Sunday, 24 July 2011

Not sure what to say this morning. The events in Norway and the loss of Amy Winehouse cast quite a long shadow and it is easy to appear flippant and uncaring by trying to be positive and groovy. Unfortunately my dad isn’t feeling too bright either so I’m not going to say too much today which is a bit of a shame when this week could have been very jolly with the new turbines complete, commissioned and running as I write this.

I suppose it just goes to show how vulnerable we all are to whatever unknown event is around the corner. We aren’t perhaps as indestructible as we hoped and life is often unfair and too short. We are all basically soft and squishy on physical and psychological levels and we need to be taking more care of everyone and everything around us, don’t waste your opportunities, appreciate how lucky we are to have what we’ve got and don’t undervalue yourself or others.

I was thinking about socks this morning. Aren’t they great. Quite a complicated thing to make to achieve all of a socks goals but they make life that little bit easier, comfy and luxurious. Extrapolate. We are lucky really, make the most of it.

Eco News

Turbines running now. Quite surprised by the amount generated in light summer breezes of the first couple of days and how much extra was produced with the slightly stiffer breeze over the last 24 hours. I will put some figures together soon.

I have managed to break into my You Tube account and put on a video of one of our turbines being lifted into position if anyone fancies a look.

Nature Notes

Second brood of swallows from the same nest fledged this morning. There are loads of tiny frogs hopping about in the tunnels closest to the main pond with quite a few toads and newts too. Explosion of hoverflies this last week or two which should help keep the aphid at bay.

Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 18 July 2011

No rest for the wicked. I can’t remember such a long period when one deadline seems to be followed by another. The busy spring period is always bonkers with so many little deadlines to stick to in order to get all the orders out on time but as things start to quieten we expect to be able to relax slightly. Not a hope this year.

The nursery is filling with rooted cuttings and young plants for next season’s crop which we are trying to get potted as quickly as we can, looking good so far, a few new varieties but such a lot to get through.

The turbines are still stationary as we approach energisation day on Tuesday (19th) assuming we get a dry enough day for the engineers to connect the new supply without turning off the overhead cable. I hope they remember their rubber wellies. (You do have to keep an eye on the automatic spell check on this programme, I nearly missed one there). Then a separate team is due to install the meters before the turbine installers arrive to finish off their electrics and testing and finally the SSE inspection engineer tests everything for final commissioning on Thursday evening. Slight cock-up this week when the meter installer arrived unannounced to do his bit but couldn’t complete without a live supply. The supply installation manager had booked them to do the work, it must have slipped his mind that they needed it all live, I wonder if any supplies are connected in time? Hopefully he has rebooked them and it all goes smoothly and we will be generating by the end of the week. Cue a month of summer high pressure settled air. We still haven’t had the old poles removed that carried the old overhead cable, I checked and they had the job down as being complete, so hopefully I have resurrected it again, we’ll see.

As well as still sending out lots of orders again, we had the Woking Show to attend this week which added to the deadline list. As usual we were well prepared having planned what we were up to several hours in advance of leaving to set up on Tuesday. We are always full of good intentions to get proper signage done when we dismantle the previous show but before you know it there are only moments to go and it’s all too late. Luckily I had made some notes after the last one and so remembered that the stand space was slightly bigger than it used to be and I needed to take more stuff to fill it up. I’m sure all the info is in the exhibitors info pack but that sort of paperwork falls into the category of ‘please confirm you have read and accepted our terms and conditions before completing your order’. Anyway the weather was perfect and we had a really good day. I suspect that the organisers would have been a bit disappointed with attendance but we met lots of existing and potential customers and had plenty of positive responses. We got some excellent feedback from customers after showing them our trial tray insert that will hold a temporary water reservoir after watering to allow the compost to more efficiently absorb what it needs so reducing watering time. We hope to have these available next year after trials are completed.

Bacon roll for breakfast and a delicious lunch added to the day and on top of all that we were delighted to win the ‘Best Stand’ award. I proudly sported the winners rosette for the next couple of days despite the ‘Best of Breed’ overtones of the resulting appearance. I knew it hit the spot when Jamie on the nursery couldn’t stop laughing every time I stepped in view.

Excitement and tension are building on the farm with the imminent start of this year’s harvest. We have cleared out one barn ready for a crop and I should clear another this afternoon if the rain stops for long enough. Then we stand back and let them get on with it. The scale of kit involved these days is astonishing, it makes me feel quite inadequate on our little nursery, still size isn’t everything.

Eco News

I have managed to break into my You Tube account and put on a video of one of our turbines being lifted into position if anyone fancies a look.

Nature Notes

The first of the house martins have fledged and the skies are filling with more and more swooping chirping stars. I think there are 7 nests on the house and now a second late swallows nest has appeared on the nursery so by the end of the summer it will be mayhem. Can’t wait.

Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 11 July 2011

What a week!

They are up. It all happened so quickly I missed most of it. Unfortunately SSE who are trying to connect our new supply are unable to send a team over for a few hours to connect the cable to the overhead wire until July 19th so the turbines will be stationary until another SSE engineer can then arrange to come after that date and witness the commissioning of the turbines. A bit frustrating but such is life when playing with the big boys! The SSE metering team have also still to fit the import export meters too so just a bit of fiddling to do. Oh yes and SSE still have to take the overhead cable poles down which are now spoiling my view of the turbines.

Anyway they look great to us even if they won’t go round. Quite big close up but shrink quite quickly as you move away. They are a definite addition to the landscape as they are sat on top of a windy hill but hopefully not too dominating.  I think that they are attractively majestic in their appearance. I had been a bit worried about the galvanised mast looking a bit clunky but they are quite elegant and do disappear fairly well into the background from most viewing angles.

Bank manager visited on the day of the turbine erections so that was nice to show him what they had missed out on supporting. He was very complementary and glad to hear the positive comments from the erection team on what a great site it was and we all lived happily ever after.

The turbines arrived on Monday on a couple of arcti-lorries, were assembled on the floor on over two days and hoisted up by crane on Wednesday. The hoisting and bolting down was done in 3 hours, all very dramatic. They looked a bit big when they first went up but shrunk quite quickly as we got used to them. I hope by next week to have a video on ‘You Tube’ as soon as I can work out how to get into my new account.

I had an interesting letter this week from SSE containing a copy of one of our many new contracts, it was addressed to a Mr D. Pot Plant. ! Not quite sure where that name came from as the contract details inside were all correct.

Woking Show this week so it will be the usual last minute panic to get things together and set up for that and then a whole day of being nice to everyone, can I hold it together? I must say that the lunch usually makes it worth going, as well of course the opportunity to meet lots of lovely customers. I wonder how well attended it will be after the recent National Plant Show at Stoneleigh? Last year was quieter but still well worth attending and still a fun thing to do. It does get me off site for a few hours, it’s almost like a mini holiday, a change is as good as a rest.

Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 4 July 2011

PTT (Pre Turbine Tension) has set in big time over the last couple of weeks. It has taken nearly two years to get to this point where our little turbines are due to go up so you would think that was plenty of time to get everything sorted to avoid any last minute rush. Not a hope. This last week has been an endless run of phone calls and emails trying to tie things up so something actually happens next week. We had success early in the week when one of the Local Area Network (LAN) teams arrived to take down the overhead cable which would otherwise have interfered with the turbines and their erection. The poles are still there but we can work round those for the moment. We have already replaced the overhead cable with our own underground one. A long wait for MPAN numbers (identification numbers given to individual meters) meant that we couldn’t apply for the energy supply contracts, one for importing energy, one for exporting and one for meter rental (a surprise one that we only found out about this week) until the last minute and they won’t energise the new supply until all contracts are in place. Then there is the slight hiccup that the new incoming supply is not quite finished yet. There are just a couple of cable joints and a couple of bits of kit to fix in the meter shed and we are then ready to energise. On Thursday we were given an energisation date of 27th July which would mean that the turbines would sit stationary for 3 or 4 weeks until commissioning of the turbines could be rearranged for sometime after that date. However with a bit of re-jiggling the LAN chaps are hoping to get something sorted sooner, possibly next week which would be brilliant. We’ll see. Turbine erection starts on Monday and if all goes well could be complete and generating by the end of Thursday. Can’t really believe it might actually happen.

The rather precarious nature of nursery life has been brought into focus (no pun intended) recently with the demise of the Focus DIY chain and the appearance of the list of horticultural creditors in Hort Week on Friday. I hope those companies listed are making bigger margins than most of the nurseries I know because losses of that size would be devastating. We are feeling quite relieved that we decided a while ago to move away from that market area where volumes may be high but stresses are huge, margins low and eroding, contract security levels are thin and worst of all you feel unappreciated, abused and out of control of your own business. I know as a businessman I am supposed to hardened to that type of pressure but being at work isn’t somewhere I want to abandon my heart and conscience it is where I spend a lot of my life, I want it to be fulfilling and rewarding. OK, I know the money is in short supply and it can be really hard work but given a chance this is still a potentially great industry to be involved in at any level and well worth getting out of bed for.

Eco News

Good weather at the moment for putting up a turbine or three.

Electric consumption up to the end of June 3.5% down on 2010 and 23.07% on 2009. Not such big savings now as we have made the easy savings already. Now it will take investment in new kit to make more savings and first we have to wait until we get through a year or so paying off some of the turbine costs.

Lloyds TSB sent us their glossy farming magazine this week, there is a whole page on renewable energy project funding. There is a handy checklist which I have read through and I can tick all the boxes so you would think funding would be a doddle. The one item they forgot to list was, only apply for financial help if you don’t actually need it. Their support was nonexistent in fact it cost us delay and extra cost when our local manager tried twice to get us help. He is coming on a visit this week so it will be interesting to see what he has to say and how supportive the bank will be over the coming couple of winters when cash-flow will be under huge pressure due to the extra commitment we have had to make ourselves. We have to thank our families for their belief and support in getting the turbine project of the ground rather than the extraordinarily conservative bank approach.

Nature notes

The removal of the overhead cable has meant no perches for the pigeons above the pea field. It makes a surprising difference to our outlook as we are used to seeing loads there when there is a tasty crop below. They are now fighting over the three remaining pole tops which will soon be replaced by three more hazardous perches!

Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries