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 29 September 2008

New phone

I went into Hereford on Saturday..I was meant to be being "Compostwoman" on the recycling bus in High Town BUT I got delayed by a tractor and trailer losing its load on my lane so was too late....

apart from the other stuff I needed to do, I also went into my mobile phone provider shop, to look at phones. There was much merriment on the part of the assistants (!) in the shop when they realised I had STILL got the phone I bought from them 6 years ago.................and it still worked!

I bought a newer phone because my old handset is getting a bit unreliable and I NEED a phone I can rely on, working, when I am doing Forest School stuff in the woods with children..otherwise I would NOT have bothered to change my phone!

I settled for a £29 model, it is a rugged, water resistant model, it has a camera AND it makes calls (!) and I have given my old phone to Compostman ( who had never yet had one.....)

the sales person was obviously disappointed I didn't want the "bells and whistles " phones BUT I made it clear I ONLY wanted something to make calls on, rather than something I would carry around welded to my ...................(!)

I have a good camera, an MP3 player.....Why TF would I want to pay extra to have these incorporated ( at a lower spec ) into my phone, is beyond me...............

I guess I AM a Luddite, after all..!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday 28 September 2008

Sunday sounds and views

Some photos as I wandered around my garden this morning. The sun had just managed to burn off the mist which had wreathed the trees and the Ridge in swathes of white, I had a cup of tea and had just sorted out the hens. I was musing on the rapid passing of the days at the moment.... and I spotted a fabulous cobweb, I hope you can make it out in my photo!

Also some beautiful lichen which is growing on a dead shrub...sadly I am going to have to remove the shrub but there is lots more of this growing elsewhere in the garden!

Later on I took a shot of the Guelder Rose (Viburnum Opulis and opulent it is, too!) near the pool, with the afternoon sun making it glow!

There are a lot of berries on all of the trees this year, my Mum used to say that meant it would be a hard winter, I don't know if thats right really but at least it means that the birds and animals have food to stock up on before the winter comes.

Finally , this is what it sounds like most of the time at Compost Mansions, this was taken over an hour of this Sunday morning. I started recording because I could hear the Buzzards making a flap, and then got more and more engrossed.
Notice..no cars, tractors or ANYTHING other than Buzzards, Jackdaws, Magpies, Crows, Blackbirds, Robins and various other birds.

We are blessed, I know......

Saturday 27 September 2008

Sweetie six are three!

Weeks old, that is!

The chicks are growing fast now.

This is a cockerel I am sure...It is the only chick with a patch of solid colour on its wings ( as opposed to cuckoo markings like the others) and it grabs all the food and runs away!

The chicks have just learned to scratch in the ground for food! This is some video of them scratching and generally cheeping around the orchard.

And this is my gentle hen, Goldie. She LOVES to jump up on me and perch on my arm or shoulder and croon in my ear!

Friday 26 September 2008

A frantic Friday!

I have just shifted ALL the bedroom furniture around ( except the wardrobe) and vacuumed behind /under it all...AND cleaned all the windows AND polished all the woodwork AND wiped down all the surfaces ...and had a HUGE tidy up

This was brought on by needing to bleach the mouldy patches... We have an old, solid brick walled house and in a few places, during ultra damp weather, we sometimes get a bit of mould forming, on the external wall behind big bits of furniture where there is little airflow.

Normally its only bad in the depths of winter BUT after the summer we have had, I noticed a patch on the wall....and I can smell it ( even when no one else can! Horrible smell to me) So.....I moved all the furniture and Compostman did the wiping with bleach...as he is taller!

And THEN I decided ( as you do!) to have a good old clean up of our bedroom while I was at it!

It looks MUCH better now, and smells lovely ! Compostman is slowly insulating the rooms in our house so its not a big problem any more BUT there are a couple of places on a couple of walls in rooms not yet done (probably due to some pointing needing re doing outside!) where it still happens. As he finishes the house it is getting warmer and drier so this won't hopefully be an issue any more...

I have also cleaned out all three hen houses , their feeders and drinkers, and refilled everything!

It was a lovely day here today, a fine autumn sunny day..with a hint of woodsmoke and a nip in the air once the sun set..............

