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!

Saturday 31 July 2010

Hedgehog update.

Hedgehogs active before I went to bed very late last night and again today earlier on in the evening They all went out foraging in a little line behind mum ( looked very sweet) and they ate the food I put out as well.

Mum will probably move them to another place fairly soon as they no longer need the nest, now they are out, and it is a good security measure. But they will still be within the garden and so I shall continue to put out food and water.

Update later on just before midnight - she has moved them from the nest, but I have seen them in the garden elsewhere.

Friday 30 July 2010

Baby hedgehogs

During the last 4 weeks we have been lucky enough to have a hedgehog living under a large fern in one of the flower borders next to the house.

It is unusual for a hoggie to have a permanent nest and come back to it every night at this time of year, so I suspected the hoggie was a she and was getting ready to give birth (or already had given birth) to, some hoglets.

Obviously we couldn't poke around in the nest to see, because that would have frightened her off and possibly caused her to eat the hoglets or abandon them.

This afternoon she came out for a forage, with at least three ( maybe more but only saw three) babies with her.

They are about tennis ball sized, perfect mini hedgehogs and are about 4 weeks old I would say. They followed mum around, making slight squeaks if they lost her, poking around in the dead stuff, for about 20 minutes. Then they went back in to the nest and she followed them and positioned herself across the entrance to the nest. This has been her position every day for the last few weeks, just peeking out at us.

I have provided cat food and fresh water close by.

This is one of the babies on top of the nest. The others have gone back inside and you can just see one in the entrance.

This is the Mum peeping out from the nest, having got the babies inside. She is down the bottom of the picture.

Thursday 29 July 2010

A new companion for Fudge the Guinea Pig

Fudge is our three and a half year old Guinea Pig. He used to have a male companion (possibly brother?) called Coffee but sadly Coffee died 2 years ago.

Since then I have felt SO guilty that Fudge was all alone but couldn't face more young male GPs and the possibility that they would not all integrate. I wondered about getting a couple of young male piggies to be companions to Fudge but the age difference would then probably mean I was left with two older piggies when Fudge finally died...so what to do for the best?

So today we have finally got a cute dwarf lop rabbit, who has been reared from young with male guinea pigs so, although he will live in a separate house in the same room as Fudge, should be ok for short periods of supervised time with Fudge in the run outside.

This has already perked up Fudge no end and he spent a lot of time this afternoon happily running around, wheeking contentedly and nibbling the same bit of hay as his new friend. The rabbit was gentle and they spent a lot of time grooming each other(sweet). Previously Fudge just sat in the corner of the run, looking miserable.

This way, Fudge gets a friend for some of the time, and when he eventually dies Peter Rabbit can carry on with us as a pet. Yes I know about the name (rolls eyes), but the cats have Beatrix Potter themed names, so Compostgirl came up with Peter as a name, immediately...

Peter Rabbit is a dwarf lop, very cute...

Wednesday 28 July 2010

A very busy Wednesday!

Today I have :-

Hand mowed a lot of stuff in the garden.

Cleaned out all the hen houses ( 5 in use at the moment!)

Wormed the three new hens

Filled up 5 compost bins with mowings and paper and stuff.

Harvested loads more produce, am too tired to remember what exactly, but I know I need to make time to process it all tomorrow or soon.

Wrote a proposal for a series of 20 week multi skills courses which I now need to get accredited ...did that in the garden under a tree!

Sorted out Compostgirl's bag to take to her sleep over tonight, and waved her off mid afternoon.

Checked everything was ready for the party of visitors coming to the Wood, tonight, the pre-session "sweep" of the wood had a particular emphasis on wasps etc at this time of year!

Took a load of stuff down to the Wood( First aid and Fire kit, tools, food, games etc) and set up the toilet area.

Had a shower, put on my "work" clothes and made ready to have some fun in the Wood this evening with a load of fellow Master Composters!

