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!

Saturday 31 January 2009

January musings

So..end of the first month of 2009!

I have decided to instigate a monthly round up of what has gone on, a "good things" and ( maybe) "not so good things" which have happened here

So the good things

Well I bet you can all guess what no 1 will be !

I FINISHED my Forest School Leader portfolio! and handed it in ON TIME!
I am so relieved, I cannot begin to express how happy I am to have completed it after 9 months of jolly hard work.

I enjoyed it, especially the actual sessions with the children and I love research and learning so it was good to do BUT I had a few health issues along the way which made it harder to complete than I would have liked.

The Hens! They continue to delight and amuse....and the Dorking 6 look to be as amusing as the rest of the girls!

3. Our wood and garden. It is the start of planting and digging and flowering and growing and budding and greening....and I love love LOVE it! February is such a good time of year! and I realise how lucky and blessed I am to live where I do, with a wonderful garden and woodland to tend and nurture.

Compostman and Compostgirl!

I have various plans in progress, some involve using our own woodland for education and also some other work opportunities, I won't say any more just yet BUT I am hopeful that this year will be financially a bit more fruitful than 2008 (when I spent a LOT of money on my FS training which was another reason why I was SO determined to finish the portfolio!) I now have more time to commit to actually getting out there sourcing some much needed paying work to earn some money, rather than spending vast amounts of time and money doing the training!

I can't honestly think of any really "not so good" things"...small niggles, health issues and minor irritations but they all blow away when I go and walk down the wood and hear the birds singing and see the Hare who lives in our woodland turn and look at me.....

or take my early morning mug of tea out to the chickens to let them out and listen to them grumble and scratch around and jostle for position at the feeders.

or watch the mad cats run around the garden and pell mell up a tree, all three of them nose to tail.

Life is very good and I am very contented with my life at the moment!

I hope you all had a good January

Here is to a good February.

Simple, Green Frugal post # 2

I have just put up my second post on the Simple Green Frugal blog. I would be very pleased if you went and had a look at my post (it is about making Chutney) and more importantly looked at the whole blog as it is wonderful! :-))

Thank you!love, Compostwoman

Normal life at Compost Mansions resumes.....mud, chicken poo, seeds and plants

So...hmmm..where to start with the catch up? We are all well, fed up with the incessant rain and the fact that we can't get digging in the garden. The garden looks like a war zone where the chickens have been, it is so wet that where they have scratched they have made mud pies!

BUT there are snowdrops everywhere and signs of spring ...

I have a lot of work now at the weekends cleaning out 3 hen houses and everyday I get rid of the worst of the poo into a bucket, so that they all don't put it on the eggs...as their feet are so muddy they pick up the droppings and then transfer them to the eggs..not nice , and I can't sell eggs I have had to wipe clean.

So much chicken poo!

All three houses and runs cleaned and sweet smelling.

Eggs...hmm well there is a huge improvement over the first week in Jan, when I was down to 3 a day from 6 laying hens. I am now back to 5 a day and every other day a full house from the girls! Both Ginger and Henny are back in full time lay and they produce the biggest eggs of the lot. I now have a customer who can identify the eggs, he was thrown because he hasn't had a Ginger egg before and he got one in the box this week....he asked what she looked like and why she had gone off lay! My customer numbers are increasing, so it is good that more of the girls are coming back into lay and OF COURSE I eggspect a egg or several from the Fab 4 Dorking girls any day (week) soon....as they are now 21 weeks old.

Poor old Genghis Hen the batty ex-battery hen had another go at laying an egg this week, but this is all she could manage....compared with a Sweetiepie egg on the rhs. Genghis' insides are probably now messed up due to the forced laying regime the artificial light makes battery hens follow :-(

Update on Cap't Flint and Long John Silver Dorking...There have been no more bloody fights, a bit of posturing BUT the big news is LJS today mounted Henny while she wasn't paying attention! He "did the deed" properly, too! ( I now have witnessed chickens mating in full, glorious Technicolour and believe me it is a bit odd....) He pecked her on the neck, jumped off and gave a squawk, while Henny shook herself and looked a bit baffled...I could almost see/hear her thinking..... "wonder what that was all about?" Also one of the cockerels is now crowing...I thought it might be Cap't Flint, but I now suspect LJS.... and LJS, although smaller than Cap't Flint, is definitely "King of the Roost" at the moment! Cap't Flint is still running away from "the big girls"despite being bigger than LJS !


