Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #37, 11/30/18

What’s been going on!

Was Thanksgiving only a week ago?  Seems like a lot more living than that has occurred in the last 7 days!  We hope you all had a great holiday and are ready to go because here comes December and before we know it will be Christmas.

Some really cold mornings here this week in the low 20’s but we have been able to take advantage of the warm afternoons to get some seasonal work done.  A few weeks ago we planted the anemone and ranunculus bulbs into beds that we had prepared in advance, before all of that crazy rain.  Today we pulled the sliding tunnels over them to warm them up and get them growing.

Of course there is always some repair/maintenance that has to be done with those tunnels before we can move them.  Only 5 boards had to be replaced this time for the two tunnels but there will be more I am sure before we move the other four in March but for now everything is in good shape for closing things up tight when the really cold weather arrives.

Picture of the Week

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The new wood being installed.  This tunnel will slide off the lettuce and over the anemones at the far end.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #5, 3/23/18

What’s been going on!

 First week of Spring, really.  Looks like after another round of snow flurries this weekend, the forecasters are threatening 70 degrees on Wednesday!  It is always hard to get full work weeks in this time of year when the weather is so uncooperative and cold.  Only so much fence maintenance, mulching and chainsaw work to do.  Once it warms up and dries out some there is always more to do with the crops in the field as planting and growth all speed up.

Today is tunnel sliding day for the earliest tomato planting.  I always feel that once we slide those tunnels over the prepared beds and trellises and get those plants in the ground then spring is really here, despite what the weather is doing.  Maybe it is just the thought of finally eating a good tomato again after nine long months.

We have been sliding these tunnels for over 20 years now and there is always a lot to do leading up to the actual moving including getting a few extra people here to help.  Back when Betsy and I were younger we could do it with only four people but these days it takes six, not sure what that means?  We are talking about starting to replace the old tunnels beginning this fall with new models that are easier to move, better technology for old and young bodies.

Picture of the Week

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Jennie with a big pile of mulch on a cold morning being moved to the Blueberry field

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 14 #6, 3/24/17

What’s been going on!

So busy last week after all of the cold and windy weather and three nights near or at 20 degrees we had one day to push hard to uncover it all and plant more before the rain that came in on Friday night and Saturday, hence no newsletter.  Most everything seemed to survive the cold, some things burned here and there and the blueberries are still an unknown until they finish blooming (or not).

A big spring week, our new staff began their voyage with us on Monday and not only have Laura and Kyle slipped right into our system but Jennie is doing a great job in directing them.  Two new folks at once is always hard as there are twice as many questions and tasks to think about.  We have for years operated with four of us but in Betsy and my attempts to slow down a bit we have added a 5th to cover some of the things that we used to do.

Rest assured there are still full days for us, like yesterday when we slid the last two of the little tunnels to their new position over the early tomato beds.  Sandwiched on either side of that was firewood cutting and irrigation pump repair.  As head of maintenance, any day I don’t go to Lowes is a good day, yesterday was not one of them.

Picture of the Week

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Laura, Jennie, Oscar and Kyle- an all-star team for sure

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #37, 12/2/16

What’s been going on!

We hope that everyone had enjoyable and filling Thanksgivings!  After two markets in four days we looked forward to taking last Saturday off, Jennie even escaped to the beach for 3 days!. Only a few markets left before Christmas and we plan to be there, with tasty produce, until the end.

Have been working this week on getting three of the little sliding tunnels moved over Betsy’s Anemones and Ranunculus for the winter.  By the end of today the job will be done but things are rarely as straight forward as they might be.  As early adopters of new techniques we built these tunnels 20 years ago before there was really any work done on moveable tunnels much less commercially available models.

There are now more elegant and easily moved styles (and much more expensive!) but ours have served us well but with rails and hoop supports made of wood there is always some maintenance required and so has been the case this week.  We are also redesigning the end walls that have to be taken off when moving day comes.  These are also built of wood and are heavy and cumbersome so with an eye toward the future we have been thinking of a lighter and faster alternative.

Back in October I built the first prototypes on one of the tunnels to see how they would perform (they have done well) so now as we get close to real cold, I am refitting the other five tunnels with the new design.  So the job of moving tunnels that would normally take a half a day has taken several days.  What is new becomes old, what is old becomes new again.

Picture of the Week

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Tunnels moved over the Anemones, old walls off, new walls coming

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #5, 3/18/16

What’s been going on!

Very close to the first day of spring and still feeling very spring like until Sunday and Monday night when they are forecasting a low of 29 degrees, never be complacent in March!

Another busy and productive week.  Two heavy downpours on Sunday and Monday with a total of 1.5 inches in a very short time but the warm weather and a little breeze has dried things out well for perfect cultivation conditions and excellent weed killing.  Jennie and our newest staff person Tricia have worked over almost all the spring plantings, just in time as the rains and warm temperatures have really made the weeds sprout too.

