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, 30 August 2013

A day out with friends

Today Compostgirl and I went out with some friends, leaving Compostman to finish putting back all the kitchen benches on to the newly re tiled lower kitchen floor - He has done a magnificent job of re tiling and it looks lovely.

With the new chicks now hatched, we have a slightly different routine first thing - I take a mug of tea and let Nutmeg and chicks out to roam and feed, keeping an eye on Cats, Buzzards etc, and then I feed then and shut them in and let out all the other hens.

After we had done this and the other morning jobs we all set off in Maria's car towards Newent, first stop was to see Kempley Church

which is a delightful Norman church, displaying one of the most outstandingly complete and well preserved sets of medieval wall paintings in England, dating from the 12th and 14th centuries.






After we had admired the wall paintings we walked around the churchyard and enjoyed the quiet valley, which in spring is covered in wild daffodils and is part of the Poets Way and the Dymock Poets Walk

Stopping at a local garden centre to have coffee and cake (and feed the Koi Carp in the huge lake!) we then went on towards Newent, stopping off to walk along the restored section of canal at Oxenhall, which is in the care of the Herefordshire and Gloustershire Canal Trust


Finally, in Newent, we did a little shopping, had a wander around and ate an excellent lunch:)

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

New arrivals and a very proud, very caring Mama Hen


This is what I videoed, yesterday afternoon.

And this is what greeted me when I went out to check on Nutmeg this morning :)






Two chicks have hatched!

The dark one is a French Copper Blue Marans, the creamy one is a French Wheaten Marans cockerel x Cream Legbar hen.

And here is a video of their first few steps :)



Nutmeg, aged nearly 6, a generic ginger hybrid, first time broody hen :) Well done lovely hen :)

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

New floor tiles and nearly, new chicks :)


 Compostman hard at work laying down the new terracotta floor tiles. They are lovely, but how I wish we had not had to spend the money and take the time to do this unexpected work.



 Oh well, they do look good and won't get damaged if we have any other water leaks


On to happier stuff.  See the pipping? :)


More news, tomorrow :)

Sunday, 25 August 2013

More insect attracting plants


Today I
 sorted out some lovely plants sent a couple of days ago by Gardening Express for me to add to my new bee and insect attracting beds.

If you haven't come across Gardening Express before, this is what they say about themselves.
Gardening Express was established in the late 1990's by Chris Bonnett, whilst still a teenager, after he decided it would be a fantastic idea to combine his passion of the great outdoors and plants with the Internet. Following past experience of plants purchased from other mail order companies, it was quickly decided that there was room for much improvement in the market; they never seemed to grow and we knew we could do much better, and so, Gardening Express was born.
I first encountered them via someone who had used them in a display garden and  I like the Gardening Express website. As as they say on their website 
As testimony to our quality, we've been successful enough to be selected as a supplier for high profile designers, that exhibit at such events as the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Celebrities, PR companies and film set designers all trust us to supply the plants they need - we're only ever a phone call away for those special requests, or a tweet to @GardeningExpres if you’re in with the Social networking trend.
I like this bit especially!
Everything we sell is guaranteed - we don't send out anything we would not be delighted to receive ourselves. Most of our plants are supplied pot grown, and we tell you exactly how large or small they are. We were fed up of ordering expensive plants and being sent spindly twigs with no soil. Our specially designed packaging ensures everything arrives with you in pristine condition.
We believe in the price you see is the price you pay, unlike other companies that sting you with hidden charges, all our prices include delivery to your door for all orders over £175. With our price promise, and 5 year Hardy Plant Guarantee, you have the peace of mind that you could not buy better plants anywhere else.

They very kindly offered to let me chose a few plants to try out and write about from their very good selection of herbaceous perennials and I decided on 

Verbena Bonariensis. 

Verbena Rigida - Low Growing Perennial Purple Verbena.  

Achillea filipendul.'Cloth of Gold' - Yarrow.  

Geranium sanguineum.



The plants arrived by courier, well packaged in cardboard

 

Each plant pot was wrapped in a plastic bag ( to preserve moisture?) which I did not like so much, but I can recycle the packaging so that was OK. The  cardboard will be added to the compost bins or wormeries.



