Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #26, 8/24/17

What’s been going on!

Time for the big seasonal reset and we are ready for it!  It was a good time for us to take off as the weather was so grizzly but it has now broken for at least a week and we have a lot to do!  Everyone had a good break and rest in the various places we all escaped to, including total eclipse watching.  I, for one, will say that the eclipse was very cool and I was glad that I made the effort to see it but it did not change my life and I will not be chasing them around the world.

Fall crops continue to go in the ground and the obligatory cultivation, irrigating and other duties that happen with them are on the top of the to do list.  Time to mow down the summer cover crops that remain and pull soil samples for testing so we can be ready the end of September for the big annual soil preparation.

As usual the big focus is all about peppers.  We have a huge harvest to do tomorrow as they have hung on the plants for nearly two weeks and there are a lot of ripe fruit!  There is also some tying up and other plant management to do but we are getting ready for the first big roasting day on Saturday and the weather looks perfect!

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A wall of sweet Corno di Toro peppers

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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.

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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 #26, 8/24/16

What’s been going on!

We are back!  With the steamy weather having finally broken for a few days and everyone having had a week or more off there is spring in peoples step and minds.  Good break with Jennie spending time in Indiana with her family and Trish going all the way to Montana!  Betsy and I kept as low a profile as possible short of the many dinners out.

Lots to do this week including the endless mowing, holy crap can the grass grow fast.  A cultivation pass through all the fall vegetables that we did manage to get planted after the big rains and before everyone left for a week.  But the big job has been working in the pepper field both trellising and picking.

It is all about peppers for the next month or so as we work our way through the peak of the season and do we ever have the peppers to start roasting this Saturday!  All varieties, colors and heat levels.  Unfortunately the beautiful weather is not going to last that long so we will roast as far into the morning as we can bear it.  Remember to come to the stand first to get your peppers into the cue and then when you are finished shopping your roasted peppers will be waiting for you.  If you want a large amount roasted let us know and we will make sure to have them ready for you, they freeze great!

If you don’t make it to market this week, not to worry we will be roasting for months but the selection wanes over time.  You might also want to attend our next cooking class at A Southern Season Cooking School next Monday August 29th, this one of course all about peppers!  Working again with our friend and tomato guru Craig Lehoullier who is also a pepper grower and cook and the wonderful Caitlin Burke of the Cooking School we will have a great time and meal.  If you haven’t ever taken a class at the Cooking School not only will you learn a lot but you will have a great meal including wine for a really reasonable price.

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Super sweet orange Corno di Toro peppers, did I say we have a lot?

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #14, 5/18/16

What’s been going on!

Another rainy week ahead, at least it is cool, so some solace.  We used the beautiful days leading up to yesterday to cultivate as much as we possibly could as the weeds were biblical after the previous wet period.  While we did not get everything perfectly weeded we did get to most of it.

Always too much to do in May and so we are a little behind in getting the big planting of tomatoes suckered and tied up for the first time.  Got a good start on it Monday but now it will be too damp to break off the shoots (suckers).  If we do it when it is really wet then the chances for disease to enter those wounds is very high so we will just have to wait until the sun comes back out.

The other big job we are trying to get to is preparation for the big pepper planting next week.  The plants look perfect and will be really happy to get in the ground.  Just before the rain started yesterday we tilled the nine beds that get covered with landscape fabric for all the hot and fussy varieties.  Today or tomorrow we can lay the drip lines and pin down the fabric so we will be ready to plant first thing next week.  That just leaves the rolling/crimping of the cover crop for the no-till sweet peppers.  Go, go, go!

Pictures of the Week

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Thousands of pepper plants ready to go

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Freshly tilled pepper beds on a really gray day

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Peregrine Farm New Vol. 12 #26, 9/18/15

What’s been going on!

A really pleasant event last evening at the Carrboro Market’s Harvest Dinner.  Perfect weather to go with good dishes from the twenty plus chefs that shop at and support the market.  The setting under the market pavilions is always beautiful and the assembled crowd of market customers and supporters has that real feel of community.

The Harvest Dinner is both a celebration of the season and the market but also a fundraiser to help extend the markets budget so that we can increase our outreach to many groups in the Carrboro and Chapel Hill area.  Food access programs, kids cooking classes, working with local businesses, farm and food education events of all kinds are examples of the forward thinking that has made the Carrboro Farmers’ Market the leader and innovator in local markets and one of the best in the country.  It is why it is the areas epicenter of the local, sustainable food movement.

While something like 90 percent of the markets budget is from stall rental fees from the vendors and market has been self-supporting for all of its 37 years, fees can only go so far.  We have never wanted to rely on grants, as many non-profits do, so events like the Harvest Dinner and the new Market Perennial Program help us to continue our forward momentum.  Just like WUNC’s Sustainer program you can sign up for a regular donation to the market.  Betsy and I are also “Perennials”, as are a number of other vendors and community members and even though we pay our share of stall fees, we know that the market has been the single most important part of our business for the last 30 years.  Even on a farmers budget we know that we need to contribute to the market as it has contributed to us for so long.

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It is all about Red Bells right now

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #30, 10/30/14

What’s been going on!

In my mind the first ugly, cold, wet weekend of the winter is always the first weekend in November.  Usually because it actually happens that way but it was imprinted on us 32 years ago this week when we finally moved into our “house”.  We had been living in a tent for seven months while we tended the first crops and began building a house.  The house was far from done, more like a big wooden tent but it did have a roof and walls and a woodstove.  The forecast for that weekend was the same as this coming Saturday, 40’s and rain, the thought of gritting it out under the tractor shed was not appealing so we moved in.  There was no insulation so we had to almost sit on the woodstove to stay warm but it was dry and a lot warmer than the tent would have been.

The first killing frost usually comes along just after that cold weekend too.  People always talk about the first frost when it gets below 32 degrees or frost actually forms on some surfaces and maybe damages some tender plants.  Statistically for the farm it is around October 21st but that is really of no concern to us.  Our defining line is 28 degrees that is when peppers and other warm season crops will actually die.  This weekend’s forecast has been warmed up some from 29 to 31 degrees on Sunday night but for us that is close enough to go ahead and clean off the pepper plants and call it a season.  Yesterday Jennie and I got about three quarters done, today we will finish.  One of the beauties of peppers is they hold very well in the walk-in cooler so we will be able to have them for several more weeks but Saturday will be the last day of pepper roasting.

No newsletter for the next several weeks as I will be out of town, in Jamaica.  Not a vacation, even though I am sure there will be some recreation involved.  I am headed down for a farmer to farmer exchange with a group of organic growers in the far southeastern tip of the island.  I will be staying at The Source Farm who is the lead in country to work with this group of over 40 farmers trying to diversify and improve their markets in Kingston.  Lots of stories to share when I get back but until then Betsy and Jennie will be at the Saturday markets while I am away.

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A beautiful fall morning and a very tired field of peppers

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #23, 9/4/14

What’s been going on!

It is all about peppers right now despite too many other projects, events and other distractions.  Peppers have a way of sneaking up on us.  They can hang on the plants for weeks and then all of a sudden they turn color.  Tomatoes we have to pick twice a week to keep up and if you don’t then they become stinky bags of water.  Peppers on the other hand we only pick once a week (except for the shishitos and padrons which we have to go through three times a week to keep the size just right) and then we just pull the ones that are ripe.

We knew the season was slightly behind due to the cooler weeks in July and August but with the hot weather the last few weeks things have moved along.  This morning I walked out and bam! the whole field looked red.  So today we will start the harvest to split up picking the bells from all the rest and help spread out the job.  We have to wait until the plants are dry so we don’t spread diseases up and down the row, that puts us in the limbo zone between late morning and too hot in the afternoon.  Harvesting peppers is also one of those jobs you can only do for so long because they are just at that difficult height; not low enough to fully bend down or tall enough to stand up, tough on the back, even good ones.

Just to add a level of difficulty to the week our nephew is getting married on Saturday up in the mountains.  All week Betsy has been calmly gathering up all the flowers needed including ordering some from as far away as California.  She will be driving up early tomorrow morning to get set up to do all the arrangements, bouquets, corsages, etc..  Don’t get any ideas, she only does wedding flowers for close relatives and extremely dear friends, too many dangers with unknown brides and mothers.  So she will not be at market on Saturday and I will have to leave market a little early to drive up in time for the ceremony.  This is the balance between family and being all about peppers.

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Lots of red bells

 

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #14, 6/13/14

What’s been going on!

A wet week with well over two inches of rain.  After the first few small rains the taller pepper plants were beginning to think about tipping over if we didn’t get some trellis on them.  I had a fitful sleep on Tuesday night as yet another storm slipped by to our north, worrying it would be the one to lay the plants down.  Wednesday morning after getting ready for market we jumped on the pepper trellis and got the first layer on the tallest eight beds, a few of which had fallen over.  None too soon as the big storms of that afternoon would have certainly flattened them with the big winds and 1.7” of rain, instead they are standing straight and tall.

It is good to see real tomatoes on our kitchen counter again.  We had to use the first ten pounds of the season for our dish at the Farm to Fork picnic so our only taste was the inaugural BLT last Friday.  Running about a week behind normal due to the cooler spring but they look really good.  Another round of BLT’s on Monday and then last night the first of the summers tomato and basil risottos, it is beginning to look a lot like tomato season!

