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 30 June 2008

School Fete

Last Saturday was Compostgirl's School Fete.

Now I get a weekly email from Sylvia at "The Recycle Works" purveyers of all things green and composty , which is a nice round up of the weeks goings on, special offers etc and one of the things she said a few weeks back was that

" we think it is a great idea to have compost bin speed assembly competitions if you are having a fund raising event. With only a small entry fee you could raise a lot of money in a few hours. We reckon that you can get the bins up in about 3-4 minutes at the most! If you have a good event coming up you could apply to me and tell me why you should have a compost bin for the event and if we agree to donate the first prize - you will need a stop watch!"

WELL! I was planning on taking my Master Composter's Stall along ANYWAY, so I emailed Sylvia and asked nicely and ..guess what! She gave me a Childrens Compost bin to use for the competition and as a prize!

My stall at the fete

We all had a really good time and the winner put the bin together in an amazing time of 1 minute 16 seconds and the Fete raised nearly £2000 for school funds! NOT BAD! SO THANK YOU Sylvia and all at The RecycleWorks for your generosity in giving me the prize.

There are more pictures from the Fete on The Recycle Works Blog

Saturday 28 June 2008

abnormal growth of vegetable crops caused by contamination of compost.

I am more and more concerned at the possible implications of this issue...

Community compost systems take in ANY greenstuff and compost it and then distribute it, council run sites take in stuff and compost it,
IF any of the green waste has been contaminated by this herbicide, what will happen ?

I also have had a muse about small scale composting of hay.....I don't have any stock eating hay but I DO have a Guinea Pig and he lives on hay from a local (not certified organic) farmer..so potentially this hay may be affected.... (although I have now just checked and the hay is supposed to be chemical free....)

AND many people get bales of hay for mulching allotments as well as putting under small animals or stock for bedding and food and then ...where does it all go? Why, on the compost heap!

All the bedding and poo from my Guinea pig goes in the compost bins...now I make SUCH a lot of compost that any ( possible) residues would be very well diluted...BUT suppose one only has a couple of bins and a small garden.. an input , possibly contaminated like that, even from a few domestic pets could be potentially a fair proportion of what goes in the bin...

and then if its used on the garden next year... one may get affected potatoes or tomatoes? EEK!!

I think this has the potential to be a real issue for those who grow in allotments or back gardens...even if they are not buying in manure

APART from the whole, other, BIG issue of commercial growing.......

I have also found that my Organic peat free compost is partly produced from composted green waste.... So... I am going to email the manufacturers and ask if they test for residues of this wretched herbicide......

I think this stuff should be banned ASAP..the implications are quite alarming......

Killing animals

This year we have had horrendous problems with both Rats and Squirrels eating our food crops.

Remember...we grow stuff to live on, this is our food for the next year, so this is a fairly major issue for us to deal with.

The squirrels have eaten all the pears off of our 2 pear trees and stripped two of the eight apple trees in the orchard of ALL the apples.

Added to this, the squirrels have got into the polytunnel and started eating the crops in there as well...and as well as feeding us for the summer, I sell stuff made from them as well as preserving the surplus for use over the winter.

Last year we lost ALL our sweetcorn and most of the pumpkins to squirrel damage....and the rats are eating our eggs, upsetting the hens and destroying crops before they are harvestable in the PT.....

So...the rats and squirrels HAVE to go...after a few years of "live and let live"(when they DIDN'T eat our crops) they are now a major problem.

And we HAVE to do something...

So...we have now got a live trap for the squirrels, Eradibait bait boxes for the rats everywhere and an air gun to dispatch either anything caught in the traps or which we can shoot on the fly...

and since yesterday tea time Compostman has killed 8 squirrels...thats 8 in less that 24 hours...:-0

Today at tea time we caught another squirrel. We have talked about the trapping of these vermin before, and Compostmiss wanted to go and see the newly trapped squirrel and watch it being shot. Compostman was not sure about this as he was concerned about her being distressed to see what was involved...but she DID watch..and was fine. She was sad about the need to do it, but understood WHY we needed to do it...we have had lots of talks about stuff like this...and we were proud of her that she understands the distinctions involved here.

But oh I really wish the rats and squirrels would just bugger off! ...and then we WOULDN'T have to kill them like this......we have 3 acres of wildlife woodland which we actively manage for wildlife for Gods sake..why can they not just GO AWAY and live in it......

I hate doing all this I really do.....but it HAS to be done...


Thursday 26 June 2008

And getting EVEN more worked up again....

Now the contaminated manure story has made it into The Telegraph........see title for link to it.

Calming down....

I went for a potter around the garden to calm down, got the eggs in and had a smell and admire of this rose growing in the sunshine....its too windy to take a picture of it growing outside, so I have taken a shot of one, which has been gently perfuming the lounge for the last few days....