I have finally been free to unpack my seed orders, the first one I opened was my Heritage Seed Library order.
Garden Organic, who run the HSL scheme, say
Our Heritage Seed Library (HSL) aims to conserve and make available vegetable varieties that are not widely available. The HSL Department maintains a collection, mainly of European varieties. Over the decades many varieties have been dropped from popular seed catalogues. Our collection contains many of these but also some landraces and a large number of family heirloom varieties that have never been in a catalogue. We are not a gene bank and all our collection, once we have enough seed will become available to our members.

Some interesting beans, purple mangetout, asparagus lettuce (its lovely, I grew some last year) and a fabulous Beefsteak tomato which is wonderful stuffed... I like to try to sow seeds on Imbolc, which is only 3 days away! Eeek so I have better get unpacking the other order, the big one from The Organic Gardening Catalogue.... Normal life at Compost Mansions resumes.....

Thursday 22 January 2009

Eco Club wins an award!

Yay! We have won another award!

Ashperton Primary School, in Ledbury is the first school in Herefordshire to win a Gold Award with the Woodland Trust for getting involved in green activities including tree planting, reducing carbon emissions and recycling.

The new initiative launched this year by the Woodland Trust offers schools the opportunity to bring the great outdoors, the wonderful world of wildlife and green issues into the classroom with a range of resources and a new award scheme.

The Green Tree Schools Award scheme rewards schools every time they participate in inspirational learning events, projects or initiatives provided by The Woodland Trust. Ashperton Primary School is the first school in Herefordshire to win this award for participating in green activities, which included tree planting, reducing carbon emissions and recycling. Over the past 2 years Ashperton School have planted new trees in their school grounds and the children have grown trees from seeds, as well as recycling Christmas cards, visiting a woodland, reducing their carbon emissions and joining in various other Woodland Trust activities.

Karen Letten, schools development officer, said: “The scheme promotes a range of opportunities, each designed to stimulate a child’s imagination and sustain their interest in nature. The achievements of the school are recognised through an awards scheme in which they receive points for taking part in activities. As they reach milestones within the project they will receive bronze, silver and finally an attractive wooden plaque which acknowledges they’ve achieved the environmental accolade of a gold award.”

Sarah Blenkinsop, who is a leader of the School Eco Club, commented: "The Woodland Trust have donated trees for our hedgerow and copse as well as seeds to help Eco Club improve our outside environment at school. They also have provided us with wonderful free resources from their website. The Nature Detectives Club offers loads of ideas and brilliant fun activities for all the children at school. As a Forest School leader I also use the Woodland Trust resources during sessions with the children.”

Sue Fowler, who is the Eco School Co-ordinator and Yr. 2 Teacher said: “It’s fantastic being one of the very first schools in the U.K. and certainly the first in Herefordshire to gain this award. We are very passionate about the environment at Ashperton Primary School and it is wonderful for the Woodland Trust to recognise our commitment and enthusiasm.”

To take part schools simply register at www.naturedetectives.org.uk/award and can start earning points immediately. These are a few of the many different ways to do this:

Participate in a tree planting event
Receive free trees for your school grounds
Recycle Christmas cards, mobile phones or inkjet cartridges with the Woodland Trust
Reduce CO2 emissions
Register with Nature Detectives
Join the Ancient Tree Hunt

Karen continues: “This is pick ‘n’ mix conservation. Teachers and children choose from a range of activities to suit their interest and priorities at any given moment. Schools embark on a real journey of discovery with us and, along the way, will also be working toward achieving other recognised environmental awards such as Eco Schools.”

The Woodland Trust’s learning team provides a range of resources for both primary and secondary schools. Most activities are available free of charge and further details can be found at www.naturedetectives.org.uk

Congratulations to ALL the children at our school, especially Eco Club, for all our hard work! We were the first school in Herefordshire and one of the first in the country to win this award!

We have had lots of media coverage about this, quite deservedly and oh I am so proud of us!

Wednesday 21 January 2009

Cock fighting!

