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.

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

Have fun!

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Peregrine Farm News Vol. 16 #22, 6/26/19

What’s been going on!

The last week and the last markets for our 2019 season.  It feels odd and unknown in good ways and not at all conflicted.  Betsy and I have not had a summer off since we were 15, nearly 50 years!  That is the unknown part for sure, how will it feel to not have a daily responsibility when it is warm outside?  I am sure we will get used to it.

Now make no mistake we are excellent planners but primarily in the macro and medium scales, we learned long ago that the micro, day to day plans were strictly theory because on a farm, mother nature really dictates how each day will unfold and each week will flow.  As my mother liked to say “life is so daily”.  So we have lived our life each day knowing that “field corrections” would occur, Betsy would say we are good at triage.

We already have plenty on the calendar for the next seven months until we are back at market, the macro plan.  July will first be filled with dealing with the last of the crops, tomatoes and cucumbers to the restaurants, taking it all down and seeding the last of the summer cover crops.  I will also finally start on the long awaited screen porch project.

Late August and early September we will be off on a long trip west to Utah, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.  Back in time to get the beds and soil prepared for next season and seeded to the winter cover crops and to enjoy the brilliant fall weather before we head off to Mexico on a family trip the end of October.

November and December we will slowly start up the next growing season with planting the anemones and ranunculus and the first rounds of vegetables in the sliding tunnels, while the greenhouse starts to fill with transplants.  January sees weekly planting and tending of the winter crops and then we will be back to market in early February.  In between there will be short trips and other diversions.

We will not be strangers as you will see us from time to time at Market including next week at Tomato Day, in the aisles at Weaver Street Market, at a table at Pizzeria Mercato or other places around town and we will send out a newsletter once a month or so to bring you up to date on what we are doing.  We thank you for your support and encouragement as we head into this new strange world.

Picture of the Week P1050076Still a lot of Sungolds out there but at the very tops of the plants

What’s going to be at Market? Continue reading

Peregrine Farm News Vol. 16 #21, 6/20/19

What’s been going on! 

The day between Juneteenth and the Summer solstice, the longest day of the year.  A lot to reflect on with these days but after nearly two weeks of uncommonly cool weather there is no question that summer has come back full force this week with the heat and wicked humidity.

A little over two weeks ago I seeded half of the summer cover crops of cowpeas and sudangrass on this seasons fallow field and the good rains have brought them up thick and beautiful.  Under the new Peregrine Farm management plan we have the luxury and space, for the first time ever, to alternate fields in production.  This is a more extensive versus intensive way of managing soil and producing crops but it allows us to really beef up our soils by adding a lot of diverse of organic matter sources (different cover crops and compost) and to be able to rest the soil with a whole year of cover crops and minimal tillage.

This has been the way that we have managed the sliding tunnels from the beginning with a year of intensive plantings followed by a summer and winter off to let the soil have time to recuperate.  Now with the outdoor plantings we have one quarter of an acre in production and one quarter acre just in cover crops, building healthier soil for the following season.

As soon as we harvest the last produce next week we will plant the rest of the summer cover crops in that field followed by a huge winter cover crop to be followed by another summer cover crop in 2020 after which we will raise up beds, spread compost on them, seed one more winter cover crop and they will be enriched and ready for production in early 2021.

Picture of the Week

P1050071A beautiful stand of cowpeas and sudangrass, getting ready for 2020.

What’s going to be at Market? Continue reading

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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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

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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