Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #16, 6/6/18

What’s been going on!

Let the mowing begin!  Change of seasons at the farm and we have mowed down a half an acre of spring crops so far and all the grass that is going wild all around the fields.  Finally a beautiful and dry week, just in time as we were getting backed up on planting and cultivating.

The staff has already cultivated the most urgent beds and planted another 6 or 7 with summer flowers and late lettuce.  We covered the last two Big Tops that will protect the middle planting of crested celosia and some summer lettuce.  Soon it will be time for the big red onion harvest and then the spring crops really will be finished.  Once we pick the last blueberry this week life will settle down into our regular summer schedule.

The Farm to Fork picnic was a great success and it was good to see many of you there and to run into other farmer friends who were also there representing their goods and pairing with local restaurants.  Too much food to possibly sample it all.  As always we had an enjoyable time with our friends at Pizzeria Mercato and their cold cucumber and octopus salad with crispy, spicy chickpeas was a huge hit.

Picture of the Week

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Amazing Annabelle Hydrangeas

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #18, 6/17/16

What’s been going on!

Another busy week with the change of seasons in the fields but apparently not quite yet with the weather.  One more last reprise from summer for the next few days including the longest day of the year and official start of summer on Monday in the mid 80’s!  I always feel like we are buying time when there are days in the low 80’s and nights in the 50’s in June.

We have been mowing down and turning under more spring crops every day, making way for new plantings or cover crops.  Last week beet, carrot, radish beds went under the tiller, this week, fennel, radicchio, more lettuce went down.  Same in the flowers with campanula, stocks, snapdragons and more having their irrigation lines and trellis taken out and then mowed.  Not to worry, more lettuce was planted as well as zinnias and sunflowers.

Now we begin to settle into the summer work patterns of harvesting tomatoes twice a week and maintaining other the summer crops.  Betsy will make her daily rounds through the flowers, getting the sunflowers and zinnias that have opened overnight, checking the other flowers that might be at the right stage to harvest.  All mostly done in the mornings so we can hide out in the shade in the afternoons.  Lots of mowing, weed eating and tying up tomatoes and peppers.  A bit of replanting each week until mid-August when the fall planting starts in earnest.

Picture of the Week

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An amazing Annabelle Hydrangea display, can’t possibly sell them all

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #17, 6/8/16

What’s been going on!

Whew! We survived the Farm to Fork weekend, barely. Three nights in a row with preparation for market and Saturday market all squeezed together is more than simple country farmers are used to! It all went as good as it possibly could have including having to move the Sunday Picnic to an indoor location due to potential severe weather. All events sold out and we raised a lot of money for new farmer training programs.

The change of seasons are upon us with the last of things like beets and larkspur and the beginning of tomatoes and zinnias. If just seems a bit out of whack with the relatively cool start to summer but it looks like the heat comes in with authority this weekend.

Do not miss this our fundraiser dinner this Sunday the 12th. We are doing the first Farmer and Chef Mashup at the Midway Community Kitchen, with Al from Al’s Burger Shack to raise money for Heavenly Groceries. We are thinking of it as a “Sunday dinner” with lots of side dishes from vegetables from the farm, dishes include the first tomatoes of the season with mozzarella, callaloo with pork belly, fennel salad, the first shishito peppers of the season and other good things. $65 with wine pairings, it will be a really good time.

Picture of the Week

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Early morning sun on the tunnel with cukes, basil and shishito peppers

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 9 #10, 5/23/12

What’s been going on!

One of those really busy weeks with lots of moving parts.  We did push hard and got all the peppers in the ground by Friday, 2600 plants, 26 varieties, 20 beds, hallelujah!  The change of seasons is upon us as we mowed down and turned under most of the spring vegetables, all of the over wintered flowers and the scary weeds that accompanied them.  The place looks so much better now.

We always get behind during blueberry season and this is when we have a tendency to lose some things to the weeds but the weather was just right the beginning of the week and with the extra help of some blueberry pickers we were able to get most everything weeded and cultivated.  The rain held off just long enough for us to get the next round of flowers planted too.  Six beds of celosia, more zinnias, asters and sunflowers.  With any luck we will plant the winter squash today.

Sandwiched in between was the Farm to Fork picnic on Sunday, which went beautifully.  We had a great time with Seth and Thomas from Pazzo restaurant and the torn Lacinato Kale salad with lemon, olive oil, parmesan cheese got rave reviews.  The weather was perfect and the nearly 700 guests and volunteers all appeared to really enjoying it.

Picture of the Week

Thomas and Seth dishing up the Lacinato Kale salad

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 8 #11, 6/1/11

What’s been going on?

Welcome to June, ugh! I thought June was the gentle transition to summer and July and ugh. The forecast has it dropping to 89 next Tuesday, the average high for July, woohoo! Alright too early for the bad summer weather attitude, I knew if I waxed too much about how perfect the spring had been that it would jinx the whole thing.

