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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #34, 10/21/16

What’s been going on!

OK, summer in late October, happy to see a cold front coming today to kick us back into fall.  Busy week both with end of the season chores and Betsy and me getting ready to head out of town next week, including making sure we voted this morning, see that you do the same!

Had to re-install the irrigation pump, including some PVC pipe repair, after having to pull it out before the river flooded the bottom field post hurricane Matthew.  Hoped that we might be done irrigating for the season but this hot dry week made watering fall crops imperative.  Betsy tucked 2400 special anemone corms into carefully prepared beds in the little tunnels and seeded overwintered flowers for next spring.  I seeded the last of the cover crops while Jennie and Trish began moving the Big Top hoops from one field to another.

Still a few things to tick off the list before we can get on a plane next Tuesday but we are in pretty good shape to leave the place to Jennie while we are gone to Sicily with the Barkers for another deep dive into the food and crops of the area.  We already have six farmers markets picked out to visit and I have a few tomato varieties we hope to find seeds for.  Of course there will be lots of sampling of the foods and wines!

No newsletter for the next few weeks but look for a full report when we get back.  Do not despair as Jennie will be at market with a full complement of beautiful things but this is the last week for pepper roasting!

Picture of the Week


Brilliant fall day, fall greens with leaves beginning to fall from the trees

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #33, 10/14/16

What’s been going on!

What glorious weather after such a tremendous storm!  We ended up with 5 inches of rain but it did mostly come down in a steady fashion and so my fears of having just opened nearly 2 acres of ground to have it wash away were generally unfounded.  We had just a tiny bit of washing in one field but it seems that most of the water soaked in.  The Haw River did back up into the bottom field and we had to pull the irrigation pump.  The “green” lining to the storm clouds is that the cover crops are coming up beautifully!

Our thoughts go out to the folks caught in historic flooding east of Raleigh.  Daily we see pictures of friend’s farms under water and can only think of the huge work ahead of them to clean up.  The Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) research farm down in Goldsboro is on the Neuse River and they are having to take people in by boat to the livestock facilities to milk cows and help with the calving season.  The NC Forest service is flying hay in to feed those same animals.  Heroic work for sure, we just wish other farmers down there had the same resources too.

Having been through several disasters ourselves we know that people will get through this too but each one takes a chunk out of your psyche. The only thing you can do is keep moving forward.  To that end we are continuing with our fall and winter preparations and planting.  Cleaning up the season’s remains, readying the little tunnels for cold weather, even seeding some crops for next spring and reveling in the beautiful days.

Picture of the Week


Early morning, Big Tops uncovered and the pepper field still producing

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #32, 10/7/16

What’s been going on!

Around and around and around on the tractor, for days, but all the cover crops are seeded on one and three quarters acres with another half an acre waiting until after the storm and the last few beds are out of the way.  The most tractor intense week of the year but it is finally done.

Monday when we were planning the week, the forecast for hurricane Matthew did not bode well for cutting open a lot of soil and leaving it exposed to big storms but by Tuesday when I actually started it seemed like a reasonably safe move.  Now two days later I feel like we will have gentle enough rains to actually bring the seeds up nicely.

Always a dance with the soil just barely dry enough after last week’s rains, most of the fields worked up well, not perfect but OK for next years production. Monday was the last of the mowing of remaining crops and spreading of 1300 pounds of minerals.  Tuesday cut all that in with the heavy disk harrow and then deep ripping with the field cultivator.  Wednesday hilling up 10,000 feet of beds and spinning out the grain cover crop seed.  Yesterday spin out the crimson clover and hairy vetch seeds and then lightly cover them in certain fields.  Around and around and around.

Picture of the Week


The gray skies of Matthew roll in, only a few plots of green crops left

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #31, 9/29/16

What’s been going on!

So I didn’t mean to leave every one hanging with last weeks newsletter like a “Who shot JR” ending, I thought it was just implied that there was more to come.  Part of the reason we have decided to talk openly about our succession process is that we know a number of farms struggling with the exact same issues and we don’t know anyone who has successfully passed on their operations to a non-family member.

Even farms with children or family members are having a difficult time figuring it out.  In 2014 when Betsy was in California for the first Gathering of the Agrarian Elders even those very successful farmers had no plans for transition, were just thinking about it or their kids did not want to take over such large operations.  We hope that by writing about our experience other older farmers or young farmers looking for some way to farm will get some ideas.

