Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #13, 6/3/15

What’s been going on!

A gray and drizzly Wednesday, unusual for June but that does not stop the preparations for market or the blueberry pickers from filling buckets.  We used to joke back when we were in the blackberry business that in June our table was comprised of beets and blackberries, tough combination.  Thankfully we now have a much wider array of crops to harvest from.

It is sometimes a hard part of the season as cool season crops are on the wane and the warm season ones are moving slowly without hot days and sunshine.  Betsy is out every day talking to the zinnias and gloriosa daisies, which have been tempting her for a week with some color but refuse to open more than a few a day.  She refers to this kind of harvesting as milking a chicken, hard to get much with so much effort.

Fortunately it was warm and dry enough Monday to get some cultivation done including the tractor cultivation of the winter squash.  Years ago we bought a special implement for behind the tractor to hopefully speed up our weeding chores.  Known as a tine weeder it has springy steel rods or fingers spaced every two inches or so that rake down the beds behind the tractor pulling the small weeds out and breaking up any soil crust.

The problem is that we usually have all the irrigation in place and so we can’t use it without removing all the water lines, it ends up being faster to just do it by hand.  The winter squash are generally the one exception and it does a great job if we can get to it when the soil is the right moisture level.  Monday it was perfect.  We will probably go over it one more time in a week and then they will be good for the rest of the season.

Pictures of the Week


Freshly cultivated winter squash


BLT’s anyone?  Tomatoes on the way

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #12, 5/28/15

What’s been going on!

We hope that everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend and took full advantage of the amazing weather.  We missed the newsletter last week as we were pushing hard to get the peppers all planted before last Friday, almost.  Just 3 beds shy of finishing but the rest were tucked in the ground on Monday.  Perfect conditions for transplanting the 2800 plants, which got a big watering in with yesterday’s 1.5” of rain.

This week’s big push is blueberry picking!  Despite the cold spring they started right on time and with force this week and we are working hard to find enough people to get them harvested.  Five folks out there today and maybe as many as eight tomorrow.  They look good, lots of big fruit.

Only barely over a week left to get your tickets to any one of the three (or all of them) Farm to Fork Weekend events.  Expanded this year to three days to raise even more money for training programs for new farmers.  It starts on Friday (6/5) with a special five chef dinner at Duke Gardens.  Saturday evening is the very affordable CEFS Sustainable Ag. Lecture with fisheries expert Paul Greenberg and a tasty fish dinner.  Then Sunday of course is the Picnic itself, we are working with our friends at ACME this year and the food will be great!  If you can do all three there is a discounted price of $275, for an incredible selection of foods, farmers, chefs and discussion.

Pictures of the Week


Two very happy pepper planters, Lacey and Jennie headed to the field


Maybe the best Campanula we have ever grown

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #11, 5/15/15

What’s been going on!

Glorious end of the week.  As I was delivering to one of our restaurants yesterday one of the cooks said “today is one of those days when I really like cooking” and I replied “it is one of those days that I really like farming”.  If the weather was like this all the time we would get bored but it is nice to have it when we do and it helps us get a lot done.

It is one of those transition weeks when we are planting new and taking out old.  Jennie and Lacey have been working hard getting ready to plant the peppers, planting the quarter acre of winter squash and other summer vegetables and flowers.  Lots of cultivating and trellising going on too, with suckering and tying up tomatoes being an important task.

Betsy and I have been the destruction squad, mowing down the remnants of old crops- ranunculus gone, Dutch iris gone, half the lettuce field gone.  The last of the winter cover crops mowed, fields being turned under for new crops and summer cover crops.  It always feels good to renew, especially when the crops you turned under did well and are now making way for more good things to come.

Picture of the Week


The long field at the very top of the farm, winter squash going in the ground

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #10, 5/6/15

What’s been going on!

Possibly the best week of the spring so far.  Cool mornings, low humidity, highs around 80 and no pollen, you can have the windows open day and night.  Makes for happy farmers and plants.  If we are lucky we have one week like this each spring and then it runs up into the upper 80’s with humidity, ugh.

There is always discussion about why California is the salad bowl of the nation and there are 5 main reasons why.  1) they have really good soils, up and down the state, 2) they used to have lots of really cheap irrigation water subsidized by you and me, 3) they used to have cheap labor and 4) they used to have cheap fossil fuels to ship it across the country.  The 5th reason is they have the perfect climate, low humidity for some crops, coastal fog for other crops, with cool nights and sunny days.

The 5th reason is why they can grow cool season greens so well, they can move production south to north or inland to the coast to always have the perfect conditions.  The ideal average temperature for optimum growing conditions for crops like lettuce is 60-65 degrees, we have that here in Central NC for about three weeks each spring, the last 10 days of April and the first 10 days of May.  Welcome to the perfect week.

So enjoy not only the weather but the bounty of cool season crops at market because they don’t get any better than they are right now and next week it is supposed to be in the upper 80’s.

Picture of the Week


The spring vegetables literally growing before our eyes

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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


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


The magnificent Viburnum Macrocephalum at their peak for the Farm Tour

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #7, 4/17/15

What’s been going on!

A week of rain, at least that is what it feels like, really just two days this week and just over an inch of precipitation but the psychological effect is the same.  The laser focus this week has been to get the big planting of tomatoes in the ground, by the end of today the job will be done.

