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!

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Public sector strike day 30 Nov 2011

If you have any doubts about the strike action being taken today...remember when nurses, physiotherapists, midwives, doctors, firefighters, teachers, social workers, care workers ..... crashed the stock market, wiped out banks, took billions in bonuses and paid no tax? 
 No, me neither.
I am a life long trade union member, former Dep Sec of a union, a union  H and S rep
etc etc , so you can guess my view on today's strike action!

Monday 28 November 2011

Looking at JCB's...!

we have been looking, recently, at JCB's ..it is my idea as we have various serious land work which needs doing - involvomg lots of digging out and earth moving - I worked out that the work we needed doing would cost us as much with a contractor as buying a JCB, so I said " why don't we buy one and do it ourselves, but in our own time rather than clearing trees etc to the contractors timescale? ..." 

Famous last words...
so ...we have been looking at JCB's and, as they hold their value well  - hopefully we can sell it on when we have finished with it..well that is the plan, anyway.
So today we drove up to Birmingham to look at a very promising 3CX JCB in really good condition, for a very reasonable price.

Watch this space ...

Sunday 27 November 2011

V is for

VEGETABLE GROWER – I love to grow stuff - I take pride in providing ( with Compostman's help with the digging and heavy stuff)  fresh organically grown vegetables for my family for most of the year.

I really love recording what I have grown and harvested and evaluating how good it all was, deciding what was successful and what was less so, what to try new next year, what to drop off the growing list, what are best for which purposes - eating fresh, freezing, dehydrating, preserving in jam or chutney or what have you.

I love, at this time of year, to look at seed catalogues to see what old friends I need to order and what new seeds might tempt me.

I am a member of the Garden Organic Heratige Seed Library and every year about this time a 2012 seed catalogue drops through my letter box - with a selection of heirloom seeds to seduce and tempt me to order yet more lovely seeds. I also have a lot of seeds I have saved from open pollinated varieties - so I get all sorts of both true breeding and surprise results!

I can't wait for spring 2012... :-) I love sowing seeds !

Saturday 26 November 2011

Chicken stuff.

Is about to go outside turn a chicken upside down and give its neck a massage...then dose it with Epsom salts...

Oh, we really know how to live, here!
Coco chicken is a greedy guts and is always eating stuff she should not ( Aubiose, long grass, paper...) so she has had an impacted crop several times, but this time she has sour crop - thrush  - in her crop. Her crop is squishy and smelly and feels all wrong when I press it so, she is in a separate run, on no food for 24 hours and is having an epsom salt flush ( syringed into her mouth by yours truely) and then fluids only. 
Tomorrow and for the next few days I will give her small meals of pellets mixed with natural yoghurt, to see if that will help. If she does not improve within 48 hours OR goes downhill, I will of course take her to see the Vet.

Thursday 24 November 2011

Rehome a hen!

If you've always thought you wanted to keep some ex battery hens - NOW IS THE TIME! : 
Go to 

As regular readers will know I have kept a lot of hens, including rare breeds, hybrids, ex battery and also ex free range commercial rescue hens. Looking after some ex caged birds has been one of the most rewarding things I have done. This December there are a lot more ex battery hens needing homes, as there is going to be a MASS CULL in the UK. The battery cage is being replaced by the 'enriched' cages in Jan 2012 and in order for the re-fit to occur farmers will be clearing out their stock this Dec/early Jan... so there will be a mass cull of thousands and thousands of battery hens. This means there is a need for lots of forever homes for these hens. 

So...please rehome some rescue hens, they are very rewarding to keep ( although they do need a little more care initially)

Sometimes they are very bald...

(Thanks to Hen at Heart and Soil for the link about the jumpers for the baldy hens)

Wednesday 23 November 2011

A very long and tedious day out.

Today I had to take my car into Hereford early for an MOT and service - so I took the chance to do some unaccompanied shopping in the morning rather than come home.  I was expecting my car to be finished with by about 1 pm, but then found it would take several more hours, but not long enough to make it worth driving home in the courtesy car and then back again. So I went to do more shopping...just for fun and to kill time.

