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, which we share with Chickens, Cats, Guinea Pigs 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 work as an environmental educator, lecturer, writer and Forest School leader at Moors Wood . I am a Master Composter and have spent the last 11 years as a volunteer Community Compost adviser with Garden Organic and my local Council. I offer talks and run workshops and events where we talk about compost, veg growing, chicken keeping, cooking, preserving and sustainable living. We also make crafts and have fun.

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!


Thursday, 11 December 2008

Bottle Washer, thats me!

I have recently, finally, cleared away the huge load of empty rinsed wine and beer bottles which have been accumulating in the kitchen by the side of the sink! And what were they waiting for there, I hear you cry? Why had I not just put them straight into the recycling box?


Well they were waiting for me to have time to soak off the paper labels, wash them PROPERLY in hot soapy water, dry them and PUT THEM AWAY until I next need them for beer or wine or cider bottling.




So, I finally did! I washed up all the bottles, put them to drain, then on top of the Aga to dry, and I have a clear bench space again!


Its a good way of reusing things, after all, why buy bottles and jars for preserving and brewing, if you can reuse some you already have? These bottles will go in a box and be stored somewhere, probably in the garage loft, until we need them again.

As it was freezing outside all day yesterday I had to dry the washing over the Aga. I like doing this as I feel a bit less guilt over burning all that oil in it, if it actually does many jobs, not just being a very expensive way of heating up the house and a cooker.


My trusty hoist up washing line is handy this time of year as well!.








If we didn't have the Aga lit (as we usually only use it in cold weather or during power cuts) then I STILL hang the washing up there, it just takes a bit longer to dry. It is surprising how quickly it DOES dry just from the general warmth of the room, even if the Aga is off.

No tumble drier here, so if it is wet I either don't wash the clothes that day, or dry them like this OR in the lean to on a line, but that's not so good though if it is freezing as the washing still goes solid.

But if all else fails I just don't wash outer clothes as much in the winter! I spot clean any dirty marks and make sure we wear old outer clothes for dirty jobs! We seem not to be smelly doing this ( well no one has complained, anyway........)


These are Jerusalem Artichokes (plus a couple of potatos)which Compostman dug up from one of the raised beds earlier on ( you might remember the 2 m plus tall plants above ground!), we like them mashed or as soup. We had some the other night and very yummy they were, too. They are very easy to grow as well, just pop them in the ground in spring, harvest in late autumn, they have very pretty foliage and it makes a good windbreak as well ( no comments about "wind" please!) . A very easy veg to grow for very little effort!

14 comments:

  1. Jerusalem artichokes are one vegetable I can go off very quickly! They do make an excellent screen though, as you say.

    You must be the only person I've ever heard of who has an Aga who doesn't use it for everything all year round! I couldn't be without mine. I once did a (very complicated) sum which proved beyond all doubt that, for the jobs it does for us, all the time, it is much cheaper than having different gadgets to do individual jobs.

    Ours does water heating in the old part of the house year round and still uses 10-15 litres less oil than Aga claim it should per week.

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  2. Ours also uses less oil than Aga says, BUT still uses more than the efficient oil fired boiler which does the hot water and radiators in every room when on. The Aga in the kitchen provides background heat downstairs and only upstairs via a radiator in the bathroom ( and general space heating from downstairs), and hot water (until it is all used up, when the boiler STILL comes on)

    So, we have room doors opened or closed to take advantage of the heat from the Aga, and at the moment we are using mainly the Aga and the woodburner, with the oil boiler only there as a back up if it gets REALLY cold...

    We have the advantage that our house has 3 heating zones which are separate, so if the Aga heat hasn't made it to one zone the boiler will only heat up that zone, not the whole lot!

    We worked it out ( can't find the bit of paper at the mo or I would give you the figures...) and the Aga uses much more oil ...but when we have it on, we use it for EVERYTHING

    Kettles, toast, cooking drying etc ..

    SO our electicity bill goes down in the Winter when it is on, which always puzzles Good Energy as they expect bills to go UP

    We plan to replace the Aga with a wood burning Rayburn soon ( ish) and the oil boiler with a wood pellet one...well that is the plan

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  3. We have pretty cold weather about five months a year here in PA and I wish we had an Aga - very very expensive here in the States. I heat my side of the house with an oil furnace and the kids have a state of the art gas furnace on their side - but we are looking at a furnace that would actually be OUTSIDE and would burn everything, including horse manure! If the numbers work, we will get some more horses for boarding and then - hopefully they will bring in some cash, keep the fields down, and then heat the house!

