Peregrine Farm News Vol. 9 #13, 6/13/12

What’s been going on!

Early morning as the phone rang at 6:30, it was the Post Office in Graham notifying us that the, now two day old, turkey poults had arrived.  Hatched on Monday, immediately put into a ventilated box, taken the PO in Michigan and flown here.  It is always hard to believe it actually works but it does and there are now 88 little chirping Broad Breasted Bronze’s running around in the brooder.  Only ordered 74 and usually they put a few extras in but never this many.  There are about 8 or 9 little runts in the group but they are looking really healthy and active so we will see how they do, could be the reason we got so many extras.  For more turkey stories and pictures you can check it out here.  Here we go again!

Another nice rain for us but as usual not as much the rest of the world seems to get.  While parts of the Triangle got pounded with big rains and accidents on I-40 and such, we got a half an inch.  In our area we continue to be under this insidious prolonged stretch of below normal rainfall, going back several years now.  If you look at the US Drought Monitor map we are just listed in abnormally dry but are within a boundary that they label as “long term dominant impact e.g. hydrology, ecology”.  What that means to us is the ground water has still not been recharged enough for the springs to be running well.

As I mentioned in last week’s newsletter, the creek is just about dry already and while I know that there really are not any farms, or even houses, up stream that would be pulling out a lot of water, I just had to go check.  So Sunday I drove around the greater neighborhood to every place the creek crosses a road (5) to see if it was running any better at some point upstream, it wasn’t.  Now Big Branch or Reedy Creek, (it is called both) is not a long stream, four miles at best, and there is not a lot of watershed to feed it so when the springs are low it has a big impact on its flow.  I also checked on the stream flow gages, on line, and all of the gaging stations in the Haw River watershed were showing substantially below average flow rates, damn!  Here is the gage at Haw River which has jumped up over the last few days but is headed back down.  We just have to hope that we continue to get these nice weekly rains so we can stretch our captured pond water out across the season.

Pictures of the Week

A flurry of activity

A birds eye view

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 8 #25, 9/15/11

What’s been going on?

This teaching class on Wednesday mornings is throwing more of a kink into the weekly schedule than I imagined it would, which is why these last few weeks of the newsletter are coming out on Thursdays instead. I spend my Wednesday early morning hours preparing for teaching and in some cases good parts of Tuesday afternoon.

I have taught all of the topics in this class many times but I am always looking for a new angle or piece of information that makes something like the importance of soil organic matter frighteningly clear. Or how to explain the subtle difference between the classic American/conventional agriculture mindset of maximum yield at all costs versus a balanced system approach where pushing for that extra pound of tomatoes is not worth the cost of the additional inputs or labor or their possible detrimental effects on the whole system.

One of the intriguing aspects of this class is both Glenn and Jennie (aka the “Staff) are sitting in as well. The rest of the students have had a lot of “book learning” but little practical experience while Glenn and Jennie have had substantial on farm experience but essentially no theoretical, science based, exposure to farming. It is great for me to be able to talk about a sustainable ag principle and have them there. I can say “You know it’s like this at the farm” and they immediately understand versus showing pictures of the same thing to the rest of the class. While the pictures are valuable they haven’t lived it like Glenn and Jennie have.

We are definitely in the short rows now. Only a few weeks left for us at market and we can see the end. Crops going out, new ones being planted but with far away harvest dates. The anemones and ranunculus went in this week and we won’t cut the first stem until February, next week the Sweet William gets planted and it will be May until it is ready for market! Patience my friend, patience.

Picture of the Week

The long view- picking the last tomatoes, some already gone and uncovered, crops mowed, turkeys enjoying the rest.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 8 #23, 8/31/11 Turkey reservations

What’s been going on?

Well it was a blustery market Saturday but not too bad really. Other than a bunch of leaves and sticks blown down we had no damage here at the farm and even had four tenths of and inch of rain and then another four tenths on Monday, so we are feeling pretty good about how the storm went. Most of the farmers that I have talked to had similar experiences with most having even less rain than we got.

As promised early in the year, this week marks the start of Turkey reservations. We always wait until Labor Day when we have a better idea of how many birds will actually be available. By the time they get this old they are usually pretty hardy but even now we can lose some to one thing or another. There will only be about 65 birds available this fall and they are all the larger Broad Breasted Bronzes. All the information about what kind we have, how much they will be and the order form is now on the Website for easier access.

Look for the order form either at the top of the page or near the bottom under “How do I reserve one of the special birds?” You can easily download the Word document there. We will also have the order forms at Market on Saturdays through the end of the month. I can also tell you that with the “Frequent Flyer” reservations, nearly a quarter of them are already spoken for. I will continue to update how many are available on the website. Don’t wait too long.