I went out yesterday to put the chickens to bed and found Long John Silver Dorking with a bloody throat, looking very sorry for himself in the corner of the Broody Ark. His beautiful speckled white neck feathers were covered with blood, it looked dreadful and at first I feared the worst,( fox, cat, mink attack etc)

So, I picked him up, tucked him close up under my arm for comfort and carried him over to the garage, where there was better light and the chicken first aid kit lives. I examined Long John Silver and it transpired he only had a small wound on one of his wattles (the red bits of skin which hang down underneath the beak) and was fine everywhere else. Phew!

We put on some surgical gloves (I had a job as its hard to do with a chicken under your arm!) then Compostman opened the sterile saline sachet and wipes for me (as I had my hands full of Long John Silver!) and then I gently cleaned away all the blood and had a good look at the wound. It was actually not bad, a small nick only, just it had bled a lot! I puffed some Veterinary Wound powder on to the area and made sure there was no blood visible any more (as the other chickens will go for any bloody wound and peck at it). I wondered about putting on some Gentian Violet but decided not.

I then gentled poor old Long John Silver a bit, gave him some corn in my hand and petted him till he had calmed down, then put him in his run (with Ruby and Buffy to snuggle up to for company) for the night.

Compostman said he had seen Long John and Cap't Flint squaring up to each other earlier on, so it must have been as a result of a fight. I had already separated out the two cockerels a few days ago into separate runs and houses at night time because of their increased aggressiveness to each other. I had put Cap't Flint in the Eglu with Violet and Willow, Long John Silver had the Broody Ark with Ruby and Buffy

This did seem to have worked as they are only in there overnight and the rest of the time they have LOADS of space to avoid each other and the "big" hens!

My problem at the moment is the cockerels are still too young to dominate the big hens, who chase them and laugh at them, quite frankly!

My long term plan is to put let one cockerel have a harem in Cluckingham Palace and the other have a harem in the Eglu, and they can all just work it out! As there is plenty of space and enough hens this should work OK, I have seen it work quite happily before....but not until the cockerels are big enough to actually "persuade" the older hens that they WANT to be part of the harem!

So...in the meantime Cluckingham Palace is off limits because it is occupied by the "big girls" and I have to sort this out for myself...and make sure the cockerels are separated out at night.

Teenagers! Honestly!

Monday 19 January 2009

Meeting The Green family and a Zero Waste Roadshow

On Friday Compostman and I went over to nearby Newent to visit the Zero Waste Week roadshow in Budgens supermarket ( and do a bit of shopping as Budgens in Newent have lots of nice stuff and carry a huge range of local, organic foods)

AND to meet up with The Green family from My Zero Waste!

They are a lovely family! We all had a general chat then Mrs Green and I nattered ninteen to the dozen about waste, recycling, composting and so on (as you do) and Compostman and I gave Little Miss Green some eggs from "the girls" before we all parted.

We all then chatted to the wonderful people on the Gloucestershire CC Zero Waste Week roadshow

Here are Mrs Green and Aunty Rubbish!

Aunty Rubbish is the lovely lady on the Zero Waste Roadshow.

and then we talked composting ( well there's a surprise....)

here we are talking about composting!

Zero Waste Challenge Week 2009 is a really good idea, This is what they are asking Gloucestershire residents to do

Zero Waste Challenge Week 2009

Want to play a part in something new and exciting?

Sign up to our Zero Waste Challenge and help Gloucestershire reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfill.

Zero Waste Challenge Week is all about reducing the amount of waste you throw away in your dustbin in one week. The week will be held week commencing the 26th January to the 1st February 2009.

Zero Waste means that nothing gets thrown away in the dustbin. As well as trying to cut down what we use, it also means that we try to only use things that we can reuse, recycle or compost. That way we’re left with nothing else to throw away in the bin.

We believe that if you make enough changes, it is possible to achieve a Zero Waste Week. However, the aim of the challenge is to see how close you can get. Circumstances are different for everyone and even if you don’t quite manage to achieve Zero Waste, you will find that you have a dramatic effect on the amount you throw away.

So, if you are reading my blog and you live in Gloucestershire, why not join in? You get some lovely goodies and you might win a prize!

