agricultural broadband Business fun stuff

The making of the bullet proof internet movie

Exclusive behind the scenes footage of how we utterly destroyed some routers in the interest of science in the making of our broadband movie

Most of you will have seen the broadbandrating shotgun movie by now. Actually to call it a movie is a bit of a stretch. In fact we would have to stretch the footage by an hour an a half or so to do so because the original is only 52 seconds long.

52 seconds of pure gold nevertheless. What people don’t see in these 52 seconds is the immense amount of work that has to go on in preparation and on the day to make such a blockbuster. Take a gander at this introductory video.

Many years ago I worked as an extra on a movie called “Experience preferred but not essential”. It was made in the Isle of Man and I was home from Uni for the summer. One thing I specifically remember was the frequent meal stops. We had breakfast and a full blown 3 course lunch and I got ten quid for the day.

No meals were provided on set during the making of this broadbandrating movie. We were all back in the office before lunchtime and got our own sandwiches from the caff downstairs.

And finally:

Four old routers were destroyed in the making of this video including a BT Homehub, two netgears and a technicolour. The Technicolour proved to be very resilient. However this was, ahem,  down to the fact that our marksman missed it three times from very close range before thoroughly despatching it with his fourth shot.

We have to thank marksman Clinton Slingsby for turning up to do pyrotechnics shooting, Farmer Bill for the loan of his location and local Lincolnshire weather forecasters for keeping the rain away until we had the last reel of film in the can, so to speak. Also in the various media in this post you will see me and Sasha, able member of the staff. Finally thanks to Tom at Eyup Media for putting the film together so professionally.

I do have some stills but seem to be having problems uploading them right now – I’ll do a separate post later.

Ciao amigos

No potatoes were destroyed during the making of this broadband movie.

agricultural food and drink

How to grow your own grapes for making wine – food and drink at the weekend

grapes_664For some time now the editorial team here at has been considering becoming self sufficient when it comes to wine. It used to be that you could get a reasonable bottle of plonk for five or six quid. No more. You now have to spend at least eight to avoid that screwed up face look.

There is only one thing to be done and that is to make your own wine. Obviously the key The only ingredient required to make wine is grapes. Grapes and plenty of sunshine. Living in Lincoln we haven’t historically benefitted from a guaranteed supply of the latter. This is the midlands which is reasonably green and pleasant and totally unlike the sun-parched plains of the rich south where most British wine is grown.

This can’t always have been the case because there is a patch that was formerly a vineyard on a southish facing slope at the Medieval Bishop’s Palace in front of Lincoln Cathedral. They weren’t daft, those Medieval Bish’s. Must a liked their tipple, unless, in their defence it was purely used for communion wine.

It was a lot cheaper to grow your own in those days as transportation costs would have been typically a lot higher per bottle/cask than it is in the technological age of 2014. Also they would have used cheap peasant labour to tread the grapes, or at a push the monks could do it. Knowing you had trod your own grapes used to engender a lot of pride in ecclesiastical circles.

That was then and this is now. I’m not treading any grapes when technology can do the job for us. Even then we are getting ahead of ourselves. This story hasn’t got that far yet.

Having decided to make your own wine the next step is to plant a vineyard. We considered that instead of worrying about global warming we should just go with the flow and planted our own vineyard in the Davies household around 3 years or so ago. Initially it was in a planter but after the first year the estate management committee met and decided it would be better off in the soil and replanted it against the newly installed trellis where we keep the barbeque.

Each summer we would rush to see if there were any grapes coming along and up until now I have to admit to an element of disappointment. Nowt, niet, sod all. Yesterday however, having trimmed back the greenery coming through from next door’s side of the fence, I uncovered the bbq with a view to cooking some burgers, chicken drumsticks and pork escalopes1. Then I saw them. A neat pre-pubescent strip of what will, in the fullness of time, and as spring inevitably moves into summer and thence on to autumn, be a bunch of our very own grapes.

This is big news which will trigger a rush of activity in our house. Winemaking equipment will need to be sourced, a bottle cleaned out and kept ready as a container etc etc etc.

The only thing is I suspect we have no idea what sort of grapes we are growing. The vine was a gift from the father in law who is a bit of a dab hand at this kind of thing and once had a photo of the apricot tree trained against their back wall published in the Daily Mail. Could ask him I suppose but I suspect he won’t be able to remember, fair play.

None of this matters. Here on we are going to follow the progress of Lincoln’s latest vineyard, just as we have been able to do with the Lincoln Eleanor Cross project. Come back each weekend for a progress update.


Later this morning…

Just been out to check on my grapes only to be confronted with a crushing disappointment. The stalk of flowers was no longer there. What could possibly have happened? I searched in the undergrowth and found not one but two stalks on the floor. Oh no! Might we have had two bunches of grapes growing? Had I knocked them off the vine by carelessly throwing on the bbq cover when I was shutting it down for the night?

Nah. Looking up the tree above was covered in these flowery stalks. One must have fallen off and dangled over the vine making it look as if it was growing there naturally. This is the same tree that casts a shade over the vine for the first part of the day and could well be contributing to the absence of grapes. Hmm.

Never mind we will continue to watch that vine and look forward to the day when we no longer have to buy our wine in and can grow merry on the fruits of our own labours. Also not going to waste this post having taken the time to write it:)

Chocolate fudge

1 Marinaded in Nandos Hot Peri Peri sauce and served up with a variety of salads, new potatoes and barbecued corn on the cob and asparagus

Other great agricultural/gardening posts include:

The yellow flower
7 a day in a box

agricultural End User

Wednesday night gardening on – the weed patch


Arguably the finest patch of weeds I have ever seen. This plot of land is fenced off from the road by a metal fence. I had to manoeuvre the camera so that the lens looked between two bits of metal thus ensuring a totally natural feel to the image. No enhancements have been applied. The shot was taken at approximately 8pm on Wednesday 14th May. It was  lovely spring evening with a slight edge to it. I was walking home from the AGM of the 18th Bailgate Scout Group which had been a suitably short affair. There was no one I knew in the Morning Star which was en route home so I didn’t stop and carried on whereupon I came across the weed patch. Fair play.

agricultural broken gear food and drink fun stuff Weekend

Saturday Snapshot (10-May-2014)

Corner anyone in France and ask them what the first thing is that comes to mind when they think of Normandy. Will they answer “The cream/butter/cheese/crepes/Calvados!”? Maybe. Will they answer “D-Day!” or “French liberation!” Uh…probably not. “Le Mont St. Michel”? I’d be shocked. No, the first word that typically comes to the lips of any self-respecting French person in association with Normandy is “rain”.

Of course, for the purpose of this website and its primary intended audience, all French person enunciations are translated into English. Glad to get that out in front here. OK, continuing…

Yes, Normandy is notorious for being one extremely rainy place, and not without good reason. I cannot offer any statistics (and it isn’t as if anyone reading my words here would really want to trudge through them, anyway), but after nearly 8 years of part-time residency in Pays d’Auge — Normandy’s finest area, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise — I can say with authority that anyone coming to the region unprepared to deal with the wet stuff has their head in the clouds.

Oh, don’t be afraid to laugh. Sure, that crack was a little on-the-nose, but that doesn’t mean it is undeserving of your smile. Really, is it wrong that so much of why I enjoy writing is the opportunities it presents for entertaining myself?

My Missus and I planned to head over to the regular Saturday farmer’s market in Lisieux, and no grey skies or drizzly misty rain or unseasonal May temps (for non-Normandy France places, anyway) was going to keep us from doing so. There were Orbecs to be had — reason enough to throw on a slicker — and other delectables as well. Fresh-pressed apple juice..cream so magical it should come with its own fairy tale..a tub of those remarkable slow-cooked potatoes with lardon that make me want to do handstands, somersaults, cartwheels, and other gymnastic acts I no longer have any hope of completing. We would not be daunted.

Arriving in Lisieux, My Missus headed to a parking lot in which we usually have success, and slipped our tiny rental car into the last visible spot, skirting just ahead of some noodnik who was just a little too interested in his phone at just the wrong moment. Survival of the fittest, baby. (Of course, it didn’t hurt that our rental was an itty-bitty Fiat Panda on this day, a “car” that wouldn’t survive collision with a good-sized rodent let alone any vehicle on the road.) So soon enough we were walking — singing? — in the rain, the market in our sights.

Overcast skies and dark clouds are lousy conditions under which to take photos (color photos, anyway), so at first I figured I wouldn’t be adding to my collection of market photos. Still, I had our Olympus TG-1 in tow (a “tough” camera, a possession of my father-in-law’s that My Missus came to when he passed on about a year ago) and megapixels are really cheap, so I resolved to snap, just to see where my eye fell on such a day. Tentative at first — no matter how alive and colorful a bunch of radishes seems, there would be better Saturdays for that kind of image — I shortly found myself firing at every marginally interesting umbrella that fell within view.

Only once before can I recall spending more than a minute-and-a-half considering umbrellas, that being back in the first semester of my first year of university (1983, nosy reader) when I wrote a one-page essay for an Introduction to Creative Writing class on the necessity of having one on a rainy night walking around midtown Manhattan (lest one fall victim to those in the hands of others). I have owned umbrellas, of course (though I don’t think I’ve actually ever paid for one), and I have never had a bone to pick with one (though I never think to grab one when leaving my dwelling on a rainy day), but other than that long-ago-lost five-paragraph throw-down I have never paid them much mind. Perhaps, then, this is why all of a sudden on a rainy Saturday Normandy morning I was finding umbrellas to be so devastatingly curious.


At first I just waited for the umbrellas to come my way, content with serendipity’s role. Before much time at all had passed, though, I was on the hunt, leaving My Missus to take care of our market needs.

“That one is boring so I won’t bother.” “That one must’ve come from some trade show or other.” “Wow! that is one big-ass umbrella!” “Strange the high percentage of mostly-broken umbrellas people seem content to continue putting to (hardly good) use.” “I wonder, is the fact that her umbrella matches her purse and shoes intended or a just happy accident of fate?” “Funny how I don’t know what My Missus’s umbrella looks like…I wonder if she is wondering where I am?”

The mind, once focused, can be a powerful, dangerous, slippery place, indeed, and there are puddles everywhere!

