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!
Friday, 29 March 2013
Welcome to my new followers Scarlet and Lana Nichole :-)
The snow has nearly all gone here now - just a line along the bottom of the hedge boundaries up on Marcle Ridge remains. It is still very cold here, though - it has only just been up above freezing here all day and out of the ( oh so welcome) sunshine it was very chilly indeed. I did get a load of washing dry on the line, though - this cold dry weather is excellent for line drying.
The hens were moaning like mad at the cold wind ruffling up their feathery knickerbockers. They did not want to come out of the run today and we only had 2 eggs- they really are obviously very displeased with things! They spent most of the afternoon hanging around under the bird feeder, waiting to mug passing chaffinches for niger and sunflower seed. The arival of a Greater Spotted Woodpecker to eat peanuts caused a few rufffled feathers though - and even more so when the Cock Pheasant turned up - he tolerates no nonsense from the Hens and he pecked at Yarrow hen - after that the hens gave up and all moved away to skulk in the orchard.
At least the sun is shining, :-)
This time last year the daytime temperature was 22 C here - I was in T shirt and shorts, planting my potatoes. This year I hope to get some potatoes in the ground this week end but I am not holding my breath! I have a load of tomato plants waiting to be pricked out into individual pots and normally they would be in the polytunnel in a cold frame by now. It is too cold to even contemplate doing that at the moment, so the porch is bursting at the seams with plants.
Clocks go forward tomorow night remember! It was still light at 6.30 here today, so I am looking forward to the light holding up until 7.30 pm on Sunday, even if we do lose it at the start of the day ( I am an Owl, not a Lark, so prefer more daylight at the end of the day.)
Hoping you all have a lovely Easter weekend and celebrate in whatever way you wish - I will be eating eggs and welcoming signs of Spring into my home, even if I have to look very hard to find some at the moment :-)
Thursday, 28 March 2013
Thank you all so much for following me :-) Even though lately I have been hard pressed to reply, due to our phone connection problems!
and please remember I am really new to many crafts ( quilting, crochet, embroidery, knitting) , although I am more experienced in some more unusual ones (Soap making , baskets, paper crafts, pole lathe and shave horse)
Also this is my crafting blog and I don't get a lot of time to do crafty stuff - I write much more frequently on The Compost Bin - mainly because I spend much more time every day doing stuff with compost, DIY, hens, growing veg, gardening, preserving, brewing and all sorts of not crafty stuff (although lately, given the weather outside I wish I could just get on with the quilting and crochet!)
So if you have not, why not follow me on there, as well? I am quite interesting on there, I promise ;-)
Tuesday, 26 March 2013
When we first moved in to Compost Mansions, 16 years ago, one of the things which made us fall in love with the place was the pond (the other was the wood!)
The view from the Study window as it used to be.
Having a pond or a pondlet ( that's my word for a very very small pond - think a sunken Belfast sink type size) in your garden creates so much scope for enjoyment - attracting wildlife, helping birds drink, bathe and collect mud for nests, the joy of watching the changing plant life as the year progresses -
We used to have so much wildlife here which was only in our garden due to having a body of water for it to hunt over, lay eggs in and live in. We had wild Ducks, Geese, Coots, Moorhens all nesting and feeding, Herons came regularly and we even saw a Kingfisher one summer. Swallows swooped low over the water on hot summer days, catching insects and scooping a drink.
Huge Dragonflies used to hover and zip over our heads, wanting to see who had entered their territory - did you know Dragonflies have their own territory, and hunt in the same places?
See how huge this one is? It came and sat on the kneeler when I was working in the garden.
Every spring we had hoards of Frogs and Toads all over the drive, all looking for a mate - and making their desires heard VERY loudly - Frogs in particular are very vocal!
I once counted 128 Toads on the drive at the same time!
And of course after the Toads and Frogs had mated would come the tapioca-like blobs of Frog and ribbons of Toad spawn - in this picture we have carefully taken out a bucket of water from the pond so as to show Toadspawn ( and a Toad!) to children at a local school
Water adds a whole new dimension to a garden - here I was mesmerised by the sunset over the pond.
