Peregrine Farm News Vol. 9 #22, 8/29/12 Turkey Reservations

What’s been going on!

Great farm dinners last week, it was good to see many folks we knew at both events and we certainly enjoyed everything we ate.  Many thanks again to the chefs and staffs at both Elaine’s and Panzanella.  The amazing cool August weather continues, sure does make getting things done a lot easier as our momentum has certainly been slowed.

As promised early in the year, this week marks the start of Turkey reservations.  We always wait until Labor Day when we have a better idea of how many birds will actually be available. By the time they get this old they are usually pretty hardy but even now we can lose some to one thing or another.  There will only be about 65 birds available this fall and they are all the larger Broad Breasted Bronzes.  All the information about what kind we have, how much they will be and the order form is now on the Website for easier access.

Look for the order form either at the top of the page or near the bottom under “How do I reserve one of the special birds?”  You can easily download the Word document there.  We will also have the order forms at Market on Saturdays through the end of the month.  I can also tell you that with the “Frequent Flyer” reservations, nearly a quarter of them are already spoken for.  I will continue to update how many are available on the website.  Don’t wait too long.

Standard late summer projects going on. Most of the big tomato planting has been taken out.  We are slowly winning the battle with the grass, maybe this big mowing push will hold us until the end of the season. Soil samples need to be pulled and sent in so we can be ready the end of September for the big annual soil preparation.  Pick pepper, pick peppers, pick peppers.

Picture of the Week

Happy birds in front of Betsy’s giant popping sorghum

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 9 #21, 8/22/12

What’s been going on!

The in-between season when summer isn’t over but the early summer crops are and the first of the fall cool season crops are a month or so away; especially when the frequent rains and heavy morning dew put the disease death blow on the tomatoes, cucumbers, melons and other cucurbit family crops.  Thankfully we have peppers to span the gap.

I had a chef, new to the area, comment the other day about the fact that he was being offered winter squash by local farmers in July.  I explained that if we wait here to plant them so that in theory they are ready in September or later the likelihood of actually harvesting any is very low unless one sprays them regularly with fungicides and insecticides.  The beautiful thing about winter squash is it is a storage crop.

So while we continue to plant and wait on the fall crops the dismantling of the summer crops begins.  The first of the earliest tomatoes have already been taken out and soon the rest will follow along with the trellis and second planting of celosia, mowing to follow.

Don’t forget about our remaining farm dinners this week.  Tomorrow will be a great set of dishes from Bret at Elaine’s on Franklin you can see the special menu here.  Lastly, Saturday, we are going to have a fun dinner at Panzanella in Carrboro where we are co-farmers for their monthly farm dinner along with our friend and graduate of Peregrine Farm, Joann Gallagher of Castlemaine Farm.

Picture of the Week

Some very tired tomatoes

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 9 #20, 8/16/12

What’s been going on!

Summer break?  Sort of, depends on how you view such things.  The important part is that Jennie and Liz had full weeks away and are now back ready to roll fast and rested into the fall.  We managed a few afternoons off and couple of side trips and dinners out but there was just too much to do to completely close the blinds and not look out towards the fields.  Let’s call it the summer reset.

Anyway there are too many good things coming up that we have to be prepared for.  Somehow August has become Peregrine Farm Dinner month.  Three opportunities in the next week and a half to taste our products at three different restaurants and being the start of full blown pepper season all menus will be very pepper centric.  Beginning tonight at Foster’s Market in Chapel Hill we are the featured farm for their monthly farm dinner, the menu looks very southwestern.

Next on Thursday, we will be working with Bret at Elaine’s on Franklin where he will have a series of special dishes using our produce that will be available along with his regular menu.  He makes an awesome chile relleno and you probably will see some shishitos amongst other great dishes.

Lastly, Saturday the 25th, we are going to have a fun dinner at Panzanella in Carrboro where we are co-farmers for their monthly farm dinner along with our friend and graduate of Peregrine Farm, Joann Gallagher of Castlemaine Farm.  This menu will be wider ranging because they have the bounty of both farms to choose from.

We are trying to catch up with things around the farm that did kind of sit for two weeks, especially the mowing as the rains have made the grass out of control, of course both mowers decided to break down simultaneously so that makes it kind of difficult.  Planting for fall, final pepper trellising, the last of the tomato harvests are the main objectives, here we go again.

