of the masses.

Pictures of the Week

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On the Metro

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Headed towards the light and the huge crowds

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

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Snow Days

The biggest snow since 2004.  Hard to measure accurately as it came in various forms.  When we got up at 4:00 a.m. on Saturday morning there was around 4 inches of a nice powder, about then is when it became more sleet like and denser.  Maybe another inch of this stuff fell but it weighted down the lighter snow underneath.  What we ended up with was 5-6 inches of heavy crusty snow.

We were up that early to go out and sweep the snow off of the unheated tunnels so they wouldn’t collapse.  It is one of the drawbacks of having structures to grow crops in the off-season, they are vulnerable to big weather.

Fortunately the Big Tops are uncovered for the winter so we don’t have to worry about them but the six sliding tunnels we do have to watch.  Since we built our first tunnel in 1997, only three other storms have forced us to go out in the middle of the night to clean them off.  The worst, of course, was the record 20+ inch snow of 2000, when we stayed up all night, going out every 2 hours to sweep. By the end of the night we were almost hallucinating from exhaustion.

Usually 6 inches of snow doesn’t make us nervous but with the potential weight of this stuff we had to be cautious, good thing we were. We saved the tunnels with one good cleaning but our old pick-your-own stand collapsed under the load, onto the big pickup and the car.  Looks worse than it is, just a few dents in the vehicles but we will have to rebuild the roof before the Farm Tour.  I have taken some ribbing about the quality of my construction on this shelter but it has weathered almost 30 years of storms including Fran’s 80+ mph winds and two 20 inch snow falls.  Just wish we hadn’t parked the vehicles under it this time!

So it has been four days now of being snow bound and this is what we have designed our home and farm for.  We just make sure there is plenty of firewood and food and then just enjoy it from the comfort of the house.  Once the tunnels are safe we have no other worry’s, even if the power goes out.  We do wander out and around the place just to view and usually I dust the cross-country skis off and tour the neighborhood, but not this storm.

Look how deep the snow is between the tunnels from cleaning them off

Each day I have walked the 3 miles round trip up to get the newspaper, it is the closest we can get the N&O delivered.  The road is still a sheet of ice and few cars have been up and down it.   There have been plenty of folks out pulling sliding devices including this pure country version with a riding lawn mower pulling two plastic sleds.  

I also had to chuckle to myself as I walked by this house.  Two weeks ago they were out mowing the lawn!  Not that there was anything to mow but maybe it was wishful thinking.

This kind of event doesn’t happen very often here.  This is only the eighth time since we have lived here on the farm that we have had this much snow or more, so we look forward to these snow days.  As long as the tunnels are OK.

Groundhog Day

Of all the holidays, real or not, observed or not, given-a-day-off-with-pay or not; there are only two that we view as agricultural based celebrations.  Thanksgiving of course is the grand, end of the harvest season celebration.  Hopefully we have had a good growing season and the larder is full of food to carry us through the winter.  The animals are fat with summer and fall feeding either on pastures or in the woods and are ready for winter too.

Groundhog Day is the celebration of the awakening of spring.  No it’s not true spring but it is halfway through winter.  Originating among many cultures around the world, they all started getting antsy halfway through the long cold dark period and began to look for signs of when it would end.  They looked for natural signs that the earth was warming up and hibernating animals were chosen as the best predictors.  Depending where they were it was bears or badgers, in the New World it was groundhogs.

For us it does coincide with when we begin to plant the first crops out into the field.  In most winters we put out the first lettuces, fava beans and onions the first weeks of February.  Soon to follow are peas, radishes and turnips but it is not until early and mid March until it is really warm enough for serious planting.  Groundhog Day does mark the tentative beginning of spring/end of winter but you better hedge your bets.

The prognosticators are mixed in their forecasts this day.  Punxsutawney Phil says six more weeks of winter.  Sir Walter Wally (I’m sorry I’d be embarrassed to come out and look for my shadow too with that name) says it’s an early spring.  Dunkirk Dave from Dunkirk, NY did see his shadow but the forecast for six more weeks of winter was invalidated due to artificial lighting.

The National Weather Service gives both the 30 day and the 90 day forecast as below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation.  This says six more weeks of winter to me.  They also say the groundhogs are only right 39% of the time.

We don’t even begin to see groundhogs around here until April or later so as forecasters of the weather for this farm they aren’t very useful.  Looking out the window at the light rain coming down on top of the 3 inches of snow and ice left from the weekend it looks like spring is still some ways off.

So my recommendation this Groundhog Day is to celebrate making it most of the way through this cold winter with the knowledge that spring is truly on its way.  Because we have an ongoing battle with non-weather predicting groundhogs we usually mark the day in North Carolina fashion with some sort of smoked pork dish!