Monday, 28 June 2010

Just a quickie as it’s a big day today with a warm up Grand Prix to fall asleep in front of and the big game at 3 o’clock. I would normally be slaving away over a tray of seeds or mending something but it’s just too hot in the middle of the day. One advantage at the weekend, of living on site, is you can come in late in the evening to do any essentials when it’s easier to work. So my sympathies go out to you all if you are working all day in this. Please let’s have a bit of rain to give us a break.

Anyway, other than the increasing heat we have had another exciting week here enjoying a bit of end of spring shopping to add some new toys to our collection, with a new knapsack sprayer, hosepipes and the main bits ordered for the new irrigation tank, pumps and control equipment, It doesn’t take much to get us excited! On top of that we broke and mended the forklift (sounded very ill with lots of screeching which turned out to be the fan bearings), had a man in to check the potting machine which is old and knackered, know how it feels, and organised it to go back to the workshop at the end of the season for a complete overhaul. We finalised our holiday booking in Cornwall for November for our own end of season overhaul, sent back a load of packing crates and module trays to Holland for reuse and started collecting back lots of our wooden trays from those we are passing close to on our travels. All in all, a very satisfying week.

On top of all this I had my faith restored in the future with a visit to a local primary school on Thursday. They were having a ‘low carbon day’ which was a nationwide school thing where they focus the days work on carbon issues. A school helper had contacted us through website asking if someone who like to go along and discuss our approach to sustainability and carbon stuff and chat about our turbine plans. I had never done anything like this before, we do the odd nursery tour for old fogies and students from the local college but not off site and not to such a young audience. Not having any kids of our own I had no idea how to pitch it, so I prepared in the usual Kirton Farm management style and decided to take along a few props and wing it! It ended up being a great morning, I did a couple of sessions covering about 90 children aged 7 to 9 and their teachers, assistants and headmistress and the level of knowledge and enthusiasm was just brilliant. I suspect it worked so well because at that age we met on an intellectually level playing field! After being mentally beaten up by the local parish council on the turbine application it was a joy to hear such enthusiastic, balanced and sensible thoughts coming from such young minds. Let’s hope it all holds together when the hormones and sulking take over (although I don’t sulk as much as I used too).

Nature notes

Lots more dragonflies and damsel flies now appearing over the ponds and laying eggs.

Don't forget to do your bit. Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Brought to you by Kirton Farm Nurseries, for your viewing pleasure we are proud to present the uncut version of Derek being interviewed about PLATO Sustain!
Keep your eyes peeled for a more coiffeured version with additional contributors soon....

PS nice turbines!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Nearly the end of June already, how did that happen?

Busy as usual, but a slight lull in madness has allowed a bit of development planning to take shape as we try and think of more ways to do it all better for the coming season. The wind turbine project seems to have developed it’s own momentum and progressing along it’s slow pathway to hopefully it’s eventual erection.
We are now looking at pushing along other projects big and small. Perhaps some replacement hose to replace the old multi-repaired ones that are past their best and super frustrating when they continually catch on things as you drag them about, usually just as you have got near the far end of the tunnel and have to turn off and walk all the way back to release! A couple of new small sprayers to bring the equipment up to date and make the whole job easier. Then we have a collection of irrigation projects to start ranging from a new storage tank and pump, to installing some new application kit. We are going to try and introduce more wet/dry cycles into the plant production process in an effort to toughen the plants up, reduce the growth of liverwort and moss on the compost surface and reduce water and labour use. We are also looking at starting to experiment with the installation of some of the infrastructure to harvest the rainfall to reduce mains water use, trialling tunnel guttering and drainage channels etc. Although we can’t put in a large reservoir at the moment to store all the overwinter rains, we can put in a smaller storage tank and adopt a ‘use it up as we go’ system where we use up any rainfall we get during the 8 irrigating months of the year, to dilute mains use. In theory we could reduce mains use by at least 50% at a relatively low cost.

Unfortunately this is the usual story of jam tomorrow! Lots of spending and work to put it all in place, with the promise of an easier life in future. One day. Trouble is, it’s so easy to get carried away with all this nursery shopping ‘cos it seems such a good idea at the time.

Now my 'old gits moan off the week' goes to our nearest village parish council and their objection letter to our turbine project. Now I know it’s not everyone’s idea of good countryside development which is fair enough, but they have really gone to town, bringing to light a list of objections most of which are irrelevant on the planning issue and others I took personal offense at. They complained about a lot of stuff one of which was that their questions had not been satisfactorily answered and there was not ‘proper’ consultation. I couldn’t have made ourselves more open to queries and info, they had months to ask questions and visit the site (one visitor) or arrange to go and see a similar installation. They also suggest that the comments letters are mostly from non locals and all have a suspiciously similar content (not many objections from local individuals), they really are cheeky monkeys. If you want a look it’s on page 6 of the comments page;

As usual we will be donating a collection of plants to the Sparsholt fete at the weekend, only the council objected, not everyone in the village, and I’m not bitter!

