Monday, 25 October 2010

Hello all,

Another lovely sunny day but bit nippy again. A real autumnal feel, which usually means things start to quieten down as we prepare for a bit of a holiday, Christmas and next spring’s madness. But we have so many plans and projects on the go, I’m not sure if we will find time for Christmas.

This week I have been updating the catalogue for the coming year which will be winging it’s way to you very shortly, a few new varieties and a few encouraging words on how we are building in more affordable sustainability into the business. It is very easy to believe that getting more sustainable means increasing the costs but we are finding an increasing number of savings associated with the changes we are making. Sometimes it takes a bit of initial investment to reap longer term savings but occasionally it just takes a bit of focus and application. We are working on a combination of simply reducing our consumption and waste in all areas and changing kit, which both lead to reduced costs and lower carbon output.

Unfortunately although we are achieving very positive progress, there are not enough savings to prevent a price increase for 2011, our two major costs labour (50%+) and coir pots (12%) have gone up significantly and there is no slack in the system to absorb the increases. The cost of the coir pots alone have increased by over 4p/pot after the devastating fire at the production plant on top of the high inflation experienced in Sri Lanka over the last couple of years. Since the fire it has come to light (no pun intended) that although we were paying a rate that provided a valuable income for all the staff it didn’t allow enough to be put aside for reinvestment which is now going to be so vital to their future development. Naturally the insurance company involved are doing their best to wriggle out of paying back what is needed to get back to where they were before the fire and delaying the payments too (nice to know insurers are the same the world over!). So in the interest of continuing a sustainable relationship with them into the future, we have volunteered a big increase to get things back on a more realistic level. Having researched potential alternative supplies we have found that we are still getting a competitive deal and don’t forget that this is very much a handmade, multi-processed product and as, such still provides exceptional value for money.
Eco news (Don’t forget that if you receive this via fax we can save paper and email instead, just let us know)


Ok, now here is a top tip for saving loads of dosh almost instantly. This is on a personal level but makes its importance no less significant. With all the eco stuff going on we have been looking at our personal impact and heating costs have come up as a major cost both financially and carbon wise. Insulating things seems a really dull way of spending money but can be extremely effective if you don’t have much installed yet. We had a man take a look at the house this week for cavity wall, roof and water tank insulation. Despite having some loft cover we didn’t have the recommended 11 inches and cavity insulation would be easy to do. Now here is the exciting bit, we would need over £1,000 to complete the job but with the grants available we can get it done for a little over £300 and we don’t even have to apply for the grants, the company does all that. Anyone is eligible, owners or tenants (although not quite sure how this side works) and if you are over 70 it is free (yes I realise you are all under 35). Your financial situation and house size seems to make no difference. It’s a hell of a bargain. With our leaky old house we should make the cost back in a very few months and we will make those savings year on year. Don’t delay, Google ‘cavity wall insulation’ and loads of sites will offer their services, all at very similar rates.

Our wind turbine and sustainability efforts got recognised on the 10:10 website this week with a great little blog article. Fame at last. Link:

Electric consumption on nursery down by 23.37% for 2010 up to the end of September. Water consumption down 15.6%.

Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Friday, 22 October 2010

Check us out at and pick up some energy busting tips of your own from our friends at 10:10

Monday, 18 October 2010

Beautiful sunny morning but bit nippy as I sit here in the office complete with vest and fleecy hoody. No the hoody isn’t an attempt to hold onto some idea that I retain any hint of youthful style, the vest extinguishes all hope of any street cred, it is just thick and cosy and super effective at retaining the vast amount of heat radiating from the head area (lots of hot air). All hope of youthfulness disappeared this week when we went to see Judie Tzuke in concert who was brilliant, but the audience was 100% old gits of a certain age (mine) who could remember the one and only big hit (Stay with me ‘till Dawn) 30+ years ago. I’m sure I don’t look that old really but everyone else was definitely showing signs of wear & tear with a corresponding dated ‘style’. Sod it, just reread the first part of this, I give up.

