Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #30, 10/30/15

What’s been going on!

Trick or Treat, the entire growing season has felt that way at times but particularly this fall with the torrential rains an early freeze along with critters and equipment issues.  It has been a particularly difficult fall to get crops established especially the direct seeded ones like spinach and carrots.

Jennie has done a patient job of seeding (and in some cases re-seeding) and weeding only to have erratic germination or the grasshoppers eat down the new seedlings or the rains wash sections of beds out or the final insult of the deer or ground hogs getting past the deer fence and feasting on the mature crops.  It makes one question why you would want to farm or at least grow fall crops.  Despite all of it, we are managing to harvest some beautiful vegetables for market.

Similarly on the winter soil preparation side we got weeks behind with the rains and when it finally dried out the tractor turned on me which is why there was no newsletter last week as I raced to get it fixed before the next rains arrived.  As some of you know, I left market early last week to jump on the tractor to finish up the soil work.

It took all day Saturday and Sunday but I finally finished the tilling and raising up 15,000 feet of beds for next spring and spinning out the cover crop seeds over the top that will hold down that beautiful soil and help increase its fertility.  A few final touches on Monday just in time for the gentle rains to start.  Nearly a month late but with any luck (and no tricks) we will soon see a vibrant green hue to all of those fields.

Picture of the Week

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A few bright spots such as this radiant celery grown inside the little tunnels

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

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #31, 9/25/13

What’s been going on!

So as my gut indicated the Food Dialogues panel that I participated in last week was essentially an infomercial for Big Ag.  The panel looked somewhat balanced on the surface but there was no give and take allowed.  The moderator asked specific questions to specific panelists, after they answered it went on to the next question and panelist.  Very hard to have a “dialogue”, I tried as best I could to counter some points and to represent the sustainable/organic ag community but it was difficult in such a one sided forum.

Not sure about the other panelists but at least the large conventional farmers were definitely coached on what to say.  The basic message was GMO’s are totally safe, confinement (a term they never used) animal production is all about taking the best care of the animals and almost no antibiotics are used and we are all just family farmers.  Not sure how the video will be used on the internet but at least there were no more than 400 people who watched both in person and online.

Back on the farm fall preparations for winter are well underway.  Only a few summer crops left to finish up.  Our small crop of sweet potatoes and the tuberose bulbs were dug today to make way for soil turning.  Only two Big Tops left to uncover as soon as the last flowers are cut in the next week or so.  All empty fields have been mowed close and are ready to have mineral amendments added and then disked in.  In a week or so we should have all the fallow ground tilled, beds raised and cover crops seeded.

It is Liz’s last week before she starts her own fall and winter farm sales.  This last month is always a bit schizophrenic for her as she is busily tending her own crops while working here too.  By the time Friday arrives we will have everything we can finished up to take advantage of her good help, we will miss her presence all winter but she will be back in the spring.  Jennie has been working hard as well on the fall/winter fields and they look great despite the earlier setbacks and the large numbers of worms this fall.

 Picture of the Week

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It is amazing how fast the cool season crops grow, remember this field from 3 weeks ago?

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. 7 #28, 9/22/10

What’s been going on?

So this guy is walking down Summer Blvd. with a set of old directions in his hand. He approaches what should be Fall St. and the directions say he should turn here. He looks left and right and sees, in the short daylight hours, the trees turning color and dropping leaves, it looks like Fall but it could be the drought and even though it is a cool morning the forecast for the days to come are for temperatures still in the 90’s. He is not sure what to do, the directions he has indicate that this should be the turn and way down the street he can make out a sign that says Winter Ave.. A suspicious looking character walks up and whispers that the rumor is that just down Fall St. things really change, you can get all the good stuff-cooler temperatures, shorter days and even…rain!

