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!

Friday 31 May 2013

Rocket gardens delivery # 3

In other news apart from struggling with Google, I have been unpacking and planting up my third Constant Garden delivery   from Rocket Gardens. Again, the box was delivered the next morning after I was emailed to tell me it was on the way, again the plants were mostly in beautiful condition and carefully packaged, as I described in my last post about delivery # 2

A couple of tomato plants were a bit sad looking though, as were a couple of the bean plants. I am a great believer in letting people know if there is an issue with stuff - after all how will they know there is a problem if they are not told about it? And how can they fix a problem they are never told about it? So I emailed Rocket Gardens to tell them about the problem and they immediately said they would send me some replacements and thanked me for letting them know. 

Considering the sheer number of plants in the delivery I am amazed and delighted at the good quality and range of the plants I have been sent so far. We are already eating from delivery #2 (salads, spinach and chard) and the other plants are growing well.

I have the staging in the polytunnel absolutely full of lovely plants from Rocket Gardens, both from the last delivery and this latest one :-) I really must get them planted out :-)

But first I need to make up a display board for the Low Carbon Ledbury stall I am doing at the Ledbury Community Fair on Sat :-) I need to get laminating and sort out the display :-)

An update (of sorts)

Hello all :-)

Not been doing much crafting as finally, finally! the weather has changed and I am outside sowing and growing and composting and planting like crazy :-)

I did go to a Quilt show in Malvern a couple of weeks back which was wonderful and I have been cutting up fabric at nights to make home made jelly rolls and squares :-)

Not much else crafting  done, though - not even managed to crochet a square for a month :-(

Never mind, I will get back to it soon enough.

Thursday 30 May 2013

Google + woes and an unwelcome name change!

I  recently somehow managed to join up with Google +     -  I couldn't see why I shouldn't; I had had a number of requests from people who wanted to add me to their circles and I I managed to identify myself in a way on the Google + screen in a way which I was happy with, as Sarah B (Compostwoman)

BUT I found that,  when I post anywhere on the Google empire I had lost being identified as "Compostwoman". Including on this blog and in any comments I leave anywhere else.

Now I like being known as Compostwoman; it is what I do a lot of and I have spent a lot of time writing under that name.

I know it isn't difficult to find out my real name, if you really want to - indeed I have posted links on here which refer to my real name and where I live, so my issue is not one of anonymity. Its is more that I want to carry on being known by a name I have used happily for many years.

Google would not let me use the name Compostwoman, they said it breached their terms, or some such. So I removed myself from Google +, but that didn't work either - I was still not identified as Compostwoman, and I had a " sort of Google +, but not exactly" page .

So I have spent a lot of time today trying to find out how to get back to being Compostwoman and  have finally succeeded.

If you want to do the same, and get back to your old Blogger identity - and you don't mind leaving Google - then follow this link

And good luck!

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Spalding Bulbs Summer colour bulb givaway results.

And the winner is ...naomilever!

Naomi, please leave your address as a comment (I will not publish it) or email it to me at compostwoman@the-compostbin.com

Congratulations :-)

Monday 27 May 2013

Last chance

to enter my givaway!

leave a comment if you want to be added in.

Good luck!

Sunday 26 May 2013

Remember to enter the Givaway - and remember those courgette seeds?

from Seed Pantry?

They have germinated :-)

It took them 4 days :-)

And you only have one more day to leave a comment to enter the Montbrecia Givaway!

Go on, you know you want to :-)

Saturday 25 May 2013

How to plant out Parsnips grown in tubes.

 Remember I planted parsnip seed in toilet roll tubes? Well they are ready to be planted out in the garden now.

Do not wait until "true leaves" have grown -if you do the roots may have also grown out of the bottom of the tube.

And you want to get the tubes in the ground before the tap root comes out of the bottom . 

The reason being that if the root has grown long enough to poke out of the bottom there is a risk that the parsnip will develop a forked root, and we don't want that as it makes it harder to peel !

For the same reason I have always found that carrots do not like being transplanted.

 So, make a hole in the soil - I use a bulb planter


hold the tube firmly so the contents do not fall out and carefully put the tube into the hole, so that the top of the tube sticks up a cm or so above the surface of the soil, This protects the seedling and shows you where it is in the ground

Plant out the rest, spacing them at least 8 inches apart to get large Parsnips. If you want to pull them as small ones you can space them closer together.