Dragonflies and damsel flies now appearing over the ponds. A stunning blue Broad-bodied Chaser got trapped in one of the tunnels during the week but I managed to rescue it with a plastic shovel! I tried to ‘push’ it out and it simply landed on the orange blade and I carried it out 150ft to the open. The easiest ‘rescue’ I’ve ever done!

Don't forget to do your bit. Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 14 June 2010

It’s a perfect summer day for me, bright but not too hot, no distractions from getting stuff done and I’m not the England goalkeeper!  Poor chap, he will be waking up this morning knowing that one tiny lapse in concentration will haunt him for the rest of his life, still luckily it is only a game. I hope the start of the World Cup doesn’t kill the interest, activity and wallet opening associated with the outdoor pastimes, the weather seems to be in our favour still, with a nice bit of rain and cooler temperatures last week. We still have a lovely range of stuff to sell, with all the summer lines now starting and the herb range wider than ever. We have cut back quantities now as things slow up a bit but things do look pretty yummy. (Don’t chew on the lemongrass too long it can bite back a few hours later!)

The planning application comments period ends on Wednesday (16th) and we now have quite a collection of positive inputs which is great. It does take a few days for the comments to appear on the website sometimes so we won’t see the full response until later in the week.

Met the new bank manager this week which is always a bit of a tense occasion as everyone tries to suss each other out.  He seemed very on the ball and customer service orientated, so hopefully we will get lots of support and encouragement and not too much hassle.  Luckily the figures he was working from showed a significant improvement in performance from 2008 (shockingly bad year for us) to 2009. Despite the slow start we have made more improvements this spring, so we hope to keep in his good books.  He was delighted that we were getting out of producing for the multiples as he had seen the soul destroying effects that these customers can have on companies of our limited size.  I must say nursery life is quite exciting again now we have taken control back for ourselves rather than running it for their benefit. We seem to be pressing all the right buttons for the bank at the moment, let’s hope we can keep it up and perhaps even make a profit!

Eco Update

Another month has slipped by, and the meters are read again and we have now reduced our electric consumption this year by 19.79%.  Hurrah, this means that if we ever get the planning stuff sorted we could produce our entire needs with the turbines and possibly have a bit spare to put back in the grid.

Planning application for our three small wind turbines. If you would like to take a look follow this link;

Consultation ends on the 16th June. So please if you have a view express it on the comments button on the planning website. Thanks.

Nature notes

I have seen an adult moorhen feeding around the nursery for weeks now and yesterday disturbed her with a well grown large youngster, so she must have had a nest knocking about somewhere on the nursery.  We usually get a nest somewhere on site, although we don’t often get a successful outcome, so that was nice to see.
Red Kites over three times this week.
Lots of young goldfinches fluttering about following the parents around, scrounging food (sound familiar?)
Housemartins doing lots of house building, they are gathering mud from around a puddle we keep going for them in the yard.  The natural soil is a bit light and crumbly for them and they seem to prefer the yard surface which has a higher clay content.
Swallow chicks have hatched, looks like 4 heads peaking out.  A second pair arrived last week, but don’t seem to be able to settle on a nest site.

Don't forget to do your bit. Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 7 June 2010

A good bank holiday meant lots of top ups this week and just the four days to squeeze it all into, but we got it all done before the weekend started and got some potting done too. The scary thing is that this week we started taking deliveries of plant material destined for next year’s sales and I know the sooner we pot it, the chunkier it will be for the spring, so the pressure is on to tidy up and get going. It’s all go! There is this vague hope that we will get a pause between one season ending and the next beginning when we can sort out all those little projects that would make life easier. But as we approach holiday time and staff numbers dwindle, then the sales bowl along for longer each year (which is quite handy!) that gap evaporates and all of a sudden before you know it, it’s winter again! Mind you that might have something to do with age too. We are just about to re-book our annual holiday trek to sunny St Ives, which got cancelled due to the flat we rent being rebuilt. So that’s something to look forward to, roll on November, it’s just around the corner. Mind you I am quite lucky really as I get to go on holiday every day for a few minutes when I sit down for my afternoon/evening tea break after everyone has slipped away. The interweb is great for a taking a quick trip to your favourite place, just let your mind go (mine left ages ago) and you're there.

