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 31 December 2008

Happy New Year!

A very Happy New Year to all my lovely blog friends. I hope you all have a peaceful, fruitful and happy 2009.

I am hoping for better weather so more stuff grows without blight in 2009...PLEASE Weather Gods smile on us?

Also that we have better luck health wise here at Compost Mansions, as 2008 seemed to be a particularly bad year for us with operations, incapacitations and long lasting infections...

and on a personal note PLEASE can I have some good wishes?

I will spend the next 4 weeks physically locked on to my computer finishing up my Forest School Leaders portfolio. It has to be in with my tutor by the end of Jan! I am well on the way with nearly all the dissertation parts and have lots of evidence gathered to put in from my school sessions and practical days done in April and May 2008. BUT I have to put it all together in a coherent, orderly manner according to the instructions. I had done quite a lot but December seems to have interrupted the process ;-))

Somehow I don't think you will be getting many updates on here during Jan (apart from what I have already saved and scheduled...!) and I will be resisting the temptation to wander around the Blogosphere too much.....

anyway HAPPY NEW YEAR to one and all!

Monday 29 December 2008

Leaf Mould

Autumn brings a carpet of leaves, which take a long time to compost. I have been recently making Leaf Mould (or Mold) from all the fallen leaves in our wood and garden. I used the ride on mower for some of the leaf gathering as we have SO many leaves to collect! I do, however, also gather some the traditional way, with a rake!

This pile was gathered up on 25th November.

Why do I want to make leaf mould? Why do I not just leave the leaves where they fall?
Well, I DO leave the leaves in the wood where they can compost down as nature intended, and provide a wonderful home for all manner of insects, worms and small mammals as well as a rich and varied eco system of fungi and microbes.

BUT the leaves which fall on the grass will simply exclude light and damage the grass AND I want them to make a valuable resource in an organic gardener's repertoire of tricks, a fine, brown compost-like material, which can be used in the same way as compost.

It is very easy to make leaf mould. The best method is to gather large quantities of leaves and put them into a container and leave them to rot down. A wire enclosure or a black sack (with some holes for aeration) will work fine for this. It is best to collect the leaves when they are wet as this will help them to break down quicker, if they are dry, water them a little as you place them into the container.

Please note I use compost bins simply because I have some available!

Compostman squashing down the leaves so as to get more in the bin!

All that big pile of leaves gone into 2 compost bins.

Covered over and ready to leave for a year or so. These two bins will produce a little less than 1 bin of finished leaf mould compost

Leaves will take a year or two to decompose into a usable form. To speed up this process I mix the leaves with some grass cuttings (another reason to use the ride on mower!), this gives me a much richer leaf mould in about a year , due to the leaves being chopped up a bit and the grass clippings adding heat to the composting process.

The finished leaf mould can be used in a variety of ways, it can be used as a weed-suppressing and moisture-retaining mulch, dug in, spread over a lawn, sprinkled over seeds or for making potting compost. It will improve the physical structure of the soil and make it more fertile. Leaf mould is incredibly rich and nutritious and I have found is very good for using in an onion or shallot bed.

Digging out the 2008 leaf mould to use in a shallot bed. This has the happy advantage of freeing up compost bins to make this year's leaf mould.

The finished, planted up shallot and garlic bed.

So, next time you see some leaves in the Autumn, if you don't make leaf mould, have a go! Its a free way to get some wonderful organic matter into your soil and it is another step along the path to a more self sufficient/self reliant way of life.

Sunday 28 December 2008

Meet Goldie the amazing escapologist hen!

We have recently substantially increased the amount of space the chickens have to roam around in, when they are penned in the orchard.

We basically have nearly doubled the area they had previously, by adding another length of electric fence on the end of the original one.

We have also cleared out some branches from under the Juniper tree so the chickens have somewhere to hide and dust bathe.

All this is chicken paradise, but is Goldie the amazing Rhode Rock flying hen happy? Is she heck!

She KEEPS on flying over the wire, DESPITE having had her wing feathers clipped
(so in theory she shouldn't be able to fly at all any more...)

This then causes another problem; what to do when she needs to lay an egg? She has wanders around the entrance way back into the Orchard but won't go back in and also won't let me catch her and put her back ( and if she DOES, she straightaway "flies the coop" again...

She has laid in the shrubs somewhere in the garden at least twice this week that I know of, but its rather hard to find an egg in our garden!

So...we have come up with a solution. We have contrived a nest box OUTSIDE the netting, so if she goes "over the wire" before she has laid, she has somewhere to go.

As you can see, the other hens were VERY interested!

Finally, so was Goldie....lets hope she lays in there if the need arises!

Friday 26 December 2008

A Christmas Day at Compost Mansions.

A couple of pictures from our Christmas Day!

We were going to have organic, local, ribs of beef for lunch, BUT Compostgirl lost a tooth and swallowed it on Christmas Eve (!) so wasn't up to chewing much....

so........ we switched to Plan "B" which was local organic chicken and all the trimmings........stuffing, pigs in blankets ( sausages wrapped in streaky bacon), sprouts and chestnuts, roasted spuds and parsnips, broccoli and carrots......all home grown of course!

and then sitting in front of the fire, opening and enjoying presents, and then later watching Dr Who and Wallace and Grommet.

Presents.....I had some splendid chocolate and a wonderful book from Compostman AND he is going to make me a new and splendiferous hen run to go on Cluckingham Palace so I can re jig the various pens and houses to make my darling chickens happier! I also had a DVD of "Tosca" which contains Bryn Terfel as "Scarpia" which I can watch and drool over ....

Compostgirl had things she seems very pleased with ( various books, games and and a "Dr Who" sonic screwdriver...which is driving US mad but SHE seems to love it...as she is a total "Dr Who" fan....)

Compostman had some Cd's he wanted, some edible stuff he likes and a DVD he wanted as well as a coat from me he said was what he would like.

so...modest but wanted gifts here all round, and everybody is happy!

Apart from tending to the animals in the morning and evening we did NOTHING outside except go for a walk and get some wood in for the wood burner..we did NO WORK AT ALL...! so we had a DAY OFF! This makes me realise how rare it is for us to actually have a complete day off!

It was lovely.....we drank TOO much stuff, ate TOO much stuff and watched TV when WE wanted to watch it and then in between times switched it off and played games or listened to music or just chatted or stroked the cats and chatted and generally had a lovely time....

Lovely :-)

I hope you ALL had an equally lovely time!

Wednesday 24 December 2008

A seasonal message

I want to wish all of you the very best of Seasons Greetings and I hope all my visitors to The Compost Bin have already had a good Solstice and have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy new Year.

I hope 2009 brings all of my readers a peaceful, happy and contented time.


from Compostwoman and all her family, the cats, the guinea pig and especially all the chickens at Compost Mansions.



I have a very moulting hen, her name is Ginger....poor thing! She is VERY grumpy and VERY bad tempered with all the others.

I also have some chicks who are growing out of the "teenage" plumage and getting grown up feathers...this is the droppings tray from the Eglu, can you see all the feathers?

The Sweetie Six all have names, now!

I put in a mail order of various chicken related stuff and so I finally have some different coloured leg rings - our local store only had packs of single colours and I didn't want 20 red or 20 yellow rings! but Flytes of Fancy stock a multi pack of different colours!

So..the Dorking girls are now Ruby (red leg ring), Violet (purple leg ring) Buffy(yellow leg ring) and Willow formerly-known-as-The-Smallest-Chick (pink leg ring) and yes Compostman and I DO like BtVS.... ;-))

( whispers *I* don't actually need the coloured leg rings to tell them apart, but Compostman and Compostgirl do, so .....)

The Cockerels are now Long John Silver Dorking and Rocky who has a green leg ring. I want Rocky to be called Captain Flint, but am being outvoted I fear... Here is Capt'n Flint....

I caught them being jungle fowl in a conifer today!

We are still in the process of sorting out and tidying up all the stuff in the Lean To. I have been sorting and tidying the chicken related stuff and using an old shelf unit we threw out of the house (many years ago) as a store for wild bird food and chicken related stuff. The chicken feed lives in a separate storage box from the wild bird feed btw! I am slightly worried at how much chicken related "stuff" I have accumulated, but I *DO* use it all, honest!

Let's face it, I am mad about my chickens! Besotted, utterly besotted....

