Welcome to the News of the Farm

Just to help you get the most out of these posts, here are a few tips.

All posts have been categorized by year, or crop or some other way.  If you want to look at all the posts that talk about tomatoes, for example, you can either click on that category in the right hand column or on the word tomatoes at the bottom of the post.

The posts all have some additional tags on them too, like “storms” for example.  You can also find those tags at the bottom of all posts and can click on them, you will be taken to a page of posts that include that topic.

All the pictures are clickable and will open a larger version of that picture, if there is one.

And of  course any of the words highlighted in orange are links to other information that will open in another page.

Have fun!

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #37, 12/2/16

What’s been going on!

We hope that everyone had enjoyable and filling Thanksgivings!  After two markets in four days we looked forward to taking last Saturday off, Jennie even escaped to the beach for 3 days!. Only a few markets left before Christmas and we plan to be there, with tasty produce, until the end.

Have been working this week on getting three of the little sliding tunnels moved over Betsy’s Anemones and Ranunculus for the winter.  By the end of today the job will be done but things are rarely as straight forward as they might be.  As early adopters of new techniques we built these tunnels 20 years ago before there was really any work done on moveable tunnels much less commercially available models.

There are now more elegant and easily moved styles (and much more expensive!) but ours have served us well but with rails and hoop supports made of wood there is always some maintenance required and so has been the case this week.  We are also redesigning the end walls that have to be taken off when moving day comes.  These are also built of wood and are heavy and cumbersome so with an eye toward the future we have been thinking of a lighter and faster alternative.

Back in October I built the first prototypes on one of the tunnels to see how they would perform (they have done well) so now as we get close to real cold, I am refitting the other five tunnels with the new design.  So the job of moving tunnels that would normally take a half a day has taken several days.  What is new becomes old, what is old becomes new again.

Picture of the Week

p1030009

Tunnels moved over the Anemones, old walls off, new walls coming

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #36, 11/15/16 Thanksgiving!

What’s been going on!

Early newsletter this week as I will be out of town for a few days and also wanted everyone to be able to get a head start on the biggest food week of the year!  This newsletter will cover the two markets in four days that will be your best opportunity to get all of your Thanksgiving holiday produce, this coming Saturday and the special pre-Thanksgiving market next Tuesday from 3:00-6:00.

It was great to see everyone out last Saturday for both the market and the much needed community gathering after the election upheaval.  I have always said that when difficult or unusual things happen people come to the market as the sort of town square, to see their neighbors and have some reassurance of something so steady and reliable as the Carrboro Farmers’ Market.

We did finally have the true killing freeze on Saturday night/Sunday morning down into the mid 20’s, the peppers are dead now.  We have had a couple of brushes in the high 20’s that hurt their feelings but they are for sure done now and so is the last vestiges of the summer of 2016.  Now comes the slow process of undoing all of the trellis that has held them up tall for months.

Pictures of the Week

p1030005

A radiant late fall day with the blueberries a blaze on the hill

p1030008

Beautiful Celery and Fennel for Thanksgiving

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

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 13 #35, 11/9/16

What’s been going on!

A bit hungover from last night’s election results which is all I will say about that.  We have been back for a day and a half so are still re-ordering out lives, catching up and planning the next week or so.  Great trip to Sicily and Rome for which a full trip report will be forth coming.  We did get to many markets and we did manage to get seeds for one of the tomatoes we were looking for.

Incredibly balmy weather while we were gone and of course Jennie did a great job of both managing the farm and markets.  Too warm, in many ways, for this late in the season which is pushing some crops meant for Thanksgiving up into this week and the late season peppers are off the hook.  In anticipation of the near freeze on Monday night Jennie picked 18 cases of green bells plus 7 or 8 of red bells and corno di toros!

With so many peppers left we will bring out the roaster again this Saturday!  Get them while you still can.

Picture of the Week

p1020802

My Sicilian cousin, roasting corno di toro peppers the old fashioned way on coals

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

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

p1020639

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

p1020632

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

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

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

p1020623

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

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

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

p1020617

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

p1020620

Crazy Super Crest Celosia

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

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

p1020602

Some really nice celery and fennel sizing up for Thanksgiving

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

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

p1020597

Jennie approves

p1020583

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

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

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

32-copy

Big oak trees down all around the house

31-copy

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

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