Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #2, 1/18/13

What’s been going on!

A great morning to be inside at the desk.  It is nice to see snow again after last winter’s crazy warm and dry weather.  My father always said if you really want to see the lay of a piece of land you need to walk it in the snow.  He was right, it really brings out the contours and highlights maybe because it covers up a lot and it is all in black and white.  Not much of a snow, maybe an inch, but a beautiful clear morning.  This is the view from my desk, down through the woods to our bottom field.

1-18-13 049

Even though it was raining pretty good yesterday we harvested all the root crops as it was warmer than it will be today and if really covered with snow there wouldn’t be any way to get them out of the ground.  This afternoon after it warms up we can get the leafy greens picked for market.  Life of a farmer, one eye on the weather forecast (especially the radar) trying to make the best out of sometimes challenging situations.

We had a great weekend in Tennessee with the Barkers and the Southern Foodways Alliance folks.  The Scholar in Residence this year was David Shields who, among other pursuits, is a historian of southern culinary food stuffs.  He gave a talk on tracing the origins of old watermelon varieties grown for superior taste.  Not that we have grown many watermelons in the past, he did have some seeds of old varieties for us to take home and try.

Too warm there too but it did allow for more outdoor activities than usual to go along with the cooking demonstrations and sumptuous food.  Our fellow Fellows, Mark and Sherry Guenther of Muddy Pond Sorghum Mill brought their demonstration set up with mule drawn press and wood fired boiling pan.  They are one of the leaders in the revival of Sorghum syrup, maybe the largest producer in the US and one of this year’s American Treasures Award winners.  Sorghum syrup is not molasses which is a by-product of the cane sugar industry but is a milder syrup made from sorghum cane.

1-18-13 021

 

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

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.

3/17/05 Vol. 2 #2

OK so it’s now three days from the official beginning of spring and it’s snowing!   We have consulted with lots of our fellow farmers and no one can quite remember a spring this late in getting started.  We are moving forward with the planting plan, as usual, and I think we have caught back up to where we need to be but things just look sad out there in the cold!  There are now over 6000 heads of lettuce in the field and I managed to get the first spinach, turnips, carrots, radish, beets, broccoli raab and the first two plantings of sugar snap peas in the ground but we are still waiting to see them come up.  Most of the flowers look good except they are not as far along as they should be.  Now most of this will quickly correct itself with some consistent warm days, we do wonder though.

In the greenhouse I have gotten a little out of control.  Last week was the big tomato and pepper seeding and as hard as I try to not look at the seed catalogs the siren call of new varieties is seductive.  20 varieties of tomatoes this year including two new purples, several new reds including three we brought back from Italy.  On the pepper side the story is even worse.  36 varieties, partly due to our Italian travels again as well as our continued search for disease resistant varieties.  We have been devastated the last two wet seasons with bacterial leaf spot, which defoliates the plants.  This is a huge problem for large commercial growers and so the breeders are now releasing resistant varieties, at least in the sweet bells.  Our yellow bell has the resistance and it really works, we found one red bell last season that we liked and we are now going to trial four newer ones also.  There are also three new varieties in each of the Poblano and Anaheim/New Mexican green chile types.  The logistical nightmare of keeping track of all these varieties is huge;  from soaking seeds, to seeding in small-cell-size flats (almost 5000 seeds), to moving up the best seedlings into larger containers and then finally moving them to the field and remembering where they are!  All this talk of tomatoes and peppers makes it seem warmer outside already.

Picture of the Week

Snow falling outside while the collards, anemones and lettuce are staying warm inside.