Sunday, 30 September 2012

Morning all,

Very short report this week as we are off to a family lunch celebrating a diamond wedding anniversary. 60 years married that’s a good stint, well done Charles & Betty. Unfortunately I am not well prepared, I haven’t decided on the outfit yet, although one advantage of a limited wardrobe is it reduces the decision making and I haven’t managed to get a razor very close to the chin for a few days and there may be a bit of kissy greeting going on. I know Tom doesn’t like a bristly smacker. We leave in an hour and this bit usually takes two so need to press on.

The last bits of potting sorted this week just a few bulbs to play around with when they come in over the next couple of weeks so that’s a relief. Another season slips buy and a nursery full of pots hoping to find a home in a few months time. Best not dwell too much on looking back this year on plant sales just focus on all the progress made and how much more exciting next year will be. Said good-bye on Friday to our nursery agency boys who do such a great job through our busy seasons and we look forward to seeing them again next year, with hopefully a bit of overtime this time. Our staffing levels do take a bit of a dip on the nursery over the autumn and winter period as we simply run out of jobs and money to keep everyone busy but we are very lucky that everyone reappears to help out in the spring and we are very grateful for that.

Just a very quick report on archaeological developments. We had a surprise visit from Brian our tame archaeologist during the week after he was rained off at home and offered to come and take a look at the ring ditch I spotted on Google Earth. In a nutshell, we sorted ok’ed things with the farm, located the site using scaled aerial shots of the field and put in an exploratory trench (by hand) across part of the ditch. The surveying worked brilliantly and despite not being able to see anything on the surface we hit the ditch perfectly first time. We just did an evaluation by taking out a very shallow trench, but because we are on very shallow soil this exposed the bedrock chalk below which showed the trench very nicely. No treasure, just a very small
piece of Roman pottery in the top level of the ditch and some burnt flint on the surface. Brian has done some measuring, drawing and photos to record the findings which I have got to put together to report to the local archives just so they know what we found. 3500 to 4500 years ago it would have be a mound with a burial in it (a round barrow) but it has been completely ploughed out over the years since it was constructed and only the shadow of the outer trench remains. But standing on the site and looking at the landscape it was positioned in was interesting, it had fantastic all-round views and you could see why you might want to be laid to rest there. If I hadn’t spotted the crop mark I would never have recognised this as such a significant spot.

Saw Ben Waters play a warm up gig in uptown Owermoigne, Dorset on Friday night. Fantastic night in the village hall before the band left for a short European tour on Saturday. Great talent on show from the whole band with guest Mick Taylor (played with Rolling Stones, The Who and Dire Straits) and plenty of room to shake a leg. Ben is doing a solo tour this Autumn don’t miss him if you get the chance

OK 15 mins too tart myself up and be on best behaviour.

Wild stuff

Spotted plenty of swallows and house martins again this week flying over the barrow site.

Luckily we harvested most of the cob nuts from the tree as after 25 years with no resident squirrels we suddenly seem to have at least one regular and he is after my nuts. Get out there quick if you want to save yours.

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, 24 September 2012

Morning all,

Best not talk about the weather today.

We had a great day yesterday. Not only did Southampton get their first win in the premiership but we retained our 5-a-side football title at the Lowaters Nurseries national horticultural championship. OK I may be bigging up the scale of the competition a bit but we did manage to overcome 12 other teams on a lovely day in sunny Portsmouth. Hopefully they raised lots of money for the horticultural charity Perennial and everyone enjoyed themselves as much as we did. In the spirit of fair play I did my bit levelling up the final a bit by letting in two goals between my legs. I’m not sure what happened, my brain could see it happening but the legs failed to respond. That’s two years and 100% record in all games. There’s only one way to go from here. Retire.

Having had a reasonably active day I undid all my good work by getting home and consuming the remains of an enormous rye fruit loaf I got from the Eden Project on Friday. I just could help myself. Zero self control but delicious. I continued my archaeological research this week, firstly looking up more detail on exciting new Stonehenge discoveries reported in one of the papers last weekend. They have found some huge deposits of very old flint tools and Auroch (huge wild cattle) bones at a site called Blick Mead very close to Stonehenge and carbon dated to 6250BC which is thousands of years before the main construction. The site seems to have been a ‘special place’ over a huge length of time and may eventually help point to the beginnings of why Stonehenge is where it is. For more detail try this Open University web page We still have so much to discover. On a more local level I am 99% sure I have found the remains of a Bronze Age Barrow in one of the fields on the farm. It is completely flattened by ploughing but thanks to the historical aerial shots on Google Earth it still leaves its mark in the crops most years. I went up there one evening to have a closer look but there was not a lot to see on the ground other than recognising what a lovely final resting place. On the top of a long hill overlooking the local high spot of Stockbridge Down which itself has quite a few Barrows on it. There are also some interesting smaller crop marking close by, another Time Team Project!

Eco news

The local council are launching a green accreditation scheme shortly to try and encourage more businesses to do something about their environmental performance which is great. It still surprises me how much lip service is paid to environmental iss ues rather than any action actually being taken so hopefully there will be some positive response to this initiative. As we have stuck our heads above the parapet and actually done a few bits and bobs on this front they have asked me to speak for a couple of minutes at the launch breakfast meeting on our approach to all things green. I hope they lay on lunch too!

Just getting a bit tense that the huge polar ice cap summer melt means a regular shift in Jet Stream for the coming summers.

Best think about something else. Mmm fruit loaf.

Wild stuff

I could still hear the last group of House Martins chattering away in their nest last night although most have now left for the big fly south. I opened the curtains this morning to see a group of 50+ Swallows passing southwards. Sadly summer is drawing to a close. Despite the crummy weather this year our Swallows and House Martins seem to have done ok, let’s hope they do ok over the next few months and make it back in good numbers next Spring.

As soon as potting is complete we are going to have to do some work on rabbit and pigeon control before they start doing too much more damage over the winter. They are both being a real pain this year, as if it wasn’t hard enough already.

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, 17 September 2012

Morning all,

Another pleasant Sunday on the weather front. Hopefully lots of people will be running down to their local plant centre to hoover up lots of plants. We live in hope.

We have had a quiet week at work with lots of people on holiday. Still managed to get lots of potting done, leaving us with just a few odd crops still to do. The main batch of Erysimum Bowles Mauve cuttings arrived on Friday and then potting the Alliums and other border bulbs is usually the last potting operation of the year and they are due in at the end of the month. It would be nice to say that we can then relax for the winter but we seem to have a pretty long list of things to do so I don’t think we will be bored. One thing we are going to have to have a good look at is completing our Lean Management projects in order to pass our course. We got of to a flying start with these but the pressures of coping with the difficult season and trying to catch up with the potting programme has put them on the back burner for a bit. I’m sure once everyone is back and the potting is complete we will do the training justice and suitably impress the assessors. The first project we did in the potting tunnel has certainly worked well, it is all set out nicely, much tidier and safer as well as hopefully more efficient. The encouraging thing is that the initial improvements we made in there are being maintained which is great.

Feeling a bit let down this week by the disclosures about the Hillsborough disaster of 23 years ago and the long term cover up which I found quite unsettling and the bonkers coverage of some rather nastily sneaky photos of someone topless sunbathing. Kate stole the headlines for at least three days. Now come on boys and girls, everyone has a chest of one sort or another there is no real surprise there and on the whole they are nothing to be ashamed of or shocked by, there must be more important things we could be focussing on. In a week involving the tragedy in Pakistan when 250+ men, women and children were killed in a clothing factory fire because of rubbish safety precautions, shouldn’t we be looking at why this sort of thing might be happening around the world? I wonder if any of the supermarket/multiple buyers will be asking i f their relentless pursuit of cheap stuff might have anything to do with the shortcuts employers might take around the world if pursuit of a sale? Supermarkets are advertising school sweatshirts ‘from £2’ and a pair of polo shirts ‘from £2.50’. Both are 100% cotton. That is astonishing value at the consumer end here and I can’t blame those with limited income taking up these offers but aren’t we going to have to have a think about how these prices are achieved. Take a look at the production cycle, someone has to grow and pick the cotton crop (groundwork, fertilisers, sprays, weed control, harvesting) that will be transported to the processing plant to extract the cotton fibres, spin it, dye it, weave it into the cloth. Then it goes to the clothing manufacturer for cutting, sewing, adding any extras (cuffs, collars, buttons etc), bagging, boxing and crating for transport to the docks. Transport to UK and to central distribution depots, redistribute to stores, go through the retail processes and in theory leave a margin for the retailer. In the UK at minimum wage rates, £2.00 would equate to less than 15 mins work by the time breaks, NI, holidays and sick are accounted for, let alone looking at the costs of any materials or energy involved.

OK lecture time over.

Looking back instead of forward. This week I discovered another wonder of the internet by downloading Google Earth. Better late than never. I have seen Google’s satellite photographs on various websites before and I had a look at the nursery from above this week. I spotted that I could see the outline of some of our iron-age ditches in crop markings in the field above the nursery (to the right(east) as you look at the screen). Having informed our favourite archaeologist Brian Meredith of my findings he said to download Google Earth properly and take a look at the historical pictures you can see on there for even better images. Sure enough the 2005 pictures show even more detail than the current ones (2008). There looks like a small settlement in there somewhere if you look hard enough. Just stick in a postcode and off you go. Our is SO21 2PJ if you want to see the next Time Team project!

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, 10 September 2012

Morning all,

What a fantastic day here, lots of sun, not too hot and the breeze has picked up enough to get the turbines going. Hopefully lots of people might think it’s time to have a play in the garden and buy some plants, although judging by the roads yesterday they all seem to have got in their cars to go somewhere. I had a hockey match in Havant and we ended up getting there very late after getting clogged up in it all. Luckily there was no match booked on the pitch after ours so we were able to run over.

It was a bit hot for running about but I managed to pace myself and lasted the whole game scoring the winning goal (well one of six in a 6-5 result) and as an added bonus I’m still able to walk this morning.

We’ve had a sobering week with lots of different stuff going on some good some not. On Monday we had some shocking news that one of our seasonal agency ladies who had popped back to Poland for her summer break had been taken into hospital with headaches and was given a rather pessimistic prognosis. She had an operation on Tuesday which we believe went really well and the news was a bit more positive by the end of the week. Gabby is a really lovely lady, we hope she makes a full recovery and comes back soon. We also heard this week of sad news of the loss of Paul Weston who was the husband of one of our ex staff members. Another sudden loss, through a heart attack at work, so our thoughts are with Pam and the family too. Just to top it all off I arrived this morning to find an email from another lovely lady who was coming on a business visit to the nursery next week, who now can’t come as her young husband had a stroke last week and is still in hospital.

OK I know all this isn’t very jolly but on the positive side it does give you a push to focus on what is really important in life and how you don’t know what is round the corner for you or anyone else. Make the most of it and do some good stuff.

On a more upbeat side the Paralympics have been brilliant. I have heard more stories this week from visitors to the games about all the positive vibes coming from all around, how great the volunteers have been, the athletes, the crowds and the press coverage. So well done to everyone, it gives me great hope that the silent, sensible, good willed majority of the population can influence the direction and outcome of a major event by all doing their little bit of positive stuff. Let’s hope we can harness some of this good will to take us forward in lots of other areas and do loads of sensible positive stuff. It took some very good leadership and organisation to get the ball rolling but it was the people that made it work. Although there still seems to be a lot of focus in the media on the medals I think most of the audience just appreciate the efforts of the competitors in taking part, overcoming the obstacles in their way and having a go. So how do we keep all the positive stuff going? I’ve no idea. I’m just going to try and do my little bit this end and maybe you will at your end. That’s a good start.

Eco News

Some pillock (councillor in Totton) is complaining in the paper this week about a small exhibition in Winchester Cathedral highlighting potential problems of global warming. He is under the impression that this simply doesn’t exist and blames the global warming debate for increased fuel prices with the increases caused by useless wind turbines. He also claimed it to be unchristian to plunge old and poor people into fuel poverty. OK I know it is a tricky subject with no sure answers because it is so difficult to prove one way or another firstly if it is happening and secondly why. Also in a similar way there are no single reasons why the fuel prices are rising and are likely to continue to do so. Don’t we need to sit back a bit more rationally and reassess where we are going as a world population to sensibly assess where problems are likely to occur. Lot’s more people and increasing standards of living across the globe result in increasing demand on limited resources. We are heading for big challenges on energy supply, food production and raw material supply. As demand outstrips supply things are going to get interesting, why not embrace the challenges and rise to them, we can all do our bit and we have to start somewhere.

Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 3 September 2012

Disappointingly damp this morning after promises that the weather was going to pick up a bit. After the shocker of a year on the nursery it would be a relief if the farming side of the family at least managed to get the harvest off the fields while the grain prices are up, but the summer continues to frustrate. From what I gather the yields aren’t brilliant and the quality not as high as usual but the prices would make up for that if they could just get it in the barn and dried. In a good year they often get the main crops in by the bank holiday but I know they are still on the oats which means they haven’t even started on the wheat yet. Luckily due to the earlier lack of sun the ripening was delayed so there is still some time to rescue things, they just need a decent dry spell. Good luck to them, we wished for that for several months without success. Still there is always next year, which looks like being fab.

Another wave of positive stuff with the Paralympics going on, which is just fantastic. It is difficult not to be moved by events and excited by so many of the sports. Ellie in the swimming last night was a really gutsy race and the wheelchair basket ball has been a spectacle in itself. Watching the performances of all those taking part, not just the winners, is inspiring and I hope we all pick up what we can all achieve with the right approach. I just hope the media which seems to have fallen in love with the positive messages maintains this approach after the flame goes out. Their influence on the public mood is huge and it would be nice to see a drive towards battling against and overcoming problems rather than just getting stroppy about them. Just off for my first hockey game of the new season, just a friendly between us oldies and the academy team. I suspect they may have the edge on fitness, especially as I am still recovering from the over indulgencies of my holiday and haven’t really done anything energetic since hanging up my stick at the end of last season. Not expecting to be able to walk tomorrow.

Eco News

August wind turbine output was slightly up on anticipated, but still not enough yet to overcome the low winds in early spring .

Overall we are really pleased with their performance especially as they now seem to have overcome the initial technical hiccups which caused a few stoppages. We have had a nice run of just over 3 months without a hitch (famous last words!).

Have a good week, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries