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, which we share with Chickens, Cats, Guinea Pigs 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 work as an environmental educator, lecturer, writer and Forest School leader at Moors Wood . I am a Master Composter and have spent the last 11 years as a volunteer Community Compost adviser with Garden Organic and my local Council. I offer talks and run workshops and events where we talk about compost, veg growing, chicken keeping, cooking, preserving and sustainable living. We also make crafts and have fun.

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 October 2010

Halloween/Samhain

The end of the old year and the start of the new year.

I have walked in the wood today and watched the leaves as they came whirling down, broken free from the tree by the wind to land on the ground and slowly return to the soil.

I caught a leaf as it fell through a shaft of sunlight and made a wish.

I spent today outside, tending to my plants and animals and family, weaving the threads of love and nurturing around them all to make them comfortable and secure.

I shall sit by the fire tonight, with candles lit, and think of all my loved ones, my friends and family, animal and people. Those I still see in life and those who have gone on before me.


Wishing you a thoughtful day.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Packing up and making friends.

I am packing books out of the main sitting/hearthroom and having a clear out as I go ready for the major works to start in there.

I am amazed at just how many books on an eclectic mix of subjects we actually have between us. Shocked I am  doing a full count so I know exactly how many books we do have at Compost Mansions. I have not done this for several years!

Peter Rabbit is now back home having had "the op" and is recovering well. In 10 days or so he can have a doe as a friend so it will be worth it!

Guinea pigs now getting on very well, so the two new boys can stay with us and not have to go back to the small animal charity. Their names are Snowy and Chalky.
This is Snowy sniffing Fudge.

I have a meeting later to go to later on today in Hereford but for now am continuing to clear out the polytunnel, doing washing and packing away books on a rotating basis.



And what are you all doing today?

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Tagged

My good friend Lucy at The Smallest Smallholding has tagged me in a meme, and left me a few questions to answer. I haven’t done one of these for ages and to be honest often don't find time for these memes, but this one caught my fancy so...

I also thought it could be good fun and a way for readers learn a bit more about me.

So here are my answers to Lucy’s questions:


1. Who or what first inspired you to set up your own blog?

I honestly cannot remember any one source. It was a general feeling that I was reading other people's blogs and finding them fascinating and realising maybe other people would be interested in my doings as well. I also viewed my blog as a way to communicate all the ideas I am passionate about and a source of useful information to other people. One of my first posts was about composting...(surprise, surprise!)

2. What object could you not live without?

I guess, it would be my glasses! I am very short sighted and without eye correction I wouldn't be able to walk around, never mind grow or write or compost or garden or teach.

I don't really have "objects" that mean that much to me in  a general way. I couldn't live without the support of Compostman though, he is the solid foundation on which I can base all the things I try to achieve. I owe him a lot for his unswerving support and help in all that I have done over the 26 plus years we have been together.


3. Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Still living here, still composting, keeping hens, growing stuff, building up my environmental education work and still teaching adults and children how to live a more sustainable lifestyle and have fun in the process!

4. Who or what made you into the person you are today?

Hmm tricky one....

What
Determination to succeed despite the odds. I never give up once I have set my mind to achieve something - I have carried on with my education despite having to curtail my education due to a family breakdown at 17. I left school with O levels instead of carrying on to A levels and Oxbridge as was planned, I had to get a job and support myself very suddenly, as I was without a home  (although my then boyfriend's parents very kindly took me in and let me use the spare room until I found a place of my own). Instead of doing my higher education the conventional way, I did an HNC and Degree on day release and then a paid sabbatical from work.  I have subsequently continued to learn and change and develop. I keep on going despite adversities suffered and try to succeed despite the odds -so I guess I am quite determined!

Who

Compostman . Wouldn't have been able to do so many things if it was not for his support and love.

Lots of other helpful people, some are personal friends, some wrote books or blogs or articles I read, or items I listened to or watched in the media.

One person who I recall with fondness was a teacher at my primary school, in 1969 who told me I could be "anything I wanted to be, if I worked hard enough and didn't give up" She was refering to academic success at a time when being a girl made it harder to do "everything" you wanted, but I have always remembered her words.

My Mum, who always believed in me. I wish she could have seen me achieve the thngs I have, but sadly life is not always how we want it to be.

5. What have your learned from blogging?

Oh so much! Recipes, how to do stuff, make things, answers to questions, thought provoking stuff , knitting tips, cake recipies, wine making tips.the list is endless.I also love the insight it gives into other people's lives and the knowledge that I am not alone in my view of the world and how we should treat the resources we have available.

6. Knowing what you know now, what knowledge would you pass on to your past self?

Don't marry husband number one, it won't work out right and will leave you with all sorts of problems!

7. Sunday roasts - lunchtime or evening meal?

Evening, as there is so much to do here in the daytime! Christmas Day is the one day when we eat at lunchtime. We only feed and tend the animals that day and do no other work.

8. What has been your best blogging-related experience so far?

Being contacted by people from the other side of the world to ask me for composting advice. Making lots of new friends, many of whom I have met in "real life" and found to be as lovely in person as they are in blogland.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

A very dull day indeed!

Horrible and damp here all day but I made a start on clearing the Poly tunnel


so having made some space I moved the various small animal runs inside the polytunnel
I now have Guinea Pigs plural as I got 2 more rescue ones,  in what was once the Broody Ark but is now GP central.




The two new boys have settled in with Fudge and apart from a bit of posturing and teeth chattering, all is well (phew)

Peter Rabbit also in the polytunnel in his run, he goes to be neutered tomorrow and when he has healed up is getting a rescue doe as a companion.











Compostman has laid a path to the hens today using some of the Freecycle slabs we got a few weeks back, which will cut down on the swamp like appearence of the garden I hope...we make numerous treks out to the hens and it is already a sea of mud.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Crafty things with leaves







I have been preserving autumn leaves  today, for use at a craft workshop I am running in a few weeks time.

The method is quite simple, pick leaves, immerse in a mixture of 1 part glycerine, 2 parts water mix in a tray. Make sure the leaves are submerged, you might want to put something on top of them. Keep away from children and pets!

I will let you know how it turned out in a few days time.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Cassi and the giant mouse.

What do you mean? It is not a mouse?










Are you sure?





Oh, ok then, I will be friends with him!

Cassi is very friendly and likes both Fudge the Guinea pig AND Peter Rabbit. Peter likes her also and they nuzzle each other and sit next to each other when Peter is on my lap. Peter is, of course, much bigger than Cassi, but even so...

 Similarly, Fudge runs up to her and wheeks at her and happily lets her lick him and grooms her back...strange, you would think both these small animals would see her as a threat but apparently not.

I am still not going to leave them alone together, though...just in case.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Making cider 2010

Take 150 lbs of apples, carefully picked and placed in boxes in car boot.



Take them round to friends house where their wonderful equipment can do its stuff



Wash the apples


Feed the apples into the scratter ( to chop them up)



Chopped apples dropping into the tub, waiting to be loaded into the press.



Layers of chopped apples go into cloths ("hairs") inside frames, divided up by boards, until a stack ("cheese") has been built up, then the press gets to work and ....lots of apple juice comes out.


At the end I was left with this pommace (the remains of the chopped apples) wonderful on the compost heaps

and







30 l of cider. ( and another 25 l of pasturised juice waiting for me to go and collect it!)

Thank you Nige and Debs, another lovely session pressing apples!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

A poorly couple are we

Both Compostman and I are poorly at the moment, with some kind of fluey thing that makes us achey and sore and soooo very tired . But today was an important day for Compostgirl as her Brownie  troup were parading through Ledbury and and going to a church service to celebrate the Centenary of Girl Guiding. So...I asked a friend from just up the lane who very kindly took Compostgirl with her and her daughter to the Brownies church parade thingy so Compostman and I could have a rest.

