Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Here we are again, another bank holiday weekend, it’s great to be able to relax again.

Ok just a quickie this week as I need to get away for lunch and I must admit to lying about too long this morning recovering from all the celebrations yesterday for Caroline’s 50th . Festivities were great but hardly riotous but still needed some quiet time this morning! Everything went well, I even remembered card and presents which have been seen to be missing on previous birthdays, it is usually so busy and we are usually so busy at this time it’s hard to find something for a girl who has everything. I suppose I should be thankful that we don’t have any big-boy multiples to supply this spring that has given us a bit more of a life this spring.

Brief summary of the week. Busy as usual, lots of orders and the now regular puncture on the comedy van (M25 towed off and expensive). The irrigation control system is more or less sorted, all wired up and working on a semi-automatic basis which is a relief. I only made a few minor wiring/programming mistakes which meant the wrong line coming on but all sorted now. That means that this week we can do a bit more fine tuning on timings and water volumes to get each tunnel right.

In-between times we have been clearing tunnels and tidying up a bit ready for next year’s production to get under way. This week will see the first main batches of young plants arriving of some of the slower growing types ready for potting. Then we have also been getting stuck into some archaeology on one of the wind turbine sites (see below) and organising all the parties involved in next week’s foundation works.

Eco news
This week saw the arrival of the first digger on site to remove the top layers of soil to allow the archaeologist to inspect to see if there was anything exciting to record. Getting him in a week early proved a smart move as in the site nearest the top of the
hill there were definite strong shadows in the chalk sub soil. There followed a two day dig with three of us from the nursery helping out to get it sorted out ASAP and at minimum cost. It was really interesting if a little frustrating in the end as we
revealed a series of adjoining pits but with no datable finds at all. After he finished we were allowed to carry on, so we did a load more work on Friday and Saturday to see if we could get any further. The pits continued off the foundation site but still no finds. I will reveal more another day.

Egg production up to 8 a day!

Nature notes

Swallows are about to fledge already.

Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 23 May 2011

Morning all,

Good to be here, the world didn’t end after all.

Yet another flat tyre started the week but managed to get it to the menders for a replacement valve so it worked out ok in the end. After that things got more exciting as the week went on, culminating in a couple of hours off yesterday to do the supermarket run and have breakfast out!

We had a very welcome splash of rain overnight, but it’s now sunny and very windy so it’s all evaporated again. We have been topping up the puddle in the yard for weeks now to help out the house martins building projects and the water bill is mounting (we do use a bit on the nursery too!) I wouldn’t mind as much if all the wind was pushing our turbines round but all I can think is that all the wind for the year will have been used up by the time they are up and running. I’m not sure yet how much this very dry weather has affected the farm cereal crops, certainly the barley is in ear already which is very early and the hay crops are very poor. Could be another year of hay and straw shortages which is bad news for we donkey fosterers.

On the brighter side the wind turbine project got active again this week with at least some dates being set (see below) and the chicken enterprise has kicked off. We are now proud owners of a chicken run and a small batch of rescued free range chickens. No eggs yet but they are a surprisingly entertaining gang making very pleasant contented chicken noises. We have never kept them before so I could well be wrong on the contented interpretation but it sounds very therapeutic to me. Hot news straight from the horses mouth, or should that be the hens bottom, we have our first egg!

We put in our order for a table of tickets for the local business awards dinner next month. We are in the final of the green award section and selected for the final of the overall business of the year. I’m not sure we press enough of the right buttons or tick the appropriate boxes to win but it is nice to get some local appreciation of our efforts and a good opportunity for the staff to see that at first hand. It is a black tie event, so it will be quite exciting to see how some of them scrub up, smart dressing is not something we see much of on the nursery!

Eco news
This week I have been organising all the different suppliers and installers of the turbines as we received a date for the foundation installation. They are starting on Tuesday 31st May and expect it to take all week for all three to be prepared and concreted in position. Then it’s several weeks for the concrete to cure enough to put the masts up, a date was set for 24th of June but that has already been postponed now until w/c 4th July due to a delay in mast making. There is quite a bit of sorting out to do before then anyway, with cables and poles to come down, trenches dug and cables to come in and be buried, substations to be installed and various electricians sorting out each end. Then there is also associated water works to accompany some trenching. Work starts on Monday with the digger man coming to remove the top and subsoil on the three sites, each 5 meters square. This work needs to be started ahead of the foundation installation so that the archaeologist can check we are not digging up anything ancient and if we do, they can take appropriate action. I now need to go and set up the protective fence around the nearby hedges to prevent damage before all this starts. Tension mounts!

Nature notes

We are getting round to clearing a few tunnels now and it’s great to see the number of frogs and toads hopping about, they must be doing some good. The long native hedge/windbreak we planted 11 years ago is not only doing a great job as a windbreak and natural habitat site but looks fantastic at the moment with waterfalls of dog-rose cascading out.

Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Sunday, 15 May 2011

I was looking forward to this week being a bit easier as the orders dip a bit after the long run of good weekends and the bank holidays. Then there was the luxury of 5 days in the week again, it should all have been a breeze. Naturally it went pear shaped from day one. The big van lost the back end of its exhaust and went in on Monday for a replacement which was ok but while it was in there they found a broken part of the suspension which had to be replaced. Not a huge job but they couldn’t get the right spare parts until Wednesday morning so we had to managed with the little comedy van and the borrowed farm transit to ensure we got all the orders away this week. The first delivery on Monday in the comedy van suffered a blow out on a rear tyre so that meant a breakdown call out and replacement. Then that was followed on Thursday morning by the big van having a flat and another breakdown callout, but luckily only needed a new valve. The great thing about all this was at least it didn’t happen a few weeks ago when we were so incredibly busy.

Feeling pretty smug again this week with all the news about rising energy costs expected over the next few months. Electric prices we know are rising again on the wholesale side as we have been getting quotes for one of the farm contracts and the prices are back to the high long term contract terms of three years ago when we last fixed the price. They dipped significantly just after we set that one up and now as renewal approaches they are back up again. Can they see us coming?

Anyway, higher prices will make the payback quicker on the turbines which is good for us and may make people make a bit more effort controlling their waste. Certainly we have felt huge benefits from all our insulation projects in the house with the costs being returned in less than one winter. Mind you we do suffer from living out in the sticks and relying on expensive heating oil as a fuel source which increases the savings. Insulation was top of the agenda on breakfast telly of things to do to combat the higher prices and we know it can work. There has always been some negative vibes about insulating houses with scare stories of extra damp and such things, but our experience has been brilliant. We have experienced less damp in the bathroom where the cold outside walls used to run with condensation when you were showering. Cavity walls and roof insulation is very well subsidised so quite cheap to do and free in some cases and then we topped it up by fitting more expensive (no subsidy on this bit) insulation board under the floorboards which stopped a lot of draughts and warmed the floors up hugely. We also put in a wood burning stove to take the pressure off the central heating. The savings so far have covered all the insulation costs and a bit towards the log burner. Next year will see the burner paid off through the ongoing savings then it’s win win over the following years. Probably the best return on investment we have ever made, it certainly beats investing in a nursery!

Eco news

All quiet on the turbine front this week but pre-installation tension is beginning to mount.

Nature notes

We see sparrows, wagtails, blue and great tits feeding in the tunnels all the time. They can be seen working quite systematically down the tunnels visiting all the nooks and crannies where the insects tend to get caught. Years and years ago we saw a Long Eared Bat in a tunnel, apparently they can be active in the daytime too. This week we found a tiny roosting Pipistrelle Bat just hanging on the side netting of a tunnel, I assume it was the one I see most evenings scooting about the nursery or maybe a passing stranger. Anyway he had gone the next day. However in the next tunnel on the following day we saw a Long Eared Bat hanging from the tunnel roof frame, he only stayed a couple of hours then flew off, but how bizarre to see two different bats in two days after years of seeing none.

Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 9 May 2011

Many sighs of relief this week. We don’t have to worry about bank holidays this weekend, the work load has eased slightly, got my hair cut, the temperature has dropped, Southampton secured automatic promotion to the Championship and best of all we have had two nights of heavy rain. Ok, we have had the odd little flood but who cares, everything looks so much better for a refreshing splash. With a bit of luck this will also freshen up peoples enthusiasm for the outdoor pursuits and give all gardens a bit of a boost. It’s quite a comparison to last Sunday when the really strong dry winds were ripping off the fresh poplar leaves and young branches of our main windbreak, littering the nursery as if it was autumn.

To save the brain working too hard I have started writing the odd note during the week, of things to mention but naturally I can’t remember where I’ve put it, so I’ll have to try and recall the highlights as best I can.

Luckily we didn’t have to work too late this week as we did have a concert to attend on Wednesday evening. Jools Holland and his huge band provided a jolly and very loud bash and everyone looked to have a good time. Ok I admit it, this wasn’t one of my favourites, I’m not very good at community clapping or singing on demand, it was all a bit to manufactured for me which was a shame because there were some very talented musicians among the 20 or so on stage. Sandie Shaw made a guest appearance which was a surprise, and she looked fabulous especially considering she is 64. We reckon she must have pinched a pair of legs from an 18 year old.

It was all a bit of a rush to get there on time especially as I thought I ought to get my hair cut before entering the real world again. While the pizzas were warming in the oven Caroline whisked over me with the clippers and I got the whole thing done and myself showered off in 30 minutes (this exercise helps cover the mortgage payments made to cover Carolines trips to the real hairdressers!). Then there is the tricky bit of eating hot pizza in my only nice shirt just prior to rushing out. Easy solution, don’t get dressed until after eating. Slight hiccup as I sit at the kitchen table juggling hot pizza in my undies, when the ladies from the Cat Protection turn up and troop through with a late cat delivery. Not a word was spoken as I shuffled further under the table and acted cool!

On Saturday I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the last home game of the season at Southampton to see them seal promotion back to the Championship. A sell-out crowd saw a very entertaining game with lots of action and goals (won 3-1) and there was a fantastic party atmosphere by the end. Even the opposition (Walsall) were celebrating as they had been in danger of relegation if other games had gone against them but they escaped despite losing and in the end everyone lived happily ever after. Quite a contrast to the past few seasons of relegation and near bankruptcy.

Eco news
After another week of irrigating and now some real rain, the recently sown wild flower strip is well up. The new hedge has shot well too with the extra water, although we will have to pull a few weeds out to reduce the competition a bit. The mulch we put down did ok but the odd weed that got away has got really big suddenly.

Things look like they are about to kick off with the turbine construction. The way-leaves etc are all sorted by the grid folk and they reckon we should be wiring up in about a month. A programme of dates is nearly ready and I’ve lined up the trench and ground works team to be ready to go. The foundation installers are also looking at dates to install hopefully before the supply is actually in, so that the concrete has time to cure before the masts are bolted on. Naturally we are expecting the wind which has been incessant over the last few weeks to die away in mid June.

Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 2 May 2011

What day is it now? It has been a slightly bizarre couple of weeks with all these banks holidays and special occasions. There is hardly anyone here so it must be Sunday and we have just one more bank holiday to come tomorrow, so we should be back to ‘normal’ in a few days. Next week is of course short again but hopefully we will be able to cope if we are not too over swamped with orders. We managed a few hours off last Sunday for a family Sunday lunch which was delicious, as usual I overdosed on meat and pudding which meant I couldn’t eat again for nearly 24 hrs! I can’t believe Easter was only last weekend. It’s a shame that so many centres have to close on that day right at the peak of the season, but there you go.

It is such a bonkers time of year it reminds me of my first nursery selling fruit and veg. Christmas was the daft time then, prices used to shoot up, the quantities bought were silly and the work load huge, but by the time the post Christmas lull was taken into account it all evened out to be normal few weeks. At least with the plant sales we get a reasonable run at it before the autumn and winter lull kicks in. At this time of year will can sell as much in one day as we do in an entire winter month, so make hay while the sun shines (and wind blows).

We had a heavy shower last night, just enough to lay the dust for a few hours, but we need loads more really. Although the temperature dropped last week, the sun and constant east wind has meant no drop in water use which is really high for the time of year.

With so much going on it’s difficult to keep up. I managed to catch the highlights of the big wedding, if anyone missed it, it was all ok. He turned up, she turned up, she had a white dress, they got wed and they kissed. Hopefully they all live happily ever after as prince and princesses should although apparently rarely do! (at least not at the first attempt). Coincidentally it was our anniversary this week. We celebrated in traditional style, Caroline went out to see an Eagles tribute band with a couple of boys and I stayed at home to make my own dinner! Luckily the Riverford organic veg box was still full of fresh yummy goodies so I naturally I went straight to the phone to order a chicken tikka khauri and mushroom rice, mmm nice.
Eco news
After a week of irrigating, the recently sown wild flower strip has germinated, it’s either that or the weed population in the soil popping up to have its say!

The wind turbines are another step closer with the money going out to have the overhead power lines and the poles removed from the site. The last instalment of the large deposit on the turbines themselves has also gone, although still no actual activity on site other than the movement of money out of the account. I’m just beginning to wonder if it’s all just some sort of very elaborate scam.

Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries