Peregrine Farm News Vol. 16 #5, 3/1/19

What’s been going on!

Late newsletter this week as I slipped away for my last hiking trip of the winter.  Yesterday I arrived back just in time to help Jason and Shiloh and their crew from Tumbling Shoals Farm load half of the Big Top parts into a giant 30 foot long box truck so they can transport them back to their farm near Wilkesboro.

This morning they were back at 9:00 to get the second half and a good thing just before this next cold rain moved in.  The amount of steel required to cover a half an acre of ground is prodigious.  We had enough legs (225) to cover three quarters of an acre and along with all the associated braces and hoops (120) not to mention all the huge plastic sheets too.  So that is first and the biggest of the equipment and infrastructure we are going to sell as we downsize into Peregrine Farm 7.0 and it is a relief to have it gone to a good home.

So we made it to March and of course we have at least one more big cold snap coming this week with several nights in the low 20’s, in like a lion.  At least it will be dry which we need so we can get ready to slide the tunnels in preparation for planting the super early tomatoes and cucumbers.  The pace begins to quicken now.

Picture of the Week


Some tough farm girls on a cold morning

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #17, 7/1/15

What’s been going on!

5” of rain in the last 5 days, that’s enough for now thank you, at least the wicked heat wave has broken.  Unfortunately it looks like a good chance of rain every day for the next week.  Mostly it makes it hard to get any kind of outdoor planting done.  The really sad thing is most people’s tomato crops are out in the field and if they get this much rain not only does it make the foliar diseases start to run up the plants but the ripening fruit will split open making them unsellable.  The beauty of the Big Tops is we can avoid most of those problems or at least slow them down, good thing as we are nearing the peak of our tomato harvest.

Let’s talk 4th of July market.  This will be the third time in the 20 years since the market moved to Town Hall that the Saturday market has been on July 4th.  When that happens the market is moved out onto Main Street in front of Town Hall so they can set up for the afternoons holiday celebrations on the Town Commons.  It is quite a festive atmosphere out on Main Street with all the vendors jumbled up in random sequence.  The hours are shortened to 10:30 so we can get out of the way before the parade arrives at the Town Commons.

Make sure you come down to market early and enjoy the shady cool of the morning under the trees along Main Street and get all the good food for your afternoon festivities.  Here is information about parking and the hours, it is all very easy.  Make sure to look for us, probably somewhere in the middle of the pack!

Pictures of the Week


A gray, wet morning but happy tomatoes under the Big Tops

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2009 4th of July market on Main Street

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #11, 4/19/13

What’s been going on!

One of those a chicken on a hot plate weeks with lots of things going on that needed to coordinate well.  I would say mostly successful.  The main task was to get the last few parts of the tomato Big Tops installed and then pull the plastic cover over the bows.  In the rebuild we are using some new techniques and materials but it went smoothly.  In our second year together as a team, the four of us have the covering dance down to a well choreographed ballet.

Jennie and Liz start by finding the lead edge that will be pulled over the bows and “fluff” the rest of the plastic so it will follow easily.  With me on a 10’ step ladder I lead one corner over one thirteen foot high end hoop with a rope tied to it, handing it to Liz who then pulls will almost all her might while Jennie pushes the plastic up and over the top webbing with a long handled broom.  As Jennie gets near the halfway point I run to the far end and climb another ladder and pull the other corner over, with rope, hand it to Betsy and then I begin to move down the side of the tunnel flapping and pulling the edge down.

Corners tied off I use the ladders at each end to clip a piece of wide webbing onto the end hoops that holds the ends of the plastic to the frame while Betsy feeds one of the ropes, that actually hold the plastic onto the frame, down the leg row to the far end.  With two of us on each side we pass the rope back and forth over the top, two people managing the rope and two tightening and tying it down to the top to the legs.  Rinse and repeat with another rope and we are done.  40 minutes elapsed time.

The rest of the week consisted of cultivation, weeding, trellising peas, planting and getting ready for planting.  The tomato beds are all ready for covering with landscape fabric and trellis building, might start today, depends on how crazy the weather is this afternoon with the next front moving in.  Always extra-curricular activities like teaching class, insulating the new building, Farm to Fork picnic meetings and on, must be spring.

Pictures of the Week


Way too much time on a ladder


Beautiful spring cover crops and freshly turned peppers beds, the Big Tops cresting the hill in the distance

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 9 #25, 9/26/12

What’s been going on!

