Sunday 15th November, 2009
"In April 2009 I received a phone call from Lindsay Hargraves, of The Worshipful Company of Farmers, who had been talking to one of my fellow Directors, asking if we could get a pea viner down to London for The Lord Mayor's Show. I agreed to do this without really thinking of the logistics, but it all fell into place."
The viner went back to PMC at Fakenham at the end of our season for an overhaul and a bit of touching up, and the Yes Peas! campaign produced some signage for the machine.
On the 12th November 2009 some local school children from Fakenham waved the viner off as it departed for London.
I caught up with the machine in London on the next day. It was quite bizzare seeing it parked in The City of London near St Pauls on a friday as people went about their daily routine!
We unloaded the machine early on the saturday morning ready for the show. To say that we were nervous would be an under statement. Who knows when you will have a puncture or a burst pipe.
To cut a long story short, we had a great day, and the machine caused quite a stir. These pictures give you some idea of the day, and more images can be found at www.peas.org, the Yes Peas! website."
Friday 13th November, 2009
This morning the 08 machine was loaded to go down to London for The Lord Mayor's Parade on 14th November. We have been asked to enter the machine by The Worshipful Company of Farmers. After the season it had a thorough clean before being taken to Fakenham for its overhaul. Once that was completed PMC then touched up various parts to make it shine. You will see that there are "Yes Peas" banners on it. If you Google "The Lord Mayor's Show" you will find a lot of information regarding the history of the event. If you are of a mind BBC do broadcast the event from 10.45am on 14th November BBC1. So let's hope there is a bit of coverage. We are No 12 in the procession sandwiched by a horse drawn fire engine and an old bus. Richard Longs are now on their way down, stopping at Stansted before having a final look to check for any obstacles on the route in London. There will be more pictures to follow!
Sunday 16th August, 2009
Even though the vining peas are completed, there is the small matter of the bypassed peas to harvest. When you go into the field they are flat on the floor, but it is incredible how well the combine picks them up. The recovery is very good. If what we are experiencing is anything to go by, then seed crops generally should be good, and it would be nice if this was reflected in the price. Seed cost is something that has shot up in price over the last two years. In 2007 it represented 27% of our total costs, in 2008 35% and this year will be close to 40%. Costs of this magnitude are unsustainable, if it is not reflected in the sale price. The boys are well on with cleanning the machines. Particular attention will be given to the 08 machine, so that it sparkles for the Lord Mayor's parade in November!
Friday 7th August, 2009
We are finished! Not the best of nights to finish on. Nearly 50mm of rain, conditions were similar to those we experienced in 2007. It's a shame the last 24 hours were like this. We have made a mess, but the job is done. I think everyone will be pleased of a rest.
Tuesday 4th August, 2009
It has been pointed out that there has been no mention of our haulier this year. Clayton-Lenton Transport and his band of merry men have again given us good service, and taken on all that has been thrown at them. Including last minute extra loads. As well as his own lorries, he has been assisted by other local hauliers. We are now down to the last 220 acres so thursday/friday should see it all done.
Sunday 2nd August, 2009
After a night of some sharp rain, we chose not to harvest, we have started again this morning in bright sunshine for the final push. The viners are down Wrangle Common in a field of Teepee. We have 500 acres left, so by the end of the week all should be done, barring prehaps the organics. It has seemed a long season, but when you start and never stop it sometimes seems that it drags on. Everyone involved has yet again thrown themselves into it, given their all, and despite the bypassing of 7% of the crop, I think we will look back on it as a sucessful season. This morning I saw Henry, the sampler, for the first time for three weeks. His is a bit of a lonely job, but he has done it very well, with the information he provides being accurate. He is now spending the last week helping us in the field, so he now has people to talk to!
Sunday 26th July, 2009
My how they have grown. The ducklings are now five weeks old and growing rapidly. They will soon be as big as their mother. We are 83% of the way through the harvest, so at the end of next week we will be close to the finishing line. Not heard much from our Menorcan division lately. The holiday season must be going well there.