Tuesday 27 July 2010

Tues 27 July-pottering around

Compostgirl went off to a drama workshop all day today, so after taking her down to Ledbury I spent the day pottering in the veg plot, harvesting various crops, watering everything and worming hens.

Opal is happy to eat dosed pellet mash, Queenie and Pearl are happy to eat dosed soft bread so all got done today. Only 2 more days to go and I can start to integrate them into the main flock - That will be fun!

I also did some preparations for a party of visitors who are coming to the Wood tomorrow night, so tidying and mowing and putting things away went on as well.

Compostgirl really enjoyed her drama workshop and is now excitedly looking forward to going on a sleep over tomorrow night!

Monday 26 July 2010

A free range, crafty sort of day

Compostgirl had 2 friends over for the day,, today. They went off to free range in the wood all morning, playing games outside before coming in at lunchtime ravenous to demolish homemade/homegrown lunch of sausage rolls, green salad, tomatoes, potato salad, bread, hummous, cheese scones, yogurt and banana bread. (where do children put it all? do they have "hollow legs"?)

They all then decided to watch a film (Night in the Museum 2 - great fun, I recommend it and the first one as good family viewing fun!) and then they came to me requesting "PLEASE will you do some craft things with us!" So we made some stained glass window cards from cellophane and craft card, also some paper fabric which is now drying out to make cards from, next week...them they all ran outside to play in the garden and wood again (yes all by themselves in 3 acres of woodland...!) until their mum came to collect them.

I love the summer holidays when they are like this...a house full of children all playing and just having free range fun! and wanting a bit of creative play workery input from me...now and then!

I must add the site is very well risk assessed and is relatively safe so I don't feel the need to follow the children around and watch their every move, but even so there is a small element of risk involved and yes I am OK with that as it is an essential part of growing up...

I also managed to have a meeting this morning with a friend/business associate about interesting work related stuff, which shows how well the children were occupying themselves!

Am off to bed now, hope every one has had good days, mine was very good indeed...

Sunday 25 July 2010

Sun July 25th

I have been tidying up the garden and weeding and mowing. It has been SO wet here the last week I have not been able to mow, and I really wanted to get it all tidied up!

So, am pleased as have a neat looking veg patch and polytunnel, garden, orchard etc now.

Have also caught up with harvesting all the crops, have not actually preserved them but at least they are in the 'fridge now!

The house is a tip, but hey ho, I don't really care about that!

New hens still delightful, Queenie now eating out of my hand and coming when I call :-)

Saturday 24 July 2010

Sat. I...

Worked inside and out.

I cleaned the house, harvested stuff from the garden, washed, hung out to dry, got back in and folded up to put away... various clothes. I watered the polytunnel as normal, watched some recorded TV programmes ( Victorian Pharmacy was very good!)

and had a bit of a rest as I feel curiously weary, at the moment.

Friday 23 July 2010

A disappointing auction and a sad sort of day

Twas not very good stuff and what was, went for a lot of money.
Am a bit depressed actually, by both the circumstances of the sale ( friends break up of marriage, so business break up as well) and the lack of stuff we managed to purchase.

Oh well, we will get the stuff we need, eventually.

Just a bit sad about the whole thing, today.

Thursday 22 July 2010

Helping Queenie

Today I have been mostly washing and oiling Queenie's feet and legs. !

I think she may have a couple of scales which look like they are lifted by scaly mite, so I have implemented the essential oil and smothering regime on the nasty little things so if they ARE there, I will kill the little beggers before they get worse or infect my other flock.

Am a bit unhappy tbh if she does have them, as I paid good money for her and do not expect to have to do this sort of stuff when buying a bird from a reputable breeder...(sigh) but she is such a lovely bird I am going to keep her and sort it out. She let us give her a bath and just sat and crooned at us!

Wednesday 21 July 2010

Plans for expansion?

