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!

Tuesday 30 June 2009

My Zero Waste Day

As I have already blogged about here, I promised to go waste free for a day and if I failed I said I would sit in a Compost bin...

We already reduce our purchase of "stuff" by growing our own food and making meals from scratch, etc... reuse containers and tubs for other purposes rather than throwing them "away" ( not that there is any such place!) compost everything which can be composted, buy stuff in the recyclable option if at all possible, and generally produce very little waste.

Typically we "throw away" into the Landfill bin about 200g of waste a week, usually plastics we do not have the ability to recycle here.

So when I went on to the Recycle Week 2009 website, I found it hard to find a challenge that would, well, challenge me! Recycling, composting, food waste reduction, re use etc etc , we do all those already!

Then I saw the "go waste free for a day" option... hmmm well I thought, "why not?"

So...I signed up and my forfeit, if I failed, was to sit in a compostbin. And Compostman was emailed by the Recycle Now team, to check I actually did it!

I decided Sunday would be a good day to do my challenge, for no special reason other than I had been too busy the rest of the week to make notes or take photos! I also decided I was NOT going to make a special effort, I was just going to do my usual stuff and see what waste I generated.

So breakfast on Sunday, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, and toast and butter and tea. Fruit from garden, stored in old containers of soft fruit bought from shops in the past - ideal for re use as that is what they were designed to hold!

Bananas, as usual, bought in compostable packaging or "naked".

Bread, home made, stored in the freezer in re used ( many many times) bread bags. Ingredients bought in bulk and the packaging ( paper and foil) recycled

Butter from foil or a tub, which is always washed and recycled or re used as a storage/freezer container many times...

At 11 am, so far, so good!

I fed the cats with cat biscuit from a cardboard box ( recycled when empty) and cat meat from cans or foil trays.

You may remember I agonised and ranted a bit over this in a previous post? Well we made a decision to only buy cans or foil trays as a result of our calculations and have stuck to our choice ever since. Likewise the cat biscuit is ALWAYS in card or paper containers so it can be recycled or composted after emptying.

I made some tea, composting the tea bags as always and rinsing and recycling the milk container.

Sometimes I reuse the containers as watering spouts for plants in the garden too!

I did some vacuuming, emptying the bag into the compost bin, and went to clean out the chickens ( all three houses!) and yes, everything went into the compost bins! All this is normal practice for us, I didn't do anything special!

Lunch was tomatoes, cucumber and cheese muffins for Compostgirl and shop bought quiche and a piece of left over home made pizza from Sat night for Compostman and I plus some home grown salad and some shop bought tomatoes. The quiche was in a foil container and a cardboard box, both of which were recycled. The tomatoes were in a card container, which went in the compost bin.

We had coffee ( filter paper and grounds composted) and Compostgirl had some juice ( from a tetra pak, which will go in the tetra pak recycling bin in Ledbury, which I helped to get put in place!)

Our Kitchen compost caddy.

I nipped out to do some shopping, take some recycling to the HWS and get some petrol, taking my shopping bags with me, so no waste there!

More tea was drunk during the afternoon ( tea bags composted) and other drinks of water were consumed as was some more fruit by Compostgirl. The scraps of strawberry she left over were composted.

Our evening meal was roast chicken, new potatoes, broad beans, sweetcorn and broccoli. We also had some wine. The veg was no problem, all but the sweetcorn had been grown by us or a neighbour so no packaging, the sweetcorn can was washed and recycled and the peelings were composted, the wine bottle was washed and added to the winemaking supplies

BUT the chicken came in a thin plastic bag!

Oh no, I had some non recyclable waste to dispose of! It weighed 15 g!

We then ate some grapes, the punnet was added to my supplies of containers I use to grow salads in, but the outer plastic film, again, was of a sort not recyclable in my area! Oh no, another 5 g !

So, at the end of Sunday we had 2 bits of plastic film to put in the Landfill bin.
weighing a grand total of 20 g.

In a week we usually put out about 150 g of waste, usually plastic stuff I can't avoid or re use in some way.

Does my only 20 g of domestic waste mean I " get let off" my forfeit? :-0 Personally, I don't think it should, , as "Every little hurts" to paraphrase a well know supermarket.....and we DID send stuff to Landfill, so it wasn't a zero waste day.

I COULD have made my life easier by choosing a different meal for dinner...but I didn't think of that! AND if I had, it would have seemed to be cheating , somehow! I wanted to do a zero waste day as far as possible on a normal sort of day!

I think I will have to try harder ;-)

Have any of you tried a zero waste day? How did you get on? Was it hard? or was it easy?

Monday 29 June 2009

did I manage to keep my promise? a timely reminder about Recycle Week....