Friday 24th July, 2009
As with most pea groups students are employed during the season. We have three students who have been coming for three years now. Having people work for you who are in education you would think that the basics would still be there. In other words, if what you are driving is 2.5 mts wide, you will not get through a gap that is 2.4 mts wide! Fortunately, as the picture shows, it was only the trailer tyre that brushed the car. Another few mm and it would be going to the body shop. We actually had saturday night off, the first for nearly five weeks. Next week shoyld see the late crops begin to come at us. The end is in sight!
Sunday 19th July, 2009
The sun sets on another busy and at times frustrating week. We had a very hectic week, covered a lot of ground and delivered a lot of peas, but still we ended up 24 hours behind the crop. This meant that we had to bypass some more peas yesterday. In the current economic climate there is treemendous pressure to ensure that when you work out your drilling programme, you maximise the machines and the factory space. What this means is that throughout the season everything is stretched to the limit, so the slightest thing that goes wrong, factory breakdown, viner breakdown, does have an impact. C'est la vie!".
Friday 17th July, 2009
After the last few days it's pleasing to see all three machines going together in Holbeach Marsh. We have gone down there for 180 acres so two days should see it. The pressure of crop still remains, so full steam ahead!
Friday 17th July, 2009
This morning was a reminder of 2007. Two huge storms passed through the day, and whilst the land was able to absord most of the water the top was very wet. Anyway the rain did not delay our progress and we have now completed the Moulton Fen/Whaplode Drove area, and will now move up to Cowbit. More violent storms are forecast so it could be a wet night. When it does rain heavily it is noticeable that our fuel consumption goes up dramatically.
Thursday 16th July, 2009
Spoke too soon! No 1 had a bit of shake, rattle and roll last night. The up shot of it all is a new beater, which you can see being replaced. The service that we get from PMC is second to none. They responded quickly and sent Walter, Dave and Mark out to remidy the problem. Ten hours later it was up and running. The viners have moved back to Moulton Fen, and from there will go down to Crowland, Tounge End and Twenty, before dropping in to Morton Fen on their way back to the Boston to harvest the Serge.
Sunday 12th July, 2009
Not what you want on a sunday lunchtime, burst pipe and 180 litres of expensive oil on the road. It took place outside a local pub. Everyone was pretty understanding, but as ever it is all time and money. As someone said, "if you don't use them they don't breakdown". Once the local authorities had made their mind up as to who would clean up, we were on our way in a few hours. Full marks to Kirton Fire Station and PMC for their speedy responses. We have our AGM in October, and we shall now be holding it in the public house that was affected by this spillage.
Saturday 11th July, 2009
It has taken all week for the cooler temperatures to slow down the crop as it reaches maturity. Not to say that we are not under pressure. The Boys have had some big days, with yesterdays dayshift harvesting over 200 tonnes of fresh peas. That's 1,000,000,000 peas! They are in a variety called Biktop, which as you can see is clean and yielding well. I should point out that it does belong to my chairman who does lead by example. From the Frampton area we will make our way to Spalding, Pinchbeck, Holbeach Marsh and the Moulton area. So another busy week ahead.
Thursday 9th July, 2009
I know it's difficult to believe but these are organic peas! Unlike previous years we have not put these in our programme as such, but drilled them when conditions were just right for them. It seems to have paid off. They were completed yesterday and will now adorn the plates of Waitrose shoppers. All the machines are now back together, which makes the management of the operation easier. When you split them up the logistics of getting water and fuel to them is a pain, and a lot of hours on the road. Organics rightly command a premium for the extra work that goes into the crop, and also that we have to leave wherever we are and go and harvest them when they are ready.
