Italy and Terra Madre

As many of you know we have been fortunate to have now attended all four of the Slow Food Terra Madre international conferences.  This gathering of world food communities, from now 162 nations, is an amazing spectacle of people, food and ideas.  Our first Terra Madre, in 2004, we were housed with a farm family just outside of the city of Torino and have since become good friends, we have been back to visit six times.

The Piovanno’s raise Piemontese veal under very specific guidelines, from raising the feed all the way through selling it in their own macellaria (butcher shop).  The macellaria is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday only and by Saturday evening they are ready for some rest.  Because we know this, we try to time our visits to arrive on Sunday afternoon after they have had a chance to relax.

Because the conference started on Thursday we arrived in Italy the Friday before so we could get over the jet lag and be prepared for the whirl wind of activity that accompanies a visit to the Piovannos and the extended Novara family.  The last several trips we have flown into Milan, rented a car, and explored some corner of northern Italy before we get to Torino.

This time we started in the far northwest corner, the Valle d’Aosta.  The Alps form its mountainous rim and the borders with France and Switzerland, including Monte Bianco (the highest mountain in western Europe at 15,771 feet), Monte Rosa and Monte Cervino (the Matterhorn).

A two to three hour drive from the Malpensa airport put us in the heart of the valley, the town of Aosta.  We decided to stay for two nights in Cogne, located in a higher valley, 16 miles further south.  An old mining town and now the northern gateway to the Gran Paradiso National Park.

The perfect place to recover from jet lag, see some great scenery and eat the first of many fabulous meals.

a killer charcuterie plate the perfect way to start

risotto with fontina cheese and bread

carbonade with roasted polenta

This was the view from our balcony as the cows came in from pasture in the evening.

The next day we had hoped would be clear and we could take the cable cars up onto the  side of Monte Bianco and it’s glaciers but it wasn’t so instead we toured the old Roman walled town of Aosta, the nearby ski station of Pila and the Fenis castle.

One of the old Roman arch entries to the town of Aosta

The Matterhorn is in the clouds

Fenis castle

Sunday we made our way to Torino for three days of visits with the family, followed by three more days of Terra Madre and family combined.  Monday we had planned to drive down to the Ligurian coast to San Remo, which is the cut flower capital of Italy, to pick up some special Poppy flower seeds which Betsy had been arranging from this side of the Atlantic.  It was unclear if we could contact the dealer so we bailed on that plan.

Instead we drove down through the Langhe hills and viewed the wine country, grapes in all directions.

We then made our way back to the farm via Carmagnola, which is famous for its peppers.  We stopped in at one roadside stand and they allowed us to walk out into their production houses.

It is the end of their season too and while the plants look tired, the peppers they were picking were beautiful.

Tuesday we got up early and went mushroom hunting with family and friends.  It is porcini season and we were up in the foothills in a solid beech forest.  Not a lot to be found but it was beautiful.

After the morning of walking the hills we toured the nearby Sacra di San Michele.  An amazing monastery perched on top of a rock outcropping that juts out into the valley that leads up to Bardonecchia and one of the Olympic ski areas.  This is one of my favorite sites we have seen in Italy, stunning.

The view up towards Bardonecchia

Wednesday was a slower day with a late afternoon visit to yet another of the castles, of the Savoy family, that surround Torino.  Our family is concerned that they are running out of castles to show us but I’m not worried.  Rivoli castle is high on the western side of the city with a grand view over it.  Now turned into a modern art museum it is still an imposing structure.

Essentially every evening we all gather at one location for a huge family meal.  “We” being up to fourteen, or more, various family members including uncles, cousins, mothers, brothers, friends, you name it.  In many ways these meals are the highlight of our trips both for the food and the conversation.  Betsy of course does much better than I do in conversation but this is really how we have come to love and better understand these people and their daily lives.  Usually it is at Kati and Michele’s farm but we have convened in other great family homes too.  This is one of the rare meals out, at their favorite local pizzeria.

Thursday and it is finally Terra Madre time.  The first day is mostly about checking in, getting your badges and the opening ceremonies.  It is also the first day of the Salone del Gusto.  The Salone is Slow Food’s huge specialty food show showcasing both the world wide Slow Food Presidia projects but also the specialty foods and regions of Italy.  Over 150,000 people attend over five days and it is crazy crowded.  This first day is the day to see as much as you can before the weekend hordes arrive.

