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26 January a merry dance and the computer didn’t say sow


Some days this week it was half way through the morning before the frost thawed enough to start harvesting and in the leeks’ case, it never really did. It shocked our systems good and proper, but perhaps has come a bit too late for the skeleton of a crop of Russian kale that turns redder when the temperatures drop. Such were the size of leek orders we needed to work Sunday and then Friday, the boys pulled all day in the rain, though I did experience a momentary twinge of guilt that beetroot netting confined me to the dry of the barn.
They were rewarded with a day at Lamma Agricultural Machinery Show, tasked with sourcing a means of lifting beetroot mechanically.
January is the month when cropping programmes are finalised and seed orders placed. Now please don’t begin to imagine this is like a child compiling a wish list for Santa. You flick through the catalogues, selecting a pretty picture of a variety chosen for disease resistance or whatever and then you find it is not available to YOU i.e. not available in organic seed. So you click onto to check if any other seed company is offering it organically. They might only be available in small quantities or when you make the call, the information isn’t up-to-date, and they have sold out, and so you have to apply to the Soil Association for a derogation. A few more spokes in the smooth turning of your cartwheel may be the plant raiser demanding only pelleted seed or the seed house saying they only sell in multiples of ten thousand, when you want fifteen. And when the seed does arrive, your problems may not be over yet, like this season’s marrows which will be three years old by the time it comes to sow. We used to grow a mixed variety of kale called Winter Wonderland (the name alone sold it at Christmas time), but then because of an EEC ruling the seed could no longer be sold mixed and we had to buy the varieties separately. I have led the seed companies a merry dance to source different speciality kales, but there seems to be none this side of “the pond”. Our lettuce programme got off to a flying start when the plant raiser realised after Christmas that the plants we had ordered for the tunnels back in October had not been in fact sown due to a computer error. Their computer gave the sowing and delivery date as the same.
We showed a delegation of buyers around in the cold and mud, discussed opportunities and trends for the coming season and they took our soil away with them in the taxi. Plus the usual January visit to the accountant.
The insurance claim is being settled in daft dribs and dottyS drabs. The insurance company say they cannot take our bank account details to pay by bacs for data protection reasons (????!!!!) and then the bank will not accept the cheques because they are written out in our trading name of Pam Bowers & co and the account is in the name of Strawberry Fields.
Pam, Clyde and Dicken
Strawberry Fields


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