What a mistake!

How can people do this, every weekend? or even every day? for fun? I was SO sick of shops, and crowds and noise by the end of the day!

Still, I got some good finds from the morning session in the charity shops, several books I wanted, a book I REALLY wanted, which was brand new...(!) plus a few things for the house which have been on my shopping list for some time, but had not got around to looking for. I also managed to find a couple of presents for Compostman and Compostgirl - for Christmas and for Cg's birthday ( next week - eek)

But I was SO glad to get my own car back and drive home - to sit in front of the fire, with a hot cup of tea and my family ( human and cat :-) )


Tuesday 22 November 2011

U is for ...

UNCONVENTIONAL – I am. Often I am expected to hold certain views, because I am known to hold other views and so am expected to conform to a " package" of behaviour and beliefs and mores...but I do not always!

I find I am less likely to conform to other people's expectations of me, the older I get.

I aim to end up like the old woman in the poem... by Jenny Joseph, and wear purple and eat sausages and wear my slippers in the rain...

Oh. Wait - I do all that, already lol!

Monday 21 November 2011

Nora the ex battery hen.

THIS is what an ex battery hen can look like when first rescued. Nora, rescued by Homes4Hens on 13/11/11, is particularly bald and is a bit poorly, but hopefully with some tlc she will recover and live a full and happy new life.

Image taken from Homes4Hens, who are a hen rescue centre and who have been caring for Nora. They are appalled by the conditions and treatment of battery hens and aim to give hens a happy retirement in to a free-ranging life. See also their Fb page

Homes4Hens Battery Hen Rescue

Sunday 20 November 2011

T is for...

TOMATOS – I love tomatoes. I grow more than 50 plants every year and I preserve them in a number of different ways, so we can eat them during the winter and spring. I love the smell of a ripe tomato, the sweet/sour taste explosion in my mouth when I bite into one, the excitement of eating the very first tomato of the year, warm and fresh from the plant...mmm

I grow about 10 or 12 different varieties, mostly heirloom varieties, and am always willing to have a go at growing a new one.

THINKING – I think a lot about a lot of things. Most of the time this is great, sometimes I wake up in the night though and if I can't get back to sleep quickly enough, I start to think about things, all sorts of things, not nasty or worrying things, just stuff - and then I am wide awake!

Saturday 19 November 2011

Access to wildlife should be a right, not a privilege

Read a brilliant article in the Guardian from a link spotted on Facebook. "Access to wildlife should be a right, not a privilege " by Tony King

Evidence is growing that access to a wildlife-rich environment is essential for children's health and wellbeing

There is a growing and compelling body of evidence that regular and ready access to a wildlife-rich environment is essential for children's health and wellbeing. Recognising – and acting on – a right to that wildlife-rich world is essential for delivering better health, better educational attainment and better social development. Research published in The Lancet shows that, even after other factors are accounted for, living in a green environment makes people healthier.

Governments can and should articulate a new right: that every child and young person has the right to grow up and live in a high-quality, wildlife-rich environment with ready access to the physical and mental health benefits, developmental advantages and play opportunities it affords.

read the full article  here

Which is why I do, what I do to help people enjoy and appreciate the natural world around us - playing in woods is good for us!

Friday 18 November 2011

Waste food feeds 5,000 for lunch at Trafalgar Square - what a great idea

What a terrific idea! As a Love Food Hate Waste champion, I love this!
Wonky carrots, misshapen potatoes and tonnes of food rejected by supermarkets have been used to give 5,000 people a free curry lunch in Trafalgar Square.
The event organised by charities and farmers aimed to show that a lot of food binned in the UK could be eaten.
link to article here

Thursday 17 November 2011

S is for..


I can be very stubborn. Sometimes too much so! It is a good trait as it makes me very determined to finish the stuff I start, but sometimes it can be a negative thing as I keep on, when I should really stop.


