Monday, 25 June 2012

Good job there are still plenty of weeks to go for summer, still time for the weather to pick up. Someone said to me this week that the long range forecast said that we are in for more of the same over the next month, so watch out for the heat-wave. There is not much we can do about the weather so no point getting too stressed out but it is affecting a lot of sectors in horticulture so don’t forget to keep supporting everyone. The soft fruit boys and girls are having huge quality problems with all the wind and rain and as usual getting little sympathy from the supermarkets but we need to keep buying their stuff or they will be in even more trouble. Make the most of purchases by eating ASAP before the quality takes a dive then pop in later in the week for another punnet. English raspberries in store now, my favourite, best eaten with cold dark chocolate, all part of my 5 a day.

Another tour party this week with a local farmers group of 50 or so for a quick look at the nursery, lab and turbines. As our weeny wind installation is still the biggest in Hampshire the novelty is yet to wear off. Followed up the tour with a hog roast BBQ on the farm, contributing nothing to my 5 a day but satisfying the meat consuming hunter in me.

Big news in the local paper last week with a plan proposed to put up 17 big turbines fairly locally, the usual fuss and panic was reported in the blurb, although during the week the overall reaction seems surprisingly positive which is nice to see. The usual knee jerk reactions where there with questions about whether the turbines would ever save enough CO2 to cover their own manufacture (ours will in just 15 months use) and when electric demand is at its highest the wind doesn’t blow (assuming the highest demand is when we have a frosty, still, high pressure system parked on top of us). Having come through our first winter and been involved in TRIAD charges which are applied to high users and generators for the 3 peak half hour consumption periods of the winter, I was pleasantly surprised to see that we generated at high rates on all three occasions with just 3kWhr consumed where our own use was slightly higher than power we generated for one of the periods. I am guessing that this is because the highest demand (always between 16.30 and 18.30 on a cold winters evening) is not just when it is cold but windy and possibly wet too. A cold wet wind will remove heat from buildings much quicker than cold alone. I must try and squeeze in a few more tours for the locals so they can get up close and personal and look at the turbines too!

Feeling very sorry for the Isle of Wight festival goers this weekend, having taken so long to get them on site, it is likely to take forever to get them off again as it has been raining again overnight. They are going to be cold, wet and very tired but hopefully having enjoyed some good times. We did our more civilised bit by attending the opening of the King Somborne music and beer festival on Friday night in the village hall. Organised by the ‘Somborne Sessions’ we have a brilliant night watching Virgil and the Accelerators who were fantastic and very loud. I bet they don’t get many gigs where members of the audience are waltzing around the floor to raucous blues rock. Had a quiet day yesterday recovering from the beer sampling of the night before, feeling nearly human today.

Caroline feeling a bit less encumbered now as her arm cast came off this week, but she is still a bit crocked as it will take a while for things to settle down and work properly again. I think there was an expectation that all would be normal when the cast came off but she still can’t get her socks on. Good job, touch wood, my back is ok otherwise we would both be naked from the ankle down! Could be worse.

Eco News

Windy week, already 25% up on June estimate with 7 days to go.

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Monday, 18 June 2012

Another tough week on the weather front. A couple of nice days and some not so good for getting those plants sold. After weeks of hoping for a recovery to save the spring sales forecasts we have just about given up on much claw back now, we will just have to do the best we can for the rest of the summer and knuckle down to making next year a more productive one. Luckily we have already made quite a few savings to help the cash flow, lower electric and water bills, less labour used and reduced production and distribution costs by selling and producing less. We have scaled back many of the ideas we had been hoping to implement this summer to help on production efficiencies as we just haven’t the cash to see it all through now but there are still a few projects we will pursue.
One sad event this year will be dropping out of Investors in People which has come up for its regular review this winter. Although we do like the piece of paper saying how sensibly we look after each other here, we just can’t really afford such a costly rubber stamp at this time. I’ve never been very good at following rules and o ther peoples ‘standards’ anyway, I like the freedom to do what I feel is right, getting recognition for going in an approved direction was nice for everyone but we can do just as well without it. We already have our next plan in place for making more of our working day with a series of workshops for everyone here on Lean Management. This is something we have implemented in parts for a while into our production processes but not something we have supplied training on for everyone. The tricky bit for implementing many updated ideas into an establish workplace is getting everyone thinking along the same lines and we have never had the spare dosh to afford a course for everyone. However we have been offered this for free under a government funded training initiative for NVQ’s, it just costs us the time off production which we will hopefully make back. All the work is done on site and will be very practical and relevant so not too scary for anyone. One great thing at the moment is the awareness of everyone here to the difficult year we are all having so we have a good positive approach to this all round, let’s see how we all feel after the introduction to the course which is being given in over the next couple of weeks.

I had my quarterly therapy session at our NBIS (Nursery Business Insolvency Scheme, I mean Improvement), everyone has seen a shocker of a spring, although one or two have done ok if their main season was early enough. We had a good session with lots of positive input although there was no free money available at the end to share out which was a shame because that’s what we could all do with!

A group from the local WI came round for a turbine trip on Friday, a fantastic breezy day and a lovely tour. I surprised myself (but not others) at how long I could waffle on for on anything remotely connected to our three little generators. They were all blown away by it all (pun intended) and left behind a perfect WI memento of cake, scones and jam of which there is unfortunately none left for staff coffee on Monday!

Eco News

I’ve been doing a bit of predator redistribution this morning, hovering up a few of the tiny frogs that have started to emerge from the pond. I’m sure it won’t make a huge difference to anything really but just thought it might save a few getting picked off before they made it into the tunnels. I never get over how tiny they are when they first come out yet how far they can jump for their size. I’m easily impressed. There are still plenty of tadpoles in there so we look like getting quite a good crop this year, they must love this weather, good job some things are benefiting.

Turbines passed their June estimate today (17th) so will make up a bit by the month end on the quiet February and March periods.

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Monday, 11 June 2012

Plenty of weather again this week. Very strong winds for a couple of days did push the turbines around well but did rip a lot of leaves from the poplar windbreak. June is one of the three quietest months for wind on average but we had our second windiest day of the year followed by the fifth, not that I’m getting obsessive about recording these things! Luckily we seemed to miss the worst of the rain although it was hardly perfect gardening weather. Hopefully the holiday mood carried people into a buying frenzy although we are passed hoping to recover from the disappointing spring. We can just move on from this moment hoping that the weather is kinder and the positive atmosphere of the Jubilee and the Olympic touch relay keeps building through the summer.

Even the Euro football has got off to an entertaining start although we have to wait until Monday to see our boys do their thing. I was quite impressed that our chaps have been mixing a bit more with their local environment and even doing some serious historical visits with their trip to Auschwitz. I’m not sure how it will affect their playing but it can be a very valuable experience to see a bit of recent dramatic history to make anyone appreciate how lucky we are to be living in these times, despite all the current issues. Those footballers certainly live in a bonkers world but then most of us live in quite a limited environment really. Nothing wrong with that, especially if you are getting what you need out of it.

We support quite a few local fetes through the summer each year but this week saw a first with the cancellation of one, in advance, due to the high winds and poor weekend forecast. I suspect that the big marquee they use couldn’t be safely put up in Friday’s winds, so no weather-proof cover to help out over the two day event. I have also heard that generally fete donations from contributors are harder to come by this summer with the tough times, which is understandable although I suspect our plant donations/offers are a bit bigger with our reduced sales providing extra suitable fete stock. At least someone is benefiting from our misfortune. Besides we will often get a lovely response from the organisers too which makes us feel good, and we all just want to be loved really! Who needs money? That reminds me, we have had a request this week to make an appointment to see the bank manager to review the season, oops.

Eco News

Lots of power produced from the turbines this week and next week looks ok for a bit more, but hopefully for sales not too much. We have Sparsholt WI coming to have a look at them on Friday, the forecast looks ok for wind for the moment I just hope it’s not too wet.

Huge numbers of fledgling birds all over the place this week, sparrows, tits, starlings, wagtails, finches, jackdaws. The native hedge we planted around the nursery 12 years ago is awash with tweeting and looks a picture as the dog rose is just beginning to bloom. It’s a shame we can’t make a living out of growing a lovely hedge. Last winter we planted a few islands of native hedging at some of the tunnel ends where we could fit them in and where they were a bit of a distance to the big hedge.

These should provide overwintering sites for some of our predators we introduce into the tunnels although it will be a year or two before they are a decent size. They are growing away well at the moment.

If you need a fax list please let us know, pick it up from the website or alternately send an email address. Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Morning all,

Happy Jubilee to all.

Managed to squeeze in a fantastic street party and barn dance yesterday evening after a hectic day doing yet more improvements to the irrigation plumbing. It was held in Strawberry Lane, Up Somborne just down the road, where we tucked into a hog roast and jelly and ice cream. Delicious. Kept warm and wore off some of the calories at the barn dance which was very jolly. Never quite sure about barn dances myself but once you start it is great laugh, just don’t take anything too seriously!

Bit cool & showery today but not as bad as predicted. I hope Queeny gets some dry spells for her turn on the river this afternoon. With a bit of luck she will enjoy it all as much as she did her day at the races yesterday. I bet she’s looking forward to the concert on Monday, she can’t even slip away early as there are all those beacons to light afterwards. It’s great to see such a positive reaction to it all, let’s hope it keeps gaining momentum throughout the summer with all the fab summer events going on and spills over into a bit of garden purchasing as well.

I got my left handed jubilee hair cut yesterday. My Boris Johnson look was getting hard to manage but a quick whizz over with the clippers did the trick. Luckily my sight is failing and I can’t see round the back but there were not too many ‘whoops’ during the exercise so I don’t feel any more self conscious than usual.

Nursery life continues to bowl along, loads to do and lots of orders to send out. This coming week is going to be interesting with only 3 proper working days in it. We are going to have a small crew in on Tuesday to make a start on things but depending on how things go we may need to extend deliveries over into Saturday if demand is high. Having such a long weekend is very disorientating, I feel like I can get lots done as there are so few distractions , but there is no getting away from the fact that having 20 people not on site for two days makes a dent on the list of achievements likely to be completed this week.

I’m doing a delivery to Eden on Monday so looking forward to that now I have discovered the wonders of their ace bakery. I hope they are baking on the bank holiday. After the last trip we overdosed on breads and scones all week. I will try not to get carried away this time, although I all ready have some other bread orders to add to our own. Great bread and a nice beer, doesn’t take much to please me. Good job, after the career choice I made and after this spring I may have to forgo the beer.

Eco News

Turbines are all going again, touch wood. The engineers arrived on Wednesday as planned in near perfect conditions for taking down the tower and replacing the broken part. Everything was back up and plugged in by the end of the day and the wind picked up instantly to test it out.

Latest batch of bio-controls came in this week. At least the weather is now a bit more insect friendly to help get them get established and keep on top of many of the pests.

One pest we have had trouble with this year is pigeons. They seem to have taken a fancy to the foliage of several plants. Aquilegia, phlox and wild rocket seem particularly popular, over a couple of days they come in and strip off the foliage. It took a while to identify the culprits, we suspected mice and rabbits first but we have now nailed the blame on the pigeon. Now we will have to work on a strategy to combat them.

If you need a fax list please let us know, pick it up from the website or alternately send an email address. Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries