Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #9, 5/1/15

What’s been going on!

I keep trying to get the newsletter out on Wednesday but is has been a busy, busy week and still a bit hung over from the Farm Tour.  The Farm Tour weekend is always long and the wet weather, especially on Saturday, made it even more tiring.  It was good to see all the people interested in what is happening on small farms and we hope that it was an informative visit to Peregrine Farm.

Between rainy periods we got the last of the Big Tops covered, it is the final big spring hurdle that always takes just the right combination of people and weather conditions to get it done smoothly.  Now Betsy’s most tender flowers will be protected from excess rain as they begin to bloom.  One more big spring chore to do, pepper planting, but that one can be stretched out over a few days and multiple sections to the work.

It also dried out just enough to turn under the beautiful crimson clover and oat cover crop that will feed the winter squash.  The last few years we have gone back to clean cultivated winter squash production instead of the no-till system we had used for many years, mostly in an effort to reduce some weed populations that had become too high.  This now allows us to use crimson clover as the nitrogen source for the squash as it matures earlier than the hairy vetch that we use in the no-till mix and should provide plenty of nitrogen to grow a good crop.

Picture of the Week

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A beautiful spring day and crimson clover cover crop

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #8, 4/23/15

What’s been going on!

Earth Day yesterday.  For us, every day is Earth Day, we have spent most of our lives working to make our environment better, to manage the small piece of the earth that we are the caretakers for in a way that will make it as good or better when we pass it on and to educate others on how to do what we do.  Thinking globally, acting locally.

Betsy and I were 13 when the first Earth Day happened, an impressionable age for sure but we both had grown up running wild in the outdoors that surrounded our homes.  We played in the creeks, walked the hills, examined the frogs and flowers and trees and we could feel the changes being wrought on the natural world.  It is a large part of why we became farmers, to live and work outside but in an intentional way.

The first Earth Day was 45 years ago.  20 years ago Betsy had an idea that people would better understand what we do as sustainable farmers if they could come to the farm and see for themselves.  Teaming with Weaver Street Market for their Earth Day celebrations and CFSA as a fundraiser for their work the Piedmont Farm Tour was born.

The Farm Tour is this weekend and we are back on after a three year hiatus to help mark that 20th year.  Saturday and Sunday afternoons 2:00-6:00, rain or shine (looks a bit damp for Saturday).  If you have never been on the tour, it is a self-guided tour that includes 40 farms (no, you will not be able to see them all) for only $30 per car.  Stuff as many folks as you want into one vehicle and come on out.

Picture of the Week

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The magnificent Viburnum Macrocephalum at their peak for the Farm Tour

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 8 #5, 4/20/11

What’s been going on?

Interesting Farm Tour this year. Saturday was a bit odd and at times tense with the storms moving through. We were very fortunate to just receive a very intense down pour with just a little bit of wind following it. We feel for all of those folks east of here that received the brunt of the storms, clean up is always hell. To be expected our Saturday crowd was small but dedicated, the Sunday visitors made up for it with gusto. Great folks both days but the Sunday tourees were reveling in the beautiful day and we had great discussions on all topics related to sustainable agriculture and farm life.

Busy weeks now. Today is tomato planting day and our first Wednesday market. I have spent the last part of the morning drawing up the map of where the nearly 1000 plants will go. “Only” fifteen varieties this year but the field that they are in, along with the edge effect of the Big Tops (more water on the side beds than the middle ones) dictates careful placement. Some can take extra water, like the Romas and Big Beefs. Some have to be protected in the middle like the Sun Golds and Striped Germans. The varieties that are new or we don’t grow a lot of need to be on the end we pick from so we can keep a close eye on them. Which ones will do best in the bit of heavy soil on the far corner? It is never perfect but the die has been cast.

Earth Day on Friday and today is the one year anniversary of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, kind of polar opposites. We think often of the impact of that spill on such a important and vibrant ecosystem and what the unknown long term effects will be on the area and it’s residents. It will be easy to lose track of that disaster as it leaves the news but I think we will be reminded at least each year on it’s anniversary which maybe will make Earth Day seem even more relevant as time goes on. Makes us even more committed to doing the best job we can with this piece of land that we are the temporary stewards of. OK, off to plant tomatoes.

Picture of the Week

Tomato transplants marching to the horizon

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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

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #8, 4/29/10

What’s been going on?

