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!


Sunday, 29 April 2012

50 years ago...

Well. 50 years ago I was born.

So today I had some lovely presents, friends round for a lovely lunch, some good food, good wine and good company.

Later, I pottered around in the polytunnel, talked to the hens and the cats and generally did very little :-)

And then at night I sat on the sofa by the woodburner, with a new book, a glass of wine, listening to a new cd and listened to the rain fall .

Not a bad way to spend a birthday!

Friday, 27 April 2012

Aberfan

Aberfan. The horrible horrible mining disaster where the slag heap crashed down and buried a school, killing lots of children.

I was 4 at the time. I had nightmares about being covered in a slag heap for weeks after (I am Welsh by blood and had paternal family in Wales, mining and also some distant relatives lived in Aberfan ...maybe even of my very distant cousins died in that tragedy but I do not know as I was to young to remember and have no one to ask , now )

I do remember taking in a half crown to nursery later on for the Aberfan appeal.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Some pictures of the new rescue hens.


The hens, out in the sunshine.


This is Bunty - very bright, very friendly!


 Ginger! A frighteningly bright chicken who has already captured my heart - she is actually Ginger 3 - I reserve the name for eggstra special bright hens ...!



Tiny and Titch show their bald bottoms


This is Tiny - she is so very small :-( But feisty and getting stronger every day.
 Still very shy and scared, though. Runs away if I try to stroke her :-(


And this is  Titch - a bit larger than Tiny, but not by much :-( She seems to want to follow me around and sit on my feet :-)


Ginger, Bunty and Babs enjoy some synchronised eating!


This is Babs - she is a bit slow to work things out at the moment and often finds herself on " the wrong side of the fence"  She is lovely, though.


Ginger, delving deep into the feeder for that last, tasty, little morsel of mealworm!

They are all lovely and such different characters    - and we are loving watching them become "proper" hens,

as they should have been allowed to be from birth.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

As you saw in my video, I have been very busy potting  on tomatos and peppers recently.  I now have around 150 tomato plants in the polytunnel and around 60 pepper plants in the porch as well.
Tomato varieties I have grown this year

Matina, Salt Spring Surprise (HSL), Latah, Roma - Very early, hardy varieties

Costoluto Genovese, Costaluto Fiorentino - Early. big, intense flavoured beef varieties
Atkins Stuffing (HSL) Big, intense flavoured beef varieties
Shirley, Moneymaker -"Ordinary" red tomatos.
Golden Sunrise, Yellow Russian (HSL) Yellow tomatos
Gardeners Delight, Pink Cherry (HSL), Fox Cherry (HSL), Aunty Madge (HSL) All delightful Cherry tomatos of various shapes and colours.
 I grow them all in organic certified growing medium and all are now in 4 inch or bigger pots and about 8 - 10 inches high. I start them off by sowing the seed in molules placed in a heated propagator in the porch. I then prick out the small plants into individual pots and pot them on into larger pots.
I grow about 50 plants for my own use which go into the Polytunnel. Some plants are pre ordered and collected by customers and I also sell any surplus at the gate. The HSL seed plants I donate half the sale price to Garden Organic. 

I usually harvest my first tomatoes early - mid June from my unheated polytunnel from my plants. 
I only sell the surlpus plants of varieties I also grow for my own use, so I KNOW they are wonderfully tasty, if people ask. I also know what variety does best for salad, chutney, bottling, freezing etc, from knowledge and my own experience.


These are the early varieties Matina, Salt Spring Suprise and Latah. They are all "Potato leaf" varieties and these seem to crop earlier and be a bit hardier than the "tomato leaf" varieties.


 

Lots of pepper plants to pot on and bring out of the porch into the Polytunnel, next.
 

Friday, 20 April 2012

What I am planting now - April


It is what I have been doing for the last few weeks, !

Things I am either sowing, have just sown or am planning to sow very soon.

When soil and growing conditions are right, it is time to sow vegetables! A good indication that it is time, is to look at your lawn:- if the grass has started to grow the soil temperature will be above 5-6 degrees centigrade and you can sow/plant hardier seeds direct in the ground, or plant out tubers such as potatoes.

BUT If you have a heavy clay soil wait!. Seeds sown in wet or cold soil tend to rot and die. Waiting for a few more weeks won’t hurt, ( honest!)

A black or clear plastic covering over soil will warm it up, so you can sow some seeds outside a little earlier than usual. Spread plastic sheeting over the areas where you plan to sow the seeds. Weigh down the sides so it can't blow away in winter winds. After 3 - 4 weeks, the soil should be warm enough for seed sowing. I use big sheets of Geotextile ( weed sheet) which we have a huge roll of, so we have 4 sheets which cover the 4 plots in the veg garden all winter. We turn them back to let the weed seeds germinate in Jan, then cover the weeds up to kill them off ready for digging and planting in March :-)

I am sowing now outside in the ground

BUT in beds warmed up by geotextile cover and covered by fleece/cloche after, so you need to allow for my soil being quite warm and the seeds being protected after!

Broad bean plants sown and overwintered in the polyunnel

Parsnips grown in loo roll tubes seed planted in March

Radish
Turnip
Early carrots
Kohlrabi



Planting outdoors

Potatoes  (Maincrop Desiree - have already got all the earlies into the ground!)
Shallots - mine went in several weeks ago.

Outside sometime soon, when I think its warm enough for them!

Onion sets

I am currently sowing in trays and modules

Raising plants to transplant outdoors (or under cloches or in a greenhouse/ tunnel) gives you a head start on the season. It is simple to provide extra warmth for a few pots and trays of seeds - in a warm room, or on a heated bench for example. But remember - the seedlings that appear will also need some warmth and good light levels, until they can be moved to a frost free final position, so allow for where you are going to keep them. I have had a lot of success with a cold frame inside an unheated polytunnel and this would work just as well inside a conservatory or a plastic small greenhouse I think.

Inside in heated propagator




Tomatoes/Peppers/ - for growing on in a cold greenhouse or tunnel. I planted the early varieties in Feb, and now have sturdy 8 inch plants in the polytunnel with the later varieties protected inside cold frames in the Polytunnel

Herbs and salad leaves
Courgettes and other Squashes.

Outside in PT

Potatoes in grow sacks
To get an earlier crop! I planted these in Feb. If you have a sheltered place you will get an earlier crop by doing this, up to 4 weeks earlier. Mmmmm new potatoes and butter...mmmmm

Kales
Chineese Broccoli
Purple Sprouting Broccoli early
Broad Beans in pots
Spring onions
Lettuce and other salad stuff.
Herbs of all sorts
Leeks for transplanting ( I sow the autumn ones end of Feb and the winter ones now.)
Kohl Rabi - best sown in modules for transplanting
Celeriac - best sown in modules for transplanting
Peas in rootrainers or loo roll tubes.
Mange tout  peas in rootrainers or loo roll tubes.
Dwarf and Climbing French Beans.in rootrainers or loo roll tubes.

Sowing Leeks
Wait till early to mid-spring before sowing leek seed, depending on the weather. They can either be sown in a seed bed for transplanting the following summer, sown in trays/pots, or sown in their permanent positions. If you sow in a seed bed you have the added bother of transplanting, but this must be balanced out by the fact that if they are sown in their permanent position, they will take up a lot of space for a long time before producing results

I always sow seed in pots and then transplant.


A general note

Silly though this may sound, plant stuff you know you want to eat! Also, decide what you like and if space/time is limited, grow the stuff which is most expensive to buy. So, if you LOVE salad leaves and herbs, grow lots of them! If your favourite thing is new potatoes then grow lots of them!

It is much better to grow the veg you really really love, and eat lots of it, fresh and straight from your garden, than feel you "have" to grow beans, peas, onions or whatever....and then not want to eat it.

We grow lots of stuff, because we are trying to feed ourselves for most of the year!. Unless you have the time, space and inclination to do this, DON'T!

I used to grow new potatoes, salads, herbs and mange tout in our tiny garden in Worcester, ...and sprouts, leeks and carrots in winter because thay were the veg I loved to eat fresh from the garden.

Hope this helps

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Compostbin TV - episode 2 The new rescue hens.

Compostbins TV Episode 1 Compostwoman in the porch.

A surprise gift for me !

 This week the postman brought me a package from The Organic Gardening Catalogue - my prize for being their 600th follower on Twitter!

A lovely seed tin, 9 packets of organic seeds and 25 m of biodegradable ties. :-))

Thank you The Organic Gardening Catalogue

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

New hens

  •  
     Now have 5 more hens:-) Collected them on Sunday afternoon from near Hay on Wye.
    They are in as poor shape as the caged ex battery hens were, despite being from a "barn" system - have never seen the sky or grass ( boy, you should have seen the way they tucked into the grass in their run!)

    They were baffled by a gust of wind, and enchanted by some straw and twigs - they picked them up and passed them to each other for ages.



    Positives are they have good legs and understand about scratching the ground for food.

    And they put themselves to bed without help :-) but all in a pile :-( I had to go and spread them out a bit as Titch the very tiniest hen was at the bottom and looked a bit stressed.

    Two of them lay down in the sunshine and purred as soon as we put them in the run on the grass. (Hens CAN purr!)  I sat and watched and felt very good about the world.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Birthday trip out

Today is Compostman's Birthday - a significant one, for a number between 59 and 61! And it is also the last day of Compostgirl's Easter break - she goes back to school tomorrow and then launches into SAT's etc.

We decided to go out to celebrate for lunch and for a visit to one of the Hereford and Gloucester Canal Trust sites. We are members of the Canal Trust  and have been to a few of the more local sites over the years, but have never been in to the Wharf site at Over, near Gloucester - so that was where we decided to go.

The Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal follows an almost entirely rural course for 34 miles through the glorious countryside of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire.

This was one of the last major narrow canals to be completed in Britain.

From the River Severn at Over it ran level to Rudford Lock, the first of ten before reaching Oxenhall Tunnel – at 2192 yards one of the longest in England. Seven more locks brought the Canal through the delightful market town of Ledbury.

A ten mile summit pound, including another tunnel at Ashperton (400 yards) led to three locks eight miles from Hereford. An aqueduct over the River Lugg and the Aylestone Tunnel (440 yards) brought the Canal into the heart of Hereford.

The Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal Trust is restoring the Canal as a navigable waterway, which, when completed, will rank as one of the most attractive cruising routes in the country.
The Trust have restored The Wharf and are currently restoring and rebuilding the last lock down to the River Severn. They have also restored The Wharf  House as a Restaurant and  luxury B & B. All profits made by The Wharf House are used for the promotion and restoration of the Herefordshire and Gloucestershire Canal Trust. The Trust volunteers have done a fabulous job of the rebuilding and refurbishing - the building is really beautiful and the food was excellent.




After our lunch we went along and looked at the Wharf itself, which was very impressive.


The last lock down to the River Severn. Awaiting work! It is quite a drop down to The Severn level.


The birthday boy and daughter inspect a sign .


The Wharf House roof is fitted with 94 photovoltaic panels. This is part of The Hereford and Gloucestershire Canal Trust aims to become self-sustinable both financially and in its carbon footprint. This is the largest array of solar powered panels in Gloucestershire.


We timed our outing well as just after we finished our walk and went back to our car, it began to pour with rain!

Happy Birthday Compostman, I love you very much.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Preparing for the new hens

 To get ready for the ex commercial flock hens we needed to sort out a secure run and house for them. As I do not know if they come with the terrible Red Mite attached, I decided to use the Eglu as the hen house - it can more easily be scrubbed and disinfected if the new girls DO bring any Red Mite - a wooden house is harder to get them gone!


So we removed the Eglu run and Compostman made up a link so the Eglu would fit onto his home made run. The Eglu run is not much use with new hens (who do not understand coming to humans for food) as you cannot get inside it to catch them or get dropped eggs etc. So we wanted to use the wooden run with the lift off roof - so if we needed to catch a hen we could do so .




All ready for the new girls :-) We can't wait until Sunday :-)





Thursday, 12 April 2012

More rescue hens

I know I said I was not going to get any more hens after what happened a few weeks ago.
But after much thought and discussion, we decided to get some more ex commercial hens - so at least I will have some new girls to love and make well again - they will not replace the girls who were killed , but we are giving some hens another chance of a better life. Also we can manage a smaller number of hens more easily so fingers crossed Fox can't get them this time. We now only let them out to free range when we are around them and we shut them back in their ( huge!) run when we have to go away from the garden.
When the new paddock area is done ( gods know when!) there will be a very secure large enclosure for them to free range in - and then I will get more of the pure breeds and hybrid girls - as well as more ex commercial " spent" hens.

But for now just a few ex commercial hens from rescue will be all we can safely manage. And we can give them a taste of a normal henny life.

That will do, for now.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Fox attack, again.

Have just come inside after burying 8 hens in the wood. One other hen is MIA, presumed eaten by the foxes who killed the other hens. Remaining 3 live hens (Yarrow, Marjoram and Nutmeg) are rather traumatised and unhappy.

We have never  lost so many to the fox in one go before, we had 5 taken in one go a few years back  but this was worse as only one hen was taken and the rest were hidden in the wood ditch for us to find - really  horrible to see :-(
2 of the "new" ex batts survived - Yarrow ( aka Limpy Hen) and Marjoram, also Nutmeg hen, because she is an escapologist hen and was in the garden rather than with the others. And I now only have ginger hens, - all my other coloured pure breeds and hybrid girls died.

I am SO sad, I am still crying now. Burying them was horrible. Especially Comfrey, Cumin and Marigold the ex batts. I felt I had let them all down, somehow. :-(((((
by not protecting them enough from foxes.

RIP Lavender, Treacle, Cocoa, Cumin, Comfrey aka Flappy hen, Marigold, Pearl and Opal hens. I shall miss your feathery antics enormously.

(update Sweetie re appeared the next day!) 
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