Busy social week with another concert last night with an intimate evening with Ben Waters a sensational boogie woogie pianist. A sell out but with only 95 seats to see a great talent, it’s amazing the class out there you can see at a local little venue, must get out there more. Ben was telling us of his recent work with gigs across Europe, sessions with most of the Rolling Stones, Jools Holland, Ray Davis (Kinks) and others I can’t remember. I must admit to being slightly distracted towards the end of the first set when there was nearly a nasty accident. Having downed a quick pint before the start I popped off to the facilities but bumped into Ben and his mum on the way and got chatting. Suddenly Ben was due on so I had missed my chance. Things got a bit uncomfortable as time passed and to add extra tension near the end Ben asked for a request for the last tune. Two got called out and he said he would do both, neither were short either! I was right in the middle of the seating and would have had to shuffle across right in front of Ben to get out, I thought I was going to pass out! Had an ice cream at half time rather than a drink!

Dramatic and heart-warming news about the rescued miners in Chile, what a great result. Mining has always been dangerous and when safety is cut to produce raw materials cheaply, things are bound to go wrong sometimes. Just a note to think about is that 2,600 miners died in China last year. Let’s hope the Chileans do as they say and get their safety act together, I just hope it doesn’t mean they kill the industry because someone else cuts corners to do it cheaper. Sometimes the global economic system we work in can be tricky to live with and don’t get me onto bankers (yes, I do understand just how hard they must work!).

Eco news

Ecologist is booked to do our official environmental programme/scheme for the wind turbine site. Once that is done we can get final clearance from the planners to get started, we just need to secure finance and order everything then we are off.

A friend of mine is a military strategist and looks into planning what the expected military requirements are likely to be in the future so that procurement plans are as effective and relevant as possible. Bit scary. It was interesting to hear how the eco stuff is now affecting their sector so much. The predicted scenario is based on the simple basis that demand for raw materials and energy is accelerating, populations expanding and supply of the stuff is running out or getting much harder to extract. They are now wondering what will happen when things start to get in short supply and recognising the importance and urgency in doing something about securing the future by reducing consumption and securing supplies. There is also a realisation that this will take a major change in culture to make this happen. That’s you and me.

Electric consumption on nursery down by 23.37% for 2010 up to the end of September. Water consumption down 15.6%.

Have a good week.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Hear Derek live on the radio....
Let us know what you think by posting a comment?
Morning all, 11 October 2010I

Just a quickie this morning as I’ve got to rush off to BBC radio Solent in a minute to be interviewed live about the wind turbine project on their Good Life programme. I’ve done a couple of spots on there before and it’s pretty laid back and I don’t think the listening figures are going to make me an overnight star! I’ve been trying not to think about it this morning, as the shakes begin as soon as I do, but I’m sure it will be fine. Background preparation has gone well, none, but then that’s like any normal day I suppose.

We had a week full of various visits this week the most exciting of which was the installation manager for the turbines. He checked over all the practical challenges on the site, which luckily appear fairly easy to overcome. We looked at the likely order of play with surveys, electrical substation, meter and cable installations, trenching and ground-works etc, but still came out the other end with no real idea how long it will take to come together. At least he was impressed with the site as a whole, great uninterrupted wind flow from all directions, easy access and solid chalk under the foundations. One thing I did learn was that the foundation slabs under each turbine are buried 60cm down and the soil replaced on top so we can replace at least half of the short bit of hedge we remove at each site. This should help the ecology plan that has to be written before we are allowed to start. The archaeologist is lined up to write his pre-commencement proposal and attend the site while digging takes place and the power company are half way to sorting out the new connection quote, so things are moving even if nothing actually gets done for a bit.

Our electricians have been in to sort out a quote for moving all our circuits about to make best use of the renewable supply when it comes in. At the moment we have several separate circuits and meters which have evolved as the nursery grew over 26 years so a bit of a re-jig is necessary. We are looking to disable some parts of the nursery that no longer need a supply and reuse the armoured cable and bits and bobs, where they are still within regulations, this helps with the sustainability of the project and hopefully with the cost too.

