Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #35, 11/15/18 Thanksgiving

What’s been going on!

Holy crap!  Enough with the rain already, we are over 5 inches for this week.  Of course the Haw River backed up into the bottom for the third or fourth time this year, so many I have lost count!  Starting tomorrow it looks to be dry for at least ten days but with below normal temperatures.  We will take that because we have two markets coming up and lots to do.

Best food week of the year in front of us and despite the weather we still have a fair amount of delicious produce for the holiday tables.  Not only will we be at Saturday market as always with a full table but don’t forget the Tuesday Thanksgiving market from 3:00-5:00!  The weather looks great for both days.

The last Farm to Fork event of the year is coming up on Dec. 6th and it will be just outside of Chapel Hill at Lavender Oaks Farm.  This is part of our Sustainable Speaker series and we are really pleased that this year it is our friend John T. Edge the Director of the Southern Foodways Alliance.  The ticket includes dinner from eight different chefs and will be a really tasty and inspiring evening, get your tickets while you can.

Picture of the Week

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 This is the creek just below our house and it has already gone down 3 feet!

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #19, 6/22/17

What’s been going on!

The second day of summer with a high in the low 80’s just doesn’t seem right but as Betsy is always fond of pointing out, the days now begin to get shorter and frost is not too far away!  Of course this sentiment carries more enjoyment after we have had weeks of increasingly hot weather.

So while we did not get the crazy storms here at the farm that the rest of the area received over the weekend and on Tuesday but all that water did run down the river to us.  Once again the creek backed up onto our bottom field and over the winter squash patch, immature spaghetti squash bobbing on the water, tethered by their vines.  The crest this time was just slightly higher than the April event at 23.8 feet.

The amazing thing, at least this morning 24 hours after the water receded, is the plants look vibrant and green and healthy.  You never can tell and full sun and some heat may show us some different signs but for now looks like there might be winter squash for this winter.

Picture of the Week

P1030494 Look close you can see the pale yellow spaghetti squash floating

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #11, 4/28/17

What’s been going on!

River up river down.  Another big rain event in the books.  Seems like so many over the years that it is hard to keep track anymore.  When we cleared the bottom field in the early 80’s it was in the middle of an historic drought and we never thought about it flooding.  In April 1987, right after we had the bulldozer in to take the stumps out, came one of the highest crests of the river ever recorded at 27 feet.  At the time we did not realize how high it really was.

We always watch the river gauge at Haw River, about 18 miles upstream from the farm, to get a feel for how high the water might back the half mile up our creek and into the field and possibly over the irrigation pump.  Flood stage in Haw River is 18 feet, if it gets to 20 we start paying attention, if it gets to 22 we probably will need to pull the irrigation pump out.  Tuesday it got to 23.4, the 15th highest since records began in 1929.  The pump came up the hill at 7:00 a.m.

After that first big flood in 1987 we then had a few more years of dry conditions and no high water.  In early 90’s that all changed and we had water up into the fields every year from 1991 until 1998 but mostly in very early spring before much was planted, it worried us but we always managed to have good summer crops.  That all changed in June 1995 when the remnants of a tropical storm sent the Haw to its 3rd highest ever over 28 feet.  It took our entire tomato crop.  The next year was Hurricane Fran at the highest ever recorded at nearly 33 feet!  In the 36 years we have been here there have been at least 13 times the river has backed up on us.

After that we stopped growing our major crops in the bottom and moved them all 60 feet higher, up on the hill, even though the most fertile soil we have is down there.  This week’s flood is a fairly minor one in our books and we will still be able to plant the winter squash down there in a week or so.

Pictures of the Week

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Tuesday evening high point, the pump would have been under 2 feet of water

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Hurricane Fran, 1996, the 500 year flood level

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #29, 10/15/15

What’s been going on!

No newsletter last week partly because we were working hard to catch up after all the rains and partly because I was undone at the prospect of a third Saturday in a row with rain.  We did have folks worried that maybe we had been flooded and that is why we didn’t send one out.

We did narrowly miss having the bottom field flood.  Saturday we were closely watching the river gauge at Haw River and when it crested at 22 feet we knew that we were in the twilight zone.  Above that level we will have water up into the crops for sure but at this level it all depends on how high the feeder creeks to the Haw River are and how much rain fell west of the Haw.  We are about 18 river miles from Haw River and it usually will crest down here about twelve hours after it peaks at the gauge.

Our bottom field is not right on the Haw River but about 2500 feet up our side creek and about 10-15 feet higher depending on how you measure it.  We know from previous floods what it takes to really hit us hard.  Of course the “bad one” was hurricane Fran with the 500 year flood level and we had water up to ten feet deep in the bottom.

At 7:00 p.m. when the river peaked in Haw River the water had already risen to about two feet lower than the irrigation pump so we went ahead and pulled it out assuming the real crest was still 12 hours away.  The next morning when we went down to see how high the water was it had already gone back down, problems averted this time around!

The saddest part of the last two weeks is that our great summer staff person, Lacey, has gone off to her winter pursuits and will not be coming back next year as she follows her dream of being in the circus (really).  She kept all of us on our toes and laughing.  Now we will have to find someone excellent to fill her shoes.

Picture of the Week

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The creek is just on the other side of those trees and the water level about 3 feet below those crops.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #22, 7/3/13

What’s been going on!

40 days and 40 nights, well not quite but over 9 inches of rain for us in June and another couple in the first days of July.  I know lots of folks have had more and certainly the historic rain (5 inches) and flash flood in Chapel Hill and Carrboro on Sunday are much worse than anything we have seen here at the farm this month, we understand the difficulty of post flood clean up.  We did have 15 plus inches in a month back in the late 90’s, seemed like it only rained on us, every day.  Our only real flash flood was after a dumping of more than 10 inches in just a few hours on a June day, the creek jumped its banks and ran down the side of the bottom field in white caps, carrying top soil and crops with it.  Seemed like it rained more back then, at least until this year.

The real danger with this kind of weather is not the amount of water but the constant wetness.  Most crops just aren’t happy with water logged soils and the diseases are happy in the petri dish like environment of hot and humid.  Sunlight is a great sanitizer.  So far most of our crops look good but we do badly need to get in and do more trellising in the peppers as they are getting really top heavy but working in wet plants is a sure recipe for spreading disease up and down the row so for now we wait, maybe Friday.

So what do farmers do when it is too wet to get into the fields?  Start more plants!  It is the time of year that we are all beginning to seed, in the greenhouse, all the fall and early winter crops.  Celery, Brussels sprouts and leeks are already up and looking good.  Yesterday was time for Kale, lettuce, fennel, cauliflower, dianthus, Rudbeckia and more.   If you can’t farm outside, go inside and play with plants instead.

Picture of the Week

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Tall, tall peppers and we really need to mow those paths too!

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #14, 5/8/13

What’s been going on!

So I was talking to a dairy farmer the other day and he was asking if we have had too much rain because he couldn’t get a number of chores done until it dried out some.  I said not too much yet but we sure could use some sun.  It has been a long time since we have had a really wet spring, the kind where you have water standing in the fields and you wait for weeks to get anything done.

Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s we had a number of years when it rained like hell, particularly in early spring, and we many times wondered if we were ever going to get anything planted or weeded.  This is when we developed our system of raising our beds up the fall before so they would drain and warm up fast come spring and heavy rains.  We even had a number of floods in our creek bottom field that finally made us stop using those fields (even though it is the best soil on the farm) in the regular rotation because we couldn’t afford to lose crops, then after Hurricane Fran in 1996 the tap turned off.

We can’t remember a flood in the bottom since Fran and have slowly begun using that field on a more regular basis but still not for our major crops: lettuce, peppers and tomatoes.  They are way up on the hill, safe from high water but certainly not immune to multiple other kinds of plagues that could hit them.  As I always point out to new farmers, bad things will happen but you can learn a lot from those situations.

One of our graduates, who is now farming a beautiful farm on the banks of the Cane river north of Asheville, had a huge flood this week which carried off not only much of what he had planted for this spring but a lot of his topsoil as well, replacing it with river rocks.  He will lose the use of that area for some time to come but is planning on picking up all the rocks he can to start the process.  The reason that creek bottom fields have rich soil is the same reason they flood, sometimes there is too much water and the stream deposits it there.  So the answer to the dairy farmer is no we haven’t hand too much rain here but lots of other folks have, wish we could go help pick rocks.  Come on sun!

Picture of the Week

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A June flood in 1993 which took our whole tomato crop

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