Oops, missed a newsletter last week, way too much going on including an overnight trip to the beach to spend some time with family that happened on newsletter day.  It was too wet to stay home anyway after the awesome four inches of rain at the beginning of last week; we haven’t had a rain here on the farm like that for years.

Dry enough now to get going on fall soil preparations for the 2013 growing season.  Everything that can be has been mowed (only three fields left- peppers, fall vegetables and over wintered flowers), yesterday I spread the phosphorus and potassium rock powders that the crops will need for the next year.  Today I will begin turning soil, should be perfect after last week’s rains.  Disk, subsoil with a field cultivator, maybe disk some fields again.  Once nice and loose and with all of the crop residues incorporated I will hill up the beds for next spring’s early planted crops.  Finally the cover crop seeds will be spun out over the waiting rough but soft soil to be brought up by the next rains and to be the protective blanket for the winter.  Lots of time on the tractor.

We are in mid Big Top hoop moving, from one field to another, to be finished today.  This year of course is the additional complication of sorting hoops that are OK, from those that we can re-bend, from those that will go to the steel salvage lot.  Good news is that we did a test re-bend yesterday and it looks like we will be able to save quite a few, if we are careful.

On top of all of the above, Monday is the one bad day in the turkey’s lives, we take them to processing.  A before dark start to catch them while they are sleepy and then most of the day spent down at the processing plant.  It is a long, tiring and somber day but an important one.  There are still birds available if you haven’t gotten your reservation in yet, all the information can be found here.

Pictures of the Week

Half of the hoops moved, tomatoes will be in this field next year

The sorting piles- maybe re-bend, off to salvage, top rails and parts

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

Peregrine Farm News, Vol. 9 #24, 9/13/12

What’s been going on!

Glorious weather!  This is why we suffer the summers to revel in these kinds of days.  Of course now we work non-stop because we can and it is so enjoyable.  This is the beginning of the big project season when we have the time, energy and it is time to do some of these things too.  The general end of summer clean up and organization of the farm for winter is underway but we have even more shuffling to do as we have had to move years of gathered materials like cedar posts and old pallets to make way for the winters big project, building a new workshop and living space.

The only infrastructure item that we have never had is real workshop space.  We have had the open air tractor shed with an outdoor workbench from the beginning but I am getting tired of working on things in the gravel driveway.  We have also accumulated quite a number of wood working tools over the years and they are tucked away here and there in various buildings which doesn’t lend its self to actually using them in a timely manner when one needs to.  So this winter we are building a 24’X28’ space with an apartment upstairs for current staff or to rent in the future.  Hopefully we will be pouring concrete within the month.

The other looming project, now that all crops are out of the Big Tops, is to finish the dismantling of the bent metal parts and actually get a count on how many we will have to replace.  We also have the annual move of hoops from one field to another so quite a bit of time has been spent this week in handling greenhouse parts, either dragging them out of the field for salvage or taking them apart and carrying them to next year’s position.

With fall soil preparations and cover crop planting on the schedule in the next few weeks, more fall crop planting and the continuing harvest there are a lot of balls in the air each with its own set of details.  Maybe that hiding out in the air conditioning all summer wasn’t so bad after all.

Picture of the Week

A beautiful morning, turkeys feeding and empty Big Tops awaiting dismantling

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

Peregrine Farm News, Vol. 9 #19, 7/25/12, The Big Storm

What’s been going on!

Another late newsletter this one due to cleaning up from Tuesdays big storm and while some folks have seen pictures on Facebook, this is the official (long) version.  We know lots of folks had some kind of impact because of the storm from trees and limbs down to power out, some for 24 hours or more.  In the ranking of storms we have weathered over the last three decades this relatively small thunderstorm stands at number two in intensity and number one in monetary damage.  Of course hurricane Fran will (or hopefully will) hold the top spot forever in wind speed, flooding, trees down and length of power outage but we had no serious damage to any building or equipment from it and not too much crop loss.

We have had record rainfall events (10 inches in an hour and subsequent flooding), we have seen the record snowfall (20 plus inches), huge ice storms and hail storms but most of those just resulted in loss of power.  This storm was fast and hard.  The big straight line winds came screaming from the west and from our experiences in Fran (80 mph winds for hours) and other hurricanes like Isabel (60 mph winds for a long time) we estimate these winds at 65-75 mph but for only about 10 minutes, the rain lasted maybe 45 minutes then it was over.

As we stood in the living room looking out towards the field we could see debris flying through the air until three large oaks and one huge maple came down and blocked most of our view.