So - we want to do something with the area to bring it back to life.We also would like to be able to look out on a pleasant view again
This pond will be fed by the same means as before (rainfall and a natural water feed) and it is designed as a nature pond rather than a more formal, ornamental pond so we probably won't need a pond pump or a pond filter but if we did need either I would not use mains electricity to power them but would use one of the many solar powered versions available.
But IF ( big if) we get some drier weather this year we maybe can get on with the earth moving and suchlike. And then we can welcome back the wildlife we have so missed in recent years.
If you are thinking about adding a pond (ornamental or more natural) in your garden a very good guide can be found here from Bradshaws Direct, along with all manner of equipment available to do with ponds. You can also get lots of advice about wildlife pond making and planting from the Wildlife Trust here , from Pond Conservation here, from the RHS here and The RSPB here.
As part of my review of their site I was paid to add the link to Bradshaws Direct in this post, but had already come across them during my Internet trawling on pond related items. As always here in The Compost Bin my words and opinions are entirely my own :-)
Monday, 25 March 2013
Tuesday, 19 March 2013
March is the real start of the growing season for many of us in the UK as, unless the weather is exceptionally mild (as it was in 2012), February is often still too wet and cold to plant out into the soil. This year the cold wet weather continued the delay for getting growing.
But its time to get cracking, now, in the garden. And if you have not tried it before, veg growing can be easy! There is lots of help available on the Internet, Garden Organic has a very helpful website (even more so if you become a member) there are loads of books and excellent TV programmes on gardening, and lots of blogs ( like mine) with hints and tips to help you along the way.
And even if you have no outdoor garden space you can grow a surprising amount of food in pots and tubs, and even on a windowsill herbs and salads can be grown which will save you money and taste terrific.
So go on - give it a grow!
In the Garden
If your grass has started to grow again it is a good sign that the soil is warming up. On my heavy clay soil I will wait until another few weeks before sowing directly into the soil, but if you are on rich loam ( lucky you!) then you could think about sowing some hardy seeds now. Remember though, if you sow too soon the seeds may rot or not germinate.
You can help to warm up the soil by covering it for a few weeks, in advance of sowing seeds. Black plastic or an organic mulch works well. Pull back the cover or move the mulch before digging and sowing.
It is also time to enrich your soil. All the rain we have had may well have washed away some nutrients, so add some home made or bought in compost to improve the soil. And try to avoid walking on your soil as it will compact it - if you must walk on it use a board to spread the load.
Seeds you could sow outside now in the soil (if warm enough) are Broad beans, early Beetroot, early Carrots, Parsnips, Spinach, Leaf beet, Turnip and Peas.
I tend to sow Peas, Broad Beans and Spinach/Leaf beet in the Polytunnel and then transplant them out once the plants are established. I have lots of mice and birds all too willing to eat the seeds in the ground but who are not so keen on small plants.
You could also sow Onion and Shallot sets, Jerusalem Artichokes and early Potatoes now if the soil is warm enough.
Once you have clear soil keep your hoe moving! And gather up the weeds and add them to your compost bin or heap.
Inside the polytunnel/greenhouse/heated porch/kitchen windowsill
Wash any glass or plastic cold frames, cloches, poly tunnel walls and greenhouse glass, if you haven't already. Clean plastic/glass lets through more light and is good garden hygiene.
When buying potting or seed composts please go peat free. Peat extraction does huge harm to endangered habitats. See the Garden Organic "I don't dig Peat" campaign site for more details.
I tend to sow Peas, Broad Beans and Spinach/Leaf Beet/ Leeks in the Polytunnel now, and then transplant them out once the plants are established. I sow Parsnips in paper tubes ( loo roll inners) and as soon as the seed has germinated I plant out the tube, burying it in a hole so only the top of the tube is above the surface.
You could sow the following in pots/modules for transplanting outside later on:- various Salad leaves, Kales, early Cabbage, summer Cabbage, Calebrase, early Purple Sprouting, early Cauliflower, Spring Onions, Brussels Sprouts,
If you have a warm windowsill or heated propagator you could start Tomato, Pepper and Aubergine seeds, for growing on in a cold greenhouse or polytunnel. Later in the month you could think about sowing Cucumber and Courgette seeds for growing undercover.
But it is better to wait a week or two to sow seeds which will end up as plants outside - they will catch up if the weather is kind but will possibly die if put out too soon.
I also sow pots with early Carrots, Spring Onion, various Salad leaves, Peas ( for pea shoots) which I will leave in the Polytunnel to grow until an earlier harvest. I do the same with early Potatoes - I always plant up a few bags and pots with a couple of potatoes to get an early harvest from the Polytunnel. If you have a sheltered place why not try this? The pots do not have to stay in the Polytunnel and this is an ideal way to grow in you have no garden.
Why not try some more unusual seeds this year? Mustard and Coriander leaves are all tasty additions to a salad.
Grow some herbs - they are easy to grow and taste so much nicer fresh from your own plant. Basil comes in many flavours - I grow Red, Lemon, Lettuce Leaf, Cinnamon and Greek as well as the "usual" Genovese sort. Coriander is so easy to grow from seed and is lovely added to curries and as an unusual salad leaf. Perennial herbs such as Thyme, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Chives are all easy to grow, look beautiful as plants and will keep on coming back year after year with just a little effort to protect them over winter,
These are just a few ideas on what you could be doing in March, there is so much I could say but we would be here all day! I go into more detail in this post from 2009 .
One last thing - Garden Organic run an excellent Master Gardener scheme in some parts of the UK where you can get help and advice on growing, from an experienced organic gardener who will mentor you through a year of growing and provide help and support. If you are new to growing why not see if the scheme runs in your part of the UK?
Hope this all helps. Happy growing :-)
Monday, 18 March 2013
At mid morning break time today I decided I would take my drink outside and sit in the sunshine at the edge of the wood. Normally I take coffee mid morning but as I still feel full of cold and a bit rough I took a herb tea - as I thought it might help me feel a bit better and warm me up a bit.
As is usual I sat surrounded by a bevy of hens and cats. I wanted to take a photo of the wood, but hens kept on getting in the way!
This is Babs - she always jumps up on the bench and tries to drink out of my mug!
But I fended her off and drank my tea before it got cool. Today I was trying a new to me tea - Sweet Chilli from Higher Living Herbs Wow! It was so nice! I like herb teas but usually drink single herb versions and have never tried a blend like this sweet chilli blend before. It was really warming and tasty, but not too chilli hot, more warming and comforting than anything else.
This is Yarrow hen, still alive and looking quite perky, she begged a few crumbs from my mid morning cookie. Apart from her permanent limp she looks pretty good now. She wanted some of my tea, as well.
After I finished off my drink I also hung out some more washing - I got five loads done and dried yesterday. Then I came inside and because I liked the Sweet Chilli tea so much, I made another one!
Higher Living Herbs are based not far away from us in Gloucestershire and their teas are 100% natural and organic. They specialise in herbal teas ( there are loads of other flavours to try!) and have over 45 years blending experience.
As you can see from my oh so artistically arranged shot set in my kitchen, the teas come very attractively packaged in paper and card so all fully recyclable materials ( or in my case, fully compostable!)
I was also impressed that there was no little metal staple holding the tea bag string on to the paper tab - as I hate having to fish the staples out before I compost it - so full marks for that Higher Living, as well as the yummy tasting tea.
Oh - and Higher Living don't just do herbal teas, they make a range of "ordinary" teas as well - you can find the full range here. I like Breakfast tea, if anyone is interested...(!)
I was sent a couple of boxes to review (thank you Higher Living) but you can buy the teas online, in some health food shops and I think Waitrose stock them as well.
Sunday, 17 March 2013
As the English bit is from Cornwall, mostly, I think I count as mainly Celtic? I look like a Celt, anyway and I always think of myself as Welsh/Irish
Anyway it gives me a reason to celebrate both St David and St Patrick's days :-)
My seeds are growing well - these are the tomato seedlings which I planted a few weeks ago, there are more, smaller ones in the heated propagators which were planted last week.
