Monday, 29 March 2010

Another month gone, and it’s Easter already. It’s great being this busy, lots of things to do and challenges to meet. Most of the time getting on top of those challenges can be very rewarding but I must admit it can get a bit much sometimes, especially when you can’t find enough hours in the day.
This week’s challenge was with the wooden label printer, all week it kept printing a black line where it shouldn’t and despite learning a lot about the little habits and tricks of this printer over the last two years, this one stumped us and we got quite worked up! After a lot of huffing and puffing, head and bottom scratching we did solve it on Friday. It turned out to be a bizarre combination of events involving the magnets in the ink cup picking up some metal bits into the ink which caused some damage and a slightly dislodged magnet position in the cup itself, caused in the same incident. Phew, what a relief and such a joy using the printer again without the frustration element.

When we get a bit pressed it can be quite easy to slip over the edge into doom and gloom, but a few years ago we did a bit of ‘happiness training’ involving identifying how the brain works and how you can influence moods. One of the key bits was recognising triggers which make you feel different things and using them when you need to. A trigger could be a smell, an object , a memory, a song, anything that provokes a mental response. You can use it to get your mood right for any occasion although I tend to use it to make me feel better if things are getting tricky. If I am in the right frame of mind it does make life easier for all around me. Anyway, I got a surprise on Friday with the arrival of a new and very expensive trigger. The new 3.5 tonne van arrived causing quite a stir. We bought it in a bit of a rush after being unable to get a suitable second-hand one having just worked out the minimum dimensions needed to get the trolleys on and minimise the weight. The resulting vehicle is great, quite different and has made several initial observers laugh out loud. It’s like a cartoon van in its proportions, but it goes really well, is super clean and efficient and we will get noticed! We haven’t done the sign writing yet but I’m sure we can come up with something appropriate when we do get round to it. We have parked it up in the yard and it is making a great impact, you just can’t help smiling everytime you look at it!

Currently we are saving about 17% on our electricity use, compared with last year despite the extra heating costs of the prolonged cold weather and the installation of sodium grow-lights in the microprop weening tunnel. The consumption in the office and print room has dropped 75% since the warmer weather arrived, which just goes to illustrate how much of our energy goes on heating. We will have a look before next winter to see if we can improve the heating efficiency and save in the long term. Maybe we can tap in to some of the grants and loans being used to promote better systems. I did get a call from the local Business Link office to say that they have up to £500 per business to give away on any energy efficiency project which can show savings, so there is help out there encouraging us to do more.

Nature notes

Mad excitement in the pond last Sunday and Monday, with loads of frantic amphibious activity creating loads of frogspawn. I had almost given up waiting for some action but they got there in the end. Because we had to line the pond (on chalk) I was wondering if it was too slippery /tricky for them to get in and out despite the overhanging foliage. I had laid a strip of carpet over the edge to help and it was at this end that all the activity was occurring. I expect it was the combination of an increase in temperature, a lazy Sunday morning, running their toes through the shag-pile and Spring in the air that did the trick.
Don't forget to do your bit. Have a good week,

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Monday, 22 March 2010

What a jolly busy week, hurrah. Spring at last, well for a few glorious days anyway. I had a list of all sorts of jobs we were going to get done this week, but spent the whole week zipping about delivering plants, even on Friday which is usually our odd job day. At least the extra activity will help the cash-flow in a few weeks time. It’s always a tricky period as sales kick off and we start spending again (mostly bodies to get through the extra workload) After a long autumn and winter with little dosh coming in, we reach our bank limit in Feb/March and spend a few weeks juggling everything. It all adds to the fun!

The most impressive & inspirational thing I saw this week was the conclusion of Eddie Izzard’s amazing marathon running in aid of Sport Relief. A relatively unfit non-runner, he ran 43 marathons in 51 days, followed by a rickshaw (with camera crew), a minibus with support crew and an ice cream van giving away ice creams and collecting donations. It was a relatively low key but awe-inspiring effort, often running alone in appalling weather on roads with no pavements and in heavy traffic. The physical achievement itself was unbelievable but the way he did it was delightful. I am a great admirer of Eddie anyway, he has such a great relaxed style and honest approach to life, even if his dress sense isn’t quite my cup of tea, he carried his style into his marathon running, often ignoring expert advice and doing it his way. The diet of Calipos and 99 ice creams, diverting through a McDonalds drive-thru for a burger and fries and stopping at the pub for a quick pint, did him no favours nutritionally, but did demonstrate a freedom of thought and incredible determination to complete his task. He would regularly get distracted by things that caught his eye, a stately home, an array of dead moles hanging on a fence and the troubled districts in Northern Ireland to mention a few. He also passed through several places holding a lot of childhood memories which obviously brought back mixed emotions and added another dimension to the run. Well done Eddie, I wish I had more money sloshing about to donate, but it would never be enough to right all the wrongs or fully recognise his effort and achievement. It is one of those things that makes you realise just what you can achieve if you really want to.

