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 and to Permaculture principles, which we share with Chickens, Cats 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 am a Master Composter and have spent more than a decade as a volunteer Community Compost adviser with Garden Organic and my local Council.
I'm a self employed Environmental Educator so I run workshops and events where I talk about compost, veg growing, chicken keeping, cooking, preserving and sustainable living. I also run crafts workshops and Forest School/outdoor play sessions in our wood.

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 28 January 2008

Hard at work.

I have been moving compost around today!

In the last few days I have (slowly) shifted 2000 l of compost out of the raised bed where it has lived for the last 6 months ( and where it grew a shed load of "Three Sisters" ie Sweetcorn, Beans and Pumpkins) and spread it on the veg patch.

I have also turned one of the compost bins
and dug out the contents to refill up the raised bed to grow 2008's "Three Sisters" crop.

oh and guess who helped to spread out the pile of compost onto the veg patch??

Sunday 27 January 2008

Clear view now!

Some pictures from tree felling today. We have LOTS of trees and some of them have grown too big and are blocking the view or starting to cause various problems, so we cut them down and use them for heating . This is GOOD as it saves us burning (fossil) fuel oil.

BUT it does mean chopping down perfectly nice trees sometimes which are just in the " wrong place"...which is a little sad for us.

BUT we DO have 3 acres of trees like it.......about 1200 trees in all...so there are plenty more for the wildlife!!

So mr cw got togged up in his chainsaw PPE took chainsaw in hand and " did the deed"...This was the view before

and this is the view after.. we now have a clear view over the fields to the Ridge in the distance

And the Hens "helped" as is usual!!

Thursday 24 January 2008


I have Snowdrops all over the garden...I LOVE Snowdrops, so delicate but so tough!

They withstand the cold weather and nod their heads so bravely in the bitter winter winds.

The ones under the Weeping Pear Tree are especially lovely this year...the earth mound in the foreground is where our beloved Monty Puss is buried..

Friday 18 January 2008


The view from our kitchen window most mornings at the moment is of a lot of birds and a LOT of squirrels. I try to adopt a "live and let live" attitude, but the squirrels are becoming more and more of a problem as each day goes by........

Their latest outrage is to eat all the bird food and destroy the feeders.

There were only 2 there today, but some days there have been 6 of them AND they are now massacring the leeks in the veg patch!

Part of me thinks their antics are entertaining BUT they are now getting TOO destructive for us to tolerate any more. Hmm I feel the purchase of a gun coming on.

Thursday 17 January 2008

Swap Shops are back!!

Well I finally have a dried out enough phone line to give me the badwidth to post some pictures!! Here is me and the Sustainable Waste Management team doing a Swap Shop in Hereford last Saturday.

We were promoting the Love Food, Hate Waste campaign, which aims to get people to reduce the amount of food waste they generate in the kitchen..by buying less food, shopping wisely, using up leftovers, composting stuff etc etc .

We also held a post Christmas Swap Shop where people could bring unwanted stuff and take way other stuff .I started off helping on the Swap Shop, handing out quiz sheets, answering questions and generally being helpful

and then I moved on to being "Compostwoman" advising people how best to compost their waste and promoting the (really good value) compost bins our council offers at a discount price.

Tuesday 15 January 2008

Auntie Plastic

I have just added a new link to my "favourite blogs" link to take you to the blog of auntieplastic.....an amazing lady from Wales who went for 3 months rejecting supermarkets and plastic packaging...

Here is an edited ( by me, because of space) extract from the first page of her blog

"On October 1st 2007 ( which is next Monday) I a mere welsh housewife, amongst other things, intends to live for 3 months ( 12 weeks to be precise) without entering a supermarket and without putting out a rubbish bin or any recycling. My carbon footprint will be minimal. How can you do this people cry. I can and I will. I have sourced my food. "

"The reason I want to do this is to show that the supermarkets are actually responsible for land fill. When strawberry growers state they have lost part of the strawberry harvest through floods and the consumer in the UK now demands strawberries every week of the year I take umbrage. I DO NOT demand or expect strawberries every week of the year. The supermarket tries to sell me them every week of the year though."

"How does the common man/woman get blamed for the huge amount of waste put into land fill and recycling ?"

"I will show hopefully that if the supermarket had not arrived neither would the land fill and recycling be the huge bind it is today."

"Follow my progress as I survive for 12 weeks, as I hope I thrive for 12 weeks. as I gain a carbon footprint that should be the aim of people throughout Wales and beyond. We cannot afford to waste, yet the supermarkets do. I am not a part of it. I am Auntie Plastic"

I first became aware of her as a result of a post on the INEBG forum...I read the whole blog through from start to finish......I am utterly amazed and impressed by what this lady has done...PLEASE go and read her blog!!

It's inspiring!!

Sunday 13 January 2008

No Phone!! NO Internet!!

Our telephone cable is underground for the last few hundred yards to our house...and EVERY winter, when it rains heavily, we get telephone/internet access problems........

This has been going on for 10 years!!!!

BT come out, look at the problem, and basically can't do anything much until the drier weather comes, the problem goes away and they say they have "fixed " it.........


I can't post the pictures of me being "compostwoman" in Hereford, because I don't have the connection time OR the bandwidth!!

BUT I will...SOON!!

Saturday 12 January 2008

More pottering in the polytunnel

Yesterday (Fri) I tidied up more in the polytunnel...aided by the 2 hens...it was pouring down here and the drive flooded...
So I enticed them into the polytunnel where they had a fun, dry few hours eating slugs and ants eggs etc....
The hens will NOT go in, even when it is like that!

I got a lot of tidying up done , too and it was VERY companionable with the hens werking and crooning at me and the guinea pigs wheeking.....
I put the trays out to be washed in the rain..why waste water when it is falling from the sky??
I also got some mint and strawberry runners packaged up to send to a friend.

Then the rain turned to snow.

Will post more later..I have to go and get warm and later on watch Jamies Fowl Dinners....

more (un)revelations about the crap way we treat animals in this world....

This was written on Fri butwas posted the next day because our ADSL line went down due to flood water..(sigh) ...one of the slight downsides to being rural..( do NOT get me started about BT!!)

Thursday 10 January 2008

Pottering in the polytunnel...

After I posted yesterday about giving the Guinea pigs a cuddle because they couldn't go out in their run, I had a 4am "smack on the head" moment...why on earth didn't I put their run in the largely empty ( at this time of year) polytunnel??

So we did.

The polytunnel needs cleaning up now, ready for the ( rapidly approaching) growing season.

So compostgirl and I had a bit of fun this afternoon, cleaning pots, putting stuff in the wheelbarrow to go on the compost heap, cutting dead stuff off plants overwintering etc etc

And then a pair of feathered helpers turned up to join in!!

Wednesday 9 January 2008

A (quite) busy day.....

Well today has been a moderately busy day here at Compost Mansions.

We all got a very nasty flu type virus the weekend before Christmas...and it lasted over 2 weeks and rather spoilt the holiday season for us. I and Mr cw are getting better at last and can do stuff again....DD is STILL all wan and wobbly and is still off school!!

But today I FINALLY went out and did some jobs which have been awaiting my attention for a week or more, I have been out in the freezing cold outside doing stuff in the garden and Polytunnel! And have sorted out the hens....their Eglu run now has a thick layer of leaf mold and bark chips over the top of the weldmesh, I cleaned the Eglu out , changed the roosting bars ( I have 2 sets so one is in the wash, so to speak)....and I dumped a wheelbarrow of bark chips from the last tree we cut down on the veg patch for the hens to spread around for me...they LOVED IT :)

I also cleaned out the Guinea Pigs hutch and gave them a cuddle..( well they can't go outside in the run as its too cold, and I felt sorry for them)

In between all this I entertained compostgirl, who is improving fast and looks much better..but is still pale and tired and wobbly...we will keep her off school until we have a day of normal eating, playing, behaviour etc...as this virus has REALLY knocked her for six!!

I had to laugh today !! When I asked mr cw why he hadn't given me a cuddle his reply was

" well you have been either dripping wet with rain and/or covered in dirt all day!"

and I realised he was right!! When I was in middle of putting more chips and leaf mold in the hen run, the heavens opened on me...I was already wet so carried on, and then one of the hens came and sat on my knee....all mucky and dirty.... still they were very happy with the new pile of stuff to furtle around in!!

So I have changed my clothes and cleaned up a bit...and am just going to watch the third instalment of HF-W "Chicken Run" on C4 , with pasta and some wine. Expect there will be something in it to make me shout at the TV ; )

Tuesday 8 January 2008

Come ON everybody...just say NO!!!

To factory farmed chickens or pigs or whatever!

3.4 million people watched the first instalment of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Chicken Out! programme last night on C4.... and all the people I have spoken to about it today are either

a) disgusted that chickens are reared in those crapmed conditions...and are going to switch to free range chicken eggs and meat or

b) already knew, eat free range/organic meat and eggs and hope more people will now do so or

c) have decided to go vegetarian as a result.