Thursday 25 September 2008

How to maximise your compost production

As a result of all the problems over the contamination of manure with Aminopyralid herbicide residues this year, a lot of people have asked me how they can avoid this kind of issue and how they can maximise the amount of home made compost they can make.

Compostman and I make more than 4000 L of compost a year plus whats cooking in the bins...AND we have loads of grass clippings I can use as mulch ( mainly because I feel I have enough compost bins already )

and *I* still was buying in a few bags of "Organic" Peat Free compost, to grow seeds etc, and I guess lots of other people who make lots of compost do the same, and get manure in.

BUT after this year's problems with Aminopyralid contamination of manure, frankly, my PERSONAL instinct is now to buy NO external product at all if possible! I will make as much of my own soil improver as I can in my compost bins, using KNOWN ingredients that I KNOW are not contaminated, and for extra fertility I will buy in CERTIFIED organic chicken pellet manure....( it used to be called "Rooster" but you can get it from the Organic Gardening Catalogue)

And I will make my own potting compost from sterilised soil, sand and my own compost rather than buying in bags of growing medium (BTW...DON'T be lead awry by the words "Organic" on a bag of compost or manure or fertiliser into thinking it is certified, apparently there is no compulsion for manufacturers to certify their stuff, to be able to put "Organic" on it, unlike the situation with food, where they DO have to comply with stringent regulations. )

I will continue to use lots of cardboard/paper to cover my plot when the soil is bare, to stop loss of nutrients and to provide some organic material as it rots down...I will also carry on mulching directly with grass cuttings on fallow soil, and planting green manures WHEREVER I can to promote fertility and add humus to the soil.....

I will continue to use the comfrey and nettles I grow ( well which grow all over the place by themselves!) and add them to my compost heaps AND make fertiliser teas from them to feed my plants..(BTW Nettles are good BUT always make sure they are of known provenence!...else you might be back to importing herbicides AGAIN ! )

Grass cuttings and cardboard intermixed is VERY good...its called "Grassboarding" by CAT and if its only grass and cardboard, it makes a wonderful peat like compost....if you have a source of KNOWN UNSPRAYED grass you could mow for someone? so you could take the cuttings?

So... my advice? make lots of compost, don't buy in stuff from outside, if you do, get certified organic stuff,plant green manures, comfrey, nettles and MULCH...

I do all this already and it DOES work..but it takes a bit of time and effort...

AND be EVEN more careful about putting EVERYTHING you can compost into the compost bins, and start growing some extra plants to add bulk to it and gathering more stuff from other sources.

Conventionally ,the usual ways of maximising compost output would perhaps be getting a community compost system going in your neighbourhood, BUT it would need to be policed VERY rigorously to ensure nothing nasty went in the bin.... ( back to that pesky Aminopyralid issue again!)

and so we come back to the original issue...

How to maximise compost!

To get the ideal compost mix you will roughly need a 50:50 mix
of both "green" and "brown" material in your bin. A good place to get advice is the Home composting site from

● Fruit scraps (including citrus peel)
● Vegetable peelings
● Tea bags
● Old flowers
● Spent bedding plants
● Rhubarb leaves
● Comfrey leaves
● Nettles
● Young annual weeds (e.g. chickweed and speedwell)
● Pond algae and seaweed (in moderation)
● Coffee grounds and filter paper
● Grass cuttings
● Manure (horse, cow, pig, sheep, goat, chicken, rabbit – not too much as could become too wet)

● Tissues, paper towels and napkins (unless they have been in contact with
meat or disease)
● Tumble dryer lint (from natural fibre clothes)
● Old natural fibre clothes (e.g. woolly jumpers or cotton t-shirts
– make sure you cut them into small pieces)
● Vacuum bag contents(as long as you have natural fibre carpets)
● Garden prunings
● Toilet and kitchen roll tubes
● Woody clippings
● Dry leaves, twigs and hedge clippings
● Human and pet hair (slow to break down)
● Cotton threads/String(made from natural fibres)
● Feathers
● Wool
● Newspaper(scrunched up)
● Shredded confidential documents
● Straw and hay
● Vegetarian pet bedding
● Ashes from wood,paper, or lumpwood charcoal
● Sawdust and wood chippings
● Corn cobs and stalks
● Cereal boxes
● Corrugated cardboard packaging (scrunched up in small amounts)
● Pine needles and cones (although slow to compost don’t put too much in)
● Egg shells (but crush them first to speed up composting)
● Egg boxes

Some helpful leaflets are http://www.wrap.org.uk/downloads/EnjoyNewsletter2006.1dad7965.pdf
which is full of things you might not have thought of composting.

also the BGI factsheet on Home composting...http://www.thebiggreenidea.org/factSheets.cfm

Tuesday 23 September 2008

Harvesting the fruits of our labours

Today I picked a lot of stuff from the garden,

The Globe Artichokes are rampant!

