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, writer and Forest School leader at Moors Wood . I am a Master Composter and spent 10 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, 31 July 2008
It was their fault! they fell asleep on my lap , purring, and I couldn't turf them off, now could I? and their purring is soooooo sleep inducing.....
While on the subject of pleasant things, a forum of which I am a member has a thread where you list 5 good things about your day. Occasionally I find it hard to think of ANY good things about my day (!) but this thread ALWAYS makes me realise I actually have many things to list and be happy about!
1 Tabitha and Tom snoozing on my lap while I had a nap, getting friendly enough to do that
2 The nap was much needed, I was feeling unwell and needed a rest
3 Compostmiss has been being rather badly behaved and we have had to take some action over her behaviour which was sad BUT today she was nicer to us.
4 Compostman has got a new piece of AV equipment which is better than the several items it replaces...and they can go on Freecycle or Ebay
5 I have harvested lots of cherry tomatos today, and the blighted spuds seem to be ok when Compostman dug some up.
I also had to clean out Fudge the Guinea Pig and check him over too....and he too was ok.
Having done THAT it was time for tidying up around the polytunnel.
The back of the polytunnel, where I do my potting on in the summer...it needed a tidy up!
The garlic drying inside the polytunnel it has been very poor this year, sadly. The Sweetcorn plants went outside into a raised bed to join the plants which have been out there for a month (ooops)
The Aubergines , yum more for supper I think!
My Sweetheart melons, aren't they doing well!
These are Red Cherry, a variety I have not grown before. The organic seed was a free gift from "Organic Gardening Magazine" earlier in the year.
Cucumber plants , producing well at this time of the year!
Peppers growing fast
Oh and the hens laid 4 eggs today but I have not yet picked the produce....
I had a snooze instead.
Wednesday, 30 July 2008
Eggs 3 (come on girls, get on with it!)
Produce None picked as it has continues to rain and I have hurt my right shoulder quite badly somehow, so I am working one handed. The dull weather has slowed the ripening of stuff in the polytunnel anyway ( fortunately for me!)
However the rest of the spuds have succummed to blight so Compostman has been lifting the spuds we de haulmed 2 weeks ago
and chopping the tops off all the rest...
Ho hum so I guess i'm not going to be reporting a big potato harvest then....
Hens...a photo of the different eggs they lay!
From left to right Henny, Ginger, Attila Hen (Maran)
From left to right Attila Hen (Maran), Wednesday (Maran), Thursday (ex battery hen)
Attila and Wednesday are sisters from the same clutch of eggs but lay different colour and shaped eggs?
I wonder why?
Tuesday, 29 July 2008
everything else...dunno ....
as it tipped it down here all day
and we largely stayed indoors doing "indoor" jobs...and watching "The Simpson's Movie" on DVD and playing with the new kittens...
apart from sorting out the hens, who ran around in the rain pretending to be ducks....
"ooo look what we have found, a basket of clothes to lie in!"
"I'll just give you a wash dear"
"Quick, act cute, they have a camera!"
"Ha ha it worked! They are going to feed us now!"
I de flea'd them yesterday which needed doing and had a strangely satisfying session picking dying fleas from their fur...I am a bit strange in some of the things I find enjoyable I guess ;-)
Today they went to the Vet's for their first innoculations, worming and check up and our vet thinks they are wonderful! Mind you, the invoice wasn't very nice.....
Monday, 28 July 2008
AND I grow and dry herbs, rose petals and lavender ( for both culinary AND cosmetic/pot pourri uses!)
But after the disaster that was last summer, where we had no store spuds or onions, we had to buy a lot of fruit and veg and I didn't like it one bit. It also made me realise how much I take for granted being able to harvest what I want and eat it half an hour later, or eat our own frozen french beans in winter, or get a spud from the store to have Baked spud for a quick lunch.
So....I have started to weigh some of the stuff I harvest, especially from the polytunnel. I am NOT going to do it for the spuds from the garden at the moment, its just silly as there are too many! We have been eating entirely our own spuds since the start of June, but I WILL weigh the maincrop spuds when we actually DO lift them to store them
I am also not going to include salad stuff or herbs either as that would just get plain silly too! I do not buy any salad stuff from April through till October at all and we eat salad only sporadically during the rest of the year and that is only what I can grow in the polytunnel....
