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!

Saturday 30 June 2012


Guess where *I* have been, today?

At Garden Organic HQ,

wonderful, wonderful Ryton.

I WILL provide a full write up, with pictures, tomorrow. I promise! But for now, after a long day away from home I am going to content myself with a short post.

This year’s Volunteer Masters Conference at Garden Organic, Ryton will host the Volunteer Masters Awards Ceremony. There are three categories within each of the Master Composter & Master Gardener schemes, which will recognise those volunteers who have gone beyond the call of duty and made outstanding contributions to the campaigns to promote composting or gardening in the UK. There will also be an individual award, which could encompass both composting and gardening.
 (Garden Organic website)

 I was shortlisted for The Innovation and Social Media Award, for my blogFb  and   Twitter feeds (see links, above and to the right)
This award will recognise innovation and use of social media by either an individual or a group within the Master Composter or Master Gardener schemes. Innovative ideas come in many forms, but the judges will look particularly favourably upon those ideas that have the potential to be replicated across other schemes.
  (Garden Organic website)

And guess who won...


Thank you all SO much, my lovely followers on the Compostbin blog, Fb, Twitter etc for all your comments and questions. Without your input this blog would all be a lot less interesting I think :-)And so I probably would not have won...

Off to celebrate with the Compostbin family, now :-)

Thursday 28 June 2012

Thunderbolts and lightning, very very ...not frightening but very wet!

We had a HUGE thunderstorm earlier this morning here, with torrential rain. I realised something was up when at 9.30 am it got darker and darker and I had to turn on the electric overhead light to see.

The came the thunder - huge, rolling, blasts of thunder. Then came some lightning and THEN came the rain. Lots of rain. Torrents of rain. Buckets full of the wet stuff.
After watching the spectacle for a bit from the safety of the house, we realised that the front drive was rapidly flooding. It is not meant to do that. There is a drainage channel up the verge on the road side which takes away any water shed by the road in extreme rainfall. But it was obviously blocked up. This happens over the course of time as cars and lorries drive over the verge and fill in the channel with mud.

So Compostman wet suited up and went out to clear the ditch, and I did likewise and went to check on other bits around the house and garage. 
I found that, oh dear, the polytunnel was flooded  :-(  with a small stream flowing through the door and out the back. So I got some bags of growing medium form the store pile around the corner at the back of the garage and carried them one by oneto use as sandbags in front of the polytunnel door. This diverted the flow of water.

Then Compostman came along and got busy with a spade digging an emergency drainage channels, to take away the surplus water into the drainage ditch at the bottom of the hedge

This is the polytunnel after the worst of the water had subsided. Good job I grow in large pots in the polytunnel - if I grew in the ground it would have all washed away, such was the flowthrough of water!

 All of the garden was absolutely sodden, like this.

Cassi Cat, as always, came out to supervise us while we dug and heaved stuff about. She does not seem to mind getting wet at all. Must be the Burmese blood!

All the water has all sunk away into the ground, now and the sun is shining. Strange weather or what?

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Hurrah! First tomato picked!

Oooh! LOOK what I found in the Polytunnel!

Nestling in amongst the leaves of a Latah tomato plant.

The FIRST TOMATO of 2012 from the Polytunnel!

Small but perfectly formed :-)

Monday 25 June 2012

Request post spot

Ok lovely readers and followers ( and welcome to all my new followers!)

What would you like me to post about next? Hens, composting, growing a particular seed, a "how to" post, or what?

Let me know by comment, email, twitter or Facebook and I will do my best to help.

Hope you all approve of the new layout - comments on that as well would be most welcome.

love, Compostwoman XXX

Sunday 24 June 2012

Things to do in the garden in June

Things I plan on doing in June (sorry this is a bit late!) and with thanks to The Garden Smallholder for her post, which reminded me I needed to finish my post on June gardenening and publish it.

In the veg patch
  • Plant out the spinach plants
  • Plant out the Sunflower plants
  • Plant out the pumpkin plants
  • Plant out the Celeriac plants
  • Clear the last of the old spinach from the raised bed and plant out Kale plants and Purple Sprouting Broccoli - make sure I net it from the birds!
  • If I had any I would be thinning the carrots , as it is I have none so will be re sowing carrot seed - but I would be sowing more now even if I did have some carrots growing.
  • Plant the leek plants into the prepared bed (done)
  • Plant out more pea plants  and pick pods regularly from the existing plants (ongoing)
  • Plant out new salads  (ongoing)
  • Plant out the climbing french bean plants (done) Tie them up the poles as they grow!
  • Earth up the potatos as needed (ongoing)
  • Pinch out the tips on the Broad Beans to stop blackfly as soon as there are pods showing lower down (ongoing)

    In the polytunnel
  • Keep planting more salad seeds, peas and spring onions (ongoing)
  • Keep watering the floor to increase humidity (ongoing)
  • Water tomatos regularly to avoid blossom end rot. (ongoing)
  • Tie in tomato plants as needed and remove the side shoots from cordon varieties. (ongoing)
  • Feed tomatoes several times a week (ongoing)

  • Watch for branch breaking on the fruit trees due to weight of fruit and prop if needed(ongoing)
  • Thin apples if needed (ongoing)
  • Tie up the tayberries
  • Net the red and blackcurrent bushes
  • Sow flower annuals
  • Deadhead roses
  • Weeding - everywhere!

And harvest and enjoy the crops you now have ready :-) I am soon to harvest outdoor early spuds, broad beans, mange tout, salads and courgettes. Pick peas when young and tender to encourage more to form!

With the weather we have had recently lets hope you have something to harvest! - I have no carrots and have only just started eating courgettes and new potatoes from the ones I grew inside the polytunnel. The only salads we have been eating here are, again, from those grown inside the polytunnel. It has been SUCH a poor growing season so far :-( but there is still time to re sow and re plant so if it all looks a bit bare in YOUR garden - don't despair, just sow some more seeds. Maybe try Freecycle for plants, or a local allotment or gardening group may have surplus plants? Or buy from a garden centre but be quick as they seem to have run out of lots of veg plants.

And don't forget to enjoy your garden well as work in it- stop, sit and admire the view sometimes.

Lets hope the rest of June is better for gardening 

Saturday 23 June 2012

More on that Watercress I planted...

 This is the seed I sowed on  26 May. See how it has grown!

This is taken from the original pot of watercress I sowed back in Feb

Can you see the tiny rootlets?

If you fill a pot with growing medium and lay the stems on the surface so the rootlets are touching the surface

And lightly cover the rootlets and bottom of the stem with more growing medium.

Put it in a tray with water in, DON'T water it from the top as you will wash away the growing medium. Keep it moist and always standing in a little water  and it should grow :-)

You can use the same method to grow watercress bought from a shop as well :-)

Thursday 21 June 2012

Summer Solstice (2)

Solstice Blessings to all my lovely readers:-)

And guess what? it is raining here. Again. Hard.

No chance of seeing the sun rise this morning :-( in fact have not seen the sun all day - just rain.

Funny weather we are having!

And for those who were wondering, I celebrate from dawn on the 20th June until dusk on the 21 st June - that way whenever the official Solstice is, I will catch it ;-)

Also having two goes at seeing the sun rise helps, in weather like this!

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Summer Solstice (1)

Solstice Blessings to all my lovely readers:-)

Look! No rain! Washing drying on the line!

Today it was warm, fine and dry so in the morning we went out to Ledbury - I had a hair trim,we went to various shops including giving more stuff to the charity shop and then to the recycling site and the feed store for various chicken food and bedding.

We then had lunch in Much Marcle at The Royal Oak, very enjoyable to go out as we don't do it very often.

Once we got home I got on with the mowing - the grass, although very long,was finally dry enough to cut and I managed to get it ALL done including the little paddock at the top of the wood. Which meant I could move one of the hen runs and give some of the hens fresh grass - they were very impressed! The girls in the Mega Hen Pen had to make do with a large pot of finally-past-its-best-and-gone-tough Kale from the polytunnel- which they stripped in seconds, it was quite scary to see them go at it - locusts sprang to mind.

 Compostman had meanwhile finally planted out all the leeks

And he weeded the potatoes

I harvested the last of the 2011 planted spinach plants

I couldn't leave all the clover etc as it was longer than even the highest setting on the cutter but I left a number of big patches uncut for the bees and butterflies. Compostman will scythe it off later on and we can use it as hay.

I had just finished the mowing at about 7 pm when it came on to rain - cue to stop.

Then I read a book and crochet more of my throw. A good day :-)

Monday 18 June 2012

De cluttering

I have just "sold" some books back to Amazon using their new Trade In scheme. I am really pleased , as I got £60 in Amazon gift vouchers, for books I would have given to the charity shop otherwise. Interesting scheme! And I do still give books to charity shops :-)  
I have SO many books - I am having a bit of a de clutter here at Compost Mansions and lots are finding new homes. I must admit I am surprised at the prices some of them made with Amazon :-) Nearly the new price in several cases ( teaching textbooks mainly, from my course 2 years ago)
I have also had a clear out in the Pink Bedroom, which is the guest room but tends to become a bit of a dumping ground for "stuff".

So am pleased that I now have 3 dustbin bags full of stuff to go to the charity shops in Ledbury, as well as another bag of old clothes for rug making and duster making.

I attribute this burst of energy to my following The Harcombe Diet for the last week and not only have I lost some weight, but I do feel amazingly energetic - so a win-win situation all round :-)

Saturday 16 June 2012

More rain

Yet more rain, here :-( It is seriously wet here, now :-( Beyond just "topping up the water butts" or " wetting the soil" wet.

This is torrential. Downpours. Sodden. Drenching. The ground underfoot is not just damp but squelching underfoot, and if I walk the same path over the lawn more than once or twice the ground oozes and the grass turns into a muddy track.

I left a wheelbarrow, with a bit of compost in, outside the poly tunnel - I WAS going to use the compost in the bottom of some pepper pots...but after yesterday and today the wheelbarrow is full of water :-( and the compost is all floating on the surface.

I left some deep gravel trays outside meaning to scrub them - they WERE empty but are now full of water.
I guess that makes them easier to scrub?

In the veg plot all is NOT well. The spuds are still OK at the moment, even though we are already into Smith periods for early Blight ! The onions and parsnips are doing well but beans are struggling and I have not yet managed to plant out more pea plants or the leek plants as do not relish doing so in torrential rain, and the ground is so sodden I do not want to squish it! Courgette and pumpkin plants are battered beyond redemption - and as for the spinach and salad plants outside - oh dear they have just been pounded into the soil and oblivion :-(

Good job we have the poly tunnel to protect some crops for us to eat! So I have been working inside there, 

trying to pot on some of the plants which really should be outside by now. If I can get them into larger pots I may still be able to harvest from them. But the kales and other brassicas and the rest of the pumpkin plants will just have to wait - it is just to wild and wet for them to go outside just yet.


And harvesting the crops. Lots of salad leaves, cucumbers, courgettes - the outside plants still only have about 4 leaves on, so it is a good job I have two plants producing inside the polytunnel!

When (!) we get the new paddock area I think I will install another poly tunnel - a flat sided modern one to maximise space, and will then grow direct into the ground as it will be good soil over there rather than sub soil as in the existing poly tunnel. So I could grow all sorts of extra stuff direct into the soil :-)

I am very fortunate to have such a lovely polytunnel - it means I can at least carry on gardening and growing something, even if it IS pouring with rain outside.

Wednesday 13 June 2012

A wander in the garden...

 Ok, so it FINALLY has stopped raining , here!

So I went for a wander around, to see what everything looked like.

 First stop is a very special patch of grass next to the polytunnel...any idea what might make it so special? I will tell you later on, if you can't already guess :-)

Out into the wood,to look at the compost bins

and to let out the hens (hello, girls, )

I spotted this as I wandered around the top of the wood - an Early Purple Orchid, with Bumblebee feeding.

 I went down into the wood where it was cool and very damp - raindrops fell from the trees overhead and the Jays chattered at me.

Back up to the garden, to check on the veg patch - all very soggy! I have loads of plants waiting to be put into their final positions but it has been SO wet I have not been able to put them out - am hoping that the weather improves enough in the next few days to do something about the plant backlog

The Broad bean flowers are very pretty

And finally, back to that patch by the polytunnel - have you guessed, yet? Here is a clue.

Can you see? In the middle? 

Yes! it is our very own four ( or five, or even six) leaved clover patch. Very handy to have around before exams :-)

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Refreshing my Wormery with Bakefield Worms Compost Booster Kit

Sharp eyed readers will recognise this bag as something I was given at the end of my visit to Bakefield Worms in May

 It contains a bag of worms, worm cocoons and the vermi compost they live and grow in.

Here is my Can o Worms - a Wiggly Wigglers product which I actually got off Freecycle.

The kit is very easy to use - I simply opened the bag of Bakefield compost/worm mix and tipped it into the bottom tray.

 See the worms!

 Babs tries to get to the worms in the top tray - but I was too quick and got it off her before she could eat any ;-)

Wormery put back together, just waiting for the lid.

Babs is disappointed she can't get to the worms...

