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!

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Busy busy busy...ouch...

Have been very busy here, despite having a bad back to contend with...

The run up to Christmas was very difficult for me, as I couldn't go to either CG's carol concert OR take her to the school disco...but my lovely CM stepped in and took over, leaving me to rest and recover a little.

I managed to make some Christmas decorations

and also some salt dough figures.

Then we had the sadness of Kitty cat being put to sleep ( see previous post)

However, once the school holiday started we had various friends around to visit, both ours and CG's, so much fun was had by all and we all felt a bit more cheerful. We also had the snowy, icy weather to contend with, with mixed consequences.

On the one hand it made the garden and wood look enormously pretty, the wood especially was like something out of Narnia. And at least the ground lost its swamp like consistency....on the other the hens disliked the cold snowy weather enormously and spent most of the time hiding in the lean to, waiting to mug me for any food on offer.

No 1 Cream Legbar chicklet(must think of a name for her!) contented herself with fluttering up onto my shoulder at every chance...warming her feet I think!

Christmas Day itself was lovely,

Our Beef multi rib was delish, falling apart it was so tender, but rare in the middle and really juicy..mmm...roasties, Yorkshires etc all perfect, and a lovely bottle of wine to go with it..

Dr Who..was..excellent I thought, and then we had fun singing our hearts out ( well CG and I, anyway,) to a Wii Sing disc (from Santa) which she was most surprised to see me belting out Blondie and Meatloaf hits in tune and on time, without looking at the words...

Our lovely cats Tom and Tabitha have decided to become lap cats, which is nice, and with the wood burner going 24/7 at the mo we were all so all cosy!

The decorations and tree were (I think) the best we have ever done and I even managed to tidy up properly beforehand! ( but the Study is a mess...full of stuff I "tidied" into it......!!)

All our presents were lovely, CM got me 40 more hens ! but before you all panic, they were for Save the Children, so he is happy as he doesn't have to deal with them...and I am very pleased by the gift! I have the Sookie Stackhouse novels to read, on which the C4 series "True Blood" is based, so am v happy as we both enjoy watching those programmes.

CM also got me the "Victorian Save All" book which is fascinating and full of good stuff....as was seen on "Victorian Farm" recently.

Boxing Day was quiet but fun, we played/read/used/listened to our respective presents and went for a walk in the wood in the snow. I did the hens etc, and we all settled down to watch Cap't Jack Sparrow on the TV with cats on our laps.

Sunday was going to be more of the same.....but then *I* managed to fall over backwards on the lethal slick ice whilst on the way to feed the hens...landed flat on my back and have made it much much worse....

So...have been laid up in bed for a lot of the last few days...instead of getting on with cleaning out the polytunnel and planting stuff, I am reading my new Sookie Stackhouse books and doing a lot of lying down.

CM has volunteered to do the routine outside stuff, as he says I am not safe to let out....(!)....he has a point....

Oh well..rest and recuperation is the order of the day now, hopefully I can get myself mobile enough to get to the chiropractor again.....

Hope you enjoy the selection of photos from Compost Mansions over the last week or so.

And that you all had a good festive season!

Monday, 28 December 2009

Yet more sad stuff, just before Christmas...farewell to Kitty Cat

Yet more sad stuff here, I have a catch up post about the Festive Season, but first I want to tell you all about Kitty Cat.

Lovely old Kitty Cat reached the end of the road and took his last journey to the Vets on the Saturday before Christmas.

The poor old lad could hardly walk and had become unable to even get out through the cat flap to have a wee, so had taken to just going on the carpet. And as he has never used a litter tray (never learnt how to ..always went outside) there was not a lot we could do to help him.

He went from a strong, if a bit wobbly on his legs, old cat...to looking terrible in the last few days of his life. CM and I have been having "the conversation" several times that week as to if it was "time" but had decided he was still getting some good quality of life..but the last 2 days changed all that...

poor old lad, he looked so uncomfortable....couldn't even groom himself and fell over when he tried the last couple of days :-(

Holly the vet agreed he looked in a very poor way, she offered us the option of yet more tests etc but he had already been down that route earlier this year, was on lots of medication for Kidney and joint problems and was still going downhill fast...and had also started to be incontinent .....AND it would have meant an overnight (at least) stay in the vets, which distressed him hugely last time....so we declined to do any more prodding or poking of him. At 18, he had had enough....

As it was he had a nice last day lying on a cushion by the Aga being stroked and loved and fed cheese and other titbits, then he went quietly to sleep at the vets with CM stroking his head...

So...Tom and Tabitha have sniffed Kitty Cat's body so know he is gone on ahead...and he has been buried in the wood near the pool, a place where he loved to hunt for rabbits...he was a MIGHTY fine hunter until a year ago! Full grown cock pheasants, rabbits, adult rats, squirrels, moles, bats..you name it he could catch it and he never played with his food, as a serious hunter he killed it and ate it!

and there is much sadness around here as we have lost two beloved cats in less than two weeks.....

Farewell, old friend, there is a very large hole where you used to be....


Friday, 11 December 2009

Catch up post about work in November....

It has been manic here dear friends, simply manic!

I am curently doing an adult teaching qualification and it is great fun but hard work and very time consuming! I have also been very busy with getting lots of paying work to do...which is wonderful BUT all this takes me away from doing other stuff...like blogging!

I have managed to find time to post about really important stuff (the loss of poor Sid puss, for example) but the everyday stuff you all seem to like so much, about hens, cats, garden, work...I have had no time..

AND I have ( sigh) been ill or incapacitited AGAIN..yes, my rubbish immune system has let me down and I have been poorly for weeks after getting swine flu...it is a nasty flu tis true, but no worse than other flu....which means it leaves you feeling terrible for several weeks...I basically "lost" most of October as I was too ill to do more than the minimum chores around Compost Mansions and I had to cancel a number of things I really wanted to do!

ANYWAY...here are a few pictures of some things I got up to in November...

I had several trips to what I am rapidly thinking of as my spiritual home..the Worcester Scrapstore...

This time I got lots of ribbon and assorted stuff to use in my recycled Seasonal craft workshop....which I ran during Novemeber.

10 adults attended and made some lovely wreaths from both recycled and natural materials ,

as well as twig wands and stars and music scroll tree decorations.

I really enjoyed teaching them stuff and they all seemed to really enjoy themselves, which was nice for me! The next 2 courses I am running are already fully booked, anyway, so I must be doing something right.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Busy busy busy...ouch...

Have been very busy here, despite having a bad back to contend with...

I managed to make some Christmas decorations

and also some salt dough figures.

We also had the snowy, icy weather to contend with, with mixed consequences.

On the one hand it made the garden and wood look enormously pretty, the wood especially was like something out of Narnia. And at least the ground lost its swamp like consistency....on the other the hens disliked the cold snowy weather enormously and spent most of the time hiding in the lean to, waiting to mug me for any food on offer.

No 1 Cream Legbar chicklet (must think of a name for her!) contented herself with fluttering up onto my shoulder at every chance...warming her feet I think!

The decorations and tree were (I think) the best we have ever done and I even managed to tidy up properly beforehand! ( but the Study is a mess...full of stuff I "tidied" into it......!!)

Thursday, 3 December 2009


So....this morning CM has brought Sid back from the vets. He has dug a very large hole under the Swamp Cypress in the wood, where Sid loved to sit at the very top and shout down to us...

We have shown his dead body to the other 3 cats, so they know where he has gone... all 3 cats had a really good sniff and Tom and Tabby both gave Sid face rubs and meeped at him, to try and wake him up.........and then..their tails drooped and they sniffed him all over very carefullly..then went slowly away....

Tabitha is very upset, she won't let us stroke her at all.....Tom is curled up where Sid used to sleep....making little mieows now and then...

and I have just found myself walking in to the room where Sid is currently lying on the floor, and still sort of expected him to jump up from the blanket and say hello to me....

But he won't.

Goodbye lovely Sid, we all love you very much and you gave us many happy times in your short time with us.

Some pictures of Sid.

Sid in characteristic mad pose, fast asleep!

Sid on his first day with us, last year, playing...always playing!

Sid, up a tree, always ready to climb...anything!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Am very sad here..

Am very sad here..

Just after Compostman left to take Compostgirl to Brownies, at 6.15 a knock on the door was followed by a man saying he had found a cat in the road...it further transpired that his car had hit Sidney our lovely cat outside our house.

The man ( all credit for having the guts to tell me what had happened, and not just drive off...)
had brought Sid in to the garden, so I rushed inside to get a solid board, towel and warm blanket, plus phone..we lifted Sid ( who was alive but not moving) onto the board, and I covered him up and went inside to phone the vet...

I got Sid (on the board, wrapped up) into my car and sped to the vets, ..at 6 30 pm he was given oxygen..at 8 pm a phone call told me he was stable, seemed to have a broken pelvis from the initial X ray but his breathing was still worrying them...but they could see no major, other injuries...so we were all happy and I was telling a distraught CG that maybe Sid might be OK, eventually....

but as the vet was talking to me there was a shout for her as he had stopped breathing...and when she called me back 5 min later it was with the news that he had stopped breathing and despite CPR, had died....

CG is over come with grief..we are numb with shock..Sid was the rescue young cat we got last year..after the Monty puss shaped hole had ceased to hurt quite so badly..he was lovely, friendly, a character and so motherly to the 2 kittens Tom and Tabitha...

RIP Sidney Puss, we will ALL miss you so very much.....

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Compostgirl's Tudor House project

Compostgirl ( aged 8 ) has been learning about the Tudor period at school. Over half term they were asked to do a project on Tudor Houses. Compostgirl decided to make a model and then do an annotated drawing. She researched from books and online, what the houses were made out of, what different houses would have been like (depending on how poor or rich you were) and decided to make a half timbered house, of the sort a moderately wealthy person would have lived in.

Its her idea and choice of materials, we have helped her a bit with the trickier bits like cutting up wood strips and sawing things, and finding materials for her.. She took a cardboard box, some polystyrene sheet to make up the jetty(the sticking out upper floor) covered it all in white card to look like the outside lime washed wattle and daub,

stuck thin black painted balsa strip (which she painted and cut up) on the box for the beams

and made a roof out of corrugated card, which she painted to look like a tiled roof.

She has cut up lots of small pieces of black wood strip and glued them in place to look like the beams. She also made little windows out of plastic sheet and glued them in place, surrounded by more "beams"

The roof was also dabbed with green paint, to look like moss, and she added some black staining around the chimneys to look like soot stain.

I know my lovely daughter is good at making things and has a huge love for history but I am astonished at how good this model is! I know she has had a fair bit of help from us, but in every case it was help to do things she tried to do herself but couldn't quite manage. Things like making the long strips of wood using a power saw(!) She did mark and cut the small beams herself having first painted them.

She has also drawn an annotated diagram of her house and written an explanation of what Tudor houses were like.

It has taken her 2 weeks to do and she has spent so much time and effort on it and it looks amazing!

Chimney detail

Front door detail

The finished article, front view

Side view.

Back view.

And finally, the front view again but with a very proud Compostgirl next to it.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

A crafty time, for me to enjoy........

A wreath made by a then 7 year old Compostgirl, the sort of thing we will be doing.

Twig stars, wands and wreath bases. I have also made some twig hearts. The bundle of sticks is not cinnamon but red dogwood.

Weeping silver birch wreath base, ready for decoration with greenery or ribbon ( or both!)

A recycled materials wreath. Plastic strapping, oddments of ribbon tied around and trimmed.

I have spent a very pleasant afternoon and evening making christmas-y stuff(wreaths, twig stars, ribbon wreaths, Gods Eyes, glitter pinecones, paper craft trees and flowers, paper fabric with pressed flowers etc) in preparation for a craft workshop I am running next week for various nursery staff and teaching staff. :-)

They get to make stuff from natural and recycled materials (which I provide, harvested from the garden or from the Scrapstore) with a bit of my help and also any new ideas they bring along ...and hopefully they can take their ideas back to their children and the children get to make the things as well.... :-) and I get paid for making fun stuff and passing on my ideas :-)

I now have a nice collection of things to show them, step by step photos to show on the day as a powerpoint presentation and I have written up a "how to " sheet and also done the risk assessments for making the stuff. I have just added where to get specialist supplies (raffia, brown paper bags, newsprint paper for printing wrapping paper, cones if they can't forage for them ...)I hope they can get twigs and suchlike!

I am running all the ideas past Compostgirl this weekend to see what age level I should say can do the crafts, and how I can modify them so younger ones can have a go...she loves helping me to make the things I am running sessions about and I give her extra pocket money as "my helper"

I also have some good news. I have just heard (literally just!) I have been accepted on to a an adult teaching/lecturing/tutoring course, the PTTLS course, 80% funded so I only have to pay a small amount towards it!

It starts soon, one day a week ...until end Feb. I am doing a lot of adult training workshops, so it was a good idea for me to actually have the qualification to go with the work I have been doing.

You know, I sometimes think it would just have been easier if I had done a PGCE all those years ago when I was first offered a place back in 1995, rather than ending up doing things the way I have done, what with the Forest School Leader training and now the lecturing course.

But then, I wouldn't have got all the interesting bits and bobs of experience along the way, would I? and I never really wanted to be a teacher in a school...teach people things, yes! ..but not be in a school..(IYKWIM ) ..not my cup of tea I suspect!

Off to make more crafty things for next week and to take some pictures of the most amazing Tudor House Compostgirl has made for a school project...watch this space!

Monday, 2 November 2009

A very busy half term holiday

As well as having fun with Compostgirl, I spent the half term holiday week leading up to Samhain/Halloween working with groups of children on various seasonal craft activities...mainly involving pumpkins ( now there's a surprise!)

All told I have been involved, one way or another, with the carving of 54 pumpkins, over the last 5 days in October.....

On one of my days off working we went round to see our very good friend M and her 2 lovely children for the day, we had lunch, the children played, M and I chatted and we carved ( you guessed it!) pumpkins!

Here is Compostgirl carving pumpkins with her friends.

The craft sessions I ran also involved lots of glue and glitter and orange paint

And lots of bats and spiders, of course!

I DO like my work :-) (even though it took a very long time to wash out all the glue and glitter in my hair.....)

but I think I will give pumpkin a miss for a few days...... :-))

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Update on Spike the hedgehog

When Spike the little Hedgehog was handed over to us after being found on the School playing field, he was a weak and poorly little hoggie. He only weighed 150 g and was desparately in need of food and water and warmth.

Once I got some drink and a bit of food down him he perked up and has twice in the past 3 weeks been into school to have a look at the children and for us to answer questions about hedgehogs.

We weighed him on 18th Oct and he had increased in weight to 300g....so he doubled his weight in 5 days!

he is getting bigger and eating more and more cat food so we weighed him again on 30th Oct and he weighed in at 450g.....

and when we weighed him again last night, he was a wopping 550g!

At this rate he will be big enough to release outside before the end of November and he will be big enough to go into hibernation!

Oh, and he looks a bit dusty in these pictures because we have just scrubbed out his cage, dried it, put in fresh bedding and dusted it with Diatom powder to kill off mites and fleas.... he isn't really grey!