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  4. Totally agree with your logic on bottles and jars - I just wish we had space to save things like that here. Unfortunately we don't so they just have to go into the recycling. Every time I do that though I do try to think about what I could keep it for if I had more space.

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  5. Rodeo Princess...Oooh burning horse manure! WHAT a good idea, if you have a lot of it!

    and Mrs C....yes I am lucky we have the space to store stuff, although even here we are considering getting more shed space as I need somewhere to store hen feed and bedding......its in the wood store lean to at the mo...and we need more wood storage as we are using more of our wood now.....

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  6. "We plan to replace the Aga with a wood burning Rayburn soon"

    That bought back baaaaad memories of the early 80s when I lived in a house with a wood fired Aga. More mess and continually being at its beck and call... Isn't life about making less work for oneself as one gets older? ;) (or maybe you're not planning staying where you are forever?)

    As for storing hen feed - have you thought about using wheelie bins? You can get them for about £18 and they are watertight and rodent proof, and very easy to move around if needed.

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  7. BW We have 3 acres of woodland and already supply ourselves with firewood for the woodburner so why pay for fossil fuel to run an Aga when we could heat it with our own wood?

    Carbon neutral as well, as we coppice or replant felled trees...

    and yes we plan on staying here for some considerable time...

    I think your "making life easier as you get older" comment depends on what you consider makes life easier.....

    Personally I find it feels easier to be less dependent on fossil fuels and the supply/delivery of them...and more dependent on wood we grow and harvest ourselves...but thats my view.

    Other people's views, of course, may be diifferent!

    Good idea re the wheelie bins though...might have a think about that, although aanother big shed is attractive, as I plan on getting more stock..( shhh don't tell CM!)

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  8. Are there not less labour intensive ways of using wood than an Aga that will need stoking/clearing every few hours?

    A friend of ours has just bought some trendy new wood-burning thingy that is so low maintenance it's unreal, and will burn quite green wood. I've not seen it yet and can't remember what it's called, but it sounded impressive.

    Just one word of caution - I never imagined I would be struck down with something that is permanently and unpredictably physically debilitiating. I'm really pleased that we hadn't gone so far down a high labour route that we couldn't stay here... I don't know how old you are, but it might be good to keep one's options open.

    Incidentally - how do you have a water-heating Aga and an oil-fired boiler both heating water into the same system? We were told - by 4 different people - that it wasn't possible, so the boiler does the extra heating needed from November or December to March or April (only) and the Aga provides heat and water to the old part of the house all year - if we run out of hot water, we just wait until it heats up again (usually only happens when people who require long showers come to stay... and we know who they are so we shower first to stop their little game!!!)

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  9. BW asked. "Are there not less labour intensive ways of using wood than an Aga that will need stoking/clearing every few hours?"

    Well, I wouldn't get an Aga for a start, I said a Rayburn and having seen them in action in a kitchen we were very inpressed. They didn't need that sort of attention and were most user friendly!

    BW said ."Just one word of caution - I never imagined I would be struck down with something that is permanently and unpredictably physically debilitiating. I'm really pleased that we hadn't gone so far down a high labour route that we couldn't stay here... I don't know how old you are, but it might be good to keep one's options open."

    Well, I am 47 :-0 and for the last 8 years have also been struck down with a debilitating, variable disease, which rendered me incapable of doing a lot of work at all for the first 4 or so years. So I totally sympathise with your situation!

    However, we managed to keep going here, and bring up Compostgirl ( now 8) and gradually I could do a bit more, grow more stuff again and I could do more work. its still variable but we manage just fine, thanks. AND having gone through it all, we know we can cope....

    As for keeping one's options open, WHEN we eventually come to sell this place ( as we will have to I guess, when we get too old to cope!) A largely energy, water and seweage self sufficient house is (I strongly suspect) going to be much more saleable than one dependent entirely on fossil fuels!


