Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #25, 8/22/18

What’s been going on!

OK the rain can stop now!  Fortunately it looks like it will cooperate starting tomorrow.  I have lost track but we are somewhere north of ten inches of rain in the last month.  Luckily we have had enough short dry periods to keep on track with fall planting and in general, while wet, the other crops, especially the peppers are looking pretty good.

Everyone has returned from the August break rested and ready to go for the fall.  Lacee made a few short trips including a run to Knoxville and back.  Jacob made a big loop up to Ohio, over to New York and back.  Jennie made it up to Indiana, Chicago and back.  Betsy and I worked our usual staycation and relaxed quite a bit.

The upcoming weather looks amazing including mid 80’s for Saturday the first day of pepper roasting!  I always dread the first few Saturdays with the roaster as they can be brutally hot but this looks to be maybe the best weather for a first day, ever, in the eleven years we have been doing it.  Remember to come to the stand first to get your peppers into the queue 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!

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Early morning in the pepper patch, waiting for things to dry out

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #14, 5/25/18

What’s been going on!

Wow!  Memorial Day weekend already, how did that happen?  One of those weeks with lots going on and further complicated by all the rain, as we knew it would. Nearly 5 inches for us but we did manage to get all the peppers in the ground on Wednesday and Thursday so we are now ready for the next tropical depression coming our way for the weekend, at least Saturday doesn’t look too bad but Sunday and Monday wet.

Past the peppers the blueberries came on much faster than we had anticipated with this cool spring and we had to start picking on Wednesday.  The one good thing about the rain is that it came just at the right time to make the berries nice and big.  Beautiful crop and we will try and get as many picked for market as we can.

It didn’t help that months ago I had agreed to two events one on Wednesday and another on Thursday, the only dry day in the past seven.  Wednesday morning, very early, I was again in Raleigh speaking on behalf of farmers and other self-employed people who fall into the health insurance gap for the expansion of Medicaid.

Yesterday I was up early to do the required tractor work so we could plant the last of the peppers and then had to drive to the other side of Raleigh to talk about pastured turkey production at an Extension conference.  No we are not raising turkeys again but there are relatively few who do and I was an easy target.  Then I rushed home to get back on the tractor to cultivate the winter squash before we lose them to the sea of crab grass that has sprouted from the rains.  Glad all I have to do today is pick blueberries!

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Peppers happy to be in the ground, heavy mulch of rye and vetch

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #15, 5/26/17

What’s been going on!

Rain, rain, rain.  We are somewhere north of 4 inches this week and things are just soaked but no flooding.  We did push really hard on Monday, seeing the potential for too much water, and got all the peppers in the ground!

It is always a big job but with four of us we were on a roll and the soil was not so wet from the half inch of rain the night before that we couldn’t easily plant.  Even the no-till section was friable enough to tuck them in.  At one point every time I stuck the trowel in the ground I turned up an earthworm, always a good sign!  In the end 2800 plants that are now well watered in and already greening up nicely.

For the most part we have been able to work at least every morning this week and pick berries.  The sad result of the really heavy rain on Wednesday night was that it knocked a huge number of blueberries off the bushes that we just couldn’t get picked earlier in the week.  I do think this is the last week of blueberries for this year, only two weeks.

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No-till peppers happy to be in the ground

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #12, 5/6/16

What’s been going on!

Forty days and nights, at least it feels that way but not quite Ark worthy.  We can’t really complain too much as many of our farmers friends have had it much worse than us over the last week with really high rainfall amounts and very damaging hail and winds but we will be happy to see it all end for a while.

We have had over three inches of rain this last week and a very short period of small hail that you all may notice on some of the lettuce leaves.  You will also notice an extraordinary amount of soil on the lettuce from the intense down pours, we have rinsed as best we can but will leave it to you for the full cleaning once you pull the heads apart.

Late newsletter as the only decent day this week was Wednesday which we used to cover the last of the Big Tops over the flowers.  Already a week later than we wanted but there was just not a day suitable to get it done.  Some of Betsy’s flower crops took some hits from the storms that would have been protected under the Big Tops but most of them will come out just fine.

