I'm writing this as a new government has been formed and hope that they live up to their promises on their manifestos. Radical change I feel and a business like approach to the public sector is absolutely necessary with an end to the extravagance we have witnessed over the last ten years.
In my own business I have spent the last four months trying to minimise and make savings against the rising charges government are levying on us. 90% of my admin time is spent trying to save money instead of trying to make money. Increases on rates, water charges, land fill charges and a considerable number of raw material costs in a marketplace that has become so price sensitive that the mere mention of price increases causes eyes to pop out.
Easter trading was hampered greatly by, number one, being earlier in the year and the horrible weather we had the week before. Having said this business in general has not been too bad and we have seen reasonable growth outside Northern Ireland particularly with our oatcakes. Just today we have had confirmation of an order for New Zealand. Our sales in Waitrose have grown, no doubt, helped on by two surprise articles in The Times in March were we discovered Rachel Johnson, editor of The Lady and Joanna Trollope are among our oatcake fans. Our shops and coffee shops are growing slowly and we continue to offer new products on an almost weekly basis. I have eventually succumbed to all the talk on cupcakes and now make a couple of specials every two days. At weekends we have extended our range of individual desserts which has grown week on week and we just recently started making our own breakfast sausages. With the better weather we are looking forward to fresh local rhubarb, strawberries and raspberries. Our bread counters have had a little lift recently with some new bread ideas, spelt and honey, corn bread and we are currently working on a new wheaten bread with Irish honey.
Through Good Food Ireland we did a showcase in the Merrion Hotel in Dublin at the launch of Colman Andrews amazing book on Irish cookery entitled 'The Country Cooking of Ireland' which I feel is a must for any serious cook interested in Irish cuisine and its history. The next big Good Food Ireland event for us will be the Hillsbrough Garden Show on 21st-23rd May where 15 members will be showcasing and selling a wonderful range of Irish foods.
My bees came through the Winter unscathed and have built up very nicely over the last month. Unfortunately the current cold and wet spell is hampering their productivity with the abundance of pollen and nectar sources available right now. I have extended my wild flower meadow which I am hoping will be a wonderful show in a month's time and planted 18 old varieties of apple trees, 2 pears and 2 plum trees in the meadow. I planted out a variety of vegetables in two of my raised beds and will start on the other two in a couple of weeks time so that I can extend my harvesting season this year. Our fantail pigeons have already produced two young which have left the nest and are flying, one of them, unfortunately into the talons of a sparrow hawk. The old pair have hatched another two eggs so another cote has been ordered to house the new generation. I feel some method of babysitting as a deterrent against the hawks while they enjoy an hour or so of freedom each day will be necessary.