This year we are not yet harvesting the Onions as they are still putting on growth but they are looking good for a fine crop to store and use through the winter. The French Beans are not yet ready and the Leeks and Parsnips, although they will be good, are obviously not yet ready either. The Broad beans were rubbish this year, as were the Shallots. Carrots we are eating now are the thinnings from the rows although I shall begin to dig up the big ones soon...and freeze some of them for winter use. I have also got some more Carrots and Turnips in for a quick crop to eat and store in the autumn! Brassicas don't do well here...the pigeons massacre the lot and if they don't, the squirrels do........so I have not bothered to grow any previously.........BUT I am trying a few in the polytunnel this year so we shall see....
Sweetcorn...well I grow some as a treat but only about 30 plants and quite often the squirrels get a lot of them.
We now get 5 or 6 eggs a day from the 6 hens, even though Thursday keeps laying soft shelled eggs ( which she then treads on, the silly girl.....)
So...a lot of food and if we eat a fairly restricted diet we could not buy much in the way of fruit or veg!
And as an excercise to help my feeble memory I am going to note down as much of the stuff I harvest as I can remember!
I didn't do this earlier in the month day by day but I HAVE weighed the stuff as it comes in the house so.....
what has been harvested from the start of cropping, earlier in the month, until 24/07/07... EXCLUDING what we have also eaten !
Tomatos 8 Kg,
12 Cucumbers 500g each,
Courgettes 8 Kg,
Carrots 3 Kg
5 Kg Blackcurrants (frozen, some made into Blackcurrant Vodka)
4 Kg Redcurrants (Compostman made into 8 jars Jelly)
2 Kg Gooseberries (frozen, awaiting me to get on and make Chutney)
Tayberries ahem they get eaten before anything can be made from them I am afraid!
NO Rivers Early plums..( damn those squirrels!) and Pears likewise...and it is going to be a rubbish year for plums generally by the look of it...a combination of weather and squirrel I suspect.
THEN everyday for a few days I shall try to remember to post what I harvest!
25/07/08 2 Cucumbers 500g each, Tomatoes 2 Kg , Courgette 4 Kg, 6 eggs
26/07/08 Cherry Toms 600g, 1 Aubergine 150 g! ( first one hurrah!) 6 eggs
27/07/08 Toms 500g, 1 Cucumber 750 g whopper!, Courgettes 1 Kg, 1 Aubergine 200g, 4 eggs
28/07/08 Toms 1 Kg, Courgettes 2 Kg , 2 Aubergines 250 g each, 5 eggs
The Aubergines are a long thin variety called ( surprise) Long Purple which are really good for Ratatouille. The Tomatos are a mixture of Beef, various eating and cherry varieties.
I shall try to remember to do this every time I post...as it will help me to keep track of what we DO get from the garden! And if you ever visit at this time of year be prepared to be fed on tomato and courgette omlette, potatos and salads!
(Actually thats what we seem to be eating a lot of!)
Sunday, 27 July 2008
We have decided to get a kitten now, while we are going through cat flap/litter tray/keep off the bench/learn to get on with Kitty..issues at the moment with Sid ANYWAY, so I said to Compostman that we might as well get the kitten we were originally thinking about, before we heard about Sid...and get all this fun over with NOW. So...we went to look at one Kitten and there were two left, a brother and sister, cuddling each other, oh so cute........
Sid meeting the new kittens
Tom on the left, Tabitha on the right
Sleeping off a sachet of cat food each...
Well...what more can I say??
Sid the (bigger) kitten is VERY taken with them already!
Saturday, 26 July 2008
1. Previous information concerning damage to allotment crops believed to be caused by residues of the herbicide aminopyralid in manure can be found in Regulatory Update 15/2008 (issued 16 June 2008) and Regulatory Update 18/2008 (issued 11 July 2008).
2. PSD has already confirmed that using manure, which may contain residues of aminopyralid, does not have implications for human health. However, in response to the concerns of allotment holders and leisure gardeners about damage believed to result from these residues, PSD has been in contact with Dow AgroSciences Limited, the approval holder and data owner for the majority of aminopyralid products approved in the UK. Dow AgroSciences have asked for their approvals to be modified whilst the situation is under investigation.
PSD has accepted this and amended the approval of all products containing aminopyralid to suspend the approval for sale, supply, and use with immediate effect whilst further investigations are undertaken.
Storage is unaffected and it remains legal and safe for these products to be stored by anyone.