My name ;-)

Wednesday 16 November 2011

R is for


 We have a lot of books here. I love reading, always have - was an early and advanced reader as a child and read EVERYTHING - all the time, anywhere. I still do, even today. Compostgirl has inherited that aspect of me I think as she reads fast, recalls what she has read and has a lot of books :-)

We have around a thousand books here ( give or take a few) reference books of all sorts, fiction, non fiction, crafts, cookery, technical textbooks from our various respective careers - so there is always something to read

but always room for more :-)


I am, very. I muse and mull over and turn things over in my mind. This has helped me in many aspects of my life, not least training where being a reflective practitioner is part of the process ( education, holistic therapy, parenthood...!) But sometimes I have to stop myself from "mulling" too much and seeing slights where there were none ...

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Q is for ..


I love the sound of quietness. Sadly Compostgirl shouts a great deal at us and I also now have tinnitus in one ear ( the downside of being nearly 50 I guess)

But I still enjoy the quiet - especially just before dawn and the birds starting to sing.

Monday 14 November 2011

P is for ...


I can be very patient, when I really HAVE to be. But often I am not.


I like a quiet life - both emotionally and also in terms of sound - I used to enjoy loud music or the sound of racing car engines but as I get older I prefer the sounds of bird song.



Sunday 13 November 2011

Sunday musings

Glorious weather here today, we got up a little later than usual ( we were all tired so had a lie in) Compostgirl made tea for us ( a first - she has made other hot drinks but tea is quite tricky with the kettle even with supervision) and also insisted on making me toast -I have not been very well and she wanted me to have breakfast in bed,  so who was I to spoil her plans?)

and we did a lot outside in the garden and also had a visit from some neighbours who buy eggs from us - they stayed and chatted about this and that for a bit.

Compostgirl cleaned out the guinea pigs and very proudly showed them off to our neighbours - the piggles are definitely getting friendlier with people!

We obviously stopped at 11 am to stand, and bow our heads and keep silent - thinking about all those who have died fighting.

Some interesting discussions with an nearly 11 year old Compostgirl about wars and morals and suchlike - some very interesting ideas came up!

Saturday 12 November 2011

O is for ...


I try to keep optimistic about life - sometimes it is very hard as life has not been very kind - but I keep on trying to be a " glass half full" sort of person, rather than having a rather a pessimistic " glass half empty" view of life.


 I am very organised. Enough said, I think!

Thursday 10 November 2011

Preserving the harvest

Wine in fermenting vessel (Damson 2011) and dried ap[ples, peras, plums, damsons, tomatos, peppers, courgettes from this year's harvest

Cider from 2010. Some being drunk - well we have to test it, don't we?

Some of the Cider from 2011 - will be ready to drink in spring 2012.

Wednesday 9 November 2011

RIP Coriander Hen

Coriander Hen died :-(

She had been poorly  since Sat, and had been living inside in a cosy box in our kitchen. She seemed to have improved a lot yesterday and I was quite hopeful she would recover. But then she died this morning.

I am very sad :-( But I am mainly sad because I thought I had managed to get her well again, only to have her die, which is the really sad bit - after all she would have been dead 2 years ago if I had not got hold of her

f rom the free range egg farm.

She was an ex commercial ginger hybrid hen who, because I took her on, had nearly 2 more years of a good life, so really it is not too sad that her life has finally come to a natural end iyswim

She was not an ex battery hen, no...but an ex commercial free range hen ( oh yes, THEY need the same rescue plan as well as ex battery hens - they get killed at 12 -18 months as well...but sadly are often overlooked because of the even worse plight of their ex battery hen sisters.) 

And actually ex free range hens don't neccessarily have that much better a life! OK they are not imprisoned in an A4 sized cage, but still can have had a very limited life and indeed Coriander was in a terrible state when we got her.

But...what a 2 years of extra life she got! Living with us,  in a wood, life of riley ( who WAS he?) , petted, loved and pampered....chasing cats and squirrels, dust bathing, raids into the house, raids into the veg patch - what a great life...

She has been buried on the edge of the wood in a place she used to like to dustbathe.

