Hello and welcome to The Compost Bin. I'm Compostwoman and I live in Herefordshire with Compostman and teenage daughter Compostgirl. We have just under 4 acres of land which contains a woodland, polytunnel, small orchard, garden and veg plot. We grow our own organic produce and make lots of cider, wine, jam and chutney. We also make a lot of compost. We share our lives with Chickens, Cats, Guinea Pigs and assorted wildlife. We try our best to live a more self reliant lifestyle, growing and making and fixing and mending and re-using and re-cycling stuff, if we can.
I used to be a Research Scientist, but that was many years ago. I now work as a freelance environmental educator/writer/lecturer/Forest School practitioner and community artist; I also spend a lot of time volunteering as a Master Composter, Master Gardener, Love Food Hate Waste cookery demonstrator and hens@home mentor. Doing all this allows me the privilege of helping people have fun outdoors and live more enjoyable and sustainable lives.
This blog is a record of what I have been up to from day to day. I might write about something I have done in the garden, an article I have written for a magazine, the latest batch of chutney I have made, a training course I have attended or "just" my daily routine of cats, chickens, compost and mud.
I hope you find something to interest you in The Compost Bin, remember there are lots of "How to" guides about all sorts of stuff and remember to click on the photos to make them full size!
Sunday, 31 August 2008
1 Despite the terrible weather we HAVE managed to harvest potatos and onions to store...an improvement on this time last year! We have some plums ( not many :-( ) and a good quantitiy of apples and I have lots of lovely tomatos and courgettes and other beautiful food from the veg plot and polytunnel SO we can make wine, cider, dehydrate, freeze, bottle, pickle, jam and chutney away over the next month or so.
2 I have 2 new hens who are lovely and seem to really like me! Today I had one sat on my head and the other on my shoulder! ( sorry I didn't have the camera with me so no pics) Also (fingers crossed) we will have some chicks in the next few days! We are getting a reasonable quantity of delicious, organic, free range ( and some) eggs and hopefully I will be able to sell or barter some of them for other stuff we need..
3 The Kittens and Cats big and small. They are an endless source of delight and laughter!
4 Where I live. It is BEAUTIFUL! I thank the Gods that we look after such a wonderful plot of land.
5 Compostman and Compostgirl. HE is my soulmate and I love him dearly, despite silly rows over the proper way of cooking sausages on a camp fire(!) She is a blessing...even though she makes me want to tear my hair out sometimes! Enough said I think!
I shall try to count my blessings at the end of every month, even if I don't do "5 good things" every day!
And to all my good friends, both in the real world and on the web....you all make my life a lot brighter...and those who visit me here and read my ramblings THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
Saturday, 30 August 2008
Saturday was actually a lovely very hot sunny day here so it was lovely and cool in the woods.
We all went down to play in the wood mid afternoon,
Compostman lit a fire to cook on while I got my wonderful Kelly kettle going for hot drinks.
When all this was happening the children were playing tag, pretending to be the 5 Billy Goats Gruff on the bridge over the little ditch, making dens, collecting sticks, climbing on logs and gennerally haveing FUN!
We all had hot drinks ( chocolate for the children, tea for the adults) made with boiling water from the kettle while I cooked sausages and onions over the camp fire and then we all had Hot Dogs ( with ketchup)
Then the children cut, sharpened and peeled sticks and toasted multiple marshmallows , while Compostman made popcorn....YUM!
We finished the day with more running around, and a final play before going back up to the house smelling strongly of woodsmoke!
Just in case anyone was wondering, we DO come and play in our wood on other occasions..Compostgirl quite often goes by herself or with friends and makes dens and plays round the fire pit area BUT we only have fires and food when I am there to supervise and keep an eye on everything. Just to be safe!
Oh and in answer to a few queries, I AM a trained Forest School person, I DO have lots of First Aider qualifications including a "First Aid in the Outdoors" AND a "Paediatric First Aid" certificate....Compostman and I ARE both fully CRB'd and I HAVE done a lot of this sort of stuff, as has Compostman , although he is not a trained FS person.
When Compostgirl is a bit older we shall have camp outs in the wood and she can do the fire stuff with me...for now she helps to light it, has fun using my flint and steel and loves to poke sticks in the fire and to toast things.....
If YOU are reading this and want to do similar stuff , why not contact your local Wildlife Trust? They may well have Nature/Play Rangers who will be doing this sort of thing? Or the Scouts or Guides do it , as do the Woodcraft Folk.
As do I, for birthday parties and suchlike! ( for a fee!)
I LOVE to play in the woods!
Friday, 29 August 2008
Since I last posted I have picked
5 kg Courgettes
5 Kg Tomatoes
3 Kg Purple Beans
1.5 Kg Melons ( 4 smallish ones!)
and dehydrated LOTS of stuff.
I decided to make a batch of general purpose pasta sauce today. Tomatoes, Onions, Garlic, Courgettes and green Peppers...all from the garden of course!
Here is a batch of the sauce with Beef mince added to eat for our supper as Spag Bol.
And here are the 5 x 500g tubs of sauce ready to freeze.
Mmm lovely Organic pasta sauce...mmm...
Wednesday, 27 August 2008
Time for a brew up! This is my new Kelly kettle boiling 2.5 pints of water in 5 mins on a few handfuls of paper and small sticks. making popcorn overthe fire.
Mmmm it went really quickly!
Compostgirl and friend made " draw sticks" ..they burnt the end so it was like charcoal and then drew on some flat logs...great fun!
We all had a lovely time and then our friends went home, tired out from a fun day!
Tuesday, 26 August 2008
Since I got the 2 new hens ( Goldie and Babs) the egg production has dropped DRAMATICALLY....
Henny has gone BROODY as well as Sweetiepie and SHE is our best egg layer! and is hogging both the nest boxes in Cluckingham Palace...( aka the Flytes o Fancy house.....) SHE is destined for a VERY cold bath tomorrow to cool off her bum!
Genghis and Attila are mercilessly bullying the 2 new girls...and Genghis has gone back to laying useless ssofties AND eating any egg around..( sigh)
and Sweetiepie is still mad bad and broody...sitting on her eggs and "bok bok boking" away
So...we have averaged 2 eggs a day from 6 laying hens...( Sweetiepie is broody, Goldie is POL but has not yet started laying...) The star of the egg laying awards is >>>BABS! she has laid every day since we got her on Fri last......
And the BEST Vegetable award goes to..
Vegetables...The Purple French bean deluge is upon us...I picked the first on Saturday and now have 5 Kg...(!)
Tomatos from the Polytunnel continue to emerge, red and ripe and juicy and wonderful taste explosions in my mouth...( sorry I have a tomato love affair bordering on the fetishistic.....ooops)
and Courgettes..well lets just say I am getting sick of them, shall we??
so, since Friday
7.5 Kg Courgettes
3 Kg marrows ( ok, OK overblown Courgettes)
7 Kg Tomatoes
1 Kg Aubergines
2 Kg Green Peppers
5 Kg Purple French Beans
35 Kg potatoes
2 Kg Cucumber
Lots of herbs ( Parsley, 3 Basils, 2 Thymes, Oregano, Sage, 3 different Mints....)
Lots dried in the dehydrator.
Various stuff frozen, dried and chutnied.
Gosh I am very tired..it is a very busy time of the year and I stop and wonder sometimes how much harder I would have to work if I HAD to store food for us to live over the winter? Rather than just augmenting our diet/reducing our purchases as much as I can?
I would be bottling ( Mason jars and hot water /pressure canning)brineing and salting much more of the produce and drying round the clock rather than sitting down with a bottle of good wine and watching a recorded programme on surgery on BBC4 that's for sure!
I am shattered at this time of the harvest year ...and I am ONLY augmenting our diet, NOT providing it exclusively for the winter!
Imagine if , at the same time, I was slaughtering/butchering/salting/curing/drying/smoking meats for the winter also?
AND making butter and cheese?
How on earth did folk manage? They must have done, obviously! I feel tired just contemplating it all...
and it has also made me think hmmm I have a LOT further to go on my self sufficient journey I feel!
BUT I AM showing Compostgirl how to do "stuff" like this so its all valuable , even if it isn't on the scale I would like!
Monday, 25 August 2008
3 Where I live, I love the way I can get up in the morning, go and let the hens out and breath deep of clean fresh air, laced with birdsong and the scent of flowers.
4 My daft Cats and Kittens, their antics make me SO happy!
5 All the wonderful veg and fruit growing in the garden and polytunnel..its hard work but SO worth it!
6 My friends...online and in the flesh.
7 The trees in our wood. I love to go and sit on the big dressed stone in the clearing under the old Oak tree and just listen to the trees breathing. I do this some mornings after I have let out the hens.
8 The hens and the fresh eggs they lay. Some of their antics are exasperating, but they make me smile!
9 The simple pleasures of my life....chutney I have made, jam on toast for breakfast made by Compostman, the pleasure on Compostgirl's face when she has been playing in the wood.
( hmm might as well go for 10!)
10. Living the life I live!
I had stockpiled various weeds and prunings and added a HUGE pile of grass cuttings from the lawns as the day progressed.
This, along with the contents of the "browns" bins I keep in the house ( for all the little bitty bits of card, paper, tissue etc which is too scrappy to recycle) was layered in the bins , along with some of the smaller cardboard sheets I got from Freecycle.
I added alternate layers of grass cuttings and paper/cardboard to the bins...I quickly filled up 5 bins and topped up another 5 bins...
It all looks MUCH better now!
and Sid approves, too!
Sunday, 24 August 2008
Friday, 22 August 2008
But first I had to find the bed under all the weeds and grass!
After scything and chopping down the long grass and weeds using shears, Compostman carefully lifted up the pumpkins and runners whilst I shoved the cardboard underneath.
I then raised all the pumpkins up on upside down plant pots to keep them off the ground as they grew and ripened.
1 Yesterday we went and got 2 new hens Rhode Rocks, very pretty and sweet
2 Thank you Compostman for going along with my desire for more hens!
3 We moved some more logs into the wood to finish off the Log circle around the fire pit in the wood.
4 IT STOPPED RAINING yesterday and we had a SUNSET!
5 IT WAS SUNNY TODAY!
6 I managed ( finally! after 3 weeks! ) to mow the lawns!
(Compostwoman does a tired but merry jig around the computer)
7 Kittens have learnt to use the outer cat flap today and have been running in and out, playing all day...but they STILL come to see us for cuddles regularly which is good.
8 I got a load of cardboard sheets and a kettle from Freecycle. The kettle is a bit grungy but will clean up and is for use on the open fire when we are in the wood
1. Every action has a consequence that must be observed and you must be prepared to compensate for your actions if required.
2. All life is sacred and all are responsible for seeing that this standard is upheld.
3. You do still live in society and are bound by its rules.
4. Work with high standards.
5. Make an honest living.
6. Be a good host as well as a good guest.
7. Take care of yourself.
8. Serve your community.
9. Maintain a healthy balance of the spiritual and mundane.
10. Uphold the Truth, starting with yourself.
11. Be sure in your convictions, particularly when judging or accusing someone, but also when debating. Ask yourself: are you really sure? Do you really know that this the case?
(As composed by Athelia Nihtscada)
Such wise words! and so true!
I strive to live in that way. and these bullet points very succinctly sum up how I try to live...so I thought I would share with you all....
Galanthus, if you are reading, THANK YOU.....
Thursday, 21 August 2008
2 x 1 Kg marrows ( oops I didn't catch the courgettes in time!)
2 Kg Courgettes
0.5 Kg Aubergines
3 Kg Tomatoes
there are some Cherry toms ready but it got too dark to pick them....
4 eggs ( thank you all girls except Genghis Hen who is a pain AND Sweetiepie who is a broody star! )
WHEN WILL IT STOP BLOODY RAINING ??
5 good things
1 I am going to get some POL chickens like Henny..lovely big brown eggs soon!
2 I have dehydrated lots more stuff ( oh dear...a common theme is emerging here!)
3 Compostman fixed my juicer which broke but was out of warrenty
He made a new brass bit to replace the useless ( broken) plastic bit so I can use my expensive juicer again!
4 I did some ironing ( which I hate...but I did it anyway!)
5 I did some FS portfolio work....and the chances of me doing ANY during CG's summer hols is vanishingly small so yay me!
6 STILL have some of the chocolate left to eat ALL BY MYSELF
Tuesday, 19 August 2008
2 It stopped raining for a bit!
3 I am feeling a little better I think
4 Dehydrator is now doing its stuff on fruit
5 Nice glass of red wine in my hand
6 Compostgirl apologised for being an absolutr pain l;ast night..and we kissed and made up
It made me muse about the way most people choose to live their lives..well I *assume* it is a choice.....(!)