Well done to all who have signed up and here’s hoping more than 1000 people have already joined!

I am most impressed with the Zero Waste Week stuff, just a shame I can’t sign up (wrong postcode) but I am working on my Council (Herefordshire) to do the same.
We are doing our own personal version of Zero Waste Week, as we started weighing our landfill bin again at the start of 2009, we haven’t done it for a bit and it is something that you have to keep an eye on, or “stuff” starts to slip in again and before you know it your bin has has put on weight. So far we are pleased with our continued efforts. I will post more on this at a future date.

So, anyway, a good day out for Compostman and I, we went to a nice nearby market town, met some lovely, like minded people ( you are lovely, Green family!) did some shopping, visited a roadshow, and then had lunch in the pub in Dymock.

A very satisfying sort of day.

Friday 16 January 2009

I lived a "Victorian Farm" life!

Victorian Farm was GOOD, again, this week !

I can remember stuff like that in the laundry in our house in 1969 ( not 1979 as I put in a comment to Greentwinsmummy)! My family moved to a very rural smallholding in 1969, no mains water, electric, oil or gas...oil lamps, candles, wood range for cooking, a well for all water, chamberpots inside and a pit privy at the bottom of the garden which was moved once a year to an new location, with copper and dolly and mangle for washing, and a tin bath which we all shared once a week...and a kitchen garden, a larder, a cold shelf ( no fridge!) and killing and gutting game, chickens etc....My poor mum! spent 2 years living much like they are living in the VF programme....,

she even made beer in the copper wash kettle! (real Lark Rise to Candleford stuff, and my Mum actually lived in that area in the 1920's! - I was born in 1962 when she was in her late 40's btw.....) and we had Bees.

and no elec for the first 6 months we lived there... so tilley lamps and candles for lighting and an iron heated on the range, just like in TVF

I helped with all this and can remember the effort involved even now, 40 years on..( (I was 7 at the time)and helped Mum with the washing and the cooking and the getting water etc....

I remember washing sheets as an absolute MISERY in the winter..trying to get them dry was terrible...and the house wreathed in stream...and the pages of my book getting damp ( it was the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as I recall!)

BUT it was also magical and the first winter we were there, it was the BEST Christmas I can ever remember....which is why I can STILL remember it so vividly I guess :-)

Hard to imagine now, living like that, within a middle aged person's lifetime (me)...but we did...until 1971 when we finally got the new kitchen and bedrooms and bathroom built, then it was radiators and electric cookers and 'fridges etc..although my Mum always said nothing she cooked ever tasted quite as good, compared with what she had done on that old range.....

I also had horses and we had chickens and pigs and sheep...and I used one of those LETHAL chaff cutters to make food for them..coo child protection laws would have a field day over that now! Whirling, unprotected blades being operated by an 8 year old! The Mangel Worzel cutter was almost as dangerous....

Actually, it WAS ALL dangerous...not all the old stuff is good......

But I do look back on it with immense pleasure, not least because I KNOW I could do it all again ITSHTF...and if TEOTWAWKI actually happened...(!)

Guess who has downloaded the The Year of the Farm, farming bible they keep refering to ?

Thursday 15 January 2009

Go-ahead for new Heathrow runway

I know I am supposed to be getting on with my Forest School portfolio, but I HAD to post about this!

Go-ahead for new Heathrow runway

Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable.

Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon has announced government approval for a third runway at London's Heathrow Airport.The plan is for a new runway, allowing the annual number of take-offs and landings to increase to 605,000 by 2020 and 720,000 by 2030 - up from 480,000 today. The development would result in the loss of around 700 homes, including the entire community of Sipson and Heathrow Primary School.

According to Sir David King, former chief scientific adviser to the government, the runway would over time come to be seen as a 'white elephant'. Long before investment in it were repaid, demand for flying will have fallen away as pressure to reduce carbon increases and competition with other forms of travel grows. The downturn is already forcing people to find substitutes for air travel. This pattern will continue, he suggests.

A Greater London Authority (GLA) report suggested Heathrow would even now breach the EU regulations on levels of Nitrous Oxide due to come into force in 2010. Extra flights would only make this worse.

Even the Environment Agency admits that with a third runway, Heathrow would breach these limits.