This is the Halloon I planted at the end of Febuary - it is like a spicy version of cress. Very tasty with Egg mayo on wholemeal bread!
The hens enjoyed hanging around near him, "just in case" anything he did produced some food. They like to stay near us and love being inside the barn/lean to.
Compostgirl is at a Guides Camp weekend near Cirencester - I hope she is having a good time! The weather yesterday (Sat) was pretty dreadful in the afternoon, apparently.
Friday, 15 March 2013
Updated as a result of a couple of emails tonight - for those who may not realise, this is a walk in our wood and so I was picking our own wood daffodils, growing on our land - picking wild flowers from anywhere , if you don't own the land, is not a good thing. Picking them even if you do is to be discouraged imo!
I still feel pretty rough but it was such a lovely day I decided to go for a gentle walk around the wood. I wrapped up warm (my teeth and sinuses are really hurting) and went out side.
As always my faithful companion Cassi Cat came with me on my walk
The wild daffodils are out in some parts of the wood but in other, more shady parts they are only just opening.
I saw LOTS of mole activity
Coming up the hill from the wood towards where the pool used to be, you can see the sun shining on the tops of the willow trees, making them glow.
I don't normally pick flowers as I like to see them growing but these woodlands daffodils were knocked over by a fallen branch so into the house they came with me :-) So pretty!
I only spent about 45 minutes wandering around but that, and feeding the hens, left me so worn out that I had to go and sit down for a few hours. I am catching up with lots of crochet and recorded TV programmes, though.
Hopefully I will shake off this virus soon.
Not only have I increased my fabric stash by a substantial amount recently ( a shop closing down in Ledbury :-( had lots of fabric ends on offer as did a couple of the local charity shops)
but I have bought a couple of different quilting feet for my sewing maching from Ebay. They are actually really useful for general sewing as well ( thats my excuse, anyway!)
And I am still managing to crochet a square a day :-) I can do one in about an hour now AND watch TV :-)
Thursday, 14 March 2013
So if I were you I would leave this blog for today and go over to The Crafty Compostwoman where you can see what I have been up to, with crafting.
And it does actually cover our bed. With enough to hang down the sides!
I have decided to make it a lightweight quilt, with a sheet as wadding and another as a backing because that way I can use it on a bed and wash it relatively easily. If I use even thinish cotton wadding it will take a long time to dry, and with the cats leaving dirty paddy paw prints on everything I need to be able to wash and dry stuff fairly easily. I do have a lovely quilt in the guest bedroom (where not cats are allowed!) and I knw how long that takes to dry, so this is a better way to make a quilt for our bed.
The materials are all old nightdresses or pajamas of mine and Compostmans, and sheets /pillowcases we had when we were first married in 1985. As they became worn out I stashed them away, waiting to use them for "something else".
A quilt for our bed seems appropriate I think :-)
Wednesday, 13 March 2013
(Just for Peter, the view from my Study window today - the oak trees are the ones I was talking about yesterday with the crows roosting in them.)
In the top right hand corner of the photo you can see a bit of the guttering and this is where a cheeky little sparrow sits and chirps at me. He is very interested in what I am up to and makes me smile .
No horizontal snow today, but we have had some sunshine, hail, sunshine, rain, sunshine, rain and then more hail. But at the moment, we have sunshine :-)
Tuesday, 12 March 2013
Compostman and I have recently been spending a lot of time discussing the alterations and garden redesigns, earth shifting and digging we want to do here. There are trees to fell, soil to move around with the JCB, a new pond to dig and new veg beds to make and a new building is also planned to do with our forestry works .
At the moment it is snowing here (horizontal snow, honestly!) and I can't do much outside so I have been sitting with a mug of tea and thinking and planning what I would like to happen. Planning for the possibility of a new polytunnel in the newly cleared area of land and also thinking about the idea of making some new raised beds in and around it.
