Monday, 24 December 2012

Morning all,

Christmas Eve and the end of another year. Firstly I should thank everyone who has supported us through 2012 from customers to staff, through to suppliers and supporters, we couldn’t have survived without you. We are certainly looking forward to 2013 in anticipation of a much better year especially on the business front. We are basing this anticipation on the hope that the weather can’t be as bad again for a whole year, can it? I can’t believe how wet our ground is, we are luckily on a hill and on very free draining chalk soil but even so it is sodden and I’m sure the local low lying villages are a bit anxious about the rising groundwater levels that usually peak in late Jan-Feb. It is raining again as I write this but at least there is a good breeze to get the turbines turning. Every cloud ......

Considering the weather, the rubbish cash-flow and profitability I am actually feeling quite energised and excited. Luckily we have managed to do lots of positive stuff recently which helps boost morale and there is of course the prospect of a visit from Santa tonight!

We have all but completed our Lean Management course with just a little bit of tidying up of our projects to do in the New Year. All the exams were passed by everyone with flying colours through December, so a little celebration might be on the cards next month when we all get awarded our NVQ’s. We are still applying our upgraded skills to various projects around the nursery so we hope to be more organised than ever when the rush of orders comes that we have been waiting for since 2011.

Despatch, potting, the pricking out areas and the lab work room have all received fairly major attention and some serious investment in time to perk them up, although our resourcefulness in sourcing materials to complete the work has been remarkably inventive and frugal as the current situation demands. It’s always a nice boost to see things continue to improve especially when times are tough.

I managed to squeeze in a couple of concerts which has added to the excitement, Madness in Bournemouth were very entertaining, slick and professional but the best was the fantastic Ben Waters playing boogie-woogie piano in the attic of the Railway pub in Winchester. An intimate venue, warm, cosy and beery, perfect Christmas warm up. He has played this year with most of the Rolling Stones and travelled the world to gigs yet we could still pile into a pub in Winchester to see him do his stuff, we were very lucky. Also booked two tickets to see The Beat there in February, can’t wait.

I might just mention my last hockey match as I don’t expect anyone has told you but I scored two cracking goals in a 2 -2 draw at Bournemouth. One was a great team move which I buried in the roof of the net and the second was a long defence splitting pass which I managed to catch, with only the keeper to beat. As he hurtled towards me I lobbed the ball high over his outstretched arms and it dropped in just under the bar, the crowd (of one) went wild!

Our annual Christmas card making on the nursery was a fun morning with everyone making a very valuable contribution. Those of you lucky enough to receive one will I’m sure realise what a ‘special’ bunch of people we look after here. Some of them had even been practising beforehand although it is difficult to tell which these are!

Among the many chores to get sorted before the break I managed to update next year’s wholesale catalogue with all the latest info, and copies will be whizzing through the post to many of you. If you need to take a look on-line at the new list please take a look on the following Dropbox link; (Dropbox is a very useful site I found this year for posting large files on, instead of actually emailing them. I then send the link to the file and you can download them or just look at them. It is free to use)

It will also be available on the nursery website ( very soon. For pricing details please drop me an email.
Naked Coir pots

Our pot supplier is now offering you the chance to retail cartons of empty coir pots (10 pots in a carton). The pots are a slightly smaller size than those we use but the pack looks great and I said I would attach his promo flier for a while. The whole deal is an entirely separate operation from our nursery, not run by us, so please contact Joe if you are interested. His details are on the flier.

Nature notes

Don’t forget to keep feeding the birds, the hedges look a bit bare here and we have loads of visitors to the feeders 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 festive break, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 3 December 2012

Morning all,

I can’t believe it has been a month since my last splurge. Lots of excitement especially with having a couple of weeks away to recharge the batteries after a testing year. Mum popped down to watch over the house and animal contingent to allow us to get away, while all the crew knuckled down to prove how much they don’t really need us here anyway, which was all brilliant.

St Ives was lovely as usual, we must have had one of the driest fortnights of the year and we did all the usual walking, bird and art spotting and archaeology between far too much eating and quenching. Spotted long tailed duck, spoonbills, crossbills, reed bunting, black redstart, cream teas and pasties. Despite the lack of rain it must have been the muddiest holiday we have been on, the washing pile was huge. Caroline picked up a couple of nice prehistoric flints, one fragment of a blade from a freshly cleared field and a lovely big scraper from a path above the cliffs at Porthgwarra. The nice thing about finding a flint high up in this area is that it is not a local natural geological land feature so it must have been carried there, usually from flint pebbles on the beach. This means there is a good chance that if you spot a fragment it will have been worked by ancient human hand. Then it is just a matter of identifying the telltale signs on the stone to confirm it, like a platform, a bulb of percussion and signs of nurddling along the working edge, all very exciting stuff. Not entirely sure of all the correct terminology but I have earwigged on a few conversations and picked a few things up, a bit like running the nursery.

We feel much revived and I am told that in some lights it has taken years off me, although it turns out that it’s not the light that makes the difference it is the hat! With the colder weather the woolly hat has come out but only after Caroline had put it through the wash. At first I could hardly get it to stretch over a tennis ball but I have now got it over most of the head. Still nice and warm but the constant desire of the hat to return to its new size does have a definite wrinkle reducing effect and gives me that slightly startled look of a stubbly Joan Rivers.

After one month of hostilities being unleashed on the mice, rabbits and pigeons we seem to be making some progress. Although it has taken some time and effort to get everything set up we do seem to be achieving results. We have caught nearly 100 mice, netted out the pigeons from the tunnels and re-homed 6 or 7 rabbits. The nursery has been re-rabbit proofed with some recycled gates from the farm and a little new netting and we are not seeing quite as many wandering about the nursery. These pests will always be a constant threat but hopefully we are now getting the upper hand.

We mended the phone system on our return by installing a new cable from the office to the house, ending up doing the work ourselves to avoid rather high quotes to fix the problem, so that is a relief.

Our Lean Management training reaching its conclusion with three online exams for everyone over the next couple of weeks and a few odd projects to tidy up. Then we will all have some new qualifications to wave about, hurrah. Looking forward to finishing it off as it seems to have gone on a long time and we are already armed with some very useful tools to tackle most things between us on a very practical level, without the need to complete 18 pieces of paperwork every time to get it done.

Sustainability promo

The propagation heating is on frost protection at the moment. After jiggling about with all the pipe temperatures and mixing valves etc to further reduce oil use we just added some new ace insulation to some of the water pipes where the heat is not needed. This means that the heat is only released around the plants rather than in the area next to them. I can’t believe we hadn’t already done this before as the payback time should be very quick, especially as we fitted it all ourselves. It’s scary when I look back a few years at how much we used to waste when fuel was cheap. Insulate, insulate, insulate. Office thermostatic heater is on but only getting to 8C so time to get outside in the sun and do some wood cutting to warm up a bit.

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