Water well, think about covering with fleece or net to stop birds ( hens, in my case) or cats from digging them up.

Weed as needed. Job done :-) And on to the next job on my ( never ending ) list.

Thursday 23 May 2013

Planting and growing and tidying up. (and don't forget the Givaway!)

I planted these courgette seeds, from out of the Seed Pantry Summer Veg box, on 22nd  May. The Seed Pantry kit, (which I was sent back in Febuary) comes with coir dics which just need water added, also rice husk and coir pots to grow in. I added water, seeds and put the cover over the little tray.

We will see what happens, but I am (again) impressed with the contents of the Seed Pantry Kit. The carrots are growing well and the mange tout are all sprouting strongly :-)

I have had my hands in a lot of coir related products this week, as on Tuesday I went over to Withington  to get some more growing medium from Fertile Fibre, who sell Soil Association approved organic composts. More about that in another post, though! I need to do the visit justice :-)

Armed with more growing medium, I have been busy potting on lots of plants, selling a lot more and getting the polytunnel into its summer layout. Tomato plants are doing well and I have some small fruits already setting :-)

Not sure I am going to beat my record of eating the first ripe tomato on June 16th this yeat, but still, I can almost taste that first, ripe, red, juicy tomato now...mmm.

I just need more hours in the day!

Don't forget to enter the Givaway, will you :-) I will draw the names on Bank Holiday Monday.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

When the big hens are shut away....and don't forget to enter the Givaway!

Out come the New girls!

Pearl, Amber, Treacle, Marigold and Pepper, waiting to be let out.

Having a good poke around in the ground.

The potatoes coming through in the outside raised bed - fenced off from the chickens!

I managed to do some mowing today - still loads more to cut but it came on to rain so I had to stop.

We had a bit of excitement inside the garage today - one of the cats caught a mole and let it go inside the garage, so we had a lot of fun trying to catch it to rescue it! Moles are very noisy!

Amber hen has decided she likes being my pet chicken and she follows me everywhere. She sits on my shoulder sometimes :-)

Off to do more gardening and growing - it is a very busy time of year!

Hope everybody is doing well - don't forget to enter the giveaway!

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Summer Colour Givaway!

The nice people at Spalding Bulbs contacted me recently to ask me if I would like to run a competition/ givaway on my blog. Being a kind sort and liking to give you little presents from time to time, I said yes please.

All I had to do, was to select an item I wanted from the website and then they would send me two of it. One for me and one for you :-)
Bearing in mind I have to post this item onwards to the winner,  I selected some summer flowering montbrecia bulbs   athough the Spalding Bulbs website had seeds and all sorts of other tempting gardening items on display. As they only post out the very best, the bulbs are available at certain times of the year only.

I picked Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora ‘Lucifer’ the more well known variety with beautiful red flowers. Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora ‘Emily Mckenzie’ has orange flowers which look more like a lily flower.
I have a place earmarked for them and hopefully they will be a beautiful display in a few months.

So...leave me a comment and in a couple of days I will pick a name out of a hat and send the lucky winner some bulbs. Due to postage and customs I am afraid UK readers only, please.

Monday 20 May 2013

My henny helpers

 Whenever I step outside during the day I am greeted by this...

When I go out to hang out some washing I am followed...

In fact wherever I go, I am followed! I have constant companions now, either Cassie Cat, or my friendly, feathery hens.

At the moment I am keeping the Ginger Gang seperated from the New Girls - I am still treating the Ginger Girls for lice and I do not want the lice to hop over onto the New Girls!

So I let the Ginger Gang out mid morning and then after lunch I shout...and they all come running.

A treat of some corn gets them inside their walk in run. This is the run I am cleaning out every day and dusting with Diatonaceous earth powder so as to kill off any lice on any dropped feathers. I have also dug out a dust bowl  for the hens in the ground. They love it :-)

 When they have eaten their fill it is sleepy time. One by one, they go over into a patch of sunshine,

And settle down on the ground for a well deserved snooze.

All together, in a huddle of ginger feathers. And slowly, their eyelids droop and they doze off.

And snore!

Sunday 19 May 2013

Useful gardening/planting advice.

Just a reminder that you can find all sorts of useful ( I hope) to you articles under the "how to..." tab at the top of the page!