Warnings of abnormal growth of vegetable crops throughout the country!

Have been made aware of this issue by a poster on the INEBG forum...VERY WORRYING STUFF!

From the RHS website...linky above in the title if you are interested.....

Farmyard manure contaminated with weedkiller residue is causing abnormal growth of vegetable crops throughout the country.

It is believed that the manure has been inadvertently contaminated with aminopyralid. This selective, hormone-type herbicide is used on pastures to control weeds. Manure from animals fed on treated pastures contains chemical residues sufficient to damage susceptible crops.

Gardeners buying this manure to apply to vegetable crops and gardens are coming across abnormal growth particularly on tomatoes, potatoes and legumes, although ornamental plants such as delphinium, phlox and roses may also be susceptible.

Symptoms of damage include distorted foliage, with cupping of leaves and fern-like growth. There are no remedies once damage has occurred and there is no assurance that affected produce will be safe to consume. However, as this weed killer can be grazed by livestock soon after application there is no reason to believe that children, pets, gardeners or wildlife are at risk.

Further digging around on my part seems to be showing that compost made from GRASS/HAY which has been sprayed with this stuff also seems to cause the same problems...and the advice from the manufacturers seems to be that it will need around 2 years to elapse before the compost or manure can be used to grow tomatos or potatoes WITHOUT a problem.


I shall come back to this issue when I have gone for a walk to calm down a bit, as what I would write at the moment is not fit to be published......

Wednesday 25 June 2008

Update on Ginger

Ginger is still happy and eating etc...can fly to perch on a branch 5 ft in the air...resists any attempt to grab her..and is the picture of rude health EXCEPT her tail feathers still droop a small amount BUT she is now waggling her tail again...so I guess she will be fine!

AND ( best of all...) she will come to me for food and let me pick her up again...

so she has obviously forgotten what I did/has forgiven me for it......

so she got some strawberries as a special treat today...

and Henny seems to be sitting in the nest box A LOT and making a crooning noise.....I wonder if she is going broody??

Tuesday 24 June 2008

Question about blight on the INEBG forum

A friend on the INEBG forum has posted up a question about possible signs of blight on her early spuds....

and I ( and others) have replied, suggesting possible reasons for what she is seeing...

I have said I don't think it IS blight and that I think it is Magnesium deficiency...

I have posted a reply with some hopefully helpful information on how to help with suspected mineral deficiencies! Suprise, suprise, the best way is to apply COMPOST!

Manganese and iron deficiencies are quite common! Yellow leaves (known as chlorosis) and browning are a good indicator that hese two are lacking. Hard water can cause this! ( thats my problem here.....) or planting acid loving plants in less acidic soil....

You can acidify soil or you can get sprays of manganese sulphate....but thats more for commercial growers I think!

I think this might be Magnesium deficiency as you get this kind of discolouration from that...and THAT can be caused by acid soils, sandy-textured soils or using lots of chemical fertilisers

BUT also lots of rain can wash out magnesium AND soil compaction can cause it to be less well taken up than normal...which we have certainly had the first one here...and I have a similar thing with the bottom leaves on some of my earlies....

A treatment could be to apply magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts), to the soil or as a foliar spray to remedy a lack of magnesium.

Not enough calcium causes blossom end rot in tomato and pepper fruit or bitter pit in apples. This is not a lack of the element more not enough in the right place so to get it moving increase ventilation ( inside) and regular watering helps here.

BUT ( surprise surprise.. .)Most element "lacks" can be solved by improving the quality of the soil structure with added compost.. ..and stuff like bonemeal/wood ash/Hoofmeal etc can help, also...( but not for you the bonemeal I guess!)

Seaweed adds back all the trace elements needed...so how about that??

You can get liquid seaweed in the OGC...use as a feed to water it on...also comfrey tea...

manure tea is good also?

I have picked off and burned the offending leaves on my earlies...and am watching them closely......

Monday 23 June 2008

Planting and mmmmmmmm harvesting

Today I planted out 40 sweetcorn plants and weeded the raised beds by the compost area...watered PT and the bashed up bean bed :( ....picked some broad beans, baby carrots, various herbs, new pots, first cucumbers, blueberries, strawberries and courgettes (yay!) and some salad stuff for lunch

also planted out more peppers and tomato plants...have no room left in PT so they must take their chances outside...but DID plant Melon in PT ...and it has a tiny melon on it already!

Have tomatos turning red already in the PT...... :shock:

Sunday 22 June 2008

Mother Nature in a mood!

Am inside looking out at brilliant sunshine AND a tearing gale...SW wind...it has already destroyed a number of my bean plants, taken LOTS of top fruit off the trees and is tearing leaves, small branches etc from the trees in the woods...