As soon as we could, we headed out on damage assessment and to check on our 90 year old neighbor (no damage there) which required us to drive around through the field because the driveway was blocked by some huge limbs.  The turkey fence was blown down and the turkeys dazed but we quickly got it back up.

Next check was on the rest of the buildings, all unscathed except the well house which was blown over and exploded with water flowing out of one pipe, a quick fix.

Of course we had immediately seen that the Big Tops had sustained tremendous damage but they were the last thing we got a close up look at.  Of the eight bays only two remained undamaged.  As they got further away from our neighbor’s western tree line the bent metal and torn plastic got worse.

These Haygrove tunnels are designed to take 70 mph winds and we have seen them through some big storms with winds in the 50’s and 60’s and have uncovered them when hurricanes are on their way but this was so sudden there was no way to anticipate or know that such winds were on the way.

With the huge sheets of plastic now draped all over we quickly, with the good help of a neighbor, got all the plastic off to both reduce further damage to the crops or what frame was left undamaged.

With the early triage done and no power, we went out to dinner and a few nerve easing beers.  First thing Wednesday morning we dismantled the worst of the mangled metal so we could pick tomatoes today.

We have had an amazing outpouring of support and offers of help and we cannot thank you all enough for your concerns but at this point we have everything cleaned up or stabilized enough that it can wait until we get to it either in a few days or this fall and winter.

Many have asked were they insured and the answer is no because we were under the impression that most companies won’t insure such structures because this is the kind of thing regularly happens to greenhouses but I have now talked to several farmers who have gotten theirs insured.  We will certainly pursue that after we rebuild these.  In the meantime our best estimate is $10,000 worth of damage.

So we were already worn down after this wicked hot summer and now more so.  After this Saturdays market we begin our annual summer break.  A bit different this year spanning two weeks instead of one.  Betsy and I will attempt to take most of the two weeks off while Jennie is here the first week to harvest a little and do the other chores to keep the place rolling while Liz takes the week off, then they will trade places the second week.  Not really sure how this will work but don’t be surprised to see at least Jennie or Liz at market selling for us, might be Wednesdays only or could be one of the two Saturdays.  Probably no newsletter the first two weeks of August either.  When we return on the third week of August it should be time for the first pepper roasting of the season, until then enjoy and thank you for your support.

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 9 #3, 4/5/12

What’s been going on?

One of those weeks when the whole body is sore after days of tugging and lifting and putting things together for the spring. One of the big jobs of the year is underway, preparation for planting the main field of tomatoes. Of course there are lots of steps involved in growing tomatoes that happen through the year beginning with soil preparation the fall before with mineral amendments, raising up beds and seeding the right cover crops that will mature at just the right time.

The week before planting would be enough work if we grew the tomatoes out in the open like most of the rest of the world with soil prep, drip irrigation lines, landscape fabric mulch and trellis construction having to be done first. For us there is one more job that has to be done before any of the above can proceed, covering “The Big Tops” with plastic. The Big Tops are our field scale multi-bay high tunnels that we brought in from England in 2004 to answer the foliar disease issues that were making it nearly impossible for us to grow tomatoes in the open. Named by our neighbor the first time we covered them because he said it looked like the Circus had come to town, not sure if he meant they looked like circus tents or we looked like a bunch of clowns covering them.

Every spring, a week before tomato planting day, we have to hope for a still morning to drag the 30′ X 100′ sheets of plastic over the top of the thirteen foot high bows and get them secured before the wind picks up. No easy task but with four patient people and lots of scrambling up and down ladders and tugging on ropes we can cover the four bays that are over the quarter acre in which the tomatoes will be planted. A perfect morning on Tuesday had us done with the job in just over 3 hours. By the end of the day tomorrow, all of the beds will be prepared and the trellises built, waiting for the tomato plants to be tucked in early next week.

Picture of the Week

The plastic “roofs” floating over the tomato beds

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 8 #4, 4/14/11

What’s been going on?

We are hurtling towards both the Farm Tour and tomato planting day. Yesterday was truly filled to the brim, hence the late newsletter. The goal was to get all four of the tomato Big Tops covered so we could get on with bed preparation and trellis building. Hard to find a windless day this time of year so we hit it running at 8:00 while it was still. We got the first two covered and the wind picked up. We paused and the wind slowed some so we moved on, we did have a few small bursts of air that made us question our decision but marched on and we were finished by noon.

