Sunday, 24 April 2011

Fantastic morning to all. Ok it might get a bit hot later which can be a bit stressful so early in the year but just for the moment it is perfect. Sun out, light cool breeze, early mist clearing from the valley just stunning. I suppose today may see a few of you on restricted hours today with many centres closed for Easter Sunday, a moment to catch your breath, gather your thoughts and press on with what is a bonkers couple of weeks with all the bank holidays. We have had a good couple of days to catch up a bit and today it’s just Caroline and I sorting out the irrigation, seed sowing and accounts. We are having a bit of a holiday later with a trip to Dorset for family lunch which will be a nice break, then back later to finish the watering. We are back on Monday with a ¾ crew and will be treating the coming week as a normal trading week but with deliveries probably not starting until early Tuesday.

Last week was unsurprisingly a hectic one but we got there in the end although we are getting a bit tired. It would be a lot easier if it wasn’t so hot but there you go, can’t do much about that and it does get people outside. It doesn’t take much to push me over the edge at the moment, I caught myself at the top of the stairs this week on my way to bed carrying my empty dinner plate, realising I set out for the kitchen! Fruit juice at breakfast made it into the cereal and most of my wardrobe has disappeared where I have taken something off and forgotten where I put it. I put it down to an active mind, thinking about lots of different things at the same time, or is it just old age creeping up. Still at least it keeps us fit in body if not mind.

Eco news
I spent last Sunday having a great time rotorvating a 60m x 3m strip next to the new hedgerow we planted this winter. This was to sow a wild grass and flower patch as part of our wind turbine ecology improvement plan. I was just going to tickle the surface to get the seed raked in and it would only take an hour. Five hours later the job was done, well the bed preparation anyway. I had forgotten about the rather flinty nature of our thin chalk soil, and the run wasn’t quite as smooth as I had pictured. You just get set on a moments nice tilling when you hit one the size of the Isle of Wight and the whole machine leaps out of the ground usually sideways too, making for a bit of a wrestling match. Late on Friday we managed to get it levelled and rolled, sowed the seed, raked it in a bit and put on the irrigation. Hopefully in a few weeks we will have our wild flower meadow, although the amount of seed recommended for the area seemed a bit mean. I doubled it to allow for the bird feeding but we will see later if it is enough. A bigger area I was thinking of sowing will have to wait until I find a man with a tractor, I’m keen on promoting wild flower areas but not that keen!

Nature ramblings

Exactly three weeks from seeing the first swallows, the house martins arrived this morning. I was out at 6.00am and there were none, by 8.00am they were there. A characteristic flash of black & white and there they were, probably 4 or 5 all swooping around the house checking out the old nest sites. A long trip for them from their African feeding grounds all the way back home to Kirton Farmhouse, how do they do that? We get a great view of them from the bedroom window and it is always a summer morning sight that gladdens the heart.

Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 18 April 2011

What a great run of weather, maybe we could with a drop of rain, just as long as it is at night. This morning is fantastic, early nip, bit of mist, blue skies and no wind, a perfect day to get outside and get to grips with life the universe and everything. I am expecting a change in attitude to the windless days in a few months time, but not today.

Another hectic week has passed, we sent out more deliveries this week than we have done for years, the fuel bill is growing but luckily the sales are there to cover that. Next we have a bonkers three weeks when the bank holidays and peak season will combine for a fun time for all. Hopefully we can all revel in the fact that we are all so popular at the moment rather than panic at the impending workload and lack of time. We will be pulling as many rabbits out of the hat as we can so do bear with us as we do our very best to make things go smoothly.

On top of the busy week we also had our Winchester Business Awards judging visit as finalists in the Green Innovation section and the overall Business of the Year. Despite my fears of a lack of written plans the nursery walk-round provided loads of examples of what we have done, what’s half way through and what is coming up providing we can find the funding. This seemed to get everyone quite excited although afterwards I kept thinking of bits I had missed out, like the ponds we put in, the LED lighting we are looking at in the lab growth room and worst miss of all, the handmade Christmas cards we slave over!