Monday 22 December 2008

Yule decorating and musings.

Here are some of the decorations I have made to celebrate Yule and the 12 days of Christmas.

Here is my beloved Green Man. He lives in our dining room and is crowned with whatever is appropriate for the festival. He DID have a chaplet of home grown hops for the last month or two , but he now is resplendent with a twined Ivy wreath!

These are from a conifer in the garden, I have been cutting back the very bottom branches and used the greenery to make these decorative bunches. With some ivy and (reused) ribbon and trimmings from presents I have been given they look rather swish I think.

Well actually *I* think they look splendid! They are hanging either side of the wood burner and the scent they are giving off into the sitting room is AMAZING!

I am lucky enough to have an almost limitless supply of ivy, various conifers, pine cones, holly, weeping birch and willow for wreath base weavings etc etc , in fact I have already supplied 40 odd children with the raw materials to make wreaths like this at our December Eco club meeting.

This wreath is a base of weeping silver birch, twined with ivy and with grrenery tied in at various places with ( more ) reused or recycled bits of ribbon, fabric etc.

Life has been a bit grim here for the last few months, illness, various difficulties and a punishing amount of "stuff" which must be done has left us all feeling rather less than festive at this moment in time.

To be honest, I have only just put up the cards we have received and I have only sent 10 cards (to close family and friends) instead of the more usual 30 or more.

Part of this cut back in cards was a conscious decision to reduce the "stuff" we consumed during the festive season, as even though all our cards are made from 100% recycled card and support charities we believe in, they STILL use resources in their manufacture and in their delivery.

So, I have made more use of e cards this year AND also just not sent cards at all, preferring to email, write or telephone the people instead.

However, during the making of my simple, green, decorations I finally managed to get into the festive spirit. I have also been putting together a hamper for a good friend who has recently moved house, just some small home made gifts but again, it has got me more connected with the real meaning of this time of year.

So with real feeling I can say to all of you out there in Blogland....


and a VERY happy 2009!

Sunday 21 December 2008

Silver Grey Dorkings

To see what the Sweetie Six will look like when they grow up, follow this link back to when we went to get the fertile eggs from our friend's farm.

I have had several inquiries sbout them and so I thought I would put up some links and information.

Strictly speaking Silver Grey Dorkings should have 5 toes, and ours don't, but as I wasn't planning on showing them, that's fine by me.

A Yule present!

I posted on Friday about making seasonal gifts. Well I have been given one of my own :-)

As you know I am a follower of Rhonda Jean's blog Down to earth and also the Simple Green Frugal co-op blog which she is a part of. Her blog is inspirational, informative and so warm and well written.

The co-op blog is more of the same! Lots of wonderful authors writing about, as the name implies, being more Simple, Green and Frugal.

and *I* have been asked to join! I was frankly quite flabbergasted when Rhonda invited me to join, I wondered if she has got the wrong person by accident? But she DID mean me, and I am deeply honoured to accept the invitation.

So...if anyone new to my blog has come via Simple Green Frugal, a VERY warm welcome to you all and I hope you enjoy what you read on this, my personal blog.

Hmm, so I wonder what my first post on Simple Green Frugal should be about?

Saturday 20 December 2008


These are the gifts I was busy wrapping yesterday when the little robin flew in to the kitchen.

Some eggs, fresh yesterday and today, with a label telling our friend who laid what egg....that always brings a smile! Some home made jam and Chutney, tastes of summer in the depths of winter!

My Damson Vodka, made in Autumn 2007, the damsons left to steep for a year and them bottled. Very precious and VERY tasty! And Blackcurrent Vodka, a little younger but oh so intensely coloured! I was trying to capture the intense, purple-red colour this liquid has....

and then all wrapped up and ready to go!

Recycled card labels, recycled ribbon and raffia to tie them on and saved paper to wrap them in.

Gifts from the heart, the best sort of gift I hope!

All done with love to give to friends to share of the best we can make.