Standard late summer projects going on. Most of the big tomato planting has been taken out with just a few rows of Big Beefs and Cherokees left to “milk” the last fruit from. The crab grass in the peppers is trying to take over so today we will try to beat it back with the mower one last time which should hold us until the end of the season. Soil samples need to be pulled and sent in so we can be ready the end of September for the big annual soil preparation.

Picture of the Week

They are getting big!

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 8 #18, 7/20/11

What’s been going on?

A quick newsletter today, too damn hot to not get out there early. We had a great Tomato Day at market last Saturday, great crowd, perfect weather and lots of tomatoes to taste and sell. If you were there you know how pleasant an experience it was. We also had a very pleasant Farm Dinner at Panzanella on Monday with a good turn out to taste the seven special dishes that Jim and crew made out of our produce. It was all good but I really liked the bright fresh taste of the tagliatelle with sungold and Roma tomatoes. It was good to see everyone who came. One more summer farm dinner this Thursday (tomorrow) at Fosters Market in Chapel Hill. Tim is using both tomatoes and peppers this year. It was a fun event last summer and Betsy and I will be there and I am sure I will talk a bit about the tomatoes in the dishes.

Well the turkeys graduated from High School with flying colors last Friday. It was time to move them to the field and this group is so brilliant that we actually walked/herded them the 400 feet from the brooder to the blueberry field where they will hang out under the bushes for the next several weeks. We usually catch them, load them in the truck and drive them down and then set them out into the field, but this group has behaved so well that I thought it would be less stress on them to walk them down, it was.

The final test was the first night, had they adopted the new mothership? They had spent a few nights in the portable shelter but in front of the brooder they knew as home. It is always a first time learning experience for the birds but once they get the hang of it, they act like they have done it for years. At dark I went out to herd them into the shelter and close the door for nighttime security. I rounded the corner and they were all pre-loaded and ready to sleep, and they have done it every night since, amazing! So this group is well on the way to graduate degrees!

Picture of the Week

They have already thrown their mortar boards off into the bushes

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 8 #16, 7/6/11

What’s been going on?

Well we made it to July, hope everyone had a good holiday weekend. We are in tomato mania at the house right now. The counter is covered in those tomatoes that are not “stable” enough to go anywhere but from the field to the house and then into our stomachs. It is a tomato (at least) at every meal and then other uses are dreamed up as we go along. Hot weather and a house full of cookbooks can lead one into dangerous territory.

Just in the last week we have made Betsy’s favorite Tomato and Basil risotto, several different batches of salsa (with our red onions and serranos), a yellow gazpacho, oven roasted some Blush tomatoes for later use on dishes, Betsy has made a huge pot of tomato sauce (to be frozen for all year consumption) from the new Slow Food Presidia variety we brought back the Torre Canne from Puglia, sandwiches, tomato salads and just plain eating as one walks by. If you want to try more of our varieties and not cook yourself, there are at least three tomato dinners coming up using our tomatoes and at least five restaurants using our toms.

The turkeys graduated from elementary school yesterday. Three weeks old and growing fast, we let them outside for the first time. This group is not timid, usually when we open the front ramp of the brooder they all mass at the opening, blinking at the new world and wait around for the one brave soul who will actually walk out there. Sometimes it takes them an hour or so to get the courage up. Not this group, they were down the ramp and into the grass in minutes! I take that as a good sign that they will be good foragers when we finally take them to the field in two weeks.

They will spend a week running in and out to the new mothership, protected by the chicken wire surround. Next week we will move the mothership back and surround it with the electric net fence to give them more room and to get used to the mild shock of the fence, this is like moving from middle school to high school. Finally the last night or two they will sleep out in the mothership. At five weeks of age they will graduate from high school and go to college, into the blueberry field and on to greater and more interesting things. When you are a turkey, you grow up fast.

Picture of the Week

A turkey’s eye view of the new world

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 8 #14, 6/22/11

What’s been going on?

Heat anyone? High 90’s today, it will be another great afternoon at the Farmers’ Market. At least it looks like the weather will break a little for Farm to Fork on Sunday afternoon, they are calling for 90 with a slight chance of thunderstorms, if we are really lucky it will be like last year when the storms went around us but also helped keep the temperature down a bit. Next year F2F will be back in late May and more reasonable weather chances. By the way, F2F is sold out and did so very early after tickets went on sale so make sure that you look for the announcements next year if you didn’t get a chance this time around.

One group that is happy with the heat are the new turkeys. Yes turkeys are back in the house, literally the brooder house. They arrived last Thursday and look really great. The little day old poults arrive unfeathered, with just their down coats and so they need to be kept around 90 degrees for the first week or two so they don’t get chilled and until they start to grow real feathers. We have heat lamps in the brooder at night but these days we turn them off during the day and they are very happy in there at 95 degrees from the sun.

We have changed up the turkey program a bit this year in that we are only doing the Broad Breasted Bronzes and no Bourbon Reds. I have wrestled with this decision for some time and feel somewhat a traitor for not continuing to help preserve the heritage breeds but there are compelling reasons, quality of life and economics. The Bourbon Reds, while more charismatic and beautiful to look at, are a pain at times to manage because they fly and fight with each other, I am getting too old to be chasing birds around the woods like last year. The other is that they are much more expensive to raise and with feed prices extremely high this year we would have to charge too high a price in my opinion.

On the other hand the Broad Breasted Bronzes are the first step from a heritage bird towards the modern industrial turkey. Yes they can’t naturally breed because of their size but they do very well outside on pasture. They forage pretty well, don’t seem to be anymore disease prone than the Bourbons and take only half the time to reach maturity without flying or fighting. Another factor is that you told us after last Thanksgiving that maybe you even liked their flavor better. So with that in mind we have 70 all singing, all dancing Bronzes in the brooder, now the adventure begins.

Pictures of the Week

The brooder with the window we call turkey TV and the what you see on turkey TV

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #27, 9/14/10

What’s been going on?

Newsletter a day early as we have lots going on the end of the week. I first want to thank Bret Jennings and the Elaine’s on Franklin crew for a great farm dinner last Wednesday. For those that made it you know what I am talking about but the whole pepper inspired menu was right on the money!

Yesterday was turkey moving day, into a new area for a couple of weeks or so. I realized that the picture below is kind of a microcosm of the whole farm and shows many of the fundamental operating concepts we always try to apply. For those of you who have been here on a farm tour, this maybe familiar. What can be seen here is parts of the three, quarter acre, blocks that the Big Tops are set up over. The one the turkeys are in just has the rows of legs that support the hoops. It is in its “rest” year where we grow no cash crops but instead grow three sets of cover crops in a row to improve the soil and run the turkeys over it so they can add their goodness too. This cover crop is the summer sudangrass and cowpeas.

To the left of the turkey shelters is another Big Top block, this one had the flowers this year and if you blow the picture up you can see, through the turkey shelter, the red of the last of the crested celosias for the year. This block with be rested next year and it’s hoops moved over where the turkeys are. The far set of Big Tops was the tomato block this year and you can see two bays still covered with the last of the tomatoes and two bays uncovered for the winter. The flowers will move to here next year and the tomatoes will move to where the turkeys are now. Once uncovered (next week) we will plant winter cover crops in those fields too.

One of our key beliefs is that diversity leads to a balanced system which improves sustainability. So in just this one picture you see diverse cash crops (many varieties of flowers and tomatoes), cover crops (at least seven different kinds over the three year rotation), and breeds (Bourbon Reds and Broad Breasted Bronzes). What you can’t see is also a diversity in soil improvement/management practices like fertility from rock powders, cover crop and cash crop residues, and manure from the turkeys. Or disease and pest control by using the Big Tops to keep plants dry, trellises for better air flow and sunlight, turkeys to eat bugs, crop rotation, drip irrigation and many more techniques.

OK, professors hat off. And it’s a beautiful early fall day on the farm too!

Picture of the Week

Turkeys happy in a new field.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #26, 9/8/10

What’s been going on?

It is getting crispy and brown again out in the fields, at least where it is not irrigated. A few notable weather statistics from this summer. Because we all had our eyes focused on Earl last week it slipped by most people that both Raleigh and Greensboro set the records for the hottest meteorological summers (June, July, August) ever. RDU by two degrees! Most of these records are broken by a tenth of a degree or two, not whole units! The other record is still in play. Today will be the 80th day over 90, the record is 83 from 2007. We are already seven days ahead of the pace set in 2007, I am sure that one is going down too. I always like to think if we are going to suffer at least we should have a record to show for it.

Two reminders. Tonight is our farm dinner at Elaine’s on Franklin with Bret Jennings. What they are doing is a special pepper infused menu in addition to their regular menu so you can run either way. It looks might tasty to us:

FARM TO FORK W/ PEREGRINE FARM

SEPTEMBER 8TH, 2010

$45 per person

.

fried shishito peppers w/ japanese sea salt

.

chile relleno w/ local goat cheese, abels black beans, cotija, cilantro & salsa verde

.

seed crusted n.c. tuna on olive oil mashed gold potatoes, spinach, cured lemon, fried parsley & sauce romesco

.

spicy grilled marinated skirt steak w/ chilaquiles, corn & cactus salsa, cotija cheese & a chile-cerveza sauce

lemon verbena-jalapeno sherbet

Betsy and I will be there for sure, I will go just about anywhere for a good relleno!

The other thing to not forget about is reserving your turkey for the Holidays, as it will slip by faster than one thinks and the orders are rolling in.