Starting Parsnip seeds

Growing Beans

Growing Potatoes in bags

Growing Potatoes and Jerusalem Artichokes

are all useful NOW - the way the weather has been we are at least 3 weeks behind the "normal" planting schedules, if not more...!

Happy gardening :-)

Saturday 18 May 2013

Malvern Quilt Show and delousing hens.

I went to the The Three Counties showground on Friday, to attend the Malvern Quilt Show. The TCS is the home of the RHS Spring Gardening show and of course the Three Counties Show, as well as many other events.

I had a lovely time at the Quilt show - I went with a friend and we spent about three hours looking around at the stalls and the display gallery of quilts. I enjoyed chatting to the stallholders and especially to Maggi from Sunflower Fabrics. I really liked the quilt she is standing next to (she made it)  and was so tempted to buy her pattern, or even the kit - but I had a budget which I wanted to spend on fabric, so I didn't.

I loved this Green Man, on a quilt made by  Sew Enchanting

The display of competition quilts was stunning. I got so many ideas!

We bought some lunch ( which was ok but we really should have taken our own!) but after about four hours there, we had seen everything we wanted to see and were a bit  "quilted out" so came away. But we both felt we had been inspired to do different things with our crafting.

I took more photos but my friend has the show catalogue so I shall wait until I get it back so I can tell you a bit more about the quilts.
As we walked in from the car park it was interesting to see that workers were still doing "take down" of the many show gardens from the RHS show the weekend before - presumably plants and trees not needed at RHS Chelsea?

I had a nap when I got home - the sinus problems I still have are making it difficult to sleep and I seem to be operating on "tired" all day so a four hour walk about left me a bit shattered. It was nice to go out for the day, though and especially nice to spend it with my friend Maria :-)

After my nap I felt strong enough to treat the Ginger Gang of hens, and their house and run, for lice. This is a fairly major job and needed doing today, as we are on a schedule of treatment. The Ginger Gang are prone to infestations as some cannot preen properly due to being de beaked in the battery cages :-(  My usual routine seemed not to be working last month and the girls were very lice ridden (yuck) so I went to see Mike the Vet and now I am having to apply a drop-on wormer/de louser on the back of their necks every 10 days; today was the second of three doses. I have also cleared the run and house of all straw, paper bedding etc and dusted everywhere with Diatom and their run is also covered in the stuff - so  have to "poo pick" every day. I also have to throw all their eggs, not that they lay very many anyway!

 If I can get them clear of lice I can keep them relatively louse free, although total lice free-ness is unlikely due to the wild birds around us, who also carry them. To be honest it is all a bit of a palaver, but the Lice have been banished (so far) so the Ginger Gang will feel more comfortable and that makes it worth the extra work.

Still makes me feel itchy whenever I see the lice, though!

Wednesday 15 May 2013

RIP Yarrow Hen

RIP Yarrow Hen, who died yesterday evening. She had a good life, well lived. With us she had had 18 months of freedom, after her 18 months in the cruel battery cages.

As those of you who have followed my blog since 2012 will know,  Yarrow was a very special girl; even amongst hens who are ALL special to us, she was a little star. I  am very sad to lose her and miss her hugely, already.

She had been "winding down" for a few months and I am so glad she had a really good last day in the sun; sitting on my lap and being cuddled and told how much I loved her; sitting on the ground in the sunshine soaking up the rays; being cuddled by her flock who all came and collapsed all around her as only hens can do. 

Despite all this, and despite having a normal morning yesterday, by  the afternoon Yarrow was obviously suffering  (not able to walk around, deep purple coloured comb, gasping, not able to eat even the treat of unlimited mealworms). 

I can normally dispatch chickens who are in distress or injured but  this time I found myself unable to kill my pet hen Yarrow, for which I feel ashamed (as I should have been able to help her when she was suffering, but could not). So, I quickly took Yarrow down to Mike our Vet, who agreed her time had come, due to a  combination of failing heart/old age, and who ended her suffering kindly and quickly.

Mike, who as a newly qualified Vet helped Yarrow to recover from a broken leg during his first few weeks at our local practice, has been such a help over the last 18 months.  With all the issues the ex battery hens in my little flock have had, especially Yarrow, he has been such a help, for which  I thank him so much. And I especially thank him for his kindness and understanding as to why I was crying over the death of what many people might dismiss as "just a hen". He was lovely, as are all the staff at our local Veterinary  Surgery. We are very lucky with them.