The bag contained a good quantity of compost worms and cocoons so I am hoping it will replenish my wormry.

The Bakefield Wormeries web site says

Compost Booster Kit
Produce your own vermicompost

A dozen UK bred mature, vigorous composting worms.
500g cocoons, hatchlings and vermicompost selected from our own established, healthy, production beds.
Especially formulated to rejuvenate existing compost systems and wormeries and to give a boost start to new systems.
And it was certainly a very easy kit to use.

Monday 11 June 2012

Leaving hentensive care

Tiny Hen tonight chose to go in with her fellow hens to sleep in the Mega Hen pen. Am pleased she feels well enough to do this, but am a bit sad she is no longer my "House hen"

She spent a lot of her day, today, outside in the barn, sheltering from the torrential rain but with free access to the garden  and was mixing with the other hens without any problem.

She looks SO MUCH better for the four days in hentensive care :-)
At shutting in time she ran back and forth between me and the other hens in the run  not sure where to go I suspect - but eventually settled on being with them, as is right and proper. Hens are social creatures and she needs to be with her feathery sisters :-) 

Fingers crossed she is healed ...I gave her a few herbs as  remedies to eat and some aromatherapy oils gently massaged in while she was in my care inside, also a lot of simply holding and stroking and cuddling and loving.

Not sure which helped the most but frankly do not care as what ever it was I did, it seems to have saved her for now. I really thought she was going to die on my lap in the first few hours after I got her out of the Mega Hen pen on Thurs :-(

She laid a HUGE soft shelled egg on Thurs - and has laid nothing since. She was looking like she would die AFTER laying the soft egg, which was odd as usually hens experience relief after laying. She did not have an elevated temp, so no infection and she has not laid since then but does not look egg bound and I am hoping she will just go into a natural moult and shed/regrow feather and stop laying while she does so -

For the last four days I have been feeding her high protein food, I have  increased calcium in her feed  and she has eaten loads - I have also upped her corn/oat feed and dropped the layers pellet right off to hopefully promote a moult.
I suspect she was just getting so bullied, not eating properly, she is still bald and still trying to lay and it all got too much for her. Hopefully she will pick up but I WILL hoick her out back into hentensive care tomorrow if I think she is not progressing properly again.
Ho hum ex batts are sent to test our resourcefulness to deal with a crisis!!

Sunday 10 June 2012

Day three of Tiny hen in hentensive care

For the third day running, Tiny Hen followed me around outside, joined in with the other hens for a feed, followed me as I put them all in the hen runs at night - and then turned around and went back to the barn and climbed into the cat carrier she slept in, inside the house.

She sat there, crooning, until I shut the door and carried her inside, Then she started purring when I put her in the downstairs cloakroom, again, for the night.

I think she likes being a house hen :-)

Saturday 9 June 2012

A day with not much rain! So lots done in the garden.

Those of you who live in the UK will understand my title!

It had been raining here a lot lately. Unseasonably so. Torrential downpours and daytime temps of 10 C are NOT the norm for June in the Midlands. Having the woodburner lit at night is also not normal.

But today, finally, after 6 days of non stop rain - it stopped raining at lunchtime  and eventually the sun even came out!

My faithful henny shadow, Titch. she is missing her friend Tiny I think

I got so fed up with not getting on with outdoor stuff that I donned waterproofs and got working even though it WAS raining.

I put Tiny Hen into the Broody Ark so she could get some fresh air, eat some grass and generally chill out - because she followed me out of the house and down to the Ark, bless her! She looked a lot better this morning :-)

Cassi Cat standing guard over Tiny Hen

It rained in the morning, so I didn't take "before" pictures of the stuff I was doing - but after the rain stopped I took some " during" photos

Here is the composting area, in need of a lot of work.

Here is the Eglu and Compostman built run - all needs cleaning out and putting back together

So at first in the rain and then later on in the sunshine I got to work.

 A bit tidier, with Titch helping me !

I emptied and refilled all five of the compost bins in the picture - and spread the finished compost I extracted out on various beds.

 Eglu hooked back up to the run, cleaned out and re furnished. the run is re stocked with clean feeder and drinker, ready for the hens later on.


 3 Hen houses and runs all clean, sanitised and with clean feeders and drinkers. I love the smell of a clean hen house!

I ached all over after today's efforts, but I must admit I do feel better  for getting all that work done :-)

And Tiny hen helped put all the other hens to bed, and then followed me back to the barn and hopped into the Cat carrier, again - she obviously likes sleeping inside it in the house :-)