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!
Thursday, 23 April 2009
Gardening at School
My lovely daughter Compostgirl started primary school in Sept 2005, just as her School joined both the Eco-School movement
AND the HDRA Organic Gardens for Schools Scheme. The school is small and rural with around 160 children attending. It has a sports playing field, a small wooded area and an area of grassy playground. Some of this was used to make a vegetable garden in the late autumn of 2005, giving all six classes a raised bed each of roughly 2.5 m x 1.3 m.
In Spring 2006 there was a plea for parents to help the children with their new raised beds and compost bins. I am an experienced organic gardener and so I offered to help. I started going into school and help with Compostgirl's class. At the same time I had just trained to become a Master Composter, so I got the school some more compost bins and arranged for every classroom and the staff room to have a caddy to collect compostable materials such as fruit peelings and scrap paper. All the paper towels and waste from the garden was obviously composted also!
I got more involved and all this rapidly developed into my helping three classes with their raised beds and advising the 3 other classes, along with bug hunts in the compost bins! During the Summer and Autumn term 2006 I visited the school once or twice a week, running sessions with the children, visiting the compost bins, planting up the raised beds and growing herbs and vegetables. The children ate some salad in school and all took home a bag of their produce at the end of the summer term.
We even managed to produce some boxes of autumn vegetables from the garden that the children had grown ( even though we hadn't planned this!) and these were auctioned at the Harvest Festival to raise money for Food Aid 2006.
Back to school in September 2006, and I also got involved in the co-running of a new twice monthly after school Eco Club. I have written about Eco Club in a previous post and about a third of the school are Eco Club members and it is very successful!
Summer Term 2007 saw me regularly gardening and composting with the whole school, infant classes weekly and junior classes every other week. Despite the dreadful weather we had a good harvest. Every class bed had both July harvested crops for the children to take home AND October harvested crops to go in to the Harvest Festival. In October 2007 EVERY class provided at least one veg box to be auctioned and the children were SO proud of their efforts!
In 2008 I went into school from noon on Wednesdays - we called it “Welly Wednesday!”-to teach Organic gardening to all the school. I again helped the children to plant and grow and weed and compost and harvest.
In July ALL the school took home some veg they had grown. Every class again entered a veg box of produce grown by then into the 2008 Harvest Festival auction. The children were *so* proud of what they had grown :-)
I have just today started the 2009 growing season. I recently went on a Food for Life CPD training day at Garden Organic so I can spread the word about growing, cooking and eating organic veg to other schools in my area. This is a really good scheme, if you can, get your school signed up!
I have also just started up a Gardening club at lunchtime for the Juniors and today had around 25 children attending the first sessions :-) split either side of their lunch, we planted Broad Beans and Parsnips and discussed crop rotations and how to grow potatoes, salads, carrots and leeks. Before Easter we planted some potatoes in bags as part of the Potato Council scheme, we received 2 of each variety of Emerald and Rocket and the children decided to plant one of each in our home made compost and the other in bought in peat free growing medium...the children think the ones in our own compost will do best!
As a Master Composter and Organic gardener , I want every child to understand what can and can’t be composted, how to do it, why we do it and what to do with the finished compost. I want them to go home and spread the composting message as well!
The children also learn a practical skill from me - how to grow organic veg! Many eat produce IF they have grown it, which they would not necessarily try at home if it were purchased! (How many 5-year-old children will eat Rocket, Shallots, Mizuma or Rainbow Chard?) Above all the children enjoy what we do! We have fun in the garden learning how to do stuff.
I freely admit I don't just do this out of altruism. I am selfish, really, as I get the most enormous amount of enjoyment from doing all this! I LOVE seeing the delight on the children’s faces when we harvest a crop THEY have grown! They run up to me in the street in Ledbury to tell me about their veg plots at home. Also I have worked out, if I carry on doing what I do, by the time my daughter leaves primary school I will have shown over 300 children ways of organic growing and composting. I feel that would make a pretty good epitaph on my gravestone ;-)
I have also subsequently developed a whole new career as an Environmental Educator and now Forest School Leader, purely from starting to help at my local school and becoming a Master Composter. It has all been hard work and it takes a lot of planning BUT is very oh so rewarding. I have also been lucky that the school is so receptive to what I have volunteered to do.
What we are all doing at school though, is part of a bigger message, spreading throughout the school, of living in a more sustainable way. This has benefited the children and the school in many ways and has meant the school is now working for the highest level an Eco School can achieve, the Green Flag award.
But MOST importantly, the children LOVE all what we do! And so do I...and so does Compostman, who helps out as much as he can. And so does Compostgirl, who gets her classmates to join in..!