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, writer and Forest School leader at Moors Wood . I am a Master Composter and spent 10 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!


Thursday, 25 August 2011

Sweet smell of soap making


I spent a lot of time over the summer holidays doing various craft things with Compostgirl and her friends. I have already shown some of the sewing we got up to but we also did various other things.In the last week of the summer holidays Compostgirl and two of her friends came round and we made soap and beeswax rolled candles.


The soap we made using organic melt and pour base, then we added various essential oils, natural colours and abrasives and dried flowers to the melted soap. I had previously made up the natural colours by infusing oil with Alkanet (pink) Annatto (yellow) and Paprika ( orange) and we used dried lavender and rose petals from my garden.



I used various moulds and we all made some very nice scented soap! The children were delighted with what they had made and were very proud of themselves.



We also made some rolled beeswax candles which smell divine and again the children loved doing this. We talked about bees, how you get beeswax and how important bees are in all our lives.

I make soap and candles as part of the craft workshops and courses I run, but I usually am working with adults so it was nice to pass on the skills to younger ones.

When the children are a bit older, we will make cold process soap, but for now using melt and pour soap base seems a better option.

I have really enjoyed doing crafty things with Compostgirl and her various friends, it has been good fun. The shildren have had lots of free play running around outside time but during the day wanted to " do something" so we have made things. lots of things! We have done sewing, cardmaking, mosaic making, shoe box threatres and puppets, soap and candle and paper fabric making.

Am looking forward to half term so we can do some more stuff.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

N is for

Nighttime

I stay up much later than is wise or sensible. I like the nightime and have always been an Owl, never a Lark!
In common with many busy people, getting some "me" time is hard, so I tend to read or sew or surf the web late at night. I read blogs, chat to friends on various Fora, and do some crafting. So many things I get done...but then I am so tired the next day.

I know it is unwise to do this but in common with so many other bloggers with parental responsibilities, it is the only way to get any personal life!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

M is for

Married
I have been married for over 26 years to Compostman. I was married to someone else, very briefly ( I was young and foolish and wouldn't be told it would never work...and it didn't - for reasons I do not wish to rake over) I divorced him in early 1984, and married Compostman in March 1985. I can't explain how much I feel for him but the fact we have put up with each other for so long, through some pretty hard times, and still love each other, says it all.

Mine
I have been known to get a touch possessive of my property, if it is taken without asking. I am generous with things, but I DO like to be asked, first!

Music

I used to help run a Folk club and I used to sing there as well. I sang in the choir, I love to sing! And I love pretty well all music - except maybe Rap or Hip Hop.

ME/CFS

I have had this for 6 years now - originally I got a serious auto immume illness, not long after Compostgirl was born and was very ill for a good few years, but as I recovered I was still feeling dreadful and tired and confused and caught any bug going. Eventually I was diagnosed with ME. I cope most of the time with it but get all sorts of strange illnesses and if I overdo it I am wiped out for weeks rather than days. I have finally learned to pace myself a little, but it is not in my nature and I find it hard going to not just "get on " with stuff..


Tuesday, 16 August 2011

L is for

Leek 
I love leeks! I love eating them, after growing them.

Lone
I tend to be working alone, a lot of the time. Which I like.

Love
I am pretty passionate about the things and people I love.

Locks
I am a bit obsessive about locking up. I was burgled one time when I was asleep in the house and it has left a mark even though it was many many years ago, now. I was OCD about it for a few years, but now I am just careful to check things are locked properly.

Learning
Always, ongoing, all the time,

Loyal
I’m a loyal friend and a loyal customer in my local shops. I will defend my friends and help them out any way I can. BUT once you lose my loyalty that is it - it is gone forever.

Lists
I make lists all the time. I like to cross things off as I do them! I keep a notebook and date the lists, and I carry forward tasks undone, so I can see that I have not done them. I make short term, medium term and long term lists as well as fantasy lists....


Monday, 15 August 2011

K is for ...

K is for:

KNOWLEDGE – I know lots of things. I am constantly learning new things and practising the things I already know. I regard learning as a precious gift, to be used and spread around. I trained as a teacher so as to better help people learn the things I know. I also spend a lot of time reading & researching a wide variety of topics not surprising really, considering I spent a very long time as a research scientist. I think a lot, about a lot of things.

KIND I believe I am - I hope so, anyway.


KINKY- Say no more.(!)

KNITTING - I have recently come back to knitting and, while I am not brilliant at it I do find it curiously soothing and meditative to do.

KITTENS - I love Cats. And I love Kittens even more.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

J is for

J is for:

JOKER I am a bit oblivious to a lot of jokes, especially if they involve acronyms or slapstick. I do not like any "comedy" if it involves fake or real violence...! But I do like  a good laugh - I love ironic or cynical wit and I love puns and subtle humour

JUSTICE- I am big on fairness, equality and respect for diversity.

JAM MAKER and chutney maker extraordinaire!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Horrible , horrible start to Sat morning....

I have only just felt able to blog about all this, as it was so very upsetting . A stray dog came into the garden early on Sat morning (before 7 am) - we were woken up at about 7 am by the barking, which came from behind the house...

so went out to see what was going on - the dog ran off before we could see it but it had managed to scrabble open the pet rabbits and guinea pigs hutches and killed the rabbits and guinea pigs...fortunately it had not mangled them but just broken their necks - I guess by throwing them around a bit... Crying or Very sad 

The hens were also very upset as the dog (not any of the neighbours dogs, they are all locked up at night and definitely not a fox) had been scrabbling and digging around the hen house but could not get in.

Cassi and Tabitha cats were very distressed by the commotion and  Tom Cat was missing as well all morning which was VERY worrying - he turned up about 11 .30, all upset and fluffed up - I guess he went out to look at what was going on and got chased... Shocked

Have warned our farming neighbours - they have small pets, hens etc also sheep.... Shocked
 
Not a nice way to start the day
Sad Burying small pets, with a weeping Compostgirl at our side......not nice at all.

Friday, 12 August 2011

I is for ......

INDUSTRIOUS Well I think you will agree I am, if you read the stuff I write about doing here!


INDEPENDENT – I am deeply, deeply independent, have been since I was a small child. Mostly it is a good trait, but (whispers) sometimes I won't accept help or advice when really, I ought to.


IN LOVE with Compostman, I have been married to him for 26 years, known him as a friend and colleague for 5 years before that - thinking about it I actually have know him for 3/5th of my life! Wow!

INTERESTING – Well, people say I am, anyway... I think I am, I have certainly done and seen a lot of different stuff and packed a lot of living into my nearly 50 years on this Earth.


Thursday, 11 August 2011

July Harvest Roundup - inside the Polytunnel

The stuff inside the polytunnel has been truly exceptional this year. It is getting too hot now in there and I am losing tomato blossom to heat scorch, but that usually happens this time of year and I have 5 or more trusses set on each plant so it is no loss.


So what has been really good in July?

Carlton and Costoluto Genovese and Fiorentino tomatoes, huge and plump and juicy and tasty, also Moneymaker - tasteless in supermarkets, superb when grown properly!

Latah and Red Cherry tomatoes - prolific and sweet also very early I picked the first ones in early June!

Cucumbers - been a bit too hot for them in the SW corner of the Polytunnel this year...might have to move them in future years or provide a bit of shading /forced ventilation!

The Peppers are now ripening but in July I was harvesting Nardullo and Romano Peppers  with Marconi Rossa and Bell peppers huge and green but not yet turning red.

I harvested 40 Kg of tomatoes in July, and we actually ate a quantity which slipped into the house ( and from tere into our tummies!) without being weighed......so many more than that were picked. And I weighed15 Kg during the last 2 weeks of June,  again there were more but ...we ate them :-)

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

H is for ..........

Honesty

I pride myself on being honest. I really do tell the truth. Sometims I edit it a bit...or sometimes I dissemble, to save someones feelings, but I do not tell lies.

I really detest lying in others as well - something I am very intolerent of! I do not forgive being lied to by others, either.

Holistic Therapy

I am a trained Holistic Therapist, so have a great belief in the power of essential oils, massage, talking and listening to aid recovery. I DO think modern alliopathic medicine has a place - I would not reccomend essential oils to treat cancer or a broken leg, for example! BUT I do think we can help ourselves to heal with more gentle, plant based therapies in many cases.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

G is for....

Gardener.
I am passionate about gardening organically. I am entirely organic here, far above and beyond even the Soil Association standards for growing. I am a member of both the Soil Association and Garden Organic, here in the UK. I am also a Master Composter and Master Gardener - a volunteer community mentor, spreading the word about composting and gardening to my fellow man.

I love my garden - I am at my happiest when I am digging or sowing or planting out or harvesting my crops.

Generous.
I think I am. I am told so, anyway!