Purple and Green beans, Pumpkins ( oh so orange and ripe!) Sweetcorn, Courgettes,

and some flowers for the house.

I LOVE this time of year!

Monday 22 September 2008

Be warned if you are thinking of getting hens.....

This is what happens to a nice bit of lawn when 2 hens are kept on it for 7 days........ this is where Babs and Goldie were kept in isolation for a week while they recovered from a cough....can you see the worn patch? We moved the fence out from it so as to show up the worn-ness better!

but on the other hand this is what the Sweetie Six and their mum get up to!

Here is a VIDEO! I have managed to work out how to do this and am very pleased with myself! I have also put on a clip of the chicks bouncing on yesterday's post!

Friday 19 September 2008

Eco club

Sorry guys I think I caused some confusion with my last post.....

I was wondering what to have for lunch! not what to do at that afternoon's Eco club!

Although all ideas are welcome, as they get the creative juices flowing and I can always be taught something new....so I shall go and look at the rainbow idea!

I have had a few comments in response to yesterday's post asking about Eco Club. If you put your cursor over "eco" or "school" at the bottom of this post you will see previous posts on Eco Club to find out more......

Sorry, but I have spent the day at a Forest School seminar, done the shopping, collected Compostgirl from school and come home to do yet more stuff...I have just sat down to get the days e-mails and I haven't got time right now to post an long piece about Eco club...so hopefully you will read back if you are interested!

It was a good session tho' lots of environmental games and the School Veg Garden plot tidied AND I have installed a Green Johanna composter to add to the 7 existing compost bins and 1 wormery at school.....

Thursday 18 September 2008

Thursday tidyup!

I got up early this morning after a relatively good night sleep. I have been sleeping quite badly for the last week, it started the night Compostman AND Compostgirl were away last wednesday, and , even tho' I am very tired by the end of the day at the moment, I am sleeping poorly.

SO it was a blessing to wake up feeling somewhat refreshed today!

I took Compostgirl to school, reminded her I would see her for the first of the new term's Eco club at home time, and then came home.

Since then I have done 2 loads of washing, cleaned out all three Hen houses completely, cleaned out and washed 2 cat litter trays, composted all the stuff the clean outs generated, checked the veg plot for various produce ( beans and courgettes are stilll going strong but the swetcorn although it looks ready, is still under ripe....)

then came in and vaccumed the kitchen and various utility rooms, tidied up in the kitchen ( so I can actually SEE the bench tops!) put away/recycled/filed all the stuff which WAS on the worktops, played with the cats, wiped down all the work surfaces, and dried a load of herbs.

oh, and watched the chick antics for a bit and admired the fine day we are having at the moment!

PHEW! am now sitting down with a cuppa while I post this update, wondering what to do for lunch , before I get my stuff ready for Eco club this afternoon.

Any ideas, anyone?

Wednesday 17 September 2008

A to Z of Homemaking

A to Z of Homemaking

I saw this at allybea's place who saw it at Lizzieshomeworld who saw it at Rural Writings who saw it at Pieces from Me, who saw it at Coffee Time At Home. Play along and put it on your blog. Let me know so I can visit you.

A ~Aprons--y/n If y, what does your fav. look like?
Yes my favourite has Mistletoe on it.

B ~ Baking--Favorite thing to bake?
Banana loaf with walnuts, Roast Chicken with all the trimmings!.

C ~ Clothes line?
Yes...and an airer up in the kitchen ceiling. I DO NOT
have a tumble dryer as well

D ~ Donuts--Have you ever made them?
No. Horrible fatty greasy things!

E ~ Everyday--One homemaking thing you do everyday?
Open all the windows, plump up the pllows,

F ~ Freezer--Do you have a separate deep freeze?
I have 2 and a half freezers and really could do with a third!

G ~ Garbage Disposer?
No. Would NEVER have one. What cannot be composted can be disposed of in other ways than using electricity to grind it up. I recycle and compost as much as possible.

H ~ Handbook--What is your favourite homemaking resource?
I do my own thing. I like a WI book of Jams and preserving also some VERY old books I got from my MiL

I ~ Ironing--Love it or Hate it? Or hate it but love the results?
Hate it with a passion. Still do it when I must, though.

J ~ Junk Drawer--y/n? Where is it?
Umm I have a basket for such stuff in every room!

K ~ Kitchen--color and decorating scheme.
Pine cupboards, yellow walls, cream Aga and white tiles with a lemon pattern on them. Done out by Compostman 2 years ago after we lived with 25 year old horrible, broken stuff for 8 further years.................

L ~ Love--what is your favorite part of homemaking?
Making Chutney, Jam, Preserves. freezing stuff..drying stuff so we can eat it in the winter....

M ~ Mop--y/n?
Yes with hot soapy water with Lavender Essential Oil in it!

N ~ Nylons, machine or hand wash?
Umm don't wear them more than a couple of times a year?

O ~ Oven--do you use the window or open the oven to check?
Look through the window, sometimes open the door. If its the Aga I have too!

P ~ Pizza--What do you put on yours?
Mmm home grown basil, cherry toms..and anchovies ( from a tin...don't be silly ! Even *I* can't grow anchovies!)

Q ~ Quiet--What do you do during the day when you get a quiet moment?
Make a cup of tea: Go and sit in our wood and listen to the trees growing and the wildlife living. Go and talk to the cats or the hens.

R ~ Recipe Card Box--y/n? What does it look like?
A folder of bits of paper ,and an internet folder full of web pages, lots of recipe books.

S ~Style of house--What style is your house?
1906 detached, originally built as 2 cottages,left to get derelict and used as a feed store, renovated and made into one house in 1980( not very well done and not done by us!) Compostman is renovating it and making it much more energy efficient and a nicer house to live in.

T ~ Tablecloths or Placemats?
Placemats and a tablecloth under !

U ~ Under the kitchen sink--organized or toxic wasteland?
Very organised, NO toxic stuff, lots of Essential Oils, Vinegar and Bicarb there tho'

V ~ Vacuum--How many times per week?
Once a week all over, some bits more often, are also swept with a broom and dustpan.

W ~ Wash--How many loads of laundry do you do per week?
2-3 loads per week. With Soapnuts....and vinegar and essential oils mostly.

X Cross off? things to do that you cross off?
I tend to make lists or I forget stuff..onset of old age I guess!

Y ~ Yard--y/n? Who does what?
I guess that means Garden? I do a fair amount of it, Compostman does the really heavy stuff. We have 3/4 acre of garden and a further 3 acres of woodland so there is a lot to do!

ZZZ's--what is your last homemaking task for the day before going to bed?
Turn stuff off, get jug of water to take up to bed, shut cats into kitchen, turn off computer etc, check lights are off. Lie and listen to the night birds (Nightingales in summer, Owls in winter.)

Sunday 14 September 2008

Honouring the harvest

Well it is Harvest Moon and today we picked the first of the apples (Tom Putt) from our orchard...

I have made a ritual of every year at this time I make new hop garlands, to adorn my beloved Green Man ..........
and to hang in the house...
but isn't that what rituals are all about? ;)

This usually coincides with the hops being harvested around us and the hops which grow in the hedge being ready for me to pick...

and the old garlands are burnt at Sahmain....

so this is what I was doing today!

I have also got some hops drying for beer!

Monday 8 September 2008

Monday catch up

Yesterday, in the brief gap between rain, Compostman lifted all the carrots ( a lot have gone rotten.... ) and I cleaned out 3 lots of hen houses, got 3 wheelbarow loads of shreddings to put down in the runs, laid a load of hay ( full of mites so no use ) down in the squelchiest bits of the hen paddock and played with the chicks and Sweetiepie.

Also gathered beans, cougettes, marrows and the last of the shallots from the garden.

We had a leg of lamb for Sunday roast, will all veg and redcurrant jelly from our garden.

One day the meat will be from there also but for now I shall just keep working on Compostman for us to have a few pigs .....

Today has been not so good....Compostman went to hospital for his pre op booking in appointment which went well and he is scheduled to have his op on Wednesday

whilst he was gone, I settled down to do lots of paperwork in the study but at 12.30 got a phone call from school to say that poor old Compostgirl had been spectacularly sick EVERYWHERE.

so toddled off to collect her and she is most poorly.....and she spent the rest of the day mainly in bed. Poor litle love she is all upset and uncomfortable and clingy.

I hope she feels better soon and DOESN'T give her bug to either Compostman or me.......


Saturday 6 September 2008

Chicks update and hens laying report.

Sweetiepie is being SUCH a good mum to the sweetie six !

I was watching her today; I gave her a little treat.....so when she found a tasty morsel, she ate a small bit then bit it into tiny tiny pieces and clucked to the chicks to come and eat the bits from her beak...

I am continually impressed at hens ..they are NOT bird brains, they are actually CLEVER ...and I delight in watching Sweetiepie and her brood...they are SO funny!

Also, for the last few days Ginger, Henny, Cathy and Attila have been laying every day..(Genghis of course has not...useless hen.....) and they have all settled down and there is no nasty pecking going on, the odd small lunge but nothing nasty...I guess this is because the new girls, Babs and Goldie, are still in isolation on the other side of the garden....

SO....I have another week to consider how to re introduce Babs and Goldie so as not to have moider and mayhem again.....

Babs and Goldie finish their course of antibiotics tomorrow BUT I will need to isolate and not eat their eggs for at least another 10 days ( and typical! they are both laying an egg each per day...which are large and tasty looking ...)
the vet said 5 days, but Organic standards say twice (OFG) or 3 times (SA) the withdrawal period must be followed...and although I am NOT organic certified, I DO stick to the SA rules and use organic feed, bedding, medicines etc ...so I will follow the egg withdrawal period recommended also...

*I* wouldn't want to eat anything with antibiotic residues in, so I certainly wouldn't want my family to, either !( seriously! I am allergic I tend to collapse and crash if given these antibiotics and would die....) I am NOT going to eat them!

So,......the easiest way to isolate Babs' and Goldie's eggs is to have them in a separate pen. THINKS I think I shall move them back into the hen padock BUT keep them in the Eglu and run, untill the others are allowed out to free range / trash the garden...and then Babs and Goldie can be let out into the hen paddock , just the two of them and Sweetiepie with the chicks..

Oh its all SO complicated!Do other folk have such a difficult time of it, or is it me?

The pouring rain and flooded ground doesn't help, either! I managed to fall flat on my face in the mud today!

A thought provoking post!

I had a very odd conversation with an energy supplier not so long ago who wanted us to switch from our current supplier ( Good Energy) and quized me as to why we had such a LARGE useage! Cheeky mare!

Well thinking about it I would say we actually have qute a SMALL electicity consumption considering what we have which needs electricity! And this got me thinking...and then the next day I read a post by one of the bloggers I admire ENORMOUSLY, Stonehead.

He had posted on a similar theme about his electrcity useage. We have similar energy consumption as Stonehead, have similar workshop/tool use and store our home grown produce in much the same way. Ok he does it on a bigger scale, but the principle is similar!

Like him, we cook our food from scratch, make home made booze from our own produce, jams , chutneys, bottle and freeze fruit and veg…we are mostly self sufficient in fruit and veg and I can’t remember the last time I bought jam or chutney! We, too have our own borehole and sewerage system.

Our total electricity LOOKS like a high consumption…..BUT, we actually consume very little which is optional ( TV, etc) nearly all our so called higher consumption is essential, to store food, cook from sctatch, preserve food, pump water, remove sewerage and treat it, run tools which help us to be more self sufficient etc!

as Stonehead so brilliantly posted on this very issue, other people don’t actually pay for a lot of the energy they consume…they don't use their own electicity to get their water piped in or their sewerage taken away ( they pay as part of their water rates, true, but not in with their electricity bill!)

They don't actually pay for all that energy/fossil fuel used to grow, harvest, transport, pack, transport, cook, pack, transport to the shop. They just travel to and from the shop to buy it…

and all they see is the cost of the small amount of electricity they use to heat up the ready meal….

( bangs head on wall…)

We effectively are the producer,transport, packer, transport, supermarket AND consumer of the food we eat, so no wonder we APPEAR to have a high energy usage!

So in reply to the twit from the power company, I would actually say more that we have a REALISTIC energy useage for our lifestyle! And that if all this is actually taken into account, our energy use MUST be quite small!

Friday 5 September 2008

Good news/ Sad news...

Well, as I promised earlier at 6 pm we went out to look at the new chicks and feed them and Sweetiepie..and the egg was still there, but she and the chicks were out in the run.

Compostgirl stroked one of the chicks ...she was amazed at how soft and tiny it was!

I think I have 4 pullets and 2 cocks (hurrah!).. ..so fingers crossed! I am working on Compostman so I can keep one of the males and the other(S) ( if a good specimen) will be sold at Hereford Market as Silver Dorkings are apparently quite desirable.

So........... the unhatched egg. I had to make a decision..do I leave it ( it might have hatched BUT if it was a dud it could have exploded showering the chicks with rotten, bacteria laden stuff..NOT GOOD!)

So I tapped it, cheeped at it and got no reply, nor had it got any sign of cracking or pipping. At that point I made a decision and removed the egg,

I thought I had seen pipping on all of them , but I mistook a lump on this egg for a pip. :-(

So.....Compostman took it off and gently cracked it open...( just in case it WAS viable) and inside was a fully formed, but sadly dead, chick. :-( Ah well, there must have been a good reason for it not to even start to break out of the egg..so we will just sigh sadly and move on...

Sorry little chick that you didn't make it. :-((

But we *DO* have six chicks and I am SO happy!

Friday news (chick and otherwise)

I KNOW there are people out there waiting to know what is happening...

so this morning we all rushed through breakfast etc and dashed out in the POURING rain, to see what had happened, and we now have SIX chicks :-))))

and one egg which has pipped but was not peeping when I listened...... :-(

so it may not hatch....but then again, it might!

It is raining really heavily here today, the ground is saturated and standing water pools are forming on the lawn.

I am in the study working on my Forest School coursework and finalising the planning and documenting for my sessions with the children this term, Compostman is blanching and freezing Purple French Beans.

I may have to go and move the chickens to less soggy ground or I may just put down more wood chippings underfoot in the run. Either way I am going to get soaked! Babs and Goldie are still on medication and are isolated, Babs is looking good now, no coughing or sneezing at all! I DO wish the two of them would go in their shelter out of the rain, though!

Also had the delightful (not!) chore this morning of re-washing a load of nearly dry stuff left in the washing basket overnight, as SOMEONE pee'd on it......

AND it WASN'T me!! ;-))

Thursday 4 September 2008

Chick update!

At 5 pm today there were 3 chicks and we had the delight of listening to a cheeping , vibrating egg! Compostgirl was entranced!

I have just come in from doing the bedtime animal rounds, grabbed a drink and come up here to update...we now have 5 chicks and 2 peeping, pipped eggs...

so fingers crossed chaps :-))))


I went out to feed the hens today and GUESS WHAT I FOUND!!!!!!!


Can you see a little face peeping out?

The two first hatched chicks with their eggshells.

Ooo where is Mum off to?
Smile for the camera, chicks!

2 other eggs clearly show "pipping" where the shell has been cracked from the inside. In fact ALL of the unhatched eggs have cracks and little holes in them!

You can see the network of blood vessels inside the discarded eggshells

It will be 20 full days this evening since I put the eggs under Sweetiepie, so it just goes to show it CAN be quicker under a hen compared with an incubator!


I am SO eggcited....I could have done without the worry of 2 other hens having a respiratory infection at this time....but Babs is much better, Goldie shows no sign of it and all the other hens seem fine...so I HOPE all will be well....

please all keep your fingers crossed that the other 5 make it out ok and all goes well with them!

Clearing out the Polytunnel, Jam making and other domestic things.

We have had a terrible crop of top fruit this year. Most of the plum trees had virtually no fruit; the one tree which ALWAYS has a good crop (the Blaisdon) the fruit was rotting on the trees before it was ripe. due to the continuous rain we had in August. Compostman managed to pick about 10 lbs of fruit, normally we pick nearer a couple of hundred!

So having picked the fruit ealier in the week, last night Compostman made some Blaisdon Red Plum jam .

It is very tasty!

As we have had such a dreadful fruit harvest this year, these jars of Jam will be a most welcome addition to the Jam and Chutney Store.

While Compostman was making jam ( note the late hour on the clock face!) I was washing and slicing in half 4 Kg of cherry tomatos, picked yesterday from the polytunnel.

I have cleared nearly all the toms out of there now, just a few left at the top of the plants to ripen. I always feel that THIS IS IT, the end of Summer and the start of Autumn.

I have HAD to clear the tunnel out because the mild damp weather has bought on an earlier(for us) start of Botrytis and other mould growth in the PT and I do NOT want the ripening stuff to go mouldy!

So...a nearly empty PT...

always makes me feel sad, somehow.....

A big thank you.......

A BIG thank you to the lovely ( and she is , I have met her in RL!) Wren who has given me not one, but 2 awards! Thank you sweetie!

the rules are :-

1. Put the logo on your blog
2. Add a link to the person who awarded you
3. Nominate at least seven other blogs
4. Add links to those blogs
5. Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs.

So I now will think of people whose blogs I like to read and nominate them!

But not just now as I have VERY IMPORTANT THINGS to do outside with the Broody Ark and Sweetiepie....no awards given for guessing what is happening!!!!!

Wednesday 3 September 2008

Picking the last of the tomatos

I picked the last of the tomatoes , because there is Botrytis in the Polytunnel and I don't want my precious crops to go mouldy! Its has been SO wet and the moulds have come a good few weeks earlier than normal. BUT its good that I got all my stuff in early , too so they were ripe early!

IF I had put in the toms in the Polytunnel at my usual time I think I would have had an absolutely crap harvest!

but instead I have got THIS sort of show!

Produce today.
Peppers 1 Kg
Tomatoes 4 Kg
Cherry Tomatoes 4 Kg
Aubergines 1 Kg
Cucumbers 2 Kg
A HUGE bunch of Oregano and Basil.
Climbing Purple beans 4 Kg
Courgettes 6 Kg

Making a temporary hen run for the poorly hens.

Babs and Goldie are in isolation, taking antibiotics and as I have said, last night they were moved into temporary quarters in the Guinea Pig run and an insulated cat carrier. That was fine for the first night but I woke up today and realised they really needed an enclosure to be out side in during the day.

SO..Compostman and I got the shorter length of fencing and made a hen run in the area in front of the Kitchen window.
The are WELL away from the other hens, and I can see them from the Kitchen window and keep an eye on them.

Babs looks and sounds a lot better and is eating happily and running around, so fingers crossed we caught the problem in time! and that the others don't get it.....

Tuesday 2 September 2008

The three books that changed my life for better (or greener)

On the INEBG forum there is currently an interesting thread asking which 3 books did the above.

Hmm 3 Books...have been thinking about this and 3 is REALLY hard !

But of all the books in my top 10...these are the formative 3..and interestingly I read them at quite a young age!

Complete Guide to Self Sufficiency
John Seymour

Read it when I was about 8 or so...my Dad and Mum had a copy and we used to refer to it A LOT on our smallholding. Nuff said I think!

Silent Spring Rachel Carson.

Read it when I was about 12 or 13? Scared the carp out of me..I could see it all happening around me and I KNEW there had to be a better way of farming/ growing food than this.

Lark Rise to Candleford. Flora Thompson

I read this when I was about 8 or 9...and I kept coming back to it over the years , wondering WHY we were no longer so connected to the land and our locality. It also contains some pretty good description of a lot of things which are quite useful Not an eco book as such, but a hugely influential one on me.

I will also add Heat ( George Monbiot) Shopped ( Joanna Blythman) Fast Food Nation (Eric Schlosser) Global Warming: The Complete Briefing (John Houghton) Not on the Label (Felicity Lawrence) The Great Food Gamble (John Humphrys)

oh and DEFINATELY Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Barbara Kingsolver) Its a brilliant book!

If i hadn't already had my life changed I would have it in my top 3 I think!

Lets make her do some work!

I have had an infested, plague rid sort of day ...have discovered
Fudge the Guinea Pig is crawling with lice ( yuck...poor thing!) which he wasn't before I opened a new supply of Hay for him when I cleaned hin out 2 days ago.........