The Farm to Fork picnic was great.  The weather was a miracle both for the rains that turned away from us at the last minute and the resulting pleasant low 80 degree temperatures.  Bret Jenning’s, of Elaine’s on Franklin, savory combination of our beets, carrots, fennel and leeks as a filling wrapped in our Summer Crip lettuce with a medium spice salsa of the tomatoes, cilantro and our smoked dried chipotles was amazing.  Think of it as a roll your own lettuce taco.  Chased by the blueberry, ginger and basil lemonade and it was a perfect combination.  Thank you Bret and all of the picnic goers for supporting local farms and the training of new farmers.

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Proud and straight peppers

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #27, 8/29/13

What’s been going on!

Two popular questions we get at market this time of year.  Particularly with this summer’s much cooler than normal temperatures people are wondering what the winter will be like.  I used to think that if we had a cool winter we would have a cooler summer and vice versa summer into winter because the mass of the earth wasn’t as warm as it would otherwise be.  Now I realize that it really is all about the Jet Stream and how far north or south it tends to be and how amplified the waves in it are.  It is all about El Nino and the other steering factors.

If you go to the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center you can see their best estimates of what the winter will be like.  Right now it looks like a normal fall both in temperature and rainfall, that would be refreshing, but as we move into winter it will be a bit drier than normal and as we move into late winter/early spring becoming warmer than normal but with average rainfall, much like the last few winters.  This is the forecast map for the November/December/January period.  So according to them nothing too cold.

The other question is of course pepper related.  The pepper roaster was really invented in the southwest to roast green chile, the national vegetable of New Mexico.  The question we get many times a day is “Are these Hatch Chiles?”  The answer is no in two ways.  First Hatch is not a variety of the New Mexican pod type, also more commonly known as Anaheims, it is a small town in southern New Mexico in the heart of the chile growing region.  Of course the second no answer is because we have to grow everything we sell at the Carrboro market they certainly can’t be chiles grown in Hatch New Mexico.

That all being said, we have and do grow New Mexican bred varieties of green chile.  Many of the varieties grown in Hatch have been bred just down the road at New Mexico State Univ.  Over the years we have trialed and sold 8-10 NMSU varieties, most recently NuMex Joe Parker.  What we can’t reproduce here is the conditions of southern New Mexico, hot arid days with cool nights in the alluvial soils of the Rio Grande valley.  Those conditions lead to a more consistent pepper in flavor, heat and in meatiness.  Think of Hatch chiles as Vidalia onions, there is no Vidalia variety, just a soil and climate that leads to really sweet onions.  We think that the best peppers we produce, including green chile, are harvested in the next six weeks as we come closest to the warm, dry and cool night conditions of the southwest.

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The perennial question is how are the turkeys?  4 weeks old

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #26, 8/19/13

What’s been going on!

Yet another grey morning, just like most of the past week it seems.  Hard to get excited about trying to get much work done in the field, but we must none the less.  The time off seemed to be beneficial especially for Jennie and Liz who have come back with a bounce in their steps.  We had our usual mostly odds and ends break with some work and small projects and a few days away.  The workshop move-in has gone well, the bulk of all the tools and supplies have been brought from the various buildings around the farm and the preliminary sort has been done.  The shelves for all the nuts and bolts are nearly full with all of the matching peanut butter jars (picture of OCD to follow some day).  The workbench is built and more work surfaces are still to come but for now we can let it go.

A sad week too.  Our long time market neighbor Gary Murray of Sunset Farms finally lost his long battle with cancer.  A farmers’ market is like a neighborhood, you don’t get much choice on who moves in next door or down the street and some of those you like and some you don’t but you end up adjusting to their habits.  For 28 years, almost as long as we have been married, we have sold across from or next to Gary and family.  They have been the best neighbors possible: agreeable, cooperative, fun and respectful.

In many ways Gary and Sunset Farms is a typical example of the changing face of North Carolina agriculture over the past 30 years from a tobacco dominated one to a very diverse industry.  While I am not sure if they ever grew tobacco I am sure he grew up around it.  For some years he worked in the “new” poultry industry as a field man, working with growers of chicken and turkeys.  He finished his “public work” with the Natural Resources Conservation Service again working with farmers on all sorts of soil conservation and farm improvement projects.  Through all this he worked the family farm alongside his father and later his son Chris.  He saw the changes in farming up close as he worked with other farmers around the county and he brought many new ideas back to his own operation.

They have grown just about everything from traditional grain crops, through vegetables to livestock.  Gary slowly moved away from conventional farming techniques and pesticides to the use of cover crops, crop rotations and other more sustainable practices, never with a preaching or I told you so attitude but he just did it because he thought it was a better way.  Their son Chris grew up wanting to farm, ended up with a masters in Soil Science and eventually came back to the farm full time.  He carries on Gary’s search for new crops and environmentally sound ways to grow them.  They will continue to be our great market neighbors for many years to come.  Our thoughts go out to Wanda, Chris and Jamie and the rest of the family.

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Beautiful orange Corno di Toros

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