Big weekend with Mother’s Day and all of the university graduations going on.  The good news is despite the weather we still have a lot of beautiful produce and flowers for the celebrations and for all of our restaurants to make flavorful spring dishes.  Even better tomorrow looks to be a really beautiful day!

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With rain gear on, Tricia harvesting Broccoli Raab in a wet field

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #28, 10/1/15

What’s been going on!

Storm preparation mode.  Haven’t had a stretch like this since 2008, at least that we can remember.  That late summer, early fall we were coming off of a dry period just like this year when several tropical storms hit us in about a week and we had over 13 inches of rain over a two week period.  During the September 6th Saturday market, tropical storm Hannah arrived with high winds and 4 inches of rain.  It shouldn’t be that bad this Saturday but it does look to be wet.

Our first concern this weekend is the potential of the Haw River flooding our bottom field where the peppers are this year and part of the fall vegetables.  With 4 inches of rain this past week the river is already up some and if we get hit with the high end of the 5-9 inches forecast it could be a problem.  Fortunately we will be able know it is coming and will at least be able to pick a bunch of peppers and pull the irrigation pump if it gets that high.

Our second concern is obviously the track of hurricane Joaquin, which yesterday looked like it was potentially on a Fran track but today looks to be trending further out to sea.  As the last dryish day to get things done, we went ahead this morning and uncovered the last of the Big Tops and battened down other things in case the wind does really get up, better safe than sorry.

Tomorrow looks to be a really wet day but we are hoping some of the forecasts are correct about less rain on Saturday.  Of course you all will come on to market because it is the market’s Pepper Festival with lots of good things to eat.  Like last week, we will bring the roaster to market but we will just have to see how windy it is.

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This is what the well-dressed market shopper looked like in the middle of a tropical storm in 2008

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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.

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Another grey day but everything is ready for tomato planting

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #28, 10/15/14

What’s been going on!

Arghhh!!!!  Damn this rain.  Some of you may know that I am somewhat of a perfectionist, really more of “elegantist”, I know not a real word.  I always want to see beautifully crafted activities on the farm, a smooth flow of operations from one to the next, no matter how small or trivial I want things to feel like an efficient dance, elegant.  It is all about timing.

I have been pacing around for a week frustrated knowing that if I could have had one more dry day last week I would have had all the cover crops seeded and with this long rainy period they would be flying up in no time, perfect.  Normally we are lamenting that it is too dry to get soil worked or to germinate seeds uniformly but not so this fall.

Slowed down by a few too many off farm activities and a pulled back muscle I ran out of time.  The yearly soil preparation cannot be rushed, it takes a certain amount of time and passes over the fields to do it right.  Now it will take at least a week for things to dry out enough to finish up.  The later up into October we go the harder it is to insure good establishment of the all important cover crops.  Betsy says to get over it and I will but it will not be elegant, more like a foxtrot than a tango.

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After 6 days and over 2” of rain, hope on the horizon

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #3, 3/7/14

What’s been going on!

Closely watching the creek and river levels, so far so good.  Who knows how much rain we have had over the last 24 hours but fortunately almost no ice.  Like everyone else we have really been looking forward to the warm and sunny weather starting tomorrow, particularly so we could get caught up on planting but now are not sure when we will be able to get back into the fields.  As it is we have delayed planting many of the direct seeded crops like spinach and beets because the soil temperatures have been so cold that we would potentially have really poor germination especially in wet soil and now we will have to hope the winds pick up some early in the week to help dry the soil out.

We did manage to get the first beds of lettuce in the ground as well as 7000 out of the roughly 13,000 onion and leek transplants.  Otherwise we have been pretty successful in whiling away the time on indoor pursuits and various travels while we wait for the weather.  January was really busy starting with our annual Southern Foodways Alliance Fellows event in Tennessee.  Betsy had to fly out of Knoxville to be able to attend the Gathering of Agrarian Elders in California, a really unique opportunity to meet with a number of the leaders of the local/organic food movement.  You may have seen the article in the NY Times.