We brought back this new small sauce tomato, a Presidia from Puglia, similar to the fabulous one we have been growing from Campania.  We will try and grow it next year and compare the two.

This is a gallery of shots from the Salone including the requisite prosciutto and cheese shots, a copper pot set up for a cheese making class, a new red celery, the world’s largest sides of bacon and an olive harvesting demonstration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We managed to get about half way through before we had to take the 30 minute walk back to the opening ceremonies held at the Olympic Ice Hockey stadium.  A huge crowd with many speakers and a marching in of all the nations flags.

Friday and Saturday is a whirlwind at Terra Madre with workshops, the US delegation meeting, more forays into the Salone and other sights.  One of the things that happen is the impromptu world market that sets up in the Terra Madre hall, the people watching is mind boggling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each afternoon we shuttled several groups out to see our friend’s farm and macellaria.  Their farm is just south of Turin in the town of Stupinigi, famous for the hunting castle of the Savoy’s which is literally what they see when they drive out their gate!

This is the inside of the courtyard of the farm complex and the Piemontese breed that they raise.

This is Kati with our friend Mimo, from Missouri, in the macellaria.

The closing ceremonies are held on Sunday evening but we had to miss them because we had to catch a plane to Barcelona for the second leg of this adventure.  It was a sad good bye to all on Saturday night after another great meal that included Sarah, Sabrina and Anna, the rest of our Carrboro Farmers’ Market delegation.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #29, 11/21/10

What’s been going on?

Wow! Two months since the last newsletter and I can tell you we have not been standing still. Here we are slipping up on the greatest of all food holidays and there is a lot to do but a brief recap of the fall first. The six plus inches of rain in late September came at the ideal time to not only ease the drought but to moisten the soil to make fall soil preparations and cover crop seeding nearly perfect. As we drove out the drive way on the way to Italy, for the Terra Madre meeting, a perfect rain was falling on the newly seeded fields.

The nearly three weeks we were in Italy and Spain was the longest we have ever been away from the farm in 30 years. Look for full reports with lots of pictures on the website, we will get them up after Thanksgiving. The Slow Food Terra Madre meeting was overwhelming as always, with so many people from 162 countries and of course the Salone de Gusto specialty foods show was eye popping. We had a great visit with our Italian family who again showed us hospitality beyond belief.

After Terra Madre we spent a week in Spain with Ben and Karen Barker of Magnolia Grill, searching for great food and ingredients. Not hard to find the great food and we went to many markets to find the new vegetables were looking for. We have brought back five new peppers and a new tomato to try and grow here. The country side was beautiful and their food culture is very different from what we have seen in other parts of Europe.

As we turned into the driveway of the farm and the headlights moved across the fields we could see that the rains had indeed brought up one of the most beautiful sets of cover crops ever. It was a crazy, hectic week trying to re-enter regular life: hundreds of emails, crops to plant for next spring, Thanksgiving crops and turkey details to catch up on, etc. Betsy was home for six days before flying to Tulsa, OK for the Assoc. of Specialty Cut Flower Growers conference. Two days later I left for nine days in Utah, hiking the upper Paria river area.

Home for three days now and we are in a sprint towards the special Tuesday Thanksgiving market (see the details below). Tomorrow morning I go down to retrieve the turkeys from the freezer plant and then we start the harvest of all of the vegetables to go with the dinner. Betsy has been busy while I was gone planting more anemones, ranunculus and Dutch iris for next spring. We need a rest from all our time off!

Picture of the Week

Beautiful Brussels Sprouts plants (unfortunately no sprouts for Thanksgiving) and awesome Celery

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #28, 9/22/10

What’s been going on?

So this guy is walking down Summer Blvd. with a set of old directions in his hand. He approaches what should be Fall St. and the directions say he should turn here. He looks left and right and sees, in the short daylight hours, the trees turning color and dropping leaves, it looks like Fall but it could be the drought and even though it is a cool morning the forecast for the days to come are for temperatures still in the 90’s. He is not sure what to do, the directions he has indicate that this should be the turn and way down the street he can make out a sign that says Winter Ave.. A suspicious looking character walks up and whispers that the rumor is that just down Fall St. things really change, you can get all the good stuff-cooler temperatures, shorter days and even…rain!

