Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #17, 5/29/13

What’s been going on!

The glorious weather is gone but it was amazing to be in the high 30’s on Saturday morning this late in the spring.  We took great advantage of the last coolish days to give the blueberries a final weed eating and hand pruning, ready for the pickers.  The first small batch of berries were harvested on Monday, second pass through today, they look great!  With the impending heat it will be all hands on deck next week for sure.

Almost all the peppers are now in the ground, Jennie and Liz did a great job, helped by the soil moisture being just right for cutting the furrows in the no-till area which resulted in maybe the best planting conditions we have ever had.  There are many difficulties in working with small scale no-till most of which are equipment related.  In large scale no-till they have the advantage of bigger tractors, more horsepower and heavier steel to manage the cover crop and to put plants in the ground and of course in conventional farm systems, herbicides to kill the cover crop.

In our system we have a small, light, tractor and lighter cutting disks to cut through the thick cover crop and open the planting furrows.  The biggest problem we usually have is that the massive cover crop sucks all the water out of the soil making it so hard that the cutting implements can’t open the soil well.  Not this year, following last week’s 3 inches of rain, it had dried out just enough to work beautifully yesterday.  It makes the hand planting of the peppers twice as fast.

We are getting painfully close to finishing up the building project with the septic system finally going in this week (held up by too much rain) and the bathroom floor and fixtures being finished up by the end of the week too.  All that leaves is trenching in the water line and the electrician finishing up the plugs and lights, we can then call for a final inspection and get the power turned on.  Can’t happen soon enough, we have no business working on a building project during the busy spring season.

Picture of the Week


Happy pepper plants in no-till left and landscape fabric right

What’s going to be at the market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News, Vol. 10 #16, 5/24/13

What’s been going on!

Last wholesale delivery of lettuce yesterday, after another three inches of rain this week I told the produce managers that if this was a prize fight I would stop it now, so I did.  A record short season for lettuce deliveries to Weaver Street, only three weeks but when it starts late and then it rains two or three times the average something has to give.  It was the lettuce.  That doesn’t mean we are done with lettuce for market, just not enough good looking heads to fill the large orders.  Oh well, time to move on, blueberries are calling.

Farm to Fork Picnic coming up in two weeks, June 9th.  Apparently a lot of folks think that it is already sold out, which it always does but not quite yet, still time to get your tickets.  Not only is this a great food event pairing some of the area’s best chefs with the best farmers to create amazing fresh flavors and food but it also more importantly supports new farmer training programs at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) and the Breeze Farm in Orange county where the event is held.

34 pairings this year plus the artisans tent, bigger than last year.  We are excited to be working with Scott Howell from Nana’s in Durham, his first time participating but not his first time at the rodeo as one of the finest restaurants in North Carolina.  We are working on something with turkey (a turkey salami) and of course a vegetable dish hopefully with the first tomatoes of the season.  Don’t let this opportunity pass.

So the rain has held us up on the big job this week, second only to tomato planting week is pepper week.  The beds for the specialty hot and sweet peppers have been prepared with irrigation line and landscape fabric and the cover crop on the no-till beds have been rolled and crimped.  Hopefully it will dry out enough today to plant the fabric beds this afternoon and the forecast looks as if we can get the rest tucked into the no-till area on Monday or Tuesday.  The plants look awesome, at the perfect stage of growth to hit the soil running, let’s hope we can get it done soon.

Picture of the Week


Thousands of pepper plants raring to go

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 9 #27, 11/2/12

What’s been going on!
Just a quick note this evening before tomorrows market. As many of you already know, I had to cut my Utah hiking trip short due to a minor foot problem. It was an amazing two weeks that we did manage to complete and I will have more details to come. The foot is all fine now and so I will be back at market tomorrow with Betsy and Jennie who have done a great job while I was gone and had lots of fun. We have enough peppers left that we have decided to bring out the pepper roaster one last time for the season, make sure not to miss it.

If you made it to the Market Chefs Potluck fundraiser last night it was a great success and the food was fabulous, thank you to all who participated.

Don’t forget the market begins it’s winter hours tomorrow, doesn’t start until 9:00 and we can’t sell until the bell rings. See you there!

Picture of the Week

Heading back to the road after deciding we couldn’t go on

What’s going to be at the market?
Still a few turkeys left for Thanksgiving and Christmas, only birds less than 13 pounds are available. All the information can be found here.

Plenty of lettuces this week, Green Boston, Romaine, Red Leaf and Red and Green Summer Crisp in full heads. In Mini-heads we have Green and Red Oak leafs and the new sweet Bambi Bibb type. More Spinach, it looks great. New plantings of Turnips and Easter Egg Radish. Plenty of the incredible Baby Ginger. In Herbs we have Cutting Celery, Cilantro, Dill and Italian Parsley. Red Beets, Purple and sweet Orange Carrots. Fennel, Lacinato Kale, Collards and more!