Big seasonal changes on the farm this week as the annual soil preparation for all of next year begins.  While we did get almost 3 inches of rain last night it is timely to make it easier to work the soil, by next week it will be perfect.  I spent the first big block of time on the new tractor yesterday doing the final mowing of spent crops and cover crops and it was a pleasure.  Still getting used to the new sight lines, sounds and turning radius but I will give it a thumbs up.

We also uncovered six of the eight Big Tops getting ready for winter, finished cleaning out the rest of the tomatoes and spread compost on next year’s tomato beds.  Slowly we lurch towards the first frost.

Pictures of the Week


Looking out from the remains of this year’s tomatoes towards where next season’s will be


Crazy Super Crest Celosia

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #30, 9/22/16 the first day of fall

What’s been going on!

This is the next in a series about our farm transition

Why transition at all?

As first generation farmers we felt some responsibility that the farm we had built should continue on past us but Betsy and I had decided in our early 50’s that we were not going to pass the farm to anyone.   We have no kids so that was not a factor and while we had been fortunate to have many good folks work for us over the years who have gone on to start their own farms, we felt it would be too complicated to bring someone on as a partner, as Betsy says “It’s like getting married again”.

Ten years ago we were still indestructible and planned to just slowly wind down.  We would reduce the amount we planted to where the two of us could handle it alone and just go to Farmers’ Market for part of the year.  We would become old characters at market.

The reality is most farmers have to sell their farms to retire but, probably because we didn’t have children, we have saved enough to be able to slow down or eventually even stop working if we are cautious.  Even with careful budgeting we still have to work some until 65 and Medicare kicks in and 66 and full Social Security.  We want to and financially it is best if we can stay in the house we built with our hands on this beautiful piece of ground for as long as possible but we knew that wouldn’t be entirely easy.

We had watched both sets of parents grow old, as well as our 90 year old neighbors and saw the difficulties of doing that alone in the country.  Sure we’re tough now but who will cut up the trees that come down in a storm when we are 80?  Who will take care of this place and how will we get to the grocery store and doctor’s appointments when we are near 90?  We also saw other farmer friends of ours (some younger) have to slow down or quit because of bad backs or hearts or some other reason.  The writing on the wall was becoming clearer.

Picture of the Week


Some really nice celery and fennel sizing up for Thanksgiving

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #29, 9/15/16

What’s been going on!

You might remember last year when we talked about our aging infrastructure and how we had three pieces of equipment in for repairs in one week.  Well last week was the ultimate equipment failure, our 34 year old tractor developed a hydraulic leak that cannot be fixed.  Gulp, did not plan on buying a new tractor anytime soon but the big fall soil preparation is coming up and we have to have a tractor.

Fortunately we had already prepared all the planting beds for fall crops so had at least a few weeks to figure it out.  We have used two different mechanics to work on the old tractor over the years and they both hemmed and hawed “not sure we can even get the parts”.  I called yet two more shops and they gave me the same story.  Our tractor, a Long brand, has not been made for 20 years so we knew that sooner or later we might run into this problem.

Research ensued, buying a tractor is like buying a car but only more expensive.  We also had to have a certain size tractor as everything on the farm is set up for planting beds four feet on center, all the implements, all the irrigation, all the mulches, all the tunnels, hell our brains are calibrated to that same four foot measurement.

The selection of compact tractors is much better than it was 30 years ago but we ended up with a Kubota (which we wanted but couldn’t afford in 1982).  Even though essentially the same size and horse power it is quite a step up with 4WD vs. 2WD, a front end loader which we have never had and other amenities that tractor engineers didn’t even think of three decades ago.  So it arrived two days ago and Jennie has already driven it more than I have!

Pictures of the Week


Jennie approves


The old versus the new, welcome to the 21st century

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #28, 9/7/16

What’s been going on!

Twenty years ago this week we were cleaning up from the worst natural disaster to ever hit the farm and the state, Hurricane Fran.  For anyone who lived through the storm and its aftermath just the memory of it gives one pause, almost chills.  We have been through numerous hurricane/tropical depressions, thunderstorm straight line winds and floods from torrential downpours and other than the Big Storm, all of them rolled together don’t match what Fran had all in one shot.

From the ferocity of the winds that went on for hours and eventually brought many trees down around the farm but amazingly not on any buildings, to the rain that brought the river up to the 500 year flood level and floated the transplant greenhouse which required us to move it out of the bottom field and up onto the hill, this storm had it all.

