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!

Wednesday 30 April 2008

A Woodland Birthday!

This week I have been doing the first part of my Forest School Leader training. I spent three days this week doing a mixture of classroom and outdoor activities including a day in the woods at a local Forest School site. And it was my birthday during these days!

First job was to put up a shelter, using rope and knots we had learnt the day before

Then we had an "ice breaker" activity...we were given an egg and had to devise a carrier from natural materials so the egg could be thrown around without breaking. Here is ours..a piece of Wellingtonia trunk with a hollow for the egg, packed with moss, mud and then covered with bark from a Silver Birch, pegged into place with Elder pins....

And it WORKED!!

We did various craft activities, practicing safe hand tool use

and then after lunch round a large campfire, we split into groups and practiced making a small fire of our own and extinguishing it properly and safely..

Our final task was to make a stock fence out of gathered fallen wood. Here I am sharpening the stakes

and banging in the posts!

The finished fence!

It was very muddy underfoot as we have had some torrential rain around here in the last few days BUT it was really interesting, I learned a lot and had good fun as well. I have further academic and practical sessions over the next few months to come.

And then we left the wood as we had found it...

Saturday 26 April 2008

Compost magic!

Here are some pictures of my composting area. I have just mown the grass ( dodging the rainshowers- will it NEVER stop??) with my trusty push mower. More greenstuff for my bins!

The early spuds in the new raised beds are starting to show above the soil but I suspect the Artichokes have been eaten by mice or squirrels.....

I removed the wooden slats from one of the bins to see how my friends the worms and insects and microbes were getting on with composting...and see what I found! Decomposing stuff up the top and then a beautiful layer of freshly made compost all the way down to the bottom of the box.Ah, the magic of compost. Throw in stuff which is waste and get out for free a valuable resource, which you would otherwise have to pay for!

I LOVE Composting!

Thursday 24 April 2008

Tidying up in the Polytunnel

I spent today tidying up a bit and potting on some seedlings in the Polytunnel, as the rain kept on falling outside. I also tidied up the strawberry pots outside although I had to be a bit careful as I found some Newts having a swim in one of the plant pot saucers outside!

I was very careful to put them down in a safe place as we have lots of Newts ( of all three sorts) so I know where they like to hide.

I have potted on a lot of peppers and tomato plants, including some destined for the School veg garden and for sale at the School summer Fete.

The oldest tomato plants are now too big to stay in the cold frame inside the polytunnel so I have decided to chance putting them into their final pots in the open polytunnel. If there is a hard frost I shall have to cover them with fleece or something, but I hope to get a good early crop of toms!

Also am now regularly eating a selection of salads grown in the polytunnel - its really handy to have a big covered area to work in out of the rain as well!

Finally I went for a wander in the wood to look at the Bluebells..they were nodding their heads in the wind and the rain...but then the rain stopped, the wind dropped and the sun broke through the clouds...just long enough for me to take a photograph!

Tuesday 22 April 2008

Racking off the cider...

Well we did the wine a couple of weeks back..and now its time to do the same with the cider!

Except the Cider is in 25 L containers, so a certain amount of jiggery pokery was needed to get the levels correct so the syphoning actually worked...also the cider lives in the Workshop, so I had to clean and sterilise everything and then take it all out there ( making sure NOT to put the stuff down on the dirty bench!)I know I don't NEED to be this careful, after all scrumpy gets made in some pretty rough old barns, BUT I want this stuff to keep .....

Anyway we now have 5 demijohns of cider and a clean 25 L container of cider...I washed out the first one and refilled it from the second one!

And this is the stuff at the bottom of the container which we DIDN'T want to drink!!

The cider we have made is very nice, BTW and quite potent!

Saturday 19 April 2008

Master Composters Conference.

I have had a VERY long day today...I have been at the 2008 Master Composters conference at Garden Organic's Ryton HQ.

As always, it was a very inspiring day, Ryton is a wonderful place to vist and the speakers were thought provoking and stimulating.

I won't go into more detail, except to say I was in the final 3 for three awards but didn't win any...but the people who DID win have made me think about all the other, extra stuff I could do to help people compost more of their waste!

Bob Flowerdew gave us all an AMAZING talk....he was inspiring! If you ever get the chance to listen to him speak grabit with both hands, is all I can say.

Sunday 13 April 2008

Racking off the Wine!

Today compostman and I racked off the home made Damson and the Victoria wine which was started back in August last year.

We had 3 demijohns of each fruit wine which needed syphoning into clean, sterile demijohns, leaving behind all the sediment and yeasty stuff. So all the equipment was sterilised with Camden tablets made into a solution and swilled around or through everything. I DON'T want this wine to spoil at this late stage!! Here is a clean demijohn filling slowly with Damson wine. Its good, but needs a few months more to be ready to drink really.

And here is the results of this afternoon's hard work ( Hic!! well I had to test every demijohn to make sure it was not off, didn't I??)

Washing up time!

The Victoria wine is WONDERFUL!..It tastes like Port, but without being ruby red, if you see what I mean!!

Next task is to do the same to 50 litres of Cider.....!

I really love the fact that we make stuff like this, I LOVE being more self sufficient and growing and making food and drink. I feel happiest when we have lots of Jams, Chutenys, Wines, candles, soaps amd such like, all made by us. I also feel good when I see lots of compostman's home made bread and cakes, and meat from 10 miles away in the fridge, and so on.

I honestly feel that with Peak Oil either coming or having been reached we HAVE to learn to be more self sufficient and self relient ( if we can), but at the same time foster an increased sense of community so we can also share our skills and resources with our neighbours if TSHTF........

Hmmm drinking home made wine makes me philosophical, obviously!

Monday 7 April 2008

More musings on hand mowing

I feel the need to be proud of myself...I have so far NOT used any petrol mowers in the garden!!

I have now mowed the whole garden and a fair bit of the grass in the compost bin area with the hand mower and some of the grass has been mowed several times now....

Its surprisingly easy!! and I can feel happy that I am doing my waistline AND my carbon footprint some good.

Saturday 5 April 2008

Planting more spuds.....and annoying the Hens!

I have planted more rows of spuds today..another 2 rows of Verity Maincrop.

Compostman was digging over a patch today and the hens were allowed on there to "help"

BUT We have put a 50 m length of electric fence netting around the veg garden so the hens cannot get in to dig everything up...
and they were VERY miffed that they couldn't get in to flatten the potato ridges I have made HOWEVER hard they tried!!

Friday 4 April 2008

Random photos from the garden

I LOVE this time of year.
Our garden looks at its best in the late spring and early summer( although I am working on planting up more herbaceous perennials in the beds)

I wandered around in the sunshine today, listening to the birdsong, watching compostgirl on her bike in the sunshine, and took a few photos of the lovely flowers in the garden.

I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed looking at the originals!!

Thursday 3 April 2008

Further Rat doings.

More rat outrage!! I am SO cross!!

I planted a bucket full of corn to grow in the Polytunnel for making corn dollies with later on in the year...and the bluddy rats have massacred the lot...

I am very sad and despirited and am off to research alternative rat poisins and traps...

Here are some photos of rat tunnels under a compost bin

and also rat droppings, so you know what you are dealing with....

and a rat run in the grass....

Wednesday 2 April 2008

I *love* FreeCycle!!

I "bagged" a load of bulbs off a very nice couple today!! I got them off Freecycle Herefordshire..they are Crocosmia and I have loads of space to put them so it doesn't matter if they DO spread like mad!