The approval holder, product names and MAPP numbers of affected products are:
Dow AgroSciences Limited
3. Users and distributors are encouraged to continue to store any stocks they hold, or to contact Dow AgroSciences to arrange their return. In the case of stocks of Upfront (MAPP 13782) you should contact AgChemAccess Ltd. Stocks should not be disposed of illegally. Distributors are asked to inform all their relevant customers of the suspension.
so...its been temporarily withdrawn...and we all have to wait and see what will happen in the longer term.
Friday, 25 July 2008
The 4 new girls were a pair of Marans , same age, same hatching...who had their own pecking order .............
and the other pair were a pair of ex battery hens who had their own pecking order .............
and ALL of them decided to pick on the biggest hen I had..... who just squatted down and let them peck her to bloody......
the only thing which has worked is to separate out the two dominant hens...one of the Marans, one of the ex batts...into a separate house and run....so they went into the Eglu.
It has taken a week of this, all the hens could see each other but the two bully hens could not get to the others..........and it has worked! I have let them all out together and they are all now a reasonably happy bunch,rather than the two top hens pecking hell out of 3 of the others!
AND after reading a thought provoking post on a Poultry forum I am on, I tried some rubber eggs in the nest box to see if it would cure Wednesday of her egg pecking/eating habit...........she has been destroying her freshly laid eggs from the start AND had begun to peck at the other eggs, even though I collect them as soon as I hear one being laid!
The idea is that there are so many eggs to peck, which don't actually break, that the hen gives up! I think the technique is called "flooding" in behavioural speak.
WELL! It has WORKED! since I put the rubber eggs in the nest box I have had NO broken eggs from her!
Hurrah! As if she had kept this behaviour up I would have had to "consider her options......"
Also Sid the puss had been to the Vets and been neutered...the Vet joked that they wanted to keep him there as he was such a cutie! He is fine, very hungry and a bit sore round the bottom area but otherwise OK!
Thursday, 24 July 2008
I have decided to award the blogs that I like and read regularly. There is no significance in the order, I just did them alphabetically!
Up the Garden Path A beautiful blog, a family in France working hard, being as self suffcient as possible.
The Patient Gardener Fabulous photos which always make me smile!
Tales from the Forest Another family working towards as self sufficient life as possible!
Musings from a Stonehead someone who is about as self sufficient as it gets...I am inspired by his hard work and achievements!
Mrs Nesbitt's place My friend who makes me smile!
Green lane Allotments for spreading the word about Aminopyralid contamination of manure and helping to get something done about it!
Downshift me Matt and Aj - self sufficiency in Nova Scotia!
The common theme? I like these blogs, they make me smile, give me inspiration and ideas :-)
Wednesday, 23 July 2008
After I found Ginger this morning Compostgirl and I have been out for the day with good friends and their children...we all went to Malvern and had a picnic in Priory Park..the children played for 3 hours....then I went back to one of my friends house for a natter and a cup of tea.
Compostgirl had a play with her best friends K and J in their paddling pool and house for another 2 hours, including having her tea with them, while I went to M & S and Waitrose in Malvern :-)
Then we went home....Compostgirl is utterly shattered and fast asleep...and is VERY happy !
and I am off with aforementioned friends to see Mama Mia on Saturday in Worcester, with a meal and wine before hand...
AND I have just heard that Dow are withdrawing Aminopyralid, the pesky herbicide which is causing all the problems!!!
So how good is that!
AND I have been awarded a blog award
Today has gone down in my diary as an officially good day
Henny ( the other hen of my original pair) ran over to her when she came back and rubbed her neck along Ginger's neck and crooned.....
I am SO pleased she is OK :-)))
Tuesday, 22 July 2008
She has tagged me to share six random things about myself, and then tag six others.
Link to the person who tagged you. Post the rules on the blog. Write six random things about yourself. Tag six people at the end of your post. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.
OK here we go, 6 random things about me!
1. I loathe runny egg white...it makes me feel physicaly sick! BUT I DO like soft yolks....
2. I can curl up my tongue into a tube and whistle through it!
3. I dont have any tattoos BUT I pierced my own ears many years ago, when I was young and silly... Ouch.
4. I cry at Dr Who
5. I won a Platignum Pen essay competition when I was 8.
6. I have crooked little toes..I was born with them!
I am tagging:
Mrs C's blog
Chronicles of the Troll family
Eating the seasons
The Cottage Smallholder
Monday, 21 July 2008
1 FINALLY GET THROUGH to WFTC person on phone
2 Convince her that neither Compostman nor I got the Annual Return in May....( we didn't)
3 She let me do the Return over the phone and do a "virtual " signature of it... .over the phone....
4 So...THATS sorted ( hurrah!)
5 and as a result I have largely done 2007-2008 tax return details as well (double hurrah!)
Am a happy Compostwoman!
After 4 failed attempts managed to place order for large quantities of eco green household type stuff from A N Other green site... including an elevated drier thingy to hoist up washing into the utility room ceiling space to dry ... (Compostman has been strangely resistant to these before but I have worn him down...)
And have also made 2 Litres of Blackcurrant Vodka to put away for a few months to mature, cleaned out all the hen houses and the Guinea Pig hutch, watered the raised beds AND the polytunnel AND made a HUGE dent in the pile of paperwork awaiting my attention...
AND done 3 loads of washing ( washed, on line, in again to air, folded up....)
as well as normal every day life at Compostmansions, with added Compostgirl input as today is the first day of her summer holidays!
Compostman is currently cooking supper and making Redcurrant Jelly........
Sunday, 20 July 2008
The bullying has abated a bit...I have separated out the culprits Atilla the Hen ( formerly known as Tuesday!) and Genghis Hen ( formerly known as Friday!) out into their own run the Eglu ( aka the Sinbin!) , where they are kept penned in for some of the day whilst the other 4 are allowed out around them....it seems to be working!
Mind, you...we did have a couple of funny eggs in the week!
This picture is what I found last Tuesday in one nest box...the LARGE egg is from Henny and weighed 88 g and measured 2 1/2 inches...the small egg is only just over 1 inch long and weighed less than 25 g....
Saturday, 19 July 2008
AND...SID is actually about 9 months old....he probably has some Oriental blood (looking at him I am not surprised...he has a very vocal call, walks like a cat walk model, is VERY delecate boned and has a "kinked" tail...)
so...he is booked in to be neutered next Thursday...and is allowed outside to play in the meantime as he is NOT the baby we thought he was!
BUT he is still a lovely, lovely cat.and he LOVES our house and gardens! He is so affectionate and has settled down to a tolerance with Kitty Cat very quickly ( which, after the antics of the Hens recently, is a HUGE relief!)
It is SUCH fun to watch him at play!
Friday, 18 July 2008
A DJ of wine awaiting bottling
Compostman sterilising the bottles I had washed.
14 bottles of wine and another 5 litres of cider in the store cupboard!
And VERY nice it tasted too!
Mmm home made wine...mmmm
Thursday, 17 July 2008
Didn't get much chance though as Sid the kitten decided to wee and poo on Compostgirl's sofa in her bedroom....so all the covers, cushions and foam matress had to come off and be washed!
Then he did a wee AGAIN later on, in the same spot on the sofa base!
The hens are being tricky as well, the new girls are pecking Henny to bits and it is all very stressful for her...
And to cap a carp day, half the spuds have badly blighted foliage so Compostman cut the haulms off tonight. So not much of a crop AGAIN !
Am a bit fed up today!
So the covers and cushions have come off and been washed, Sid has been told off VERY firmly .....but we did discover that someone had been there before him
Wednesday, 16 July 2008
Tuesday, 15 July 2008
3 weeks ago a nice lady nearish to us found him, extensive enquiries round all her farming neighbours drew a blank as did CPL Hereford, ads in local papers, asking at local schools etc.....
I saw her ad in a local farmers shop, called but was told he had just been re homed..however
...she called a couple of days ago to say the re homing had sadly not come off and would I still like him?
so I went over to her house last night....and came away with SID!
He is LOVELY
Sid the Kitten is now ensconced on our bed..( well THAT took less than 24 hours!) .....having saved us from the dangerous garlic which was fiendishly hanging threatening us in the kitchen...and who has also rescued us from the diabolical table legs which were threatening us in our sitting room...........( he has shredded the garlic stalks and kicked hell out of the table legs!)
spookily he has so far shown signs of doing all the " unique " things our much missed, late lamented beloved Monty puss used to do.......... :shock:
Monday, 14 July 2008
I scaled and conquered(!) the Ironing Mountain
and bottled the Damson Vodka. After decanting the pink, yummy, sticky (!) vodka from the damsons, I poured a bottle of sherry into the Kilner jar apparently this makes a lovely fortified, damson-y flavoured sherry in a few months? We will see.....