The GLA study also found that the airport would breach noise pollution limits as a result of the extra flights.

Heathrow generates 50% of UK aviation emissions. This makes 6% of total emissions, according to Department for Transport figures.

A third runway could mean an extra 200,000 flights a year over London.

Why should aviation capacity be increased indefinitely? When will those in power wake up to the realities of Climate Change? Why should you or I have our lives blighted by the effects of Climate Change, why should poor souls in pacific islands or Bangladesh or wherever be flooded out of their homes by rising sea water?

Greenpeace are asking people to contact the Prime Minister, via their website, and express their opinion.

I have just done so.

Want to join me?

love, Compostwoman x

Wednesday 14 January 2009

SGF post Introducing Compostwoman

I have just put up my first post on the Simple Green Frugal blog. I would be very pleased if you went and had a look at my post and more importantly looked at the whole blog as it is wonderful! :-))

You also get to find out a bit more about me, if you go and look ;-)

Thank you!

love, Compostwoman

Problems with Blogger

I am really sorry about the lack of posts recently, I have had HUGE problems trying to upload posts onto Blogger...

and I am deep in the throes of Forest School Portfolio writing. It is really interesting to do and I am enjoying it a lot ( even if I do keep on being sidetracked by interesting research I come across)...BUT I have a DEADLINE to work to....so I MUST crack on.

Normal service WILL be resumed asap, but rest assured chickens, cats, polytunnel, people are all well, if a bit fraught, here at Compost Mansions!


Tuesday 13 January 2009

Join the Greenpeace airplot owners party!

I've signed up

Have you?

Greenpeace say

we're now the proud owners of a small piece of land within the site of the proposed third runway at Heathrow.

We're expecting the government will announce that they're going ahead with expansion at Heathrow this week and we now need you to join us. Sign up now to get your own piece of the plot. It's not a financial thing, but you will be included as an owner on the legal deed of trust.

5000 people, and counting! So why not join Greenpeace, Alistair McGowan, Emma Thompson, Zac Goldsmith and a hell of a lot of other folk to stop dangerous Climate Change madness.

Saturday 10 January 2009

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch!

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is 30 this year!

In the late 1970s, the RSPB asked its junior membership to count the birds in their garden - over the same weekend. This 'one-off' idea was so successful, it has grown into the world's biggest survey of its kind. Thirty years later and more than three million Big Garden Birdwatch hours have been clocked up by people watching and enjoying the birds in their gardens. That's more than 380 years – wow! We have also spotted 6 million birds, helping reveal the winners and losers in the garden bird world.

Taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch is simple and fun!

All you need to do is watch in your garden or local park for an hour on either Saturday 24 or Sunday 25 January 2009.

Simply record the highest number of each species seen in your garden (not flying over) at any one time.

Download the counting sheet to help you keep track of how many birds you've seen. The sheet has pictures of the commonest birds seen in gardens, as well as space to cross off how many of each species you have seen together.

You don't need to send this sheet back to the RSPB - it is just to help you record your counts.

Submit your results using the online form provided, which will open on 24 January 2009 for you to enter your 2009 counts. The RSPB will collate and publish the results in March 2009.

And if anyone reading this is involved with a school or youth group, why not join in with The Big Schools Birdwatch?

This is a free activity for schools and youth groups (brownies, scouts etc) throughout the UK, which the RSPB run every year in January and February.

By observing the birds that visit your school grounds you will be helping them monitor UK bird numbers.

A free teachers activity pack is available. the RSPB also have loads of information and resources on these pages to help you carry out this activity with your class.

New for this year, build your choice of graphs and charts. Submit your results online and get access to these new, interactive class activities. A series of cunning questions provided by the RSPB will also get your class really exploring and interpreting their data.

Print out the tables, graphs and charts and use them as a record of data handling work, or put them up in your classroom as part of a Big Schools' Birdwatch display.

If you don't have access to a whiteboard, they still want to hear from you. Please submit your results using the paper form provided in your activity pack.

If your school does not have suitable grounds you can carry out your birdwatch in a local park.

The next Big Schools' Birdwatch runs from 19-30 January 2009.

It is NOT too late to apply!