Welcome to the new first day of Fall, not the way is used to be, we will just have to use our imaginations this year. The forecast is for temperatures in the 70’s on Sunday and Monday with a chance of rain. Being pragmatists we will wait and see. Not much left out in the field and by Friday it will all be gone except for the pepper plants, the turkeys, some vegetables for Thanksgiving and a few rows of flowers for next year. All the Big Tops are uncovered for the winter, almost everything is mowed down, waiting for some moisture so we can disk it in. I ran the last of the irrigation water out of the upper pond to the lower one, just enough to get us to the end. The dock in the upper pond now stands on dry ground. Seems like fall, just doesn’t feel like it.

As you all know by now this is our last week at Saturday Market for the season. Sure we’ll be back on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving for the special holiday market and to pass out the turkeys, and Betsy is threatening to make some guest appearances in December if we still have some produce left but we are turning onto Fall St. and going down it until we get to Winter Ave. Three weeks from tomorrow we will be flying to Italy for the Slow Food Terra Madre conference and after that to Spain to visit markets, eat more great food and search for new peppers to bring home to grow. Between now and when we leave there is still a lot to get done and hopefully I will have time to get another newsletter out but if not look for one when we get back with news of our adventures. As always we cannot thank you all enough for the support you give us and the farm, without you we would not be able to do what we do!

Picture of the Week

The early morning rays on a nearly empty farm

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #23, 8/18/10

What’s been going on?

I was reading somewhere the other day the thoughts of one of our fellow farmers talking about having SAD (Seasonally Affective Disorder) but in this case the summer variety. As you probably know SAD is a combination of too little daylight and I think melatonin production that leads to depression in the short days of winter. In our cases (I say collectively for other farmers as well) this long day version is from too much daylight resulting in too much melanin and heat! We are all dragging around waiting for this summer to be over, looking for signs of true cool weather to come. A little respite this week, only in the low 90’s! Shouldn’t complain, talked to some farming friends in Texas yesterday who have been running in the 100’s for weeks. They are thinking about a summer house in Minnesota for next August and just not growing anything during that time.

So we march on thinking about fall and other pursuits. One thing for us to look forward to is our return to Italy and the fourth Slow Food Terra Madre conference. We will be one of the few folks who will have been to all four meetings and we never expected that to happen. We are excited this year to be part of a small delegation from the Triangle that includes Sarah Blacklin, the Carrboro Farmers’ Market manager, Sabrina Lopez who is wrangling the market’s EBT and Truck Bucks token program and Anna Child who wears several hats including a coordinator for the Core Sound community supported fish project.

The Terra Madre meeting is a gathering of farmers, food artisans, chefs and educators from over 150 countries and is a unique opportunity to interact with other like minds from around the world. The organization pays for all of the participants housing, food and transportation costs in Italy. The expense is getting there. There are several fund raisers being held to help Sarah, Sabrina and Anna to pay for their plane tickets including a fish fry with Core Sound seafood on August 28th at Johnny’s store in Carrboro. If you are interested you can also donate online at the Triangle Slow Food website. Betsy and I feel that exposure to this world event can be an illuminating experience for anyone who attends, so we want to make sure these ladies are able to go. Betsy and I are paying our own way but they could really use some help to offset the cost.

Picture of the Week

The opening ceremonies from Terra Madre 2008, Carlo Petrini speaking

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

8/18/04 Vol. 1 #22

Betsy says if that was a vacation then don’t ask her to go again!  Mostly due to the potential of the incoming storms we worked our tails off!  Normally on August break we do a little farm work and then take it easy but between crops that had to be harvested and battening down the hatches we only really felt like we had one slack day.  Oh well only six weeks to go until the Big break.  Until Hurricane Fran in 1996 we didn’t even think about big storms.  It’s the wind that really has us jumping, with all of these greenhouses that are like big sails we have to be conservative when it comes to the forecasts for wind.  Now every two years or so we have a fire drill taking plastic off greenhouses and tying down all of the equipment that normally is just strewn around the farm like five gallon buckets and other light items.  This time the wind didn’t come but as you all know, as of early Saturday morning they were calling for up to 60 miles per hour winds.  Our “Big Tops” are supposed to take up to 70 mph but who wants to try it? So we uncovered them knowing that  the rain would then do such damage to the crops under them (the tomatoes for sure) that we would have a loss there.  This is not a drive the car into the garage kind of job, it takes hours and it can’t be windy so we have to make these calls a day or more in advance.  So we spent the better parts of Thursday and Friday securing things and then parts of Saturday and Sunday untying things.  Now believe me we are glad the storms did not come but it sure didn’t make for a relaxing break!