    BW questioned? "Incidentally - how do you have a water-heating Aga and an oil-fired boiler both heating water into the same system? We were told - by 4 different people - that it wasn't possible, so the boiler does the extra heating needed from November or December to March or April (only) and the Aga provides heat and water to the old part of the house all year - if we run out of hot water, we just wait until it heats up again (usually only happens when people who require long showers come to stay... and we know who they are so we shower first to stop their little game!!!)"

    It IS perfectly possible...we are proof!

    Compostman is a clever electronic engineer and expert DIY er...very useful to have around when we are doing all the stuff we are wanting to do!

    Basically if the "Aga" hot water in the tank has gone, the call for hot water enables the boiler heating...and hopefully next year a third water heating input will be available (Solar thermal)
    I DID tell him he should have marketed it!

    Hee hee on the " playing the shower game!" though...been there, done that!

    Hope my answers have been helpful ;-)

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  10. Dear BW,
    If you're happy with the efficiency of oil AGAs, try climbing up to the top of your chimney/flue to feel (& see) the amount of hot air going up into the sky! Lots of other boilers and ranges seem able to keep a bit more in the house.

    Using multiple heat sources for domestic hot water and central heating is fairly straightforward and can be done in a variety of off-the-shelf ways. To see lots of discussions on these, try looking on the Navitron forum at- http://www.navitron.org.uk/forum/

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  11. Navitron is where we got our solar water panel :) Haven't they moved on in 3 years?!

    I meant wood-fired Rayburn, not Aga, sorry. Having had both, I'd say that (traditional) Rayburns are better for heating/water heating, but much less good for cooking and other domestic uses. Personally I'd never put in a Rayburn.

    9 years ago, when we replaced our 30 year old anthracite pellet boiler with Aga/external oil-fired boiler, there was a lot less choice and knowledge than there is now. 3 years ago when we put up our solar panel, ditto. Interesting that there are now ways of safely supplementing Aga-heated water; if we ever rebuild the workshop and put up another solar panel, I shall certainly investigate further, thanks for the source.

    We have a septic tank and reuse all greywater, reuse/repair almsot everything, grow most of our own veg, a lot of our own fruit, and much of the protein we eat. We have 2 wood burners where we burn scrounged/collected wood - much of it from new building which would otherwise go in skips to landfill. I would never ever buy a car that did fewer than 50mpg. If I had a choice I wouldn't have a car, but there is no choice where we live.

    But, there is a limit to what I will give up, and while our Aga may be a 'luxury' in most True Green's terms, in comparison to what most people in the home counties (all counties actually!) consume, I'm not unhappy with our usage, given everything it does for us.

    Given that we have chosen not to have kids, I feel we more than do our share for the future. What annoys me (a lot) is the number of people with 2 or 3 kids round here who can't even be bothered to separate their rubbish for recycling, and who drive 15mpg 4WDs.

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  12. Hmm (Cw scratches head and has a think)

    I don't tend to separate people out into shades of greeneyness depending on their various domestic appliances ;-)

    I tend to think "to each their own" when deciding on personal green decisions. What I personally would (or would not) do is just that, personal.

    Its just we *personally* would be happier if we were using less oil to heat our house more efficiently, and save some money and be more self sufficient in our fuel supply.

    I agree with you about the high consumption 4x4s though... :-(

    Although living in such a rural area most around here on the school run are actually used on farms the rest of the day!

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  13. "I don't tend to separate people out into shades of greeneyness depending on their various domestic appliances ;-)"

    It's the purest form of marker I reckon. Shows who actually does something rather than just talks about it :) (but you do have to factor in that replacing an older appliance before the end of its useful life is less good overall than having all new lower energy ones, due to the production 'costs')

    A quick rule of thumb for working out who the baddy 4WDs are is to look at the state of cleanliness (particularly inside), and the footwear of the driver. Those who use them for 'proper' purposes rarely have time to clean them, and they'd never consider paying someone to do so for them. Those who have them as a status symbol often have them valeted inside and out every week, and generally wear very smart shoes when driving which are equally polished.

    I have honed this latter technique to perfection in many independent school car parks in the home counties of a morning. I can now spot the farmers and landowners with almost 100% success :)

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  14. Well as someone who DOES actually do something, rather than just talk about it, I have to go and do something.

    Clear out the polytunnel, actually.
    And then plant some more stuff.

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