We will be doing the Big Schools Birdwatch at both our Eco club sessions in January AND doing the Big Garden Birdwatch at Compost Mansions on the weekend of the 24th and 25 Jan

So why not join us!

Thursday 8 January 2009

Our eggs

N.B. I have NO idea why a draft version of this post was published earlier today. I must have done something wrong with my scheduling. Ah well, you all get to read this slightly different version ;-) and the sharper eyed amongst you can even comment twice if you like!( ooo see how kind I am to you all...)

Compostgirl started back to school yesterday ( after a false start where I managed to send her and Compostman off to school on Monday by mistake, oops sorry). That also means the re-start of my egg selling, as it is friends and staff at school who are my main customers. Which made me muse about our eggs and what goes in to them and why they are so very popular!

Our eggs come, obviously, from our VERY free ranging laying chickens, Babs, Goldie, Henny, Ginger, Sweetiepie and Attila. Cathy and Genghis don't really lay very often, being poor old worn out ex battery hens and the Fab Four Dorking girls are too young to lay eggs just yet (BUT they are 17 weeks old today so not for much longer, four or five more weeks and they should be laying also.) This means the chickens eat grubs and worms and the bits and bobs which they furtle up by scratching around in the soil. And grass. LOTS of grass. It is actually quite astonishing how much grass and greenery chickens like to eat.

Our chickens are fed on Organic Layers Pellets ad lib and Organic Mixed Corn as a treat. They LOVE bits of wholemeal bread soaked in warm water but they get that as a treat, also. They get some fruit and veg including raisins, broccoli (a favourite with all chickens I think!) and any other bits and pieces which we have to hand or which they can raid from the garden ( apples are a favourite!) They are also getting a warm porridge made from their layers pellets in the afternoon at the moment , to keep them cosy in the cold ( brr -8 C) night weather we are having at the moment.

To supplement all this we add a number of other things to their feed to keep them happy and healthy. Their warm mash is mixed in with some Poultry Spice, a blend of minerals and spices which chickens generally find very attractive ( I like the smell also.) Apple Cider Vinegar is added to their water as a general tonic as is Citricidal. Sometimes they get some garlic powder added to their feed but I am careful not to add too much as it can come through as a taste in the eggs, as can anything strong tasting!.

I also spend at least an hour a day in total with my chickens, checking them over and talking to them and looking after them. I freely admit I actually spend more time with my chickens than is really needed, as I enjoy being with them and seeing what they get up to! This also means I can spot if one of the chickens is unwell and take prompt action.

Compost Mansions hens eggs are VERY different from what I have seen of bought, supermarket eggs! Our hens lay eggs where the yolks are a deep, wonderful yellow, due to all the green stuff they eat whilst free ranging. EVERYONE who has tasted our eggs has commented on how fabulous they are! We eat lots of our eggs and think they are terrific, and all our customers have made very happy sounding noises ( but have not started clucking....yet). We had several people buying them to eat especially on Christmas Day, scrambled with smoked salmon, for breakfast. Which was nice!

Also our eggs are VERY fresh! The eggs we eat or which are sold to our customers are laid within the last few days, maybe even laid yesterday or this very morning! I have been know to sell eggs which are still warm from the nest......or even allowed someone to go and get their own egg from the nest box ( children young and old LOVE doing this!) how much fresher can you get?

If you buy eggs from a Supermarket, do you get to know who laid the egg? *I* can tell who laid what egg by looking in the egg box at the colour of the egg...I can even tell who has actually just laid without looking out of my window, by identifying the different " I've laid an egg" racket.....

Top THAT, supermarket eggs!


With thanks to Garden Hens for giving me the idea for this post.

Wednesday 7 January 2009

Our cats

With the cold weather we are currently having here the cats have all been indoors much more than usual.

Compostgirl and Tom Kitten having a cuddle. Tom sleeps on her bed at night. Sidney and Tabitha sleep on ours, and take up an amazing amount of space.

Kitty Cat in his comfy cushion next to the Aga. He is a very old and poorly puss now, so we have moved his cushion as close to the Aga as possible. He sometimes permits Sidney to share it with him but never Tom or Tabitha.

Sidney curled up in a comfy place. He IS a lovely puss and very talkative when outside in the garden! He keeps up a non stop chat of meeps and wows and mews.