This will be the last week for pepper roasting, so don’t miss it. Still a fair amount of peppers. In sweet peppers there is a fair supply of red and yellow bells and just a few orange. Still some nice red, yellow and orange Italian Corno di Toros this week. Fewer light green Cubanelles great for salads and sautéing, and Purple Bells.

In the usually-not-hot-but-on-occasion varieties a great supply of the Aji Dulces, the habanero without the heat.

In hot peppers from, least to hottest, we have Passillas, a few of the very rare Basque Esplettes, plenty but fewer of Anaheims, lots of Poblanos, our own signature Picante Pimiento. All kinds of Serranos and Jalapenos, Cayenne and red and orange Habaneros.

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 #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 #9, 5/16/12

What’s been going on!

Rain, rain go away, comeback next Tuesday (or so).  Fortunately we have had most of our rain fall in non-work hours but it certainly has complicated the weeks scheduling because the, now nearly three inches of, water has made it impossible to get things planted, weeded or mowed.  This was supposed to be pepper planting week, one of the most important of the year.  We have managed to get the field ready with fabric and preparing the no-till section but not a single plant has gone in the ground.  Hopefully some will get planted tomorrow.

In any event it is the season for picking fussy little things.  When Sugar Snap Peas and Blueberries happen at the same time we seem to just go from one to the other trying to keep up with the rapid ripening of thousands of individual fruits.  Picking tomatoes and peppers is so much less tedious and the boxes fill so much faster.  There are good aspects to peas and berries though, they are both stand up jobs, of which there are few on the farm, and usually the weather is pleasant as you keep your hands moving as fast as possible to get as many of the tiny objects into the bucket as you can.  Of course there is the mandatory taste testing that happens too.

There are tomatoes to tie up, flowers to trellis, winter squash to plant but we did finally get the ginger planted indoors yesterday.  When it does dry out the weeds will be of biblical proportions and the mowing required will be Herculean.  So after getting the peppers in the ground we know what we will be doing next week.


Picture of the Week

Sweet, sweet peas by the thousands

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 9 #8, 5/9/12

What’s been going on!

I was reading the other day that this spring and March in particular, was the warmest spring since 1910.  We all have been seeing the results in earlier blooming perennials, trees leafing out and some insects showing up sooner.  This effect should become less and less as we head into the summer months and more normal temperatures.  One of the most striking results so far is we began picking blueberries yesterday, a full two weeks earlier than last year and the earliest date ever.

With last week’s heat things are really jumping now.  The tomatoes took off and are growing by what seems like inches a day.  The staff has spent parts of the last two days suckering them and tying them up for the first time.  We are trying to get ready for pepper planting next week but the tomatoes and blueberries have to be seen to first.  I got the beds for the hot peppers tilled and the cover crop for the no-till sweet peppers rolled down, hopefully we can lay the landscape fabric on the beds tomorrow.

Big Mother’s Day and Graduation weekend to get ready for too but we are also quickly heading towards the Farm to Fork Picnic the following weekend, Sunday May 20th.  If you haven’t gotten your tickets yet for this important fundraising event for new farmer training programs there are still a few left.  Great food from an amazing number of local chefs and farmers, local beer and wine and local music!

Picture of the Week

Pepper beds ready for fabric, lettuce waiting to be cut, blueberries calling to us from on the hill

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 8 #26, 9/22/11

What’s been going on?

A gray and somber way to end our season but the rains are once again perfectly timed for winter soil preparation. We got the last big pepper harvest done yesterday before the downpours and all that remains to be picked are poblanos and eggplant. Next week we will make one last pass through the field to glean the last of the peppers, primarily green bells that we will sell wholesale. This morning the last of the tomatoes are coming off the vines and then the remaining five rows of plants and trellis will be torn down.

By the end of next week it will all be gone. The last Big Tops uncovered and the hoops moved from one field to another. All the trellises will be deconstructed and neatly stacked for the winter. The few sweet potatoes that we grew will be dug and curing in the greenhouse. Turkeys will have moved to their last pasture. All the fields will be mowed and probably even disked for the first pass in the process of getting ready for winter cover crops. Even Betsy will fly out on Saturday for three weeks in Italy, leaving me home to finish up the last of the farm winterization.

And so ends another season, the 30th season, at Peregrine Farm. Of course we are not ever really finished, just a temporary lull in the action. We will be back for the Tuesday before Thanksgiving market to pass out the turkeys along with lots of great vegetables for the holiday meal and there may even be some guest appearances in December if there are crops available and then it all starts again in February with Betsy’s anemones and ranunculus.