RIP Coriander hen - much missed, never forgotten

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Cider making 2011

A busy couple of hours

saw us turn a lot more apples

into 75 l of will-be-cider-next-year


and a lot of pomace for the hens to eat and the compost bins to "convert"

Sunday 6 November 2011

Apple juicing

We have had an amazing apple harvest here this year, so much so that we had to split the juicing into two sessions - the first for the apples which were destined for juice and the second session for the cider making apples.

 As usual we used The Little Cider Press Co for the juicing

 We got 35 l of juice from one pressing - thats VERY juicy apples!

So after I came home I spent the rest of a very hot afternoon filling up bottles and pasteurising them, 13 bottles at a time.

We ended up with 40 bottles of juice - should help us through the winter :-) The juice tastes wonderful - bottled sunshine!

Saturday 5 November 2011

Poor Coriander Hen

Coriander hen is an ex commercial flock rescue hen I have looked after for nearly two years now - she came to us at the end of her "productive" commercial life, aged about 18 months old.

She has been a very robustly heathly, delightful companion hen, a good egg layer and ( as often with generic
"ginger" commercial hybrids) a real character and a very sweet personality.

She has been seriously moulty for the last 5 weeks or so, and resistant to being picked up or checked over, but I have managed to catch her a few times and check she was ok .

However this morning when Compostman went to let the hens out into the wood, she was obviously not ok - she could hardly walk and was very slow on her feet.

He brought her in to me ( the fact he could catch her shows how poorly she was as she previously has only ever let me catch her!) and when I examined her she had a very distended abdomen and was very thin and also very cold.

I gave her a warm bath with lavender essential oil added - to help ease any egg bound issues -  and then put her in a box in the kitchen with cat food, water and a comfy dark straw nest to settle down int at one end of the box. She has eaten a little and drunk a little but has not passed an egg (  I hoped the warm water would stimulate this as it has worked in the past with other hens) or done the huge poo I hoped to see ( from previous experience this sometimes is also the problem!)

I fear she has egg peritonitis or a tumour, which every other commercial " ginger" hybrid I have owned has eventually died from     :-(

At the moment she is asleep in her comfy box, in the kitchen, but it is not a natural looking sleep and from her general demeanor I fear she will slip quietly into a deeper, terminal sleep in the night. But she might recover and, as she seems in no distress, I am prepared to leave her overnight to see what will happen.

I have gentled her and stroked her and told her what a very good hen she is - and she crooned a little at me and nibbled my finger.

I will leave her tonight and if she is still in the same state tomorrow morning I will (very sadly and regretfully) of course kill her quickly and painlessly.

I HATE this aspect of keeping livestock  - BUT if I want to keep animals I have to accept the responsibility of ending their lives "when it is time". That means if they are ill, injured OR ready to be killed for eating.

Doesn't mean I have to like doing it, though!

And I think, if I ever get to the point where I no longer feel sad enough to care about doing it - that is the point I should give up keeping livestock.

(Oh and from bitter experience I know the vet can't help her - I have now seen enough of these hens (sadly) to know that they will either pass an egg or die very quickly - and the vet is not available until Mon. If she is ok until Mon I will take her to the vet  :-)

Salt dough crafts

The art of making objects using salt dough has become very popular in recent years with the only requirements to get started in this folk art hobby are flour, salt, water and basic equipment found in the kitchen. This is how I do it and how I teach others to do it at my craft workshops

Things you need

a baking tray (covered with a thin layer of butter/oil to stop the decorations sticking)
paints and brushes (you can mix the paints with some pva glue)
a cocktail stick (for making the hole in the decorations)

A bowl to mix your dough
A rolling pin for producing smooth sheets of dough
Toothpicks or a small pointed knife for cutting and indenting details
An assortment of pastry cutters and moulds for decorative shapes

Basic Salt Dough

2 Cups of Plain Flour (not self-raising)
1 cup Fine grained plain salt
1/2 cup water at room temperature
Veg oil ( opt.)

Mix the salt and flour in a large bowl and then add the water. Knead the mixture for about 5-10 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic. (The addition of 1-2 teaspoons of vegetable oil improves suppleness of the dough making it easier to work with). Cover with cling wrap to stop the dough drying out and let the dough sit for 30 minutes before using.
The dough is now ready to use. Fresh dough is best for modelling. However, if you find you have any leftover dough it can be wrapped in cling wrap or an airtight container and stored in a cool place for a few days.