I just got this email from the Recycle week people....

Hi Compostwoman

Today is the last day of Recycle Week. Did you manage to carry out your pledge to have a waste-free day?

View your pledge here ( I pledge to have a waste free day)

If so, that’s great - thank you! Why not try to make it a regular thing - once a fortnight, or even once a week? Your efforts really do help to make a difference.

If not, well - it's never to late to start! But beware, your friend Compostman has been given a nudge, so watch out, it could be forfeit time!

Remember, you said that if you didn't live up to your pledge, you'd sit in one of your many compost bins!

Best wishes

and the Recycle Week team

Well...do I have to sit in a compost bin, or did I manage to end up with only compostable, recyclable or re-usable waste after a day? Did I put anything in the landfill bin, or did I manage to escape the steaming clutches of my compostbins?

What do YOU think ?

I will post more, anon...........

Saturday 27 June 2009

Day in my life - June

Time for my June post in this series. Well actually I wrote this a week ago but have only just got around to tidying it up to post (oops - sorry!)

This is actually describing an exceptionally busy day for me even by MY standards, its a very busy time at Compost Mansions at the moment! I am out teaching or doing a Forest School/Environmental Education/Eco club/composting/gardening session somewhere most days in these last few weeks of the Summer term, on top of my normal schedule of tending animals, veg patch, polytunnel, house, family etc..AND the house is covered in scaffolding and we have people re-doing our roof at the moment..and Compostman is up on the scaffold painting or repairing wood work or doing other stuff...so its even more chaos here than usual!

So...a (very busy) day in my life in June 2009

Got up early (before 5 am!), had a shower and dressed in manky clothes to go and do stuff in the wood and with the livestock. I was expecting a party of 30 school children arriving with their teachers at 9 30 am for a session in the Wood, so it was going to be a very busy day.

This is the sound I listened to as I went outside....

As I was up well before anyone else, I made some tea just for me and drank it whilst in the wood to check on the log circle, the perimeter rope and the general area to make sure it was all still as in my risk assessment of the previous week. I ticked off items on my pre session checklist as I checked them. I also started to take things down to the Wood ( buckets, trowels, tool bags etc)

At about 7 am I opened up the polytunnel for the day and went to let out the hens. It was a very quick session with them this morning as I was very pushed for time, however I was rewarded with some lovely eggs from 2 of the girls.

I said hello to Compostman who had now got up, we made tea and toast, I did morning stuff with Compostgirl ( hair, book bag, check homework etc...), I got changed into my Forest School clothes ( slightly tidier versions of the manky ones) steel toecap walking boots, rucksack with emergency kit, consent forms, risk assessments, other paperwork, waterproofs etc then I greeted my friend T, a fellow Forest School Leader, who was going to join me in the Wood doing the morning session with the party of schoolchildren we were expecting.

The builders arrived and Compostman took Compostgirl to school, while T and I used the wheelbarrow to take first aid kit, water, towels, loo roll, wash basin, soap, tool bag, craft items, buckets, clay from the wood, and other assorted stuff down to the wood to set up for the morning. I came back to the house and quickly ate toast and had a second cuppa, then breakfast stuff cleared away I went to gather up the last of the required stuff for the Forest School session I was about to embark on. The 2 other practitioners involved with the morning arrived and were greeted and then we all went down to the log circle site.

The children arrived at about 9.30 by coach, along with at least 7 members of staff plus a parent and the next 3 hours were spent with all of us having huge fun in the Wood, playing games, exploring, making dens, finding treasures, running around exploring, having a campfire and making popcorn.

The children went back to school by coach at 12.30 with their teachers and the rest of us sat round the fire and I made a hot drink. We discussed the morning, reflected on how it had gone and relaxed a bit around the fire.

Everybody left, I had a quick lunch with Compostman and then spent the next hour or so tidying up, which involved delights such as emptying and cleaning out the toilet (its just a commode type, so I can tip the contents down the loo as we have a septic tank so I really didn't want to use a chemical toilet!) taking everything back to the house, cleaning and checking tools, first aid kit etc. In the long term I will build a composting toilet and a low impact building but for now I make do with a tarpaulin shelter and a toilet tent.

At about 3 pm I sat down for 10 mins with a mug of tea, having made a round of drinks for the roofers and builders, and did a catch up with my emails.

Then Compostgirl came home, very excited and tired from a long hot day at school. She wanted to go down to the wood to see what had been going on, so after a drink, snack and a change of clothes we wandered into the coolness of the wood. We made some mud monsters and I made the Green Man and Summer Lady to honour the Solstice the next day.