For some reason the Farm Tour wore us out more than usual, maybe it was because the weather was so nice instead of the record highs of last year. Great to see everyone here at the farm, both new and old faces, they are still crunching the numbers but it looks like it will be near the record number of visitors of last year for the whole tour. We had a few dignitaries and some distant travelers too including two groups from Maryland, one each from Tennessee, Virginia and South Carolina. Welcome to those of you newly signed up to the newsletter.

A very nice four tenths of an inch of rain on Saturday night was the perfect gentle rain to make everything happy. Monday was one of those milestone days that happen every season, one of those days that marks the end of the somewhat more casual early spring and heralds the coming of late spring and summer. The guys occupied their whole day in the tomato field. First they had to build the eleven hundred feet of trellis for the plants to grow on. 99 six foot metal T-posts later and wire fencing hung they began to slip the eighteen different varieties into the beautifully prepared soil. Yesterday I finished the last three rows, all happy and watered in. More variety information to come but there are several new things we are trying this year including new paste, cherry and green-when-ripe tomatoes. Can’t wait!

The other milestone passed for the season was the first delivery of lettuce to Weaver Street Market. For 19 years now we have supplied all the spring lettuce to Weaver Street Market in Carrboro. That is one marker, the other for the season it that now every Monday and Thursday through August we will be delivering either vegetables or flowers to them. Add that to now twice weekly Farmers’ Markets and the season is in full swing, no turning back. Today, on one of the last cool mornings and with a nod to the passing of spring, we are going to finish up the splitting and hauling of the firewood for next winter. A little past official Chainsaw season but at least it will be done.

Picture of the Week

The first rays of sun on a beautiful spring day

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Peregrine Farm News Vol 7 #7, 4/21/10

What’s been going on?

Wow! Too many things to write about this week but I’ll try and focus. I would be remiss though not to mark tomorrows 40th anniversary of Earth Day. While there are many reasons that Betsy and I ended up farming and in a sustainable manner, this one event in April of 1970 certainly stands out as an important influence. We were thirteen then and the stirrings of the environmental movement were all around us and our minds were moldable. Of course we didn’t know each other back then but we both ended up pursuing educations in the environmental sciences. We wanted to be able to work outdoors, in the country side and in the end leave our surroundings in better condition than when we started. 40 years later we are still trying, where is that original Earth Day button I had?

The Piedmont Farm Tour is this weekend and is always held on the weekend closest to Earth Day. Originally started as a change of events for Weaver Street Market’s Earth Day celebration, they came to us and we got together with Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) to put on a tour to showcase the farmers at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. Now 15 years later there are 40 farms from all over the NW Triangle area and it is the single largest fundraising event CFSA has. It is a self guiding tour, pick up a map at lots of locations (like the farmers markets) and head to the first farm you want to see and buy your all access button there. You can buy your buttons in advance and save $5 at places like Weaver St. Market. Saturday and Sunday afternoons, 1:00-5:00, come see what we are up to this year. Let the mowing begin.

Busy week on the farm. Last Thursday the first of the turkeys arrived. After a year hiatus raising birds we are back at it and you can read more here. They are happy and growing well. We are lurching towards tomato planting next week and yesterday pulled the plastic over the first three bays of the Big Tops that will protect the big planting from diseases. The rest of this week will include installing the irrigation, mulch and trellises. Today the guys are moving up the 2500 or so pepper seedlings into their larger containers to grow on until planting time in about three weeks. Also yesterday I finally finished the rebuilding of the Stand that collapsed under the snow in January, just in time for the Farm Tour as promised. The big issue right now is it would be nice to get some real rain, this pitiful spitting this morning doesn’t count.

Picture of the Week

Moving pepper plants up to larger containers, a good rainy day activity

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4/28/04 Vol. 1 #7

New delivery day for the newsletter in an attempt to reduce the workload on Fridays and to give everyone a little more heads up on what’s going on at the markets.  We raced around and got a number of things planted before Mondays rains (not as much as we would have liked, only a quarter of and inch).  The last of the spring lettuce, more sunflowers (we plant sunflowers every week for a continuous supply), tuberoses and more.  We are at that point in the season where we are out of room in the fields and need for something to finish up so we can plant more!  This week we have two deadlines rapidly approaching that we are rushing to meet.  The first is the building of a new brooder house for the turkeys which are arriving next Thursday.  Last year being a test year we just threw together a small room behind the greenhouse to raise them for the first 6 weeks until they were big enough to go out into the field.  It was adequate for 20 birds but not great.  We have 60 birds coming next week and no place to put the little guys hence the urgency!  Started building a 8′ X 12′ shed yesterday, got the floor and half the walls up tick, tick, tick…