Picture of the Week

Beautiful Orange Corno di Toro peppers

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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.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 9 #18, 7/19/12

What’s been going on!

Newsletter a day late as yesterday was turkey moving day, planting and on to Farmers’ Market so there was no opportunity to sneak away and write.  The first stage happened Tuesday morning when I was up at 5:45 to catch the eleven guinea hens while they were still a bit sleepy.  They have moved over to Liz’s Bushy Tail Farm where they will grow up and hopefully eat all of her ticks.  When the Barkers are ready Confit and Fricassee (or is it Grits and Gumbo?) will move on over to their house to live out their guinea fowl lives.

Yesterday morning I was out just after 6:00 (this damn heat!) getting ready for the move of the remaining 70 birds.  Turkeys are always a bit daffy when exposed to new things and so I wanted them to have 24 hours to get used to not having the guinea hens around before yet another new experience of moving to a new field.  By the time Jennie and Liz arrived at 8:00 I had the electric fences up, waterers and feeder moved; everything ready for the long walk.

Like last year I thought it would be less stressful to walk them the 200 feet down to their next location instead of catching each one, putting them in the truck, driving them down and then grabbing them again and setting them out.  I have to say that this group is not as cohesive and sharp as last years but it still seemed the best option.  30 minutes and a lot of patience we coaxed them past the gravel drive (they are easily distracted by bright objects) and the sliding tunnels to some nice green grass and the shade of some bushes.

Usually when turkeys move into a new lush area they make the “happy turkey” sound, heads down searching out new bugs and tender greenery to eat.  This outfit stood in the corner of the fence calling out and staring back towards the brooder.  Eventually they finally settled down and the heat drove them under the bushes and close to the waterers.  Finally late in the day they began to explore their new larger accommodations, another successful move.

Picture of the Week

6 feet per minute, through the scary narrow gate

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 9 #17, 7/11/12

What’s been going on!

A glorious, cool, cloudy, rainy morning!  Still not a lot of rain yet (1.2 inches over the last two days plus an inch last Friday) but what we have gotten has been steady and slow, almost no runoff, just a good soaking.  We have been so dry that even with last Fridays and Mondays contributions we were able to till soil yesterday and seed more flowers and another round of summer cover crops.  We now hope that the rains forecast for the rest of the week will actually come and bring those seeds up.  I would love to see another two inches!

A beautiful gray day, old Zinnias turned under and seeded to a cover crop

We are all in full blown tomato mania.  While we have passed the peak of our harvest most everyone is getting ready for theirs.  Last Sundays tomato cooking class at A Southern Season was a full house, went really well, and folks went away with a new enthusiasm for a spectrum of tomato possibilities.  For the last several weeks we have been supplying tomatoes to every outlet possible.  For the next week or so you can find ours at both the Carrboro and Southern Village Weaver Street Markets; on the menus at Elaine’s on Franklin, Pazzo, IL Palio and GlassHalfull in Chapel Hill/Carrboro and at Nanas and Watts Grocery in Durham.  You can find links to all of the above here.  The Carrboro Farmers’ Market’s Tomato Day is this Saturday (more info below).

Of course we are all breathing a sigh of relief to be past the record setting heat wave of the last two weeks which culminated in the all-time record of six 100 degree days in a row at RDU.  There will be very few tomatoes at market the third and fourth weeks of August due to no fruit set these last two weeks.  When day temperatures exceed 85°F and night temperatures exceed 72°F, tomato flowers will abort.  July is definitely all about tomatoes, don’t miss enjoying them as much as you can.

The packing shed bulging with tomatoes

What’s going to be at the market?

The Carrboro Farmers’ Markets annual Tomato Day is this Saturday and we have expanded it to the entire town with restaurants and other businesses participating with specials.  Over 70 varieties to try and other samplings including tomato juice from us.