Another 1000 feet of new deer fence is nearly done with about 600 feet more to finish up the big loop, this coming week for sure.  We did have to spend yesterday sliding one of the little tunnels over the early cucumbers and off the first lettuces.  Today we will get all the beds and trellises ready for the early tomatoes so we can slide those tunnels on Monday.

Another sure sign of spring is the start of the regular work schedule when the staff are here every day.  We are fortunate once again to have found another great person who has jumped right in with energy and a smile.  Lacey has moved on to other non-farm pursuits and we will miss her but Tricia is not missing a beat.  Its official, here we go again.

Picture of the Week

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End wall off, tractor hooked up, ready to pull the tunnel over new beds for cucumbers

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #4, 3/20/15

What’s been going on!

Ah the first day of Spring!  Feels like a long time coming and that the season is still behind despite the 80 degree temperatures this week.  Very little movement so far in the perennials, a few forsythia blooming, some green buds on the poplars and the blueberries are sending out flowers.

We know that it will all move fast soon and we must stay on schedule to keep up.  This week was time to slide the little tunnels and get ready to plant the very early tomatoes.  It is a two day process with the first day spent preparing the beds for tomatoes, cucumbers and other early warm season crops, including final tilling, irrigation lines, landscape fabric and building the trellis to support them later.

The second day we first have to unbolt the sliding tops from the rails, take off the end walls and other preparations so they will move easier.  Back in the day we used to slide them with just four of us but we must be getting weaker or they are getting heavier.  We now do it with at least six folks which means coaxing extra friends out to the farm for literally 10 minutes of work.  We only move two of the six tunnels by hand, the rest with the tractor.  This year I was able to get four students from my Advanced Organic Crop Production class to come out.

After the intense 10 minutes and after the additional helpers head off, we have an afternoon of rebolting, re-installing the end walls and general tidying the area but it is done and despite the yearly work of moving them we still think it is a superior system to stationary tunnels as far as soil health and production are concerned.

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Newly uncovered lettuces, almost ready for market and covered tunnels ready for tomatoes next week.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #6, 3/1/13

What’s been going on!

I know, I know, where have we been?  Fair weather farmers etc.  Even we are ready for it to warm up and dry out so we can get some more things in the ground.  Don’t get me wrong, we need all the precipitation we can get right now but we also have to get spring crops planted like the 11,000 onion plants that came last week and are patiently waiting for their date with some soil.

My usual great trip down to the Georgia Organics conference last weekend.  I have been going down to work with and do workshops for this group almost every year since the mid 90’s.  It is exciting to see the growth of small farms in Georgia and the organization, nearly 1300 attendees at this years conference.  This year I co-presented with a friend of mine from South Carolina in a half day session on Crop Planning.  I know yawn, but maybe the real core to a successful farm business.  Full room and not too many confused looks throughout the afternoon.

The greenhouse is definitely full now including the first tomato seedlings.  We did manage to get the first lettuces in the ground and seeded Sugar Snap Peas, Turnips and Radishes before the last rounds of rain and snow.  Even though it will remain cool through next week it looks like it will dry out enough to get caught up with planting- onions, lettuces, beets, carrots and the first spring planted flowers.

The building project creeps on due to the cold and wet weather.  The electrician starts tomorrow and I have begun the plumbing, hopefully to complete in the next week.  Soon thereafter insulation, sheetrock and the push to the finish.  We really need to be done by the end of the month otherwise time to work on things not involved in growing things gets very short.

Picture of the Week

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At least these lettuces are warm and growing

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #4, 3/31/10

What’s been going on?

The last day of March and a brilliant moon last night, just on the other side of full, it hangs on the tree line in the west as the sun is beginning to clear the horizon on the east. Signs of a good day to come. We need a solid day as “the stand”, as we call it, is rising like the phoenix after collapsing in January snow storm. Yesterday we got all of the posts back in line and the supporting beams in place so that today we can raise the rafters back up. With any luck we will be putting the tin roof back on tomorrow.

The moon setting over the rising Stand

Lots of good progress this week, we did manage to slide the “little” tunnels to their 2010 positions. Prior to moving we also prepare all the beds that will be soon indoors with irrigation lines, landscape fabric and for the tomatoes the trellises that will support them. We slid on Thursday and then closed them up to help warm up the soil before planting the warm season crops that go in them. Yesterday the early cucumbers and tomatoes went in the ground, a few days late but happy none the less, hmm real tomatoes in two months!

