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, 31 August 2012

Of crochet and curses

 I started crocheting back at the start of May. Unlike knitting, where I was taught the very basics as a child by my granny, I never learnt to crochet. But after getting into knitting again I decided I wanted to learn to crochet, so with the help of Bron at The Wool Garden in Newent, I started on my first ever granny square.

Despite her excellent teaching it was still all a bit of a struggle for me and that small granny square caused a lot of cursing and unravelling and re doing! 

I looked on YouTube for help, but it did not make it any clearer to me. But then I bought a fabulous little book on crochet , which made what Bron at The Wool Garden had shown me click into place. I need diagrams as well as hands on tuition, obviously!



After a couple (really, just two more) of small practise squares I settled on the colours I wanted to use and the pattern I wanted to end up with and started crocheting my blanket. Confident, or what? (Foolish me!)

I decided to crochet one large square rather than lots of small squares, because I wanted to and because I am an awkward so and so. This made my task harder I think, also, because if  when I made a mistake I would have to spot it and correct it quickly. If I didn't - I would have a lot of unravelling to do! More of that later...Suffice it to say I should have done lots of identical granny squares - it would have been so much easier! But I wouldn't be told.(There's a surprise!)

I picked up my crochet most nights while sitting on the sofa. I took my crochet with me sometimes when I went out, and did odd rows while waiting in cafes or in a car park. I did this until my work in progress got too heavy and bulky.

I guess you could say I got hooked on crochet.

This is what it looked like at the end of May




And this is what it looks like now. I have another three rows of the red to add around the outside.



I chose the colours to blend in with the sitting room and because I really really like them. I didn't have any of the gold wool when I started, which is why it appears part way through, but I like the effect. The wool I am using is Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino - some bought from The Wool Garden and some bought on line from
Fingers and Thumbs.

It is already really heavy and I have had to stop working on it over the last few hot and humid days because it was just too warm lol. But I am really enjoying working on it, even if it is going to be the most expensive blanket ever ( I justify this to myself by calling it an heirloom blanket ha ha) and even though I am a bit OCD about any mistakes - last week I cursed and un ravelled 3 rows when I spotted I had missed a stitch ( or whatever the correct term is for crochet!) That is a lot of crochet time and unravelling!

But I love doing this, just as I love knitting dishcloths - it is practical and I make something useful and I find my mind can drift off and meditate on stuff. I can even watch a TV programme now and crochet at the same time!

I have also started on a few of the items in my crochet book as well as buying several other crochet books and magazines, as well as joining a few sites and following a few blogs about crochet...

Oh dear - definately hooked!

What do you like doing as a craft? Any other crochet fans?

Thank you for reading xx
Click here for National Zero Waste week 2012

Yes it is that time of year again, folks! Time to think of ways to reduce your waste.

The fifth National Zero Waste Week takes place week beginning 3rd September 2012. This year’s theme is ‘One More Thing‘ which reminds us that the collective impact of taking baby steps can add up to significant change.


National Zero Waste Week is a grassroots campaign that encourages householders to reduce landfill waste. It was launched in 2008 and more than 100 people took part that year. Everyone was motivated, committed and, most importantly, when the week was over, most kept their new ‘good habits’ in place.

If you want to know more about Zero Waste Week and why Rae Strauss started it, five years ago, then read this article to find out more.


So, how can I join in?

This year we’re focusing on improving our recycling habits because if every household in the UK recycled ‘one more thing’, the total amount collected for recycling could increase by more than three quarters of a million tonnes. So decide on your activity and leave a comment on My Zero Waste telling us what you pledge to do, then come back during National Zero Waste Week and let us know how you are getting on. Be sure to bookmark the page!

If you have a blog or webpage, please help spread the word by writing about National Zero Waste week – you can grab an image on the My Zero Waste website!

If you’re on twitter or facebook, encourage your friends and family to join in too.

FACEBOOK – Join our zero waste facebook page and check out the events page

TWITTER – Use the twitter hashtags #onemorething and #nzww and follow My Zero Waste.

If you have a blog or webpage, please help spread the word by writing about National Zero Waste week – you can grab an image on the My Zero Waste website

Thursday, 30 August 2012

The view from my window. 30 August 2012

This is the view from our study window  facing NE - see the field of oats beyond the hedge? It has suffered very badly with all the poor weather we have had - I am not sure if there is anything left upright  worth harvesting, but I expect this fine weather will bring out the combine very soon -




This is the view, facing SW - our yard, ( with Compostman and JCB!), farming neighbour's apple orchards and, in the distance, Marcle Ridge.


Sunday, 26 August 2012

Polytunnel and garden in August

So, August. Hmmm. Supposed to be warm, dry and sunny, normally. But here in the UK we have had yet more gloom, lack of sun and lots of rain.

I have given up with Carrots in the veg garden - I know I could probably get a last gasp sowing of an early variety like Nantes in the soil, but after the total failure of 6 different sowings of multiple rows of carrots ( not one carrot!) I have given up. I have sown seed in pots in the polytunnel and that will have to do.

Peas, likewise I have abandoned. I had a few handfuls of Mange Tout  in July and that is all and the plants were again smashed to bits in the last downpour at the start of August.

We have harvested the Onions as the stems were bending over and wilting - the harvest this year is down from the usual 60 lbs or more to about 30 lbs. They are drying in the polytunnel at the moment. The Shallot harvest was pathetic - about 3 lbs of shallots are stored.



I have finally got a  couple of Courgette plants going outside and am beginning to harvest one or two courgettes from them. The Pumpkins however are dead - again overwhelmed by water from the sky I think.

The Leeks are doing well, as are the Parsnips. I have had no Dwarf French Beans from the plants yet, although the plants themselves are doing OK.

I AM now harvesting Climbing French Beans (hurrah!) and the Blue Lake are looking good and I hope to get a good crop to freeze.

 I do not know if the Celeriac ( under the long white mesh tunnel) will do well - the plants are still very small.



In the netted raised beds the Kale and Calabrese plants are doing well - small heads have formed on the Calabrese. The PSB plants are hanging in there - if I can keep the Cabbage White butterflies away they should be OK.

The Spinach ( under the white mesh) is good as well.

 


Our potato harvest is well down on last year - but at least we managed to cut off the haulms before the blight damaged the actual spuds in the ground, so we have about 60 lb of stored potatoes to eat from now on. Normally we store about 150 lbs to eat over the winter so I guess we will be buying them this year.

Unfortunately the blight has got inside the Polytunnel for the very first year since we have lived here. We are surrounded by blighted potato fields here and have been so for about a month so I am not surprised, but I AM saddened.  My poor tomato plants :-(



You can see the blighted foliage on the tomato plants - I cannot move the peppers outside so I suspect they will get it next.

But I am eating Kale from the polytunnel plants already and have all sorts of green leafy stuff growing for the autumn.

I stripped all the tomatoes off the plants and brought them inside - hopefully some will ripen and I suspect I will be making a lot of tomato based chutneys!

I will be cutting down the blighted tomato plants and putting the foliage in the HotBin.

How is your garden growing? has the weather affected you?

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Feathers everywhere!

 Like this!
 


So - out of seven ex battery hens five of them are moulting, and I am only getting two or three eggs a day.


Nutmeg is slowly losing all her feathers and when she has a shake a small cloud floats into the air around her.


 The Mega Hen Pen looks like there has been a chicken plucking contest going on in there, loads of ginger feathers EVERYWHERE ( and lots of oven ready looking hens running around!)
 
 


Titch the baldest hen is still laying , but her egg shells are so very fragile - even with added limestone powder and Poultry Spice she lays soft shelled messes in the nest boxes nearly every day . I do wish she would stop - not because of the mess ( although I admit it is a pain to have to clean out the nestbox every day) but because it is such a burden on her system to be moulting feathers AND laying eggs. I worry about her being able to cope, poor hen.


 
 Tiny Hen, who was such a concern earlier in the year, now has a full set of beautiful feathers and lays now and then, lovely dark brown eggs of an identical shape each time.




When I let the hens out at lunchtime they all leg it into the garden like extras from a "Benny Hill" show doing the chase scene at the end, feathery knickers flying, some to lurk in the barn ...



 


and some to go and hang around under the bird feeder, hoping to mug the wild birds for seeds.











Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Hungry Bin trial after 4 weeks - harvesting the vermicompost for the first time!

 The Hungry Bin has been quietly eating our kitchen waste for a number of weeks, now.
So I decided it was time to risk taking off the bottom tray to look at the vermicompost.

I undid the catches on each side, and carefully lowered the bottom tray - half expecting the entire contents to fall out of the bottom - but no! it all worked exactly as the Hungry Bin web site said it would!



The compost you can see on the ground fell out of the bottom tray when I removed it - none has fallen out from the Hungry Bin itself.