So let’s find the silver lining. The blueberries are ripening fast and the heat makes them even sweeter. We have had one of the largest picking crews working the bushes we have ever assembled, up to 10 some days, and they are handling the heat well even though that last hour before lunch slows them down some. Peppers are loving this weather and growing fast, soon we will need to start trellising them before they fall over in a storm. Tomatoes too, this is the time of year when we have to go through and tie them up every week lest they flop over into the row and maybe break a branch off heavy with green fruit. Betsy is happy as well, the summer flowers almost bloom as you watch them, sometimes she has to cut sunflowers twice a day.

While last week was about trying to salvage the end of the cool season crops, this week is full on acceptance that the party is over and it is time to clean up and move on. The spring vegetable field only has a few beds of beets, carrots and a few radishes left, the rest mowed and turned under. The overwintered flower field looks the same with just a few rows of late Bachelors Buttons and larkspur remaining. The lettuce field not only has only a handful of beds left but the rest has already been replanted to sunflowers, zinnias and other heat loving flowers.

Such are the seasons in North Carolina, distinct and abrupt. Our farming friends further north plant it all when it thaws out and then it all happens at one time in mid summer and they run hard in the long days to bring it all in before it gets cold again. No cool season, warm season cool season, it is just either the growing season or not. Lettuce and spinach, tomatoes and peppers all at the same time. Not sure which I would prefer?

Picture of the Week

New sunflowers, celosia and zinnias on the heels of the last lettuce in the background

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 8 #10, 5/25/11

What’s been going on?

Looks like another monumental blueberry crop, last years was so small it hardly registered. This year there are a lot of berries and they are big starting out. We have had five or six folks each day picking and have not made it all the way across the planting yet. We knew this heat would push them hard and make them ripen fast and it has. A good group of folks picking which usually adds new interesting conversations to our usual mix but this group is timid so far and we will need to loosen them up, maybe they are concentrating so hard on picking that they can’t talk at the same time.

The first real week of irrigation this year and we are trying hard to keep the last of the spring greens happy. We use little micro-sprinklers in the lettuce and spinach and other spring vegetables. They put out a fairly fine mist so we try and water mid afternoon so they get some evaporative cooling but don’t go into the night too wet underneath the plants. There is a fine line between enough moisture and too much. Too much gives us bottom rot in the lettuce, too little and the plants wilt and the stress causes them to get bitter and go to seed. We usually end up losing some to bottom rot but it is better than having it all get bitter. This last week of May is always a dance before we just give in and say it’s time for summer crops.

The daily search is on for the first ripe tomato. I slip by the early tomato tunnels several times a day, ostensibly checking irrigation or some other excuse but really I am looking for some pink color. It happens fast and we have been able to eat the first one this last week of May for several years now. The plants look as good as we have ever had and there is a lot of fruit set on them. I usually take the first one around the blueberry field and cut slices off for the pickers to savor if it is large enough, otherwise Betsy and I will quickly consume it down at the packing shed or out in the field where ever I find her at the time. Come on now, we are ready for a real tomato!

Picture of the Week

There is a lot of picking to be done

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #13, 6/2/10

What’s been going on?

OK, enough with the wet weather, we need some drying time to get some soil turned over and to keep the diseases and weeds at bay! It is the change of seasons for sure around here. Sunday I mowed down all of the mixed spring vegetable crops except for the beets, lacinato kale and a few radishes. I followed that by mowing down the remaining larkspur, bachelors buttons and other overwintered flowers. Friday I mowed down the majority of the spring lettuce beds leaving only a few beds with the hot weather tolerant Summer Crisp varieties. In some ways it’s sad, but mostly it is relief and time to turn our efforts to summer crops. If we can get a few days dry, I will get all the summer cover crops planted on the freshly mowed areas and the cycle will start again.

The herky, jerky blueberry season continues on. Not a huge crop but very large berries due to lots of rain and fewer fruit on the plants. The birds and squirrels are having a field day, which is usually not noticeable when there are lots of berries but now we can really notice that there are fewer ripe fruit on the rows next to the woods. Betsy draped some fake rubber snakes in the bushes to try and slow them down but it mostly surprises the pickers as they reach into the bush to find a snake on the branch. With the generally cool and cloudy weather they are also ripening at a slower pace so scheduling the pickers has been irregular too. We are trying every other day this week and by the end of the week there will not be a lot of berries left on the bushes, as I suspected the season will be short and sweet.

The turkeys have been out in the hydrangea and viburnum field for a week now and seem to be getting the hang of outdoor life. Some groups of birds are just more flighty and difficult to wrangle. This group, maybe because there are only 30 of them, seem to get along well and self organize better than past flocks. Every morning at daylight we let them out and they come rolling out the door to explore the day, moving around the field in mass. Every evening near dark, with the feeder and waterer already returned to inside the shelter, we go to close them up and they are all inside on their roosts, ready for sleep. Some years it takes multiple chases around the shelter to scoot the last hold outs inside, not so this group, maybe a more intelligent batch?