Friday 19 December 2008

A visitor in my kitchen today

While I was wrapping some presents in the lower kitchen today, I went to throw some crumbs to the hens, and the "back door" robin came and sat on a bucket by the opened back door. He/she often does this, and occasionally gets some crumbs or bits of food....

but today the silly thing decided to come INTO the house to get the crumbs...

and then got panicked and couldn't get out again..
I eventually managed to catch the poor, scared little bird in my hand, it let me gently take hold of it and release it outside again.

but not before it had blessed my kitchen floor.....
Sidney was VERY annoyed that he had missed a "lunch on the wing". I had had to throw him out pronto during the robin catching session, as he came to see what all the fuss was about and wanted to do his own brand of "helping"! so I had to unceremoniously throw him out of the kitchen while we caught the Robin and released it.

Thursday 18 December 2008

15 weeks old and beginning to cluck ( and crow!)

The Sweetie Six are 15 weeks old today!

They are a funny little bunch, full of joy and fun. They come running and flapping, almost taking off in their haste, when ever I appear in the garden!

They ALL love to sit on top of the Broody Ark.
This is The Smallest Chick

This is Long John Silver Dorking. He loves standing on one or other of his legs.

and this is Rocky.

Rocky and Attilla the Hen, who he is eying very nervously. Just wait till he grows up a bit Attilla!

Wednesday 17 December 2008

I LOVE Freecycle!

I went this week and got several lovely things from fellow Freecyclers.

A guitar and two lovely wooden bar stools!

The Guitar was advertised as a child's one but it isn't , it is a full sized acoustic one, WITH a case, and in good condition, so I am very happy ! I have a guitar again! I gave the nice man a jar of chutney as a "thank you" I like to try to offer a small something in return.

The stools were from a lovely couple on the Leominster side of Hereford, who I gave a bottle of our Apple juice to as a gift and we had a lovely natter about this and that, chutney and hens and cider and stuff...

Here is one of the stools. The very nice man sanded them both down for me so I just need to varnish or oil them again.

I DO love rescuing stuff from landfill and I love chatting to like minded people.

Like fellow Frecyclers!

Monday 15 December 2008

Not Singing in the Rain

We had a torrential downpour here on Friday night, it was very wet indeed, the rain lashed against the windows and doors of Compost Mansions, and on Saturday morning I found the garden saturated and more importantly the chicken runs awash with mud.

YUCK! Henny had laid an egg in this liquid mud and I am afraid I threw it into the wood, I really didn't fancy an egg which had been submerged for a few hours in liquid mud/poo.

Well it was not possible to leave the chickens to paddle around in this level of mud, so Compostman and I got togged up in old, warm clothes, wellies, gloves etc and went out to do battle. We first moved the hen run sideways,

dug out all the gunky mud, (see! I DO do some work! ;-) )

and then put down a lot of sand to mop up the wet mud. This also will raise the level of the ground and help it to drain a bit more, as we are on solid clay here and it does get VERY wet underfoot!

We put the Cluckingham Palace run back in place and I then added some straw at the chicken house entrance end of the run to help provide some drier stuff so the chickens dry their feet before going inside at night.

This also stops them putting their mucky feet all over their newly laid eggs and making them dirty, which means I can't sell them! The tarpaulin was also extended back over the run so most of it is now sheltered from the rain.

I also put down a "hen board"* inside the run, and cleaned out the house. The "hen board" was the back from an old garden bench which fell to bits, but it was just the right thing to put in the run to keep the hens off the mud!

It IS a good job we keep stuff here...you never know what might come in handy!

I then repeated the process with the Eglu and run, except that was not so muddy inside so I just put down some straw in the run and cleaned out the Eglu itself.

I also cleaned out all the feeders and drinkers, added another feeder in the Cluckingham Palace run so there is a choice for the lower order hens, and laid some straw /sand paths across the mud between the houses and the gate.

I am trying to avoid completely ruining the grass I walk over to get to the chicken orchard, but I fear I may need henboards* down to actually stop it happening. In the longer term I think we will have some sunken paving slabs down as a permenent path to the hens.

We emptied and moved a big compostbin, so I now have somewhere to store up the chicken poo and soiled bedding until I want to add it to the compost bins.

The Chickens, meanwhile, enjoyed a scratch aroound in the outside raised beds.

We started all this just after lunch and I finished just after this amazing sunset was gracing the sky.

The hens were very pleased to be dry footed I think! So an afternoon well spent we hope.

* well they can't be duck boards, can they?