Off to an auction of a friends farm tomorrow with many mixed feelings...sad to see their work being sold off BUT will buy if possible so they get more of the money. And YES we may get a bargain as well...

have eye on tractor, trailer, assorted pig keeping stuff and hen keeping stuff plus fencing and building materials.

No idea if it will all work out how we want, but can only go along and bid...taking a debit card with only a set amount of money in the account!

Tuesday 20 July 2010

(More) New girls!

Meet the new girls! Queenie is the large (!) Blue Orpington , next to her is Opal the White Leghorn and at the back is Pearl Two the White Leghorn

Queenie IS huge! Pearl and Opal are normal sized hens....so you can see how big Queenie is.

Pearl Two and Opal are a bit nervous/flighty ( normal for Leghorns) and it will be a challenge to tame them but I LIKE a henny challenge!

Queenie is just lovely! A great big feathery bundle of love. I am besotted. As is Compostman as well. Queenie is VERY special and we look forward to welcoming her, Pearl and Opal into the feathery lady family, here at Compost Mansions.

At the moment they are all in quarantine from the others, being wormed and generally treated to a special diet and assorted additives in their feed to make sure they are in tip top condition before I add them in to the rest of the feathery flock. They are in lovely condition BUT, you can never be too careful.

Monday 19 July 2010

Normal life resumes...

I have finished and passed the teaching course and no longer am frantically writing assignments all the time.

I h ave mostly finished running courses in the wood for adults now, until September.

I have harvested all the stuff which needs harvesting, for now.

Compost girl finishes school tomorrow and will be here with us for the next 6 and a half weeks.

So today I am going to do , precisely...nothing! I am going to read a book in the garden and enjoy the sunshine.

Saturday 17 July 2010

Ow ow toothache

NOT a good day here...was thinking I had a cold coming Thurs because I had face ache and a sensitive tooth, by yesterday it turned into raging toothache, a loose tooth and then a swollen face and a general feeling of unwellness.

So I stayed at home last night, and missed Compostgirl's Summer Concert at school. I really really couldn't face going, so Compostman went with her and watched and reported back. I must have looked bad because even Compostgirl said she thought I should stay at home!

I had a very poor nights sleep, so was left to lie in by family and only surfaced just before lunchtime today. I feel terrible, tbh, and am debating going down to  local small Hospital or to wait and see if I can fight off the (probable) infection until Monday. As usual with me (due to CFS) my ankles and wrists  all stiffen and swell up when I get anything else wrong with me, so am all aching as well.

Am going to sit and watch "The Meistersingers of Nurunberg" which is the Prom tonight on BBC TV, all 5 hours of it. Wrapped up in a duvet with hot compresses and various things to put on my poorly face and tooth. I am determined to have a good evening!

Friday 16 July 2010

All done!

From this

To this

To this

And finally...this!

 In a week of hard work.

I keep coming out of the door and wondering whose garden is outside as I don't recognise it, it looks so different!

Thursday 15 July 2010

Oh dear..it all went a bit wrong today

Today was the day the top gravel was being delivered. The lorry arrived and started to tip the gravel where we wanted it.

Piles in different places around the drive and yard, so Ken and Compostman could then shovel it and JCB it into place.

Inside the drive all was going very well, but when the lorry had deposited the last pile the trailer part wouldn't go back down!

So the lorry could not drive away... due to the overhanging branches of the big oak tree one way up the lane and the power cables down the lane the other way.

The lorry sat there for nearly 4 hours until it could be fixed. Fortunately not blocking either our drive OR the road!

Wednesday 14 July 2010

Need more stone! and what else has been going on...

Today we had more scalpings ( base stone) delivered and Ken the Diggerman and Compostman and I spread them out over the area of the yard and drive.

It is HARD work, no wonder breaking/moving stone was deemed a suitable punishment for criminals the world over!

We are now ready for the top layer of gravel ( from the Forest of Dean, local stone to us) BUT there are no available lorries to collect and deliver until late tomorrow.

So, we are levelling and putting up gate posts and I am busy cleaning out hen houses ready for a hen keeping course at the weekend.