Other exciting news is that we are headed to Turin, Italy in late October for a first ever international small farmer congress being put on by the Slow Food organization.  We are honored to have been nominated by the local Slow Food group and then to have been accepted to attend along with 500 other producers from the US and a total of 5000 worldwide!  Slow Food is a group that originated in Italy, about 20 years ago, which is dedicated to the preservation and enjoyment of local, handcrafted foods like you find at market.  Every two years they have a huge exposition in Turin displaying and tasting artisanal foods from around the world called the Salone de Gusto.  For the first time ever they are overlapping that event with this congress of small producers called Terra Madre where we will participate in workshops and discussions on sustainable ways of producing great foods.  Incredibly they are paying for all of our expenses except for our plane tickets!   We have asked that they pay for half of our airfare so the local group is having a fund raiser next Wednesday the 25th at Pop’s restaurant in Durham.

Pop’s will donate a portion of the evening’s profits to Slow Food, and the donations will be used to offset the travel costs of two local farmers so that they can attend the Terra Madre conference in Turin, Italy in October. (For more info on Terra Madre, please go to http://slowfoodusa.org/events/terramadre )


We are excited about the possibilities of this trip and hope that we come back with lots of new ideas, maybe the next pepper roaster or something equally fabulous.  We will have more details in future newsletters.

Picture of the Week
Tomatoes, now uncovered, succumbing to foliar disease from too much damp weather.

9/1/04 Vol. 1 #24

Yahoo! we finally made it to September!  I thought August would never end, now we just have to get past this damned hurricane season!  I comment often on how, in the 23 years that we have been farming, we have seen every extreme weather record broken- the coldest ever, the hottest ever, the deepest snow, etc.  I have not researched the records but I don’t remember ever having four of the first seven storms come across North Carolina and now Frances will probably impact us in one way or another, it has to be some kind of record.  The 3.2 inches of rain we got from Gaston has things pretty well soaked.  We went down to harvest winter squash yesterday and just about got the tractor stuck in the field and what was left of the tomatoes is pretty ugly now.

We want to thank everyone who came out to (or tried to, as it was sold out) the Slow Food Dinner at Pop’s restaurant last Wednesday to raise money to help cover our part of our airfare to Italy in October.  It was good food even if it was louder than a rock concert in that room!  I have had several people ask how they can make direct donations and it can be done to the local Slow Food chapter.   Betsy and I are a little taken aback by this fund raising stuff, maybe farmer pride, as we are just so used to making our own way.  Thank you all again.

The turkeys have been totally integrated this week, moved to yet another field and now allowed to roam together.  Everyone is getting along fine and the heritage birds don’t seem to notice the new white intruders sidling up next to them on the roosts at night.  The reservation forms and deposits are beginning to come in and about a third have been reserved already.  Those of you who had birds last year I do need to have your information (that is if you want a turkey this year) so that I don’t screw up and not hold the right size turkey for you (my memory is not what it used to be).  I do have a record of what kind and size you had last year if that helps you any.  I also realized that those of you who have never had a locally produced pastured turkey might want a little more info on how they compare to each other to help in making the decision on which bird is the one for you.  Last years experience taught us that all of them were excellent and far superior tasting to any other turkey we had ever eaten.  That being said there are three major differences between the heritage birds and the whites.  First is size, the heritage turkeys will not be any larger than about 15 pounds and the whites will not be any smaller than 15 pounds.  Second, the heritage birds have a higher ratio of dark meat to white meat for those of you dark meat lovers, this is not to say there is not a lot of white meat just not the huge breasts of the whites.  Third, the meat is firmer and more full flavored on both types that what you may have had in the past, with the heritage birds having the chewier (not tough) dark meat and more flavor overall.  I hope this helps, in addition here is a link to three New York Times articles about the heritage birds with the third one a taste comparison of eight birds. http://www.slowfoodusa.org/nytarticle.html

Picture of the Week

Even on a drab day the celosia are incredibly vivid.

11/6/04 Vol. 1 #28

Well we’ve been back for ten days but a combination of too many things to deal with and not enough time or energy to overcome the pile until now.  Let’s talk Italy!   We had a great time!!!