AND the lice are all over the porch, on the floor, windows, blanket which covers his run...etc

AND Babs the new Rhode Rock is poorly and I am off to the vets with her in about 5 mins..( she is new, was bought for lots of money last week and is very sweet and I am worried about her...)

BUT I can't take her to the Vets until after I disinfect the cat carrier because that's where I stuck Fudge the GP, after his bath to get rid of the lice, whilst I disinfected his cage, the porch etc..

Have done NONE of the stuff I wanted today...zip, zilch, nada........ I PLANNED to make some chutney and dehydrate, blanch and freeze some veg ,

But I DID get to help Compostgirl make a puppet out of scrap materials...:-)

later on tonight....

Babs the Hen IS poorly..my instincts ( always good!) were right..she has a respiratory virus and she and ( as a precaution) Goldie are now isolated in a cat carrier ( insulated against the cold and the rain and with lots of straw inside) inside the Guinea Pig run..with antibiotic in their water. So no eating the eggs from THEM for 10 days!

And I am lighter by £11, and have further supplies JIC the other hens start sneezing, also.

I am NOT happy as MY hens didn't have this.....and I have only just bought in the 2 new ones.....

Ah well...is today ( in the doing stuff by the moon calender) a run compostwoman ragged with cleaning out/de lousing/spraying hens bums purple/going to the vets/cleaning up lice etc etc Day ..or what?

I TOLD you she had a purple bum!

I need Alkyhole and LOTS of it so will retire to the sofa with red wine I think!

Monday 1 September 2008

August mad doings of the Compostbin Hens

I posted a few days ago about the drop off in egg laying by all the girls..

Henny has laid fewer eggs as she went broody with a capital B in the middle of August. She was behaving very oddly and hogging both nest boxes, pecking anyone else who tried to lay.

We COULD have left her to be broody on some rubber eggs, OR put her in a Broody Run ( wire cage, no nest material, just food and water) OR given her some fertile eggs to hatch ( but Swetiepie got there first and there is no more room for a broody hen to sit...)

OR dunked her in cold water to cool her overheated bits and stop her hormones in their tracks.......

So Henny has been dunked several times in an old paddling pool of water to cool her broodyness out of her.

I dunked her the first time and got drenched for my trouble so the second time *I* held the camera and let Compostman do all the wet work

Despite all this nonsense, Henny laid 21 eggs in August.

Sweetiepie is still sitting on the eggs, still bok bok bokking mad bad and dangerous and we are now counting down ( with great excitement on all our parts) to chick hatching day ( fingers crossed!) The eggs should hatch out Thursday or Friday this week! Sweetiepie has laid 12 eggs in the 13 days before she started sitting on the fertile eggs.

Ginger as usual was the star layer, 28 eggs in August! Good girl Ginger!

Closely followed by Attila who laid 27 eggs. Well done that hen!

Cathy has laid 23 eggs and is sporting the latest fashion look...a bare purple bum ( I sprayed her with Gentian Violet to stop her bald bits being pecked....)

Genghis laid 4 normal-ish eggs and a load of useless ones. She ended up laying a ( useless soft shell) egg on the ground one day because of Henny but she usually lays a load of messes in the nest box which means I have to clean out the nest box every day...and she pecks the other's eggs if she gets a chance( grrrrr that hen is REALLY living on borrowed time now...)

The two new girls are also doing really well! Babs has laid 8 eggs out of a possible 9 and Goldie who only started laying 3 days ago, has laid an egg every day!

So...things DID pick up on the egg front

BUT the bullying and pecking continues and I am STILL having to do lots of extra work with the hens, rather than just letting them out and collecting the eggs and locking them back up at night.

The Rhode Rocks, Babs and Goldie are being terribly pecked...really bad stuff..and unsurprisingly the worst culprit is Henny, who WAS at the bottom of the pecking order before they arrived.

This is not uncommon and I knew it might happen but it is still not nice to see...my lovely, soft, best egg layer ( normally) gentle, friendly hen being an absolute horror to the two beautiful new, frendly, EXPENSIVE hens I have only just got.

Ah well..I hope the new girls will be accepted in a few more weeks...as long as I can stop them all killing each other first!