The builders went away for the day and we all had tea, then I did some work in the garden (weeding and planting out more beans, digging potatoes) and polytunnel (watering, taking off side shoots from tomato plants, planting more salad stuff)

By 8 pm I was very tired, so I did bedtime with Compostgirl, got the hens back in the Orchard early and then had a shower. Compostman had been doing stuff on the roof and in the loft and workshop all this time and came soon came to have a shower as well. We watched HIGNFY on BBC1 and the News and then not surprisingly I went to bed! And not surprisingly Compostman wasn't long behind me as he is working very hard doing stuff with the loft and the roof as well and has been putting in some very long, hot days of work. I slept very well that night, I can tell you!

So, a long day but a very satisfying day, the Forest School activities at my site went smoothly, I got good feedback for the site, the teaching staff and children really loved what we all did and all in all it was a good day. The building work is also going well and Compostman is very tired but happy with the progress of stuff.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my day, I have certainly enjoyed doing it

SGF post on Getting crafty out and about.

I have just posted a Simple Green Frugal blog post on "getting crafty out and about"

Go have a read and let me know what you think.

Friday 26 June 2009

Ginger - good news so far!

Ginger has perked up a lot :-)

We have moved her and the Broody Ark into the small paddock attached to the main Orchard chicken paddock. This means Ginger can see everyone else, but not get hassled by the cockerels.

Having Ginger in a separate place also means I can keep track of her eggs. This is important as she is on antibiotics for another 5 days and then there will be a further 21 day egg withdrawal period. Any eggs she lays will be thrown away during this time, as they will contain traces of antibiotic.

I am so pleased Ginger seems on the mend, I really was worried she would go downhill fast like Genghis and Cathy did and die on us; I guess not being an ex battery hen has given Ginger a much stronger constitution and better powers of recovery. She really looks much better today, she has been looking around, taking an interest in things, snapping at flies and suchlike and her tail is now perked up, as opposed to drooping down - always a bad sign in a chicken, is a droopy tail!

Ginger is NOT impressed to be separated from her pals at all though and was constantly trying to get through the fence to get back to them.

Henny was delighted to see her pal again and came charging over to the fence to say hello :-) and there was much clucking and crooning and mutual preening going on between them through the fence :-)

Thursday 25 June 2009

Update on poor old Ginger

As I detailed in late night fox activities, on Sunday I went out to shut the chickens in the Orchard, but there was no sign of Ginger, Capt Flint, no Henny and no Long John Silver.

The other hens were all very agitated and I finally found Ginger, unhurt but shaking, inside the Eglu, where she hasn't lived for 1 1/2 years. Henny and Long John Silver turned up OK late that night and Capt Flint was there the next morning. Capt Flint, especially, seems to have had a near miraculous escape as he was definately grabbed by the Fox on Sunday night and his neck looked very badly cricked....!

So all was well first thing Monday I thought, until I realised Ginger hadn't come out with the other girls....She was still inside Peckingham Palace, didn't look very happy, a bit miserable, a bit hunched up and she didn't lay an egg. I checked her over, she had no obvious injury and seemed ok, and she settled down to her usual routine in the Orchard that day. She was a bit quiet but eating and drinking OK so I assummed she was upset by the fox incident and the lack of an egg was because she was due her 6 weekly day off laying ( seriously, she lays continuously in the summer for 42 days then has a day off!)

But Tues morning there was no egg, when I would have expected her to lay very early on and she seemed even more hunched up and withdrawn and worryingly I didn't see her do any droppings...this was serious as if there was an egg stuck in her enough to bung her up to that extent, she would rapidly die of the effects of not being able to pass out her waste products,

So...I had a gentle feel of her abdomen, it didn't seem unduely swollen BUT it wasn't "right" SO, as I had no medication to hand which might help, we used old fashioned methods. We filled a box with warm/hot water (body temp for a chicken) with some lavender essential oil and lavender soap added and I lowered her in. The idea beind this is the same as a soak in a hot bath when you have a back ache, it relaxes the muscles and hopefully would allow Ginger to expel any retained egg stuck inside her oviduct. It usually works well and quite quickly! ( and I would have gone to the vets asap if it hadn't!)

I let Ginger soak for about 20 mins while lovely Compostman got the Broody Ark out and put it in the sunshine for her. Ginger seemed to enjoy the unusual experience, well she crooned and purred a bit, anyway and nibbked at my hand.

I lifted her out, wrapped her in a towel and dried her gently and then put her in the Ark. She strained a bit

and then produced a misshapen egg shell and some egg white! and then a poo.....!

She perked up a lot after all this and ate and drank a bit, including a good portion of bread soaked in olive oil, (as I was a bit concerned about her crop feeling a bit impacted) and I left her to recover away from the other hens. Ginger perked up during the rest of the day and, although not right, was a lot improved by Tuesday evening.

