Peregrine Farm News Vol. 16 #20, 6/13/19

What’s been going on! 

People always ask what do you do about insects and diseases as they think those are the worst pests we deal with but I always say that the four legged walk in pests do way more damage than the flying or crawling kind and this past week has been ultimate example of that.

It started last week when a deer got inside the fence (the deer always do whacky things when having fawns) and ate several hundred dollars worth of lettuce, radicchio and escarole.  We protected the remaining lettuce plantings by surrounding it with the electric net fencing that we used to keep predators away from the turkeys all those years.  Then the squirrels started to eat all of the first ripe tomatoes, especially the tunnel nearest the tree line, now you are making me mad!

Betsy then reported that she thought that something was pulling the new cucumber vines off the trellis.  When I picked tomatoes on Monday it was a horror show of half eaten fruit and I also noticed deer tracks all around the tomato tunnels too.  We had lost, at least, yet another $200 in tomatoes.  Now we are talking a battle.

We surrounded the tomato tunnels with more turkey netting and that would take care of the deer and any opossums, raccoons and groundhogs but the squirrels can run right through the gaps in the net.  Finally Tuesday when I saw a groundhog running out of the cucumbers I knew who had been pulling the vines off the trellis. This was a triple whammy!

Now we try and work around most of these issues with fencing and electricity and for that past 5 years Jennie’s dog had kept the groundhogs and deer at bay.  For the past 7 days I have been on patrol and suffice it to say that many squirrels and one groundhog have moved on to their final pastures.  This morning’s tomato pick yielded much better results!

Picture of the Week

 P1050067Look close and you can see all the tomatoes thrown away and the netting protecting them now.

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6/6/07 Vol. 4 #12

Just when you think that you have seen it all in 25 years of farming some new wrinkle appears.  We are in a pitched battle with some kind of varmit who is eating all the ripening tomatoes in the little tunnels!  Don’t be messin’ with my tomatoes!  In the past we have found a few things (mostly melons) with tooth marks in them and only one or two a year, but this critter is having a grand old time working it’s way up and down the rows eating or biting into a dozen or so a night.  We put traps in the tunnels a few nights ago and caught a possum and thought OK problem solved but yesterday morning someone had been having a picnic again and the trap was tripped but no one inside!  So now they are getting crafty, maybe a raccoon?  We upped the ante baiting the trap with peanut butter (the universal food used to attract all wild things from mice to buffalo) and now slices of apple.  If this doesn’t get some results then we may have to surround the tunnels with the electric net fencing we use for the turkeys and that will keep them out but also make it harder for us to get in and work.  I am not yet ready to sleep out there with the gun but I mean we are talking about the first tomatoes of the season here!

What a great rain on Saturday night, we had an inch and a half that seemed to all soak in.  Now we can not only let the pond fill back up a bit but we can also get some things planted that just didn’t make sense to do unless there was some moisture in the soil.  Tuesday we finally planted the quarter acre of winter squash (acorns, butternut, spaghetti, sweet dumpling) which should come up nicely now that we had an additional bit of rain last night too.  A bit late to get the squash in the ground as our rule is it needs to be planted in May otherwise we lose the fruit to pickle worms in August.  But it was just too dry the last few weeks to get them germinated and it is one of the crops that I don’t plan on irrigating, especially when we are watering the rest of the farm and running low on water.  So we’ll see, maybe the first of June will be OK and we will slip past the flights of the pickle worm moths.  It is seasonal change here on the farm, cool season crops coming out and the beginning of the harvest of the warm season ones.  Peas and pea fences came down yesterday, the irrigation lines came out of the larkspur and bachelors buttons, soon all will be mowed and turned under ready for the summer soil improving cover crops.

Picture of the Week
Rat Tail Radish Pods

6/20/07 Vol 4 #14

It’s always the way, work hard to beat the rain and then the rain decides not to come.  It is summer cover crop planting time and we had been watching the forecast thinking it looked like a good bet that we would get rain to water up newly sown seed.  First it looked like the front would come through this evening and so we had Tuesday and Wednesday mornings to get it all done then, at the last minute, they pushed the time forward to this morning.  Yesterday was a sprint finish to slow race that’s been unfolding for a week or so.  As the spring vegetables come out we mow off what’s left and to help keep the weeds down, the same with the early spring flowers, finally we give it all one more mowing and cut it all in with the tractor.  I did that last Sunday since it was dry enough to work soil after the last rains.  I like to let it lay there a few days allowing all the just turned up weeds to perish in the intense summer sun, that was the slow part of the race.  Yesterday was the seeding day.  First spin out the cowpea seed (we always plant a legume to capture the nitrogen from the air for free) and then because it is a large seed and needs good soil cover to germinate we have to cover it lightly with the tractor, so around and around I go.  Then I walk back over the rough field and spin out the sudan grass seed (we always plant a grass with the legumes to grow huge amounts of organic matter to feed the soil), the grass seed is small and doesn’t need to be covered especially if a good rain is on it’s way.