Well Compostman did (he watched an old Bogart film) and I did for a bit, but then I remembered I needed to wash out demi johns for tomorrows marathon cider/juice making session...Shocked

So I started washing dj's and also juice bottles, then I moved on to bottle 3 dj's of cider to free up the dj's, then realised the plum wine needed racking off so did the 15 l of wine into 3 clean dj's ( which I had to clean out, first) Compostman helped me with the wine, I hasten to add!

Then I had a rest, but then...while getting out winemaking supplies from the Glory Hole, I "found" Embarassed 2 kilner jars of fruit vodka which had been in the dark since 2007, sitting on the fruit. so I tasted it and pronounced superb, so I bottled it and it is now awaiting labelling and either drinking by us ( bigger bottles) or going into gift baskets as presents (smaller bottles!. Along with various home made soaps, candles, chutneys and jams, home made biscuits and small fabric things will be added at a later date....I think these hampers will be an acceptable gift to various friends!

So...I am really having a rest, now!


Friday, 15 October 2010

A featherless tale....



Queenie in July 2010





Taken 3 days ago, lots of feathers gone now...feathers dropping gently, everywhere! Queenie is a Blue Orpington and they have a lot of feathers to change...




Taken today. Poor Queenie! She is hiding in the hen house most of the time now as I think she is embarrassed at the lack of her normal feathery splendiferousness....! The floor is carpeted with her feathers....and all over the run as well

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Pumpkin cookery

We had some Chicago Warted Hubbard pumpkin, roasted last night. Very nice, very sweet chestnut flavour. Have a load more to make soup from.

Strange looking thing, though. (The pumpkin, not Compostman I hasten to add!)

This was a smallish one....!



Hubbard, Chicago Warted (a.k.a. Green Chicago Warted Hubbard, Hubbard Improved) (Cucurbita maxima)

From St Claire Heirloom Seeds website


Quote:
105-115 days. An old heirloom developed by Budlong Gardens of Chicago and introduced by Vaughans Seed Store of Chicago in 1894. The Chicago Warted Hubbard Squash's very vigorous vines bear hard shelled, dark green fruits, heavily warted and of a true hubbard shape. Fruits weigh in around 12-16 lbs., and measure 12-14", by 10" in diameter. Flesh is thick, dry, sweet, and fine-grained. Great for pies, baking, or freezing. A very good shipper, and excellent keeper, keeping until late spring.


provided in the UK by Garden Organic HSL

Monday, 11 October 2010

Cassieopea

This is Cassiopea. She is also a rescue cat, abandoned or lost. I saw her when I went to collect Cleo from the vets and decided that if she was not claimed we would re home her as well. My thinking was that with two existing ( and fed up) cats already, if we were going to have more cats then it would be better to get the hiss/spit stuff over and done with ...


Well, that idea, as we know, didn't work out with lovely Cleo cat. She had to be re homed becasue Tom Cat and Tabitha his sister were so unkind and kept on attacking her with increasing violence. Cleo was disabled, so couldn't fight back and was getting more and more terrified, so eventually, with much sadness, I admitted defeat and found her a new and loving home.

Cassi on the other hand is only a kitten of about 5 months old, so can run away if they attack! .She is also VERY feisty and has already given Tabitha a good scratching. So...the cats are sorting out where they all come in the scratching order, and after only 3 weeks they are all tolerating each other and will all sleep on our bed without fighting.

Hopefully, Cassi will eventually become a friend to the other two.

Isn't she adorable?

Friday, 8 October 2010

Cat joys and woes

Gloom.

I blogged earlier in the month about Cleo, our lovely rescue cat. She was beautiful and I really bonded with her, and she with me.

But....

Cleo was being terrorised and beaten up increasingly nastily by Tabitha and Tom, our original cats , who are siblings and have been with us for 2 years now.

Cleo was denied access to the downstairs several times and eventually in desparation wee'd in the wrong place twice (on our bed, saturating the blankets, sheets and matress - yuck).

She was shivering and terrified most of the day, hiding next to me under the bench in the study, was not eating much , and there was little way we could keep them all apart in our house and certainly not in the garden (where they were stalking her in tandem and then both beating her up)

so....she has been re homed to someone who has recently lost their only cat and really wants her.

I am so desperately sad about this, as is Compostman and Compostgirl ( oh...Compostgirl! so upset!) ...but after discussion with the behavioural vet nurse, we all think it is for the best.

Cassiopea kitten, who we got 2 weeks ago, as a rescue cat, is a far more feisty little girl and gives as good as she gets, and T and T have stopped bothering her already but Cleo was shy and scared and disabled and they were just getting worse and worse with her.

I am so sad it has not worked out but we have to think of Cleo and what is best for her. Holed up, terrified and shaking, in a room waiting to be pounced on was not doing her any good. Also Tom and Tabby have lived here for 2 1/2 years, from kittens, and they were/are also very upset by all this....

If we hadn't done something now we would have ended up with 3 very unhappy cats I suspect.

And our lives have been a nightmare as well during this episode...for example Tabby followed Cleo downstairs, waited until she was "positioned" on the litter tray and then shot through the cat flap and pounced on her....Cleo now has a badly scratched ear and Tabby has a flea in her ear...


AND Tom Cat sprayed sofa bed in CG's room the day before Cleo left. Boy did it stink, even though he is neutered. Yuck.

Sofa bed was un salvagable as it has a chipboard base which is now saturated and the non removable cushion stuffings are as well, so it went to the tip. Lovely. The sofa bed was 9 years old and had been well used, so I don't feel too bad but it is annoying as it was useful when Compostgirl had friends to stay.

I hate the smell of cat wee


Then I discovered Tom Cat had wee'd in the clothes basket as well as trashing the sofa bed beyond washing, so spent the rest of the weekend rinsing and washing and re washing clothes, which I didn't need to wash at all and now had to try to dry out. House was festooned with damp clothes. On a rainy day. Even with a dolly in the kitchen roof space, still a bit to many for my taste.And this had been the daily round for three weeks.
Washing basket ( wicker) was also wrecked. Bloody Tom Cat. Grrr.

So..the end result of all this mayhem is ....my Cleo cat now gone to new home Crying or Very sad  new owner is a vet nurse at our vets. Much tears from CG and me as well, but it is all for the best. I tried, oh how I tried ! but she was too disabled to fight them off and they were too mean to stop bullying her.


Am sad. Very sad indeed.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Woodburners

We are about to start on gutting the sitting room and insulating its walls and replacing the woodburner and a whole lot more stuff.  

 So today we had a trip out to look at new woodburners at the Gloucestershire Stove Centre. We currently have a rather useless metal box of a woodburner which really is so hopeless that it is not much better than an open fire...

I was certain we would be going for a Clearview to replace it but Compostman suggested a trip out, so off we went.

The shop and staff were lovely and happily lit a number of the stoves for us to see. We saw a number of makes and are now deliberating between two brands. Both are lovely ( and neither are a Clearview!) Both are more efficient than a Clearview and a lot less money as well!

here is the link to one of them



The Burley was astoundingly good in demonstration and actually cheaper that a "conventional" equivalent woodburner with air wash and cleanburn, a la Clearview...which it also has, of course

Also very clean, unfussy lines, which we liked...
I was SO impressed by it...


Given that we fell, cut, split and stack all our wood, getting max efficiency from it for heating is of considerable importance!

‎89% is the 5 kW, 85 % is the 8 kW and the 12 kW The 12 kW is astonishingly hot, even in a huge industrial unit, it is hard to stand nearer than 6 ft away.....the flame pattern is amazing, think "Northern Lights" effect with sheets of burning gas dropping down from the top of the glass door to meet the gouts of flame shooting up from the wood in the grate.

I was mesmerised....

The Burley turns 100 Kg of wood into a pt beer glass of ash...

The Burley does primary, secondary combustion ( as does a Clearview) but also goes on into gasification territory to do tertiary and quaternary...as you adjust the air intake you see astonishing flame fronts.

Closest thing I have ever seen to compare it to, was looking into furnaces !

I really thought we were Clearview buyers...we have been waiting to do this room for a couple of years while we do other stuff to the house and had money put aside for a Clearview, but now we are blown away by the Burley


 

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