Quite a bit of effort this week on trying to get some positive comments put up on the planning website (see below) as one of the local councillors phoned earlier in the week worried about the negative landscapers report. It is possible that we make get a straight refusal without it going to the planning committee and then have to take it to appeal unless there is enough interest shown to justify a debate by the committee. She has requested that it should be discussed but we need enough support on the application to back the project up. Our planning man has done a detailed reply to the landscape report which should appear on the planning site very soon and does a great job of picking each point raised and arguing very convincingly that the rules/guidance can be viewed very differently. It’s great to have someone who understands this detail, otherwise we could just get squashed by the ‘experts’ interpretation of the policies.

Eco Update

Wind turbine planning app has been processed and is now being considered. All the details and dates etc are on the Winchester City Council website and there is space there to send in supportive (or not) comments on the application. If you would like to take a look follow this link;

More detail is on there now, including a report from the planning landscape man who visited this week and who like the permission refused due the impact of the turbines on the view. Consultation ends on the 16th June. So please if you have a view express it on the comments button on the planning website. Thanks.

Nature notes

Another RSPB bird watch this weekend. The usual one is early in the year but this gives a count of the summer visitors as well. It’s not very easy to count the bush & tree dwellers with all the foliage out now and the house martins move about so much it’s quite tricky. Rather handily we do have a puddle in the yard we keep topped up, so that the house martins are supplied with nest building material and we counted 11 there yesterday. A Red kite glided over earlier, now seems to be around more regularly. Had a long tailed tit in the office, let it out of the window and it flew into despatch where it called to its mates outside for a couple of hours before finding its way out. It’s funny how some birds struggle to find the exits, insisting on always flying up into the roof rather than out of the 4 wide open doors. The sparrows, robins, great tits and pied wagtails are in and out all the time, feeding on the trapped insects in the tunnel roof spaces, but get a pigeon or partridge in there and you’re lucky if you escape without another puncture hole somewhere.

Don't forget to do your bit. Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Yesterday was a lovely day to get down the local garden centre or nursery and empty your pockets. A nice drop of rain yesterday and some sensible temperatures for the next few days should keep things bowling along nicely.

This week saw a flurry of activity as everyone stocked up for a promising weekend and all that added to the usual exciting extras that add to the spice of life. Each week I wonder what I am going to put in this little rant and each week I end up having to leave out a load of stuff as so much seems to happen.

We had to have a new water pump and pressure vessel fitted after last week’s breakdown. Ouch. Naturally the day we get it fitted it rains and temperatures plummeted! We are now looking to update the whole system to try and save a bit of water, increase our efficiency and improve plant health and quality. Even when the pump is running we struggle to cope with low pressures etc in hot weather which can be stressful for us and the plants. The current system tends to leave the pots a little too wet in dull cool conditions and too dry in the heat or if they get moved too much. We are looking at a two stage development, first to get the distribution and application better and then reduce our reliance on the mains supply by harvesting the rainfall. We already use less water in a year than falls on the tunnels, so if we can collect that and store it we can reduce our reliance enormously. Unfortunately although the harvesting and storage part is the most environmentally exciting it’s not the most economically beneficial, so for this summer it will be the application we will concentrate on and maybe next year we will look at collection and storage. It would be nice to do both but time and resources would be against us especially as it may take a while to sought out any grant applications and jump through the necessary hoops there may be, on the collect and storage side.

Fantastic meal out last night celebrating Caroline’s birthday with some friends, in a big yurt. Riverford Organics are touring with their restaurant staff to several locations through the summer doing lunches and evening meals. It’s a single sitting job on benches on tables of ten (80 covers a night). The meal was just great, lots of stuff all fresh & yummy, not too fancy but imaginative and the best I’ve had since a stonking fish & chips at the Porthminster Cafe in St Ives. Despite a cool night the yurt was warm & cosy with a really friendly atmosphere all helped along by a very jolly if slightly stressed crew (only their 3rd night) and free flowing organic beverages. The whole exercise was thoughtfully presented with crockery and soft furnishings bought from charity shops in Devon which added to the chaotic, boisterous family feel to the event. It was a good job the crockery was cheap as quite a bit of it seemed to be hitting the floor as one or two of the staff struggled with the challenges set before them. A good end to the birthday celebrations which had started early as somehow I managed to get the day wrong for my present giving! (Incorrect time/date setting on my watch), at least I was early and not late. Also thank goodness for 24 hr opening at Tesco’s, it’s so much better than the garage for those special gifts!

Eco Update

The wind turbine planning application has been processed and is now being considered. All the details and dates are on the Winchester City Council website and there is space there to send in supportive (or not) comments on the application. If you would like to take a look follow this link;

More detail is on there now, including a report from the planning landscape man who visited this week and who like the permission refused due the impact of the turbines on the view. Consultation ends on the 16th June. So please if you have a view express it on the comments button on the planning website. Thanks.

Don't forget to do your bit. Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries