On the homestead: spring is sprung!

Ah, spring is in the air, hobbit baby has finally sprouted a tooth, and the winter salad is suddenly going mad!

Granted it’s been a very mild winter, but I am eternally grateful that so much salad can withstand the English weather to pop up in the spring. Salad is our staple crop as we eat so much of it, and winter veg is our new passion. Thus winter salad = win.

Left over from last year are land cress (modelled here by hobbit baby) winter purslane (miner’s lettuce), spinach, and the remains of some chard that hobbit husband hacked back at the end of summer to keep it under control.

The chard stumps are looking decidedly gnarly and will be replaced by younger plants soon, but until then there are a few verdant leaves popping up which we will make good use of.

Sown so far: komatsuna and perilla.

Self-sown: chard.

Weekly Roundup: Milk, Wheat and Scotland’s Organic Plans

Scotland Introduces Organic Food Plan

“Organic Ambitions: An action plan for organic food and farming in Scotland 2016:2020” will be released at the Organic Research Centre’s annual Organic Producer’s Conference (which I sadly will not be attending this year owing to hobbitbaby). A flyer for the publication can be viewed here.

I will refrain from making obvious jokes about food and health and the Scots’ health record (though I can heartily recommend deep-fried haggis) and instead point you in the direction of this excellent video from the Scottish Organic Forum (SOF). In addition to all the information you’ll need for the time being, it also features a chap doing what I judge to be ‘Olsen P’ phosphorus analysis. Good grief, the memories. So many funnels…

Muller cuts milk prices

Just before Christmas I got an email informing me that I would forthwith be billed for my milk deliveries by Muller, because:

“Muller UK & Ireland Group LLP will acquire Dairy Crest’s Dairies business (including milk&more) on 26th December 2015.”

This week they announced that they will be cutting farmgate milk prices by 1p/litre from 15 February as it can no longer protect its suppliers from the “realities of the market”.

The UK dairy industry is in dire straits, and personally I have lost count of the number of farmers I’ve spoken to who have recently quit dairy farming (“Well… I was dairy, but now I farm beef”).

I buy my milk from milk&more to provide my milk man with a job, and provide business for a company that delivers food essentials to people unable to get out easily (e.g. my grandad).

But farmers deserve to be paid, and I might need to do some reconsidering.

2016 Wheat Prices

2015 saw bumper global wheat production, so prices were always going to need a helping hand. However, currently there is nothing doing.

According to Stuart Shiells in FW, factors affecting wheat prices are as follows:

Driving prices up:

  • Black Sea region (Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan and Romania) crops currently have good protective snow cover, but this could change.
  • Dry conditions in India and South Africa may reduce yields.

Driving prices down:

  • Surplus from 2015 is still on the market.
  • In the UK the weakening of Sterling improved competitiveness. If Sterling recovers, grain prices will suffer. And of course, this winter saw a fair few UK farmers unable to sow wheat due to flooding.

And of course, the oil prices which generally help predict other commodity prices, are currently abnormally low. So of course, much is still unknown.

In addition to this, a free-trade agreement between Ukraine and the EU came into effect on 1st January 2016. If you’re unaware, the yellow half of the Ukranian flag represents wheat – they produce rather a lot of it (there’s a reason it’s the ‘bread-basket’ of Russia). Of course this could also affect European wheat prices if it floods the market.

However, owing to a lack of technology to move grain to infrastructure links (and thus export it) this may not be too much of a worry. Olly Harrison of the NFU visited the country recently and blogged about it here – it’s worth a read.

Coca-Cola reformulates Life

Coca-Cola is changing the recipe of Coke Life after admitting half of consumers don’t understand what the product is according to The Grocer.

Unfortunately the article is subscription only and there appears to be little else online at the moment, so can’t give any more info. But watch this space.

And of course it’s lambing season…

If you know next-to-nothing about lambing, I recommend a read of the Sheepfold Farm books by Susan Williams. I read them as a kid and loved them. Granted a few mechanical things have changed, but sheep still conceive and birth in the same way at the same times of year. Plus it’s only 1p on Amazon; a good bedtime read.