Sunday we got the last of the structural components on the Big Tops so that Monday we could get the plastic pulled on before the forecasted rain arrived on Tuesday.  The covering went beautifully with hardly any wind and our crack four person crew worked together like we had done it for years.  Late on Monday I tilled the beds for the final time, ready to be covered with fabric.

Tuesday morning we tested the irrigation, put down the landscape fabric and laid out the 144 metal T-posts for the trellis.  Wednesday Jennie and Lacey did the yeowoman’s task of driving all those T-posts and hanging the 1600 feet of field fence we use for tomato trellis.  Done, ready to plant.  Thursday was so wet and cool that we decided to pause a day and plant this afternoon.

Interwoven into the week we had two classes to teach, Wednesday farmers’ market and two board meetings.  One of the meetings was the Farm to Fork Picnic planning group where the pairings of farms and chefs was done.  This year we are working with our friends from ACME for the first time, it will be a fun time for sure!  Check out the Farm to Fork website for all the details on the expanded 3 day event.  The Picnic itself is still on Sunday June 7th but this year we have added a special dinner on Friday night and the CEFS Sustainable Ag. Lecture on Saturday night with fisheries expert Paul Greenberg and a fish dinner.  You can buy tickets for the whole weekend or pick and choose which event you want to attend.  All for the good cause of raising money to train new farmers.

Picture of the Week


Another grey day but everything is ready for tomato planting

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #6, 4/10/15

What’s been going on!

A two week delay on the newsletter as last week we were moving fast and feeling a bit punch drunk from the fight.  The 21 degrees on the 29th was not kind to many of us farmers.  We had unexpected damage to some crops and others were just fine.  The most striking loss was hundreds of Ranunculus stems that were frozen half way up the and then just collapsed despite being inside the little tunnels, they are sending up new flowers but we are also heading towards the end of their season.

The weirdest injury was the Beets and Broccoli Raab were burned to the ground, never seen those cold hardy crops hurt in that way.  So last week we reseeded them in hopes that they will make it before the heat sets in.  Of course after the deep cold it turned hot and dry with high winds, hard to get seeds to germinate in those kinds of conditions so by the end of the week we had to set up irrigation on an acre of crops to keep them moving along.  This is that chicken on a hot plate time of year.

With irrigation comes rain and those were some terrific storms the last two nights.  Now things are wet enough that it has slowed us down on getting ready to plant the main crop of tomatoes.  It will happen but in the meantime we are in spring cleanup mode including finally taking all the bent steel from the big storm that ravaged the Big Tops in 2012 to recycling.  We are slowly getting ready for the farm tour in two weeks and the first step is tidying up around the place.

Picture of the Week


Early Tomatoes blooming on the left, lettuce for market tomorrow, Ranunculus recovering on the right.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #5, 3/27/15

What’s been going on!

Classic spring weather.  We were all set to plant the very early tomatoes and cukes in the sliding tunnels and then they dropped the low for Saturday night down to 22 degrees.  Nope, we will just wait until Monday to put them in the ground and will instead move them back into the greenhouse for safe keeping.  The floating row covers will come back out from their summer storage to cover lettuce and some of the flowers.  The only thing we can’t do much about is the blueberries that are beginning to bloom, we will lose some early fruit but not the whole crop as many buds are not open yet.

Cold, wet day so what is more perfect than to be in the greenhouse seeding the big pepper array for this year.  Painstaking and tedious, Jennie and Lacey are up to the task.  Keeping the 28 varieties straight and in the proper numbers takes patience, nearly 4000 seeds.  A few new interesting varieties this year including four special datil pepper seeds, yes 4, given to us by a fellow whose family has been in St. Augustine Florida since the 1500’s where the datil pepper has been grown by the Minorcan community since the 1700’s and is central to their cooking.  Each plant will have a name and armed guard.

Remember the picture of the Christmas lights in the flowers to add just a bit of additional heat when it got down to one degree back mid February?  Here are the results, lots of beautiful Ranunculus for now, Easter and later.


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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #4, 3/20/15

What’s been going on!

Ah the first day of Spring!  Feels like a long time coming and that the season is still behind despite the 80 degree temperatures this week.  Very little movement so far in the perennials, a few forsythia blooming, some green buds on the poplars and the blueberries are sending out flowers.

We know that it will all move fast soon and we must stay on schedule to keep up.  This week was time to slide the little tunnels and get ready to plant the very early tomatoes.  It is a two day process with the first day spent preparing the beds for tomatoes, cucumbers and other early warm season crops, including final tilling, irrigation lines, landscape fabric and building the trellis to support them later.

The second day we first have to unbolt the sliding tops from the rails, take off the end walls and other preparations so they will move easier.  Back in the day we used to slide them with just four of us but we must be getting weaker or they are getting heavier.  We now do it with at least six folks which means coaxing extra friends out to the farm for literally 10 minutes of work.  We only move two of the six tunnels by hand, the rest with the tractor.  This year I was able to get four students from my Advanced Organic Crop Production class to come out.

After the intense 10 minutes and after the additional helpers head off, we have an afternoon of rebolting, re-installing the end walls and general tidying the area but it is done and despite the yearly work of moving them we still think it is a superior system to stationary tunnels as far as soil health and production are concerned.


Newly uncovered lettuces, almost ready for market and covered tunnels ready for tomatoes next week.

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