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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.

What’s going to be at Market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 16 #19, 6/5/19

What’s been going on! 

A slightly earlier newsletter this week because we wanted to let you all know that we will not be at the Wednesday Market this week.  Alex has a Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) Board meeting this Wednesday and Thursday and we just can’t swing both things.  RAFI is one of the many organizations we have worked with over the years and it does incredible work in all areas of sustainable agriculture particularly agricultural policy and helping to save family farms.

The Farm to Fork Picnic went off without a hitch on Sunday and we had a great time with the folks from Pizzeria Mercato serving up a delicious cucumber salad from the beautiful cucumbers that Betsy picks daily.  It was great to see all of you that made it and many other new faces that we met.

The scary event this week were the back to back hail storms we had on Friday afternoon and evening.  In the 38 years we have been farming we have had few hail storms and never two in the same day.  The first had the biggest hail up to golf ball size and had us really worried for damages in the field but for the most part it was limited to some holes in leaves, you may notice some in Saturday’s lettuces.  It reminded us of the 1984 hail storm we had that beat up the blackberries so badly that we did not have a crop in 1985, thankfully it was not that big!

Picture of the Week

 P1050063We slipped the bullet with these big hail stones!

What’s going to be at Market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 16 #18, 5/30/19

What’s been going on! 

Yep, it’s hot but not completely unheard of at this time of year.  If you look at the climate history for this area we have had temperatures in the 90’s as early as March and in the 100’s the end of May and in early June.  It is not what it should be though as the average high right now should be the low 80’s putting us 10 to 15 degrees higher than normal and for this many days in a row is disconcerting.

I have written before about the effects of high temperatures on tomato pollination.  Days above 90 and nights above 75 degrees cause a number of problems with pollen viability and its ability to move to pollenate.  Tomatoes are self-pollenating so this is not an issue of bees or no bees, but the pollen itself has to be good and the flower parts have to be able to receive the pollen.

This is all bad enough for field tomatoes but you put them under a tunnel, even one wide open and the temperatures jump more.  We have been watching these hot spells get hotter, longer and earlier in the tomato season for a number of years now and its effect on fruit set and consequentially fruit to eat in July and later.  For the first time ever we have covered our tunnel tomatoes with a 30% shade cloth to help with both fruit set but also the quality of the final product in reduced heat stress problems like cracking, sunscald and yellow shoulders.  Old dogs, new tricks.  Part of adapting to climate change.

Picture of the Week

P1050060Looks cooler in there doesn’t it?

What’s going to be at Market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 16 #17, 5/23/19

What’s been going on!

 It is a steady, even, push this week and next to pick as many blueberries as we can and get the rest of the farm chores done and then we can slide into a more leisurely and summer like schedule.  We are out every morning now at 7:00 a.m. partly to beat the heat (which has not been too bad so far) and get a few things done before any berry pickers arrive at 8:00.

It is a smaller crop this year than last and it will be short and sweet.  We anticipate picking the last berries next Friday, the heat is certainly making them ripen fast, concentrating everything into two weeks instead of the usual three.  That is okay too, we only have so many additional helpers and we can only focus on it for so long.  For the first time ever we have had several market regulars come out to help and it has been quite entertaining to get to know them better, hear new stories and tell our old stories to them.

Another milestone this week as we planted the last few crops for this season.  One more round of lettuce and callaloo and that is it for this year, we should have had some champagne but had too much else to do that day, typical.  Betsy reminds me that we have five weeks left after this Saturday.

Pictures of the Week

P1050053The scare eye balloon protecting the blueberries

P1050052 The very last crops for 2019

What’s going to be at Market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 16 #16, 5/16/19

What’s been going on! 

Blackberry Winter rolling right into Blueberry Summer.  Three mornings in the 40’s two in the low 40’s maybe high 30’s, cold enough to give a little damage on the tender basil leaves.  A few glorious days but starting tomorrow we head straight into the oven.  One forecast I looked at has fourteen straight days in the high 80’s and low 90’s!  That will push all of the summer crops and strain the last of the cool season crops.