Welcome to the new first day of Fall, not the way is used to be, we will just have to use our imaginations this year. The forecast is for temperatures in the 70’s on Sunday and Monday with a chance of rain. Being pragmatists we will wait and see. Not much left out in the field and by Friday it will all be gone except for the pepper plants, the turkeys, some vegetables for Thanksgiving and a few rows of flowers for next year. All the Big Tops are uncovered for the winter, almost everything is mowed down, waiting for some moisture so we can disk it in. I ran the last of the irrigation water out of the upper pond to the lower one, just enough to get us to the end. The dock in the upper pond now stands on dry ground. Seems like fall, just doesn’t feel like it.

As you all know by now this is our last week at Saturday Market for the season. Sure we’ll be back on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving for the special holiday market and to pass out the turkeys, and Betsy is threatening to make some guest appearances in December if we still have some produce left but we are turning onto Fall St. and going down it until we get to Winter Ave. Three weeks from tomorrow we will be flying to Italy for the Slow Food Terra Madre conference and after that to Spain to visit markets, eat more great food and search for new peppers to bring home to grow. Between now and when we leave there is still a lot to get done and hopefully I will have time to get another newsletter out but if not look for one when we get back with news of our adventures. As always we cannot thank you all enough for the support you give us and the farm, without you we would not be able to do what we do!

Picture of the Week

The early morning rays on a nearly empty farm

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #26, 9/8/10

What’s been going on?

It is getting crispy and brown again out in the fields, at least where it is not irrigated. A few notable weather statistics from this summer. Because we all had our eyes focused on Earl last week it slipped by most people that both Raleigh and Greensboro set the records for the hottest meteorological summers (June, July, August) ever. RDU by two degrees! Most of these records are broken by a tenth of a degree or two, not whole units! The other record is still in play. Today will be the 80th day over 90, the record is 83 from 2007. We are already seven days ahead of the pace set in 2007, I am sure that one is going down too. I always like to think if we are going to suffer at least we should have a record to show for it.

Two reminders. Tonight is our farm dinner at Elaine’s on Franklin with Bret Jennings. What they are doing is a special pepper infused menu in addition to their regular menu so you can run either way. It looks might tasty to us:

FARM TO FORK W/ PEREGRINE FARM

SEPTEMBER 8TH, 2010

$45 per person

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fried shishito peppers w/ japanese sea salt

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chile relleno w/ local goat cheese, abels black beans, cotija, cilantro & salsa verde

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seed crusted n.c. tuna on olive oil mashed gold potatoes, spinach, cured lemon, fried parsley & sauce romesco

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spicy grilled marinated skirt steak w/ chilaquiles, corn & cactus salsa, cotija cheese & a chile-cerveza sauce

lemon verbena-jalapeno sherbet

Betsy and I will be there for sure, I will go just about anywhere for a good relleno!

The other thing to not forget about is reserving your turkey for the Holidays, as it will slip by faster than one thinks and the orders are rolling in.

No more Wednesday markets for us, just not enough produce to fill out two markets well. We are moving into the full dismantling phase of fall farm chores as well. Only four rows of tomatoes left, the first of the Big Top covers come off today, the little tunnels are getting cleaned up and the all the wood oiled for the winter. By the end of next week the only things left in the field will be the peppers and a few rows of flowers. If it would just rain a bit we could begin to get soil ready for cover crops.

Picture of the Week

The green irrigated peppers, the dry mowed fields, the big poplars turning yellow and dropping leaves

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

8/4/04 Vol. 1 #21

Whew!  We made it to August!  This is when we really begin to think about the end of the season, the coming winters plans and next seasons preparations.  This week marks the three quarter point in our personal marketing season, 21 down, 7 to go.  While the Farmers’ Market goes until Christmas we end our season around the first of October.  This allows us time to prepare and plant for next year and have some quality of life time in the fall.  We used to go all the way to Thanksgiving but beginning five seasons ago we looked hard at the numbers and the effort required to produce those numbers and its effect on us and the next season and decided to call it quits sooner.  It was considered a radical move at the time but now we are very glad that we made the change.  Now we will of course be back for the special pre-Thanksgiving market to distribute the birds and with some just-for-Thanksgiving produce.  In the intervening seven or eight weeks we will have put the farm to bed for the winter, planted most of Betsy’s spring flowers and already done a little traveling!  We wouldn’t have been able to get all of this done under the old system.