BUT early on Wednesday morning she looked much worse again, hunched over, refusing to eat, and very wobbly. I rang the vet and took her straight down to see Tamsin the vet. She admitted her heart sank a bit when I walked in with ANOTHER ginger hen in a cat carrier, and when I said this was my best layer, most favourite hen and the matriarch of the flock she said "so, no pressure, then"

Ginger had no obvious retained egg stuck inside her BUT had a high temperature and a lot of albumen came out when Tamsin examined her, which was not good news. She had a shot of antibiotic, one of oxytocin ( yes, like some women have during labour to speed up contractions during childbirth!) and a dose of liquid calcium ( this helps smooth muscle movement, like the hot bath) I didn't have any liquid calcium at home so I got some to take away, and Tamsin was approving of the hot bath idea as a good one to try.

Ginger hasn't passed any egg products yesterday or today but IS looking brighter and has done some huge poos, so fingers crossed all will be well with my favourite hen.

BUT she does NOT like her daily syringe full of antibiotic OR calcium and I have a struggle to get them down her beak....

Please can I have lots of good thoughts for my hen? I know she is "only a chicken" but.....we are very fond of her and Henny, particularly, will be lost without her friend Ginger ( and YES hens DO have friends.....)

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Recycle Week 2009

Recycle Week is an annual event to kick-start new habits that can help us all to all waste less and recycle more. In 2009 the theme for Recycle Week is 'let's waste less...' encouraging all of us to try something new in an effort to go greener and cut back on the waste we all produce. As the WRAP website says
From recycling more of everyday items like glass and plastic bottles to reusing carrier bags or composting at home, there are lots of opportunities to promote how we can all reduce the amount of waste we send to landfill.

"Recycle Week is now in its fifth year and this is the first time we'll be promoting a waste reduction message" said Jane Hall from Recycle Now. "As part of this we're encouraging people to sign up and pledge to either try something new or do more of what we already do".

Across the country there will be lots of events taking place to highlight local recycling services and ways that can help us all do our bit.

You can find out what is happening in your area by entering your postcode on the Event finder.

Whatever pledge(s) you choose to do - your efforts really will help to make a difference.

Thank you

I found it difficult to pick a pledge from the short list, because I already do all the stuff they list! I wanted to write my own pledge, which involved salvaging as much as possible from the builders skip in the garden , but there didn't seem to be that option.

So I finally went for promising to have a waste free day, which seemed a little more challenging than, say, promising to compost all my waste veg ;-)

It is all a very good idea, and if I fail in my promise, I have said I will go and sit in a compost bin!

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Late night fox activities

At 9 pm on Sunday I went out to shut the chickens in the Orchard, they won't go to bed for at least another hour or so at this time of year but are content to be shut in the Orchard until they deign to go inside their runs and houses.

But.....there was no Capt Flint, no Ginger, no Henny and no Long John Silver.

This was serious as the two cockerels are NEVER away from the hens and Henny and Ginger, as joint top hens are always together and always waiting for their food, or have taken already up their spots in Peckingham or Cluckingham Palace.

The other hens were all very agitated and I finally found Ginger, unhurt but shaking, inside the Eglu, where she hasn't lived for 1 1/2 years.

No sign of Henny or the cockerels, though....:-(

I went to look around the garden, and then went out into the wood. By this time it was dark and I had to use a torch.

I very quickly found Capt Flint, lying on his side with his neck twisted, wheezing and eyes closing over. Feathers all around him, he couldn't even stand up and was obviously not going to make it.

I left him lying on the ground, to go and get Compostman as I needed some help in sorting all this out and finding the others. When I came back, Capt Flint had gone...he had managed to get up and get himself into a load of nettles and brambles and try as we might, we couldn't get hold of him...he was mighty lively for a "dead" bird.

So...after wading through nettles and brambles for a very long time in the dark, we finally had to leave him to the night...

So...next morning, I go to open up the hens and who is sitting on top of the Dorking run? yep, Cap't Flint!

he is absolutely fine, eating, drinking, mating (!) and generally being, well, a Cockerel.

I am astonished, I really am.

Henny and Long John Silver also re appeared, which was good!

Saturday 20 June 2009

Solstice tree spirits

Some tree spirits I have made in the wood, to honour the Solstice

The Green Man

The Summer Lady.

I had fun making these in the wood. They are made from our own clay, squidged by my own hands and they are up in trees at shoulder height, facing each other, as you enter the log circle.

I hope they last for a while...

Friday 19 June 2009

Fun and games at Compost Mansions, pt 2

What we got up to today...well, just a sample....!