Geek

I definitely qualify as geeky....far too much education, far too many hours spent with my nose in a book not to!

Monday, 8 August 2011

F is for ...........

Failure

I have to admit I am NOT good at this  - I tend to succeed at pretty well all the things I have attempted which have a human element of control ;-)

But sometimes doing stuff (like growing plants or where animals are involved) where Nature is part of the process makes me sit up and take note that I am NOT 100% successful with everything I do and I CANNOT be so...

And that is fine by me :-) We all need a reminder that we are NOT all powerful ;-))

Fun

I love my life most of the time, it is such fun! To listen to birds, breathe fresh air, work in a woodland, mark the passing of the seasons, eat and drink delicious home made stuff, join in local events and seasonal rites ( like Wassailing, or May Day celebrations, or Apple Festivals)

Formidable

I have been told a number of times that I am. I think that is a good thing...I hope so, anyway!

Saturday, 6 August 2011

E is for ...

ENVIRONMENTALLY MINDED We  reduce, we reuse,  we recycle, we are mindful of what we buy and where it comes from. We grow our own wood for heating our house and we generate electricity and hot water from the Sun. We grow a lot of our own food and we are 100% no ifs or buts organic. We compost, as well ;-)
I have also taught all this stuff to my daughter and to other adults and children and I hope people learn interesting stuff when they read this blog.

ENTHUSIASTIC.  I am. Just how I am made, I guess! I appreciate it can get a bit wearing to other people sometimes when I go on a bit about my latest passion.

ENERGETIC.  I don't , sadly have loads of energy anymore. Since getting an auto immune illness 10 years ago, which fortunately has largely gone but has left me with ME/CFS, I have to be careful about overdoing it. Sometimes I do, becasue it is more important to get on a do the stuff in a short time period. Then I get ill or am just wiped out for a couple of days/couple of weeks...

EDUCATED I am well educated, but am always open to learn something new :-)

Friday, 5 August 2011

July Potato harvest roundup

So, how has our harvest been in July? 
It has been very dry here - we have had  some rain, but not enough in quantity regularly to be helpful and it has been very hot, so a lot of crops have suffered or been delayed.

BUT our potato harvest is exceptional this year - last year was around half the weight and a fair few were badly slugged.

I suspect the hard winter killing pests, the good weather early on letting me get them in the ground early and, of course the magic of growing them in my own compost ( no soil, just compost...I have five, 2 m x 3 m raised beds filled with the stuff!)


We have lifted the potatoes now, apart from a few late planted "earlies" which are to give us new potatoes in the winter.
We got 100 Lb of Charlotte potatoes from the first of the raised beds, grown in my home made compost - from 18 seed potatoes weighing 3 lbs in total, so more than 5 lb per seed...pretty good going this year considering how dry it has been!

The Nicola bed had a similar yield from a similar number and weight of seed tubers so we are really pleased with this harvest. 
These keep well and we have a good mixture of sizes for baqking and other cooking purposes.
We also have a lot of Desire- good sized ones for baking- and some Maris Peer as well as some Rocket and Orla to finish up ( they are earlies so need eating first)
In total we have about 300 lb of spuds now in store for the winter and a lot of buckets of  "forked" or slightly damaged ones which we will eat up first over the next few weeks.
Am very pleased..even tho' in the scheme of things it doesn't save that much money and is a lot of hard work, I love our home grown spuds so much....even the best local organic ones just don't compare!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

D is for ...

Dedication

A word which I have heard said a lot about the way we live " Wow, that takes some hard work and dedication and commitment, to grow your own veg/make your own jam/wine/lotions/candles/run an Environment centre/teach children Woodcraft - I could NEVER learn how to do that!"

And it got me thinking. Yes I do dedicate a lot of time to doing stuff here, in the wood, the garden, the orchard, with the hens, the house and my work as an teacher.


I dedicate a lot of time to growing veg ( which I guess I could buy from a Supermarket with no effort, instead)

We dedicate a lot of time and money doing things in a more sustainable, low impact, non polluting way - I don't use any chemicals in the garden, I make compost to improve soil fertility rather than buying chemical fertilisers, we use a scythe rather than the petrol strimmer, we fell, saw up, split and stack our wood for heat rather than using the oil fired central heating - stuff like that.

I dedicate a lot of time and effort working as a volunteer Master Composter and Master Gardener to help people who want it learn how to compost and grow their own food. I have dedicated a lot of time to training and learning how to be a better teacher and communicator and trainer so I can pass on the things I know to other people so THEY can pass on the knowledge to other people...