On the awards front, I was astonished to receive the player of the season of our old gits hockey team at the club bash on Friday night. I now have a small but heavyweight plaque on the mantelpiece, which I believe is made of solid green, as discovered by Lord Percy (Blackadder).

All the warm weather has got the insects going, the wasps and flies have all made an early rather dopey appearance. I’m hopeless with flies, something about them just makes me very tense. It is something to do with their second sense of what they can do to cause maximum irritation. Classic last night with Caroline reporting a whopper in the bathroom. Checked it out with the swatter and nothing, at least not until I got in the shower. Then of course it appears and gets in too, restricted space, lots of water, dopey fly, a recipe for true slapstick, good job no one saw that.

Eco news
End of March electric savings up to 28.24% on the 2009 figures, 7.7% on 2010. Extra savings this year probably down to the milder late winter. Looking forward to next year when we should be generating our own and hopefully selling a bit back to the grid.

The grid folk are currently (no pun intended) sorting out the way leaves across the field where the new cable has to go, then hopefully we will have some dates provided so we can organise the trenching and foundation works. Lull before the storm.

Nature ramblings

Fantastic sighting of the Red Kite this week. It must have been searching for food, performing repeated circles quite low to the ground over the nursery and the next field.

Swallows in residence and very active.

Jackdaws are nesting somewhere, I caught one perched on one of the donkeys backs pulling out the moulting hairs. It was there for ages with a great beak full.

There rabbits are at it. Our young cat Spare has been waddling around for a couple of weeks now, full of baby rabbit, leaving the odd half eaten trophy in the house just to let us know he is earning his keep. In this lovely weather even our ancient two are showing an interest. Seeing what the youngsters get up to gets the mind going even if the body can’t follow it up. Bit like me at the hockey dinner dance.

Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 11 April 2011

Phew, what a scorcher. This is all a bit of a shock to the system, it’s been like June out there not early April. It does make everything look stunning in the hedgerows and gardens so hopefully everyone will be enthused and excited about the spring garden projects. I wonder how many out there are asking already about bedding plants? - it must be tempting despite the prospect of weeks of potential frosts still to come. Summer also arrived with the first two swallows spotted on Sunday shooting off down the valley, then on Tuesday our pair arrived and started nesting activity and feeding around the donkey shed, which is their usual haunt. Lots of feel good stuff going on, don’t forget to look up and see it.

Usual nursery activity on the arrival of the sun and heat, fog system goes on a go slow, in need of new nozzles and ventilation fan in microprop weening tunnel trips out, needing a motor rewind. Perfect, so plants and pricking out teams have been wilting all week. In the house the insulation is beginning to get too efficient and we may have to look at a change in tactics for the summer. In theory it can keep the house cooler in summer but not when you’ve got an Aga generating heat in the middle! Whereas before most of the heat leaked away and left us in the cold it is now all retained which is great until the sun comes out. Still at least we have reduced our oil consumption by over 60% this winter, and I reckon it will be more next year as we didn’t get the insulation complete until December.

If I can find time this week we will need to have a bit of a tidy up as we have a team of judges coming round for the local business awards competition. The nursery looks pretty smart, for a nursery, but the judges may not be used to the somewhat primitive facilities we are all used to here. We are in the Green Innovations final and the overall Business of the Year final which is all very exciting. I can’t say I’m brimming over with confidence as they have asked to see our financial results and our business plan. Well the financials are ok, we are showing a marked improvement in the last couple of years after many years of less than impressive returns but the business plan is stored away in the spreadsheet that is my head. In other words we make it up as we go along. Not sure if that will be sufficient to impress anyone with our long term planning! The trouble with doing a written plan, well one of my written plans anyway, is that it is out of date before it’s even finished.

Eco news
I’m in print already. Our copy of South East Farmer magazine arrived complete with the telephone interview I unwittingly gave last week and it’s ok, luckily no picture.

