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!


Friday, 28 December 2012

Happy 1st Henniversary Yarrow and Marjoram hens



 One year ago, today, I collected 7 very sad looking ex battery hens from the Hereford BHWT rescue hub.


Two looked ok ish but the other 5 were very bare and very sad. They were virtually bald and in shock and two were seriously injured - one with a broken, trailing wing and one with a leg she was holding up off the ground with a crabbed claw and a horrible limp.



We restored all to good health and they had several months of lovely life here as proper free range hens. Two (Attilla and Coriander) were given to a friend who lives nearby. (Sadly she lost them in a fox attack in April)

The other five ex battery hens stayed here, scratching in the wood and garden with my other hens but in April Mrs Fox and her cubs killed 3 of them, along with my six pure breed hens 

So I was left with only three hens - two of the Christmas 2011 ex battery hens plus Nutmeg, very old, very wise hen, hand reared by us in early 2008.

In May 2012 I added five more ex barn hens  and still have four of them, and the seven ginger hens live as a  happy flock and are a delight to look after  - such sweet hens and all such characters.


So today, from the original 7 ex battery hens a year ago I still have Yarrow ( aka Limpy Chicken) and Marjoram - rescued from 18 months of unimaginable cruelty - of being in a tiny cage in virtually constant artificial light (except for an hour or so of darkness), unable to flap, stretch or dustbathe - no scratching in litter or laying in a nest or roosting, never mind digging in the soil for a worm or feeling the sunshine on their feathers. Caged, egg laying machines.

Consigned, at the end of their economic egg laying life ( still laying well, just not well enough for the battery system)  to certain death and being made into ( for example) cat meat. And then kind people rescued them from this fate and took them to a barn near Hereford for people like us to take home and love.



 Yarrow the day after rescue.











I HATE the cage bird system and I believe that giving an ex caged hen even one minute ( hour, day, week, month)  which holds love, kindness and freedom for her, more than she EVER had in her previous existance, must make it a worthwhile thing to do for her . When we adopt a caged hen it has to have a good impact on her, even if she only lives a few days in freedom and comfort and love.



Marjoram the day after rescue














Marjoram hen is still going strong, bright and beautiful and laying an egg for us every other day, even now.











Yarrow hen is now slowly "winding down"  - there is nothing obviously wrong with her, but she has had a year of health and freedom and love - and for an ex cage bird that means a lot.







So.

Happy Henniversary my lovely girls and fond thoughts for your feathery sisters who died in April in The Great Fox attacks   - Comfrey ( aka Flappy chicken), Cumin, Marigold, Attilla and Coriander.



May your days be filled with mealworms, corn, chasing the cats, finding worms and snoozing in the barn.



Thursday, 27 December 2012

Gifts



 Lovely books :-)


 A tall lamp to help me with crafting :-)


A lovely Amber necklace

A hand made beeswax candle (smells lovely!) and a fab pair of crafting shears for cutting material :-)

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Christmas Day - outside


 The feathery laydees all got special hot mash as a Christmas dinner - separate bowls to avoid any bullying(!)


Marjoram is the only hen still laying at the moment - all the others are either getting too old or are moulting


Yarrow hen ( aka Limpy Chicken) is winding down now we think - not ill but after a year with us out of the cages she is beginning to look very tired. But she still enjoys sunshine, mealworms, cuddles and food so not a bad life.


The wood is absolutely sodden underfoot - you can't really see it in this photo but there is standing water all over the ground, even though it is on top of a slight hill!


A rare glimpse of blue sky and sun, shinimg on the willows by the pool


A shamefully neglected veg garden but it is too wet to even consider walking on the soil, so it will have to stay looking untidy for a bit longer.


After I did these outside chores and Compostgirl had fed her Guinea Pigs ( they got special food as well!)

We settled down for an afternoon of eating, drinking, reading and watching TV.

Hope you all had a lovely day, we certainly did :-)

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas Day at Compost Mansions 2012



Well the world did NOT end, the Sun rose again on the Shortest Day,  and we even had a dry and sunny day here for Christmas.

Our tree is up in the sitting room, decorated and smelling of fragrant pine. The other decorations are all in place, the woodburner has been keeping us warm and cosy 24/7 for the last few weeks - good job we have lots of wood available ha ha ha :-)


 

Greenery from the wood decorates our house and home made wood cookie decorations from home grown, home cut wood adorn the tree ...you can tell I am a Forest School Leader!



Home made music scroll decorations ...



Home made straw and tissue paper stars

Outside,  the feathery laydees all got special hot mash as a Christmas dinner - separate bowls to avoid any bullying(!)



Marjoram is the only hen still laying at the moment - all the others are either getting too old or are moulting

Yarrow hen ( aka Limpy Chicken) is winding down now we think - not ill but after a year with us out of the cruel cages she is beginning to look very tired. But she still enjoys sunshine, mealworms, cuddles and food so not a bad life.



The wood is absolutely sodden underfoot - you can't really see it in this photo but there is standing water all over the ground, even though it is on top of a slight hill!



A rare glimpse of blue sky and sun, shining on the willows by the pool



A shamefully neglected veg garden but it is too wet to even consider walking on the soil, so it will have to stay looking untidy for a bit longer.



After I took these photos and did the outside chores and Compostgirl had fed her Guinea Pigs ( they got special food as well!) we settled down for an afternoon of Christmas dinner eating, some nice stuff drinking, reading our new books, playing with craft kits and stuff and watching some Christmas TV.
We have all had presents we wanted and will enjoy using. We have lots of food and drink in the house, the animals are all bedded down warm and fed outside and indoors the three cats are basking on the rug in front of the woodburner.

We had Roast Ribs of organic, local beef for Christmas dinner ( yum) and  enjoyed a lazy day of books, music, tv and a few drinks just us as a family. The only outside work which has to be done is looking after the chickens cats  and guinea pigs - who will get special food and extra cuddles for Christmas :-)

Best wishes to all of you my lovely readers, have a wonderful time and I look forward to you visiting The Compost Bin in 2013 - hopefully it will be a drier, more successful growing year for us all :-)


Hope you all had a lovely day, we certainly did :-)

Monday, 24 December 2012

Seasons greetings to you all...

Well the world did NOT end, the Sun rose again on the Shortest Day,  and we even had a dry and sunny day here for Yule.

Our tree is now up in the sitting room, decorated and smelling of fragrant pine. The other decorations are all in place, the woodburner has been keeping us warm and cosy 24/7 for the last few weeks - good job we have lots of wood available :-)

We have all sorted out our presents to each other - things we all want and will enjoy. We have lots of food and drink in the house, the animals are all bedded down warm and fed outside and indoors the three cats are basking on the rug in front of the woodburner.

Roast Ribs of beef for us here for Christmas dinner ( yum) and a lazy day enjoying books, music, tv and a few drinks just us as a family. The only outside work which has to be done is looking after the chickens and guinea pigs - who will get special food and extra cuddles for Christmas :-)

Best wishes to all of you my lovely readers, have a wonderful time and I look forward to you visiting The Compost Bin in 2013 - hopefully it will be a drier, more succesful growing year for us all :-)


Compostwoman  xxx

Saturday, 22 December 2012

How I made the rag rug yarn


For those of you who are interested

I cut up the cotton fabric into inch wide strips - and wound then into balls of yarn for easier handling.

Most of my tee shirts are not tubular round the middle section, so I could not use the "continuous spiral method" described in this link ( kindly given to me by Blue Witch ). They have seams up each side, so I had to cut them into long continuous strips, with a thicker section where I turn around and cut back down again.

As I also used the arms of some long sleeved tee shirts this gave me shorter lengths which have more knots in the ball of yarn.
 
So, having cut and joined the strips of tee shirt,  I then made a foundation chain of about 75 stitches using a 15 mm hook - I just made the chain as large as I wanted the width of the rug to be (about three feet)   and then I used (UK, not called the same in US!)  double crochet in rows, back and forth, - the rug is about 4 feet long now and VERY colourful :-)

The knots merge in with the holes in the crochet loops and it feels fine under foot, and I am very pleased with it :-)

Hope this helps you to get started.

Flannel shirts would work for this I think, as would fleece (spun polyester type) blankets - they can be found very cheaply in charity shops here so I am going to make one of these as a cat bed, next.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Crochet rag rug making

  As you may recall, I have been slowly learning to crochet. Recently I decided to crochet a rag rug.



I have loads of old, worn or holed cotton tee shirts, which are no good for charity donation, so I keep for making rags. I had a look and sorted out some in bright colours to make into cotton yarn
 


 I cut strips about an inch wide and tied them together.


because the fabric is 100% cotton all the trimmings can go in the compost!





And then I started to crochet... using a 15 mm crochet hook


As you can see, it is going to be a good sized rug! It keeps me occupied during these dull wet days where I can't do much in the garden.

I will keep you all posted as to how I get on :-)

Monday, 17 December 2012

Watching the goggle box



We have Freesat HD and Freeview HD ( not Sky - never Sky!) and a pvr so we often all "timeslip" interesting programmes to watch later - Compostman and I recently watched a film during the day called "Lone Star" which was most enjoyable. We have all enjoyed GBBO, Countryfile, Andrew Marr's History of the World and all sorts of other programmes at other times than the programmes were actually broadcast.

And, like most young people of her age Compostgirl LOVES watching TV.  A suprising hit for us all, though,  was "Wolfblood" and "Wizards vs Aliens" on CBBC - but given that we all love Dr Who, perhaps not so surprising!

We do not go out to the cinema (too far away and too expensive, frankly, for us) and when our old TV died this summer we thought hard about our replacement and decided to treat ourselves to a large ish, 3 D TV (which came with a free Blu ray 3 D player as well as being a smart hub so allows us to connect to any stuff recorded on the the network computer hard drive, upstairs)

This new TV gave us huge fun during the Olympics/Paralympic ( the opening/closing  ceremony in 3 D was amazing!) and has meant we occasionally host very sociable film watching sessions for friends. Puss in Boots in 3 D was especially good!

We could have just bought a cheaper tv or not got one at all ( which we did seriously consider) but the pleasure we have had out of this new TV is surprising.

Lots of stuff stacked up to watch over the dark winter nights :-)

At the moment we are enjoying The GBBO masterclasses ( oh how I *love* Paul Hollywood!) and also are catching up on Wartime Farm and will record the Wartime Farm Christmas show.

Looking forward to "Mr Stink" in 3D on Sunday 23 Dec. If it is as good as the book (which Compostgirl has read)  she assures me it will be worth watching!

Friday, 14 December 2012

Even the hens won't come out!

It is horrible outside here today in deepest Herefordshire - well as horrible as our lovely county ever can be!

Cold, dark and with a biting rain which makes every one feel damp and miserable.

The hens declined to come out of the Mega Hen Pen today, prefering to stay inside their run rather than brave the cold, damp wood and garden. I think that is a first for this batch of ex battery/ex barn hens - so far they have been amazingly keen to stand outside in the most horrible of weather

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

I just HAD to share this with you all :-)

I really have to share the most wonderful comment I have recieved from Bosch UK

BoschUK said... 
 
We wanted to swing on by your blog
To wish you the very best
We’re glad to hear you’re both recovering
After your long period of home-rest

When we read of compostman’s ill health
And that you’d injured your back too
Here at Bosch we were deeply concerned
Not quite knowing what to do

So we’re relieved to hear all’s well
And we’re penning you this ditty
We hope it cheers you up
Despite it not being very witty!

You wrote about stocking up
For the cold winter months ahead
Which is a wise thing indeed to do
When you’re curled up snug in bed

Our Worcester-Bosch heating solutions
Can make your home all cosy
Whilst you look outside with gardener’s pride
Upon your flowers nice and rosy

Your recipe for Frugal Soup
Inspired our home appliance team
To take our Bosch blender from the shelf
And cook-up a tasty dream

We ran out of fresh celery
But added extra courgette
It tasted really gorgeous but…
Not as good as yours, we bet!

Your comfrey plant fertiliser
Also made us pay attention
Our Gardening Tool division is
Into compost mineral retention

Your amazing How2 Guides
Really are a genuine find
The fact that you’ve published them online
Show’s that you’re really kind

You work incredibly hard
Growing vegetables for all…
7 Chickens, 3 Cats, 3 Guinea Pigs
All creatures great and small
We’re envious of Herefordshire because
the volunteer work in which you partake
Should be spread across the nation
As should the compost that make

The sweet smelling organic fertiliser
Once spread upon the ground
Reminds us of our own brand
(because Bosch Is All Around)

Hope you enjoyed that (come on over and say hello on Facebook or Twitter!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Some things I have made recently


Sunday, 9 December 2012


These were made as a birthday gift for Compostgirl, a drink mat and a face flannel. Made from corganic cotton dishcloth yarn on a 4 mm hook.















This is the start of a round cushion,  using a 5 mm hook and Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino yarn.



Sunday, 9 December 2012

Some of the things I have been making


These were made as a birthday gift for Compostgirl, a drink mat and a face flannel













This is the start of a round cushion




Thursday, 6 December 2012

Putting the Wormeries to bed for the winter.


With the increasing likelyhood of cold weather I have moved the Hungry Bin and Can O Worms inside the polytunnel for protection against the frost.



Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Mending the duvet

This is the much loved duvet which Compostgirl begged me to "fix" it had a hole worn through, a number of unravelled seams and some of the buttons missing.

The buttons and the seams were easily fixed with new buttons and some sewing machine work BUT the hole was a bit harder to fix.

I got out an embroidery hoop and darned the thin, holed ares until it was much stronger. I could have used my sewing machine but small jobs like this are better done by hand I feel :-)

I was left with an area of darned fabric which needed covering, so little fingers did not "worry" at it again :-)

So I went to my stash of fabric and found an old pair of much loved cords of Compostgirls,from when she was 6 or so, which had some lovely fabric flowers on them - I was thinking about making some but remembered I had these in my stash box.


I cut off a flower and sewed it over the darn




And lo - a duvet restored to use and back in action on Compostgirls bed :-) she was very pleased with this :-)


What have you repaired, lately?

Monday, 3 December 2012

Mending the duvet

 It must be winter, as I tend to catch up with a mountain of sewing/mending/crafting tasks at this time of the year - (as well as scaling and conquering the ironing mountain)

This is the much loved duvet which Compostgirl begged me to "fix" it had a hole worn through, a number of unravelled seams and some of the buttons missing.

The buttons and the seams were easily fixed with new buttons and some sewing machine work BUT the hole was a bit harder to fix.

I got out an embroidery hoop and darned the thin, holed ares until it was much stronger. I could have used my sewing machine but small jobs like this are better done by hand I feel :-)

I was left with an area of darned fabric which needed covering, so little fingers did not "worry" at it again :-)

So I went to my stash of fabric and found an old pair of much loved cords of Compostgirls,from when she was 6 or so, which had some lovely fabric flowers on them - I was thinking about making some but remembered I had these in my stash box.


I cut off a flower and sewed it over the darn




And lo - a duvet restored to use and back in action on Compostgirls bed :-) she was very pleased with this :-)


What have you repaired, lately?

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Birthday weekend :-)

This has been a very good weekend.  Compostgirl turned 12 ( 12! where has the time gone!) on Thurday and we did various family things on the actual day.

It was a bright and sunny but very cold weekend so I managed on Sat morning to clean out the hens houses ( with help from Compostman) and Compostgirl did her usual clean out of the guinea pigs and re stocked the bird feeders - they need doing three times a week, now.

Then - much excitement! Compostgirl had her best friend over for a sleepover - we had a sociable lunch with friend, her brother , their  mum and we all had a good catch up and then we went to Ledbury, the girls went off together shopping while Compostman and I had a wander around the shops, we met up with the girls and went home and they watched a dvd on the big TV.

We ate pizza and salad and cake for supper, and the girls played games and danced to a dvd ( "Gangnam Style" was played a lot!) I offered them the choice of the "X Factor"/more films but they declined in favour of more of the dance DVD!

I also taught Compostgilr's friend to crochet a "granny square" (after she asked me to - she was keen to learn to do this) Compostgirl looked on with interest  but chose not to join in with, which was fine.

They went off to bed at 930 pm and gossiped late into the night - so late, in fact, that they did not wake up until after 9 am the next morning :-)

A yummy lunch of catalan chicken and cheesecake and a lazy time of tv watching ( more dance dvds!), presant admiring and game playing followed until it was time for friend to go home.

Later we watched Countryfile while I did some sewing and mended a rather tatty duvet cover , a favourite of Compostgirls, and restored it to working order again.



Saturday, 1 December 2012

Photo of the crochet recycled rag rug

For all those who wanted a photo!

Still not completed, but you get the general size and shape from this photo

Friday, 30 November 2012

More detail on my crochet rag rug

For those of you who are interested

I cut up the cotton fabric into inch wide strips - and wound then into balls of yarn for easier handling.

Most of my tee shirts are not tubular round the middle section, so I could not use the "continuous spiral method" described in this link ( kindly given to me by Blue Witch ). They have seams up each side, so I had to cut them into long continuous strips, with a thicker section where I turn around and cut back down again.

As I also used the arms of some long sleeved tee shirts this gave me shorter lengths which have more knots in the ball of yarn.
 
So, having cut and joined the strips of tee shirt,  I then made a foundation chain of about 75 stitches using a 15 mm hook - I just made the chain as large as I wanted the width of the rug to be (about three feet)   and then I used (UK, not called the same in US!)  double crochet in rows, back and forth, - the rug is about 4 feet long now and VERY colourful :-)

The knots merge in with the holes in the crochet loops and it feels fine under foot, and I am very pleased with it :-)

Hope this helps you to get started.

Flannel shirts would work for this I think, as would fleece (spun polyester type) blankets - they can be found very cheaply in charity shops here so I am going to make one of these as a cat bed, next.


Monday, 26 November 2012

Frugal gifts...and shopping



I do not like "shopping for basics" in "real life" - I much prefer to spend my precious shopping time wandering around browsing in small shops, chatting to shop staff, tasting, smelling, looking and maybe buying and then going to visit somewhere like a small museum, a book shop, a church - in short I love browsing but I do not like "shopping"

So I am really pleased with my latest bulk purchasing experiences on line for both store cupboard essentials and some gifts.

I shop, in bulk, at Natural Collection. I get points and every now and then they send me a voucher by email for money off my next shop. I also get sent various discount codes and alerts about discount days.

So I have just done a load of bulk buying on their excellent website,  of bread and baking flour, dishwasher tablets, shampoo, hand wash, cleaner, various canned food items and lots of other store cupboard essentials, all at 20% off AND I used a voucher to reduce the bill ( got from my previous shops with them ) AND I got free delivery AND I got another £20 evoucher to spend on my next shop AND several  free gifts ( which will be added to the gift stash I keep hidden away, so I always have a little something ready to give to someone)

And it is all organic, cruelty free, ethically produced etc etc  - and delivered to my door.

I paid for the orders with my Amazon credit card , who give me a £10 voucher when I reach a certain level of spend. ) Thery have also just given me a gift voucher for £50 because I subscribed to Audible, their audio book scheme (which I was going to do, anyway)- and gave me a £10 voucher because I purchased an item of clothing as a gift ( which I was going to do, anyway) and have given me a £ 2 voucher for mp3 downloads (which I was going to do, anyway)

So I have just bought from them a major electrical item ( which I wanted to buy, anyway) for free

Win, win in my book. I bought the things I wanted AND got some vouchers to use now, or later  It really DOES pay to "shop around" 

Am feeling good, as I have sorted all my Christmas/Yule shopping out before the end of November. Just got to write and send the (few) cards to people who don't get e-cards from us!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Opening my 2012 "sealed pot"


 I don't know if I have mentioned this before, but I have a small change purse in my handbag and I periodically place all the contents in a special pot, leaving just a £1 , 50p, 2 x 20p and a 10 p coin in the purse.

Once a year I open this out, count it up and spent the money on something  - usually for me, sometimes a gift or a treat for all of us but very occasionally it has come in very handy in a month where there have been lots of expenses.

I have got into the habit of opening my "sealed pot" in end November or at the very latest Dec 1st, mainly because my car is due MOT testing and service at the end of Nov, Compostgirl was born at the end of November and Christmas/Yule is on the horizon. So extra money in my hand is ALWAYS welcome, especially at this time of year.

I don't actually have a sealed pot - I use an old hot chocolate container with a slot cut in the lid - so in theory I could " dip in" to this pot during the year, but I don't .



This year I opened the pot today and I counted out £234.55. I was very pleased with this result :-)

I hadn't actually realised that there were people who do this as a challenge in the blogosphere so I was delighted to come across Saving for Travels blog and challenge 2013.

So I have signed up for 2013. I want to buy a better apple press for making cider :-)


Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Life, now the nights are drawing in.


I must admit I really do not much like this time of year. It is not light until nearly 8 am and it is dark before  4pm  ish - and often it has been damp and dull.

I don't mind if it is cold and sunny - I like this sort of day as I can still do stuff outside, but the dull damp days really get to me.

I am still not back to full activity from my back injury so this, the soggy ground underfoot making it impossible to do anything much outside and the shortened days means I have been generally taking it a lot easier during the day than I would wish.

One thing I have been doing a lot of recently is crochet and fabric and yarn related "things".  I love crochet, knitting, sewing and embroidery. I am not that skilled at it but I really enjoy it:  :-) I also like making paper and papercasting and  love using "waste" materials to make cards, notebooks, and small gifts.

I have also been doing a lot of decluttering and tidying up (not that you would think so if you came round to Compost Mansions!) and taking stuff to the Charity Shops in Ledbury or to the HWS.


So I have been quite busy making "things" for Christmas/Yule. I have also been spending a lot of time reading and listening to music and audiobooks, in front of the woodburner with one or more cats to keep me company  :-) Compostman and I have also been catching up with a lot of TV programmes which have been sitting on the hard drive for many months, waiting for us to have the time to watch them ;-)

What do you all like doing in the winter months?

Thursday, 15 November 2012

What I have been up to recently

  As you may recall, I have been slowly learning to crochet. Recently I decided to crochet a rag rug.



I have loads of old, worn or holed cotton tee shirts, which are no good for charity donation, so I keep for making rags. I had a look and sorted out some in bright colours to make into cotton yarn
 


 I cut strips about an inch wide and tied them together.


because the fabric is 100% cotton all the trimmings can go in the compost!





And then I started to crochet... using a 15 mm crochet hook


As you can see, it is going to be a good sized rug! It keeps me occupied during these dull wet days where I can't do much in the garden.

I will keep you all posted as to how I get on :-)
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