No newsletter next week because we will be on our August break.  When we used to go straight thru to Thanksgiving we used to take two weeks off in August to try and rest and regroup for the remainder of the season.  Now that we stop early we just take one week off.  This is timed to coincide with the end of the early tomatoes and before the peppers really get going.  No exotic destinations this time just a little rambling around the area and general lolling around.  The staff gets the week off with pay and we get a week off!

We are looking forward a visit from my brother Jon and family this week.  19 seasons ago Jon came and threw in with us and helped turn the farm towards the course it is on now.  Jon is the one in the family who got the natural “grower” gene from my father, I have had to work at becoming a decent grower all these years, Jon can just go out and grow beautiful crops.  He was here for our first season at the Farmers’ Market (1986) and got us started growing vegetables and cut flowers on the only piece of ground we had left that wasn’t planted to blackberries and raspberries.  Unfortunately for us but fortunately for his wife to be, he moved back to Tennessee the next year.  He will be helping on the farm this Friday and at market on Saturday morning.  Like most Saturdays if you watch our stand closely you can usually spot members of my family behind the table.

Picture of the Week
Summer Crisp lettuce planted under shade cloth to keep it cool.  It should be ready the last week of August.

9/15/04 Vol. 1 #26

I am gulping down the coffee and typing fast as there is a lot to do this morning.  The impending rain has us picking peppers this morning so we don’t have to do it in Ivan’s rain on Friday.  Of course it drizzled all night so it won’t exactly be a dry experience out in the field.  This is what we have been training for all season.  Early in the year when it’s wet and you look at the staff and say we need to go out and get soaked they can look at you in great disbelief, now they are trained professionals and know that it has to happen and now is better than later in a driving rain.  The other reason that I have a lot to do is that I have to get on a plane this afternoon and fly down to Georgia (I know right into the path of the hurricane) to give a full day workshop to a group of farmers tomorrow.  I usually don’t do this type of engagement in the production season but they were extra persuasive.  I have been having a hard time wrapping my head around the subject (whole farm planning) and that combined with the weather forecast I am less than excited about the whole event.  Let’s hope that the forecast is correct and that they don’t close the Atlanta airport tomorrow night before I get on the plane back home.  If I am not at market on Saturday you will know what happened!

We have managed to get something done this week, the dismantling of the farm for the winter is moving along.  If we had one more dry day we would have had cover crops seeded on one and a quarter acres but it will now have to wait until we dry out from Ivan and maybe get them in before Jean.  It is a many step process to get all of the soil ready for the winter and next year.  We first mow off the remnants of the crop (what the turkeys haven’t eaten), next we have to pull up and coil all of the irrigation lines that may be left.  One pass with the tractor and disk to chop up and incorporate the debris so it can begin to decompose.  A second pass if needed to spread any lime, phosphorus, and potassium mineral amendments (based on soil tests that we previously took and sent to the State labs for analysis).  A third pass with the tractor and the chisel plow to loosen the soil deeper.  A fourth pass with the disk again to incorporate those amendments and finish the job of breaking up the soil.  A fifth pass with the tractor and hilling disks to raise up beds so that in the spring when it is cold and wet the soil will dry out fast so that we can till and get crops planted.  Finally we spread the cover crop seeds, some with the tractor but many by walking the rows with a chest mounted spinner so we can place them exactly where we want them.  Oats and crimson clover where the lettuce will go, rye and hairy vetch where the peppers will go, triticale and clover before the early tomatoes and so on.  This is the only time all year we work soil like this and it takes days to do it right and dry weather to make sure we get the soil just the way it needs to be without doing any damage to it’s structure.  We are about half way done.

Picture of the Week
All of the Zinnias and Tomatoes gone, soil almost ready and turkeys living it up in the Asparagus patch

9/22/04 Vol. 1 #27

First day of fall, how great is that news!?  Twenty 28 weeks ago I sent out the first newsletter and it was just before the first day of spring.  Since then we have been on that wild ride the growing season always gives us, most of it is a blur right now but will actually become clearer as the fall rolls on and we can step back and look at it.  What a difference a week makes, last week we were preparing for Ivan and this week is quintessential clear fall weather.  Soil preparations for the winter and next year are going smoothly and we will get most everything seeded down to cover crops before the next rains come early next week.  Because cover crops are the backbone of our soil fertility program I get a very “focused” in getting them in just right.  The perfect time to get them established is now thru the first of November and it is ideal to catch a rain just after seeding them.

Of course there are other things that we need to get done as well.  The first of next years flowers went in the ground yesterday, yes the next season has already begun for us, from now until mid November we will plant a half an acre of flowers for spring harvest.  There are other “putting the farm to bed for the winter” chores beyond the cover crops.  Maintenance on the sliding tunnels, we move any dirt away from the rails, sweep them down and give all the wood parts a coat of linseed oil (it is all untreated wood because we don’t want the arsenic leaching into the soil where we are growing food).  Taking out the rest of the trellising, pulling up the last drip lines and stowing it all away.  The last big job is to move a quarter acre of “Big Tops” to it’s new field.  That should take about a week in total and I want it done before we go to Italy in less than four weeks, yikes!

There is work to do on the house, work to do on the packing shed, the driveways to drag back up the hill after all the rains and people ask “what do you do in the off season?”  Before we know it, it will be March again and time to start back to market!  As Saturday is our last regular market for the season, this is the last weekly newsletter of the year.  I plan to send one out monthly through the winter just to keep you updated on what we are up to, look for one just after we get back from Italy and then one just before the special Tuesday before Thanksgiving market.  If we don’t get a chance to say it to you either this Saturday or before Thanksgiving, we do greatly appreciate your support of what we do here at the farm!

Picture of the Week
The first 3000 flower plants for next year, Sweet William, Delphinium, Campanula and more!

8/17/05 Vol. 2 #23

Betsy says never mention the word vacation to her in August again.  I actually downplay it and call it the August “break” because we never really can just walk away from the place at this time of year.  We still have to do enough work to “keep the lights on” so that there will be something to harvest and sell when we come back.  We still harvest a little (if you don’t cut those flowers they go into decline early) and of course have to water the greenhouse and irrigate and deal with the turkeys and, and, and…  The break concept is important though because we are so worn down after five straight months it helps for the mind and body to heal a bit before heading into the last stretch.  The complication this year was that I strained a muscle so badly in my back that I was out of commission for most of the week and so Betsy had to take care of my “vacation” chores and well as hers.  She says this one is going to cost me jewelry!  But we’re back! and the staff is back, well rested and ready to go.

This is another one of those transitional weeks during the year that signal seasonal change.  We begin pulling out the very first plantings of tomatoes today as they are essentially dead.  No more Early Picks or Orange Blossoms.  Tomorrow we will begin and maybe finish the winter squash harvest.  One normally thinks of these hard squash as being ready more up into the fall months but we have to plant them early so we can avoid their number one enemy, pickle worm, which bore into the fruit and destroy it if we plant them too late.  So they are ready to pick now and we will have them through September.  The “mechanical frost” as Betsy likes to call it rolls in too.  We really begin to mow down many crops that are spent especially flowers that Betsy has stopped cutting because there are newer better looking plantings coming on in another field.  Now our thoughts turn to late fall and cool nights and travel to foreign places.

Picture of the week
New beautiful Zinnias