Oh the children DID have fun...! ( and so did all the grown ups....)

Fun and games at Compost Mansions...pt 1

The view from my (upstairs) office window at the moment!

The people doing the bits and pieces on the roof are really good at what they do, and work amazingly hard.

I feel tired just watching what they do in a day...

It has been a bit of a challenge to organise the stuff I need to organise to do the Eco club contract I am currently working on, and to sort out the final details for the first of my Forest School sessions in the Wood, with all this going on around me at the house....but...

I managed it all! and the session in the woodland today went very well and the children really enjoyed themselves...which is what it was all about!

Tuesday 16 June 2009

A very catch up post!

Gosh, I have not posted for more than a week!

The reason being, it is *that* time of the year! Like many of you I am madly busy in my veg patch, the first crops are now ready to harvest (new potatoes, carrots, broad beans, spinach, courgettes, shallots and onions, strawberries, cucumbers, salads.....) and weeding weeding weeding is a priority!

As is grass mowing and compost making...Compostman has been scything the long grass and the comfrey today, and I have been filling up the newly emptied compostbins.

The compost has been dug out of them to go in various raised beds, and I have been planting climbing french and canadian beans up beanpoles cut from our own woodland ( feel very smug about this!) as encouraged by the Small Woods Association, of which I am a proud member! and who I occasionally work for...If you want a great place to go, visit the Green Wood centre in Coalbrookedale, its wonderful!

In the last 10 days I have also done 5 full days of Master Composter stuff which I organised, booked, transported the display etc to and from (and made sure the lovely other Master Composters had a good time )

This is me joining in the drumming at the World Environment Day stands at The Big Event.

I spent Sat and Sun this weekend just gone at Hellens in Much Marcle, at The Garden Festival, which is the Hereford Waldorf School Summer fair. A wonderful place and a very worthy cause to help, and it is a pleasure to go and do a stall at such a lovely event.

While I was there I did an interview on BBC Hereford and Worcester..click here to listen...go to 45 mins into the programme.

Last week I started the first session of a new Eco Club I have been commissioned to run at a school near Bromyard and I went to a meeting of the new Transition Town Ledbury group and have been asked to join the Steering Group, to help get things "transitioning".

So lots of outside activities going on here, must be because it is approaching Midsummer! I DO feel energised and buzzing with life at the moment, I must say, despite still feeling a bit rough from the nasty flu bug thingy.

At Compost Mansions, as well as all that harvesting and weeding and compost moving and making, I have earthed all up the spuds again, harvested a lot of new ones, planted out climbing beans, mowed(with the push mower!) around the edge of the veg patch and I have cleared all round the clearing and log circle in the wood. I have potted on numerous brassicas and salads both for home and for the school garden use.

I am preparing for a couple of days of school party activities in the wood at the end of this week which is very exciting. I have also been writing course notes and brochures and web pages for my environmental activities in the wood and I have planned a series of courses to be held here in the wood in 2010, training early years practitioners in "having fun in the woods" type of stuff.

AND we now have a house wreathed in scaffolding, as we are having a few bits of work done/doing a few bits of painting on the roof and up the top of the walls and Compostman is going to be putting up THE SOLAR PANELS !!

Yes, the ones which he was going to do last year, but then he had to have an operation so couldn't . But now he is well again and we are SO excited about the fossil-fuel-free hot water we will be getting.

Having scaffolding and building work going on does make it more "challenging" to try to get on with anything, however......

And sadly as a result I have been unable to do much in the way of housework AT ALL as there is too much other stuff to do..

So thats a shame ;-)

Saturday 6 June 2009

Chickhen House name!

Oh you lot HAVE made me laugh! Well done, all of you!

I love the names you all have come up with for the new hen house, I really do!

I think I like " Sandr-egg-ham House" and the "Pent-egg-on" the best!

Compostman thinks we are all potty BUT when he read the "Pent-egg-on" comment, he decided to build a 5 sided house and call THAT "The Pent-egg-on"...so I think he is secretly quite amused....

At the moment I really like "Sandr-egg-ham House....or "Peckingham Palace"

The house is the same height and width as the other wooden house, which is a "Handy 10" from Flyte So Fancy and is supposed to house up to 10 hens, BUT is is not as deep
( only the double nest box deep rather than the nest box plus about another foot...)

So I would guess it would easily hold 8 hens?

Especially as Cluckingham Palace has lots of room even with 10 hens in there, its the attached run which is tiny! BUT as my hens are only in the run first thing in the morning, just until I go and let them all out into the Orchard, its not really a problem....

I am hoping to get another 5 or 6 hens and put them in the new house, put the run from Cluckingham Palace on the new house and Compostman is making me a bigger run to put on Cluckingham Palace....