Tomatoes are still in full swing with good supply.   In reds we have an abundance of full flavored Big Beefs.  The flood of Cherokee Purples is here along with its cousins the Cherokee Green and a few Cherokee Chocolates.  A small supply of pink, low acid German Johnson.  Plenty of the fruity bi-color Striped Germans.  In orange/yellows there are Orange Blossoms and the beautiful Kellogg’s Breakfast.  In cherry types we have a better supply of Sungolds and the mixed Sungold cousins Sun Lemon (orange), Sun Peach (pink) and Sun Chocula (I did not make these names up) and the bi-colored elongated Blush.  The best supply we have ever had of the Italian Oxheart sauce tomatoes and beautiful Romas, if you want to make sauce, now’s the time.

The peppers are starting with Shishitos and Padrons for appetizers and a few Serranos and Jalapenos.  Sweet Red Onions and Basil to go with tomatoes!  Flat Leaf Italian Parsley.

Betsy and the flower department are still producing an amazing amount of beautiful stems.  The Crested Celosia wave is beginning to roll.  More long lasting Lisianthus, queen of cut flowers, mostly in purple with some pink and white.  The second cutting of Delphinium has started.  Lots of fragrant Oriental lilies in pink and white.  The Zinnia flood rolls on with the Sunflowers.  The airy and elegant Trachelium.  Annabelle Hydrangeas for drying.  Beautiful Bouquets!

As a reminder if there is anything that you would like for us to hold for you at market just let us know by e-mail, by the evening before, and we will be glad to put it aside for you.

Hope to see you all at the market!

Alex and Betsy

If you know folks who you think would be interested in news of the farm then please feel free to forward this to them and encourage them to sign up at the website.

Peregrine Farm News vol. 9 #16, 7/5/12

What’s been going on!

Hope you all had and good July 4th and are managing the heat well.  We spent the day with some early work before the heat set in (Betsy had to cut some flowers and I had to irrigate and attend to the turkeys) and then we hid out in the AC catching up on paperwork, reading and eating.  It is the peak of our tomato season and so there are lots of not-good-enough-for-public-consumption fruits crowding our kitchen counter.  Yesterday we made our first big batch of salsa for the season now that we also have serranos and red onions.  Betsy is headed towards making tomato juice and for dinner we took a cue from Ben Barker and grilled some fish then laid it on top of slices of what may be the biggest Striped German bi-colored tomato of the season (slices at least 6” across) and then topped it with some salsa fresca.  Do we have to go back to work today?

Speaking of tomatoes, if you haven’t already registered, our annual tomato class at A Southern Season is this Sunday.  In tandem with Craig LeHoullier who is the heirloom tomato guru who introduced Cherokee Purple, Chocolate and Green to the world, amongst others.  We talk tomatoes while Marilyn Markel cooks up a great three course meal using our tomatoes, wine included!  Not a bad way to spend another 100 degree afternoon.

The turkeys are three weeks old and it was time to let them outside.  The brooder building was designed for about 65 birds and having 83 in there, in this hot weather, makes it a bit tight.  As usual we pulled one of their field shelters in front of the brooder and connected the two together with sections of chicken wire.  To give them extra shade I also strung an old tarp across the gap.  Down came the front opening/gang plank and they were more than happy to get out and stretch their legs and wings.

With them out in the open we finally got a chance to get a count how many guinea hens we were sent by mistake and the number is eleven.  It turns out that the Barkers want a couple of them for pets and tick control over at their place.  We told them that was fine but we first had to choose the right pair and give them appropriate names.

These are the Guinea Hens Confit and Fricasee next to one of the turkeys

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 9 #15, 6/27/12

What’s been going on!

Newsletter a day late, had an unexpected visitor yesterday morning that ended up taking up the whole morning.  Here is where I was when I was interrupted:

Wow!  A look at the forecast brings a great shake of the head in disbelief that such hideous weather could possibly follow a day as succulent as yesterday and a morning as bright and clear as this one.  Possibly five days of 100 plus degree temperatures with higher humidity, really??  This is certainly a stretch of temperatures to brace oneself for, plan the days carefully and for early exits from the field.  We must also irrigate early in the mornings to get the most from the tiny amounts of water that the drip irrigation lines deliver to the base of the plants while getting the field chores done.

