Monday, 26 January 2015

Bamboo Skewer Challenges

Morning all,

Nice to see a bit of winter weather. We had our coldest night for a couple of winters at about -7C during last week’s frosts, but overall just about right. It helps knock back the pests a bit and definitely better to have it now than it appear in April and mess up the spring confidence levels. We had a couple of frozen pipes but they were quickly cleared and one small burst on a bit of kit I had thought was frost-proof. The extra morning coffee to thaw the fingers has seen milk purchasing double but it looks like the dairy industry need all the help it can get so glad to do our bit.
Just a quick one this week as time is pressing and I still need to complete the catalogue which seems beset with delays this year. We sent out a couple of orders last week which was a good trial run for the new labels but naturally it all took ten times as long as it might have, with all sorts of little hiccups to iron out. You always think these things are going to be simple and efficient but there always seem to be new challenges to overcome before all your dreams of super efficiency come true. Such is life.
Major trauma this week was the loss of the main label printer which after many years of hard work and abuse decided enough was enough. Luckily the policy of running a near identical printer in the main office got us over any immediate problems but after consultations with OKI technical support there was no hope for the old one and the decision was made to replace it. Not an ideal option on the cash flow front although by the time I had shopped around a bit and found a new one being sold from an ‘opened box’ complete with the 3 year warrantee the cost was only a £100 more than the value of the consumables in it! Just goes to show how much they must be making out of the consumable sales. Another bonus of getting basically the same model was that the toners are still compatible with the old one so we can use up the toner that was left in the old machine.
We had to start making new printing plates over the past week to price up the skewer labels where needed. Another easy job that turned into a marathon. The etcher wouldn’t etch, the cold water created a deposit on the printing plates, the labels wouldn’t feed onto the printer or bundle and the printer wouldn’t print clearly. Even when it started coming together the computer operator blew a fuse and got the price wrong. New stuff is just so exciting. Here is a taste of some of the new issues; the bamboo skewers are packed in boxes of 1,000 but not all pointing in the same direction and for quick printing you need them all the same way round, the labels look beautifully clean but are in fact covered in a thin film of very fine sawdust left from the cutting process which quickly builds up on the print head and the fatter one end thin the other design of the skewers makes them tricky to handle, feed under the print head and bundle. So to remedy the problems we now have a new label sorting device to quickly get them all the same way round and a new handling/storage tray to keep them all the same way round reading for cleaning and printing. Still on Blue Peter Mark 1 version’s but looking good so far.
New cat flap in office door this morning to accommodate slightly ill nursery cat in warmer surroundings. Not sure this one has  used one before so ongoing training required to prevent mishaps in the work environment. As if there wasn’t enough to do.
Anyone local to us should know that Marcus Bonfanti is playing at the village hall in Kings Somborne on Feb 7th. Superbly talented guitarist and songwriter with a great voice and a very personable chap too. Won lots of awards, just slightly bonkers that he has the local village hall listed as a venue on his national acoustic tour.

There are signs of early growth on a few lines and the odd bud or two showing so spring isn’t too far away. Hopefully we won’tall disappear under a snowdrift anytime soon or get too frozen out, but all the stock is kept cold and well ventilated so should be pretty tough. As the days lengthen the first strong flush of growth comes along pretty quickly so do keep an eye on our emails to see things develop and the spring buds appear, it won’t be long. With the new look labelling and a bit of half decent weather we can put together an attractive display to kick off 2015 sales.
We should have some herbs available in the next week or two, depending on the weather and plant growth.
Have a good one, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 19 January 2015

Hirsute Availability

Morning all,

Where is all the time going? I can’t keep up with all the action over this first couple of weeks of the year. This is supposed to be the quiet relaxing time when we can finish on time and cosy up by the wood burner toasting our crumpets.
Two big jobs have been competing for attention, I am very close to finishing up the 2015 catalogue, so just hang on a day or two for that, and the preparations for the new labels are coming together really quickly, so close to being ready for that too. The new labels printed for us by Floramedia arrived early last week which was a week ahead of schedule and very welcome, as we could then get stuck into the task of clearing the last of the old style and repopulating the shelves with the new, all bundled up by us into 12’s ready for pot insertion. The labels are a joy to bundle, just looking so good, I can’t wait to see them all out on parade in a plant display. We are also tweaking the tray header images to complement the new labels, we are going to look so co-ordinated I’m thinking of issuing everyone here with matching shell suits to complete the deal. The newly hewn bamboo skewer dispensers have been screwed together, treated and hung on the benches, another Blue Peter installation makes its mark at Kirton Farm. Plant trimming and tidying carries on at pace too as well as overtime starting already for those locked away in the microprop lab as they endeavour to keep up with the mounting spring workload. It’s all go.
The winter cash-flow is getting closer to its low point and the nervous monetary juggling is already underway, it’s a shame when we are making all these new investments that it is still such a struggle but there you go, such is life in the plant growing game. Still a couple of months until the income picks up a bit so better not dwell on it too long just yet or I’ll struggle to make it out of bed and skip to work. In the end we have to focus on the positives to get our rewards and inspiration. Luckily I can often bathe in the glory of a few simple things, a well stocked wood pile, flushing loo’s, hot water on tap, and getting through the night without a break! I find using one or two triggers to prompt healthy thoughts points me in the right direction. If the tea bag goes straight in the mug from the other side of the table at breakfast we are off to a great start and when I flip the shower squeegee and catch it, the day has ended on a high. The way my eyesight is going I might have to make the morning trigger a bit easier or the mug a bit bigger.
Just want to express my gratitude to the NHS in my own little way after they seem to be under the cosh a bit in recent weeks. What a relief it is that you can so often be sorted out by a professional if you get into trouble, whether it’s a major trauma or just needing to be patched up. Even minor ailments can be miserable and stressful and to be able to go somewhere nearby for help is just such a fantastic thing to be able to do, even if you have to wait a bit to get it. I booked an appointment with our GP before Christmas for a couple of things I’d been saving up to get sorted and not only was he able to explain away my ailments which helped reduced any anxiety, but also provided me with remedies to get them sorted and supplied a pack of special pills for my intermittent back problem (previously sorted out in casualty last summer). On top of all this I topped up on my education too. The GP had to check out my ears as part of my appointment and very tactfully commented that I had very hirsute ears. Now I had for some reason always assumed that hirsute maent something similar to suave or sophisticated but as I thanked him for the compliment I realised I might be wrong. Obviously I recognised that an acceleration of follicle growth in the area was becoming a feature as the years passed but I hadn’t realised that being hirsute was a more tactful description. Live and learn.
There are signs of early growth on a few lines and the odd bud or two showing so spring isn’t too far away. Hopefully we won’t all disappear under a snowdrift anytime soon or get too frozen out, but all the stock is kept cold and well ventilated so should be pretty tough. As the days lengthen the first strong flush of growth comes along pretty quickly so do keep an eye on our emails to see things develop and the spring buds appear, it won’t be long. With the new look labelling and a bit of half decent weather we can get together an attractive display to kick off 2015 sales.
Have a good one, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries

Monday, 12 January 2015

Hairy New Year to all

Happy New Year to all.

Just a quick update to send best wishes to everyone for a bright and breezy New Year. We are certainly looking forward to an exciting year as we press on with lots of new improvements on the nursery coming into effect. From an injector to reduce the alkalinity levels in the irrigation water, which will further improve foliage quality and reduce fertiliser use, to the new perennial plant labels which add new levels of practicality and a fresh new but subtle plant presentation.We are still busy preparing for the new labels to arrive (just a few days to go) and getting the data compiled to produce our own versions on our printers here to cover those lines which don’t yet warrant a full proper print run. It has all been a bit more work than I originally envisaged hence the delay in the printing of the new 2015 catalogue but it is on the way very soon. I will email out an abridged version during this coming week to bring out the highlights, new stuff and prices etc so that you can get a taster for the exciting opportunities ahead.
I hope everyone had a good festive break. We certainly did, despite the onset of a slight cold for Caroline and severe Man Flu for me. As the weather chilled and we were expecting guests over the break we did push the boat out and put the central heating on, it was Christmas after all, so everyone was super cosy. We were very lucky to get invited again to the farm for Christmas lunch with loads of family and merriment, a perfect day. Then we followed that up with our annual multigenerational family and friends hockey game on the 29th followed by a chilli and jacket potato lunch and afternoon games for 30 people, another great day.
It’s always rewarding to feel more educated with the passing of each day, there is so much to learn. We played Balderdash on Boxing Day, again as guests down on the farm. It’s a really good game to get the inventive juices flowing as you have to make up definitions of words, or describe an event or plot around a given name, date or initials. You score well by producing, either definitions that others find believable, or getting close to the truth. I must admit I never really got close to the truth but did ok on the more inventive side. As the evening progressed a certain hunger welled inside but being a guest I felt a little guilty at expressing my desire so I thought perhaps a subtle hint might just save the evening. The word to be defined was ‘Sniggles’ and my definition when read out by the dealer did the job. ‘ Sniggles – a collection of small turkey sandwiches traditionally served on Boxing Day’. (it is actually a baiting technique used when fishing for eels). I didn’t win the game but did win my traditional Boxing Day supper, and a thick ear.
Nice breeze over the last few days has got the turbines off to an energetic start to the year. The output figures so far are ok, slightly down on the original annual predictions in kWhrs but returns are a little higher which has balanced this out. We are nearly 3 ½ years into production and the returns have covered just over half the cost, so not too far to go before we can hopefully see a profit. Almost forgotten what that word sounds like. Roll on 2015.

Have a good one, from all at Kirton Farm Nurseries