When finished and happy with your results you can air-dry or bake your project in the oven.


Ensuring your projects are correctly dried ensures they will last a long time so it is important that this is not hurried. Air-drying is suitable for flat, small pieces or for coloured pieces where baking will alter the colour of the finished project. Oven drying is the most popular method and requires careful attention to accurate temperature control to avoid burning. Bake for approx. 2 hours using a low temperature setting 50-70C for the first half hour then increase temperature slowly to 90-100C and cook until the piece is uniform in colour.

The dough is cooked when it hard and sounds hollow when tapped. Turn the oven off and leave in oven until cool. Any burns can be sandpapered off with fine- medium grade sandpaper. An emery board or small file can be used for delicate or intricate sanding on objects.

When thoroughly dry sand any imperfections. At this stage you can paint your projects then seal with a final coat of varnish. Your finished projects can be left unpainted but they must be sealed on all sides (including underneath) with varnish, gloss or matt, for protection otherwise they will not last long when exposed to air.

Using a polyurethane varnish on food coloured models instead of water- based varnish helps to intensify the colour.

Also, for the more impatient or short of time...

Microwave Salt Dough recipe

4 cups of flour
1 cup of salt
1-1/2 cups of hot water


Roll the dough thinly. Using a microwave-safe plate (not paper or cardboard), microwave a plate of your ornaments for 1 to 4 minutes, increasing the time by 1 minute increments and keeping a close eye on the microwave as the ornaments bake. Suggestions are to cook on High, but I have found medium or low, and slowly, gives the best result. Too rapid baking causes the objects to bubble up and distort. You also don't want to risk a fire! Let the ornaments cool completely before decorating, as before.

I have tried both of these recipies, the microwave one didn't work for me at all.

After making and drying out.

Friday 4 November 2011

Woodburner installation

 Some chimney sweeping going on prior to inseting the liner down the chimney

 New stove in place - doesn't she look smart!

First fire!

Terry the installer was really quick, efficient and cleaned up the ( very minimal) mess he made. Would recommend him to anyone!

Thursday 3 November 2011

Progress on sitting room refurbishment

So, we left this room with a new hearth and newly plastered chimney breast back in July - and now look at it at the end of August!

A lovely new wooden floor! and paint! and skirting boards! and no dirt!

We are still not back in the room at this stage, but it wasn't going to be much longer :-)

The plastic wrapped object is the new Burley Brampton woodburner, waiting to be installed - it was actually not installed until the begining of September ( a hint as to when we eventually moved back in to our main room)

Wednesday 2 November 2011

New sitting room

So...it has occurred to me that you all have no idea that we have moved back into our wonderful newly rebuilt and refurbished sitting room? After 10 months of living in the dining room only?

Since my last post  in July, we have had so much going on!

The new chimney breast built and plastered, we painted all the walls, ordered the new woodburner, booked to have the new woodburner installed and in the meantime Compostman got on with laying the new wooden flooring and new skirting boards etc. This took some time to both source and lay - we wanted FSC wooden flooring and it was actually rather hard to find some - Homebase/Wicks/B and Q didn't seem to have any and so we had to do a bit of searching online for a supplier.

Eventually we found a firm and ordered what we needed. It is SO lovely!

New paintwork colour scheme is pretty good as well ;-) Will post up some pictures tomorrow

Tuesday 1 November 2011

November 2011 - blogging re-starts?

November sees the start of NaBloPoMo, a blog post each day for a month. I have posted every day, in the past, and it would feel good to get back to doing so!

But...I have had a very long and tiring and stressful day today; I am still feeling very unwell and also my longstanding back injury is flaring up; it is very late and I am very tired...so today the post will just be one of announcing I am hoping to join in...

I may also this month even manage to finish of the August alphabet post which I ( cough) still have yet to complete ( sorry Chiots Run!) 

I can hope...!