Related posts:

agricultural fun stuff Weekend

Saturday Snapshot (19-April-2014)

A few months back my brother-in-law (heretofore referred to as BiLly) treated me to lunch at a new Yannick Alléno resto in Paris called Terroir Parisien, located in the Palais Brongniart near Bourse. There we enjoyed a deeply satisfying meal, sampling from a menu that features stalwart Bistro dishes made new with the help of a pinch of little-here-little-there creative tweaking (i.e., Pot au Feu, Boudin Noir). Having indulged previously, my BiLly suggested — well, insisted — that as a starter I take the Champignons rosés de Chez Spinelli à la Fleur de Sel (a long fancy French way of saying “Crazy-fresh cremini button mushrooms produced by the renowned grower Spinelli, served with flaked sea salt”), and having no reason whatsoever to doubt the temerity of his urging I did just that. Uh..oh yes..YES, a point — no, two points — for BiLly.

Some weeks pass, and on a recent Friday night my BiLly’s wife and mine (sisters) found occasion to put a couples dinner on the calendar (with one of my lovely nieces included). My Missus had not yet experienced Terroir Parisien, so a booking was made and a table soon occupied. Menus passed around, experiences recounted, and soon enough My Missus was ordering…yep, those mushrooms (wanting to explore the menu a step furher I didn’t go again for the dish, somewhat to my regret). Lots of “Mmmmm!” and wide-open-eyed happiness, and then the “We should do this at home.” The 5-ingredient roster was no secret — so-fresh-they-snap-between-your-teeth Cremini mushrooms, flaked sea salt, hazelnut oil, faiselle (cottage cheese, or close enough anyway), ciboulette (chive) — and the presentation was right there before us. So why not?

In this space on 6-April I waxed on (and on) about the Orbec mushrooms we strive to lay hands on at the Lisieux Saturday morning farmer’s market whenever we are passing time at the La Famille Kessel Normandy hovel, and these we knew would do nicely. The salt, the oil, the cheese..check, check, check. And the ciboulette grows wild in the garden.

So here is where my narrative will take on the air of recounted recipe, playing — I can only hope — to my technical writing strengths (save for citing amounts as my experience may not be yours, hungry read, and hinges on how many salivating maws you are looking to sate).

Kory on the clock. Knife in hand. Lunch won’t wait.

orbecs, Pre-cutting2014-04-19 13.18.46

First, I washed and trimmed the Orbecs, taking care not only to rid the marvelous mushrooms of any adherring sand but also cutting enough of the stem away to ensure that the only “woody” evoked was in their flavor. Following that, I carefully cut the Orbecs in a vertical slice (think top of button down to end of stem) at 1/8th inch thickness. Next, I arranged the slices on 5 plates (5 people) in a symmetrical spiral — for anyone out there following along, feel free to express your creativity in how you arrange your mushrooms…this ain’t “My way or the highway” territory — and moved on to the faiselle.

2014-04-19 13.30.232014-04-19 13.44.58Methinks it is within the faiselle that the trick of Champignons rosés de Orbec à la Fleur de Sel lies. Taking a small bowl in one hand and a fork in the other, I mixed flaked sea salt into the faiselle, test-tasting it until…until…well, until I liked the the taste. I set the mixture aside.

Next, I poured the hazelnut oil into a small container into which I could easily dip a teaspoon. Set that aside too.

Cleaned and minced the fresh ciboulette and set that aside.

Now my mise en place was finished and I as ready to construct the dish. In order: (1) Used a fork to artistically flick small dollops of the faiselle onto the mushroomed plates, (2) Used a teaspoon to drizzle hazelnut oil onto the faiselle-laden mushroomed plates, and (3) Used my fingers to rain pinches of the minced ciboulette onto the oil-drizzled and faiselle-laden mushroomed plates.

2014-04-19 13.57.442014-04-19 13.57.55

And that’s that. I yelled “À table!” to assemble our running band of eaters, sliced up a crusty Boule, and braced myself for the “Mmmmm!”

Related posts:

agricultural End User

Easter bunny – one for the ladies – have a nice holiday y’awl

Yanow I’m a big softie really. This is a simple photo of a display of flowers in my local Tesco complete with Easter bunny. Aww. One for the ladies – I doubt any of my former rugby playing chums would be interested in such a pic.

What do I care? Have a nice Easter weekend. I hope you aren’t stuck in a traffic jam somewhere.

easter bunnyOther flowery posts:

Yellow flower

Roses shot using GalaxyS3


agricultural End User fun stuff Weekend

Saturday Snapshot (5-April-2014)

Yanked to the surface of consciousness on this Normandy morning by the potent combination of bright sky warmth-providing orb, insistent cat, breakfast aromas (coffee, toasting raisin bread), My Missus yelling “À table!”, and the promise of the Saturday farmer’s market in Lisieux (gotta get there before those Orbec mushrooms are gone!).

April in Paris?  Schmapril in Schmaris!

** I do plan to return to the whole “April in Paris” in a positive, musical sense in these pages quite soon, but let’s stay on point, shall we? **

Basket in hand, car keys in other hand, shoes on feet…OK, I’ve got the appendages covered (rest of the body too, as the last thing this American wants to do is throw a fright into scads and scads of provincial Frenchies). A few coins in my pocket, and a rough-but-working-itself-out lunch scheme forming.

Our late arrival at the market had My Missus and I worried we would go Orbec-less this weekend, but I am happy to report (and indicate via photograph) that this was not the case.

Photo Apr 05, 12 13 33     Photo Apr 05, 12 14 37

800 grams of the finest and freshest Normandy-grown Cremini mushrooms secured, our market wander could take on a more relaxed pace and did, leading us to various vegetables and to our lunch plate protein of choice, which today we had decided would be a few nice sole. With no less than five fish mongers hawking their wares at the Lisieux farmer’s market, the selection and pricing is usually in line with expectation and today was no exception (though our score – five good-sized sole for just 10€ — certainly could be described as ‘exceptional’).

agricultural End User Weekend

The yellow flower

yellow flowerIt’s a yellow flower at the weekend. The green leaves around it look quite manky but the flower shines through. I’m ashamed to admit that I have no idea what make of flower it is. What brand. Wouldn’t surprise me if companies try to register flower names as brands.

If I saw a rose I could name that. Tulips and daffodils I can also identify. Otherwise I begin to struggle. I’m ok with grass. I quite like grass although our lawn needs some seeing to. It’s not worth the effort as it gets hammered all year round by kids.

I quite like mowing the lawn in the summer followed by lighting the barbecue and cracking open a tin or two. It’s not often the weather is good enough for us to sit out to eat but the conservatory is fine. We have a nice conservatory opening out onto the back garden and the table will seat ten or twelve people if we open out the leaves so it’s a good place for a relaxing Sunday barbecue that lasts all afternoon.

We also have a couple of gazebos that can come in handy both when there is a threat of rain and conversely it is too sunny. Anyway hope you enjoyed the picture of the flower. It’s the weekend. Make it a lazy one 🙂

PS if anyone has a favourite flower do let us know:)

agricultural End User

7 a day in a box

7 a day in a home made soup.

7 a day is the new 5 a day. If you’re not on 7 you’re gonna die. Sooner. Bet a lot of you aren’t even on 5. That makes it a lot worse. C’mon. Chips don’t count you know. Especially if they are with a KFC variety meal or a Big Mac. Kebabs might have salad and chilli sauce but the fat content of the “meat” sends the cholesterol meter into a frenzy.

Pull yourself together. You just need to believe you can do it. Your body is your temple:)

7 a day is the new 5 a day‘Course it does help to have a wife who is a wonderful cook and who has despatched me to the office with a container of her home made vegetable soup. I think I detected a few bits of bacon in there too. Yum. Just what you need for lunch after a session in the pool followed by a walk to work.

Other food related posts:

Food for thought
EU goes bananas
Best topping for a pancake

PS onion bhajis are ok provided they are eaten as a starter before a mixed balti with plain naan or a meat madras washed down with plenty of Kingfisher lager and there is no letter z in the month.

agricultural End User Weekend



agricultural End User Weekend

Fire, fire – woodstore, the sequel

Last week we reported the building of a terrific new woodstore as an amenity for the Davies household in Lincoln. Check out the amazing video here.

Well not all the wood is going to be allowed into the wood store. The smaller branches and rotting bits of old furniture ain’t gonna make it. Nosiree Bob1. Having bought a shiny new gas bbq last summer we no longer use our fire pit to cook food. In fact we haven’t used the gas job since last summer either but that is somewhat of a digression. What better use for a fire pit than to light fires? Eh?

This morning I rubbed two sticks together and got a blaze on the go. Been piling the condemned bits of wood on to the the point that the firepit is now full of ash and I’ll need to wait until another day to finish off the job. Will get some good potash for the plants out of it.

Just in case you ar wondering, and I know that statistically some of you will be woosses of a nervous disposition, it is all perfectly safe. I am on the committee of the local boys scout group and have watched how they light fires. At no point in time was the fire brigade likely to have been called for. After all it is Mother’s Day and firemen have mothers too you know. The last think they need is to be called out to a fire started by some idiot when they were supposed to be doing the roast potatoes.

That’s all for now. Got to take a shower to rid me of woodsmoke. Ciao amigos.
blazing fire in a lincoln back garden
Other fire based posts:
Plough pub fires chef just before Christmas
Fireworks on bonfire night
Chromebooks, backups and crackling open fires

1Wossgoin on? Yesterday it was Franglais and today it’s Americun!

agricultural End User Weekend

Weekend gardening tips – get up at the crack of dawn to work your allotment

I was sat one Friday night in the packed snug of the Victoria pub1 on Union Road and the conversation somehow came to the subject of allotments. Turned out pretty much everyone in the room had an allotment! It may be that real ale pubs attract a certain type. I doubt the same would have been true for Walkabout or any of the other trendy pubs in town.

We gave up our allotment a few years ago. It was handily placed just over our back fence but it at 60m x 10m it was too big and with four kids could never find the time to work it. The plot has now been spit in two and is properly tended to as it rightfully deserves.

This morning I was up early to set kid4 off on his travels to Sutton Bridge for a hockey tournament (90mins drive away) followed by a football match this pm in Burgh Le Marsh (also a long distance). At 7.30 am the scene outside the landing window was almost autumnal. There had been a lot of rain overnight but with the deciduous trees overhanging the garden not yet in leaf one sensed an absence of spring freshness that makes this the best of seasons.

Over in the allotments a couple of people were already up and at it. Wow. That is commitment. They will reap the benefit later in the year. All credit to them2. I took a photo. You can just about make out one of the men – clicking on the pic brings up the full size version.

allotments LincolnThis morning I’m finishing the building of my woodstore. A rudimentary construction but hopefully one that will do the job. Fotos will be phurnished.

Other agriculture related posts:

50 mighty quadtracs all in a row
Lincolnshire pea crop – feeding the nation
Tom Wood beer and wooden biros

1 Everyone moved from the Victoria to the Strugglers when one Friday evening they put the price of a pint of bitter up by 30 pence in between rounds!!!
2 I don’t like sprouts anyway!

agricultural Business Weekend

Green shoots

Green shoots, hope, optimism, anticipation, certainty, confidence, elation, enthusiasm, expectation, happiness, idealism, trust, assurance, brightness, buoyancy, calmness, cheer, cheerfulness, easiness, encouragement, exhilaration, positivism, sureness, good cheer, looking on bright side
green shoots springMore good reads:

Lunberjack weekend special & trailer maintenance tips
Should badgers get the vote and other jolly wheezes

agricultural End User

Lumberjack weekend special & trailer maintenance tips

osgoodby_woodslumbertrefThis weekend sees a lumberjack special on All internet and no sawing doesn’t light the fire.

Costs five or six quid for a net of logs from the local garage. We could get a ton delivered for around £80 though have only ever done it once. Kept meaning to order more. Cousin Steffan has a gleaning license from the local forestry commission allowing him to “harvest” fallen trees. After this winter’s storms there are plenty of them. On Saturday the trailer was hitched up and we set off for Osgoodby woods north of Market Rasen.

Bit of a tip. Thought I’d check the tyre pressures on the car before going. With an expected load of wood I figured it had better have the right amount of air in it. What I hadn’t thought of was the tyre pressure on the trailer. After I got back from the Tesco garage I looked at the trailer tyres and they looked a bit low.



I also happened to notice Anne’s car had a puncture so I called the AA out. The AA man turned up promptly (50 mins), sorted the puncture and in exchange for a cup of tea did the air on the trailer tyres.

That trailer is 10 years old this year and in that time I’ve not topped up the air once. They were meant to be at 35psi. They were at 20psi! Good job we checked innit?

dead treesNow there are only two things you need to know about a gleaning license. The first is that you aren’t allowed to use mechanical tools to cut up the wood. The second is that you can’t take vehicles onto the land so everything you cut (by hand) has to be carried to the car at the edge of the wood.

This is quite sensible really as it limits the amount of wood you can take. It makes it very hard work.  That stuff is heavy and the floor of the wood is boggy and covered in brambles.tref & steff

Steff used to be a forrester before a knee accident cut short his career. Having a professional in tow (though reality was he was towing me) was quite handy. He picked out the best wood, ie the stuff that had already dried out, and we set to with our saws.

Steff pointed out an interesting oak tree with what looked like two trunks. This tree was around hundred years old and be the woodpilepollarded regrowth of one felled for pit props during the first world war. Innerestin

I’m going to let the photos and video tell you the rest. Bloody hard work mind you. We were at it for three hours and when we got back to the house ate half a baguette each!

The last pic is my share of the take from the afternoon’s work. The video is a video.

Read about “the technical business of trees and the art of netting a boy

PS v poor mob sig in woods fwiw.

agricultural End User

Should badgers get the vote and other jolly wheezes #banthecull

Should badgers get the vote? This blog post explores the motion…

When I were a lad with no cares other than the distant dark clouds of impending A Level examinations our form classroom was situated above an arch through which pupils passed at break times. Despite being supposedly the most mature class in school we used to escape the pressure of said impending exams by letting off a bit of steam (I’m sticking to that line).

Our class had a sink and we would have hours fun by filling up cups of water and pouring it on unsuspecting passers by below. This was a fairly inaccurate process because we had to guess when someone would be coming out from underneath the arch – F=mg and all that – it took time for the water to reach pupil height and more often than not we would miss.

Being a highly intelligent class we devised a process that would improve our accuracy. Someone would look out of the classroom window at the other side of the arch and start walking when a victim disappeared from view underneath. When our paceman reached the a few feet from the sink we would drop the water. We did score a few direct hits but never seemed to get into trouble for this.

Fast forwarding to the modern era

agricultural End User

The Christmas tree season is upon us

As my express speeds trundles at a modest pace in a Southerly direction, laden with the additional passengers of two earlier broken down trains (or simlar) I note a conversation on Twitter turning to Christmas trees and decorations.

At this juncture it would be remiss of me not to draw your attention to a post from one year ago in which the science of growing Christmas trees was explored along with techniques of wrapping kids using a tree bagging machine.

We Davies’ do not consider putting up Christmas decs until around mid December but I do realise that there are some enthusiasts out there who like to get in the swing early. Presumably they don’t use a real tree if they put it up in November as all the needles will have fallen off by the big day.

It is at Christmas that cultural differences do come to the surface in our house. Anne likes outside lights, I don’t. Unfortunately (it’s all about perspective) I think ours are broken. Ah well. We also have the annual hunt for the sets of Christmas tree lights that work. In the old days it was a matter of hunting down and replacing the bulb that was broken – otherwise the whole lot wouldn’t work. And you could only get one type. These days lights are almost disposable – if they don’t work just buy another set. Unfortunately I haven’t quite got that in my mindset yet so we still have to separate the good from the bad, once they have all been untangled, which is another story.

This Christmas will also represent a (quite sad) milestone where all four kids “know”. It makes it easier in some respects as we don’t have to wield threats of instant torture for revealing the truth but it  represents the passing of an era, a great era in the life of any family.

Now that I’m momentarily (we have to remember it is still only November 27th) in a nostalgic Christmassy mood I have to reconfirm that I am a huge fan. Two of our kids are now away from home and it is we the parents who now are the ones that get excited about the holiday.

Also I’m not a Christian but I like the tradition, the constancy of the time of year. We do the same things year after year. This tradition is expanding to include events like the #trefbash which is in it’s fourth year and also the Carol Singing night in the Morning Star pub in Lincoln. We get together around the piano and bash out a couple of hours of carols accompanied by a few pints and some mince pies. This is open to all – if you want to come the details are on Facebook here.

Happy November.

agricultural Business

The technical business of Christmas trees & the art of netting a boy

a field of 4 year old Christmas treesTrefor Davies and Xmas tree farmer William RoseChristmas trees. You plant ‘em, they grow for a few years, you chop ‘em down and shove em in your living room for a few short weeks.  By the time the needles start to fall off their job is done and they are consigned to the pile of rubbish at the bottom of the garden. Right?

Well no not really. There is science in growing Christmas trees. Technology even! As you may know I live in a very agricultural county where we are experts on growing things and in the small rural hamlet of Fillingham they grow them in their tens of thousands.

Fillingham Trees grow a hundred acres of them divided between Nordman, Norway, Blue Spruce and Lodgepole pines.  In the dim and distant past I played a few games of rugby with owner William Rose (pictured right) and I met him at his farm in Fillingham to chat about the growing business of growing Christmas trees.

Xmas tree from FillinghamDid you know it takes 8 – 10 years to grow a 6 foot Nordman Fir? The Nordman represents 80% of the market because it doesn’t drop its needles. Also these trees don’t “just grow”. They are shaped, manually over the course of their growing life. Growth inhibitors are applied twice a year and once a year the middle bud from each new branch is nipped out so that the tree spreads into a nice shape. That happens to each tree individually and with around 7,000 trees to the hectare that’s roughly 280,000 trees hand pruned, every year!

Norway’s are cheaper because they grow more quickly. It’s easy to work out that with all the manual care in the case of Christmas trees, time in the ground actually does represent a cost.

The seeds for these trees come from mountainsides in northern Russia. At Fillingham they plant their trees as 15cm high transplants bought in from a nursery as opposed to growing them from seed. They plant thousands in a day using specialist tree planting kit.

Growing Christmas trees is a very competitive business. We buy 7 million of them a year in the UK and a lot of farmers will want a piece of the action. At Fillingham they employ innovative marketing techniques that include a Facebook page. The season opened this year on 24th November and for two weeks punters have been able to ride around the farm on a tractor trailer to choose their own tree. The tree of choice is then labelled ready for cutting down and collection at a time that suits the customer. Innovative.

Christmas tree barn at Fillingham TreesTheir ultimate success though is based on producing a quality product year after year and this is reflected in their wholesale sales of between 20,000 and 25,000 trees shipped to places as far as the Gower Peninsula in South Wales. Wow!

In one sense the Christmas tree is the ultimate genetically modified product. Many seeds come from the same “mother” tree so in theory they should all look the same. Nature doesn’t work like that though and many trees grow malformed, perhaps because of the weather or animal damage. Nordmans are also affected by needle necrosis which can turn the needles brown overnight and render the tree unsaleable.

Just like we like our fruit and veg in perfect condition we have the same attitude towards our Christmas trees. Imperfect trees are left in the ground and at the end of the season mulched and ploughed back into the soil. Brutal! 🙂

Anyway that’s about it on Christmas trees other than to introduce the following two videos. The first is how to “net” a tree for transportation using a mechanised tree netter. The second is how to net a boy for a laugh using a manual netter. You know it makes sense.

Good luck to Fillingham trees and thanks to William for the guided tour. I hope their season goes well and they enjoy a well-earned Christmas break.

agricultural End User

Next time you eat a kebab…

I just had a meeting with a local farmer. He told me, and I have no idea how a conversation on Unified Communications got on to this,  that a single ram is expected to serve a hundred ewes. Worra life. It’s a short window of enjoyment because farmers want all the lambs to arrive around the same time so the ram spends the rests of the year away from the ewes, eating grass with the lads.

The downside is that when the ram’s useful life is over it gets shot and sold to the kebab manufacturing industry. Next time you eat a kebab…

agricultural End User social networking

@JRainy – bread the numbers

You get roughly 3000kgs (3Tonnes) of wheat per acre. An 800g loaf of bread has around 600g of wheat giving us 5,000 loaves-worth an acre.

I learned via @JRainy on Twitter that it takes a combine harvester 3 hours to harvest 8 acres of wheat which in my book makes it 0.044 acres or 222 loaves of bread a minute.

This year’s wheat crop is only 10million or so acres of which 15% is milling wheat suitable for breadmaking. We obviously eat a lot of bread – work it out!

Interesting eh?

Check out the Lincolnshire wheat harvest in action here – thanks to John Rainsforth 🙂

You heard it first on…

agricultural End User

50 mighty quadtracs all in a row

The gathering of the mighty quadtracs was foreseen. 50 of these giants of the agricultural world formed the biggest ever congregation of their kind at Hemswell in Lincolnshire last Saturday.

5 minutes at 3.5kph (speed set so as not to run out of field in the regulated time) saw a new world record set for the most number of quadtracs simultaneously working a field.



Before harvest:



After harvest:


The event raised thousands for cancer charity in memory of John Rainthorpe with over a thousand cars worth of spectators in attendance – amazing.

The quadtracs came from far and wide with two of them travelling 433 miles from Scotland (on the back of a lorry – they would still be on their way otherwise).


For more see here.
Posted using WordPress for android.

agricultural Business

The Lincolnshire pea crop – feeding the nation

3 pea viners in action with attendant tractor and hopper in fields near Manton in Lincolnshire If you’ve ever grown peas at home you will know how wonderful freshly picked peas from the garden can be. The only problem is that they need to be planted in industrial quantities to get a decent crop. In my own experience a single home grown crop only lasts one meal. Rubbish eh?

So when Christopher Day (@themanorhousebb) invited me to see the Lincolnshire pea harvest in action boy did I get excited:). On a dank drizzly Sunday we turned off the A15 and drove down a track looking for pea viners.

The Green Pea Company Ltd had 3 machines working fields  near Hibbaldstow in Lincolnshire where the harvest is in full swing – keeping the nation fed. Where would our fish and chips be without peas? This is vital work.

There was a mobile workshop in the corner of the field and we stopped there to talk to the vining team. Once it has begun the pea harvest continues 24 hours a day for two months. Teams work 12 hour day/night shifts on a 2 week rotation. After donning a fluorescent safety jacket I got a ride with Glen.

The cabs are not as high tech as the Quadtrac but that is quite possibly a personal choice of the owner of the kit. All the driver has to do is steer though. Everything else is automated. Harvesting rate, weight in the tank – all controlled by computer.

Pea pods are “bashed” by metal tines under the viner and are effectively sucked into the belly of the machine where the casings are mechanically removed and the peas “popped” into one of two storage tanks. When the peas are offloaded to an external tractor-towed hopper they start with the most recently filled tank so that the “older” peas remain near the top when taken to processing. That hopper is taken to a bigger lorry which transports the peas back to the factory, in this case near Hull.

The viners are pricey – at £300k a pop they re even more expensive than the Quadtrac. With three of them on a job plus the other kit we are looking at a million pounds worth of cash driving around the field. They are also not as wide because the whole vehicle needs to be able to travel on the public highway without having to unbolt the front mechanism so they can’t process as much acreage as a Quadtrac. The average speed depends on many factors – weight of peas on the vine, ground conditions and instructions from the Birds Eye factory on how much tonnage they need at any given point in time. A typical average over the whole season is around a hectare per hour per machine.

Peas must have been a luxury item in the “old days”. No machines then, just men with scythes and teams of workers picking the pods off the vine. Expensive to harvest plus in my mind likely to have more losses due to the imprecise nature of the scything.

Today each machine weighs 27 tons and can carry 2 tonnes of peas. That’s heavy man. If you happen to find yourself stuck behind a convoy of viners consider yourself unlucky. They travel at 25kmh. With a convoy of 3 viners, a tractor towing a hopper, water and diesel trailers together with outrider vehicles overtaking is going to be a problem but hey… what price peas?

The teams work to specific instructions from Birds Eye who also send testers1 into fields beforehand to test the peas for quality & readiness to pick. Birds Eye even tell them how much weight of peas to store in the tank before tipping into the hopper.

All so that I can enjoy my steak and chips (and fish and burger and sausage and chicken and veggieburger etc etc 🙂 )peas peas glorious peas - click to see more peas :)

The Green Pea Company harvests thousands of tonnes of peas in a season using 15 viners. I went away with two carrier bags full as a memento of my time there. Thanks to farmer Christopher Day, The Green Pea company, Birds Eye and finally to Glen for letting me drive around the field in the viner with him.

They are big boys toys – quadtracks and viners. The question is where do I go from here?

1A lot of testing goes on in the farming business. The two photos below show Christopher Day’s soil samples and testing kit. The days of the bumpkin farmer with a long piece of straw between his teeth and a straw hat are gone. The complexity of the business is such that you need qualifications and certificates to grow stuff these days.
soil samples on shelves - simplesa farmer's basic soil testing kit

agricultural Business social networking

Hreodburna – a Twittersphere tour with farmer Christopher Day – some images not for those with weak constitutions

The Red Lion Inn in Redbourne Lincolnshire has a fire stationI met Christopher Day on Twitter. I’ve no idea when.The wooden cross on the green in Redbourne People follow you. You follow people. You start to connect. Connect often enough you begin to notice and engage with them which is what I’ve done with Christopher. His Twitter name is @themanorhousebb.

I’ve met him a couple of times before today, once at LincUpLive and then again at LincsTweetMeet. During some online conversation I mentioned that my favourite vegetable is the pea.  Christopher grows peas and he invited me to see some pea picking in action.

Hreodburna, which in Old English means reedy burn, is as you may know, the historical name for  Redbourne in Lincolnshire. Redbourne is your idyllic English village and was to me only previously known for its pub.  The Red Lion is a wonderful  17th Century coaching Inn and a stopping off point for LincolnThe old Hadley, Simpkin and Lott fire engine in redbourne RFC on the way back from away matches in the North of the county.

The car park of the Red Lion on this occasion was the place that I had arranged to meet Christopher to go and see some vining action.

What I would never have noticed in my rugby playing days was the fact that attached to the Red Lion is a fire station containing an original horse drawn fire engine (click on the header photo for a better view of the fire station). Made in 1831The paddock at the Red Lion Inn in Redbourne Lincolnshire used to hold the horse that pulled the fire engine by Hadley, Simpkin and Lott of London the engine is manually operated with bars on either side that were raised and lowered to pump water.

The sign in the fire station window informs the enquiring mind:  “The rural disturbances of 1830-1 provoked at least 28 cases of Arson in Lincolnshire. The owner of the Redbourne Estate, the Duke of St Albans certainly owned an engine by 1834 and it is reasonable to presume that this is the same engine, bought to protect his property. There was no county fire service in Lincolnshire until 1948.”fishing in Lincolnshire

The horse for the fire engine lived in a paddock at the back of the Inn and the first job the firemen  had before attending an incident was to catch it.

Things have moved on from those days. We moved on to see the pea harvest which is going to be the subject of another post. In the meantime Christopher was kind enough to show me around his farm which includes some carp fishing lakes. I offer here some photos of one of the lakes – a hugely relaxing place to spend a day. Note the bait set up. Click on the thumbnail photo for a close up shot of somebait (maggots) do not click if you have a medical condition of the bait – not for the faint of heart.

Alternatively watch the short video (18 years and over only). Amazing where you can get using Twitter isn’t it?

agricultural End User

Tractors, tractors, tractors and tractors – a world record attempt for the rural readers but the city boys might like it too

action from the World Ploughing Championships held in Lincoln in October 2010The idea for this post was crowd sourced (all 2 of us) The STX 440 Quadtracon Twitter when I mentioned I was going to the Lincolnshire Show. The subject is tractors. Well one tractor in particular. I’m talking about the Steiger STX-440 Quadtrac. You know the beast. It’s manufactured by CaseIH. Also because I know you like this sort of thing I’ve included some photos of tractors down the ages.

Tractors these days are boys toys like no other. I got to sit in the cab although I daren’t touch anything. Partly because itme in the cab of the STX 440 Quadtrack was £200k’s worth of kit pulling another £60k of trailer. I could have been devastating. Mr Bean would have filled a whole series with the ensuing chaos.

In one sense the romance has disappeared from the tractor world. One man cocooned in his climate controlled (not air-conditioned as I was told more than once) cab, his hydraulic seat smoothing out the bumps so as not to distract him from watching his favourite episode of Emmerdale, can plant 100 – 150 acres of rape seed in one day, depending on the soil type. STX 440 Quadtrac trailerHis GPS system, accurate to 2 mm, ensures he covers every inch of field (mixing units here I know) with his ploughing, harrowing, planting weed killing or furtiloizing.

The tractor shown in the photo is one of two used to service the 3,500 acres of Westhall Farm Welton Cliff. Gone is the image of the lone ploughman following behind his horse struggling to plough an acre a day. The STX-440 with a 12/4 plough will do 10 acres an hour. It’s still a one man job mind you and I daresay the ploughman still likes his crust of breadSteiger STX-440 front view and cheese with a pickled onion, and no doubt a pint or two of his favourite local ale in the Royal Oak, or Rose and Crown, or Frog and Parrott or whatever it’s called these days.

Comms on board are limited to the GPS, a two way radio and a mobile phone. This surprised me. I thought it would be sending back real time data on progress. Instead the system inputs data onto an SD card (I think – I didn’t see it and Neil the tractor driver called it a microchip) which, when “full”, is then plugged into the farm computer for record keeping. Helen Rainthorpe of Westhall Farm has complete data on what has been done to every field on her farm going back 4 generations. Has the EC been going that long?

One of the fields, note, is 190 acres. It’s dimensions are all programmed into the system and all the driver does is turn the machine around when it gets to the end of the field (he must byhorse plough - the way it used to be now have seen absolutely every episode of Emmerdale since the year dot). The speed of progress is programmable and normally determined by what the Quadtrack is towing. If the field has a curve then the STX-440 will naturally follow the curve. There is more, If the field spans two counties which than mean two different lots of paperwork the system recognises this when compiling the data.

I don’t know how much diesel it can take but it needs a hugeThen in 1905 along came the Big Mac - eat yer heart out McDonalds :) tank. No miles per gallon here. It’s gallons per mile more like as its Drawbar power (max) is 371.35 hp (276.9kW) consumes 21.8 gallons (82.5l) per hour. Note the 8hp of the Titan steam tractor (photo inset).

If you’re interested the tractor is busy all year round – July until the end of Oct is prime time for wheat for next season. End of Jan to March/April is the time for planting for spring wheat and barley.

The Titan, with 8bhp came along in 1915 - looking more like a tractor

In finishing you should note the John Rainthorpe Quadtrac World Record attempt (I have an affinity with world record attempts) – “Most Quadtracs Cultivating In One Field” is taking place at WestHall Farm on 28th July. The event is in aid of Cancer Research – gates open at 11am – record attempt at 1pm. Give them your support – oo arr.

David Brown brings us into the modern era