I watched Hugh...not surprised by what I saw BUT so glad he is doing this!!

I then watched "Kill it, cook it , eat it" on BBC 3 at 10.30...last night was 8 week old suckling piglets being slaughtered and cooked and eaten.

I have NO problems with the way these piglets were raised ..or the manner in which they were slaughtered..it all looked very good to me.

I did have a problem? ( not sure of what word to use here?) with them being so young...I would prefer to eat meat which has had a decent both quality AND quantity of life...

BUT I was truly revolted by the feature from Spain showing Sows in farrowing crates feeding piglets for 3 weeks , who were then taken away and slaughtered in a much less "kind" manner!! Effectively these were "veal" piglets...raised on sows milk alone and slaughtered at a very young age so as to have white meat, like veal does.

These 3 week old piglets were stunned , their throat slit and then they were thrown in a pile in a bin with all the other piglets to bleed out. It was, to my mind, cruel and disrespectful of a animal to treat it in such a manner.

I eat meat, but I want it to have had a happy life and a (as far as is possible) quick, stressless, painless death. I would NOT eat piglets reared and killed like that.

Sunday 6 January 2008

Plastic Bag RANT

I have spent ages today picking bits of plastic carrier bag out of our front hedge.....GGGGRRRHHHHH

We live MILES away from a town or village...there are NO shops nearby so WHAT are plastic carrier bags doing in our hedge???

I had to wrestle a bit out of the beaks of one of the hens!!! Imagine what THAT would have done to her insides~!!!

Well no I don't actually HAVE to...I am a member of the RSPB and have seen images of Albatross chicks dead due to being fed plastic bags by their unsuspecting parents who think the bits of plastic is food. If you watched a series of wildlife fund raising appeal programmes on BBC recently , you may well have seen the images, too. The skeletons of chicks, with where their stomachs USED to be, full of bits of plastic, which then blow out of the rotting carcasses to be eaten by some other poor unsuspecting wild bird or mammal.

Around 300 polythene bags per adult per annum is used globally. On average we use each plastic bag for approximately 12 minutes before disposing of it. It then lasts and lasts in the environment. The plastic bags last and last and a lot end up in the oceans....... Just because we can't BE BOTHERED to REMEMBER to take a shopping bag with us????

Plastic bags are NOT usually necessary...a cotton or jute bag is easy to roll up and carry with us, will do the job as well ( or better!) and when it reaches the end of its life can be composted...and in its lifetime will be used hundreds of times!!

Plastic bags are a petroleum product made from oil....an oh so precious resourse we are going to run out of sometime soon. Why on earth are we wasting a dwindling, oh so precious comodity on PLASTIC BAGS??? to carry STUFF in???? home from the shops, when we COULD be using cotton or Jute or Hemp or Canvas bags....?

When I am doing my "compostwoman " bit .............promoting discount compost bins for my local council........we give away free Jute shopping bags..and I get a real thrill to spot them when I am out and about...because I KNOW I have saved a bit of oil from being wasted as a plastic bag and a bit of plastic being used once ( or a couple of times).

So ......a PLEA....from me.

USE a recycleable or compostable bag and save wildlife and recources!! PLEASE!!!!

Saturday 5 January 2008

Rats update!

Ha HA!!! There is a 4 foot tunnel UNDER the weldmesh, but the little blighters can't get in!!!


Rats 0: compost family 1

I had posted about this on the lovely INEBG forum
and its turned into a sort of "Colditz" and "The Great Escape " discussion...with the Rats trying to get into ( rather than out of) the enclosure......

Thursday 3 January 2008

Rat proofing the Eglu.

Today we finally sorted out the problem with Rats tunneling into the Eglu (I hope)

You can see where the rats have tunnelled in under the wire skirt of the Eglu run in this picture.

We moved the Eglu sideways and dug over and raked where the Eglu currently stands....its on some of the veg patch at the moment.

We then got some weldmesh ( 1 inch square) and put it down on the ground where the Eglu and run will stand.

And put the Eglu on top....

Ta da!! A (hopefully) rat proof run!! I added a tray of nice leaf mold freshly dug out from the compost bin for the girls to scratch over when they are shut in the run first thing in the morning... and their water and feeder as well, of course.

The girls are only shut in the Eglu and run from dusk till we get up in the morning....then they are let out to roam the orchard area which has a circumference of about 50 m. So they are only in the small Eglu run for an hour of so.