We buried Yarrow hen  in the wood today, in the place where many other feathery friends are also buried. She liked to furtle around in the wood and it seems a good place for her remains to be buried. I heard my first Skylark of 2013 as we were filling in the hole. Appropriate, I felt.

Fly high, little Yarrow hen and know you are missed and were very loved indeed.

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Climbing out of the clothing rut and getting a new look.

I've been thinking about my "image" recently. Living where I do and doing what I do, I tend to live in jeans, t shirt, shirts, boots and fleeces. Normally I wear the same sort of thing day in, day out - I have a few plain, coloured t shirts and shirts in cotton, which I layer over jeans. If it is cold I put a cardi, sweater or fleece over the top. In summer I just wear the t shirts and trousers and leave off the top layers.

I have good versions - clean, tidy and no stains (!) and when they get tatty they get moved into "everyday garden wear" and finally "cleaning out the chickens" wear, until they end up as "rags/dusters/compost bin" fodder!

If I go out, I dress in slightly smarter trousers and tops but it is still just a variation on what I wear every day. I'm not very glamorous looking and I do sometimes feel I look a bit dull, certainly not the look I want to have, anyhow. I feel like I have got into a bit of a rut, clothes wise!

However, I have recently been invited to a number of events where it would be a good idea to wear some smarter clothes  :-) I am still talking about trousers and tops, but at the pretty end rather than everyday wear. I need them to be suitable for travelling in and attending meetings and talks, as well being able to work in them (lecturing and demonstrating rather than digging compost). Fortunately I haven't got rid of anything recently which I now regret!

I do care about how I look and want to dress well, even if I am not one for a lot of makeup or glamour or fuss and my taste tends towards the casual :-) So, I have decided to buy a few, choice "new to me"  items to build up a collection of clothes I can mix and match and layer, for different occasions. I also want to get some pattern in to my clothing as well, rather than just sticking to plain colours all the time.

I can't spend a lot of money, but I have been looking around at shops in Hereford and also on line.  I couldn't find much in most of the usual places I shop, both charity or High Street, until I looked in  New Look

White Pattern (White) Samya White Patchwork Owl Top  | 284944919 | New LookNew Look have some lovely clothes in stock at the moment (no, they are not just for the young and/or very skinny!)  and I particularly liked their new line of tribal tops - especially this Owl top which is only available on line.Olive (Green) Inspire Khaki Burnout Ying Yang T-Shirt | 284201633 | New Look

I think with a smart pair of dark linen trousers (New Look sell those also) a scarf and maybe a single colour linen  long line jacket over the top (of which I have several, in different colours) these tops would look good on me and they are made of 100% cotton, which is helpful.
Blue (Blue) 30in Dark Blue Faded Ripped Skinny Jeans | 270141940 | New LookMaybe not for wearing to meetings, but I also saw some very fashionable ripped jeans in their on line store, which I loved the look of, but which I would need to lose a bit of weight to fit into I think. Oddly, I have a number of pairs of jeans just like them at home, so maybe I am not as frumpy as I thought and just need to give them a good wash, to be fashionable again?

Mine are patched  have patchwork embellishments, though :-)

Cream (Cream) Cream Circle Crochet Tassel Top | 271634513 | New Look
I also loved this Boho chic crochet top and it was a very reasonable price, but it is made of acrylic yarn so I think I might just have a go at making one myself out of cotton yarn.

Pink (Pink) Cameo Rose Coral Ombre Crochet Batwing Top | 280857170 | New Look

I did however, really like this cotton version and may well buy it, as well as the tops and linen trousers I mentioned :-)

It did not take me long to find a few new items at New Look. They will mix and match with the existing things I already have at home, to make several "new looks" for me. A couple are on line exclusives; one can be bought in store as well but I will order it on line if I am placing an order.

I might even show you some photos of me, when I get some new clothes :-) or maybe not :-)

I tend to shop in New Look or M & S on the odd occasion I shop for new clothes in High Street shops, because Labour behind the Label rate them as some of the high street brands who are doing more to help workers than others. You can consult the latest Let’s Clean up Fashion report to see who is doing more and who is doing less on the high street.