The whole trip is still kind of a blur and we are still processing all that we saw and did.  In many ways it was what we expected and then there were the parts that completely overwhelmed us.  The actual Terra Madre event that was the catalyst for us going was amazing and also crazy.  It was like the Olympics and the United Nations all at once, almost 5000 food producers from 128 countries with seven languages being translated at once!  The logistics of such an endeavor are mind boggling and as one would expect a few crumbs fell between the cracks at times.  This lead to the workshops being somewhat challenging (read mostly not great) but the people watching and people meeting made up for that.  The delegates where encouraged to where their traditional dress (which made us North Americans look mighty pasty!).  The African women with their jewelry, the Peruvians with the hats and bright colors, the native Brazilians with the feather headdresses, the Kirghiztani herders with their tall felt hats and more.  Then the impromptu market place that sprung up on the floor heightened the sense that we were not in Kansas!

The Peruvians
The closing ceremonies with Prince Charles!

The most unexpected and by far the best part was where Betsy and I stayed.  We had been told that it might be a farm stay.  To us that most likely meant an organized agritourismo, used to housing foreigners.  After being in transit for 27 hours and mostly awake for 33 straight hours we were dropped off in the dark in front of a classic Italian brick and tile roofed facade.  Greeted by our farm family who spoke no English except for the uncle (Oscar) and we who spoke about six words in Italian.  For five nights we had the best time, learning and laughing and eating the most amazing meals we would have in the country.  With lots of patient help translating from Oscar and his son Diego, pictures we had brought with us, and a large Italian/English dictionary we managed to get the gist of what both sides were saying.  This fourth generation farm produces artisan meat from raising the grain, to feeding it to the special Piedmontese beef and hogs, all the way to selling it in their own butcher shop down stairs.  This was some fabulous meat and salami and we were treated to many great traditional dishes each night as we would sit down to six and seven course meals (molto bene!).  Michele and his wife and son, Kati and Lorenzo, worked long hard days (duro giorni) and had just opened their house and farm to us.  We became friends and hope to see each other again.

Oscar, Alex, Betsy, Diego, Kati, Michele our new Italian family

The inside of their beautiful courtyarded farm

Needless to say as we waved goodbye on the seventh day from home (with not much sleep and too much stimulation) and made our way to the train for the rest of our trip we looked forward to time alone to think about all that had transpired and some much needed rest.  Over the Maritime Alps to Sanremo on the Riviera de Fiori in search of the largest cut flower market outside of Holland.  It was not to be easily found but we managed to get the right bus and walk through it but long after the days business was over.  Next trip!  We did have a nice time walking the streets and climbing the rabbit warren alleys of the old town.  Finally another train ride back to Milan for the night and then the long trail home.  As we were on the shuttle bus back to our car at the airport in Raleigh it seemed hard to believe that we had been on the subway in Milan that same morning.

The Riviera from our hotel room

I would like to say that we came home with many great new things to produce for market but there was just nothing that jumped out at us, there are surely things that we will incorporate into what we do and maybe some of the seeds we brought back will be new treasures!  The experience was one we will never forget and we want to thank all of you who made it possible!

Things here on the farm looked great when we returned, Joann can run the place without us just fine.  The turkeys are all sold and are headed off on Monday to be processed.  Look for a newsletter in two weeks just before the special Thanksgiving market on Tuesday the 23rd from 2:00-6:00pm.  The rest of the vegetables and flowers for Thanksgiving are coming along nicely too.

6/14/06 Vol. 3 #14

Well I’ve been up since 4:00 a.m. trying to reserve plane tickets to Italy.  As these things go on the Internet sometimes, I have yet to successfully complete the transaction (it is now 6:30).  We have finally heard, quasi-officially, from the Slow Food people that we have been accepted to attend the second Terra Madre conference in Turin Italy!  Some of you may remember that we were very fortunate to have been nominated to attend the first ever world gathering of food producers two years ago.  That experience of convening with 5000 other farmers, ranchers, herders, gatherers, etc. and the on farm housing has colored many of the new things we do here on the farm.  The exposure to cultures steeped in artisanal foods and old breeds has made us explore new (to us) varieties and food production ideas.  The on going attempt to form a successful poultry and meat processing cooperative has partly sprung out of the knowledge that with out it, local farmers will not be able to move towards further sustainability of their operations.  So we are off again to Turin the end of October.  This time not only with 5000 food producers but also with 1000 chefs and over 150 academics from around the world.  Slow Food is correctly expanding their aim to include the professional people who cook with local foods and can most quickly affect peoples palates and minds.  Our local chapter (convivium in Slow Food parlance) put forth an ambitious slate of people to attend and it appears as if almost all were accepted to go.  This includes our good friends, chefs and customers Ben and Karen Barker of Magnolia Grill and Andrea Ruesing of Lantern Restaurant.  Our delegation will also consist of at least eight animal producers and eight representatives of the seven local producer-only farmers’ markets.  We see this as a great opportunity to help move our local food system to a new level of understanding and cooperation.

