Monday, 27 August 2012

Morning all,

Holiday weekend already, where does all the time go. Not a great weather day yesterday but looks promising for today so hopefully everyone will be out and about loosening those purse strings a bit. Still a bit more summer to come and the Paralympics about to start which should make us all inspired to do good things. With a bit of luck the Southampton football team will absorb the positive vibes and recover quickly from a quiet start back in the premiership.

We have been back a couple of days now after a few days in Cornwall. It’s a bit of a shock going away and coming back but the nursery looks great and lots got done so perhaps we need to go more ofte  n. We did loads of stuff while away, the usual walking, not too far, and the usual eating, way too much, with a little something to wash it down with. One of the highlights was an evening picnic in a boggy mosquito ridden forest border. A chance encounter I had that morning on Marazion Marsh with a very chatty twitcher led to him disclosing a great spot to see and hear nightjars (a nocturnal insect eating bird). Not knowing the area very well I got him to repeat the forest name twice so I wouldn’t forget and got directions as to where to park and which track to take in the wood to get to the best spot. I offered the chance to see the nightjars to the rest of the gang who were surprisingly keen to give up their evening to stand about in the dark watching for birds they could barely see.
Where was the forest? Ahh. Umm. I think it was two words, the second was something like goose and the first maybe burn or burnt. Anyway some hours later we trooped into Croft Pascoe Forest just before sunset. It was very wet, puddles all over the place and loads of horse flies and mosquitoes. We made a marginal miscalculation with the lighting equipment considering the conditions, one tiny pencil light with a weak battery between four of us. Easy enough to find our way in but tricky on the return trip in virtual blackout conditions. Anyway after eating dinner and a downing a couple of bottles sunset arrived and we were treated to a near perfect display of nightjar activity. Very shortly after sunset the calling started, a very distinctive ‘churring’ from 3 or 4 birds coming from along the forest edge. Then all went quiet and just before it went too dark they started flying past us over the scrub along the forest edge. It was too dark to see in colour but we got some great views of them flitting about chasing their prey and one very close encounter as one flew straight towards us, halting its path just a few meters away. As darkness fell we could see them only silhouetted against the night sky and heard them calling again. It was just great to witness a sight not too many people see. Who needs a foreign holiday when you can stand in a swamp in Cornwall enjoying bread and butter, beer and get eaten alive!

Need to go and unblock the drains, nice to be back.

Potting is progressing well for next seasons crops. We have put some of our crops this year through an extra production phase to increase the size of plant we are potting which should help improve plant size, reduce moss and liverwort levels and reduce wastage through losses of the smallest plants. We used chunky module trays which already have on site so there were no extra material costs just the extra labour to do it. Results look good so far with really strong growth being seen in some of the more troublesome subjects. This may also be partly down to the great new peat free compost we are using this summer which is performing well beyond our expectations and the miles better than our previous mixes of the last few years whether they were peat free or not.

Eco News

Chickens looking good and are starting to lay, but only tiny eggs so far.

Great weather this summer for frogs and toads, they are all over the place.

Second batch of swallows have just fledged form the donkey shed, Hopefully they will find enough to eat to build up their reserves before the long migration flight in a few weeks/days.

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

Monday, 20 August 2012

I know I’m a bit early for the weekend but we have decided to squeeze in a short break so I’m off on my hols tomorrow for a few days. I need a rest after all the excursions of the Olympics and we could do with catching a glimpse of the real world outside the nursery. There will be plenty of people manning the pumps here so we should be ok for a few orders for anyone keen to get our ace Anemones into store.

Did a U3A (university of the third age) tour on Tuesday. Very nice group trouped round the nursery listening to me waffling for England. NBIS (Nursery Business Improvement Scheme) group did the same today although today’s went quicker after a successful business lunch down at The Plough.

Need to go and pack my bucket and spade, be back soon.

Be good. Don’t read Shades Of Grey.

Eco News

Still no eggs, but it’s ok because there is nice beer in Cornwall and I can have a lie down.

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

Monday, 13 August 2012

Last day of the Olympics and I’m all cried out. Not sure if it’s the excitement of the events and results, the emotions of the athletes and crowds or an excuse to release the pressures of a difficult season. Funnily enough everyone else seems to be the same, they must have put something in the water. The positive input of all the volunteers seems to have impressed everyone who has been there and they have helped carry through a fantastic event we can all be proud of. Well done everyone.

I wonder what else we can do given the chance or the right motivation.

There is lots of talk of the legacy of the games and it will be interesting to see how much momentum we can maintain. After seeing the fantastic performance of Bradley Wiggins early on, I found my inspiration. It didn’t go as far as getting on a bike, I doubt that will happen after a traumatic introduction to road bike riding a few years ago. I got entered to ride the bike section of a team triathlon, cycling about 25 miles, but my preparation of one cycle to the pub proved inadequate and I had to have the saddle surgically removed at the end of the ride and I couldn’t sit down for a week! What happened to the nice wide springy saddles from my youth? Having thought Bradley’s sideburns were a bit naff they suddenly became quite attractive after the Olympic gold medal so I have set about paying my tribute by growing my own version. Not off to a great start as they started nicely below the ears but slightly out of balance. By the time I had taken a bit too much off one side then too much off the other I ended up with a token extension rather than a full blown tribute.

Potting for next season is bowling along although we are being much more conservative with some of the quantities we are producing after throwing away so much unsold stock this year. I know there are many others following a similar route as we simply can’t afford another year like this one and reducing production helps the cash flow and reduced the wastage risks. If next year turns out to be brilliant on the weather and sales fronts then we may miss out a bit but with margins already tight chucking away so much stuff is just unsustainable.

In such a tricky year it is tempting to think it has all been going downhill but there are lots of plus points for us here. This was the first year of output from the three wind turbines, we upgraded the irrigation pipe sizes to improve pressure and flow, we have found a great, new peat free compost which is outperforming not just the other peat free mixes we have tried but also our previous peat reduced mix and I reckon all the composts before it. We have started adding a bark topping to our new potting to reduce the liverwort and moss growth which can be unsightly and increases despatch costs. We are also topping our module composts with a finer material for the same purpose. Then there are all the production beds which are getting new covers to help speed up crop clearance and keep the beds cleaner as well as reducing the potential for slips. We have all just completed a course on Lean Management which should help us fine tune the production operations improving efficiency, reducing waste and encouraging more team work and involvement in the workplace. We have already done one project which was quite impressive and now have to apply it to a few more. Considering we are supposed to be holding back a lot seems to be still pushing us forward which is a nice feeling for everyone.

Eco News

Egg production has tailed off as the rescue chickens fell off their perches. We lost the last of the old batch earlier in the week so have got in our first full delivery of real ‘point of lay’ birds. They look really strong and very smart, a mixed bag of hybrids rather than posh breeds but reared on a small local farm so well used to people and traffic etc. No eggs yet (1 day) but hopeful that we can soon get back up to fulfilling the nursery demand.

Long eared bat roosted for a couple of days in one of the tunnels, that’s the first we have seen for probably 10 years.

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

Monday, 6 August 2012

Morning all,

What a spectacular success the Olympics looks like being. It’s not just the recent flush of medals which was great, but the joy and spirit before. It looks to be there at all levels from the athletes, the crowds, the volunteers, even the media seem to have dropped the usual cynicism. The BBC coverage has been great with such exhaustive content and positive commentating and interviewing. I have listened to quite a bit on the great 5Live radio channel when I have been too busy to sit and watch and they get so excited it is infectious as they dodge about from one event to another. I’m so glad it has gone so well and I hope that the positive spirit runs over when all the athletes go home, life gets a lot easier when so many pull in one direction. I suspect retail sales generally might get a bit dented over this couple of weeks as so much time is set aside to watch sports we would never normally give a second glance to. So many lovely, moving moments already, well done to everyone involved whether it is participating in some way or just supporting, it is inspirational on so many levels.

I have heard that some were particularly impressed by the American rowing fours at yesterdays medal ceremony but I have no comment to make on that.

We could certainly do with a bit of a lift on the nursery as the rubbish spring and summer weather continues to have an impact on day to day progress. It would be great to just write off the season and get stuck into a new one but we are still battling to clear up and make space for the new crops which provides constant reminders of how difficult this year has been.

It is a shame, as this summer the preparations for next year’s crops have gone really well. We have found a stonking peat free compost after some more very frustrating trials this spring, we have incorporated new top dressings on the young plant modules and the coir pots which are reducing the amount of liverwort and moss growing on the compost surface and we have now completed the first 5 weeks of our lean management training for all the permanent staff. The irrigation system is working much better after increasing the supply pipe diameter around the nursery and the LED lighting in the lab growth room is doing a great job. Let’s hope the Olympic wave will carry us through.

Eco News

One year of wind turbine generation complete, first annual service done and the longest run yet of ten weeks without any technical hitches (touch wood). Caroline got taken up one of the turbines for a look from the top and took some great pictures, she was thrilled so big thanks to the engineers for organising that. It looked very exciting from the pictures, but not really my scene, I couldn’t even watch Caroline go up let alone set foot on the ladder!

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