Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #39, 12/29/16

What’s been going on!

Just a quick New Year’s Eve like note.  We will be at market this Saturday (the real New Year’s Eve) with Betsy’s first beautiful anemones of the new season and just in time for the celebrations.

On a sad note, one of our long time market members and bright light Louise Parrish passed away over the Christmas holiday.  Louise made deadly pound cakes and always had a good word to say no matter how hot, or cold, or wet, or windy or what other crazy things may have been going on.  She will greatly be missed.  You will enjoy this oral history about her done by our friends at the Southern Foodways Alliance

Picture of the Week

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Warm days bring colorful Anemones for the New Year

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #38, 12/14/16 The Holiday edition

What’s been going on!

It appears to be the pattern now that we have unusually warm Novembers that make the fall and winter crops grow faster and more lush than they should and then in December the hammer comes crashing down.  No easing into cold weather for us or the crops.  Last weekend we had several mornings at 20 degrees and Friday morning looks to be in the high teens.

Jennie has been harvesting some of the outdoor crops today before the cold and rain come in to make it really hard to uncover those plants.  The vegetables in the tunnels can of course be picked later in the week.  Betsy and I have been working on some greenhouse projects and some early winter reorganization of supplies and equipment.

Barely a few weeks left in this year and the planning for the next season and reflection on the last is well underway.  As always we are honored to have this beautiful piece of land to work and care for and the ability to do so year after year.  We couldn’t see this far into the future 35 years ago and might have been daunted if we could have but the journey continues to be a good one.

As I tell groups that I talk to about farming that while most farmers, especially new ones, focus on production details and if they can make a living doing it that in the end, while those things are important, the real focus should be on the people they are in contact with during the course of their business day and their quality of life.  Without all of you we could not be the farm we are today and will be in the future.  It is your support, interest in what we do and of course eating our food that makes all of this possible.  For that we thank you!

Only a few markets left this year, Jennie will be at the market this Saturday and we will all be at the pre-Christmas market next Wednesday the 21st from 3:00-5:00.  We will be irregular at market after that, depending on the crops and the weather  We really hope to be able to see you at market but if we don’t we wish you all a happy holiday season!

Picture of the Week

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Beautiful lettuce with additional covers at the ready pull over before the hard cold

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #36, 11/15/16 Thanksgiving!

What’s been going on!

Early newsletter this week as I will be out of town for a few days and also wanted everyone to be able to get a head start on the biggest food week of the year!  This newsletter will cover the two markets in four days that will be your best opportunity to get all of your Thanksgiving holiday produce, this coming Saturday and the special pre-Thanksgiving market next Tuesday from 3:00-6:00.

It was great to see everyone out last Saturday for both the market and the much needed community gathering after the election upheaval.  I have always said that when difficult or unusual things happen people come to the market as the sort of town square, to see their neighbors and have some reassurance of something so steady and reliable as the Carrboro Farmers’ Market.

We did finally have the true killing freeze on Saturday night/Sunday morning down into the mid 20’s, the peppers are dead now.  We have had a couple of brushes in the high 20’s that hurt their feelings but they are for sure done now and so is the last vestiges of the summer of 2016.  Now comes the slow process of undoing all of the trellis that has held them up tall for months.

Pictures of the Week

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A radiant late fall day with the blueberries a blaze on the hill

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Beautiful Celery and Fennel for Thanksgiving

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #35, 11/9/16

What’s been going on!

A bit hungover from last night’s election results which is all I will say about that.  We have been back for a day and a half so are still re-ordering out lives, catching up and planning the next week or so.  Great trip to Sicily and Rome for which a full trip report will be forth coming.  We did get to many markets and we did manage to get seeds for one of the tomatoes we were looking for.

Incredibly balmy weather while we were gone and of course Jennie did a great job of both managing the farm and markets.  Too warm, in many ways, for this late in the season which is pushing some crops meant for Thanksgiving up into this week and the late season peppers are off the hook.  In anticipation of the near freeze on Monday night Jennie picked 18 cases of green bells plus 7 or 8 of red bells and corno di toros!

With so many peppers left we will bring out the roaster again this Saturday!  Get them while you still can.

Picture of the Week

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My Sicilian cousin, roasting corno di toro peppers the old fashioned way on coals

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #33, 10/14/16

What’s been going on!

What glorious weather after such a tremendous storm!  We ended up with 5 inches of rain but it did mostly come down in a steady fashion and so my fears of having just opened nearly 2 acres of ground to have it wash away were generally unfounded.  We had just a tiny bit of washing in one field but it seems that most of the water soaked in.  The Haw River did back up into the bottom field and we had to pull the irrigation pump.  The “green” lining to the storm clouds is that the cover crops are coming up beautifully!

Our thoughts go out to the folks caught in historic flooding east of Raleigh.  Daily we see pictures of friend’s farms under water and can only think of the huge work ahead of them to clean up.  The Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) research farm down in Goldsboro is on the Neuse River and they are having to take people in by boat to the livestock facilities to milk cows and help with the calving season.  The NC Forest service is flying hay in to feed those same animals.  Heroic work for sure, we just wish other farmers down there had the same resources too.

Having been through several disasters ourselves we know that people will get through this too but each one takes a chunk out of your psyche. The only thing you can do is keep moving forward.  To that end we are continuing with our fall and winter preparations and planting.  Cleaning up the season’s remains, readying the little tunnels for cold weather, even seeding some crops for next spring and reveling in the beautiful days.

Picture of the Week

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Early morning, Big Tops uncovered and the pepper field still producing

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #31, 9/29/16

What’s been going on!

So I didn’t mean to leave every one hanging with last weeks newsletter like a “Who shot JR” ending, I thought it was just implied that there was more to come.  Part of the reason we have decided to talk openly about our succession process is that we know a number of farms struggling with the exact same issues and we don’t know anyone who has successfully passed on their operations to a non-family member.

Even farms with children or family members are having a difficult time figuring it out.  In 2014 when Betsy was in California for the first Gathering of the Agrarian Elders even those very successful farmers had no plans for transition, were just thinking about it or their kids did not want to take over such large operations.  We hope that by writing about our experience other older farmers or young farmers looking for some way to farm will get some ideas.

Big seasonal changes on the farm this week as the annual soil preparation for all of next year begins.  While we did get almost 3 inches of rain last night it is timely to make it easier to work the soil, by next week it will be perfect.  I spent the first big block of time on the new tractor yesterday doing the final mowing of spent crops and cover crops and it was a pleasure.  Still getting used to the new sight lines, sounds and turning radius but I will give it a thumbs up.

We also uncovered six of the eight Big Tops getting ready for winter, finished cleaning out the rest of the tomatoes and spread compost on next year’s tomato beds.  Slowly we lurch towards the first frost.

Pictures of the Week

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Looking out from the remains of this year’s tomatoes towards where next season’s will be

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Crazy Super Crest Celosia

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #30, 9/22/16 the first day of fall

What’s been going on!

This is the next in a series about our farm transition

Why transition at all?

As first generation farmers we felt some responsibility that the farm we had built should continue on past us but Betsy and I had decided in our early 50’s that we were not going to pass the farm to anyone.   We have no kids so that was not a factor and while we had been fortunate to have many good folks work for us over the years who have gone on to start their own farms, we felt it would be too complicated to bring someone on as a partner, as Betsy says “It’s like getting married again”.

Ten years ago we were still indestructible and planned to just slowly wind down.  We would reduce the amount we planted to where the two of us could handle it alone and just go to Farmers’ Market for part of the year.  We would become old characters at market.

The reality is most farmers have to sell their farms to retire but, probably because we didn’t have children, we have saved enough to be able to slow down or eventually even stop working if we are cautious.  Even with careful budgeting we still have to work some until 65 and Medicare kicks in and 66 and full Social Security.  We want to and financially it is best if we can stay in the house we built with our hands on this beautiful piece of ground for as long as possible but we knew that wouldn’t be entirely easy.

We had watched both sets of parents grow old, as well as our 90 year old neighbors and saw the difficulties of doing that alone in the country.  Sure we’re tough now but who will cut up the trees that come down in a storm when we are 80?  Who will take care of this place and how will we get to the grocery store and doctor’s appointments when we are near 90?  We also saw other farmer friends of ours (some younger) have to slow down or quit because of bad backs or hearts or some other reason.  The writing on the wall was becoming clearer.

Picture of the Week

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Some really nice celery and fennel sizing up for Thanksgiving

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #29, 9/15/16

What’s been going on!

You might remember last year when we talked about our aging infrastructure and how we had three pieces of equipment in for repairs in one week.  Well last week was the ultimate equipment failure, our 34 year old tractor developed a hydraulic leak that cannot be fixed.  Gulp, did not plan on buying a new tractor anytime soon but the big fall soil preparation is coming up and we have to have a tractor.

Fortunately we had already prepared all the planting beds for fall crops so had at least a few weeks to figure it out.  We have used two different mechanics to work on the old tractor over the years and they both hemmed and hawed “not sure we can even get the parts”.  I called yet two more shops and they gave me the same story.  Our tractor, a Long brand, has not been made for 20 years so we knew that sooner or later we might run into this problem.

Research ensued, buying a tractor is like buying a car but only more expensive.  We also had to have a certain size tractor as everything on the farm is set up for planting beds four feet on center, all the implements, all the irrigation, all the mulches, all the tunnels, hell our brains are calibrated to that same four foot measurement.

The selection of compact tractors is much better than it was 30 years ago but we ended up with a Kubota (which we wanted but couldn’t afford in 1982).  Even though essentially the same size and horse power it is quite a step up with 4WD vs. 2WD, a front end loader which we have never had and other amenities that tractor engineers didn’t even think of three decades ago.  So it arrived two days ago and Jennie has already driven it more than I have!

Pictures of the Week

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Jennie approves

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The old versus the new, welcome to the 21st century

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #28, 9/7/16

What’s been going on!

Twenty years ago this week we were cleaning up from the worst natural disaster to ever hit the farm and the state, Hurricane Fran.  For anyone who lived through the storm and its aftermath just the memory of it gives one pause, almost chills.  We have been through numerous hurricane/tropical depressions, thunderstorm straight line winds and floods from torrential downpours and other than the Big Storm, all of them rolled together don’t match what Fran had all in one shot.

From the ferocity of the winds that went on for hours and eventually brought many trees down around the farm but amazingly not on any buildings, to the rain that brought the river up to the 500 year flood level and floated the transplant greenhouse which required us to move it out of the bottom field and up onto the hill, this storm had it all.

We were without power for a week and the mid 90 degree temperatures and high humidity made the days of chainsaw work and clean up really taxing.  No running water meant that we had to haul buckets of water from the pond to water 1000’s of transplants with a watering can.  At least it was warm enough to rinse off in the pond every evening and it was peacefully silent in the neighborhood until the generators all roared to life.

In the end we only missed one Saturday market (the market did go on the day after the storm but we skipped it while cleaning up) and we had good fall crops up to frost.  While we came out relatively unscathed monetarily, we never want to see such a storm again.

Pictures of the Week

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Big oak trees down all around the house

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The 500 year flood level of the Haw River in our bottom field

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #27, 9/1/16

What’s been going on!

Watching the weather closely, it is the crazy season when the swings can be wild.  Last Saturdays pepper roasting just about roasted me so we are happy to see much cooler temperatures for this weekend but not so happy about how tropical storm Hermine might affect us and market.  Right now (Thursday morning) she appears to be heading more eastward but we could still see a lot of rain and windy conditions.  The best guess is Saturday morning will be breezy but drying as the storm moves north.

Another busy week with many fall crops going in the ground while we are slowly taking out some of the summer crops like tomatoes and some flowers.  The weeks on either side of Labor Day are always the peak of fall planting by the end of September it is almost too late for most crops other than short season and cold hardy types like radishes, carrots and some greens.

Only two weeks until the Carrboro Farmers’ Market’s fall Harvest Dinner on September 15th.  A fun community event and fundraiser for the market.  Supported by over two dozen local restaurants who each prepare a dish for the potluck style dinner.  It is always enjoyable to visit with people not in the shopping scrum of Saturday morning over a meal.  Get your tickets while they last!

Picture of the Week

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Newly planted lettuces and root crops

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