I do need some new clothes and I shop in New Look anyway, which is why I accepted a paid link in this post. As always all the words and ideas are all my own - but I did copy the images of the items I want to buy from the New Look website.

I am a supporter of Labour behind the Label,  and am always happy to mention the good work they do to improve conditions and empower workers in the global garment industry. 

Sunday 12 May 2013

Yarrow hen - winding down.

I have written before about Yarrow, my ex battery hen who was rescued from the cages at the end of 2011.

She had a broken leg when we collected her and for a time was very poorly indeed and had to be kept in hentensive care in the polytunnel. She lived in there, with Comfrey aka Flappy chicken  - who had a broken wing - for several months.

When she finally joined the rest of the feathery gang, she rapidly took over the top hen spot and, despite being lame and a bit slow to run around, has maintained the top spot ever since. She lost her friend Comfrey in the great fox attack this time last year :-( but joined up with the other ex battery hen Marjoram and old girl Nutmeg to make a triumvirate of old Ginger Hens, all handbags at dawn and annoyed muttering at the antics of the "new hens" and the cats :-)

She has had a good year of freedom, creating mayhem, chasing Cassie Cat, invading the kitchen and generally having loads of fun and giving us so much joy watching her antics. But she has been slowly winding down the mischief over the last few months, there is nothing wrong with her that anyone can see - she is just getting old.

Yesterday she seemed very weary and when I let the Ginger Gang out to free range, she didn't want to walk very far out of the run, so I picked her up ( she has lost a lot of weight) and sat in the sunshine, cuddling her. She leaned into me and crooned a bit and nibbled on my hand. And I told her how much I loved her and what a good hen she was. I carried her into the barn and I offered her some mealworms and also some Garvo (which she adores) and she ate them up but only some very tiny beakfuls.

She still enjoys a dust bathe, eating mealworms, lying in the sunshine and pecking at the other hens to keep them in their place, but I am watching her for " the moment" when she can't do any of that any more.

But for now, she is still having fun, in the sunshine, even if it is at a slower pace than before.

Friday 10 May 2013

How I prick out and pot on my tomato plants.

I have been asked quite a few times recently how I grow my tomato plants, a reminder that there is a  "How to " guide on growing tomatoes, peppers and aubergines on the "How to..." tab up the top and I also talk about this subject on my YouTube channel.

But I realised I haven't discussed what I do with the plants once they have germinated so I thought I would do another  "How to" guide,  on pricking out and potting on Tomato plants.

Seed sown Feb 10th 2013, in porch in heated propagator at ~20 C

 March 2nd 2013 - seeds germinated and seed leaves showing.
At the end of March the seedlings were pricked out into individual 2 inch pots, with the soil well up the stem so as to encourage aerial roots to grow.


April 14th 2013 Plants well grown and need moving from these 2 inch pots into next size (3 inch) pot.

If you click on the photo above, you can see the tiny hairs on the stem - these will form more soil roots if buried.

Again, the stem is covered with soil to encourage the aerial roots ( the tiny hairs) to turn into soil roots - this gives the plant a better root system and so it can take up more nutrients and water.

And so we come to today, where I potted some plants on again, this time into 4 inch pots. These are not the same plants as above ( they are now in 6 inch pots and have their first flower trusses) but I thought it would be useful to show how I do this.

I carefully took the plant out of  the old pot. You can see from the photo below how much extra root system has been produced by earthing up the stem each time.

 This is the way I re fill the pot around the plant.

I put the plant in the pot and tilt it away from me,

then gently pour growing medium into the pot on the side nearest to me.

 I then tilt the pot towards me and pour growing medium into the pot on the side furthest away from me.

This puts the plant upright in the pot, and I add more growing medium until the soil level is up to the next pair of true leaves.

I do the same with peppers and aubergines, but do not bury them so deep. I am careful with all the plants not to overwater them, so as to avoid the soft stems rotting. Once the stems are harder (as they age) this is less of an issue.

I will probably pot the tomatoes into larger (6 inch) pots once more, before they go into their final places in the polytunnel, growing individually in builder's buckets standing in gravel trays.

This is what it looked like last year, at the start of July.

I only have 100 or so more plants to pot on, today!

Hope this helps you to understand how I grow them :-)