However I have yet to scale the " putting away all the ironing" peak
nor have I yet sorted out the corner in our bedroon where lurks the piles of material etc for turning into other things...like quilts....
Sunday, 13 July 2008
A beautiful wicker model of a chicken!
A Transylvanian Naked Neck
Compostgirl petting a goat.
A fabulous Peacock.
I was able to get some advice on the new hens as well as some hen supplies which I couldn't buy nearer home, Compostgirl was entranced by the whole place and, even though it rained, we all had a lot of fun.
Saturday, 12 July 2008
but I did get 6 good eggs from 6 hens.....so all the hard work this week swapping the runs around, giving the new girls extra protein, making sure they had enough calcium etc MUST have worked!!
Went to the Domestic Fowl Trust farm today on a nice outing...will post up more tomorrow...as am on way to bed now ( feeling very tired and a bit low here....)
Friday, 11 July 2008
I am going to sort out my HUGE pile of material scraps and oddments which are scattered all over the house (!) into one storage place and start planning a quilt from them.
I am also going to put the candle making stuff and the soap making stuff in separate , LABELLED, boxes in my new Study cupboard, so I can find them when I want them.
I am also going to reorganise my lotions and potions ingredients into one sensible place in our bedroom so all my essential oils etc is all together in a locked cupboard. (I keep Essential Oils away from prying little hands to be safe!)
AND I may go down to one of the Charity shops in Hereford to donate some items ( and if I see something I like I may be tempted to get it...who knows?)as we are going there, shopping, anyway!
Last time I donated some stuff...I ended up with a beautiful Portmerion Vase which was just right for putting Honeysuckle and Roses from the garden into! AND a copy of a Bill Bryson book which I hadn't read yet!
So...wish me luck! I'll let you know how much I managed to get done.....
Thursday, 10 July 2008
Compostman is busy fixing up our house and grounds, doing jobs which many people would have to employ a builder or carpenter etc to do...as well as gardening, felling trees, digging, shredding, etc etc.
We both do various voluntering activities and I work as an Environmental Educator occasionally, as well as doing my Master Composter volunteering and various college courses. and for our recreation we do stuff with computers, but usually ( as you may have observed!) late at night.
Unlike people who work 9-5 type jobs, our weekends are, if anything, even busier than our weekdays...as we have family type things to do as well!
BUT because I don't work in a "conventional " way ie for an employer 9-5, 5 days a week....I get various comments along the lines of "it must be nice to have lots of leisure time" or if I say about having been busy or feeling rather tired I get "but you don't work, you can't be busy/tired! " I can only assume that people think my life is like one long holiday from full time work. Except it IS NOT..this IS my work........doing what I do...
Hmmm wonder who they think does all the stuff at our place? Do they think we have an army of gardeners :-?
Ah well, to each their own I suppose and I would rather have *my* life than be working all hours to make money to buy food because I can't find the time to make food, because I work all the hours...etc etc ...I think THAT is called "the rat race" ....and I don't like rats ;-)
I was rather worried yesterday that we might be in for a repeat of last year's flooding, but we seem to have escaped with squelchyness underfoot rather than full blown floods. Phew!
Last night was Compostgirl's School Summer Concert...it had to be moved from the School grounds at the last minute, to a nearby parent's farm and into their BIG barn with LOTS of helpers clearing out the barn and cleaning it, decorating it,transporting all the stage etc gear to the barn from school in the afternoon...and then taking it all down and back again at the end of the evening!
One of the things I love so much about living here and Compostgirl going to that school is the amazing sense of community we have!
The concert was excellent, Compostgirl was brilliant :-)) and we all got home very late indeed!
Wednesday, 9 July 2008
At last! The first tomatoes are ripe! On the left a Black Russian tomato
and here a Golden Sunrise tomato.
Mmm sweet and juicy, I will have them with cucumber ( grown in the PT) and lettuce ( grown in the PT) for lunch and try to pretend it ISN'T chucking it down with rain outside
The rather feeble crop of garlic from by the carrot bed, hanging up to dry in the PT over a tray of shallots from the same bed. I grow garlic and shallots to keep away the carrot fly and it works BUT this year the actual garlic and shallots are a bit dud....
Hopefully the other garlic and shallots in other beds will be better! BUT the onion bed is doing really well so fingers crossed that THIS YEAR we get a good harvest again. Last year we had hardly any usable onions......
But if this rain keeps up I am worried about blight on the potatoes outside....well I am worried about that ANYWAY......