Friday 3rd July, 2009
Driver training today! Mark Simmonds, our local MP paid a visit to the viners at Midville. With agriculture being so important to the local economy Mark does like to be kept informed of the problems that we face as an industry. He showed a keen interest in how the machine worked, and once he had got the basics we thought he should be put to the test. I can report no bung ups or breakdowns, however his opening breed was not as straight as the experts.
Thursday 2nd July, 2009
Hot, hot,hot! The heat has now built up to such an extent that the crop is picking up speed and racing to maturity. We are still in control but the next five days will be difficult, especially if we get some rain, which is forecast tomorrow. The viners are now harvesting a good crop of Premio in the marsh at Friskney. As it did last year, Premio has matured on time, and produced a very good sample. Having had breaks over the last two wekends, this one will be busy.
Monday 29th June, 2009
For the benefit of our Menorcan correspondent, Jemima taking her offspring for their first dip! No pictures of machines as they are stood for a day or two. The Met Office has issued a weather warning for heatwave conditions later in the week, so it is vital that we start up again on the front foot, and try not to get behind. That is easier said than done with the potential temperatures that are forecast. We will therefore start tomorrow evening, to hopefully remain in front. I do think that once we start again that will be it, no looking back."
Saturday 27th June, 2009
Something we are not used to, a hill! Makes a change from the flat fenland. Harvesting Twinkle at Scrafield brings us to the end of our first earlies. There will now be a gap of a few days before we start again on 450 acres in the Midville and Friskney area. So far machines and factories have performed well, as has the "team". Whilst a break at the weekend is good, we all feel that now we are in to the crop, we want to carry on full steam ahead. However if the crop is not ready we cannot harvest. Given that there have been highish temperatures this week the peas are maturing at a slow rate. This may well be due to the lack of moisture. Dare I say it, a good rain would do them all good. On the other side of the coin, they are very good harvesting conditions currently.
Wednesday 24th June, 2009
The machines are now frimly planted on Lincoln Heath in dry and sunny conditions. We took the weekend off to allow them to come on and struck in again on Sunday evening at 10pm. After a week or so you begin to get a feel of yields in general, and it has to be said that it looks as though peas this year will not yield as well as last year. When we get down on to the silts they will be too much straw and not enough pods. Not good for yield. Beyond there the next block has been in flower far too long , which is generally not a good sign. It looks as though I am sounding a bit pessimistic, not so. Just being a realist! On the home front, not to be outdone, our second duck has produced 11 chicks. So the maternity wing at home is a bit full now!
Thursday 18th June, 2009
A slight distraction from the pea harvest. Having nursed her eggs for the last five weeks, Jemima finally presented her young to the world last night. Four boys and two girls. Mother and babies are doing well. She will now have to teach them to swim! The harvest continues in the Sleaford area, which we shall clear up on friday. It's a bit early to call on yields yet, but, I'm not getting too excited. When you open up the pods, not all the peas have formed. From Sleaford we will move up to Lincoln Heath, which are now reading and moving steadily. The last two cooler days have slowed things down.
Monday 15th June, 2009
Well we are away for the 2009 campaign! We started in brilliant sunshine at Wilsford in some Twinkle and Prelado, but after just a few hours the picture shows what happened. A storm which threw down over an inch of rain in a little more than an hour. Added to this hailstones bigger than peas!! The photograph shows them bouncing on the car bonnet. Apart from that a good start. Machines, factory and men all slotted together well and we had a good days production. Let's hope that we have now seen the last of this weather. No doubt it's been sunny in Menorca!
Thursday 4th June, 2009
The recent warm spell has moved things on a lot. I was able to eat my first peas of the year today. The pods are blown, and they are now filling. Land at Sudbrooke and Wilsford will be sampled early next week. These readings will give us a guide as to when to start harvesting, either late next week or early the following week. It all depends on the weather! One slight complication may be, that I have arranged for the Boys to come in on 15th June! So fingers crossed we start the next day, and do not need to start before!
