Hello and welcome to The Compost Bin. I'm Compostwoman and I live with my family in rural Herefordshire. We have a polytunnel, garden, veg plot and small woodland, all managed organically, where we grow our own food, run courses in all sorts of things and share our lives with Chickens, Cats, Guinea Pigs and assorted wildlife. Oh and we make a lot of compost! We try to live a more self suffient, self reliant lifestyle here, as best we can.

To learn more about us click on the About Compostwoman tab and remember to click on the photos to make them full size!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Hungry Bin and Can O Worms sort out

@hungrybin @omlet @wiggled

I posted a couple of days ago about the HotBin sort out and I have now sorted out the various wormeries which live by the polytunnel as well. One of the reasons I got my hands so dirty yesterday :)

I first emptied out the Can o Worms wormery, bought from Wiggly Wigglers many years ago now and still going strong! I harvested three bucket fulls of lovely worm compost


I then emptied out the Hungry Bin tray and got another bucketful from that.

I don't need the compost just yet so I used  a spare CoW I got from Freecycle to store the compost in, five trays full of worm compost - that will allow it to dry out a little and I can use the worm juice in the polytunnel.  I added a top tray with the contents of the kitchen caddy so any remaining worms will move up into the top tray out of the finished compost.

Looking into the Hungry Bin this shows that worms do not eat compostable caddy bags - these obviously need to go into a compost bin for other compost creatures to munch at them. I have added a caddy at the foot of the Hungry bin so we all remember to put the bags in there.

Job done. You can see the orange rubbish bits bucket on the  far left hand side then moving to the right, the "compost storage" Can o Worms, next to it is the "working" Can o Worms wormery, next to that is the Hungry Bin wormery, then the caddy I have put down for the compost caddy bags collection, then the HotBin and the plant hardening off bench with some brassicas waiting to be planted out in the ( newly dug) veg patch. Finally the wooden bench with cold frame on top, containing various perennial plants waiting to be planted out into the new Bee attracting bed by the House.

I got a lot of work done in an afternoon. This area tends to be a bit of a dumping ground ( the outdoor equivalent of the Study of Doom!) and so it was good to sort it all out. Now this area is nice and tidy again.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Hardworking gardeners hands need...

After all the gardening and composting and woodcraft I have been doing in the last few weeks my hands are in a terrible state. Fortunately I had a surprise delivery last week in the post - addressed to The Compost Bin ( I love it when that happens!) This time there was a postcode but sometimes I have had stuff get to me with just Compostwoman and Ledbury as the address :)

The parcel rather fortuitously contained some Gardeners Hand Treats to review,  from Heathcote and Ivory.

 This is what they say on their website.


Hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature

English green-fingered gardeners, vitamin-rich vegetable patches and dependable potting sheds have inspired our own home-grown Gardeners produce of creams to nourish and protect dry hard-working hands with a blend of nutritious ingredients, specifically designed for post–gardening, using essential oils and vitamins to tend nail beds after a therapeutic day spent digging, planting and reading the newspaper at the allotment.

For a garden scent, breathe in the juicy notes of red tomatoes and red currants combined with the green freshness of basil and mint on a base of cedarwood and earthy musk.
Free from parabens & sulphates

I really like the packaging, all recycleable card and I would love wrapping paper or even a framed poster with this design on! So very pretty,


According to the website the kit contains

Shea Butter Hand Cream 50ml
Enriched with Shea Butter and Vitamin E to nourish hands and Panthenol to help strengthen nails. Blended with essential oils to leave hands feeling soft and moisturised.

Cleansing Hand Scrub 50ml
Dig deep and lift dirt from hands and nails with this cleansing and exfoliating scrub. Combining essential oils with Shea Butter, Glycerin, Vitamin E and Pro-vitamin B5 to help refine, smooth and soften hands.

Plant Markers (10 pieces) and Crayon
Weather resistant markers ideal for labelling seed trays and plant pots.

I gave the product a hard test - to tidy up my hands after a hard day gardening!

They were very grimy with ingrained dirt and plant juices ( mainly dandilion) and with some very rough skin. I used the scrub which got off the ingrained compost and soil and left my hands clean and soft and then I used the hand cream which left my hands moisturised and sweet smelling. Full marks!

I was a bit less impressed when I tried the crayon and black markers, which look very stylish but don’t work that well as the crayon wipes off the marker rather easily. A minor issue though as I don't think they are the main reason anyone would buy the kit :)

I was intending to email Heathcote and Ivory to thank them and congratulate them about the scrub and hand cream, so I decided to mention my views about the markers. I suggested maybe some wooden markers and a wrapped pencil would work better, be not fossil fuel based and could be composted after use.

I got a positive response back that day, thanking me for my comments and saying my suggestions had been passed on to the develpment team.

So, a nice gift set, and would make a very nice gift for a keen gardener but maybe buy them some other plant markers as well.

I was sent this kit to review. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

HotBin refurbishment

At the end of last year I found that my Hotbin was not working as well as before - it seemed to have stopped getting up to the 60 C zone despite my feeding it with compostables as before. I dug out the bottom compost and refilled it but it just did not seem to be working as well and would not go above 40 C any more.


I chatted to Tony Callaghan at HotBin and he suggested my Hotbin may have "stalled" - an unusual situation only experienced in bins which had been working correctly but had then stopped getting up to 60 C.

He suggested I join in a trial he was running to check out a "fix" for this very unusual situation. I was keen and so was sent a part which needed to be retrofitted to the HotBin. To do this I needed to empty out the Hotbin.


 It is quite easy to put the HotBin on its side.

Lots of compost in the bottom. Compostman dug it out for me and


I put it into buckets, waiting to be used for tomato plants.

We took out the base plate and when we looked at it, as expected the holes were clogged up and not letting water drain out or air to move up.

  The holes were plugged with a very gooey sludge like material which sat there and did not drip off.

 The base was very wet and the air mesh was blocked. This bin had definately stalled!

I gave the HotBin a good wash out

The "fix" is a length of perforated pipe, inserted through the Base plate and which sits in the corner of the Hotbin allowing more airflow through the material. Compostman made the hole and inserted the pipe.

HotBin put back togather and refilled with some compost, grass, paper and guinea pig bedding and droppings. Ambient temp was 16 C, HotBin thermometer within a hour of refill read 30C.

I also took the opportunity to have a tidy up behind the lean to and sort out the cold frames and potting area.

At the end of a hard afternoon of work it all looked much tidier.

I will update on how well the HotBin is working later in the week but it is all looking very promising so far.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

15 th April, whatever year it is, it is a bad day..

Today, 25 years ago this morning at 6.30 was the anniversary of my Mother dying. I am an Owl not a Lark but on this day I always wake early, so today I was up at 6 am and by 6.30 am was out planting, composting and growing stuff, with Cassi Cat, the feathery gang and some tea-and-marmite-toast to keep me company.

My way of coping.

Everyone else was (quite sensibly!) still asleep - but not me. I cannot sleep in on this day.

I find this date very upsetting and sad, but I cannot escape this day even if I did want to (not that I do want to IYKWIM) as it is also is the day 96 people died at Hillsborough for a still not yet established set of situations. I will just say - my heart goes out to all of those involved    - and 25 years is FAR TOO LONG to find out what really happened to your loved ones..

But obviously I personally cannot get away from this date as the media reminds me every year. Even if my own internal clock did not.

Today, (insert number of years ago here) my Mother died. I was only 26 when it first happened - now I am 51 and in a week or so will be 52. It hurts, every day. Some days more than others. Today is a bad day as it is an anniversary of her death.

Despite the difficulties this day presents -  and other various family stuff  happening as well (which seems is not going to change, sadly!) I have had as good a day as I could - helped by getting my hands very soil-y with planting and growing and nurturing. I also was helped in my distressed state by being able to spend an hour sitting in the wood, meditating, listening to the birdsong and just being. I am so blessed that I can have the luxury to do this.

I went down to the log circle mid morning  as I really felt I needed some help with how I felt and hoped for some renewal and healing. After the last few days which have been rather fraught, I needed it. I lost track of time - thought I was sitting there for maybe 10 mins? - was actually more like an hour. I think this was healing time for me and certainly I felt much calmer afterwards.

I wish those who were robbed of their loved ones at the Hillsborough disaster could find such peace. Sadly, I fear not.