No more Wednesday markets for us, just not enough produce to fill out two markets well. We are moving into the full dismantling phase of fall farm chores as well. Only four rows of tomatoes left, the first of the Big Top covers come off today, the little tunnels are getting cleaned up and the all the wood oiled for the winter. By the end of next week the only things left in the field will be the peppers and a few rows of flowers. If it would just rain a bit we could begin to get soil ready for cover crops.

Picture of the Week

The green irrigated peppers, the dry mowed fields, the big poplars turning yellow and dropping leaves

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #25, 9/1/10, Turkey Reservations

What’s been going on?

Ah, September at last and a hurricane on the way, sort of. It was fourteen years ago this week that Fran roared across the Piedmont still carrying 80 mph winds with it as it’s eye passed just east of the farm. Those of us in the area will never forget that storm or the week that followed, cleaning up without power or water. Now our senses are on high alert anytime a big storm is on the track that Earl is on just in case. This time we don’t plan on taking all the plastic off the greenhouses but we are still watching all the storm reports carefully.

As promised early in the year, this week marks the start of Turkey reservations. We always wait until Labor Day when we have a better idea of how many birds will actually be available. By the time they get this old they are usually pretty hardy but even now we can lose some to one thing or another (like the two that died last week). There will only be about 85 birds available this fall with the majority being the larger Broad Breasted Bronzes (about 60). All the information about what kind we have, how much they will be and the order form is now on the Website for easier access.

Look for the order form near the bottom of the page under “How do I reserve one of the special birds?” You can easily download the Word document there. We will also have the order forms at Market on Saturdays through the end of the month. I can also tell you that already, with the “Frequent Flyer” reservations, nearly a third of them are spoken for. I will continue to update how many are available on the website. Don’t wait too long.

Typical end of the season chores going on. The guys are beginning the mulching the blueberries today, later in the week more of the early tomatoes will be taken out. The last of the huge pepper picks will happen the end of the week as this is the peak of the season and there will be much fewer fruit on the plants from here on in. Cleaning up, mowing, getting ready for winter cover crops.

Picture of the Week

What else, turkeys on the morning strut.

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 7 #20, 7/21/10

What’s been going on?

Big day on Monday, the cousins finally met each other. The Broad Breasted Bronze turkeys turned five weeks old and graduated to the field. Most turkey moving days are fairly quick as we just open the fence between them and the next field and they just head in there with a little herding. This one is always more complicated. It takes extra fences, multiple groups and shelters to be moved farther than just the next paddock.

In general the pattern is to move the flock from the bottom of the farm to the top, always trying to move up hill into clean ground. Hard to do sometimes when the cash crops are in the ground. The Bourbon Reds have been hanging out the last two weeks in the lowest production block with the first zinnias of the season (no longer being cut) for shade. They were going to meet in the Blueberry field. First we set up two net fences, in a U shape, around half the Blueberries to herd them into. Next open their existing fence and herd them past the basil, through the “Stand” and Betsy’s flower beds, across the driveway and into the new enclosure.

Next take down the net fences that have surrounded them and erect them around the rest of the Blueberries and the open end of the U now holding the Bourbon Reds. They are so happy rooting around under the bushes for new eats that they don’t even know the “door” is actually not there! Onto the Bronzes, we take the big truck with shell and back it up to their temporary paddock in front of the brooder and catch the 66 little fat birds one by one and put them in the bed of the truck. Slowly we drive across the farm and back up to the net fence surrounding their half of the Blueberry field and grab them again, one by one, and set them down into their new “big” home.

Finally we drag the shelters from their respective locations to the end of the berry block, move all the feeders and waterers up near the shelters, set up the water hose and fill waterers. The Bronzes, being totally wide eyed at the big world have just hunkered down under the first blueberry bushes, far from their shelter and waterers. It is quickly headed to the 90’s today so we slowly herd them up the field to their food and water so they can find it, “OK now we are home” they say. Done. For several weeks now, the country cousins and the city cousins will run up and down the blueberry field with a net fence between them, staring and talking to each other. At some point we will run them together and hope that it will be a happy family reunion and not a gang fight. We’ll see.

Don’t forget the next two Peregrine Farm tomato/food events this coming week. First up on Sunday afternoon is the A Southern Season Cooking class, Tomatoes From the Vine with Marilyn Markel and heirloom tomato guru Craig LeHoullier. Craig is the one who introduced Cherokee Purple to the world and is a wealth of tomato knowledge. These classes are always fun, relaxed and the menu looks great.

Monday night is our Panzanella Farm dinner, still working with Jim on the menu but it will feature both tomatoes and peppers in special dishes that will be in addition to the regular Panzanella menu. This is always a nice evening with lots of locals and market regulars coming into the restaurant. Maybe we’ll see you there.

Picture of the Week

Good fences make good neighbors

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