A lot of veg being damaged as I watch...and its wrecking a lot of herbaceous boarders, too....

Strange, a gale at this time of year..we get hot weather driven winds..( usually driven by a thundercloud!) but this is with a clear blue sky ( well , a few fluffy white clouds...)

I thought our veg plot was sheltered, well it IS...Wood on 3 sides and orchard as well..and fourth side is garden and house etc...BUT it was SO windy here it was bashing the trees around and I guess getting past their shelter...and gettting to my beans... a LOT of my HSL bean plants have copped it...

Ah well, still time ( just!) to plant some more seed...all will be well if we just have an OK autumn....

Its just one of those things you have to accept when growing stuff..

and no one had any injuries and no structural damage has been done anywhere I hope??

Saturday 21 June 2008

school fete!

I spent today at compostgirl's school fete...I did my usual "compostwoman" stall...promoting home composting to all and sundry ...

BUT this time I had been given a lovely compost bin by the splendid people from "The Recycle Works" to hold a competition with..

You had to try to "Build the Bin" as fast as possible...and the smallest time won the bin!

I had LOTS of entries and made lots of money for the school fete...and a lucky person ( for the sharp eyed amongst you...NOT compostman OR compostmiss... but only by 1 second!!!)

went away with a lovely compost bin!!

THANK YOU to the Recycle Works for giving me this lovely prize!

a GOOD way to spend the Solstice...............I think!

Friday 20 June 2008

Ginger the bashed Hen.....

The evening before yesterday Ginger struggled free when I was holding her to check her over. She landed a bit awkwardly and slightly ( it seemed!) bashed her side on the corner of an empty cardboard box.

She semed a bit stunned at the time and limped off to hide under a bush, but by bedtime was walking around ( with a bit of a limp) but with a droopy tail.

She is eating, pooing, drinking and laying normally and looks ok, apart from obviously being a bit "stiff" and slow now...her limp has nearly gone and I can't feel any problem with her ( although she is now very wary of me... ) ...BUT her tail is still droopy?

I sort of feel she has bashed her back...but I am a bit surprised her tail is still so immobile...

Thursday 19 June 2008

BT update!

Hmm..after a few more "words" on the 'phone to them...they have agreed to refund BOTH the call out charges, and what is more put the money back into our account asap...

It's GOOD to talk ( so BT said....)

Tuesday 17 June 2008

F****** BT!

We have major problems every winter with our phone...a part of the line is underground through someone else's field and when it rains our line goes wrong...this has happened for the last 10 years....

We lost our phone PRETTY WELL TOTALLY ( AND THE COMPUTER!)in Dec and BT came out in Dec and Jan...both times agreed it was NOT our equipment...and that we wouldn't be charged £99 for each visit... ( but as usual they didn't fix the fault, as that would mean them digging up the cable and replacing it....)

so guess what I have just seen on our bank statement online? £198 charge from BT...

I spent all yesterday morning trying to talk to talk to SOMEONE about this....... .

rather than doing the very important gardening/food preparation stuff I HAD planned on doing.....

BT "engineer" didn't put on the log that it wasn't our equipment at fault, even though he said both times that it WASN'T our fault so we would NOT be charged...

so we have been charged for the visit...AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

and I now must spend YET more time writing letters to try to get our money back.........

Sunday 15 June 2008

Attending "The Garden Festival" again...

I have just attended the 2nd "Garden Festival" at nearby Hellens manor in my guise as "compostwoman" - spreading the message of composting to all and sundry.

I have borrowed a display board now so can put up more information and carry it around more easily!

I had to bring all the items on the stall this time as I was setting this one up single handed, with a fellow Master Composter ( and friend) coming along to help later on during the day!

It is a LOVELY place, very old and beautiful, with THE MOST amazing gardens as well...and the Festival raises money for Hereford Waldorf School...so a good cause!

Near to where my stall was situated was a lady selling chicken houses and such like. Very beautifully made and she had some beautiful 2 week old chicks in one ark....compostgirl was entranced!

Friday 13 June 2008

Random views of the garden

Well the compost versus bought potting compost competition seems to have a winner!

The tomatos planted in my home made compost are setting fruits well ahread of the commercial peat free compost planted plants...and they look sturdier and bigger also.

We could really do with some rain here...my beans are looking a bit sad...I think I need to water this patch and then mulch the ground with grass clippings to keep in the moisture.
Some Ox Eye daisies growing by the garage..we have millions of these and they are very beautiful.

Thursday 12 June 2008

A wormery! and a BIG thank you to Craig!

I have just been to pick up something I have wanted for AGES!


and what is more , I got it from Freecycle....so it cost me nothing!

and I am very grateful to Craig, who gave it to me , as I can use it to add to all my compost demonstration stuff.

