Archive for June, 2010

The best farm diversification ever

Before you ask, yes – I meant to be this sun burnt, ok? And I’m definitely supposed to have these unusual suntan lines across my back and shoulders. And the panda eyes from wearing my sunglasses.

I thought Glastonbury was all about storms and tidal waves of mud, not blistering sunshine. It seems our crappy English summer’s finally came good and I had a need for the factor 50 suncream my mum bought me last year.

It’s just a shame I left it on my bedside table and took the factor 25 instead.

Skin-searing aside, I’ve had a brilliant few days. If you have no interest in music I suggest you toddle off elsewhere for this next bit – Gob of the Wash has been having a whinge about flowers and having to do some work, maybe that will appeal instead.

Highlights of the weekend were Foals (cos everyone loves being jumped on by a front-man), Mumford and Sons (who knew folky music could be so much fun) and the XX (even though they seemed to attract a crowd of chain-smoking, chattering, 18-year-old posh kids).

I also enjoyed Ellie Goulding, Delphic, Bombay Bicycle Club and, surprisingly, Muse (though that’s probably because Th’Edge came onstage during the encore). And Julian Casablancas was good too. Oh, and who could forget Australia’s favourite son, Rolf Harris…

glasto
Anyway, I’m pretty exhausted now, but hopefully I’ll be able to catch up on some sleep before Thursday when I head off to Chicago on the next leg of my Nuffield adventure. I can’t wait to get back to travelling, even more so now I know it’s nice and sunny in Illinois so I should be able to even out the wonky tan-lines….

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A few of my favourite things

My tent’s up (hurrah for the pop-up variety), the sun’s out, I’m on a farm and I have three days of music ahead of me. What could be better…

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Hoping for a rapid rate of recovery

Stocks Towers feels strangely quiet tonight. For the first time in a fortnight I’m free of visitors and Antipodeans.

I’ve had a brill couple of weeks but I’m utterly cream-crackered now – my ability to cope with late nights has apparently evaporated since Thursday when I became another year older.

I need to recover in time for heading off to Glastonbury on Thursday, so I’m having a quiet night on the sofa in my pinny and gloves, drinking tea from my aspirational mug, syncing my iPhone and watching the decent yellow-shirted football team. And there isn’t a neon pig in sight.

Claire's visit

Big kisses to both of my guests for a fab time, you’re welcome here whenever you like. Cheers x

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A bloomin’ good time in Lincolnshire (and proof it was worth carrying the laptop)

I’ve had the day off today and been up to Gob of the Wash’s pad in Lincolnshire. I’d pretended the trip was in aid of taking a flower-growing chum there to see Matthew’s farm, but in reality it was because I wanted to meet Wooster, the latest addition to the NayLo household.

Like his master, Wooster has a bit of a thing for shoelaces, so I spent most of the afternoon trying to prise his teeth away from my trainers (I’m still talking about the dog here, not Matthew. He’s moved on from trainers to metallic stilettos).

Anyway, we had a good old nosey around the farm and the trial grounds and we even went along to a supermarket pack-house. It was really interesting to see the lengths the packers have to go to to keep their supermarket buyers happy – from testing the shelf-life of flowers to working with growers to find ways to improve bloom quality and bringing in new ranges.

flowers
The packer we visited is packing a ‘rainforest bouquet’, something I hadn’t seen before. Backed by the Rainforest Alliance the packaging explains the conditions and systems used to produce the flowers – something supermarkets have used for a while now with food to show off its origins and add a premium.

It’ll be interesting to see if giving flowers a story helps drive up prices for flower-growers. If consumers realised just how much work went into a bunch of peonies I wonder whether they’d feel guilty about just paying a couple of quid for them.

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No shortage of water in Cambridge

I know I keep harping on about it, but getting a Nuffield Scholarship is the best thing ever.

It’s not just making some brilliant friends who think nothing of letting you invade their home, having a nosey around brilliant farms and businesses and getting to go to some amazing countries. It’s for moments like this:

peckie
Yup, that’s James Peck getting a taste of Aussie vengeance while we were punting in Cambridge. And yup, it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

Gob of the Wash made a jibe about the 2010 Scholars being like a revoltingly loved-up giant family, and I don’t mind admitting he’s absolutely right. It was great to see them all again and I’m pretty jealous I’m not off to Ireland, China and the US with them over the next few weeks. Bon voyage, guys x

punters

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Backing farming’s boffins

I wrote a few articles last year about agricultural research in the UK. I was looking at funding sources, the decline in spend on R&D and the kinds of things research institutes in Britain are looking at.

As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, I’m a bit of a geek, so I got very interested in it. I would’ve probably done a few more articles had it not been for angry researchers ringing me afterwards complaining that I hadn’t written about them and accusing me of research institute bias. (Note to scientists: I love you all as much as each other. Unless you have mad scientist hair comme ca:

Beaker

In which case I probably do love you a little bit more. Ssshhh, don’t tell the others.)

Anyway, from doing these articles I got chatting to some lovely people at Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire and got invited to go along there on Friday to go and have a look at what they get up to.

Let me tell you, it’s bloomin’ awesome there. Did you know they have an experiment there that’s been running for more than 150 years? They’ve been trialling wheat since 1843:

Broadbalk experiment, Rothamsted

They have some amazing rooms to cultivate plants in too, allowing them to adjust the light to create really sunny conditions. I’d never really realised how those light boxes worked to alleviate seasonal affective disorder, but a couple of minutes in this room and I was grinning like an idiot, thinking that spending an hour in a trial field learning about Take-all disease was the best thing ever.
Continue reading “Backing farming’s boffins” »

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Sojourn to Cereals

Apologies for all those waiting with baited breath for news about the naked Scottish sheep, I’ll get around to it at some point, honest.

I’ve been a bit busy entertaining some Nuffield chums who have come over from Australia to follow a strict, miliatary-esque itinerary of farm trips, meetings and a couple of days at the Cereals event. Having not seen them since our trip to the States in March, it’s ace to catch up with them and introduce them to the joys of living less than three hours away from the nearest pub.

Anyway, today I’ve joined some more of the Nuff Crew and made my inaugral visit to Cereals.  Most of the FW team have decamped here too so we’re trying something crazy and new-fangled and putting the magazine together from the Cereals site. Here’s the newsroom in action:

Newsroom

Swanky, hey? It all looks pretty good until you peer out of the window and see the path that runs past our stand. Wellies might be an idea if you come to see us tomorrow…

mud

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Score-tish sheeps

I’m in Kelso in Scotland at the mo having a look at some top-notch farms rearing pedigree Aberdeen Angus herds and wool-shedding sheep.

I’ll fill you in on the details later (I have a five-hour train journey home, I’ll need to kill some time), but in the meantime here’s a snippet of what I’ve seen:

sheep on hills

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