Of course that was not the only item on the mornings agenda which included some last minute mowing and tilling for some other crops we wanted to get planted before the rain.  Cov and Elizabeth trellised some celosia and continued the red onion harvest, with other projects I would throw in from time to time as I came by.  Check in with the NC State research folks who were out to take measurements of their tomato plots.  I did manage to get most of it done by noon when the staff leaves and we disappear into the house for the heat of the day and it was a hot one!  I planned to go back out late and finish up.  By 3:00 there was the rumble of thunder and it looked like even earlier rain, damn!  So back out I go to finish the seeding and to roll out some Italian bean seed that we brought back to try, seed some more cucumbers and the rain starts to fall, just enough to chase me out of the field but not enough to get the ground wet.  Done, a three T-shirt, two sets of shorts day.  Now this morning it appears as if the rain has passed us by and there is no more forecast for a week or so, I may have to try and water these cover crops up, arghh!

On the tomato-stealing-critter front we had to resort to surrounding the tomato tunnels with the electric net fencing as I have not been able to catch the varmit in the big Have-a-Heart trap.  Thanks to all who sent suggestions for the best baits, looks like eggs and sardines are universally successful around the country.  I went with the sardines option (in Louisiana hot sauce) and the culprit managed to get the sardines out three times without getting caught in the trap!  I was beginning to think this was the Cajun Einstein of raccoons when it started to eat ripe melons out of the other tunnel and carrying them a hundred feet away.  Now I suspect our varmit is a fox.  The fencing has worked to keep it out of the tomatoes so the last job yesterday (on top of everything else) was to surround the melon tunnel too, it looks like a medium security detention center out there now.

Picture of the Week
Medium security electric net fencing around the tomato and melon tunnels.

7/15/09 Vol. 6 #17

Still reveling in yet another cool July morning, temperatures in the high 50’s and low humidity, what a treat!  We did get a bit of rain on Monday, and I raced around to finish the summer cover crop planting.  A week and a half ago (July 4th weekend) in anticipation of the best chance of rain in weeks I rushed around and seeded an acre of summer covers, as a light rain was falling.  It turned out to be all the rain we would get that day, Arghh!!  Just enough water to get some of them to come up but not all.  Mondays half an inch of rain was hopefully enough to bring the rest up, looks like another chance of rain tomorrow too.

With the drought, the varmits are moving in to take advantage of the juicy plants and fruit.  The squirrels are really out of control in the tomatoes and in some of the transplants for late summer production.  Something, squirrels we think, got up onto the benches where we had lettuce and Brussels sprouts transplants in the seed flats and ate the tops off of all the Brussels sprout plants and much of the lettuce too.  So the hunt continues with daily afternoon rounds, so far the tally is four groundhogs and five squirrels.

Everybody is beginning to ask when we will have peppers and begin roasting at market.  Well the easy answer is the roasting will begin, as usual, the end of August when we have an abundance of colored bell peppers.  The answer to when we will have a good supply of peppers at market is harder.  We have been working in the pepper field this week and the plants look amazing, maybe a good as any crop we have ever grown, but for some reason almost all of the early blossoms made no fruit.  Some times it is a result of high temperatures and resulting bad pollination but we have just not been that hot, my best guess is the heavy pounding rains a month ago actually knocked the blooms off the plants.  That being the case it will be late this month before we have many green bells and the same for anaheims and poblanos.  The good news is that with such vigorous plants we should have more, better quality, fruit later in the summer than usual.

There are a number of Peregrine Farm related dinners coming up in the next month that you might be interested in.  The first is next Tuesday, the 21st, at 18 Seaboard in Raleigh.  A tomato focused event, Jason is coming up with dishes around each of the varieties we grow.  The second is our annual Panzanella farm dinner on the 27th, it looks to be equally divided between tomato dishes and pepper dishes, it is always fun.

The last two are cooking classes at A Southern Season the first is a lunch class on the 28th with Marilyn Markel who runs the cooking school and the second is an evening class on August 6th with Ricky Moore of Glass Half Full, again focused on tomatoes.
Picture of the Week
A beautiful field of peppers, some plants shoulder high