If you don't know about Freecycle...well you really SHOULD find out..Basically if you don't want stuff you offer it on an email list and someone else has it from you...and it saves good stuff going to landfill( hurrah!)and if someone offers something YOU want...you email them and if they decide to give it to you...well HURRAH!

Freecycle...go on, you KNOW it makes sense!

Tuesday 10 June 2008

Earthwatch day event

I have been doing my "compostwoman" stuff at an event in Hereford for the last couple of days...this event tied in and celebrated "Earthwatch Day"...it was a series of stalls and talks at the Kindle Centre in Hereford...spread over 3 days.

My compost stall...I think it looks good now!
Some of the other stalls, just before the event opened and the rush began!

A lady playing my compost game...( you have to decide what goes in the compostbin..)

and finally...my friend and collegue from my environmental advocacy days...Paul Mobbs giving his VERY informative and interesting "Energy without Oil" talk...he is REALLY good and his book is a very good read indeed( If you EVER have the chance to go and hear him speak....DO SO!)

Sunday 8 June 2008

Home made lunch

I just wanted to share my lunch with you...

as it had home made bread and butter with ingredients from organic sources within a 20 mile radius.

The salad leaves are home grown, the crisps are grown just down the road and cooked 10 miles away, the tomato and cucumber are grown 5 miles away and ALL is organic.

The soup ingredients were grown in our garden and the soup was made by me.

A VERY local lunch!

Thursday 5 June 2008

A chair!

My amazingly talented artist friend Tamsin came and cut some hazel from our wood a few weeks ago...and LOOK what she has done with it!

Tamsin takes commissions to make chairs.....

Wednesday 4 June 2008

Yet MORE Forest School stuff!

I have spent the MOST amazing two days doing my Forest School Leader training practical woodland sessions over the last two days!

Making a camp to work under.
The site of our "tribal camp"

Part way through constructing our shelter
Our finished camp!

We have been in Aconbury Woods demonstrating that we can show the children how to use tools safely, teach them woodcraft stuff and have been making shelters and tools and generally being assessed on our skills , safe practice and ability to show children how to do stuff.

Tuesday 3 June 2008


2-8 June is Recycle Week, which aims to highlight the benefits of recycling and what happens to the things we recycle.

It is the perfect opportunity for us to take that extra step and do 'just one more thing' to improve our own recycling habits

There is a list of "top tips" on www.recyclenow.com or call the Recycle Now Helpline on 0845 331 3131


Why not start a home compost bin if you haven’t already done so? It is a great way to recycle your vegetable and fruit peelings and ensure a blooming good display in your garden. You can also include tea bags, egg boxes and scrunched up paper as well as your garden waste, such as grass cuttings, prunings and clippings. Find out what else you can include in your home composting by visiting www.recyclenow.com.

Go on...you KNOW you want to!

Monday 2 June 2008

What is eating my spuds??

Hmm..I have lots of gaps in some of the rows of spuds.

Curiously the Verity I planted a few days before, and a few days after , are fine...
but THESE 2 rows of Verity and a row of King Edward are a bit of a mess.

I have established ( by dint of digging them up!) that the spuds which haven't grown have just failed to grow, gone rotten and are smothered with eelworm...I have replaced (in a slightly different place!) the failures with new seed potatoes, but I am a bit pessimistic that this will be ok.

Still the Onions are looking good now after all that rain!

Fingers crossed for the rest of the crops.

Sunday 1 June 2008

A day at a Spring Green Fair.

I spent all of yesterday doing my "compostwoman" stuff at the Spring Green Fair in Ledbury...it was great fun!

I took my compost stall and bins and display boards and 3 fellow Master composters came to lend a hand during the day.

The Mayor officially opened the Fair, announced by the "Bill the Bell" (the Ledbury Town Crier) with his hat, robes and bell......

and then Felicity Norman of the Herefordshire Green Party gave an opening address...Felicity is our Green parliamentary candidate for Leominster and is a tireless green campaigner on local and organic food, better public transport and slower speeds on our roads.

The Fair was organised by the Really Use-less group in Ledbury who are encouraging people to live a more sustainable, lower carbon emitting lifestyle.

Eco-friendly shopping bags were being given away ( made with recycled material) there were cake, book and plant stalls, presentations from local primary and secondary schools, some fabulous live music throughout the day, a cafe, members of the allotment group, a stand providing energy efficiency advice and, of course, our composting stall and demo bins!

It was great to be part of something so positive and inspiring...

Mmm home made butter ..mmm

I have been making butter today, here is a sample...

We all took a turn to shake the cream and Compostgirl was very interested to feel the cream go from thick runny cream, to whipped solid cream to watery buttermilk with a solid lump in the middle......

I have about a 500g pat in the fridge now and Compostgirl drank all the buttermilk!

So I can't use it to make scones after all...ah well she enjoyed it!