THAT was the present, really...a new hen house and a new run, BUT he has been so busy he has only done the house, so far...

Still when he DOES get the run finished, I "eggspect" it will be as "eggcellently" splendiferous as the house..!

And I haven't forgotten my 500th post/Birthday givaway...I will announce it in a later post.....(ooh ramping up the tension...!)

Belated birthday present.....

But oh so well the waiting!

LOOK at what lovely, lovely Compostman has made for me :-)

A new hen house!

Hmm now what to call it.. the other wooden house is "Cluckingham Palace" so what should this one be called?

Friday 5 June 2009

Fri 5th June The Big Event and more composting advice given out

Today (Fri) was very successful in Hereford High Town, we had lots of visitors

and children planting seeds,

and I had a good look around The Big Green Bus. It was full of very interesting stuff! I also met up with someone I haven't seen for a long time, the dynamic originator behind the Big Green Bus and its charity The Big Green idea . the lovely Brigit Strawbridge. (yes, Brigit from the TV programme)

Brigit handed over 2 Bokashi bins she had very kindly collected from another friend..so I now have a "full house" of different composting methods (compost bins, wormeries, bokashi, green cone, green joanna....)

The rest of the various stands were also really interesting and I learned some new stuff ( always a good thing...)

On Sat 6th June I shall be in Hereford on the King George V meadow doing my Compostwoman bit to promote composting at home. I am doing this (with other Master Composters) as part of Hereford Earth Watch, a 2 day event celebrating World Environment Day.

Saturday's event is more of a general festival, with a big music event !

I shall be there from 12 noon until the end so if you are in the area come and say "hello"

Thursday 4 June 2009

Love Food, Hate Waste training day, what an eye opener!

Well, I was invited to attend this training , as I am a Master Composter (a community Compost Advisor working to promote home composting) and I thought it sounded interesting and a complementary activity to my "compost your compostibles" campaign....

I had to keep a food waste diary for a week before the training day (which was very interesting and informative, it turns out we don't really waste any food BUT largely beacuse I have "birds" and cats to feed odd scraps to, and we compost EVERY SCRAP which can be composted..so we came out as unusually low food wasters....as did all my fellow Master Composters and Council Waste Officers on this course! ( not a big suprise there, all the MC's are dedicated RRR people as are the wonderful council officers!)

The training was really good we learnt lots of useful stuff , had a really nice lunch and networked like crazy! AND learned a lot as the course detail was vey good and informative.....I found myself speechless ( seriously!) several times during the presentations and the later role play scenarios....

Here are some extracts from the (properly assessed) studies done by WRAP ..I asked some quite hard questions about this and am satisfied the study was pretty well organised!

In the UK in general

Total food waste = 6.7 million tonnes PER YEAR in the UK

Read that again..6.7 MILLION TONNES PER YEAR!!!!

Which breaks down to ...

Avoidable food waste = 4.1 million tonnes 61%
Possibly avoidable food waste = 1.3 million tonnes 20%
Unavoidable food waste = 1.3 million tonnes( peelings etc) 19%
Which OF COURSE should be composted!

Foods thrown away whole and untouched every day

Potatoes 5.1 million a day
Sausages 1.2 million a day
Slices of bread 7 million a day
Yoghurt & yoghurt drinks 1.3 million a day
Apples 4.4 million a day
Half of the salad we eat !

Avoidable food waste = 4.1 million tonnes (£10.2 billion)

Avoidable food waste = 4.1 million tonnes (£10.2 billion)
“cooked or prepared too much” 1.3 mt (£3.4 billion)
“left & unused” 2.6 mt (£6.3 billion)
“unknown” 0.2 mt (£0.5 billion)

“left & unused” -


“less than ideal” location
 bread in the fridge (11%)
 bananas in the fridge (6%)
 apples outside the fridge (74%)

 sliced meats unsealed after opening (13%)
 dried foods unsealed after opening (11%)
 cheese unsealed after opening (7%)

Incorrect fridge temperature
 60% don’t know what it should be (average is 6.6°C vs. target of <5 data-blogger-escaped-br=""> Lack of knowledge about what can be frozen
 Not making sufficient use of the freezer

Date labelling
 Food “gone past its date” is the main reason given for throwing away food
 Almost 50% do not understand the meaning of date labels (FSA, 2008)
 36% treat “best before” as a “use-by”
 53% never eat past the date for fruit & veg
 56% never eat past the date for bread & cakes

 “use by” = use by end of that date
 Almost 10% leave a days “buffer”
 21% will not “take a risk” with a product close to its date, even if it appears fine

Cost per household per year ( ie this is what could be saved if you didn't do this kind of thing...)

average households with children £610

Households of adults £380

Households of unrelated sharers £520

Single occupant households £250

WOW that is a LOT of dosh!

