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!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Tidying up the garden

It has been so wet and dull here recently :( I loathe days when there is no sunshine, I don't mind rain but gloom makes me gloomy.


So I decided to get outside and have a bit of a tidy up.

This bit of path is flooding so Compostman  lifted the slab and dug out a gravel filled soakaway underneath it. We also cut back all the dead plants and swept up the path.

 The lean to was in a right mess, full of all sorts of clutter. I cleaned out the double hutch and re instated Juniper the guinea pig in there for the winter as it is insulated and has a cosy cover to keep her warm. The Seramas were in there originally, but now live in the polytunnel

 I also put things away, threw things away and did a lot of recycling to make the lean to a tidy, workable space again as we do work in it out of the rain a lot.

 Much better!

 Then it was onto the chickens, I cleaned out the big girls house and put down more wood chips in the Mega Hen Pen. I also cleaned out their drinkers and feeders and topped them up with fresh food and water. I also gathered the eggs  - thank you girls :)

The Seramas live in the polytunnel now; I did have them free ranging in there in the day and shut in the Broody Arc at night but it is a bit small so I decided to move the smaller hen run and Eglu into the polytunnel so they would have a more spacious run and  the Eglu to sleep in to keep warm. Juniper also has her run in the polytunnel and so can have a run around undercover.

But first, I had to make some space!

Algy the Serama cockerel always wants to see what we are up to, he is such a friendly little chap :)

As you can see in an earlier photo the big girls are laying well but the littlees had not provided any eggs for a few days and here is why!

Someone has been creeping into this tangle of old plant to lay :)

Much tidier and now the Seramas not only have a warmer house to sleep in but a much bigger run.

I felt much happier after doing all this work :)

Monday, 17 November 2014

Plant Me Now creative blogger challenge.

Back in October I was contacted  by Plant Me Now - one of the UK’s leading plant and gardening suppliers -  to join in an invitation only, creative blogger challenge. The challenge was to design a virtual concept for a mixed summer hanging basket, creating a blog post to talk about my flower and colour choices and how I would plant it up in a 30 cm rattan hanging basket.

I must admit I was taken with the idea, not least because, after the pleasure I took from the patio pots I planted up this year, I actually do want to have some hanging baskets around. It also sounded like a bit of  fun, so I told the nice man at Plant Me Now I would have a go:)

I started off looking for plants on line as well as searching through a lot of books. I wanted to make my hanging basket both beautiful to look at AND very attractive to butterflies, bees and other insects. I wanted strong colours of pink and purple, with trailing foliage. I also wanted some scent!  So not much to ask for :)

Normally I would have a good idea which plants I wanted to use because I would have some to look at, but as it is Nov and this is a virtual hanging basket I have to use my imagination. I had a good look at various websites selling plants and seeds and I also had a look at various hanging basket displays on line to get a feel for what could be achieved. I printed off some images of  plants and then tore them into strips to play around with the arrangement.

At times like this I wish I had a super duper graphic design package on my computer! But my torn up strips did give me a feel for the layout I was after.

Next I drew my design on paper and coloured it in so I had a rough idea what it would look like.

I normally plant up containers by eye, judging how many plants to put in from experience of their growing habit but for this I am going to put in a few more "virtual plants" that I would normally - when I make the basket up for real I can always trim them back or even remove one or two later if the hanging basket looks too crowded.

I have gone for a mauve and a pink  Trailing Verbena



 and Nasturtiums in jewel shades of pinks and gold flowers as contrast, this is Summer Carousel

along with trailing Nepeta Hederacea as an added foliage backdrop to set off the rich colours of the flowers. The leaves are scented so I am really pleased to have both colour, scent and movement in my basket.

   Nepeta Hederacea

I have a Fuchsia as a fantastic centre piece, which has an unusual deep burgundy corolla and deep pink sepals.

I also am deliberating about adding in another trailing fuchsia (Buds of May)  in different shades of mauve and pink. I love these colours and as it will be hanging in *my* patio I can please myself, but I am finding it difficult to decide if the planting will be too crowded if I have three fuchsias in the middle  :) In the end I decided to have several as I can always take them out if they are too crowded.

All of these flowers are rated highly as bee/butterfly/insect attracting flowers so I am hoping my hanging basket will be humming with activity next summer.