Eco Update

Wind turbine planning still not gone in, but it is very close. These things always seem to take longer than expected. I attended the local village Parish Council meeting on Monday evening expecting a bit of a grilling. But to be fair it more like being lightly poached! I arrived as arranged part-way through the meeting making a rather laboured entrance by having to rattle, push and pull on three doors before I could actually get into the room (I couldn’t help picturing myself making a dramatic exit at the end by entering the cleaning cupboard!). After making a very brief pitch I was questioned for nearly one hour on all aspects of the turbine plans and efficiencies, alternative energy generation options and political and economic pros and cons. Generally it was a very jolly meeting with everyone able to speak openly and frankly but in a nut shell, there are several villagers unhappy about the visual impact of the turbines so are likely to be objecting. One of the villagers came up to the nursery on Friday and we spent a further hour and a half looking at the nursery and turbine site as well as discussing further some of the points raised at the meeting. It all comes down to how they look, and people’s perception of the visual issue. Those that don’t like them certainly struggle with the concept that others might like them. There were a couple of interesting views, one was that if they looked like the old big chunky wooden traditional windmills that would be ok, and another was a question asking me if I had been to Cornwall and seen the large farms there. I said I had, and every time I see them my pulse quickens and heart soars because I see so much good stuff happening and I also love the look. One interesting question that did come up was about how quickly the turbine repays itself in energy terms. I have now found out that it should be about 14 months of operation to cover the energy used to manufacture and install it.

Don't forget to do your bit. Have a good week.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Sun is out and only a slight breeze, it’s almost warm, must be spring at last. Over-trousers are out and I have my shorts on today! Mind you that may be something to do with the fact that I have an early hockey game today and had to pitch up today ready changed. Luckily, for all concerned, the amount of extra clobber we wear nowadays means that any upsetting excess flesh is hidden away under long socks, shin pads, knee pads and long shorts. The only daft bit of kit we have, considering this is a winter sport, is short sleeved shirts, there are too many young folk playing these days who are keen to expose themselves, which is fine in the right place but not in old boys games.

New little car going well (mid 50’s mpg) although Caroline did come back last weekend saying she had had a nasty experience in it. Now considering it’s a Toyota, I did wonder if something had dropped off but no, she had gone through a puddle. Unfortunately it was no ordinary puddle, it was coming from a broken and over flowing sewage drain! Although the bulk of it was on the other side of the road she had the misfortune to time her passing at the same moment as someone coming from the opposite direction. The car got covered and the smell was apparently overwhelming. In need of immediate cleaning, I did the decent thing and made sure she was wearing adequate protection with stout gloves and wellies.

Big van went in for MOT this week and passed, hooray, but it did mean we had to hire one for a couple of days. I’m sure it’s just us, but why when we get a hire van do they always breakdown? Our thanks go to those customers who put up with us hanging about waiting to be mended, helped out with forklift unloading, or had their deliveries delayed 24 hrs. It turned out to be down to new batteries being incorrectly fitted and a tail lift with some sort of independent thought process of its own!

We have a new 3.5 ton small van coming in a couple of weeks which will be nice and give us a bit more flexibility for zipping about with local drops.

Eco Update

We have been asked to attend the local Parish Council meeting in Crawley on Monday to answer questions and put our case. I have heard that they are planning to object to the proposals on visual grounds, which is a shame. We were a bit disappointed that they haven’t even visited the site but there you go, we will see how it goes. Whatever happens at the meeting the planning application will be going in next week if all goes to plan.

You can see the outline proposal in our ‘Dear Neighbour’ letter and the full details of the planning backup documentation at and

10:10 filming got cancelled due to their heavy work-load.  Hope they hadn’t read the blog site about removing trousers!