We were without power for a week and the mid 90 degree temperatures and high humidity made the days of chainsaw work and clean up really taxing.  No running water meant that we had to haul buckets of water from the pond to water 1000’s of transplants with a watering can.  At least it was warm enough to rinse off in the pond every evening and it was peacefully silent in the neighborhood until the generators all roared to life.

In the end we only missed one Saturday market (the market did go on the day after the storm but we skipped it while cleaning up) and we had good fall crops up to frost.  While we came out relatively unscathed monetarily, we never want to see such a storm again.

Pictures of the Week


Big oak trees down all around the house


The 500 year flood level of the Haw River in our bottom field

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #27, 9/1/16

What’s been going on!

Watching the weather closely, it is the crazy season when the swings can be wild.  Last Saturdays pepper roasting just about roasted me so we are happy to see much cooler temperatures for this weekend but not so happy about how tropical storm Hermine might affect us and market.  Right now (Thursday morning) she appears to be heading more eastward but we could still see a lot of rain and windy conditions.  The best guess is Saturday morning will be breezy but drying as the storm moves north.

Another busy week with many fall crops going in the ground while we are slowly taking out some of the summer crops like tomatoes and some flowers.  The weeks on either side of Labor Day are always the peak of fall planting by the end of September it is almost too late for most crops other than short season and cold hardy types like radishes, carrots and some greens.

Only two weeks until the Carrboro Farmers’ Market’s fall Harvest Dinner on September 15th.  A fun community event and fundraiser for the market.  Supported by over two dozen local restaurants who each prepare a dish for the potluck style dinner.  It is always enjoyable to visit with people not in the shopping scrum of Saturday morning over a meal.  Get your tickets while they last!

Picture of the Week


Newly planted lettuces and root crops

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #26, 8/24/16

What’s been going on!

We are back!  With the steamy weather having finally broken for a few days and everyone having had a week or more off there is spring in peoples step and minds.  Good break with Jennie spending time in Indiana with her family and Trish going all the way to Montana!  Betsy and I kept as low a profile as possible short of the many dinners out.

Lots to do this week including the endless mowing, holy crap can the grass grow fast.  A cultivation pass through all the fall vegetables that we did manage to get planted after the big rains and before everyone left for a week.  But the big job has been working in the pepper field both trellising and picking.

It is all about peppers for the next month or so as we work our way through the peak of the season and do we ever have the peppers to start roasting this Saturday!  All varieties, colors and heat levels.  Unfortunately the beautiful weather is not going to last that long so we will roast as far into the morning as we can bear it.  Remember to come to the stand first to get your peppers into the cue and then when you are finished shopping your roasted peppers will be waiting for you.  If you want a large amount roasted let us know and we will make sure to have them ready for you, they freeze great!

If you don’t make it to market this week, not to worry we will be roasting for months but the selection wanes over time.  You might also want to attend our next cooking class at A Southern Season Cooking School next Monday August 29th, this one of course all about peppers!  Working again with our friend and tomato guru Craig Lehoullier who is also a pepper grower and cook and the wonderful Caitlin Burke of the Cooking School we will have a great time and meal.  If you haven’t ever taken a class at the Cooking School not only will you learn a lot but you will have a great meal including wine for a really reasonable price.

Picture of the Week


Super sweet orange Corno di Toro peppers, did I say we have a lot?

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #25, 8/5/16

What’s been going on!

Well August came in like a lion or a tidal wave.  Five inches of rain in two days destroyed all of our driveways, washed out the field we were preparing for fall and winter crops, blew the poblano trellis over.  Normally we celebrate July being past, hmmm.

Spent yesterday morning regrading all the drives, have never seen one storm move so much gravel.  We have mostly pulled the poblanos back up but half of one bed is still a mess and will be a pain to pick for the next 3 months.  Hopefully it will be dry enough this afternoon to re-till and re-establish the beds in the fall vegetable field, we have planting that has to be done!

Jennie and Trish have begun to tear out the sliding tunnel tomatoes to make way for fall and winter crops which marks the beginning of the end of tomato season.  Next Monday may be the last regular tomato pick as the plants are really beginning to suffer from all of this hot, wet weather.  Just in time for our summer break!

As you all know for years we have taken a break in early August to recharge the mental batteries and to prepare for fall.  25 weeks straight at market with hardly a day off since early April requires a pause.  We will all be at market tomorrow and Jennie and Trish will be at market next Wed. and possibly next Saturday the 13th if there are enough tomatoes left.  We will not be at market on the 20th but back will the pepper roaster and fall smiles on the 27th.

Pictures of the Week


Tipsy Poblanos


Blown out field

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