If we had nothing else to do this would be OK but Saturday and Sunday is the Farm Tour!  Our annual opening of the doors to the general public to come see the farm.  Many of you have been on the Farm Tour before and it is a great opportunity to see many of the folks who sell and the Carrboro Market.  Few folks know that the tour was actually Betsy’s brainchild.  Ten years ago she thought it would be great for customers to be able to go see the market vendors farms.  In the end Weaver Street Market sponsored the Tour as a benefit for Carolina Farm Stewardship Association.  Betsy designed the first tour and worked closely with Weaver Street and CFSA on timelines, etc.  Now in it’s ninth year thousands of people go on the tour and it raises thousands of dollars for the work CFSA does.  It is easy to go on the tour.  Just pick up a map at market or Weaver St. or many other local businesses and go to first farm that you want.  The best deal is to buy a button which will be your pass for as many people as you can stuff into one vehicle, for as many farms as you want.  29 farms this year so you will have to choose, it is hard to do more than 3 maybe 4 farms in a day.  In the mean time we will be mowing and picking up around the place, nothing like have hundreds of house guests all at once to make you buff up the joint!

Picture of the Week
Look at all of that lettuce!  Those are the “Big Tops” in the background

5/5/04 Vol. 1 #8

Happy Cinco de Mayo, too bad there aren’t any peppers to celebrate with!  Crazy week this one, way too much going on.  We barely missed the bullet last Wednesday morning as I last wrote.  I went out to find a heavy frost, the place was white!  All looked good and the tomatoes under the “Big Tops”, that we didn’t cover, looked unfazed; that would pay for those structures alone!  Whew!  It was great to see everyone out on the Farm Tour, a little damp but still a great turn out.  I may be getting old but it is a long weekend for us, especially Saturday following market, but we love to show folks were it all comes from and how we do it.  Lots of rain, 2.6 inches through Monday and things are good and wet now.  The new Poultry Villa is complete and ready for the 60 Heritage turkeys that are due tomorrow morning, it took some focused work to get there, hard to do when we have so many things going on.  Lots of folks have asked about ordering turkeys for Thanksgiving.  I will send out more info as we get a little closer to fall, don’t want to count those turkeys until they are hatched!  We are supposed to be planting peppers this week, one of the last Herculean tasks of the spring, I am thinking that due to the wet soil and hectic schedule that we will wait until early next week, I know, I know don’t worry the pepper roaster will make its debut on schedule.

Tomorrow is the launch of the first really new market in the family of markets that the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Farmers’ Markets operates in maybe 20 years.  While we have moved the original midweek market around town several times we have never operated more than two markets.  This new Thursday afternoon market (3:30-6:30) in Southern Village will be an great new addition.  It is being held on the green across from the Lumina theater where they show the outdoor movies in the summer.  The folks who run Southern Village have been great to work with and are excited to have us there.  Betsy and I are going to attempt to sell there as well, it will be a stretch as we have honed our production to meet our current market demand.  We plan to have most of the vegetables and a large flower selection.  Betsy even plans on being there to sell!

Picture of the Week
Green Boston Lettuce, this is the peak of the season

4/20/05 Vol. 2 #7

I can feel the tsunami rolling towards the farm, just over the hill now!  There is always a week about this time of year when the honeymoon is over and we are in the middle of it.  It is a combination of getting ready to plant the big batch of tomatoes and the weather finally warming up enough so that things really start to grow and need attention like irrigation water.  Let’s just add the Farm Tour on top of  the pile while we are at it!  Saturday and Sunday is the Farm Tour.  Our annual opening of the doors to the general public to come see the farm.  Many of you have been on the Farm Tour before and it is a great opportunity to see many of the folks who sell and the Carrboro Market.  Few folks know that the tour was actually Betsy’s brainchild.  Eleven years ago she thought it would be great for customers to be able to go see the market vendors’ farms.  In the end Weaver Street Market sponsored the Tour as a benefit for Carolina Farm Stewardship Association.  Betsy designed the first tour and worked closely with Weaver Street and CFSA on timelines, etc.  Now in it’s tenth year thousands of people go on the tour and it raises thousands of dollars for the work CFSA does.  It is easy to go on the tour.  Just pick up a map at market or Weaver St. or many other local businesses and go to first farm that you want.  The best deal is to buy a button which will be your pass for as many people as you can stuff into one vehicle, for as many farms as you want.  30 farms this year so you will have to choose, it is hard to do more than 3 maybe 4 farms in a day.  In the mean time we will be mowing and picking up around the place, nothing like have hundreds of house guests all at once to make you buff up the joint!  Unfortunately the weather looks a bit mixed for the weekend, Saturday has a front moving in with a chance of rain and then the temperatures dropping with the wind picking up for a brisk Sunday.  Come on out anyway!