I barely got home and had to turn around and go to Mobile, Alabama to give several talks at the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Groups conference.  A few weeks home and then February started off in West Texas with a long walking trip in Big Bend National Park (it was cold there too).  Back just in time for the big snow storm and off again to the Georgia Organics conference to teach some more.  In between all of this have been lots of meetings, teaching the community college class and other workshops around the area.  So you don’t think we just have Jennie out here taking care of things, she also slipped off to visit a friend in Hawaii for ten days.  But we are all here now, pacing the floor waiting to get rolling.

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The creek behind our house, roaring by

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #22, 7/3/13

What’s been going on!

40 days and 40 nights, well not quite but over 9 inches of rain for us in June and another couple in the first days of July.  I know lots of folks have had more and certainly the historic rain (5 inches) and flash flood in Chapel Hill and Carrboro on Sunday are much worse than anything we have seen here at the farm this month, we understand the difficulty of post flood clean up.  We did have 15 plus inches in a month back in the late 90’s, seemed like it only rained on us, every day.  Our only real flash flood was after a dumping of more than 10 inches in just a few hours on a June day, the creek jumped its banks and ran down the side of the bottom field in white caps, carrying top soil and crops with it.  Seemed like it rained more back then, at least until this year.

The real danger with this kind of weather is not the amount of water but the constant wetness.  Most crops just aren’t happy with water logged soils and the diseases are happy in the petri dish like environment of hot and humid.  Sunlight is a great sanitizer.  So far most of our crops look good but we do badly need to get in and do more trellising in the peppers as they are getting really top heavy but working in wet plants is a sure recipe for spreading disease up and down the row so for now we wait, maybe Friday.

So what do farmers do when it is too wet to get into the fields?  Start more plants!  It is the time of year that we are all beginning to seed, in the greenhouse, all the fall and early winter crops.  Celery, Brussels sprouts and leeks are already up and looking good.  Yesterday was time for Kale, lettuce, fennel, cauliflower, dianthus, Rudbeckia and more.   If you can’t farm outside, go inside and play with plants instead.

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Tall, tall peppers and we really need to mow those paths too!

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #21, 6/28/13

What’s been going on!

A bit wet and steamy lately?  This is exactly the weather we used to have nearly every summer back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s which eventually lead us to import the Big Tops from England in 2004.  All organic tomato growers fear this kind of weather which leads to all kinds of leaf diseases (and other problems) that they really don’t have any tools to use to protect the plants.  Conventional growers have many sprays they use on a weekly basis to slow down the diseases.

We have told this story many times but it turns out we have a fungal disease that attacks our tomatoes that no one else has (just lucky that way).  We tried many techniques and materials to try and reduce its effect on our tomatoes including good mulching, raised beds, trellising, pruning, airflow, organic sprays and more, all to no avail.  We did know if we could just keep the plants dry it would greatly reduce the spread of the leaf blight.  Enter the Big Tops, just big plastic roofs to keep the rain off but with good air flow, as a friend of ours calls them “tomato umbrellas”.  It is seasons like this that we are glad we spent the money to build them to insure a luscious crop of fruit.

Besides non-stop mowing and weeding there were two big developments this week.  I spent most of Tuesday and Wednesday turning under the remnants of the spring crops and seeding the summer cover crops on three quarters of an acre.  Followed by a big rain on Wednesday night they should fly up.  It has been several years since we have had conditions for great summer cover crops, this looks to be a good season.  The second is we passed all of our final inspections on the new building and they turned the power on!  Just a few things left to do and Jennie can move in this week, woohoo!

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Happy and dry tomatoes

What’s going to be at the market?

It is Lilypalooza, lots of long lasting fragrant pink Oriental Lilies and yellow and pink Asiatics too.  Nikko Blue Hydrangeas and maybe a few white Annabelles too.  Brilliant Zinnias and Gloriosa Daisies (Black eyed Susans), a sign of summer.  Plenty of Sunflowers.    Beautiful Bouquets of course.

Tomatoes!  A moderate supply this week in both the sweeter Ultra Sweet and more balanced Big Beefs in reds and Cherokee purples.  A small supply of the great flavored yellow Orange Blossom and Sungolds.  Cucumbers.  Sweet Red Onions.

Maybe the last week of Lacinato or Dinosaur Kale, is really beautiful, time for those raw Kale salads or Kale chips.  Last of the spring Leeks too.  Plenty of Basil for the tomatoes!

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

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