It takes time and effort but it also gives back so much in oh so many ways ...It allows me the precious luxury of being able to really think about what I am doing, and why I am doing it. I feel a part of what I am doing, rather than simply purchasing someone else's efforts.

So....dedication is hard work - yes. But oh so worth it, to my mind at least. And to those who say " I could never do ..." YES YOU COULD - it just takes a little time and a willingness to have a go. So what if you get it wrong first ( or second...) time? That is how we learn...by making mistakes.

D is also for Discipline, which I have a lot of so I get on with stuff when I need to. This can make me very intolerent of others who are not the same....

D is also for Discretion. I am very good at this - I do not spill confidences - if you tell me something I keep it to myself. But sometimes I feel like my head will explode with all the stuff I know about...but can't say!

D is also for Damsons, which make the BEST JAM EVER and pretty nice wine as well ;-) Ours are nearly ready and I can't wait to get preserving!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

C is for ..............Chickens

Well, I couldn't pass the chance up to talk about my hens!

I LOVE my feathery flock. I only have 7 hens now as I have had a number of visits from Fox lately and so I have lost 5 hens in the last 6 weeks...which is very sad. But that is the risk I take by letting the hens free range in the wood, a more natural life for them BUT a risk.

But I am still getting 5 eggs a day from the 7 feathery laydees, which considering one is more than 4 years old and another is an ex battery hen of 3 years old    so they do not lay very often

is pretty good going.  AND I get the joy of feathery company whenever I am working outside AND the delight of watching their mad antics around the garden!

Hens do not lay every day even when in their first year. And once they are past their first moult ( at 12 to 15 months old) they tend to lay less eggs, The hybrids bred for egg laying commercially ( the standard "ginger" hen) do lay most days BUT they tend to die earlier, from ailments and diseases associated with being bred for maximum egg laying.

Regardless, I love my hens. I love hatching out eggs from under a broody hen. I love seeing them croon and dustbathe and run around like mad things when they have a tasty treat.

I guess this comes under a personal trait of Caring.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

B is for ..........................................

BLOGGER – I love to blog. I love writing posts which explain stuff to people and allows them to "have a go" at it. I love getting comments which tell me I have helped. I also love your emails! AND I really really love the sense of community which blogging taps into.I have some really good real life friends who I have met via blogging and I have lots of friends whom I would love to meet in real life but count as friends in the blogosphere until I DO get to meet them in RL.


BOOK WORM – I am a bookworm. I have a LOT of books. They might be technical tomes, fiction, chick lit, degree level Eng Lit, various Engineering, Maths, Biology, Physiology, Education, History, Physics textbooks, historical non fiction, reference, cookery, gardening, pottery, engineering, reference of all sorts - I LOVE books. AND I need them to be printed on paper, please - no Kindle e-books for me.

BARE FEET – My feet love to be without shoes. I have horny soled feet , even though I pumice them regularly, because I am barefoot SO much. I am a Hobbit.


BUSY – Always. I feel deep guilt if I can't be doing something worthwhile...even when I am ill ( which unfortunately is frequently, as I have a rather rubbish immune system and all sorts of arthritic problems)


BIRDS– I am an RSPB member, a Wildlife Explorer Group Leader and I love birds. We feed the birds here, and with 4 acres of organic, woodland and garden to protect for the local wildlife we have loads of birds to marvel at.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Alphabet challenge in August

Chiot's Run  has thought up an interesting blog excercise. The idea is to come up with words or ideas to describe yourself using  each letter of the alphabet. Since it’s always good to exercise your creative side, I thought it would be great to do it here on my blog.

It should be fun to think about words to describe myself for each letter, some will be easy and some will be very difficult for sure – like X & Z. I’m not sticking to positive traits either, since I’ve got just as many bad traits as good ones!

So

A is for

Amazing
The work we have put in to renovating our sitting room. We are NOT serial re modellers     - we tend to do a room and are happy to just touch up the paint on the walls for the next 15 years. ( we have only lived here for 15 years, so I can't project further than that!)

Astounding

The harvest we have got from 3 lb of potato seeds - 100 lbs of Charlotte and the same of Nicola...we have a LOT of potatoes stored now for the winter!

Apologetic
Sorry if this is a bit sparse - I am not very well and am having a bit of a job thinking up stuff to go with "A" titles!
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