Monday 1st June, 2009
The rains of the last two weeks have done a lot of good, and in some cases have saved crops that otherwise would have struggled. The picture shows classic erratic emergence, not too bad but obviously not a full crop. Crops generally have grown a lot in the last few days with moisture under them and plenty of heat. The first moths have been caught so control measures will be taken to avoid any crop contamination. The "team" will get together in two weeks time, and it has been suggested that a "weigh-in" should take place before the season! Last year a number of the boys came down a trouser size or two, and they think that we need scientific proof that, harvesting peas can be used as part of weight loss programme!
Thursday 21st May, 2009
The last field is being drilled today 20acs of Organic peas destined for Waitrose. After the rain conditions are good, the soil is warm and not too wet so the peas should get away quickly. An inspection of the crops in the Spadling area yesterday highlighted the problems that we will face with regard to erratic emergence. It's not too bad but will make a difference to yield at the time of harvest. Now that all the peas are in the next job will be monitoring aphid and moth. I am not expecting them to infest the crops yet, but when it does warm up then they will inevitably become another problem that will need dealing with.
Wednesday 20th May, 2009
Then there were pods! The first pods of the year. Following flowering, this is the next sign that things are on the move. This crop should be ready just after the middle of the month which is about what we would expect. I looked at most of the peas on the lighter land yesterday that were showing the most signs of stress. I am pleased to say that they have picked themselves up after the rain. In some places our crops have had over 60mm of rain in the last 5 days. This amount has now soaked in through the profile of the soil. It will not repair all of the damage caused by the recent lack of rainfall. Our last field of conventional peas will be drilled today, and we then just have 20 acres of organics which will go in on thursday." I note the comments from our Menorcan correspondent, however I do not think that we will be able to claim the cost of a holiday on expenses, despite what the nation may think!
Sunday 17th May, 2009
You can tell by the look on their faces that it is good weather for ducks! Yes, in answer to our colleague in Menorca, it has finally rained! Most welcome. I had a cunning plan, encourage people to get irrigators out, have a quiet word with the media and finally visit church on sunday. One of them worked, not sure which one! It will not repair some of the damage, but will certainly save the most recent drillings, where germination was going to be difficult. We have not quite completed drilling but when it does fair up, it is not too serious a job. Attention will begin to turn to mid June, and getting the men together to get things ready for our travels.
Tuesday 12th May, 2009
It is now unbelievably dry. Drier than at this stage of 2007! We are promised rain later in the week, but have been dissapointed of late with the forecast. As you can see Growers are using all means they have at their disposal to get a crop established. Here we are irrigating before drilling, applying one inch of water! Even one inch of water is only just getting down to where we want to be. In another case we will be irrigating after we have drilled. The worry is that if and when it does rain, will it know when to stop. It's not just peas that are signs of stress, most crops are now begining to look off colour. Wheelings from last years wheat harvest are also showing. As this month goes on time will need to begin to turn to preperations for harvest, and getting the crew together in early June to familiarise themselves with the machines again.
Saturday 9th May, 2009
The first flowers of the 2009 crop! This would suggest a mid June start. The variety is Prelado and has always looked well and in front of other crops. Having an early field allows us to blow the cobwebs off the harvesters and ease us into the season. We are now 87% of the way through our drilling programme, and so should finish next week. The last 10 days have seen some of the most difficult drilling conditions in recent years. It is now a case of monitoring the crops and getting all the equipment ready."
Thursday 7th May, 2009
You would not believe that there is a 6 metre drill in that cloud of dust! These peas are going into moisture and should get away OK. Again though, we are constantly losing moisture everytime we move the soil. Our fears are that we end up with a deluge of rain. It is still a bit early to predict, but I think it would be fair to say that at this stage it is hard to see us getting good yields. In fact if I was selling peas forward, I would be holding back. For the past three weeks we have been forecast some sort of rain. We haven't seen any! So how is it that the forecasters seem able to predict a dry summer, when they are finding it so difficult to forecast a day or two ahead!
Thursday 7th May, 2009
We are now in what can only be described as desert like conditions. The constant wind is drawing moisture from the land quickly, which is making drilling difficult , and putting all crops under stress. The picture above is of a crop on some of the best land in the UK. At first glance you would say that it is the headlands under stress, but this feature is evident across a lot of crops, and not just in the low places. The compacted wheelings of previous crops are also begining to show up. This is a direct result of the poor wheat harvest conditions last year. It just goes to show how what has happened in the past has a huge effect on following crops.
Wednesday 6th May, 2009
Despite a picture showing a healthy crop, I think it is now fair to say that conditions are very much like 2007! Something that we were all trying to forget! It is very dry out there and proving a constant challenge to get crops established. In the main most crops have germinated well, but there will inevitably be fields where the soil varies which will lead to erratic emergence. This makes life difficult at harvest. We are now in the final run in and will hopefully have all the peas drilled next week. However we will need rain if we are to get anything like a normal crop.
Wednesday 29th April, 2009
The promised rain for Lincolnshire is falling on Wales and the Midlands, and not here! However we are still finding moisture in most cases, next week I fear will prove to be difficult. We are now drilling Serge a variety that sometimes performs as its name suggests. Looking at the long range forecast it looks as though there is no meaningful rain for at least 10 days. If that is the case things will begin to get serious with the pea crop. Where we struggled for moisture last week, these peas now have one inch chits on which justifies the fact that in places we are drilling 5 to 6 inches deep.
Monday 27th April, 2009
Despite the picture showing a healthy crop, this crop and others will soon need some rain. It's been said that the weather patterns are akin to 2007. Not quite yet! Where we are drilling currently, in 2007 we were drilling another 2 inches deeper. Those crops that have got established have got good root structure and are continuing to draw moisture, but rain will be imperative to allow them to continue to grow and produce a good crop. Plant stands are good and there are only odd pockets of pigeon damage, so with sensible rain there is a good potential. Without rain things will not be so good.
Friday 24th April, 2009
Another busy week with the drill in the Spalding and Bourne area. One field in particular was difficult with regard to finding moisture at a sensible depth, but we got there. We are now some 72% through the programme which is about where we would expect to be at this time. There is still three weeks to go to complete drilling, so if there is no rain between now and then it will become very interesting trying to get the crops established. The picture above is of the earlies and you can just make out flower buds. If the weather stayed as it has been we would soon see flowers on the early crops. This would be earlier than usual, but the temperatures are due to drop so things may well return to normal.
Sunday 19th April, 2009
As you can see peas are growing well, and quickly at the moment. These are our first drilled crops which are growing well enough to keep the pigeons at bay currently! That said pigeons are getting at the recently drilled crops. Novella drilled a couple of weeks ago are begining to emerge, which is quick, given that we haven't had very high temperatures. The drills are now hard at work in Holbeach Marsh drilling into good conditions. As you approach the end of April people start to ask about the start date for harvesting. Looking at the early peas, and the fact that a lot of Oilseed Rape is in good flower, I think it will be the middle of June. However, anything can happen between now and then. The Assured Produce scheme is now causing problems. It started out as a means by which the Growers could be indepentently audited to prove that the food they were producing was safe, and complied with various crop protocols. Some years down the road it is become far too onerous and moved away from its original core values. Growers are now having to confirm and fulfill obligations that are covered by other auditing procedures. In these harsh economic times the last thing the Growers need is additional work and cost, which ultimately leads to an increase in crop production costs. Let's hope common sense can prevail!
Saturday 11th April, 2009
As we approach Easter and the 50% mark, things are drying quickly. Some rain is forecaster over this weekend, and it will be welcome. The land in the Kirton/Frampton/Algakirk area is now complete, and some land at Spalding has also been drilled. We shall take Easter as a natural break in our programme, and start with a vengeance Easter Tuesday. The seed eventually arrived from New Zealand, some four days late, and by Thursday evening it will be in the ground. The Labour Governmen's Fiscal Stimulus is having a great effect in the Spalding area I see. I have never known so many roads closed at once. Due to road closures today's mileage increased by 50 miles. All good for the environment!!
Saturday 4th April, 2009
A bit of a steady run this week.Whilst the rest of the country enjoyed some relatively high temperatures, here on the east coast we were stuck under cloud and fog. We are now 43% of the way through our drilling programme, and the next two weeks are always a critical time as you get a number of variieties that are all +8 days maturity. The land is really begining to dry in places, and we are already cultivating some land to conserve some moisture for later drillings. This week saw the retirement of Mike L'angellier from Pinguin Foods. He is pictured on the right above, pointing out to James Grant that there are times when you do have to be quiet! Mike has been in the industry a long time, made a lot of friends, given a lot of guidance, and when under pressure kept his cool. He will be missed on a day to day basis, but I' sure that he will be spotted from time to time in a pea field somewhere. All the best Mike, and thank you for your help and input over the years.
Saturday 28th March, 2009
Apparently it's going to get colder over the next day or two, this will slow down the growth of the pea crop. We were not too busy this week, completing drilling north of Boston and so we are waiting for these peas to grow before we start south of Boston. If it comes as cold as they say we shall not start again until mid-week. Whenever you open the papers there is always something about food, the long-term supply (sustainability), cost and health benefits. This week there was a report that "Peas can lower blood pressure as well as help those who have kidney disease". This is good I hear you say, but, on the flip side for those of us in the production of the crop, they can also raise the blood pressure when we are in the middle of our season! Seriously though, it is a good article and says that this is the first reporting that a natural food product can relieve symptons of kidney disease. You can find the article at www.telegraph.co.uk and search peas. Anyway there is a lot to look foward to, spring arrives at the weekend with the clocks going on one hour, and the G20 hits town. So, by the end of next week all the worlds problems will be solved!
Sunday 22nd March, 2009
The first drilled Prelado are now emerging on the light land at Sudbrooke. These have emerged 5 days ahead of the time it took last year. So there is some growth, despite the cool night time temperatures. Great attention will now need to be paid to keeping the pigeons off whilst the plant is able to grow away and cover the ground. Drilling of Jaguar, Meridian, Gonzo and Premio went well down on the Fens this week. North of Boston is nearly completed, and we now await the arrival of the the slow boat from New Zealand with the balance of Novella on.
Tuesday 17th March, 2009
We completed drilling on Lincoln Heath last week, and have now moved across to Tattershall, Toynton and into the Fens. Even though it has been fairly cold, there is some growth. There have been up to five drills going, drilling Twinkle, Jaguar, Meridian and Premio, which all have different maturity dates and will hopefully give us a good spread at harvest. There is one problem looming on the horizion, and that is delivery of seed. Some seed was due to arrive from New Zealand at the end of this month. It now looks as though this will be two weeks late. This will cause some complications with the drilling programme, but is not impossible to get round. Over the last few years with companies looking ever more closely at costs, seed houses have kept their stocks down to a minimum. With the wet harvest here last autumn, and a late harvest in New Zealand, pressure has been put on stocks. There is barely enough to go round. It does just go to show yet again, how fragile our food supply can be.
Sunday 15th March, 2009
The Blog has come out of hibernation for the 2009 drilling season! We have now been drilling for a week or more on the light land. Whilst temperatures have been low at times, by its nature light land will warm up quickly, and the peas do not tend to suffer from the freezing temperatures. The first field drilled now has over two inch chits on, and growing upwards. The area around Sleaford is nearly completed, we have made some good progress on Lincoln Heath, and next week, if we do not get too much rain, we shall continue at Tattershall, Scrafield and then down onto the Fens.