Most of the compost in the bottom tray is from the original material I added when I set up the Hungry Bin more than four weeks ago, but there are some worm casts in there as well.The bottom tray fits neatly into the liquid collection tray, normally seen on the ground under the Hungry Bin


I could only find one worm, who was returned to the Hungry Bin to join the rest of the many thousands in there, busily munching away at our waste.



I added the compost to some pots of veg in the polytunnel, as well as giving the plants a feed of diluted worm tea from the Hungry Bin collection tray. I then put the collection tray back underneath the Hungry Bin - two catches which did up really easily.

My Hungry Bin is now absorbing my daily kitchen waste -about a kilo of it every day, plus whatever else I find to throw in to the worms.

I am SO impressed with this wormery!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Hot Bin trial after 4 weeks - first sight behind the compost hatch!

Ok, so I have had the HotBin for just over four weeks. I took these photos on Day 30, first thing in the morning.

So far, I have been very impressed. The HotBin has "eaten"  many refills of material (more than 3 of them a week since the start) of mainly green waste (weeds, potato haulms, grass etc) since I got it.
 
Each time the level dropped down to a settled minimum and the internal temperature settled back down to around 40 C,   I refilled the HotBin to the top.  Obviously as time passed there was more material left in the bottom of the HotBin, so I could put less and less inside as there was less room. But I estimate I have put more than 800 l (ish) of waste, by volume, into the HotBin, which then worked to reduce this material down to coarse mulch consistency at the bottom of the HotBin. In four weeks.


By comparison, the Dalek bin has been refilled once during this period - so has taken roughly 500 l of material ( initial 330 l plus a refill of another 150 ish l)

I have had a bit of a problem with the external thermometer, but as I am getting the internal temperatures and as the material is disappearing at a rate of knots I guess I must be doing it correctly so I am not worried. HotBin are talking to me about this issue and I am getting a replacement soon.


Whenever I open the lid, there is steam and heat! As long as there is a fresh charge of waste to work on the HotBin has kept at a steady 55 - 65 C  inside - it usually takes 3 days for the temperature to drop to around 40 C - by which time the HotBin needs (and gets)  a refill.


But after four weeks the partially composted material was building up inside the HotBin, so I decided to open up the hatch and take a look, with a view to possibly removing any material which had composted enough.

I undid the two ratchet straps which help to hold the front hatch in place


having first put an old, split compost bag down to catch any material which I took out.


hatch open for the first time in 30 days!


I must admit I was surprised to see how well the material had already composted down.


Slugs on the inside of the hatch - they get everywhere!


As always my henny "helpers" appeared to see what was going on


See how much mulch grade compost has been produced! In a month! I removed 3 buckets full of material, it was rather wet and a bit coarse to use as compost just yet, but perfectly acceptable as a mulch and if put in another bin, would make good compost within another few weeks. Which is what I am going to do with it.

I did find it a little difficult to remove the material from the bottom of the bin for two reasons. I found it physically hard to get the stuff out because of the other material above it. I also was concerned about cutting into the bin itself with my spade.


The Hotbin, three quarters empty again, waiting for a refill.


Which it got, of all sorts of stuff including bindweed ( I love watching the bindweed cook and go black inside the HotBin!)




By comparison my (larger!) Dalek compost bin , filled at the same time, under the same conditions and with a mixture of the same material, had produced a very small quantity of mulch quality standard compost. But the rest of the material in the bin was not decomposed very much at all. I removed less than a quarter of a bucket of usable mulch compost in the bottom of the Dalek bin.






Now do not get me wrong, that is very good going for a Dalek compost bin, in high summer I expect to get usable mulch from one of these in around fourteen weeks - but not in four.

So - the HotBin is yet again really impressive. I put the material I removed from the bottom of the HotBin into the Dalek bin, and personally I think that is what I am most likely to use the HotBin for, as a very rapid means to process huge volumes of compostable material and convert it into a much smaller volume of mulch grade compost. This can then be either used or put into a Dalek or other compost bin to complete the process - if you want finer, more mature compost.

And by the end of my afternoon outside, the Hotbin had already reached 55 C internally. And by the next afternoon it was up to 68 C.

Truly a "Hot Bin"



Sunday, 12 August 2012

Of crochet and curses.

 I started crocheting back at the start of May. Unlike knitting, where I was taught the very basics as a child by my granny, I never learnt to crochet. But after getting into knitting again I decided I wanted to learn to crochet, so with the help of Bron at The Wool Garden in Newent, I started on my first ever granny square.


Despite her excellent teaching it was still all a bit of a struggle for me and that small granny square caused a lot of cursing and unravelling and re doing! 

I looked on YouTube for help, but it did not make it any clearer to me. But then I bought a fabulous little book on crochet , which made what Bron at The Wool Garden had shown me click into place. I need diagrams as well as hands on tuition, obviously!



After a couple (really, just two more) of small practise squares I settled on the colours I wanted to use and the pattern I wanted to end up with and started crocheting my blanket. Confident, or what? (Foolish me!)

I decided to crochet one large square rather than lots of small squares, because I wanted to and because I am an awkward so and so. This made my task harder I think, also, because if  when I made a mistake I would have to spot it and correct it quickly. If I didn't - I would have a lot of unravelling to do! More of that later...Suffice it to say I should have done lots of identical granny squares - it would have been so much easier! But I wouldn't be told.(There's a surprise!)

I picked up my crochet most nights while sitting on the sofa. I took my crochet with me sometimes when I went out, and did odd rows while waiting in cafes or in a car park. I did this until my work in progress got too heavy and bulky.

I guess you could say I got hooked on crochet.

This is what it looked like at the end of May




And this is what it looks like now. I have another three rows of the red to add around the outside and then I will repeat the three rows of gold, then red, then cream, then red, then green, then red. And then I will see if it is big enough for what I had in mind.


I chose the colours to blend in with the sitting room and because I really really like them. I didn't have any of the gold wool when I started, which is why it appears part way through, but I like the effect. The wool I am using is Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino - some bought from The Wool Garden and some bought on line from
Fingers and Thumbs.

It is already really heavy and I have had to stop working on it over the last few hot and humid days because it was just too warm lol. But I am really enjoying working on it, even if it is going to be the most expensive blanket ever ( I justify this to myself by calling it an heirloom blanket ha ha) and even though I am a bit OCD about any mistakes - last week I cursed and un ravelled 3 rows when I spotted I had missed a stitch ( or whatever the correct term is for crochet!) That is a lot of crochet time and unravelling!

But I love doing this, just as I love knitting dishcloths - it is practical and I make something useful and I find my mind can drift off and meditate on stuff. I can even watch a TV programme now and crochet at the same time!

I have also started on a few of the items in my crochet book as well as buying several other crochet books and magazines, as well as joining a few sites and following a few blogs about crochet...

Oh dear - definately hooked!

What do you like doing as a craft? Any other crochet fans?

Thank you for reading xx

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Preserving the Harvest - dehydrating

I love my dehydrator! I have a Excalibur 5 tray dehydrator and oh how I wish I had bought a larger version.


I picked a load of Lavender and Sage for drying today - I gave them a quick rinse in water then dried them all gently on a tea towel. Then I laid them out on the dehydrator trays. Three trays of Sage and two of Lavender


It took two nights and a day for the herbs to dry to the point where I could crumble them into clean jars - our house smelt wonderful the whole time :-)

We have our own electricity supply from the pv's on the garage roof, so I use an electric dehydrator. Other people dry stuff  in the bottom oven of an Aga, or similar stove, and if we had sunshine we could use a solar dehydrator ( except of course there has been very little of that around here, this summer!). You can also dry herbs in bunches in an airing cupboard or hanging from the kitchen ceiling. I find stuff up in the rafters gets covered in cobwebs and fly poo, here so do not like doing it that way!

Because the dehydrator heater is on the very lowest setting it used about 2 Kw of electricity so cost about 30 p plus my time, of course - except, of course during the daytime, if we are not using electricity for other purposes we don't have to pay!



And this is what I had at the end - two very small jars of dried herbs. but home grown and organically produced :-) And they smelt terrific :-)

Thank you for dropping by xxx

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Of blight and seed saving



Blight has finally hit the potatoes :-( Given the humidity and totally wet time we have had here since April I am frankly amazed that we have managed to get this far into the summer without signs of blight, but now it is there.

So Compostman has chopped off all the haulms for all three of the raised beds with spuds in them and we will wait for several weeks before lifting the potatoes. If we do this we will hopefully have usable potatoes which we can store over winter.








I have also started this season seed saving. This is HSL Asparagus Lettuce, a soft, buttery tasting cut and come again variety which I love. As this seeded inside the polytunnel before any other lettuce set flowers, I know it will be true to type, so I am saving some of the seed for my own use. I have put the stems in a paper bag, seed heads down and when it has finally dried I will gently rub the flowers to get at the seeds.







I have also got the dehydrator down from the attic :-) yep folks, it is THAT time of year ( finally!) when the harvest starts :-)


UA-40361266-1