I attended our monthly PLATO Sustain meeting this week and we had a new member present his company and products. He was from the UK arm of Hansgrohe who make bathroom fittings. It was amazing to hear some detail of what goes on in other industries. They make very swish fittings, but although more expensive, are so much more efficient in their use of water and energy that they can pay for themselves in a matter of months, all done through clever design and thought. Although you get less water through it doesn’t feel like it, due to the way they introduce air into it and ‘bulk it up’. The reduction in water means less heating hence the energy reduction. Another member who specialises in roofing systems for big buildings was saying that they are taking on a new PV solar panel design that is mounted on a roll of plastic, making it much lighter and easier to install and it is supposed to be less affected by the angle and orientation to the sun. With a life expectancy of 50 years it sounded interesting, although I suspect this sort of technology has plenty more developments to come over the coming years. It’s all go.

Eco news

Electric consumption on nursery down by 23.37% for 2010 up to the end of September. Water consumption down 15.6%.

Nature notes

Nursery rabbit control has taken a leap forward in the last month or two with the arrival of a new cat. We have now officially adopted this stray that just turned up. Younger and fitter than our other two, who now struggle to find the energy to get out of the cat-flap, he has been named Spare as that was what he got used to while we were trying to locate a possible owner. He does have an interesting drinking technique, he hasn’t mastered lapping so dips in his front paw and licks it off. We can now tell when he’s been in the house by the trial of single foot paw prints across the floor. As our friend Roger would say there is more than one way to skin a cat!

Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 4 October 2010

I can’t believe it’s October already, that’s the end of another financial year, so lots of stock taking to do this week and hopefully the figures will come out ok. There are nearly always surprises when they are sorted out, but not usually nice ones!
This year is looking ok so far which is a relief as it has been such a struggle over the past few years to make sense of it all. Things are looking much more together now as we get our ranges and priorities sorted out and the current combination of great staff, customers and stock, as well as continuing positive business developments are making 2011 look even more exciting. Luckily we all get more out of this than major financial gain but with some cash return things are certainly easier.

A touch autumnal last week and next week looks the same, at least the reservoirs around the country will get a good topping up. I had a bit of a water related week with a trip to Lowaters Nursery to an irrigation orientated open day. They have installed a rainfall harvesting system to reduce their reliance on the increasingly expensive mains water supply and ensure future supplies as demand increases. It was very impressive with a range of collection ditches and ponds supplying a new large reservoir. The reservoir water was filtered through a series of iris beds to remove contaminants before going through a fine particle filter and returning to the new main nursery irrigation tank. They had researched the system very well (with some funding help) and have constructed a very sustainable and cost effective solution for their situation. Water has been cheap and freely available in most areas for a long time but as prices rise and continuous uninterrupted supplies possibly coming under threat in the future, it is something that many nurseries like us who currently rely on mains supply will need to address. The exciting bit was that the payback period was 4 years even without grant funding, which not only makes it sustainable but a great investment. Unfortunately it is yet another ‘jam tomorrow’ project, but does show the importance of finding enough funds to invest in the future and how this does help keep future costs down. Unfortunately there were probably only a dozen nurseries represented there and many of those were the inspiration behind a lot of the systems incorporated in the Lowaters project. Buffet lunch was great too!

Got the propagation tunnel finished on Friday after getting the double sheet attached the week before. It needs to be well sealed so that we can inflate it for the winter heating period. We don’t heat much until late Winter, but any heat we can conserve helps and running a weeny fan to inflate the double cover works brilliantly. Although it costs more for two skins they effectively protect each other so last quite a bit longer and the running costs of the fan are minimal.

Eco news

Spent most evenings this week raking the loose insulation in the loft. I’ll be back up there this afternoon to finish it off, it has recovered from 3 or 4 cm in depth to a nice fluffy 7 or 8 cm, so I will just need to top it up slightly to the rafter tops and we are there. Next is having a go at fitting some insulation under our suspended wooden floors. When the wind blows hard the carpet has been seen to rise off the floor which is not just inefficient heat retention but does bring on a feeling of motion sickness and that isn’t something you expect while watching telly!

Electric consumption on nursery down by 23.37% for 2010 up to the end of September.

Water consumption down 15.6%.

Nature notes

Last of the summer sights this week with a large flock (100+) of house martins feeding over the nursery. Red Kite spotted over the nursery last week.

Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries