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 11 January 2012

Getting crafty, out and about!

Here are just a few ideas I use when working with children, or just playing in the woods with Compostgirl. Some are ideal for doing on a walk, some are an activity to do in your garden, all of them are fun. Some can be done without adult help.

Nature provides us with so many things. Some of these can be used to decorate our homes, or provide homes for creatures that help to pollinate plants and prey on garden pests. After you have made some natural craft item, using what nature provides to decorate your home, why not give something back, in the form of a bird feeder or minibeast home?

A few safety tips
Before you start, always get permission from the landowner if in any doubt!
Make sure children are well supervised and don’t collect anything poisonous.
Only collect loose, dead or fallen material from the ground.
Don’t pull bits from living plants or trees.
Only take items if there are plenty, and always leave some for the habitat or food source that they may provide.
Don’t touch bracken between July and September – the spores are hazardous.
Supervise children using sharp tools such as scissors, knives,needles, skewers etc.

Make a MobileCollect cones, leaves, seeds, nuts, feathers, sticks etc.
Find a stick you like.
Tie or thread the collected treasures on to long pieces of string (if you want to thread them get an adult to help make the holes).
Tie the top end of the string to the stick.
Continue making more strings of treasures (using different length strings can look good), and tie them along the stick until you are happy with the effect.
Then make a loop from string and tie this at the centre of the stick to hang it up with and you have made a natural mobile!

Make a Wild Crown or Bracelet
Take a piece of thinnish card (cereal box card is good) and cut it into strips about 5cm wide by 50cm long (for a crown) or shorter for a bracelet. You can adjust the size to fit and then fix the ends of the card together with glue or tape.
Put a long strip of double-sided sticky tape all the way around the outside of the card strip. Make sure it’s completely covered so that your treasures will stick well.
Now, go for a walk, gathering any nice natural materials that you find and sticking them on the tape as you go. Remember to press them firmly onto the sticky tape on the bracelet or crown so that they don’t fall off easily.
If you prefer, you can go collecting first and then this activity can be done back at home later with all the treasures you have gathered.

Colours from the Wild

Cut some stiff cardboard into squares or rectangles (approx. 10x10cm or 8x10cm) and cover one surface with double-sided sticky tape. Collect small pieces of natural materials to make a textured mosaic on the surface each one. The finished effect can look really beautiful, so why not make them into a collage, or frame them? Or use them to make birthday cards?

Corn (or Grass or Lavender) Dollies
Gather a bunch of grass, corn or lavender with good long stalks.
Tie the stems firmly together just under the heads and trim the bottom ends of the stalks with scissors so that they are all level.
About mid way down from the heads tie the bundle again. This is to make the body. Then below this divide the bundle in two – these will be the legs of the dolly. Secure them just a little back from the very ends with string, leaving a short piece that you can bend up for the feet. Now take a smaller bundle of stems and cut off any flower heads and fasten each end. This will be for the dolly’s arms. Using a pencil or a small stick, carefully ease the stalks apart just underneath the ‘head’ of the dolly so that you can push the arms through (you might want to get an adult to help you). Now tie across and around the body and arms of the dolly, to secure them. Your dolly is now finished! Decorate with flowers, leaves or whatever else you fancy. Similar dollies can also be made using thick string or raffia.

Corn (or Grass or Lavender) Plaits
Tie 3 stems of corn (or grass or lavender) just below the heads. Plait the stems until you are happy with the length of your plait. Tie the ends of the stems with string or ribbon and trim.
To make a hoop, bend the head end of the plait round so it is overlapping the stems and the top of the head is just below the ends of the stems. Then tie them together with string or ribbon and make a loop for hanging.

Bark Rubbing
Place a sheet of paper on an interesting tree and rub over the paper with a wax crayon. Find as many different textures as you can and use lots of different colours. Use them to make a picture or collage, then stand back and admire the result!

Feeding the Birds
Collect large open pine cones and/or washed and dried yoghurt cartons.
Tie a length of string around the cone so that you can hang it from a branch or bird table. Smear bird food mixture (see the ‘recipe’ below) into the cracks in the cones (warning – this gets messy!).
Make a hole in the bottom of the yoghurt carton. Tie a knot in a length of string and thread it through the hole with the knot inside, so the pot hangs upside down. Make sure the knot won’t pull through. Now fill up the yoghurt pot with the bird food mixture and leave to set (right way up) in a cool place.

Hang your feeders out in the garden and watch the birds enjoy their treat!

Bird Food Recipe Mix
Check no one is allergic to any ingredient before you start! Make sure you have put plenty of old
newspapers down, and wear old clothes or an apron (and don’t forget to roll up your sleeves!).
For your special birdseed recipe mix you will need:
Birdseed, raisins, grated cheese, and a selection of other suitable seeds if you like, such as pumpkin or sunflower which are both good.
Take 100g of softened vegetable fat or lard (put it somewhere warm for about an hour) and cut it into small pieces.
Put all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and squash together with your hands (messy!).
You can now shape it into balls around twigs, squish it into pine cones, or fill up yoghurt pots with it.
Leave everything in the fridge to set, and when they’re firm hang them outside for the birds to enjoy.
Don’t forget to wash your hands when you’ve finished!

Making Homes for MinibeastsHelp minibeasts survive in your garden by making them houses!

Ladybirds, beetles and minibeasts of all sorts: These little creatures like small places to roost. Tie bundles of twigs (hollow ones are even better!) tightly together with string. Wedge the bundle in a place on the ground, in the fork of a tree, beneath a hedge or anywhere out of the way in your garden where it won’t be disturbed. Minibeasts will hopefully find it an ideal home over the winter. Red mason bees will particularly like bamboo bundles done like this.

Bumblebees: Take a medium-sized plant pot with just one hole in the bottom and loosely pack it with dry shredded paper, straw or grass. Dig a hole big enough to bury it completely in the ground, ideally in a sunny place in some undisturbed corner with long grass. Bury the plant pot upside down in the earth so that the hole in the bottom is level with the surface of the ground. Carefully fill in around the edges with soil. You can re-cover the top with turf, just as long as the hole is still clear of dirt so that the bees can find it.

Slugs, snails and woodlice: Make a big pile of leaves in a shady and quiet corner of your garden, and watch all the little wigglers move in!

Beetles, centipedes and millipedes: Make a nice mixed pile of logs and twigs in a shady corner (you might want to ask an adult for help with carrying and positioning bigger pieces). You could put your pile of leaves next to it!

I hope this post has given you some ideas for things to do outside!

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