Peregrine Farm News Vol. 15 #7, 4/7/28

What’s been going on!

Roller coaster, up and down, feast or famine however you want to describe the spring weather would be accurate.  For weeks we were too wet to even get soil prepared but we managed and are actually right on schedule as far as planting goes but behind harvest wise due to the unusually cool March temperatures.

Then the winds of March arrived and finally some warmer days and we became dry enough to have to set up the irrigation. So last week was water week, prime the pump, flush out the thousands of feet of underground pipe leading to the fields, pull out the headlines and hook up them up to the valves, roll out the sprinklers and drip lines…  It is always this way but we hope to go as long as possible before having to put out the irrigation lines, just more stuff in the way of tractor work and cultivation and another system to check.  Leaks always leaks.

Same with all the row covers for plant protection, we had rolled all those up too so we could get in and cultivate and set up the irrigation but will need to pull a few back out to cover the really sensitive crops for Saturday nights plunging temperatures, just the tomatoes, early peppers and basil but still another one step forward, one step back dance move of spring.  In a while we will be complaining about the heat!

Picture of the Week

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A dew covered Cherokee Purple plant warm inside the tunnel

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #7, 4/1/16

What’s been going on!

It must be April fool’s day, we worked all week expecting a full rain day today, which it started out looking like but now the sun is out!  Longer work afternoons, planting yesterday after finishing up an early harvest just to get it all done.  Just like spring to throw a curve ball at us.

It is the annual tug of war between finishing up the last of the winter projects and facing down the regularity of growing season.  Just need another day or two to get all the firewood in the shed, same with some edge of the field brush clearing we need to do so we can mow more comfortably.  Looks like we will get most of it done this coming week, especially with a few cooler days and nights coming in.

Yes we have warmed up rather quickly this spring with fewer erratic ups and downs but we always know that the chance of a cold snap is there and so it will be this week.  Several chances of temperatures at 32 or below so folks that have planted out tomatoes and other tender crops will need to be vigilant.  We are always ready and expect to have to cover a few things next Tuesday night if not several nights in a row.

On the regularity of the season, the big item on the list this week was starting all the peppers, as usual many varieties and kinds that have to painstakingly be seeded into flats and labeled so we don’t have surprises later in the year!  The ladies also did the tedious second cultivating of the onions which never seems to end but they look great and the deer fence is done!

Picture of the Week

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Spring vegetables glistening after a rain

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #10, 5/6/15

What’s been going on!

Possibly the best week of the spring so far.  Cool mornings, low humidity, highs around 80 and no pollen, you can have the windows open day and night.  Makes for happy farmers and plants.  If we are lucky we have one week like this each spring and then it runs up into the upper 80’s with humidity, ugh.

There is always discussion about why California is the salad bowl of the nation and there are 5 main reasons why.  1) they have really good soils, up and down the state, 2) they used to have lots of really cheap irrigation water subsidized by you and me, 3) they used to have cheap labor and 4) they used to have cheap fossil fuels to ship it across the country.  The 5th reason is they have the perfect climate, low humidity for some crops, coastal fog for other crops, with cool nights and sunny days.

The 5th reason is why they can grow cool season greens so well, they can move production south to north or inland to the coast to always have the perfect conditions.  The ideal average temperature for optimum growing conditions for crops like lettuce is 60-65 degrees, we have that here in Central NC for about three weeks each spring, the last 10 days of April and the first 10 days of May.  Welcome to the perfect week.

So enjoy not only the weather but the bounty of cool season crops at market because they don’t get any better than they are right now and next week it is supposed to be in the upper 80’s.

Picture of the Week

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The spring vegetables literally growing before our eyes

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 12 #6, 4/10/15

What’s been going on!

A two week delay on the newsletter as last week we were moving fast and feeling a bit punch drunk from the fight.  The 21 degrees on the 29th was not kind to many of us farmers.  We had unexpected damage to some crops and others were just fine.  The most striking loss was hundreds of Ranunculus stems that were frozen half way up the and then just collapsed despite being inside the little tunnels, they are sending up new flowers but we are also heading towards the end of their season.

The weirdest injury was the Beets and Broccoli Raab were burned to the ground, never seen those cold hardy crops hurt in that way.  So last week we reseeded them in hopes that they will make it before the heat sets in.  Of course after the deep cold it turned hot and dry with high winds, hard to get seeds to germinate in those kinds of conditions so by the end of the week we had to set up irrigation on an acre of crops to keep them moving along.  This is that chicken on a hot plate time of year.

With irrigation comes rain and those were some terrific storms the last two nights.  Now things are wet enough that it has slowed us down on getting ready to plant the main crop of tomatoes.  It will happen but in the meantime we are in spring cleanup mode including finally taking all the bent steel from the big storm that ravaged the Big Tops in 2012 to recycling.  We are slowly getting ready for the farm tour in two weeks and the first step is tidying up around the place.

Picture of the Week

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Early Tomatoes blooming on the left, lettuce for market tomorrow, Ranunculus recovering on the right.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #9, 5/9/14

What’s been going on!

Jennie and Liz say that I have to be more upbeat when it comes to the newsletter; I say I am just reporting what is going on here at the farm occasionally with some editorial comment.  Hey, it’s like a reality TV show but in real time, what happens is sometimes not under our control and I tend not to sugarcoat things.  To that end, we have had a great week and been going like a house a fire getting a lot done.

There is always a week in the spring when all of a sudden the pace quickens, normally it is a few weeks earlier in April but this is the week.  Usually it corresponds with the beginning of deliveries to Weaver Street Market and warmer weather.  It is later this year due to the cooler spring and the fact that all of us local farmers were delayed getting most of our springs crops in the ground because of the wet conditions and the cold.  I have been predicting that the next few weeks will be spectacular at market with everyone harvesting huge amounts of produce, the heat this week will just push things along faster.