The plants are HUGE! And in good condition, considering they are herbaceous perennials which are now coming to the end of their flowering period. I was also most impressed that the pots contained multiple plants, not the usual one - so in theory I could split them and get several plants from one pot :) I like that in plants :)

At the moment I am in the process of digging out another new flower bed, so I think these will stay in the "nursery" area and be taken care of in pots for a little while, until I decide exactly where I want to plant them.
 
I am MOST impressed with both the customer service and the plants from Gardening Express, I have had a few plants from them in the past, apart from these latest ones, and I would definitely order  plants from them again

 
When I work out what to plant in my new, year round insect attracting bed I will HAVE to consider how to include some of this mint (without it taking over!)


This herb box outside our kitchen window is absolutely alive with hoverflies, bees, butterflies, wasps and flies. You would not believe how buzzing with life it is :)

A dreadful day.


Yesterday was a dreadful day :(

It started out with one of the four eggs under Nutmeg being rejected by her and pecked to bits - an embryo in it but deformed, which is presumably why she rejected it and shoved it as far away from her as possible - broody hens are very good at spotting non viable embryos.

Later on found the flooring was not usable again for the lower Kitchen so we had to go into Hereford and buy new floor tiles, for a room which was only refurbished a few years back and was not scheduled to be re done for many years . And, is taking lots of time for Compostman to do, which he was intending to spend re doing the pool area with the JCB as it is dry and fine.  Grrr.

And then finally at bedtime we were disturbed by knocking from a neighbour, who had accidentially hit Gizzie with their car, on the lane outside our  house.  Gizzie was killed instantly, which was a mercy, but it was horrible. We were all very upset, especially Compostgirl :(

Am glad today is over.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Another Marjoram Update


Marjoram with her very broody friend Nutmeg


 They are such good friends that Nutmeg allows Marjoram into the sleeping area to rest during the day, although Nutmeg drives off all the other hens.



Friday, 23 August 2013

Water leak update. 

Everything out of the room ( all the preserving/brewing/baking supplies as well as all the store cupboard stuff - now spread around the rest of house )

Skirting boards off, whole kitchen floor up and inner wall lining removed - 


Flooring is ruined whole room will need replacing and relaying.  Another job to do, in a room which was not done that long ago and was not on the list to be re decorated for many years.

Still, only floor is damaged, not food or precious equipment or even more precious people and other animals. Cats not impressed with the chaos, though.



Thursday, 22 August 2013

A bit of a water leak...

in our kitchen.

Actually it is a bit of  ( a lot of ) a disaster.
We had some friends around today and during the course of the visit I thought I could hear "hissing"  but thought it was the cider fermenting on the bench
And then later in the evening ...we saw water oozing up between the wooden floor covering




A water pipe ( not a joint!) behind the internal insulation wall had corroded and leaked water down and under the wooden laminate flooring



So all the lower kitchen cupboards and benches ( and contents!) had to come out so we could check for the damage.

After we lifted the wooden flooring, unfortunately it looks like the wooden flooring is too damaged to re use :(

Squelch, squelch.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Marjoram update

She is still with us :)

She is still living in the house in the cat carrier but now goes outside during the day with the other hens , who on the whole are kind to her :)

I DO watch to make sure, though .

I take her outside when I go out to sort out Chicken Village, I put her down at the top of the wood, where  Chicken Village is situated.

I get Nutmeg out from her Broody Duties, and the two of them eat together - they were good friends before Nutmeg went Broody and Marjoram went moulty and then ill.

No other hens interfere as they are still shut in, it is just these two old girls, together :) And me - another old girl, sitting on the bench, drinking tea and chatting to them. Sometimes Cassi Cat joins me :)

Then Nutmeg goes back to The Eggs and Marjoram finds a quiet and sunny spot to sit and rest :)





Renovations and decorations


One of the things we have been doing recently is moving back into the newly renovated and redecorated master bedroom.

After what seems like a very long time (16 years!) the room is finally completed, Compostman did a terrific job and we are so pleased with the result!

The colour scheme in the bedroom is similar to that which we chose  for the sitting room. With the wooden floor, furniture and doors the effect there was (in our opinion) really lovely - lots of earth tones. It was only after we finished that we realised the colour scheme was similar to one we had seen in an online paint catalogue!




Regardless, these are our favourite colours and we wanted a similar, warm, cosy effect in our new bedroom. Compostman and I discussed colour schemes but in the end we decided we liked the caramel/terracotta/chocolate theme so much that we would use the same colours again. And of course we still had lots of paint left over, so it was a thrifty move to make as well.