Eco Club is coming here for a Forest School Party tomorrow so I need to sort stuff out AND have to make a hard decision. is it too windy and will I have to call it all off on safety grounds?

Tuesday 13 July 2010

We now have a drive! (sort of)

Today the scalpings (the base layer of stone) got spread out.

And the new gates were delivered!

Monday 12 July 2010

It's looking more like a drive now and less like a bombsite!

Another day of stone and gravel and stuff....it is looking more like a drive now and less like a bombsite!

Diggerman arrived and set to work and we have been laying geotextile all morning on the dug out drive. We had a quick trip round the corner ( literally, it is just over the fields as the crow flies, although 3 miles by road) to a neighbour who sells gates, fences etc, to order new gates etc for the drive.

Our power went off all morning here, so when we got back from looking at gates Compostman retrieved the camping stove from the store, so I could make much needed mid morning tea for the three of us. It was soooooo frustrating, thinking of all that lovely electricity being generated by our PV's but which we couldn't access....

Then we went back out to do more fabric laying as loads of stone was being delivered after lunch and the fabric had to be ready on the ground!

But, when the lorries got to the quarry there was NO STONE ready.  Grrr. We had to send the lorries to another quarry further away to get the stone, so it didn't arrive until tea time, which delayed the work no end, and cost us more money.
BUT...it is here now and will be spread out tomorrow.

Sunday 11 July 2010

A quiet weekend in the garden

This weekend has been a peaceful, if busy time. Time spent tending my garden, weeding , harvesting and talking to visitors about my work in the Wood and the various renewable energy systems we use to reduce our carbon footprint.

Yesterday afternoon and this morning I have; cleaned out the eglu, cleaned the two large wooden hen houses, the walk in run and all the feeders and drinkers, filled 8 compost bins with assorted stuff, moved 8 wheel barrowloads of an old bonfire pile to somewhere else ( lots of digging involved), hand mowed around the potato patch ( the raised bed ones), tidied the barn and swept the paved areas, watered and fed the polytunnel and picked lots of produce from the garden. I did lots of other stuff as well, but I can't remember the details!

I also did lots of inside, housework...and washed, hung out , dried and put away 3 loads of washing. I love the smell of freshly line dried washing!

Compostgirl went to play at her best friend's house today, and I gave a talk to a group of crop sharers from a local CSA scheme just up the road. They walked across the fields to us, and we had a pleasant hour or so in the wood, where I gave my talk, they asked questions, drank tea and generally had a look around at how we keep chickens, grow veg, make compost and generate our own electricity and hot water and wood products. They were a lovely group of people and it was a pleasure to talk to them.

Then it was time to collect a tired but happy Compostgirl and have our evening meal, which was entirely home grown or home reared.

A good weekend.

Saturday 10 July 2010

Peace and quiet

Today I am relishing the peace and quiet, after 2 solid days of JCB digger-ing and scraper-ing and the sound and dust involved in loading up a very large farm trailer with stone from our drive ( old drive?) . Which was repeated at roughly 30 mins intervals from 9 am until 5 pm yesterday and today.
The sound will all start again on Monday, but then, ah THEN we will be laying geotextile down on the ground and then the noise will be NEW stone ( local!) and gravel ( local!) going down.

I can’t wait to have a lovely, weed free, level, tidy, bigger drive and yard. I loathed how bad the old stuff had become, it looked awful, but not being prepared to use weedkiller, once it got beyond hand weeding or raking, we were doomed. I couldn't let clients park on it, either!

And it wasn’t done very well, in the first place I think.

So, we are enjoying the respite from noise and dust, even though we asked for it!  And we have cut the grass today by scythe and hand mower, to keep the noise level down so we can hear the skylarks singing in the sky overhead.

Friday 9 July 2010

Digging deeper.

This is what our drive looked like earlier this year. Weedy, a mess and not very nice to live with.

