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!

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Master Composters at Hellens - The Garden Festival

The Garden Festival at Hellens was totally terrific and absolutely excellent! As the website says: 
Our theme for the 2013 Festival is: Abundance - in nature, on the land, in our gardens, allotments, balconies, woods and hedgerows. Once again we will be gathering an interesting mix of speakersexhibitors and demonstrators - all in the beautiful setting of Hellens Manor. 

We welcome up to 3,000 visitors to the event so it is a great opportunity for the public to find great products and services - as well as having a lovely family day out.

Luckily for me I had an "abundance" of fellow Master Composter volunteers with me on our stall over the weekend, which was a good thing as the place was absolutely heaving with people having fun in the glorious sunshine. On Saturday I had the company of Paul all day and Christine E in the afternoon. It was lovely to see them both, as it is some time since we last met up and in the lulls I was able to catch up with all their news :-)

Here is the stall, set up and ready to go on Saturday morning. We were in a corner, between the Hereford Waldorf School children's activity tent (the white tent, above) and another big marquee full of interesting stalls selling lovely stuff and various "green" themed charities. I must thank the organising team of Gail, Michael and Maggie for putting us there and sorting out the splendid green tent for us :-)

Our main stall table has lots of leaflets on how to make compost; the discount compost bins available; information about Garden Organic; samples of coir based growing medium (peat free alternative); free seeds and pencils to hand out; and examples of what can be composted.

This tray contains grass, herbs, flowers and the (compostable) bags contain straw, crumpled newspaper, egg boxes, wool, cotton waste, paper sheets, toilet roll tubes, hay and shredded paper. This is to show people what can be composted...

and what it turns into! 

Here are some samples dug from my compost bins at 5 am on Sat morning (!) to show people what finished compost should look like. It will have bits in - if you want it to look fine you need to sieve or riddle it.

More display boards, compost bins, a "can o worms" wormery and our seed planting activity table completed our set up.

We spoke to more than 150 people on Sat which was a terrific result :-) At the end of the day we were invited to a Pimms reception on the beautiful terraces, but the reception had to move to another location due to a swarm of honey bees!  Still, it was good to chat to the organisers and the family who own Hellens, as well as other stallholders.

Sadly I didn't get to listen to Brigit Strawbridge talk about bees  :-( (check out her amazing blog  here)  but I did manage to catch up with her later and have a chat :-) If you are reading this it was lovely to see you again Brigit :-) and good luck with your new venture at Bumblebee Farm. 

I got home at 7 pm very hot and tired but a shower and some dinner and a sit in the garden with my cats and hens soon perked me up again. I sorted out new leaflet supplies and my laptop and projector and put them in the car, then went to bed early, ready for another early start on Sunday.

Sunday was another glorious day, a few less people at the Festival but still very busy! I was helped on Sunday by fellow Master Composters Christine J, Janice and Nina which meant there were enough of us so we all got to leave the stall and have a look around the Festival. I bought some lovely organically grown plants from The Cottage Herbery. They are based locally and grow their plants in Fertile Fibre coir based compost, indeed they originally founded Fertile Fibre before handing it on to Matthew at Withington Court. I always enjoy talking to Kim & Rob about plants and they are very knowledgeable :-)

Then after lunch (pork roll from The Squeaky Pig Company  and Noggin Farm  - yum) it was time to get ready for my talk. I got everything set up in the Cider Barn - cool and dark with a stone flagged floor which was a lovely contrast after the now scorching heat outside. I was a little surprised, but very pleased, to see that all the seats were filled plus there were a couple of people standing so that was 25 people in total waiting to listen to "Lets talk Compost!" 

My talk is illustrated with lots of slides with photos from my garden - you would probably recognise many of them from this blog - as well as samples of compost to look at and a "can it be composted" card on each of the seats - I ask people to decide what they think about the item on their card at the start of the talk and then ask them at the end if they have changed their mind - people often do after hearing the talk!

The audience seemed to enjoy what I had to say
about composting and growing, which is always a relief! I had a
45 minute slot to complete my talk and answer questions, but then I was asked to carry on and answer more questions. As there was no one else due to use the room, I did so and we carried on for another 15 minutes :-)

Then it was 4 pm and time to pack up the stall and somehow fit it all back into my car ( which I still have not yet unloaded!)

In total over the weekend we spoke
to 250 people (maybe more, I wasn't there all the time).  Lots of people who were all wanting to know more about composting - how to get started, how to do it better, what to do with the compost they make. Hopefully they feel more informed, now.

I have had a really excellent weekend of volunteering, with a group of friends, at a fabulous venue with excellent organisation, to promote a subject we are all passionate about.  

Can't really get much better than that, I think :-)


  1. Looks like it was a fantastic weekend!

    1. It was Stephen - thank you for booking the event for us :-)

  2. Brilliant! I wish I could have gone. Do you have contacts for groups doing similar work in the US?

    1. I am trying to sort out some links for you but the interweb is not playing tonight, here!

    2. http://bernalilloextension.nmsu.edu/mastercomposter/what-is-a-master-compost.html



  3. So glad you had a good time Sarah, and met so many visitors. Look forward to seeing you next year!

    1. Thank you for organising such a lovely event :-) Looking forward to next year already :-)


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