The Slow Food organization and it’s mission resounds closely with what Betsy and I have been trying to do for the past twenty five years.  In the words of it’s founder, Carlo Petrini, producing food that is “good, clean and fair”.  We have always tried to grow products with great flavor and eye appeal (good), in a way that is sustainable (clean) and treats us, our employees and our customers well (fair).  With over 80,000 members world wide there appears to be lots of folks who think similarly.

Otherwise it is a rain day as the remnants of Alberto pour down.  We now appear to be in the monsoon season.  In preparation for todays storms we did cover the last of the Big Tops under which the late tomatoes are to be planted.  The trellis is up and probably tomorrow the plants will be slipped into the ground.  We also got the first layer of trellis on the hot peppers.  Unfortunately the huge storms on Sunday had laid over many of the tall Poblano and Anaheim plants.  So we stood them back up and secured them with the trellis strings before any more damage occurs today.  In general the peppers look really good but need a little more heat to really get going.  The eggplant and tomatillos are now in as well.  The turkeys are wearing trench coats and rubber boots, it was hard to find some small enough for Shrimpy.

Picture of the Week
On a sunny day the birds are eyeing Betsy’s lush Zinnias

9/20/06 Vol. 3 #27

What a gloriously beautiful day!  It is these days that we live for, the reason we wanted to work outside for a living, the kinds of days that make farming easy.  Emotions are high these days on both sides of the good/bad divide.  It has been twenty eight weeks since we started market back in March and thirty four since we planted the first spring crops in the field, and more than a year since the first crops for this season were started.  Twenty five years ago last week we signed the papers and closed on this piece of land intent on turning it into a small farm, just months before that Betsy and I got married, what an interesting trip its been!  The night we closed on the farm we camped out here with some friends of ours and it was cool enough (like tonight will be) to have a small fire, plenty of toasting and talk of plans and dreams for the future.  Twenty five seasons now under the belt, it is hard to imagine.  It is almost done now for this year as this is our last week at market other than the special pre-Thanksgiving market.  Only a few crops left in the field which will go under the mower in a few days.  This week I will begin the process of turning under two and a half acres to seed to winter cover crops.  Monday the turkeys go in for processing and into the freezer, in two weeks the farm will be ready for the long winter sleep.

We’re happy that the season is about over.  It has been a fairly good year but challenging at the same time so we are ready for a rest and change of pace.  At the same time we are a little sad that it is over.  We do miss seeing everyone at market, visiting with our chefs and store buyers too.  When the turkeys go away it is a serious day as we have worked with them all year to get to this point but still know that the reason we have them is for eating too.  We will miss working with our staff and talking with them about farming and their futures.  But at fifty years old we are also ready for some quiet time on the farm too, as well as traveling to new places.  So this will be the last weekly newsletter of the season.  We have a full schedule up to Christmas and beyond so look for a monthly report on our off season adventures.  We will send one in October before we head to Italy for the Slow Food conference and traveling around to see Italian markets, farms and restaurants but after I come back from a much anticipated hiking trip to one of  southern Utah’s amazing canyons.  You will get a report before Thanksgiving on what we saw and learned in Italy and to prepare you for the Thanksgiving market.  Then more after that including Betsy’s trip to Kenya to visit some of the largest cut flower farms in the world.  We thank everyone for helping us to do what we do here on the farm, with out your support and business it would not be possible.