So I contacted Ken and his JCB.  He does all sorts of stuff, including drives! This is Ken digging the trench a couple of weeks back, for the armoured cable needed to connect the PV's to the house. Can you see more of the horrible gravel and weeds?

This is today. Ken and a colleague arrived yesterday at 9 am, JCB, tractor and trailer in tow, to remove and reuse (as a farm trackway) all the rubbishy stone on our drive. When it is all gone, they will then lay a lovely new lot of stone and gravel (all local) on top of a geotextile sheet. That should keep out the weeds!

We have had two solid days of JCB activity, with them scraping and tipping and working very hard. We have been hard at work on it as well, shovelling and moving and taking out gate posts etc. The JCB has just left and it is lovely and quiet here now!

And it is already looking bigger and better, even though it has yet to have the stone replaced.

That will happen on Monday :-)

So what have you done today?

Thursday 8 July 2010

New drive

Digger and tractor/trailer combo arrived on the dot of 9 am to start digging up the drive...to lay a lovely new gravel drive to replace the badly done ( before our time!) gravel which has become infested with weeds and a slimey fungi when it rains....

cue slight panic, as we realised various large things we need to use during today must be got out of garage NOW, as tractor/trailer will be blocking main doors all day...

I WAS planning on a quiet sleepy sort of day, as I am feeling rather weary after the excitement of yesterday's graduation efforts, but with a JCB and tractor outside in the yard it isn't going to happen....

Oh and for those who inquired ? I graduated yesterday with an adult teaching qualification :-) So I am now officially a teacher :-) The law now requires all this ...even if you have been teaching adults  in FE for years (as I have) you need to join the IfL and do various courses..so I did, starting in Nov 2009. And yes I was very proud to graduate, 21 years after the last time I did so! ( B. Eng (Hons) Materials Science Birmingham)

Am getting ready to do more exciting stuff to do with my work in Moors Wood...will share as soon as I can, I promise!

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Getting ready for a big day!

So, tomorrow I will be going to Hereford Cathedral, to graduate from my adult teacher training course.

I have sorted out, washed and ironed my clothes (plain blouse, black trousers) polished my black shoes and handbag, made sure Compostman 's shirt is clean and ironed, sorted out Compostgirl's clean school dress and logo'd sweatshirt and sorted out the letter asking for her to be allowed out of school at 1 pm to be collected by Compostman to come to the ceremony

I have downloaded the instructions on how /what time everybody needs to be at various places ( me -1pm at the latest to robe up in graduand gear, Compostman and Compostgirl to be in seats inside Cathedral by 2 pm.)

I have, I think organised everything... I just hope I can get some sleep tonight!

Monday 5 July 2010

Some random pics of my hens


Poor old Coriander (ginger hen), seen here in front of her friend Cumin.  She is OK, but I have kept her and Cumin inside the Eglu for a few days to make sure she is recovering from the fox attack.

mad Vanilla  the Cream Legbar. I have decided to go and buy a Leghorn, to get white eggs and also so Vanilla isn't the only mad looking hen!

hens still have not worked out how to get the gate open!

See the Photovoltaic panels on the garage roof and the Solar Thermal tubes on the house roof?

Sunday 4 July 2010

Fox attack - again!

We had a bit of a fraught day here yesterday...Compostman and I are a bit unwell, just a virus thing, shivery, tired, shaky sort of stuff...but we still decided to jointly clean all the (filthy) windows, him outside, me inside....as they have been annoying the heck out of both of us for a number of weeks...

24 windows later we were a bit shattered....so had a rest and then lunch.

In the late afternoon Compostman  went out to plant more leeks, while I carried on with a major decluttering job in the guest bedroom AKA the dumping ground....as we are getting ready to clear it out for new floor, dry line the walls, a new window and  redecorate etc....it needs clearing out!

THEN I heard a shout of "FOX" so I ran outside, to be met by Compostman carrying Coriander hen, who looked like she was about to pop her clogs....(that means die, in case anyone wonders!)