We have been moving steadily towards getting the main planting of tomatoes in the ground, got the Big Tops covered, beds prepared, irrigation lines down, row cover laid and today will begin to put up the 1000 feet of trellis to support them all.  It is a lot of work but these luscious fruits are about 15 percent of our business each year so we make sure that it is done right.  While everyone seems to remember us for our peppers (I think it is the hypnotic effect of the roaster in the fall) the tomatoes are a much bigger part of our life.  We have decided to put off the actual planting until early next week due to the weather forecast.  It is critical that they go in the ground and start growing vigorously without any stresses early on, it means much better plants and fruit later.  We had a good frost here on Sunday morning and had a couple of plants in the little tunnels burned a bit so we just want to be careful.  I started the irrigation dance yesterday by getting the pump back down to the pond and pumping water.  Flushed out all of the main lines running up the hill and all across the farm and then the rest of the week we will begin rolling out the irrigation lines, thousands of feet.

Picture of the Week
Just about the whole top of the farm, new flowers in the front, the little sliding tunnels on the left, lettuce in the middle and the Big Tops in the back, come and see it all on the tour.

4/27/05 Vol. 2 #8

We are still recovering from the Farm Tour.  We love having folks out to show them what we are up to but Saturday sure does become a long day with Market, then the Tour and then after Tour chores like picking asparagus and dutch iris.  Thank you to everyone who came out especially with such mixed and breezy weather, we feel it is important for the”city folks and the country folks” to get together (isn’t there a song in the musical Oklahoma like this?).  Part of the sustainability equation of environmental-economic-social is that our neighbors and customers are accepting of and in many ways a part of what we do on the farm.  We wouldn’t be successful without your support!

One of the questions we heard a lot over the weekend was why don’t you heat the greenhouses/tunnels?  It is partly for the same reason that we don’t use black plastic for mulch, make as few trips over the field with the tractor as possible, drive efficient vehicles, use a passive solar greenhouse for transplants, use drip irrigation and reuse those drip lines as long as possible….  I guess it all started with the oil embargoes of the 70’s when we realized that this oil thing was a limited resource.  From the beginning of the farm we have tried to use ways of producing crops (and living) that use the least amount of petroleum products as possible.  We knew that eventually the availability and price of oil would become a limiting factor in farming systems and we wanted to not be as dependant on it when that time came.  Sure there is still a lot of plastic on the farm, more that we like but much less than most commercial farms, unfortunately we have to use some of it to be competitive at this time.  There are still more things that we can do.  Hopefully greenhouse films will soon be made from something like corn starch, we can change the tractor over to bio-diesel, maybe we can run the irrigation pump off of solar panels.

It appears as if we missed the bullet again with the cold weather.  It was 30 degrees here on Monday morning without frost but everything we had covered made it through just fine and the asparagus didn’t get frozen!  Today the big round of tomatoes finally goes in the ground, it has taken some time to get ready for planting but we finished it all up yesterday.  We need to get them in because next week is pepper week and it is an even bigger job than tomatoes!  The first round of tomatoes in the sliding tunnels look great and they got pruned and tied up for the first time with lots of quarter sized fruit on them!  Only 5 weeks until we eat the first one!  We of course planted yet more flowers, the last of the spring vegetables and for the first time in a long time, sweet corn.  We haven’t had the room for corn until this year and so I thought let’s see if we can grow a really good sweet corn.  After much research I settled on both a white and a bicolor both with “excellent flavor, sweetness, and eating qualities”.  Now we will see if they actually perform well, you will know if they make it to market!

Picture of the Week
The tomato system- cover crops for good soil and good insects, drip irrigation, reusable fabric mulch, trellis fences and the Big Tops to keep them dry and reduce the dreaded foliage disease.