A really thought provoking fact..... food waste is the equivalent of 18 million tonnes of carbon dioxide

That is the same as produced by one 1 in 5 cars on the road! THINK about it!

Also it is no good blaming "the old" " the young" etc....

As age isn’t really an influence, we’re all wasting food! 1.2kg/person/week…

nor is Household composition, Household with children is the same as a household with just adults (per capita)…

and nor is Household size! Only significant difference is single households at 1.9

We’re all wasting food! BUT 84% of us believe we throw none or hardly any food away!

So...doing this training means I now have a better idea why so much food is wasted and I can help people get the very best from the food they have shelled out their hard earned money for...

How to store it so it lasts, how to cook just the right amount, how to store any leftovers and use them up next day and how to perhaps shop so as to minimise waste!

all this AND save cash and eat good food as well!

If you are interested in this, see Love Food Hate Waste for more details!

I shall certainly be adding the LFHW leaflets and banners to my composting related stalls over the summer!

Being a food lover means getting the most from the food I buy. It is not about having gourmet cook intentions, but about being grounded in everyday simple actions that can help me manage and cook my food so that more gets eaten and less gets wasted.
It pays on so many levels – I save money, feel better and more confident, save time and I help the environment too.

The habits of a food lover
1. Check fridge first - try to make a shopping list ( and stick to it!)
2. Keeping food fresh - most fruit is best in the fridge, but bananas are better outside of it.
3. Judging the right amount – get a mug for rice - work out a measure which works for your circumstances! Use a spagetti "hole" to portion what you need in one go!
4. Freezing and frozen foods –what freezes & for how long? If you grow your own or buy in bulk, how to best store it? Open freezing? Dehydrating? Bottling? jamming? pickling?
5. Use-By and best before – what needs eating first? Learn! Be more self reliant! Sniff and look and trust your judgement BUT be aware of Use by dates for meat and dairy etc as they are there for a very good reason ( to stop you getting food poinioning)
6. Free-lunching – taking well stored leftover food outside the home to eat for lunch the next day ( mmm yum! I LOVe pasta salad next day...)
7. Leftovers – new meals from leftovers, store them correctly to be safe!
8. In-store – frozen v fresh/ right size of pack/ offers - are they as a good a deal as they seem?

For more information on food waste
Love Food Hate Waste www.lovefoodhatewaste.com

Wednesday 3 June 2009

World Environment Day Fri 5th June 2009

On Fri 5th June I shall be in Hereford High Town doing my Compostwoman bit to promote composting at home. I am doing this (with other Master Composters) as part of Hereford Earth Watch, a 2 day event celebrating World Environment Day.

ABOUT World Environment Day

World Environment Day (WED) was established by the UN General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment.

Commemorated yearly on 5 June, WED is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action. The day's agenda is to:

Give a human face to environmental issues;
Empower people to become active agents of sustainable and equitable development;
Promote an understanding that communities are pivotal to changing attitudes towards environmental issues;
Advocate partnership which will ensure all nations and peoples enjoy a safer and more prosperous future.

The theme for WED 2009 is 'Your Planet Needs You-UNite to Combat Climate Change'. It reflects the urgency for nations to agree on a new deal at the crucial climate convention meeting in Copenhagen some 180 days later in the year, and the links with overcoming poverty and improved management of forests.

This year’s host is Mexico which reflects the growing role of the Latin American country in the fight against climate change, including its growing participation in the carbon markets.

I am at the Earth Watch event as one of a group of Master Composters. Master Composting training is provided by Garden Organic. Garden Organic is the UK's leading organic growing charity, has been at the forefront of the organic horticulture movement for 50 years and is dedicated to researching and promoting organic gardening, farming and food.

I am very proud to be a member and am a passionate supporter all they do, especially their Composting and School Gardening programmes!

And Garden Organic have some very good ideas on how to celebrate WED!

Organic gardeners have a carbon footprint a third smaller than regular gardeners, which is why Garden Organic is urging more of us to go organic in the garden for UN World Environment Day.

Adopting an organic approach to the way we garden, farm and eat could massively contribute to protecting the planet for generations to come. And on Friday 5 June, it hopes more of us will look at how we can be greener in our gardens, for the sake of the environment.

At present, we are living well beyond our means, with the world requiring the equivalent of 3.4 planets to sustain it. However in research conducted by Garden Organic, which looked at the gardening and lifestyle habits of its members, the charity calculated that the figure could reduce to 2.5 planets if we were to simply garden organically and grow more of our own food.