He had seen the fox appear, by the bit of garden he was in, ( at 4 pm in the afternoon!) and snatch her...the hens had JUST been let out of their secure run to free range, because he was in the garden and close by...!

Fox went off into the wood with Coriander in its jaws, so Compostman gave chase into the wood, whereupon Fox dropped Coriander and legged it....

All the other hens were OK ( phew...) as Compostman had the presence of mind to shoo them all into the Mega Hen Pen and lock them in. Coriander had a wound and was in shock I think, so I dressed the wound and put her and Cumin ( her fellow escapee from the commercial flock) into the Eglu for her to recover quietly overnight in the company of a friend....
Coriander and Cumin (ginger hens) with Lavender hen ( the grey hen)

Coriander was still alive and looked quite perky this morning, but was moving rather stiffly.

And thank heavens for the mega hen pen walk in run! Built by Compostman for my birthday in April, it means this time I was able to keep all the girls shut in and they still had room to roam. I gave them a load more wood chippings from the pile this afternoon and they were very excited to furtle around looking for worms and bugs.

Compostman...my hero oh so many times over!
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Saturday 3 July 2010

View over the veg plot.


This is a busy, productive time of year, with the harvest season fast approaching. 

Time to get out the dehydrator, and clear out the freezers of the remains of last years fruit and veg. I shall make soup I think with the veg and fruit crumble or maybe wine with the old fruit!

I am now harvesting new potatoes, broad beans, chard, salads of all sorts, herbs, carrots, courgettes, peas and mange tout, the first of the french beans today and lots of cucumbers. The tomatoes outside ( left over plants , not sold or given away, which I could not bear to throw on the compost!) are also doing really well. Which is a first for me as outdoor toms have never done well, here.

The climbing beans have finally got going, the leeks , parsnips and onions are looking good and I should be lifting the garlic and shallots any day now.

Apples, pears and plum trees are all covered with fruit and we have just started picking the tayberries - yum!

All in all, it is looking good so far, so fingers crossed we have some rain ( but not too much) and sunshine!

How is it with you, all?

Friday 2 July 2010

The Polytunnel in early July.

This is what the polytunnel looks like, now. Lots of cucumbers and salad being eaten, also sugar snap peas, although the outside plants are bearing pods now as well.

I expect the first tomato any day now...

I am very busy at the moment, with courses in the wood, chicken and composting courses coming up, a talk to give on Forest Schools and lots of meetings and work to do with the next phase of my business plans....

So it is good to get outside and weed and pick and smell the soil.

Thursday 1 July 2010

Energy from the Sun

A gratuitously self indulgent post, this one! Notice anything different about the woodstore roof, beyond the polytunnel? And can you see the solar thermal tubes on the house?
Thanks to these wonderful bits of kit, for the last week we have been generating around £7 worth of        electricity per day, (thank you, Feed in Tarrif) AND our bought in electricity usage has dropped to less      than 5 units per day. We have also had a seemingly endless supply of hot water! We have had to adjust our usage patterns but that's OK, I don't feel its a hardship to have to wait for the cooker to finish before running the washing machine. The electricity we sell back to the grid then goes off to be sold to other people , thus helping THEM to use truly renewable energy as well. 
Hurrah! *We* are generating clean, renewable energy, which gets sold to Good Energy! How cool is that idea!  Compost Mansions electrons!                                                                                                                                                   
Its wonderful, simply wonderful, to sit and use this computer now, using solar generated electricity, while     drinking a cup of tea made with solar generated electricity, while the washing machine is washing clothes using solar generated electricity and hot water heated by the sun, water which was pumped up from our borehole by, yep, you guessed it, solar generated electric. Between the PV's, the Solar Thermal tubes and   the  woodstore, I feel pretty damn  like the cat who got the cream, right  now !                                                                                            
Sorry, I'll take my grin somewhere else, shall I? ;-))