So in our new bedroom we have one terracotta wall,


the other three walls are caramel, the woodwork and ceiling is white and we have picked chocolate coloured blinds for the windows. 


Obviously to turn a painted room into our new cosy bedroom I had a wish list of things we needed;  a bed, headboard, mattress, wardrobe, lighting fittings, several chests, new curtains/blinds and at least one bookcase (!) as well as blinds, a rug or two, a blanket chest and pictures, candles etc.

After a good clean up and polish we re used our old wooden wardrobe and chests and with the new (FSC) solid oak wooden floor the overall effect is pretty good, although I do say it myself :)  We removed the old carpet and took it away - we inherited it when we moved in and it was old, even then, but not in a good way.

We have moved our divan bed and headboard from our old bedroom.  I decided to replace the (very old and rather faded) curtains with blinds as I realised just how much better blinds would be to shut out the light. I managed to find some blackout blinds in exactly the right colour chocolate and the old curtains have been washed and cut up for patchwork and rags.

I remembered I had a wool rug stored away in the loft which we inherited from Compostmans parents' house. I got it out and it is just right for the room :)




I am now sorting through the fabric stash to see what I can use to make the log cabin quilt I have in mind for our bed in the new bedroom :)

Apart from a couple of small rugs for either side of the bed where our feet hit the floor and a chocolate valance sheet, the room is finished and it is just how we wanted it. I am so pleased with the result :)






The view from one of our bedroom windows.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Hen stuff

I have been candling the eggs Nutmeg is sitting on

 Home made candling stuff


Tube, very bright torch, cardboard with hole cut out so egg sits on it ( and does not fall through!)




All four eggs seem fertile, possibly one is not.

We shall see, on day 22! (28 August)

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Setting aside the worrying  stuff about Fracking - we have been harvesting lots of produce from the veg patch in the last few days.




I feel a sense of dread at what the future may hold for us here around Much Marcle if Fracking does come here :(

I have just told a friend about it and she was shocked - she had no idea of the issues involved or that there was such a threat in Herefordshire.

But life has to go on, even with all the turbulence around us. We have a water leak in our kitchen, and have been lifting spuds, and having friends round to drink tea.

Please, if you could, sign the petition Ban Fracking in Herefordshire

Saturday, 17 August 2013

So, in the latest news from a world gone mad, what madness is this?


my wonderful patch of the world has been identified as a potential site for Hydraulic Fracturing - that is Fracking to you and me.




We lie directly between Fownhope and Fowlet Farm on the above map and these two places are only a few miles away

I am in a state of shock at this news - I have supported campaigns elsewhere in the UK against Fracking, but never, ever thought we might be a target area as well!

Oh well, time to walk the walk again and get campaigning, I guess!

Friday, 16 August 2013

A house hen and a confused cat!

Marjoram the last of the ex battery hens from the rescue of Dec 2011 is poorly :( 




And has needed special treatment and is now inside as a House Hen. Hopefully she will recover, given special food and lots of love. She has gone into a full moult and I fear her poor little body cannot cope with the stress of growing back her new feathers.

Hopefully I can help her get through this difficult time and she will live on to enjoy her peaceful retirement. She is a lovely little hen and loves to be stroked and cuddled - she purrs and croons at me when I feed her treats by hand.

Gizzie the newest cat  is also confined inside at the moment ( as a  new cat she needs to be kept in for a few days) and looks a bit nonplussed at sharing the kitchen with a Hen in a cat carrier! They seem to be getting on ok, though.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Meet the newest member of our cat family.

Meet Gizzie, the newest member of our cat family .






She belongs to Babs at Little Terraced House, who put out a plea for help on her blog a couple of days ago.

Those who follow Little Terraced House will know that things have been very hard for them all, with a sick grandchild the other side of the World, and lots of other issues to contend with. Life has not been kind to them recently.

Babs and I are fellow Master Composters and, although we had only met in real life once before, I could see how desperate she was to re home their beloved cat before they left (at very short notice) to return to Australia .

So after discussing it with Compostman and Compostgirl, we offered to help and now have the care of lovely Gizzie.

Babs and your lovely OH - we will do our very best to look after her well. She is an absolute darling - although the other cats do NOT agree at the moment!


Monday, 12 August 2013

Can you spy a panda?


No, I am NOT suggesting Compostman is like a panda! But...we have a HUGE thicket of rampant Bamboo which we need to sort out.