Next I have to think about how to plant up my hanging basket. It is easier to plant them if you place the basket in a bucket to keep it steady. The rattan basket I have to use is already lined to provide a water reservoir so I will  line the bottom of the basket with a circle cut from an old wool jumper to retain more moisture. I will then half fill it up with peat free growing medium and some of my worm compost.

I will plant the centre fuchsia first, and then arrange the other plants a pattern, filling the basket after to near the rim with my growing medium/work cast mix.

I will then carefully hang the basket on a securely fixed wall mounted bracket which was designed to take the weight of a hanging basket - they can be heavy when the soil is moist!

The basket will then be given a very good drink of water and I will make sure I water it regularly. One tip to save water - have other pots or troughs underneath to use the water which drips out from the bottom of the basket so it does not go to waste.

It is also important to feed a hanging basket regularly - I will use my home made worm and comfrey tea  and add it to the watering can as a regular liquid feed. It is also important to regularly deadhead plants to prolong the flowering season - making sure all the dead flowers and foliage go into the compost, of course!

I am looking forward to being able to make my design a reality in 2015. Plant Me Now will shortlist two of the designs,  which their Facebook fans will then vote on to decide on their favourite to go into production for Summer 2015. I will let you know how my design gets on :)

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Silver jewelry making workshop Day 2

Up bright and early Sun morning ready to drive over to blue-ginger gallery in Cradley for day two of my silver jewelry making workshop with the lovely and talented Hannah Willow.

We all met up and had a chat before settling down to a busy day.

Betty Bear came along to help me

Hannah showing us the finished silver items :)

Mine :) Need polishing to make them shiny :)

But first they needed cleaning up with a wire brush to get rid of all the scale from the kiln. Betty helped me. I have no nails left after doing this!

My bear :)

Playing around with ideas

At the end of the weekend this is what I made :)

I had a wonderful weekend and I am so surprised I could make such lovely things :) Hannah is an amazing tutor and very inspiring :)

Me, modelling my bear and earrings :)

Monday, 10 November 2014

Hannah Willow Silver Workshop Day 1

So on Saturday I set off through the rain to drive over to blue-ginger gallery in Cradley to attend the first of a two day silver jewelry making workshop with the lovely and talented Hannah Willow.

I spent Fri evening musing and sketching and thinking about what I wanted to make.

Then arrived at blue ginger on Sat morning to meet up with the rest of the group

After introductions and hot drinks, we settled down and got to work. First we made models of our designs from polymer clay, to serve as the pattern for a mould.

I wanted to make a bear necklace

Finished bear model :)

Making the moulds out of silicone

We then used silver clay, rolled thin and pressed into the mould, to make our designs for real. Very nerve wracking because the silver clay dries out really fast! Once it was dry and solid I then cleaned it up and added detail, holes etc.

By the end of day 1 I had made several pendants and earring "dangles", eaten some delicious food, had had a wonderful day and made new friends :) Hannah took away the things we had made, to fire in her kiln, ready for the second day of work.

Friday, 7 November 2014

A very wet day.

It is still raining here. Continuous, relentless water falling from a dull grey sky. Not a day to be outside, apart from essential stuff.

So, I cleared the ironing mountain (!) and then made a start on the mending pile. I have dropped 4 dress sizes since June, so this was much needed work :) I have a load of clothes which are now too large for me so I am taking in as many as I can to save some money by not buying new clothes. Most of these will only be worn in the garden although some are good stuff - some of the more difficult/expensive/favourite items I will take to the seamstress in Ledbury to be taken in for me.

I am all set up in the corner of the sitting room, the fire is lit, I have music or Radio 4 or TV to entertain me if I wish and a mug of tea.

I also got lots of old clothes cut up for rags, quilting and buttons. As they are all natural fabrics the remains will either be composted or used to make char cloth for fire lighting in the wood.

After a lengthy session with needle and thread I have 8 pairs of trousers taken in at the waist, legs taken in up the seam and some shortened as well (I have not lost height, but I had not got around to shortening them!) That will save me some money not having to buy new trousers :) I also have three shirts which have been taken in at the sides and bust and three favourite t shirts which have had the same treatment.

And it finally stopped raining late afternoon and the sun came out, so I went and picked the last of the Cosmos from the cutting garden to add some colour to the house :)

All in all a good and busy day  :)