Great rain for us on Sunday, no severe weather, just a nice long rain with just over an inch. I was beginning to twitch with the thought of having to set up irrigation this early in the season but this rain will keep that job off the list at least for another week. With the winds of yesterday it should be dry enough in the next day or two to return to cultivating the early season crops, have to get ahead of the weeds when they are small. The big batch of spring crops have been going in the ground over the last several weeks and are really beginning to grow now that we have had a good rain. Another round gets planted this week and next and then it is time to turn our sights to warm season flowers and getting ready for the main planting of tomatoes. With the temperatures reaching toward 90 later this week it will seem like it’s time for summer crops, not yet please!

Glenn and Cov planting tomatoes

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #3, 3/24/10

What’s been going on?

It appears as if we have quickly settled into an April weather pattern, 40’s and 70’s. It is always interesting to see how we come out of these cold winters, will we have a pleasant gentle climb towards summer or jump right into it and race up into the 90’s? Let’s hope it’s the former and not the later, in any case the current days are mostly sublime and conducive to over work. Missed the newsletter last week for just that reason, too many spring projects going on and it slipped right by me.

Several large projects going on this week and last. On the cooler days, after the tiny rains we’ve had, we are pushing to finish up chain saw season. We try every year to trim/fight back some section of the woods at the edges of the field. It is a constant battle and if not trimmed up high enough we lose the ability to mow close to the trees and then it is a fast down hill slide into chaos. So in the last week we have worked the about two thirds of the bottom field edge and a section up near the blueberries.

Some of these tree lines we have not done much with since we cleared those fields back in the mid 80’s, that combined with the still lingering effects of downed trees from Hurricane Fran (1996) they were a mess. Lots of little trees grown up in areas we couldn’t mow, grape vines tangling in the branches, cat claw and blackberry briar, a difficult job. I run the chain saw and the guys drag the brush to the fire. It is a dirty, scratchy job to be done only with gloves and long sleeves so that is why we save it for the cooler mornings and days.

The other project that we are rushing to get done is the sliding of the moveable tunnels. Really should have been done last week but we were rushing to try and get things planted before the rain (that really didn’t materialize). Every year we have to replace some of the wooden parts that have succumbed to rot and this year there is fair amount that has to be done before we can slide. Today I will get the remaining boards replaced while the guys get the landscape fabric and trellis for the earliest tomatoes set up. Tomorrow we will move four of the six houses to their 2010 position (the other two get moved in January over the Anemones and Ranunculus). Maybe we’ll plant tomatoes on Friday!

Picture of the Week

Cov with a big ball of grapevine headed to the fire

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Snow Days

The biggest snow since 2004.  Hard to measure accurately as it came in various forms.  When we got up at 4:00 a.m. on Saturday morning there was around 4 inches of a nice powder, about then is when it became more sleet like and denser.  Maybe another inch of this stuff fell but it weighted down the lighter snow underneath.  What we ended up with was 5-6 inches of heavy crusty snow.

We were up that early to go out and sweep the snow off of the unheated tunnels so they wouldn’t collapse.  It is one of the drawbacks of having structures to grow crops in the off-season, they are vulnerable to big weather.

Fortunately the Big Tops are uncovered for the winter so we don’t have to worry about them but the six sliding tunnels we do have to watch.  Since we built our first tunnel in 1997, only three other storms have forced us to go out in the middle of the night to clean them off.  The worst, of course, was the record 20+ inch snow of 2000, when we stayed up all night, going out every 2 hours to sweep. By the end of the night we were almost hallucinating from exhaustion.

Usually 6 inches of snow doesn’t make us nervous but with the potential weight of this stuff we had to be cautious, good thing we were. We saved the tunnels with one good cleaning but our old pick-your-own stand collapsed under the load, onto the big pickup and the car.  Looks worse than it is, just a few dents in the vehicles but we will have to rebuild the roof before the Farm Tour.  I have taken some ribbing about the quality of my construction on this shelter but it has weathered almost 30 years of storms including Fran’s 80+ mph winds and two 20 inch snow falls.  Just wish we hadn’t parked the vehicles under it this time!

So it has been four days now of being snow bound and this is what we have designed our home and farm for.  We just make sure there is plenty of firewood and food and then just enjoy it from the comfort of the house.  Once the tunnels are safe we have no other worry’s, even if the power goes out.  We do wander out and around the place just to view and usually I dust the cross-country skis off and tour the neighborhood, but not this storm.

Look how deep the snow is between the tunnels from cleaning them off

Each day I have walked the 3 miles round trip up to get the newspaper, it is the closest we can get the N&O delivered.  The road is still a sheet of ice and few cars have been up and down it.   There have been plenty of folks out pulling sliding devices including this pure country version with a riding lawn mower pulling two plastic sleds.  

I also had to chuckle to myself as I walked by this house.  Two weeks ago they were out mowing the lawn!  Not that there was anything to mow but maybe it was wishful thinking.

This kind of event doesn’t happen very often here.  This is only the eighth time since we have lived here on the farm that we have had this much snow or more, so we look forward to these snow days.  As long as the tunnels are OK.