Tabitha Twitchett on her favourite chair!

Tom Kitten, when he isn't sleeping on Compostgirl, he sleeps here!

Notice how Tom and Tabitha have silk cushions behind them. I keep on taking them away but they mysteriously return again....

Tuesday 6 January 2009

December egg round up

It is that time again! December has passed and it is time for me to yet again delight you with my egg tally and hennish round up for the last month ;-))

Despite December being of very short day lengths, and thus in theory being the lowest egg producing months, I have had a good lot of eggs from all the girls.

Henny, who was moulting for the whole of October and beginning of November, is now back in fine fettle, her new feathers are very pretty! She is now 2 years old and has never laid an egg a day, she tends to lay 5 in succession and then have a day off! Henny laid 20 eggs in December.

Ginger went into a short but intense moult in the middle of December and is only just getting some feathers, what a daft hen!

I have felt SO sorry for her this last few very cold days as she looks miserable but won't go in the house to shelter. Despite this Ginger had laid an egg a day for the first part of December, a total of 18 eggs.

Attilla laid 21 eggs and has nice new feathers on her neck and bottom now, the purple spray does the magic trick again!

Cathy laid 7 eggs in all and now also has lovely new feathery bloomers. You can see her lovely new feathers as I have had success with the purple spray on her and whoever was eating her feathers has stopped and they have grown back beautifully.

Sweetiepie started laying 4 days after she left the Sweetie Six to their own devices and has laid 13 eggs and towards the end of the months was laying an egg every day.

Cathy, Attila, and Sweetiepie show off their new bloomers.

Genghis Hen had me worried just before Christmas as she had a couple of days where she was very droopy and wouldn't eat. I isolated her from the others, checked for egg boundness, sour crop, impacted crop, wounds, sniffles stc and she seemed to be clear of anything obviously wrong so I gave her some food, water, a cosy bed, some TLC and hoped for the best (it was Christmas eve so I couldn't consult the vet!) Next morning she was a little better and had done a HUGE pile of droppings and laid a mess of an egg. By the afternoon she was fine again, so hopefully it was the strain of an egg inside her....poor old girl. The forced egg laying (due to the artificial light they are kept under) messes up battery hens sometimes and they just can't lay properly.

But yet again, the absolute stars are Babs and Goldie! Yep the new girls laid the most eggs! Babs laid 26 and Goldie laid a magnificent 27 eggs out of a possible 31. Goldie makes me laugh! I posted a few days back about her being an escapologist, well we went to the trouble of putting a nest box outside the run for her just in case she got out before laying an egg...well she CAN get back in the Orchard if she wants AND she lays her egg BEFORE she escapes!

Babs has lost all her head feathers due to pecking and I have had to paint some magic purple spray on her head to stop the feather pecking. She now looks like a punk! She was NOT impressed with this process I can tell you...

The Silver Dorkings continue to delight, Cap't Flint is the dominant male at the moment and is now as large as the big girls although he still keeps a respectful distance from them!

Can you see Sidney and Tabitha playing behind him?

Long John Silver is very friendly and I hope that continues. Ruby, Violet, Buffy and Willow are very sweet and have just started to make cluck noises rather than strangled squarks all the time, and so far we haven'theard any crowing!

With the weather being so cold I have been giving the chickens warm mash and lots of extra treats and high protein nibbles to help them grow new feathers as fast as they can, and as a reward because I love them all.

As we are have been having the shortest days and it has been quite overcast and gloomy on some days the girls are doing really well to lay so many eggs! Hen egg laying is controlled by day light so we really are getting a good return from our girlies. I have actually had the second best monthly egg tally in December, only a few eggs behind October! in the last 6 months I have had a total of 718 eggs from the hens, what on earth have we done with them all? I haven't sold THAT many!

From 6 egglaying hens ( forget about Genghis and Cathy!) I have averaged over 4 eggs per day, which isn't bad going I think!

Hopefully the better weather, the end of moulting and the beginning of the fab four Dorkings coming into lay will mean more eggs for me to sell and recoup some of the feed bill as well. Which would be good.....

THANK you all, my lovely, lovely girls and boys, you are making my life a lot brighter!)

Henny and Sweetiepie.