In preparation we have opened the tunnels wide for good air flow and have given all crops a big drink of water and will head into our summer irrigation routine of every other day watering to keep everything moist and happy, got to keep those tomatoes growing strong and filling out the fruit!

The blueberries will ripen fast too and while we will probably pick a few tomorrow the season will start in earnest next week and last a little over two weeks.  We are still looking for more blueberry pickers, if you know anyone who might be interested please have them contact us.  This is not pick-your-own but paid work.  We pick every weekday morning, 8:00-noon.  We will take folks who want to pick one day or every day.  $10 an hour, cash.  It happens to be the most enjoyable harvest job on the farm, cool mornings, birds singing, stand up work.

Picture of the Week

 IMG_20190516_121507Tomatoes looking great, almost to the top of the trellis and wide open, ready for the heat.

 What’s going to be at Market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 16 #15, 5/10/19

What’s been going on! 

Sorry for the late newsletter, way too much going on, May.  Thanks to all for the kind and interesting messages from last week’s newsletter, apparently we are not the only ones who have been caught up in both the advancement of a movement or business and the changes in technology.  What’s that saying?  The pioneers take all the arrows?

One of the things that we are most torn about with the new Peregrine Farm plan is the loss of the whole pepper program.  We are sorry for all of the pepper devotees who have supported us for so many years and certainly the last 11 years of roasting peppers at the market.  There are a lot of great pepper growers at market so quickly there will be adequate supply for everyone.

This would normally be the start of pepper week at the farm as we prepared the fields for the planting of nearly 3000 plants of usually 30 plus varieties.  It was always the last of the big hurdles for the season but once done with the planting we still had six months of trellising, picking and roasting to go.  Today I planted our one, hundred foot row, with just 130 plants of six varieties just for or our consumption (we do a lot of eat peppers, fresh and frozen, almost every day all year).  Yet another moment that felt odd this spring but hey, I was done in an hour with fabric mulch, trellis and planting included.

Picture of the Week

IMG_20190509_171527 Basil and Cukes coming to market tomorrow.

 What’s going to be at Market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News, Vol. 16 #14, 5/2/19

What’s been going on! 

We had the Advanced Organic Crop Production class from Central Carolina Community College’s Sustainable Ag Program out on Monday, this is the course that I designed and taught for many years until I passed it on this season, another one of those things that l am trying to be selective about how I want to spend my time with in the future.  It is one of the things that got me to thinking about how times have changed when it comes to educating new farmers and the public about small scale agriculture and sustainable farming.

Another was a call I had the other day with a very wealthy person who is starting a farm and wants to eventually make it an educational center.  He asked did we charge for farm tours and I said that we never had.  We have hosted hundreds of tours and thousands of people over the years from all corners of the US and the world and have never charged anyone.  Back in the early years the few sustainable farmers on the ground were helping to build the ship, we wanted to spread the word about sustainable agriculture and were happy to cooperate and share the knowledge we had to do so.

Beyond farm tours we would spend each winter, for decades, making the circuit of farm conferences going to at least four or five each season, learning and speaking, sometimes teaching three or four sessions at one conference.  Those non-profit organizations never had much money so we almost never got an honorarium, just free conference registration and sometimes rooms and travel money.  It was helping to build our business and to get the ship afloat, it was good for everyone.

We also served on (and still do) many boards and advisory committees to make sure the voice of the small farmer is included.  They range from local to national organizations all with a focus on sustainable agriculture.  Hours spent in meetings and on conference calls again all on our own time and dime but we did help to move the needle a little.

Things began to change in the early 2000’s with the new generation of farmers coming of age along with the internet.  When I produced the Organic Vegetable Production and Marketing in the South CD-ROM with the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group I realized I was putting everything I knew into one replicable place and wanted some kind of remuneration and copy write assurances for my intellectual property and I received some stiff opinions about this from the old guard, we just didn’t do it that way.

Now the new farmers charge for everything, online video courses, farm tours, big speaking fees if they have a book or solid online content.  I generally applaud them for being able to do that, we were just too early in the evolution of the movement and now much of it is passing us by.  That’s okay too, we did build a beautiful ship though!

