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!

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 ?


  1. I loved reading about your experiences as a child CW ... in fact, I'd love to read more!! Please write a book!!

    Your post brought back memories for me, of growing up in a small village in the late 60's, where some of the older people lived exactly as you've described - they all seemed to live to a ripe old age and were pretty healthy, so it must have been a fairly good way to live!

    Willow xx

  2. I'm a little older than you and not farming stock but I can remember quite a lot of the things too. My gran and my aunt (a farmers wife) had the ranges, I remember a mangle and the dolly being around during my childhood in the UK - even though I lived abroad with servants!! for the first 5 years of my life.

    I also remember that my farmer uncle was missing a few fingers due to the machinery on his farm too.

    But as you say I have an idea still how to do it and should I need to I'm sure I could even though I know I would find the physicalness of the work hard.

    Where did you find 'The Year of the Farm' I could only find an extract and apparently it's in 3 volumes. I was most upset I didn't find it on Play but it might be there by next year :-D

  3. Six months without electric four years ago made me REALLY appreciate the wonders of the washing machine - sheets you remember being bad - jeans and quilt covers were my nemesis!

    Good to live it with the knowledge the leccy would arrive at some point!

  4. Have left you an award over on my blog, hope you like it, hope you are well fiona

  5. ooh, snap - we've downloaded The Year of the Farm too - a very interesting read - as is your post! It does seem strange to think people were still living like this in the 1960s but I can fully believe it. The hamlet where I grew up didn't get electricity till quite late on and when I was little I can remember some of the villagers still living a very traditional lifestyle. It's all changed now of course - some things for the better (much better) but also some things for the worse... I often find myself getting all nostalgic about how people lived in the past but programmes like the Victorian Farm show that it was blummin' hard work too!

  6. Great post!

    I caught the program for the first time this week, it was nice to watch River Cottage on 4 and then flick over to 2 for this! :)

    The smallholding you talk of in your childhood sounds wonderful :)

  7. Oh blast it... I missed it!!!
    CW, although your way of life was hard work, it also sounds idyllic!
    Nothing like the good old days...
    We lived in a terraced cottage and we did have electricity and gas, but no central heating or bathroom. No hot water on tap, so boiled kettles for hot water. Wash days Mum washed everything by hand, boiled sheets in a burco boiler and if I recall eventually purchased a spin drier. Monday was washing day and wet/damp clothes hung everywhere to dry. Tuesday was ironing day and so on....
    We had an outside loo and chamber pots for night time use. Strip washes in the kitchen. The kitchen was so small. Mum had a sink unit, cooker and pantry cupboard with a sort of shelf that pulled down for a surface. How my Mum managed in that kitchen I will never ever know... but she did. I enjoyed a lovely childhood and spent many happy years living in this small terraced cottage. Happy days!!
    Love Jane xxx

  8. I liked watching VF, although it is mared by PB, saying constantly, it isnt like castaways they arent sleeping there at night. and they have help...

    Yes, yes, ok I get that!!!!

    I am glad the man who is hanging our doors is using the old method of a plane. It is ddefinately better as I dont have to worry he has taken too much off. Yep some of the old ways are the best.

  9. Coo! This post certainly struck a chord with you all!

    The Book of the Farm ( sorry I got the name wrong, but you all seem to know what I mean!) is available as a download from Google!


    It is really interesting to read all your various comments on this, thank you all for commenting as I have enjoyed your thoughts.

    And Willow, yes I am going to write a book about all this, soon...I actually took part in a Millenium project fro the British Library Oral History Archives where I was extensively interviewed and my memories were all recorded for posterity!

    I have a copy as well....so one day I WILL write a book about it!

    But for now, my Forest School work is the writing I am doing!

    Cw x

  10. I'm afraid I was brought up as a right softie - born in 1968 but I don't remember ever not having most of the mod cons such as central heating and an indoor toilet! Even now that I hanker after a semi-self-sufficient lifestyle, (I have read John Seymour's 'Complete Self-Sufficiency cover to cover) there are a number of things I don't think I could manage without, such as:
    washing machine
    indoor toilet
    to name but a few.
    Also houses built after the 1930s aren't really set up for that kind of living, not having larders, spaces to hang washing, etc.
    I am loving Victorian Farm and as mentioned by someone else, is a great evening's viewing along with River Cottage.

  11. SoL, I am getting a bit fed up with the consant reminder about not sleeping there also. But they apparently sleep in a similar, spartan cottage nearby, its just it passed the H and S stuff better! ( so Compostman informed me)

    Like Rachael and the rest of you have said, it a really good programme ( and RC as well! )

    I can't wait for this weeks episode!

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  14. Yeah, Facebook is hit or miss for a lot of bloggers.


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