In general it has been a great season, one of the best in memory. Sure a little tough out there in July and the ongoing drought has made some things more challenging but overall the crops have been happy, the staff has been happy and hopefully all of you have been pleased with the bounty we have been able to coax from the fields. Betsy and I are always grateful and amazed at your support of what we do and for local food and farming, thank you!

Picture of the Week

This giant volunteer plume celosia, at the end of one of the pepper rows, greets us as we walk out every morning

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 8 #8, 5/11/11

What’s been going on?

Betsy walks outside yesterday morning and says the cicadas are so loud it sounds like Police sirens. I head out to work a bit later and they are completely silent, crazy. In general the din builds through the day until it is an eerie alien roar. Interestingly we don’t really see a lot around except for all the holes in the ground where they have emerged and then of course the cats have to bring them in the house. They say they will be around a month and then it will be 13 years until the next explosion.

Busy week, peppers begin to go in the ground today. The fabric and irrigation lines went down on Monday over the prepared beds. These raised beds will hold all the fussy hot and exotic peppers because we feel they need the extra warmth and better drained soil of a raised bed. The staff will start planting those beds this morning while I am finishing getting the rest of the field ready. The majority of the sweet peppers we will plant, no-till, into the rolled cover crop that grew their last winter. We had a monster cover crop of rye and hairy vetch to roll down and now I need to cut the slits into the mulch so they can tuck the plants in. Hopefully by the end of the tomorrow all the plants will be in the ground. Perfect conditions for transplanting, the soil has warmed nicely (which the peppers need), it will be overcast and not too hot and those plants will just take off.

Another big project was checked off the list this week which give us much relief. Despite what has been nearly perfect weekly rains this spring we are still over four inches behind on rainfall for the year and finished last year eight inches down. So while the annual crops are happy the ground water is not. Our upper pond never filled over the winter and so we are in the process of filling it from the lower pond. The crux has been we have to fill the lower pond from the creek.

Years ago we installed a gravity feed line that runs 900 feet down the field and into the pond. It worked OK but never enough flow and it would stop running from time to time. So a month ago we rented a trencher and cut a new line in, using a transit to make sure the fall was right and then buried new two inch PVC pipe. Finally last Friday we finished up the connections and started it running. It now runs with great flow and we feel comfortable that we can easily refill the lower pond. Water is the second most limiting resource on the farm after labor and so we are feeling more secure than we have in some years. Let’s hope it keeps raining each week.

Picture of the Week

The trench runs 700′ to the far tree line and then 200 more feet to the creek

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 8 #7, 5/4/11

What’s been going on?

Weather alert- this years Blackberry winter will occur today and tomorrow. My father called this last cold snap in May “Blackberry winter” because it always happens when the wild blackberries are blooming. Looks like 40 degrees or even high 30’s here tonight and then another cold night Thursday. Our friends who farm in central Texas called last night in a panic because they have an acre and a half of zinnias and celosia planted and it was going to be in the high 30’s which, as farmers know, could mean frost if the forecast is slightly off. They were pulling out the covers to protect it all!

No such extreme actions here at Peregrine Farm as everything we have in the ground has seen cool temperatures and we know that after this we are into the steady sure warming of May. Next week is pepper planting week and they will be happy to have avoided yet another Blackberry winter. Peppers, second only to Eggplant, hate cold soil and air temperatures and will just sulk if planted too early in the season. Our belief is that a happy pepper is one that goes into warmer soil and continues the grow vigorously, sure they will grow and make peppers if you plant them early but probably not as well if one waited just a week or two.

Sometimes the frenzy of spring has nothing to do with crops and crop care. I told Jennie the other day, who has seen me wear a tool belt a lot this spring, that really my job is Maintenance Man. Sure farmers are supposed to spend the winter fixing things and preparing the tools for the busy season ahead but sometimes the problems are not apparent until you start using the equipment in the spring. The big one so far was the rebuilding of the big walk-in cooler (last week) but yesterday was a classic breakdown as I started to mow the last of the winter cover crops and tore up a universal joint on the mower, arghh!! Parts ordered and I will have it fixed next week, not too bad, sometimes these repairs can drag on for weeks waiting for parts. Now we will just hope that nothing else breaks down, soon.

Picture of the Week

Sweet Willam in the early morning light

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Spain, Food Exploration at its Best

After Terra Madre we flew to Barcelona to meet our good friends and customers Ben and Karen Barker of Magnolia Grill in Durham.  This is the second time we have traveled with them in Europe to discover new foods and food stuffs.  Yeah I know, sounds like a hard job but trust me this is as much about business as it is about travel.  We now have a well developed system.  Karen and Ben research the restaurants they want to eat at and we research the farmers’ markets and other kinds of markets in the area near the restaurants.

Typically we will visit a market in the morning looking at displays and for new products, then go and have a great lunch.  In the afternoons we will explore some more and then have another great meal in the evening.  When eating we all order different dishes and then share them around the table, smelling, tasting, dissecting and discussing what it is, how the chef prepared it, what the ingredients are and so on.