The afternoon was filled with the final tilling of the soil and some mowing of the cover crops in the aisles so that today we could start to lay irrigation lines and landscape fabric to cover and warm the soil. These jobs always involve tangential elements like reconfiguring the tines on the rototiller to till a narrow bed top. While set up in this way it is also time to turn under the cover crop for the pepper beds which will be planted in a month. By the end of yesterday it was all ready for fabric and by the end of today we are ready to build trellis.

We spent the early part of the week getting everything cleaned up for the Farm Tour this weekend. Plenty of picking up to do after the winter and the first mowing of the season to spiff the joint up. Looks like rain for Saturday but you never know how the afternoon will shape up. Sunday looks like great weather and we will have Sheri Castle here talking cooking and signing her new book “The New Southern Garden Cookbook“. The Tour is 1:00-5:00 Saturday and Sunday, we look forward to seeing you on the farm.

Picture of the Week

Freshly tilled pepper beds in the foreground, 5 foot high cover crops and the tomato Big Tops

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #27, 9/14/10

What’s been going on?

Newsletter a day early as we have lots going on the end of the week. I first want to thank Bret Jennings and the Elaine’s on Franklin crew for a great farm dinner last Wednesday. For those that made it you know what I am talking about but the whole pepper inspired menu was right on the money!

Yesterday was turkey moving day, into a new area for a couple of weeks or so. I realized that the picture below is kind of a microcosm of the whole farm and shows many of the fundamental operating concepts we always try to apply. For those of you who have been here on a farm tour, this maybe familiar. What can be seen here is parts of the three, quarter acre, blocks that the Big Tops are set up over. The one the turkeys are in just has the rows of legs that support the hoops. It is in its “rest” year where we grow no cash crops but instead grow three sets of cover crops in a row to improve the soil and run the turkeys over it so they can add their goodness too. This cover crop is the summer sudangrass and cowpeas.

To the left of the turkey shelters is another Big Top block, this one had the flowers this year and if you blow the picture up you can see, through the turkey shelter, the red of the last of the crested celosias for the year. This block with be rested next year and it’s hoops moved over where the turkeys are. The far set of Big Tops was the tomato block this year and you can see two bays still covered with the last of the tomatoes and two bays uncovered for the winter. The flowers will move to here next year and the tomatoes will move to where the turkeys are now. Once uncovered (next week) we will plant winter cover crops in those fields too.

One of our key beliefs is that diversity leads to a balanced system which improves sustainability. So in just this one picture you see diverse cash crops (many varieties of flowers and tomatoes), cover crops (at least seven different kinds over the three year rotation), and breeds (Bourbon Reds and Broad Breasted Bronzes). What you can’t see is also a diversity in soil improvement/management practices like fertility from rock powders, cover crop and cash crop residues, and manure from the turkeys. Or disease and pest control by using the Big Tops to keep plants dry, trellises for better air flow and sunlight, turkeys to eat bugs, crop rotation, drip irrigation and many more techniques.

OK, professors hat off. And it’s a beautiful early fall day on the farm too!

Picture of the Week

Turkeys happy in a new field.

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

4/9/04 Vol. 1 #4

Another huge week on the farm.  So much happened that it is hard to remember it all!  The cold weather early in the week (29 degrees out here on Tuesday morning) passed without too much apparent damage, still hard to say how the blueberries faired as they where blooming up a storm.  We took advantage of the cool temperatures by finishing up getting in all of next years firewood.  We have been heating with wood  for 23 years now and the task always looms large and important (it’s the only heat source we have), we over achieved this winter and cut enough for a year and a half!  I can already see more leisure time coming next winter.  It is great security knowing that we won’t have to break up the furniture next winter to keep warm!

This dry weather has been perfect for getting all of the cultivation/weeding done, the staff has done a great job of cleaning everything up, now we just need some water to keep it growing.  Even though the forecast is for a good wet period early next week I will still be setting up irrigation today, that will bring the rains for sure!  We also got more things planted both in the greenhouse (more tomatoes, tomatillos, sunflowers) and in the field with the first of Betsy’s fabulous Zinnia’s being seeded.  Last year we planted the first Zinnias three times (does that make each planting the first?) because the first two were flooded from all of last springs rains.  Won’t happen this time, they are high up on the hill.

The big project this week is the subject of the picture of the week.  You will get lots of news on this as the season progresses but we began the final step of a process we started last fall.

Picture of the Week
This is the worlds largest roll of plastic!