After introducing the anti vine weevil fungus (Met 54 or is it 55, can’t remember) as a new bio control this spring we have also got another new introduction to come onto the nursery next week. We have had a couple of aphid predators before among our usual bio control introductions but this is a ready mixed tube of six different ones that cover the control of over thirty different aphid types. We hang the tube up in the tunnel, they hatch, have a feed of glucose syrup on the end of the tube and that gives them the energy to zoom off and start eating and laying eggs in their prey. It’s not a particularly cheap solution at over £18/tube, one in each tunnel, three introductions needed to build up a population but results last year were said to be impressive and it should further reduce any control sprays we use.

Nature ramblings

Swallows in residence.

Newts active and feeding on the tadpoles which are growing strongly. They will soon be grown and getting revenge by eating newt babies. It’s an amphibian eat amphibian world out there.

Wagtails are nest building somewhere but haven’t spotted where yet, it’s bound to be somewhere inconvenient it always is. It only seems to take a day or two, you put a pile of crates down and go to move them and find it, complete with occupants. Then it’s a case of setting up an exclusion zone and hoping for the best.

Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 4 April 2011

Wow, what a week, it’s been heaving this end, hopefully the same with you at your end. I’m not quite sure how we got everything delivered but we did and then had Friday and Saturday free to get potting again. This weekend looks promising again down here, not a lot of sun but dry and mild. Now the wind has dropped (Saturday evening) I will pop out and get a bit of weed control going, conditions are looking nice for it.

Just in case there is not enough to do at this time I’ve got a presentation to do to our PLATO Sustain group on Monday evening all about what we do and what we plan to do. I will need to do a bit of preparation I think, usually I just make it up as I go along but that is because I usually do that sort of thing on site and can use the nursery itself to illustrate points and prompt me as I go along. Having seen a few other presentations from the group I have opted to put something together on Powerpoint which I’ve never used before, it won’t be as slick but at least I can show a few pictures and tell a story.

Winter drew to a close on Tuesday with our last skittles game of the season where we pulled a rabbit out of the hat by winning 3-0 against the second placed team. It was our first 3-0 of the season and pulled us up 3 places from bottom to just about avoid relegation. A few beers and some chips for the opposition worked wonders. Caroline who is the team captain couldn’t play as she had spent the day at an old friends birthday bash at Taunton Races. I expected an excited response and reward for our glorious victory but all I got was how she had snogged Hugo Speer (famous actor for those not in the know). OK those weren’t her exact words but I know when I’m out gunned!

Thursday saw another trip to the big city to see Sandi Thom and her band who were great and very loud but the evening was made complete by a surprise appearance of Marcus Bonfanti as the support, who we have been wanting to see since getting his great album last year. Brillant young blues player and singer, check him out at

Richard finished officially this week although you may be lucky enough to spot him helping out on the odd delivery for a few weeks yet as he has offered to help out occasionally to help fund the expanding family at home.

Eco news
I got interviewed on the phone by a journalist from the South East Farmer magazine this week about our wind turbines and all things renewable. Cleverly done, I didn’t even realise it was an interview until he asked for a picture at the end. I’m just wondering what I said now! I did pass comment on bank funding issues but I don’t think I was too ‘open’. Anyway I don’t think the readership is too vast! As someone doing an article on renewable energy stuff I was surprised how little background info he knew. He was asking about whether I believed the ‘experts’ that oil was getting in shorter supply and would get more expensive and he knew little of the Feed in Tariffs. I suppose after you focus on sustainable stuff for a while you assume everyone else is aware of the situation and the need to start doing something. When in fact most people are blissfully unaware and just complain when prices go up assuming that one day they will come down again. Watch out you boys and girls start planning now, the sooner you start preparing the more you will benefit.

Now could come a list of smug improvements we have made (like house insulation, wood burner, reduced electric use of over 28% on 2009 figures, reduced heating oil use on nursery and in house, reduced water use, smaller car, wind turbines on the way etc) and those we are thinking off (like a bit of solar generation, ground source heat pumps, rain water collection, LED lighting in growth rooms etc) but that would be rubbing it in. Oops too late.

Nature ramblings

Another first this week with the first sighting of a Nuthatch here. Unfortunately it was lying on its back with its legs in the air, definitely an ex-nuthatch. It looked in good condition apart from the lack of pulse and rather stiff demeanour, still that’s life, or not.

Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries