Hello and welcome to The Compost Bin. I'm Compostwoman and I live with my family in rural Herefordshire. We have nearly four acres of garden and woodland, all managed organically, which we share with Chickens, Cats, Guinea Pigs and assorted wildlife. We also grow a lot of our own food, run courses in all sorts of things and make a lot of compost!

I work as an environmental educator, writer and Forest School leader at Moors Wood and I also volunteer as a Master Composter and hens@home mentor with Garden Organic. We try to live a more self sufficient lifestyle here, as best we can, while still having a comfortable life and lots of fun.

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

Monday, 8 September 2014

The Harcombe Diet and how it has helped me.

Following from my visit to Sue at Our New life in the Country, she published a blog post about my visit, where she mentioned my recent weight loss as a result of following The Harcombe Diet (THD).

At the end of June this year you may recall I had a major health scare involving a stay in hospital. I got a sceptic arm, due to an infected insect bite, and my BP also went sky high (220/140) as a result. I was rushed into hospital; a few days on an iv antibiotic drip helped the sceptaemia and I was also put on medication to try to get the very high BP figure down as it was in the stroke or heart attack range.

As part of the admission process I was asked my vital statistics - height, weight etc. I then got a friendly but very serious talk from a consultant about how much my weight was affecting my health - all stuff I knew but had chosen to go "la la" and cover my ears about in the past.

This time, I took note. I was very ill and very frightened and I was in an acute admissions ward where there were some seriously unwell people around me, some much younger than me. I spent a lot of the first night awake, in pain and thinking very hard thoughts. During my second night in hospital  I had to listen to a crash team working for many hours on the lady next door - it was not pleasant and I had even more reason to have a good hard think about my life and the way I was treating myself.

I was discharged from hospital and spent a week in bed at home, recovering and being looked after by Compostman and Compostgirl. I was really very unwell and I had lots of time to really think about my life, rather than rush around working and being too busy not thinking. My BP had been ok before the insect bite but was not dropping back to pre bite levels. The BP medication was making me feel even worse and I did not want to take it forever, which is what I was being told I would have to do.

I was very unhappy with how fat I had allowed myself to become and the impact it was beginning to have on daily life (and those around me). I was also very concerned that I might not be around those I loved much longer, if I did not do something about it.

I had a copy of The Harcombe Diet book by my bed and had read it and thought it made sense and had actually tried it in autumn 2012 - I lost a few pounds but found it hard to do in real life (I obviously did not want to do it enough!) This time it was summer, I had unlimited organic salad growing in the garden and polytunnel and a lot more motivation (I did not want to die of a stroke or heart attack in the next few months!)

I had not had any alcohol since the day I was admitted to hospital and so I did not start drinking again  as I was aware my alcohol consumption was a bit high (red wine lover here!). My diet was on the face of it very good - wholemeal home made bread and wholemeal pasta, organic meat, dairy and veg (lots of the veg home grown) but looking back my food was very heavily carbohydrate laden, especially wheat (even though it was organic and wholemeal!)

As you may remember I have CFS so although I had lots of symptoms of Candida and Food Intolerance, I thought they were just the CFS symptoms, and although I did not eat many sweet things my savoury choices were still carbohydrate laden. I think my food choices were probably making me feel worse.

After two weeks of illness and bed rest/light duties, where I did not eat as much or drink any alcohol but also did very little activity,  I got on my scales and I had lost 16 lbs !! I thought "ok this is good" but I knew I needed to lose a lot more weight to get my health back on track. And I had been very ill so had not had much appetite etc.

So, I decided to do things properly. I signed up for The Harcombe Diet 30 day Blitz package and got started on Phase 1 that day - I was going to sort myself out this time!

As per the Phase 1 instructions I cut out

all caffeine and alcohol;
all dairy apart from Natural Live Yoghurt;
all grains, seeds, nuts and pulses apart from 50g of  brown rice/oats per day;
all fruit (apart from tomatoes and olives).
I could eat unlimited eggs/meat and have olive oil and butter and any other veg apart from potatoes.

Even cutting out bread etc I did not feel hungry at any point and I piled my plate high with beautiful salads and cold meats; fish and green beans and roasted vegetables; roast chicken, roast parsnips and four different garden veg.

Despite not feeling hungry I did feel pretty dreadful for the first few days without caffeine and wheat - at one point I could have killed for some toast, butter and marmite (my comfort food of choice) but I figured that, as I still felt dreadful anyway due to recovering from illness, I would just keep on and stick to what the book said. And then...I started to feel livelier, more clear headed, less achy and sluggish and my sleep was deep and refreshing. Each day, I felt a little better.

Since than I have stayed on THD doing the 30 Day Blitz. I got to Day 30 and just carried on from the start again. At the start of September I moved to Phase 2 where the rule becomes "eat a fat meal or a carb

I have only strayed once, when I had lots of some red wine and a couple of squares of dark chocolate when I went to see Sue and her LH for the first time in two years - my choice, they didn't press me to eat it but I took some and really enjoyed it but then have not had any more since

I can honestly say I have not felt this good for years. I have lost 4 stone  in weight since 28 June 2014 and I have dropped 2, nearly 3 dress sizes. That is 4 stone in 9 weeks!

I can wear clothes I put away years ago as "too small" . I sleep well and wake up raring to go, keeping active all day until I go to bed, to sleep soundly. My BP is still a bit high but now is within the bounds of normal and I have stopped taking the medication.

Friends have commented on how good I look, how clear my skin is, how bright my eyes are etc etc. I used to bite my nails and they looked terrible, I stopped doing that when in hospital and in two months they have grown so strong and long I have had to cut them a number of times to keep them at finger tip length! And I have started varnishing them for the first time ever :)

I have a lot more weight to lose (another four stone would get me back to a natural weight for me, that I know I am comfortable at) but I now know if I carry on doing what I have been doing the weight WILL come off.

July 2013.  photo Sue by from Our New Life in the Country

Me snd a friend July 2014

Aug 2014.  photo Sue by from Our New Life in the Country 
My clothes are much loser than before, this is the same t shirt make as the July photo above, but a  size smaller and now quite loose and flappy!

I honestly think THD has maybe saved my life

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Tour of Wales Day 4 - up and around and home through the rain

Up and was greeted by Suki, Ginger, Sue and LH with tea and breakfast - a very good breakfast I might add! LH had to go and do some work but Sue showed me around their place which was a bit of an odd experience, as I knew it quite well from her blog, but also didn't know it at all as it was my first real life visit.

loved this poster in the kitchen area

Apparently I demanded a tour so off we set to have a look around.

Fabulous polytunnel area in construction

Amazing views wherever I turned to look

  This is Chicken World


lots of lovely hens and a very kindly cockrel there :)

Sue in her shed. I have serious shed envy!

The Oak tree planks, seasoning

So much hard work and planning is going into their home and it is great to see it all coming together after reading about it on their blog :) I was so impressed by what they are achieving :)

I had a great time with Sue and her LH but I finally set off at lunchtime to head for home. I had wanted to see John Grey from Going Gently on my way back home but when I telephoned him he was just going out the door to lunch with family, so it was not to be. Shame but maybe next time I am in the area John!

A selfie of me just before I set off from Sue's house. I look very relaxed and happy :)

Unfortunately the weather on Bank Holiday Monday was appalling and my journey home was very wet and miserable. I had hoped to to stop off and look around Llangollen but it was really misty and wet so I decided I would just drive home. It took me five hours to get home and it was a horrible journey

It felt good to be back home, although I really really did enjoy my adventure :)

Sue blogged about my visit here

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Tour of Wales Day 3 - Dyfi Ospreys, blog friends and familiar places

After a good night sleep and another excellent breakfast provided by The Ship Inn, I paid my bill, said goodbye and was on my way for a very exciting (and long) day. My family are from around St David's/Carmarthen so I know the area well and couldn't wait to re visit some familiar places.

First stop, The Sea! Abereiddi beach where I had a walk up the cliff path and also a potter on the (black from the local slate) sand. Wonderful.

I love picking up beautiful shaped stones and fossils.

There were very few people on the beach early on a Sunday morning.

Then back in the car and on to park and then walk to Pentre Ifan Burial Chamber. Amazing views out to sea from the footpath.

Some very pretty Welsh Mountain ponies were in the adjoining field

Then back in the car again and onwards past Castell Henllys Iron Age Hill fort, where I stopped and wandered up to the Sacred Spring for some quiet reflection. I then went down to the shop and bought some coffee, some celtic silver earings and a celtic pattern throw (in the sale and incredibly cheap!)

I stopped at Newport, where I watched the ferries come and go. I spent some time with family to say hello and visited some graves of relations to pay my respects.  I then headed up towards North Wales, through spectacular scenery to my next destination

Dyfi Osprey Project! I have been following the adventures of the Dyfi Ospreys for several years; they have a brilliant set up with live camera feeds observing the nest platform and now have a terrific observatory. I have been dying to see the place for ages.

After buying my ticket, I started the short walk across the marshes to the 360 observatory

Fabulous views from the upper floor

The Osprey nest platform through the lenses  in the observatory

I got to see (in real life, not via the live streaming camera!) Monty the male Osprey and his young ones Deri and Gwynant. The mother bird, had already migrated a week earlier.

Inside the Observatory there was an amazing full sized wooden model of an Osprey hanging from the ceiling - see how large they are!

Finally I had to leave ( it was closing time and they had to throw me out!) and walked back across the marshes to my car. Amazing views everywhere.

I then set off even further north, to my final destination, nearly to the very top of Wales.

The welcoming smiles of Sue and her Lovely Hubby, from the blog Our New Life in the Country. 

I had a lovely evening - met the dogs Suki and Rosy and Charley

and Ginger the cat.

Sue and LH were both so welcoming and after a lovely meal and lots of wine and lots of chat (we stayed up very late!) I was shown a beautiful guest bedroom and fell fast asleep.

Another really wonderful day :)

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Tour of Wales Day 2

 Up early and after a shower and a very good cooked breakfast I was off out into the sunshine.

Solva harbour is very pretty and I had a wander around and looked in some of the shops. I then got in the car and headed along the coast to St David's as I wanted to look around the Cathedral.

I really enjoyed my visit to the Cathedral and also to the Art  Gallery there. After some lunch in St David's I set off to Solva Woollen Mill driving along the coast road and then turning inland a few miles.


Such a very pretty setting :)


Solva is a working Woolen Mill and has been weaving beautiful cloth for over 100 years.

Then it was time for Jackie Morris and Karin from Celestine and the Hare to weave their magic with wool and needle and paint and brush.

Jackie planned to paint and Karin was going to needlefelt a bear,  like her Mary and Emily bears. The norty weasels and other small felt creatures were also going to make an appearance at some point.


After a chat and some coffee Jackie took a few of us outside and we were privileged to hear her read to us a new story she has written. Not yet published and utterly magical to listen to her re tell it.

I then spent a little while looking around the Mill.

The Mill also has two lovely cats :) here is one of them.

Fabulous views and such a beautiful day :)

Back inside I met a new friend ( hello Diane) and we chatted and drank more coffee. Someone came with books for Jackie to sign and she had the most beautiful black cat with her, on a lead. This gorgeous cat liked Jackie. Very much indeed. You can tell Jackie loves cats as well. Her cats have their own blog and calender and books written about them :)

If you are familiar with Karen's work you will know there are norty weasels who create mayhem in her studio, usually with lots of chocolate stealing involved.  The weasles were lurking around the gallery and yes, causing mayhem, especially later 0n near the chocolate.

Jackie and Karin, working. Cake was involved!

At the end of the afternoon Karin had made a beautiful bear and Jackie had painted a beautiful bear. I had drunk excellent coffee, chatted to friends old and new and bought lots of lovely things, including some books to add to my Jackie Morris collection, all signed by Jackie. I also had some lovely memories of a great afternoon spent in the company of two very lovely and very talented artists, one with fibre and animation, the other with words and paint and camera. I also got to cuddle Tiger, Emily and Mary and have my photo taken with Mary

Solva Woollen Mill is hosting the launch of Jackie's new book in September and I hope to be able to go to that event as well.