Had another PLATO Sustain group meeting last week which was good. The group has created a ‘toolkit’ for recording lots of info (electric, water, gas, oil, transport, waste (recycled, landfill, hazardous and by type), production of green energy, procurement (main material purchases by type, cost, volume etc) and company background details (turnover, area, employees etc). All the info is combined to produce progress reports on environmental performance (KPI’s), waste percentages and a basic carbon footprint summary. It’s not perfect but it’s a start and does give us some way of measuring progress and gives us indicators to show how we compare with others.

Nature notes

No frogspawn yet in any of our ponds, but have seen a frog in the pond (looking a bit dopey, it was icy)
Birds still chomping through kilos of feed and doing a lot of singing.

Have a good week.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Derek Taylor and our local Lib Dem Candidate Martin Tod and Victoria Kilroy discuss wind turbines on location at Kirton Farm

Monday, 8 March 2010

Hope all is well out there in retail land. Great to see the sun out this week, although this persistent cold can’t be good for hanging around in the garden, let alone the plant sales area. At least the sun and breeze will dry things out a bit all ready for all hell to break loose when the temperature finally lifts. We’ve had another busy week, but not as busy as we would like on the sales front, although sales are currently up on last year, which also got off to a slow start.

It’s funny how other people see our profession. I went to see my excellent dentist (have to say this, just in case she sees this and ‘extracts’ her revenge at a later date!) this week, and we got chatting (a bit one sided) about my work. She knew I ran a nursery and asked how I enjoyed being a gardener, saying how rewarding and stress free my life must be. I just wonder how she pictures my existence, wandering around with my secateurs and trug in hand, talking to the pretty flowers, when in reality I actually power-walk around, with a walkie-talkie in hand and talking, usually, to myself! I did try and explain that we are more of a plant factory than a glorified garden, but having a mouthful of tools and sucky tube and the ever present fear of choking and spluttering, made me even less coherent than usual. She did say she had several gardening clients and they all seemed very happy and contented which she thought was great and seemed quite envious. I didn’t dispel her image with a financial reality check, as it is nice to be recognised as being part of an enviable trade.

If anyone misses out on any of these weekly ramblings, they are now appearing on our website blog (in a slightly edited form). Consequently anyone can get access including relatives, staff and dentists, so I may have to take a bit more care on the content! You will find from week to week some repetition of news, this is to cover the youngsters who have too many exciting texts to send to trawl through this thoroughly, the old folk who won’t remember that they have read it before and myself who struggles to remember my own name let alone what I wrote last week.

Weight loss and exercise programme going well, I may have found my waist, but I suspect it may just be a fold.

Nature notes

No frogspawn yet in any of our ponds but the birds are still chomping through kilos of feed and doing a lot of singing.

Don't forget to do your bit. Have a good week.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Sun is out for a second or two, but the forecast is not brilliant for kicking off the start of the planting season. It’ll happen one day, meantime it’s a great time to get prepared. Our label printing and counting/bundling is bowling along, I expect you can hear the label printer chugging away in the background as I write this. It makes the whole office shake, including the computer screen which wobbles about in time to stamping. At my age it’s about the only time when the earth still moves for me!
I got a reply this week from Mr Oki about the sustainable printer issues I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. I bored a young chap senseless with my views on the world of wastefulness and he promised to pass on my comments to other departments who also may contact me. It was worth the effort, as I felt much better for doing something, however minor, and he did send me a special release code to reset the offending fuser unit if the same fatal error occurs. Rather reassuringly the first instruction was to turn the printer off & on again as that can sometimes work on its own!
I had a fascinating trip behind the scenes at the Eden Project this week. It is an astonishingly big enterprise, they employ 450 people AYR, which swells to 600+ in the summer, utilising a whole range of skills. From the highly creative PR and promotional teams, scientific experts backing up the horticultural work, accountants and research staff, the craftsmen creating all the stuff used around the gardens, the mini food prep factory, to the vital gardening staff, stewards and drivers getting the public into and around the site. Although they don’t manage to run the whole operation at a profit, it does have a massive impact on the local community and economy, as well as positively influencing an enormous number of visitors to the site. I have been to the site on several occasions, since before it was opened, and I always come away feeling inspired by something and wanting to do more to make stuff better.
Have a good week!