Garden Organic's Dr Gareth Davies, who headed up the research said, “We monitored a sample of our members, some of whom were keen organic gardeners, others that had only just started out. What we found when we looked at each member's gardening habits, was that those who were the greenest in the garden and grew their own organic food, made a bigger reduction to their carbon footprint.”

“There are so many bad practices used in the average back garden, from spraying weed killer, to laying a garden full of concrete slabs, right down to burning rubbish. On UN World Environment Day, we hope to inspire people to think about what they can change to be more sustainable in the garden and in doing so we hope to raise awareness of how growing and gardening organically can help to protect the planet.”

So...some ideas to help you celebrate on Friday :-)

Tuesday 2 June 2009

Omlet newletter

oooo I am a feature in the latest Omlet newsletter


50,000 hits!

Gosh I missed this one...more than 50, 000 hits on my random witterings......

Well thank you to all of you for reading my musings on life, the Universe and ....Compost......


Monday 1 June 2009

General catch up

Well it has been a bit manic here at Compost Mansions recently, hence the lack of posts since last weekend..(which was actually a post I did a week earlier but hadn't actually hit "post" on it....)

First, at the start of the last week I got ill...very ill....with a nasty flu-ey thing which I am only just recovering from now...I missed 2 days "outside" work ( grrr, but working with children, I couldn't either ethically contemplate dosing myself up and going, nor was I actually well enough to do so anyway...)

I was chilled, sweating, aching, sore throat, headache, sick, had the runs and generally felt like I had been hit all over by very angry, big people with very big sticks......( and NO, I have NOT been in contact with any one recently returned from anywhere overseas, or from areas where Mexican Flu had hit in the UK....I DID wonder about volunteering myself as a possible case BUT I didn't meet the NHS criteria , so I didn't...)

I have been ill for 10 days now and I only JUST feel vaguely human today....and have missed the last few days of the term and most of this half term....

Also, we have been so busy with growing and planting and sowing and mowing and scything etc...I dragged my self out of my sick bed at one point to prick out plants and had a lap tray on my knee whilst on the sofa, so I could pot on some tiny brassica seedlings......I have still been tending to the plants in the polytunnel and the hens, despite being ill....Compostman had so much to do.. so who will do it if *I* don't?


One of the downsides of an "idyllic" rural lifestyle is, unless you have pots of money and can afford to pay staff to do stuff for you, you have to keep going regardless of illness. I didn't do any stuff for 4 days when I was really ill, but once I was "sort of " ok, I had to get on with at least some of it...as Compostman has more than enough of his own work to do, without having to do *my work* as well..Compostgirl helped a lot, but at 8, she really can't just step into my jobs and do them like me....she can water stuff and collect eggs but she doesn't know what to do if anything more tricky presents itself...

People often don't consider this aspect of living "the rural dream of downshifting"...they think of a few hens, some pigs, a veg garden, a greenhouse and being more self sufficient in fruit , veg and eggs etc ...BUT its a 24/7 dedication, 365 days a year...regardless of illness, incapacity or inclination...YOU have to keep going....that is the reality if you keep any livestock.....or grow a lot of stuff to eat...if you want to eat it, you have to look after it!


The hens have all mysteriously gone off lay...I am only getting 2 or 3 eggs from 6 laying hens..I think it is because the 2 cockerels are fighting and generally being a pain..and disturbing the hens...so MEASURES WILL BE TAKEN......(!)( use your imaginations..they have had a reprieve while I have been ill.....)

Various "work stuff" has also been going on for me, I finally got my Forest School Practitioner Certificate through in the post yesterday (hurrah!) AND I am about to start a regular programme of Eco Club sessions somewhere, for a fee...which is great....! (I could do with the money)

I have also been arranging a weekend of Master Composter activity (as in ALL the arranging, of the stand, the booking, the rota, the supplies, the session plans, the risk assessment etc...) at Hereford Earth Watch, which revolves around World Environment Day on the 5th June, and also carries over on the 6th June.

I am also organising (as in ALL the organising, the booking, the rota, the supplies, the session plans, the risk assessment etc...) the Master Composters presence at Hellens Manor, The Garden Festival in the 13th and 14th June.

AND I am doing some "Love Food Hate Waste" training this week.....

(To be honest, I feel tired just contemplating the next 2 weeks, and I haven't even started it yet.....)

BUT its all good stuff and will help to spread the word about living a more sustainable, frugal minded life...

Oh, did I mention the Transition Town Ledbury stuff?...no? ....more in a future post!

Do something on World Environment Day? Please? If only to make me feel my shattered-ness is having an effect?

I shall post some links tommorrow...........promise....but for now it is off to bed for me.....

Thank you...