I had the first part of my annual Soil Association inspection (by telephone of course) last Tuesday, and within 5 minutes I was informed of some minor non-compliances – not a great start! The inspector did not consider that I made it clear enough on my website that the apple juice and honey are not Organic. So you will see when you visit the shop that I have made a comment against each product to clarify its status. Just to remind you, the apples that are juiced are grown by me organically, but the fellow who presses the juice and bottles it for me is not registered as an Organic processor, so it can’t be labelled as organic. As for the honey, in this country it is almost impossible to guarantee that your bees are not visiting non-organic nectar sources, as they have the potential to forage for up to 3 miles from their hives. Therefor you can’t, with good conscience, label honey as organic, even if the location of the hives is organically managed. I don’t believe that I have misled you with my labelling, but if I did I apologise, it was not intentional. By the end of play on Tuesday I am required to send a whole raft of information – sales records/harvest records/invoices/supplier certificates/crop rotation plans etc. to demonstrate my compliance to the Soil Association organic standards. So, I’ve got a long hard day in the office tomorrow I reckon.

There were one or two hiccups last week with the revised website, I hope that they have been resolved and that your ordering goes without a hitch this week. I know that some customers failed to receive an order acknowledgement – some of them were discovered in junk/spam folders, so it is worth looking there. If you don’t receive an acknowledgement this week please let me know so that I can inform the techies.

On Wednesday I had another telephone appointment, this time with the ear specialist at West Suffolk hospital. This was a follow-up to my audiology test a couple of weeks ago. Her prognosis was not good. Based on the results of the hearing tests she thinks that my hearing loss is probably permanent, possibly cause by a viral infection. However, the ear needs to be scanned to ascertain whether or not this is the case. Unfortunately scans are not being carried out at the moment, so who knows when I will learn my fate. I do have an appointment at the ear clinic in April to address a secondary problem in the ear, which I am hoping will at least make it a little less irritable – which may also make me a little less irritable! Until I know for sure what the problem is I will remain positive…..but excuse me if I keep saying eh? It’s unfortunate that this has happened at a time when it’s difficult to hear what people are saying anyway through triple layer masks.

At the beginning of last week we had a couple of lovely penetrating frosts, so I had the unexpected bonus of being able to do some cultivating with the tractor without making a terrible mess. I had to be off the soil before around 10.30, because by then there was already some give in the ground. You always know when to call it a day by how much soil is adhering to the wheels of the tractor. I managed to get a fair bit done in the time available. I am hopeful of some more mornings like it so that I can do some more. Once the frost melted away I headed back to the orchard to scalp a few more trees. I thought that you would like this painting ‘Land Girls Pruning at East Malling’ by Evelyn Dunbar, the only salaried female war artist of the Second World War. The scene is very familiar to me – they even use the same tripod pruning ladders as I do, and pretty much the same tools.

I am going to have to ease off the pruning for a few days because I have very painful knees at the moment. One night last week I was taking a box of jarred honey out to the van. What could possibly go wrong you might ask? Well our big black and white cat Wilfred was sprawled across the garden path, and as I stepped over him I lost my footing and went down like a ton of bricks, with my knees taking the brunt of the fall. A couple of jars of honey smashed, so there was sticky honey and shards of glass everywhere, and me with bloodied knees and scraped knuckles. I’m sure that it would have had you in stitches if you watched it on ‘You’ve been framed’, but I was not amused. Anyway, I am walking somewhat like Douglas Bader at the moment, so to scale apple trees is probably not advisable until the knees heal a bit. Don’t I have an eventful life?

This week the shop sees a return of cauliflowers and curly kale. There are still Brussels sprouts too (how I love them), and carrots, parsnips, swede, red cabbage, onions, red onions, sweet potato. I’m still unable to source any leeks – other than expensive Spanish ones, and that doesn’t seem right. I don’t want to tempt fate, but I am hopeful that the mushroom supply problem has been resolved. There are apples, kiwi fruit, lemons, and blood oranges – I have them marked as 4 per bag, but you will have noticed that for the past couple of weeks I have put 5 in a bag because of their diminutive size. There are no Seville Oranges this week, but they should return next week.

The van is in for a service tomorrow. Last week’s puncture could not, of course, be mended, so yet another new tyre. The front bumper has become detached on one side, caused by ploughing through one deep flood too many. I am hoping that it can be secured somehow, because a replacement is going to be expensive. I am just about fed up with these flooded pot holed roads – every journey seems to be fraught with danger at the moment.

Oh well, I’d getter get my nose back to the grindstone – an inspector calls.

Have a good week, please pay your dues if you haven’t already, and return your boxes if you think of it. Thank you.

Phil

 

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