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 29 September 2009

Fabric from the Scrapstore

I laid the fabric I got from the Scrapstore out on our king sized bed, so you could see the size and colours of the various bits of material I acquired.

Oh how I wish there had been enough of the biggest bit to make a cover for the bed....I would LOVE a cover in this fabric! I am planning to redecorate the sitting room in these colours.

The cream and brown piece nearest to the camera is actually two bits, the other bit is underneath!

Ah well, perhaps I can make it the main fabric in a BIG quilt.....the one I WILL get around to making...one day...when I have more time....

Thursday 24 September 2009

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Master Composter Conference 2009

One thing I DID enjoy during the 6 weeks in the summer when I was not blogging, due to illness, was going to the 2009 Master Composter Conference at Garden Organic in Ryton. This is always a really good event and full of inspiring speakers. Mixing with several hundred fellow compost enthusiasts is always a treat as well!

I went to a wonderful workshop on insects given by Peter Smithers, co author of a really good book of bug ID. The workshop was wildly oversubscribed and there really were not enough microscopes etc which was a shame but he gave a fascinating talk and was very informative. He also gave a talk to the whole conference about how little is known on the insects etc which actually live in a working compost bin and so we Master Composters are all going to be part of a very large scientific survey to establish what,species are actually in there. Very exciting!

I was yet again nominated for awards, I made it into the final 3 for the Master Composter Achievement Award and also Herefordshire and Worcestershire Master Composters were finalists for the Master Composter Group Award, although I/we didn't actually win... but still, an honour to be nominated!

Alys Fowler gave an interesting talk

and also presented awards and cut the cake, she was very interesting and friendly to chat to as well. Wiggly Wigglers sponsored a wonderful cake, made in the shape of
(you guessed it!) a Can O Worms wormery! It was very tasty and not at all wormy!

Alys cutting the cake...

I was very tired by the time I got back home that evening,as I really was not feeling very well but it was good to go and share my passion for all things composty with a few hundred like minded souls. I also had a lovely wander around the gardens, they were stunning in July!

Wildflower meadow with the Giant Flowerpot in the middle!

Look out for me in the Oct edition of "Grow Your Own" magazine as well ;-)

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Visit to the Scrapstore and some things I have made....

I had a trip to the Scrapstore in Worcester last Friday. I am running various recycled material based craft workshops over the next few months, so I needed to stock up on supplies. I went with my friend S, who I run Eco Club with, and we had a very successful time over there!

The Worcestershire Resource Exchange ( aka Scrapstore) is very well run, clean, tidy, well thought out and with loads of really good items for the bargin price of a trolley load for £10 ish, if you are a member. membership is worth while if you go more than once or twice a year!

I got lots of material ribbon and also lots of plastic ribbon

I turn the ribbon into recycled material wreaths or weavings like this

I also use paper packaging strips as weaving materials in my workshops with children, here is something made from paper packaging, which looks rather nice I think?

I also got an amazing whiteboard/A1 flipchart board for only £5!! They retail at about £100!

I am running some Bat and Spider based workshops over the half term break in October, which is the week before Halloween/Samhain, so I have come up with some simple craft ideas for the children to make, on the theme of bats and pumpkins and spiders and suchlike...We shall be playing some games and talking about bats and spiders and why they are so important and such a Jolly Good Thing.

Compostgirl is helping me test out the various designs to make sure they are "do-able" for her age group...

I hope the participants have as much fun making these items as I have done :-)

Monday 21 September 2009

Sunday catch up

Well I thought a catch up post was in order, as I have been doing lots here but haven't posted much lately (apart from about the chickens )

I was up early again this morning (couldn't sleep due to brain whirr), so have done lots and feel very content BUT am now flagging ( as you do...)

I was woken by Treacle the beautiful Black Star

laying her very first egg!

So 2 of the POL pullets are now laying :) Ginger started a few days ago and is very vocal about it! Good job someone is laying as the "old girls" all seem to have gone off in a huff and decided to moult and/or just stop laying

It has been a beautiful day here today, I got 3 loads of washing out and dry before lunch! I have mowed all the grass and it is all piled up ready to go in the compost bins.

I have cleaned Fudge the Guinea pig's house, all 4 hen runs and houses as well, so Fudge, the hens and Ruby and the chicklets are all nice and clean and cosy :-)

All the throws and cushion covers from the sitting room are in the wash or have been given a good beating on the line to get the dust out, the kitchen, halls, sitting and dining rooms have been vacuumed and generally tidied up

20 wine bottles have been released free of labels and washed and upended to dry,

We need lots of clean bottles to reuse, as we have 72 bottles worth of wine on the go at the moment!

I refilled all the various washing up liquid and liquid soap dispensers, I buy Faith in Nature and Bio D in bulk bottles to save on packaging and resources and then reuse or recycle the big bottles when empty.

I tidied up generally, cleaned the small bathroom with an e cloth and hot soapy water, I cleaned various windows and mirrors with an e cloth and vinegar.

Compostman and I started loading up my car for me to go to the Household Recycling site....

Then we picked apples ...lots and lots of apples.....and pears....

This is what 50 lbs of apples looks like..and we have lots of these tubs filled up....

Compostman picked beans, and blanched and froze a load of courgettes while I picked the pears from the other pear tree (Conference)and I think I shall have to make pear leather with the remaining Beth pears as they are very ripe now.

I will be making chutney later on from the Victoria plums in the fridge, the Damsons are finished now on our tree so we are leaving what is left for the insects ( especially butterflies!) to ea. We have lots of wine on the go and lots in the freezer to make jam out of in a few weeks time.

I now have to think about making cider and juice from the apples.

One of the cats took exception to some mending left in a pile on the floor by my chair yesterday and wee'd all over it (and my knitting..grr) so I spent ages cleaning up the mess with the special spray from the vets ( which works!) and washing out wee from previously clean stuff yuck!

I had a lovely, if busy week here, one day last week my fellow Eco Club leader (who is a teacher at Compost girl's school) came round so we could sort out the Green Flag application for the School. We had a really productive session and got lots sorted and it makes me SO proud of the children to see what progress has been made over the last 4 years. I have also re started the Eco club I run at another school nearby, as well as "pitching" for some craft workshops during half term in October (happily I got the work, so am now making stuff for it and Compost girl is helping me!)

So a busy and productive day, and week, here at Compost Mansions!

Sunday 20 September 2009

Michael Chapman played a gig at our local pub...

we actually went out JUST Compostman and me earlier in the week, to a gig! We went to see Michael Chapman, an amazing guitarist singer songwriter....who was appearing at our local pub, The Walwyn Arms ! Compostman first encountered Michael back in the very early 70's when he played at a folk festival Compostman was doing the PA for...and we have been to see him a lot over the last 35 odd years...(eeek) but since we had Compostgirl we have only been out together 4 times in total. ..and not to see him... :-(

so we really enjoyed ourselves on Tuesday :-) especially as Compostgirl went on a sleepover with her best friend from school!

It WAS fun! to be a grown up again, to get dressed up( a bit, I put on clean jeans and a nice top and some lipstick!) and go out somewhere with lovely Compostman..and talk about grown up stuff :-)

Saturday 19 September 2009

CIWM Recycling Champion Award

Oh I am so excited! Once again I am up for this award! I am so pleased, for me, my family and for all the people and the children I work with :-)

From the organisers, The CIWM,

We are delighted to inform you that once again you have been short listed for this award and will be put forward as a finalist to our judging panel, who will be choosing the category winners and also the winner of the overall Award for Environmental Excellence. All the winners will be announced at the ceremony which takes place at the Dorchester Hotel in November.

Hope this time I have better luck actually getting to the event, though....

Thursday 10 September 2009

More "chick pics"

More pictures of the chicks from today.

The one with the spot on his head is the last one to hatch, who I had to help out the most....and guess what? he is a cockerel. The other two chicks are little pullets though :-)

See this one looks different? She is a little pullet. I can tell because Cream Legbars like many breeds are auto sexing on hatching, so the colour tells you what sex the chicks are. The black stripe tells me this is a female. Ruby Dorking ( in the background) looked just like this eggactly a year ago.....

Funny how life goes in a circle, isn't it?