Picture of the Week

Turkeys in the Hydrangeas on a gray morning

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6/9/04 Vol. 1 #13

This is definitely the change of seasons going on.  Mow down the larkspur and other flowers, take down the pea trellises, turn under the last of the lettuce;  plant more sunflowers, the last tomatoes and seed the winter squash.  Winter squash?  That definitely is a sign of different things to come.  Just as we will be treated by the first tomatoes and melons my schedule tells me it’s time to seed the Brussels Sprouts for Thanksgiving!  Sometimes I am struck by how far in advance our schedule is determined.  Things like when to seed and plant have been decided last year, by early December at the latest.  Every fall we sit down with our notes and the seed catalogues and plan the entire coming year.  Fortunately we can now do it on computer spread sheets which makes it easier to make changes.  This year there are over 300 lines/entries that correspond to different varieties and planting dates.  I always say that any plan is better than no plan especially, when in the heat of the fray, all I have to do is look at the list and say “Oh yeah, it’s time to seed Brussels Sprouts”.  I then scratch my head in disbelief but know that this decision was made in calmer times with great deliberation, so off we go.  Other decisions like where to plant those B. Sprouts may have been made years in advance by our crop rotation scheme, we now have an eight year rotation where the same crop will not be in the same piece of ground for eight whole years.  Sometimes it is comforting to just follow the known path than to try and design a new trail!

The turkeys graduate today.  They are now five weeks old, fully feathered and big enough to move out to the fields permanently.  We have been letting them out daily and getting them acquainted with their new mother ship (a portable shelter for their nighttime rest) and the moveable electric fencing that will keep them in and the four legged predators out.  First stop on the Tour de Peregrine will be in some of Betsy’s shrubs that she cuts for flowering branches (like the Pussy Willows), this gives them a little more cover from hawks etc. while they are still on the small side.  Then every few weeks we will move them to “greener pastures” until they have made the entire loop around the farm.

Picture of the Week
Fabulous Annabelle Hydrangeas and the new turkey stomping grounds.

6/8/05 Vol. 2 #14

Wow!   Zero to Sixty in record time!  End last week with cool 70’s and gentle rains begin this week with 95 degrees and heavy thunderstorms.  I would say that summer has come.  It is all about blueberries now.  We have a crew of up to eight trying to keep up with the fast ripening fruit, to no avail.  I tell them don’t look back at where you just picked as it could be depressing.  We put flags, in the row, to mark where we stopped picking so we will know where to start the next morning because you absolutely cannot tell otherwise.  It is always enjoyable and interesting in the blueberry field.  First it is the most comfortable job on the farm, standing up, usually a breeze across the hill and the birds just singing away in the trees (happy with all of the blueberries they have eaten).  Secondly the crew is always an eclectic group.  My usual staff which includes Joann and Rett, farmers on their own places, Rachel a college student in geography, Julia who recently graduated college from Nova Scotia, plays hockey and directs Shakespearean plays.  We always have a few returning pickers like Brenda who is taking a hiatus from farming in Illinois this year.  Then we round it out with a few new faces like Max from Texas who is searching for the right place to start his own farm and then a couple of high school students.  The conversation is always wide ranging and I am never quite sure who is more scandalized, the older ones or the younger ones!

Betsy and I almost never get into the berries as we scamper around trying to put our fingers in all of the other holes in the dike of Peregrine Farm.  This is the true change of seasons as we begin to take out irrigation and mow down the finished cool season crops.  There is only one bed of lettuce left in the field, which is now almost entirely changed over to flowers- sunflowers, zinnias, celosia, asters and more.  The rest of the cool season vegetables will soon go under the mower to be followed with more flowers, what will eventually be the last of the year.  The larkspur, first sunflowers, bachelors buttons, etc. will turn into lush cover crops of sorghum and soybeans to improve the soil and feed and shade the turkeys when they get in there in two months or so.  It all happens this few weeks in mid June.  I also managed to get the first layer of trellising in the first eight beds of peppers including all of the hots.  Last year we waited 48 hours too long to get this job done and they were all blown over by a huge storm, never to fully recover for the rest of the season.  Last night as the thunder was rumbling just over the hill I put the last strings on.  With in an hour the heavy rains came and they stand straight and proud now.  Joann seeded the Brussels Sprouts and Celery for Thanksgiving, that is a true sign of seasonal change!  I swing through the berry field every so often to check on the progress and quality, partake briefly in the conversation and grab a hand full of fruit and head back off to what ever chore I am in the middle of.

Picture of the Week
A wall of blue fruit