I MAY put down a thick layer of leaf mold and bark chippings for them to scratch around in but I need to check that its ok for them to scratch around of top of the weldmesh as I DO NOT want them to hurt their claws by scratching over it!!

I LOVE my hens!!

Wednesday 2 January 2008

Free Range Chickens on C4 : Hugh's Chicken Run

We have 2 hens called Henny Penny and Ginger. They live in a green Eglu in the orchard, they have a 50 m circumference area to roam in when they are penned in...and the whole of the garden to free range in once they have laid their eggs
(we only do this cos Henny tends to lay where ever she is...and with 3/4 of an acre of wilderness garden it gets a bit hard to play "hunt the egg"!!!

So...they are VERY free range hens! They are bright, friendly, inquisitive and such good fun! How ANYONE can possibly think it is OK to shut hens up in very little space is beyond me and ESPECIALLY when you get to see what the NATURAL behaviour of a hen actually IS...I find it truly beyond comprehension.

BUT THAT is what the life of a battery hen is like and UNLESS YOU only ever buy free range or Organic eggs (AND make sure thats what ALL other products you eat which have got egg in) then YOU may well be eating eggs laid by hens who live in FAR FAR less than ideal conditions ( I am restraining my language deliberately here...) The same goes for the chicken meat you eat. Unless it is free range or ideally Organic....it may well have been reared in an intensive broiler unit.

More than 850 million broiler chickens are slaughtered every year in the UK. And of these hundreds of millions of chickens, most of them - more than 95% - are reared inside, produced in industrial conditions in vast, enclosed sheds. Their lives are pitiful – but at least they’re short...

Standard chickens are grown from newly hatched chick to oven-ready bird in an astonishing 39 days, that’s just over 5 weeks. (An organic chicken, which grows at a natural pace, takes more than twice as long.)

How do they do this? Poultry scientists have bred chickens which grow fast. As they grow, their living space – smaller than an A4 piece of paper for each bird – gets more and more cramped as they near the end of their short lives. With around 17 birds packed into each square metre they have barely enough space to walk, preen themselves, stretch their wings or even turn around.

Such cramped conditions and rapid growth cause severe welfare problems. Chronic lameness is common – one third of chickens have difficulty walking without pain. The stress on their hearts and lungs can cause heart failure. About 5% die or have to be culled prematurely.

A typical chicken shed holds 40,000 birds… They never set foot outside or see natural light… They feed around the clock - with as little as one hour of darkness for every 24 hour period.

It’s not nice – but it’s certainly cheap. And THAT is how supermarkets can afford to offer you two whole birds for a fiver… or sell a whole fresh British chicken for £2.

There is another way… You could rear your own hens for eggs and/or to eat......or if that's not for you...you could make sure you ONLY buy free reange ( and ideally Organic) eggs AND meat!!!

AND you should DEFINATELY watch Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall in Hugh's Chicken Run: 7th, 8th and 9th January 2008, 9pm, Channel 4 and join his Chicken Out! Campaign. Part of this new campaign will be a new TV series on Channel 4, which will help you to understand the conditions in which most table birds are reared, and to put pressure on the industry to raise its standards. Chicken Out! is being led by River Cottage locals, especially in and around Axminster, who are boycotting intensively-reared chickens and choosing free range instead. Hugh F-W needs you to do the same.

And I PROMISE you, once you have tried the taste of proper free range chicken meat you will NEVER want to eat anything else!

Tuesday 1 January 2008

New Year!!

I sort of think , on Jan 1st, that I SHOULD make some resolutions....so here goes...

I will try to be more rigorous in my "Buy nothing" campaign...sourcing second hand, charity shop or Freecycle for items if at all possible. I have done this in 2007 but I want to do it even more in 2008!!

I want to reduce the amount of seeds I buy, by saving or bartering even more.

I would LIKE to lose some weight!! (but am too fond of food and too weak willed I suspect...)

I want to make more soaps, cosmetics, wine, jam, chutney etc etc in 2008 and try to sell some of my homemade produce..( or better still barter it for things I would otherwise have to purchase with money...)

I want to improve my ( not very good) health. Some of my ill health is not under my control, I have ME/CFS and my immune system is a bit iffy, BUT I could do more to help myself ( like going to bed earlier or trying to be less stressed out by "stuff".)

Hmmm what else could I have??? Will have to have another think!!

Anyway, a very Happy New Year to anyone who drops by to read my random mutterings !