Hatching chicks video

So.. 9 pm last night and Compostman and I have just bought the 2 part hatched eggs into the kitchen from outside, Renee Flemming is playing in the background and the dehydrator is running ( which proved handy later on!) Compostgirl was still awake so we called her down to see what was going on :-)

Chick 2 has just hatched as this clip starts, but Chick 3 is having trouble...so I kept dripping warm water on to it to help rehydrate the shell and membrane. The chick had a little drink as well, to help it recover from the all day struggle it had been going through.

Chick 3 is struggling so VERY hard here, but can't get out

We have put Chick 2 in a cosy box on top of the dehydrator to keep warm and dry off and by this point I am getting worried that Chick 3 is losing the fight with the shell.....

But HURRAH! I was wrong and Chick 3 struggles out of the shell and into the world.

Compostgirl was amazed as she has never seen this happen before. I have never helped to such a degree and we all found it a very moving experience to be a part of.

I love my life :-) I get to do such cool stuff sometimes :-)

The patter of tiny claws......

20 days ago I put 3 fertile cream legbar eggs under Broody Ruby Dorking. She has faithfully sat on them, refusing to get up and eat or drink unless I push her out of the broody ark every morning - she is a VERY dedicated Mum!

Yesterday was day 19 ( chickens typically take 20 days to hatch out) so I hoped something would be happening soon and when I went out to open up the hen houses, guess what? I pushed Ruby off the nest to make her get some food and drink, I looked at the eggs and.....one of the eggs had "pipped"! (cracked from the chick pecking at it from the inside)

Can you see the crack? Click on the picture to enlarge it!

I went back again a couple of hours later and ...surprise! a chick was there, sprawled on the nest. The other two eggs had cracked and the chicks were cheeping furiously from inside, but hadn't emerged from the shells yet.

See the little chick peeking out from under Ruby?

I wasn't worried about the other two chicks then, as it can take a few hours for a chick to emerge, but as the day wore on I did begin to be concerned. The chicks were active and struggling to get out of the shells, but examining the shells showed me they were VERY thick eggshell indeed. The worry here is that, the longer the struggle goes on, the drier the shell and membrane inside becomes and the harder it is for a rapidly tiring chick to push it off.... So, by evening I had decided if the chicks hadn't managed to get out under their own steam I would give them a bit of help. I wasn't going to pull the shell off them but I would try to rehydrate the shells with warm water, to help the chicks along a bit..

So I did. I dripped warm water on the shells to help the chicks get out. The extra humidity allowed them to struggle free and they managed to hatch themselves. When both the chicks had made it out of the shell we put them in a box on top of the dehydrator to warm up and then I put them back under Ruby to dry out and fluff up.

I think I have two pullets and a cockerel. Chicks! I love them :-) More piccies to come tomorrow ;-)

Tuesday 8 September 2009

Busy with new chickens...

Hmm seems a bit dusty in here, are those cobwebs?
Sorry for not blogging lately, its a very busy time of year!

But...I really wanted to post up some photos of the new chickens! Well new-ish, as I have now had some of them for 3 weeks.

Bluebelle ( a Bluebelle),

Bunty (Rhode Rock)

and Mac (Sussex Star)

are (now) 18 weeks old and still just babies. They run around and flap their wings in a comical fashion when I let them out into the Orchard in the morning.

Ginger and Nutmeg (formerly Bunty) are now thinks 22 weeks old.

They are ISA Browns and very tame and friendly! Ginger has started laying but Nutmeg has not, yet.

Pearl the Leghorn is 26 weeks old. Pearl lays white eggs and is a bit skittish.

I went on a "Kill, pluck and gut" course last weekend at Cotswold Chickens, where I met up with a number of friends from the Omlet forum, and as well as bringing home a dressed chicken and a plucked chicken and a kilo of sausages I made, I also came away with 3 more pullets (I have no idea how the carrier got into my car ;-) )

Cinnamon is a Goldline

and together with Ginger and Nutmeg makes up The Spice Girls. The three have become friends and roam around getting up to all sorts of mischief!

The other two pullets, Cocoa

and Treacle,

are Black Stars, very pretty and gentle.

Broody Ruby Dorking is still sitting away, but I may well have breaking news about her soon.....