Now this is officially a Good Idea in my book as the existing veg plot is getting infested with bindweed, so moving somewhere else in the garden sounds great to me - but it throws up a bit of a hitch - what to put inside the new raised beds. Our soil is solid clay and there is over 100 foot of it under us. Our existing veg patch is diggable only because it has been improved by the application of copious barrow loads of home made compost every year. Everywhere else in the garden if you try digging with any tool you rapidly end up with a claggy sticky mud lollipop of a tool, which can't actually be used unless you scrape it clean every few minutes. Well that's what it feels like, anyway.
If I had new raised beds of 2 x 3 x 0.3 m I would need 1800 l of growing medium/soil to fill each bed . The existing veg patch area which we have at the moment holds around 10 of these (!). A new Polytunnel would be a separate calculation, depending on the size we bought ( which is still under discussion) Typically I make around 5000 l of compost a year, which is a HUGE amount for a domestic household. And we use it all, in the veg patch and in the Polytunnel. On our soil, over the course of a year, all that compost simply vanishes.
So - if we are going to make some new beds elsewhere I think I will have to source a bit of compost from outside to help get them going. Whatever I buy in must be peat free as we don't do peat here. So today I did a bit of looking around the Internet, checking the options and I thought maybe my musings would be helpful to people who don't have access to making lots of their own compost but want to improve their soil or make new raised beds.
So first thoughts were to buy lots of bags from my existing seed and potting media supplier and add it to the
Another possibility is to buy some soil conditioner from my local Council, who sell bulk deliveries of their "Greengrow" soil improver at very reasonable prices. This is made from composted green garden waste from the household recycling centres in Worcestershire and Herefordshire, where householders have placed their garden waste into the dedicated green waste containers. I have had mixed experiences with using bags of Greengrow in the past, some very good but some bags had quite a lot of small fragments of plastic in them which had obviously got past the sieving and screening process. Also last time I asked, although they will deliver by lorry they would only dump it by the roadside in a heap. This is also a "soil improver" to be added into existing topsoil. I could improve the soil in a 50/50mix in one 2 x 3 m raised bed for about £50 using 20 bags (40 l) of Greengrow bought from Ledbury recycling centre. To be fair it would be a lot cheaper to buy it in bulk - you can collect it if you have a trailer, or pay to have it delivered, and pay only £2.50 per tonne plus VAT (which is more volume than in the bags) But again, I would have to move the material by barrow from a pile at the roadside.
Two bulk bags of their Veggie Gold Compost would fill one of my new raised beds with a quality blend of fine compost, well rotted manure and topsoil, ready for immediate use. Delivery is free on this size of bulk order. As the material is delivered in bags we could use the JCB to move the bag to the raised bed - avoiding lots of hard work!
I was paid to add the link to Compost Direct in this post, but had already come across them during my Internet trawling and was impressed, then, by their site and their products, so chose to add the link.
As always here in The Compost Bin my words and opinions are entirely my own :-)
Saturday, 9 March 2013
I have lots of tomatoes and peppers germinated, all the earliest varieties of tomato I grow (and grow to sell as plants) are up and thriving well. I will be potting them on into individual pots in the next week or so, burying the stems a little to encourage stem roots to form.
I am now on my second wave of seed sowing of peppers and tomatoes - these are the slightly later cropping varieties (mostly beef and coloured cherry tomato varieties)
I have also just been sent some intriugingly named Chocolate Sweet Bell Pepper seeds and have found a new supplier of Long Purple Aubergine seed, so some of those will be going into the hot box in seed trays later today,
Apart from that, and some salad and the Broad beans and Garlic in the Polytunnel not much new is yet growing, even though it is early March. After a few dry days and one day of glorious sunshine it has gone wet (again!) and cold here in deepest Herefordshire - - so I have been largely inside bathing the three Guinea Pigs in advance of treating them for lice - where they get the lice I do not know, but they do, every year!
As we don't want to risk the piggles getting cold after their baths, the girls will then spend the night inside our house, in one of the plastic hutches we keep as a spare, while their wooden house dries out from being scrubbed and de loused. Tomorrow they can be treated with lice killing drops on the back of their necks and then go back into their larger outside hutch again. It is so sweet to watch them in the water having a bath, they wheek and put their heads back and grunt with pleasure when I rub the shampoo under their chins, but they also attempt to swim, even though the water is only an inch deep, presumably because they are programmed to respond to water in this way. In my opinion they have all the fine buoyancy qualities of a brick - so I don't actually think they can swim at all (well, I don't think so, anyway - does anyone know? Can Guinea Pigs actually swim?)