I know for us we are looking for new products (mostly vegetables) to grow or new ways for our customers to use things we already produce.  I am sure for the Barkers they are taking home fresh ideas for recipes and plate presentation as well as ingredients.

Ben and Karen had been to the areas we would travel in just last June so had a good idea of the lay of the country and the logistics.  We went to some places they had been to before but it was now a different season with different ingredients and dishes.  We also found plenty of new places to try too.

Betsy and I flew in Sunday afternoon and had a chance to regroup after the full experience in Italy.  8:00 Monday morning we met the Barkers at the airport, rental car and we are off across the north of Spain.  It is about a four hour drive to the Rioja region through an arid landscape that looks like west Texas with lots of wind turbine and solar farms.

I knew from research that we would be driving right by the epicenter of the famous Piquillo pepper, Lodosa.  Picked dead red (fully ripe) and usually wood fire roasted and then canned.  A medium small conical pepper with thick walls and no heat.  We landed in Lodosa at the extended Spanish lunch break and all stores, etc. were closed but there were lots of peppers hanging on the houses drying.

We stayed the night in the old, walled, hilltop town of La Guardia in the heart of the Rioja wine region and on the edge of the Basque country.  It was pretty cool out but we walked around the town for a few hours including a tour of the incredible church of Santa Maria de los Reyes with its polychrome portal.

Back to the hotel with a chance for Karen and Ben to rest up from the jet lag and then the first of our typically Spanish, late dinners.  The restaurants in Spain don’t even start serving until 8:30 or later.

A great meal with more typical Riojan dishes including two with peppers

chorizo sausage with quernica peppers

a plate of piquillo peppers

Tuesday we hit the small market in town early, picked up some piquillo peppers for seed

and then headed out around the wine country and toured the incredible wine museum.

A great lunch and then we drove on over the mountains to the Atlantic ocean and the city of San Sebastian.  On the way you go through a dry country side that reminded me of the wheat producing areas of eastern Washington state.

San Sebastian is on a beautiful bay and is the heart of the Basque country food culture.  We stayed here for three nights and each night did the pintxos crawl.

Pintxos (tapas in the rest of Spain) are small dishes that the bars there have developed into a ritual and competition, with each having their specialties.  So every evening we would try out 3-4 places and 3-4 dishes at each place.

more traditional, jamon and prawns

more modern, sweetbreads with red eye gravy

pickled pigs ears




























Each day we would travel the country side.  On Wednesday we actually drove over the border into France and to the town of Espelette.  Famous for its dried red pepper powder, we stumbled into the middle of its pepper festival.  Similar to the piquillo but with some heat.  They use it both dried and fresh.  Needless to say we brought some of those seeds back too.

espelette pepper field

drying peppers

Thursday we spent the morning in the good market in San Sebastian, which is actually under ground.  The seafood displays were incredible and Ben was teary eyed at the quality and selection and that he can’t get that kind of fish back in North Carolina.

We found several vendors selling the guindilla pepper we wanted to get seeds for.  This pepper is used in many of the pintxos and is like eating a green bean, meaty because it is packed with seeds.  We also saw several vendors selling “soup kits” an idea we have seen before in Italy.

soup kits


















Friday we drove back to Barcelona for the last three nights of the trip.  A big and beautiful city with lots to see but it was packed with people!  It was the Day of the Dead holiday weekend and maybe a big soccer game too.  People everywhere.  A very walkable city and we walked everywhere, which helped with the extra calories we were ingesting.

Saturday’s main objective was to spend the morning at the La Boqueria market, supposed to be the largest and best in Europe.

Truly amazing with every kind of food stuff you can think of, below is a number of shots in the market.

mushrooms are in season

eggs of every kind

apples and padron peppers












We finished the morning with “breakfast” of a roasted green pepper called cristal (kind of like an Anaheim without heat)

and a plate of fried eggs with baby squid.  In the picture you can see my watch next to the glass of red wine, 11:30 a.m., research is hell.

We did of course see a number of the great architectural sites, my favorites being the crazy Gaudi Sagrada Familia cathedral

and the incredible tiled and stained glass Palau de la Musica Catalana.
















On our walks we also went into several other really good markets and maybe the biggest florist Betsy has ever seen.

Sunday we walked all the way down to the far tip of the harbor in the Barceloneta and had a really great lunch which included this wonderful paella.

Halloween on the Mediterranean

Back on up the Rambla and its masses of people and street performers including this flower inspired guy.
















Monday came and it was time to return to the farm.  Nineteen days gone is a long time and we were ready to head home.  Great trip; food, sights, travel partners.  We ended up bringing back five new peppers to try and a new tomato.  You can look forward to tasting them next year!