Lots of planting this week with the big winter squash field going in yesterday and more lettuce and flowers going in today and tomorrow, another half an acre all together.  Of course with the heat we are having to irrigate everything to keep it moving and still setting up irrigation in the new crops too.  Mowing, markets, deliveries it’s all happening now, compounded with the addition of Graduation and Mother’s Day festivities this weekend, we are running fast.

Just one month out from the Farm to Fork Picnic.  This year we are paired with our friend and good customer Bret Jennings from Elaine’s on Franklin.  We are still working on our menu items but for sure a blueberry desert and something savory.  Get your tickets now while they are still available and help raise money for new and beginning farmer programs at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems and the Breeze Farm in Orange County.

Picture of the Week

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Jennie and Liz planting flowers, the winter squash in the next block all down in the creek bottom field

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 11 #5, 4/4/14

What’s been going on!

Spring here is always herky jerky as my mother would say. Cold, warm, cold, warm and then all of a sudden it happens, not all at once but in a number of big steps. This week was the first big step. Finally a stretch of days (not just two or three) with nights above freezing, the soil temperatures warm up just enough that things begin to move. The red buds and the blueberries started to bloom, the worms are moving all over the place, the wild garlic starts to grow fast. The next step will be the dogwoods blooming, certain trees leafing out, ants on the move.

The farm moves in jumps too. Last week we were waiting for it to dry out and warm up, this week we are wearing shorts and setting up irrigation. It has been a careful dance this spring to try and keep the plantings on schedule but for the most part we have managed to do so. Now the rush is on to keep it all weeded and watered. It always happens this way.

Good week though as we have made the first pass with the cultivation tools across all the crops, great weed killing weather. The blueberries have all been pruned and a layer of mulch spread. The sliding tunnels have slid(?) and are full of tomatoes and cucumbers. Even the first Zinnias have been seeded out in the field along with the first Sunflowers, no turning the clock back now. Soon we will be covering the Big Tops and getting ready to plant the big array of tomatoes.

Winter schedules overlap with spring realities. Meetings, classes and other obligations that were made back in the slow days of winter now seem hard to manage. All day board meetings, evening classes, morning classes, conference calls are now distractions to what needs to be done outdoors and increasingly can’t wait. In another month even those will mostly be gone, the last big step into the full swing of another season.

Picture of the Week

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Happy Anemones and Poppies just raising their heads

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 10 #10, 4/12/13

What’s been going on!

Spring definitely sprang this week!  It is always amazing how in a day or two it goes from winter gray to all things green.  Of course days of temperatures in the high 80’s doesn’t hurt, other than the sweating brows of the folks in the field.  I hope we can slip back to more of my temperature range of the 60’s and 70’s, not quite ready to go to air conditioning weather.

While we are still pumping to fill the upper pond before the trees fully leaf out and start to suck all the water out of the ground, the weekly rains have been just about perfect for planting.  In years past we used to pace around waiting for it to dry out enough so we could rush out and poke some plants in the ground before the next rain came, three days was all we needed to be able to till and sometimes that was difficult to get.

Spring planting now is all about watching the forecast so we can time our big planting days just before the rains arrive that way we don’t have to water the plants in or set up irrigation.  It is all just a delay tactic as we will eventually have to set up irrigation on everything as soon as the temperatures consistently hit the 80’s.  It is a familiar dance now of cultivating out the newly germinated weeds as soon as the soil dries out enough, maybe picking up the bigger rocks now exposed by the rain and then preparing the next beds for planting.

Yesterday we planted lisianthus, the first zinnias, second round of sunflowers and the last succession of spinach and radishes.  Cool season crops giving way to warm season ones.  Next week is tomato preparation week, have to get the last bits of the Big Top reconstruction done so we can pull the plastic over and begin bed prep and trellis building.  Hold on here it comes!

Pictures of the Week

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Shrubs blooming, trees leafing out, lettuce glistening after the rain

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 8 #9, 5/18/11

What’s been going on?

Well it looks as if the honeymoon is about over. This fantastic run of 70 degree weather and the near perfect spring run up to summer looks to be ending this weekend, had to happen sooner or later. We have been searching our now not so nimble brains to remember when we ever had such a marvelous spring in the 30 years we have been farming and can’t. You know we usually have crazy swings up and down in temperature and rainfall from March to May which wreaks havoc on the cool season crops like lettuce and, if too cool, the same to the nascent warm season crops struggling to believe it will actually ever get warm. We vaguely recall one six or seven years ago that had a smooth rise in temperatures but was irregular in precipitation so I will have to find that stone I etch important things on and scratch Spring 2011 on it.

The warmer weather coming next week will be just in time to sweeten up the blueberries which are hanging heavy on the bushes. We have been trying to get in and get the field all mowed up so the picking conditions will be comfortable, the regular rains have made the grass very happy and the broken tractor mower has not helped. Finally got the mower fixed yesterday so we are trying to get caught up on some really overgrown areas. Fortunately Betsy’s riding lawnmower has kept our heads above the grass so far. She reports that as she has been mowing by the blueberries that she has had to stop a few times to eat the first ripe ones!

Now that the peppers are all in the ground we are into the busy but steady season on farm chores. Tying up and suckering all the tomatoes, trellising flowers, taking out the earliest of the spring crops to make way for later season ones, cultivating and weeding when the soil gets dry enough to do so. This is the time of year that between harvesting and all the rest we feel really good if we can just barely keep up, we feel OK if a few things slip past us for awhile. We are teetering between really good and OK.

Picture of the Week

If we lived in the Salinas Valley (the nations salad bowl) it would look like this everyday. Spring giving way to summer.

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