And we have been washing the inside of the Polytunnel - amazing how much more light there is inside, now!
Thanks to Compostman for all his help (he does the overhead bits and so gets the armpit full of water! - my excuse is he is taller than me and I can't reach)
What have you been planting or doing recently?
Thursday, 7 March 2013
I was lucky enough to be invited to London yesterday by Ecover to the launch of their new campaign ‘Message in our Bottle’ - but sadly I could not attend ( my back is not yet up to a 3 hour each way train journey yet)
As I was sent the press release, though, I thought I would share it with you all as it sounds really interesting. and is a positive step forward in both reducing packaging waste AND reducing marine pollution.
Ecological innovator, Ecover, today unveiled plans to launch a world-first in packaging in 2014 - an entirely new form of fully sustainable and recyclable plastic incorporating post-consumer recyclables (PCR), Plantastic – plastic made from 100% sugarcane and plastic fished from the sea, along with an influential art project designed to attract mass attention.
The press launch was also used to unveil an ambitious art project designed to influence and engage.Research from the Marine Conservation Society reveals that plastic debris accounts for almost 60 per cent of all litter found on UK beaches and it is widely recognised that vast amounts of beach waste ends up in the sea. Working closely with Waste Free Oceans (WFO), Logoplaste (who are supporting the development of the new materials) UK plastic recycling plant Closed Loop, Ecover will be working with fishing communities to collect plastic* and reintroduce it into the recycling chain via its bottles – a solution which will help protect the delicate sea-based eco-systems and give a whole new meaning to ‘catch of the day’. Trials have already begun on the exact mix of the three plastics which allow the brand to deliver what will be the first ever fully sustainable and recyclable plastic.
Renowned sculptor Ptolemy Elrington, will be creating a free-standing, attention-grabbing art installation which will be unveiled at Glastonbury 2013. Using recycled content – including sea waste – the installation has been designed as a focal meeting point for festival goers – and an education opportunity into the bargain.After Glastonbury, the new installation will then take pride of place at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show alongside Ecover’s show garden by Matthew Childs. An upcoming gardener, Childs won the Conceptual Gardens category at Hampton Court in 2012. This year he is designing the ‘Ecover Recovery Garden’ which will also be championing plastic from the seas, and will help further convey the importance of sustainability within plastic materials.
All this sounds really interesting and I was really sorry I had to miss out on attending. But, even though I could not go to the launch Ecover sent me the goody bag I would have received if I had gone, which was jolly nice of them and which I will enjoy using. The bottles are made from Plantastic - if you use Ecover products look for a distinctive green and blue Plant-astic logo
What do you think about this? I have mixed feelings about using land to grow sugar cane to make plastic, rather than using it for food BUT I totally applaud the idea of retrieving plastic waste from the seas and recycling it.
If only we could stop people throwing the stuff into the seas, in the first place...!
Monday, 4 March 2013
Seeing as so many of you mentioned my Snowdrops, I thought I would take you on a little walk around the garden and show you what is growing at the moment...
Snowdrops along the edge of the gravel
Cassi Cat sniffing the flowers
Out on the front road and more snowdrops along our verge
Back inside our garden and I heard buzzing...and spotted this lovely bumble bee on the honeysuckle.
She was moving purposefully from flower to flower, getting valuable nectar to fill her tummy and give her energy
Leaving the bee behind, here is an old cider mill, again surrounded by Snowdrops
Corner of the garden looking out of our front boundary hedge onto the lane. More Snowdrops, and lots of Daffodils popping up now. And a Primrose in the bottom right corner.
A splendid Hellebore under a tree
Turning away from the lane now and heading across the garden towards the veg plot and wood.
The remains of a Silver Birch carries some interesting fungi.
More Snowdrops - it has been a really good year for them I think.
I hope you all enjoyed the look around my garden.