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!

Sunday 31 January 2010

Big Garden Birdwatch - the results!

Ok did mine earlier on so here is the list

6 blue tits
9 great tits
10 long tail tits
6 coal tits

5 chaffinches
4 greenfinches
2 bullfinches ( eating the buds on the magnolia!)

3 robins
3 sparrows
1 dunnock
1 blackcap

3 blackbirds
1 song thrush
10 fieldfares
5 redwing
( actually loads more but they were in the ivy hedge behind the bird feeders area where I was watching so I couldn't count them)

2 wrens

3 crows
2 woodpigeons
2 jays
1 magpie

3 GS woodpecker
1 LS woodpecker (!) Oh joy its come back!
2 Green woodpecker - wonderful exotic looking birds, we have a lot around here in the wood and garden!

AND.....1 sparrowhawk getting a small ground feeder ( chaffinch?) and eating it in front of me, at the very end.....

I forgot to add the
1 Heron
2 Mallards
1 Moorhen

I could see them bobbing around behind the fence...on the pool side.

My area for watching from the house has 2 bird tables, a couple of big oak trees, grass and hedges with ivy etc and also backs on to our little meadow with the pool, so I do get some water birds as well.....

Basically we are lucky enough to own a small nature reserve here, with woodland, meadow, hedges marsh and a pool, so get a lot of different birds.

An enjoyable hour, well spent!

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

Today I am about to go and sit at my dining room window, with a cup of coffee, binoculars and bird book to hand, to watch birds.

I am taking part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

Its very easy to do, you settle down for your hour watching and recording the highest number of each bird species seen in your garden, or local park (not flying over) at any one time, on either Saturday 30 or Sunday 31 January 2010.

Thats all there is to! So...why not join in?

I will let you all know what I saw later on today...

The Sunday morning after the massacre.

Morning all

Thanks for the good wishes, seemed very odd to let the remaining 9 hens out this morning (gulp) and see so few...

Spot the Cream Legbar Cockerel and the 2 Cream Legbar pullets have refused to go into a hen house and have become feral birds, roosting in the Juniper or Wellingtonia trees about 20 foot up in the air..I can't get them to come to me and I can't get them down, so they have become a "problem to be dealt with sometime"

Ruby the Silver Dorking was their Brooder Mum, so I guess they saw what happened to her and have become very frightened?

Anyway, they can fly very well and seem to have the sense to get up out of reach.

If any of you reading this came on one of my chicken keeping courses last Autumn, you would have met Ginger, as, although quite new to people, she was the star turn who whould let you all stroke her and everybody cuddle her and allow me to point out all the chicken parts...I am missing her a lot this morning.

I DID wonder if some of the missing girls had been pinched, but as this happened in broad daylight, from my garden, quite close to the house, it seems unlikely. I guess I am clutching at straws in the hope they might still be alive, somewhere. But not so.

Also 3 of the missing girls were not tame and no one else would have got near them..they didn't squat or come to any one else...so I have discounted the idea and sadly assume Fox(es) had a good meal yesterday...

Feel a bit...at a loose end this morning. Not sure what I want to do, today...think I will continue in the polytunnel, maybe plant some seeds ( always makes me feel cheerful!) and of course take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch for the RSPB.

Have nice days, everyone..

Saturday 30 January 2010

A SAD and REALLY rubbish sort of day..

Carp morning of utter carpness here, topped off with a second and third helping of even more carpness later in the afternoon...

I am rather sadly minus 6 hens today..a visit from Mr/Mrs/Miss/Master Fox,I think alas ....

I realised something was up after spotting a load of white feathers at lunchtime, searched for a body and found one dead hen( head removed and gone)who was Pearl the nutty White Leghorn, her decapitated body was still warm....

then gradually realised a number of the other hens were MIA... all this in daytime! near to the house!

Henny my biggest, softest, oldest hen, Ginger, Cinnamon the two newish Isa browns ( and ace layers), Bunty the newish Black Rock and another sweet hen, and Ruby the mad broody Silver Dorking, mum to the Legbars.....were all missing....

Not a feather anywhere from any of them, but no sight or sound all day so am assuming they have been got by (probably) a vixen and her teenage cubs....

Am very sad and dispirited by it all....

Have been to pub tonight, eaten and drunk far too much, have returned to open a bottle of wine, have watched "The day after tomorrow" and am going to go to bed soon..

My poor , poor hens......I shall miss you all SO much.

RIP my lovely feather friends.

Wednesday 13 January 2010

Making yogurt

Given the very snowy weather we are all having in the UK, I have had a few friends saying to me how hard it is to get certain foodstuffs and one of the most common items which are in short supply are bread, butter and yogurt.

Now we make our own bread and I have a stock of home made butter in the freezer, and yes I do also make my own yogurt, so I shared with my friends how I do it.

And I thought maybe you all might like to know , as well?

I keep a stock of UHT organic milk in out store cupboard, for drinking/cooking but also for yogurt making.

If you use UHT milk you don't need to scald it first...and UHT milk will keep for ages in a store cupboard so it is always on hand.

Yogurt can be made very easily on a small scale with very simple kitchen equipment. It is important to be very clean though!

You will need:
One pint of Sterilised or UHT Milk.
a saucepan or a glass jug if using a microwave.
a thermometer (optional).
2 Tablespoons of live Yogurt.
a thermos flask.
a jug and maybe a basin

Heat the milk until it reaches blood temperature ( 37° C /98.4° F )either on a stove or in the microwave.
In a jug blend in the 2 tablespoons of yogurt with a little of the warm milk, when a
smooth mixture is obtained, pour into the rest of the warm milk and stir.
If using a microwave I just add the yogurt a little at a time into the jug of warm milk.
Pour the milk/yogurt mixture into a pre warmed wide necked thermos flask, seal and leave for 7 hours ( I have left it overnight before now)

Pour the Yogurt into the basin or into smaller containers with lids cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to allow the
yogurt to thicken further.

Yogurt made this way can be kept in a refrigerator for 4 or 5 days.

If wished add pureed fruit or other flavourings to portions before serving.

Thursday 7 January 2010

How to.......round up the hens in 8 inches of snow

Well trying to round up the hens in the 8 inches of snow tonight was....interesting?

CM let them out this morning ( doh! why? ) and Ruby Dorking and the chicklets came out of their area which has no snow because it is under a HUUUGE Wellingtonia tree...and waded through the snow to the lean to, where they stayed, but couldn't be tempted back to their house at bed time, as the snow was too deep for them to walk through...

The other hens all managed to flap out of their runs to the edge of the wood where they hid under the Swamp Cypress ( also bare of snow underneath) but could not work out how to get back to the food, water and shelter...

So I spent another 2 hours rounding them all up, picking them up individually and carrying them over to the runs to shut them in...

Then I realised I was 2 hens short...

One hen, Pearl, is a WHITE Leghorn, so hard to spot against snow...I found her submerged under a mini avalanche of snow, too buried to get out...but she was OK so I popped her into the run with the others...

But Treacle ( my clever, favourite Black Star) was still missing...I had seen her earlier by the house, so I went back to look and found her stranded in a snowdrift, to deep for her to fly or walk out...and she was drooping, eyes closed...having been in there for at least half an hour

I hoiked her out and stuck her in front of the Aga, and after an hour of warm and a quantity of bread and cat meat and some warm water she was OK...

CM is under strict instructions NOT to let the hens out tomorrow......!

And it is now ( at midnight) - 8 here......! with 8 inches of snow and an ice glaze.....

Today it was CM's turn to fall over...he tried to climb over the fence, and missed....

No harm done, so I laughed....

This evening was spent watching Tales from the Green Valley with CM and CG, in front of the woodburner, drinking cider. Having eaten fish, potato wedges, various veg and then christmas cake and cheese...

I suspect CG will be off again tomorrow...can't really see school being open, somehow!

She wants to watch more TFTGV and now wants to build another model house, this one from wattle and daub with a thatch roof...she was working out how to tie the thatch bundles in miniature, at bedtime.....and wanting to "borrow" some hay and sone small hazel twigs....

Oh well, will keep her busy, I guess!

Hope every one is OK, warm, dry, safe and well fed