The turkeys are now two weeks old and growing fast.  The extra eight or nine “runts” that came with the order are now clearly looking like a different bird.  In years past, with other hatcheries, we have had roosters chicks added in to make sure that there were enough birds in the box to keep them from being jostled around too much during their trip with the USPS.  I called our hatchery and asked if they had done such a thing and they said they never did that but if a mistake had happened they might be guinea hens or pheasants.  After a quick Google search for two week old guinea hens and I am suspicious that is what we have.  If so, it is not so bad in that Liz, who works for us, wants some guineas for her farm to eat the ticks.  We’ll know better what they are in another week or two.

An important note for the coming July 4th week.  Because the 4th is on Wednesday the market will be held on Tuesday instead.  That will allow you to get all of your holiday meal and picnic needs in advance and just in time.  Until then, stay cool!

Picture of the Week

A brilliant, cool and low humidity afternoon

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 9 #14, 6/20/12

What’s been going on!

The summer solstice, longest day of the year, last day of spring, summer starts at 7:09 p.m., the heat started yesterday, had to happen sooner or later.  Tomorrow Betsy can start her annual chant “Now that the days are getting shorter, frost is just around the corner!”.  It has been a marvelous late spring with nights in the 50’s and low humidity but it will all soon be a dim memory as we head into the tunnel of summer heat and humidity.

Some good things come out of the right amount of summer heat.  Tomatoes that taste better than just about anywhere else in the country for example.  Without sun and warmth, the plants just don’t make enough sugars and other flavor components.  This is why greenhouse tomatoes or ones grown in the northern tier of the country, no matter what variety or how well tended, can never really have great flavor.

There is a balance though.  With too much heat and humidity, the plants stop setting fruit, there is more trouble with sun burned fruit (sunscald in the vernacular), hollow walls and blossom end rot when the plants just can’t move enough water up through the plant fast enough.  This is why our farmer friends in the most southern tier states have tomatoes in June and maybe early July and then pack it in for the season until it cools back down.

Fortunately we are entering tomato season at just the right time, plenty of fruit hanging on the vines waiting for the heat to finish the process.  We pick more each harvest day and soon the table will be overflowing with all of the colors, shapes and sizes.  Here’s to summer!

Picture of the Week

Tomatoes in the cool of the early morning, waiting for the heat to flavor them up

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 9 #12, 6/6/12

What’s been going on!

Beautiful gentle rain this morning, just what we needed both for the flower crops we just seeded but for everything else as well.  With the relatively cool temperatures we have not had to irrigate much but we were getting to the point of having to get into a regular watering schedule.  I decided to pump some more water into the upper pond while the irrigation demands were low and the creek was still running well.  Should have looked at the creek first but didn’t.  After 24 hours of pumping the lower pond almost empty I went down to turn off the pump and the gravity feed line that keeps the pond full from the creek was barely trickling after having run strongly for weeks, Hmmm?  Using the irrigation pump I push water back up the gravity feed line, towards the creek to flush it out and to refill it to get a strong flow going again.  This entails walking the 900’ up to the creek end to make sure the intake is clear where I find the creek is barely flowing!  I am really surprised to see this as we have had OK rains and it has not been really hot so the trees should not be pulling as much water out of the ground but alas the ground water must still be really low so the springs are still not flowing much.  This rain will help give us time to get the lower pond refilled before it does get hot next week.

More general chores this week in anticipation of real tomato harvest.  The big project has been to get all of the red onions out of the ground and into the greenhouse to cure.  The staff got the last of them pulled yesterday, just in time.  Not as big a crop as last year but still enough to have until at least August.  We never grew storage onions in the early years because they are so cheap and abundant at the grocery store but some years ago I was at a conference in Arkansas where I heard an onion breeder talk about how red onions are much healthier due to higher levels of anti-oxidants than white or yellow onions and he was breeding red onions to have even higher levels but remain sweet (the anti-oxidants are also associated with “hot” onions).

So our red onion growing experiments began.  The problem here in North Carolina is we are in between the good onion growing regions.  Up North they have long days and lots of onions bred for that, more South they have short days and onions bred for those conditions.   We have what they call intermediate day length and there are only a few varieties of red onions we can choose from but fortunately we have found a couple of good ones.  In any case they are just in time for summer salads and salsas with the impending tomatoes and peppers!

Picture of the Week

Brilliant Zinnias even on a rainy day

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