They work long hours, to pay credit card bills they have run up for "stuff" then watch TV programmes on how to "de clutter" their lives of all the "stuff" they have recently bought ...they have no time to cook so they have to buy ready made meals or fast food or takeaways ..they get ill through stress or overwork...they have no time to go for a walk so pay money to use fossil fuels to power gym equipment to take exercise.....they have NO TIME to just BE....
They throw away stuff because they don't know how to fix things and lots of people throw away things JUST BECAUSE they are a few months old or are not "the latest model" what ever that is?
Parents are encouraged to go back to work when children are very young ( whether they want to or not) and then have to pay most ( or all) of their salary to someone else, to care for their children... :-o Do people really WANT to live like that? I don't...
Even when Compostman and I were both in full time work and lived in a small town house, we were not like that! ... OK we spent a lot of time and a lot of our surplus cash playing with an old racing car (which we restored and maintained ourselves I hasten to add!) BUT, we cooked real meals from real food, we grew some of our veg, we recycled and repaired stuff, we were active in our community and in various environmental groups, we made our own amusements ( walking, gardening, reading, music etc ) we holidayed in the UK ( apart from a couple of work trips in the space of 10 years...to the US of A ...where we stayed when the job was done and made a big holiday out of the need to fly there for work!) and were modest in our lifestyles, only spending money we had saved up if we wanted to buy something big.
And after we moved to Compost Mansions and we had Compostgirl, I stayed at home with her until she started school. I wouldn't even have dreamt of restarting my working life until she had started at school! I did this because I and Compostman both viewed it as important for US to bring up OUR OWN CHILD and we both felt that it was the most important thing we could do in the WORLD.
It meant we had less money, yes, than if I had gone back to work BUT we also had a beautiful daughter who was raised by her parents, not some other person who we had paid to do our job for us.
It may sound like I am critical of others in this post...I am NOT! Honest! I do understand that everybody has different needs and circumstances! I am not knocking what other folk have to do with their lives or children BUT I AM wondering why we, as a society , seem to undervalue so much the traditional ideas of making a home, growing our own food and raising a family SO MUCH nowadays. And why so many people seem to worship at the altar of "stuff" and "celebrity" so much as well.....
So I don't know...do people like living the "rat race" way, eating fast food, watching reality TV, working all hours in the week, shopping all weekend etc......or is it just that they know no different, or can't afford to do things differently or ( maybe) can't bring themselves to dare to think that they COULD live a different way?
What do YOU think?
Rant over. ;-)
Monday, 18 August 2008
1 Depite both Compostgirl and I being be-lurgified, I have managed to think of 5 things!
2 A lady from Freecycle came and got CG's previous ( small, stabilised) pink bike for her DD, whom it fitted perfectly
3 Said lady bought some eggs and she and her children were very happy to see the chickens and feed them and her DS was wanting to know about the Ex Battery girls! and he didn't like what he heard about Battery hens one little bit.
4 Have dehydrated LOADS of stuff and am feeling happer now than my somewhat miserable post on my blog last night..as I am seeing I CAN get on top of some of the work even if I DO feel carp....
5 Have made yum Pumpkin soup and will have lots to put in freezer ( and am going to dehydrate some as an experiment...)
6 Have just found LARGE bar of chocolate which was an April birthday present...and am going to eat some NOW ( and not share it ! )
7 Have also realised I have posted to the world that I am made happy by extracting moisture from slices of vegetables.............
1 Kg courgettes and 2 Kg Tomatos ( sliced not halved) took 15 hours and used 2.5 Kw of electicity so cost around 30 pence in total.
I have just loaded it up again with a mixed load.
1 tray of sliced aubergines ( Long Tom) 0.5 Kg and a sliced banana
1 tray of sliced courgettes 1 kg
1 tray of chopped green peppers (Californian Wonder) 1 Kg
1 tray of half cherry tomatos ( Red Cherry) 1.5 Kg
This is what 4 Kg courgettes and 4 Kg sliced tomatoes look like when dehydrated...the boxes are 2 L capacity!
and these are 1.5 Kg cherry tomatos.
Despite feeling utterly carp today and over the weekend I AM so happy!
I have found a way to store EVEN more of our home grown produce and feed it to us in the depths of winter! AND what is more this stuff can be made into a meal in a saucepan with hot water...which the woodburner top can provide! ( or the Kelly kettle I am soon to buy for Forest School stuff anyway!)
Huh Powercuts? I spit in your eye! ( oops, only joking!)