Monday 5 January 2009

Tidying the Polytunnel

I have shamefully left tidying up my polytunnel until December this season...one of the many casualties of my being preoccupied with my Forest School portfolio evidence gathering and dissertation writing I am afraid!

I don't grow much in the polytunnel in winter, I have some herbs and a few different salad leaves on the go but we tend not to eat much salad stuff in winter! I DO use my poly tunnel to overwinter various pots of herbs and patio plants, and also as a sheltered place to put Fudge the Guinea Pig in his run though...

And of course, once I get my tomato, pepper, aubergine etc plants on the go in January they need to go into the polytunnel (inside cold frames to protect them from frost) to grow big and strong!

As you can see it is all a bit of a mess

THIS is the damage the cats have done to my roof!

I will have to wait for drier weather before I can use my magic polytunnel fixing tape to mend these holes as best I can as it is too wet at the moment!

As New Year rushed rapidly towards me last week I made a decision; I could NOT allow the New Year to enter my life with a messy polytunnel...the New Year means its the start of the growing season here, so how could I plant anything knowing my growing place was such a tip?

So despite it being an average of -3 all day here for the last week, and a cold -7 ( thats celsius, by the way!) at night, I spent the last few days of 2008 outside cleaning up my beloved polytunnel. I viewed the freezing hands and feet as suitable pennace for leaving it so long!

loo roll tubes, various plastic containers and coffee bags waiting to be used as planters for parsnips, seeds or to be turned into bird scarers

Milk or water bottles cut down to be used as water reservoirs in the summer, planted in the ground small hole first next to thirsty plants.

Sid the Cat having a snooze. (It was - 2 inside the PT when I took this shot!)

I have a mesh panel in the door which is great for air flow in the hot summer but needs covering in the cold winter....

So I covered it with an old compost bag split lengthways, to keep in what little warmth there was....

Tender herbs and patio pots sheltering from the cold...

covered with fleece to protect them from the very cold we are currently experiencing.

Me having a break from the cold...I brought out a flask of hot coffee each day for the 3 days I was clearing the polytunnel, I know I am only 30 secs from the house BUT it saved me an hour or probably more ( 2 coffee breaks, each one taking more than half an hour to go inside, take off my boots, boot socks, hat, outer gloves, inner gloves, x 2 fleeces etc, drink coffee made for me...then put all the out door gear back on)

and I actually enjoy drinking a hot drink outside whilst I am working....

Re-covering the floor needs doing here, a job to be done soon I think!

I get loads of strawberry plants growing everywhere all the time inside the polytunnel...I recycle them..but thats another post I think ( so watch this space....!)

As always, I have chicken helpers around, whatever I do....

Lots of stuff to cart away to add to my compost bins!

All done! I have a tidy polytunnel again!

I have all of January to get on with other stuff now, as I have completed an important, major, outdoor job and can cross it off my list knowing that WHEN I need to use the benches or the floor it is all there, ready and waiting for me....

It feels good....


Friday 2 January 2009

Visiting friends

Today we spent the day with our friends M and K and their two children K and J. K is Compostgirl's best girlfriend outside of school and J is also a very very good friend, probably the best male friend Compostgirl has.

They have all know each other from birth as well so they had a very happy few hours playing together.

Our friends have recently moved house ( just before Christmas eeek!) , so we took them not only Christmas gifts for the children but also a home made hamper of things to celebrate their new home. Apple juice, blackcurrant vodka, chutney, pickled shallots, jam, eggs and a journal to record the changes they plan to make to their garden.

I LOVE being able to make stuff and give it to appreciative friends and M is a delight to give gifts to! She appreciates our efforts, she made lots of lovely ahh sounds when she opened the box and saw what was in it!

Eggs from the girlies added to the gift and I believe they are being eaten for supper tonight. Certainly M wasted no time in getting stuck in to the chutney (mmm chutney...nice one M! )

It was a lovely day, spent with good friends, M prepared a wonderful lunch despite having worked non-stop in her family hotel over the festive season AND having only just moved house, she is an amazing lady and I don't know how she does all the things she has to AND keep on smiling and being such a wonderful friend!

It was wonderful to see them in their new home after a break of several months without face to face contact.

Happy New Year and Happy New House to them!