Picture of the Week
The long shadows of early fall on nearly empty fields

10/19/06 Vol. 3 #28

Wow, has it really been a month?  We have moved heaven and earth (literally) around here to get things mostly to bed for the winter.  We took the turkeys in for processing and it is always a long and exhausting day, up early catching them before daylight and then watching over things at the processing plant.  As a whole they looked really good, a bit lighter in weight than last years but the quality seems good.  They are now down at the freezer plant sleeping until Thanksgiving.  Our focus then turned to getting the soil and cover crops ready for the winter and next spring.  Miles of pepper trellis had to be deconstructed first and the landscape fabric that we use for mulch in the hot peppers had to come up.  Then the endless tractor driving.

I spend more time on the tractor during this time of year than all the rest of the year combined.  Days and days of going round and round.  First all the remaining crops have to be mowed down so they will more easily till into the soil.  Before the soil turning begins I have to spread what ever mineral amendments the soil tests (that I took last month) indicate we will need to grow next years crops.  Not too bad this fall, only a bit of lime and even less phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).   Then the heavy metal comes out in the shape of a heavy disk harrow that cuts the soil a few inches and throws some of it over the crop residue.  Then a pass with the spring tooth field cultivator which rips and lifts the soil about every foot and about a foot deep.  After this lifting another pass with the disk to really cut those crop residues into the top soil.  Now the heavy work is done, the soil is loose but the tractor driving is far from done.  Any crop that gets planted before late April next year goes onto a raised bed, this is primarily so the soil drains and warms up faster in the cool of spring.  Without a raised bed it is almost impossible to prepare the soil for planting when we need to in February, March and April.  So round and round I go again with a four disk hiller, throwing up the loose soil into rough ridges.  200 beds raised  (20,000 feet and two acres) and another three quarters of an acre in what I call flat fields,  thankfully we don’t have to plant and take care of that all at once!  As Betsy says “It would make it hard to get up in the morning to face it”.  Finally it is time to spread the cover crop seeds.  On the tractor once again to spin out the grain crops, rye and oats, depending what cash crop will follow it, 400 pounds total.  On foot now I follow the grains with the legumes, hairy vetch and crimson clover,  to fix the nitrogen to feed the cash crops, using a chest spreader to spin them over the rough ground.  The rains came beautifully the day after I finished and the cover crops look beautiful.

The last big project is to move one of the sets of “Big Tops”, the big four bay high tunnels that cover a quarter of an acre.  Need to get them out of the way so I can get that last bit of soil prepared for next spring.  We will reconstruct them in their new field sometime later this winter.  We did get all the parts down and moved out of the way, what remains is to unscrew the legs from the ground, today and tomorrow and it should all be done.  We have had a pretty good frost and the dahlias are blackened along with other scattered damage.  Betsy’s flowers for next year are going in, in small lots.  Larkspur, bachelors buttons, Gloriosa Daisy, the tulips are planted in their crates for the winter chill period.  The vegetables for Thanksgiving are really starting to grow, even the Brussels Sprouts that struggled in the late summer heat have come out of it and are putting on good new top growth.

My much anticipated hiking trip to Paria Canyon in southern Utah turned out radically different than we had expected to say the least.  Most of this walk is through very narrow slot canyons (some of the longest in the world).  It requires perfect weather because of the danger of flash flooding.  We new it had flooded two days before we headed in and that the forecast was for 50% chance of rain the next day but clear after that.  Eight of us started in down the muddy river bed only to be stopped after 4 miles by a rescue helicopter landing in front of us.  The forecast had changed and flash floods were a distinct possibility.  We were given no choice, we had to get out of the canyon.  At least several of us got a free helicopter ride over the incredible landscape.  That left us to come up with plan B for ten people.  We ended up in Zion National Park and had a great time in an equally incredible landscape, just not what we had planned so long for.  I guess I will just have to plan another trip!

So we are off Monday, to Italy, for the Slow Food Terra Madre conference.  We already have a full list of farmers’ markets we want to go see and people we want to talk to.  Our delegation will be blogging from Torino and Betsy and I are scheduled for Friday the 27th.  You can follow our groups experiences at the Slow Food Triangle website.  Also while we are gone you can eat some of our heritage turkeys and support our friends at the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy in Pittsboro by having dinner at Panzanella restaurant.  For the fourth year they are having a Heritage Turkey Dinner (with our turkeys again this year) and 10% of the proceeds go to ALBC.  Unfortunately we will miss it but you all can enjoy it for us.  Look for another newsletter from us just before Thanksgiving with news from Italy and updates on the pre-Thanksgiving market.  Until then remember the Carrboro Market is open until Christmas, so keep on shopping with the rest of the market vendors.