Picture of the Week

 P1050049Our little farm in full production

What’s going to be at Market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 16 #13, 4/25/19

What’s been going on! 

Rain again on Friday?!!  This is the fourth Friday in a row with rain and I am beginning to lose my sense of humor.  Now we would much prefer it precipitates on any day but Saturday with Friday being the next worst as it makes it much more difficult to get everything harvested for the Saturday market.  Let’s hope that it holds off until at least noon.

Another busy week with some tremendously beautiful spring weather and some too unseasonably hot days too.  One of the things we are trying to finish up for the spring is getting the firewood in the shed.  We had a cut a bunch over the winter but just now have gotten around to splitting it.  So parts of Tuesday and Thursday mornings we split and stacked half a winters worth.  After 36 winters of heating with wood it doesn’t make the job any faster or easier.  Another morning or two and we will be done for this season.

Didn’t mean to spark a panic with last week’s newsletter about our last market being June 29th.  We had a number of folks ask/think that it was our last market forever.  We reassured them that it was only for this season and that we would be back next February for our 35th spring at the Carrboro Market.  I encourage those who missed our newsletter about our new plans to catch up on it so you will know what we are doing and how it will affect what we will have at market.

Pictures of the Week

 P1050033The sugar snap peas are blooming up a storm and the lady bugs are happy

P1050045 Half a winter’s wood in the dry

What’s going to be at Market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 16 #12, 4/18/19

What’s been going on!

As the new Peregrine Farm plan unfolds it does seem a bit unusual that Betsy has only one more round of lettuce seeding to do in the greenhouse and there are only 5 more weeks of planting to do in the field but with our last market day slated to be June 29th then it all makes sense.  It doesn’t make it feel any less strange after having seeded or planted something almost every week for the last, at least, two decades.  Muscle memory is a powerful thing.

Despite the crazy rains we have had a busy week planting both indoors and out (basil, lettuce, sunflowers, zinnias) and cultivating to keep everything clean and growing well.  The tomatoes are moving along so well that we pruned and tied them up for the first time and soon will have to start training the cucumbers up their trellis too.  We have even started to clean up the now empty tunnel ends from the very earliest crops getting them ready for summer cover crops.

We are trying to keep our time in the field to only four hours a day and now that we are past the early crush of tunnel moving and tomato planting it does seem like we can maintain everything we need to with that pace.  As the temperatures rise it will be even more important as we will want to be out of the field by noon if not earlier.  It is a strange new world.

Picture of the Week

 P1050031It is all looking good on a beautiful spring day

What’s going to be at Market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News, Vol. 16 #11, 4/10/19

What’s been going on! 

Well we have had over four inches of rain in the last five days!  Fortunately it did not come with the damaging winds or hail that some parts of the state got and it did, at least for now, clear the air of the amazing pollen storm.  We have lived here for 40 years and I don’t think I have ever seen it thicker than it was did Monday.  When it rolls up off the pavement in clouds like driving down a dirt road in a drought that is just too much.

Less than two months until the Farm to Fork Picnic, hard to believe it has already been a year!  Supporting the beginning farmer programs at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems which is a joint effort between NC State, NC A&T State and the NC Dept. of Ag.  CEFS not only has the largest sustainable and organic research farm in the US but also programs all across the state in many areas of socially just food and farming.  It is an organization close to our core as we have been advisors since its founding and no problem is more pressing than training new farmers as us old coots age out.

We are once again paired with our good friends at Pizzeria Mercato, don’t know yet what they will craft with our produce but I will let you know as soon as they have it figured out.  You can find all of the details and buy tickets here.  Sunday June 2nd, don’t miss out!

The first Wednesday market of the season is today, 3:00-6:00, come on by and see us, looks to be a beautiful afternoon.

Pictures of the Week

P1050022 The green, green view of the bottom field from the house

 P1050023Cherokee Purple blooms, less to two months until they are ripe 

What’s going to be at Market? Continue reading