So..the Allen Scythe was brought into action along with various hand tools, to cut down the thicket of bamboo.

This is the pile of cut bamboo canes after less than half of the growth has been cut down,.



The bamboo is so rampant - it is taking over a huge area


  and we have to stop it spreading so drastic pruning is needed.



I have offered the canes to our local Wildlife Trust and also the Play rangers who work with them, so hopefully lots of bug houses and dens will get built all over Herefordshire as a result of our "pruning"

Our new bedroom - gaining inspiration from on line shopping sites


As some of you may remember, Compostman has been refurbishing and redecorating our guest bedroom with a view to making it our bedroom. He has been very busy, rehanging the door, putting in new skirting boards, new flooring, he also did a complete repaint with a lot of preparation needed first as the plaster was so bad.


When we moved in to Compost Mansions we chose the smallest bedroom to sleep in, mainly because it had the chimney breast in and was the warmest room in an otherwise very cold house.  But it was rather cramped in there!

The guest bedroom is much larger and has two windows rather than just one and we always planned on moving in "eventually".  But "eventually" ended up being 16 years...

Well you have to think about things before you act, don't you?

Anyway, the room is finally completed, Compostman did a terrific job and we are so pleased with the result!

The colour scheme in the bedroom is similar to that which we chose ( after much argument discussion ) for the sitting room. With the wooden floor, furniture and doors the effect there was (in our opinion) really lovely - lots of earth tones. It was only after we finished that we realised the colour scheme was similar to one we had seen in an online paint catalogue!



Regardless, these are our favourite colours and we wanted a similar, warm, cosy effect in our new bedroom. Compostman and I discussed colour schemes but in the end we decided we liked the caramel/terracotta/chocolate theme so much that we would use the same colours again. And of course we still had lots of paint left over, so it was a thrifty move to make as well.

So in our new bedroom we have one terracotta wall,


the other three walls are caramel and we have picked chocolate coloured blinds for the windows. 


Obviously to turn a painted room into our new cosy bedroom I had a wish list of things we needed;  a bed, headboard, mattress, wardrobe, lighting fittings, several chests, new curtains/blinds and at least one bookcase (!) as well as blinds, a rug or two, a blanket chest and pictures, candles etc.

I did a lot of looking at various Pinterest boards and magazines and on line shopping sites to get ideas - there are lots of lovely things to look at, and I get a lot of inspiration from on line stores even if I don't buy that many items from them. I  always come away from an on line browse with design ideas for colour schemes - both for the house and in the garden.

After a good clean up and polish we re used our old wooden wardrobe and chests and with the new wooden floor the overall effect is pretty good, although I do say it myself :)  We removed the old carpet and took it away - we inherited it when we moved in and it was old, even then, but not in a good way.

We have moved our divan bed and headboard from our old bedroom - I would love to have bought a new bed, something like this Auvergne divan from Tempur which I spotted on the Olrids and Downtown on line shopping website. It is exactly the right colour to go in our new bedroom. But we have a perfectly good divan bed and headboard with a new-ish and expensive mattress, so sadly this lovely bed had to stay on the wish list of things I would like, but can't have. I have ordered a chocolate brown valance sheet for our divan bed, though it is a poor substitute.

Another thing on my wish list were blackout blinds - I got the idea to replace the (very old and rather faded) curtains with blinds when I was asked to review the Hilary's Web Blinds site and I realised just how much better blinds would be to shut out the light. I managed to find some blackout blinds in exactly the right colour chocolate from Argos. The old curtains have been washed and cut up for patchwork and rags.

The room had some old and very tatty down lights, which we wanted to replace so I was really pleased to spot the lovely down lights we now have, on the Homebase website , for an on line discount price. I have only recently realised that things can be cheaper if you buy them on line and then collect in store, rather than buy them in the store!

One item on my wish list was a rug and I saw one (again on the Olrids and Downtown site) which I was quite tempted to buy. Then I remembered I had a wool rug stored away in the loft which we inherited from Compostmans parents' house. I got it out and it was a very similar colour scheme and design (which is why I liked the on line one, I guess!) and it is just right for the room :)


There are still bits to put away and more pictures to hang on the wall, but we have been in our new bedroom for a week now and are very pleased with it. I do have a small amount left over from the budget and we would like another bedside chest so I may buy this one.

Or I may not, and instead put the money toward redecorating our old bedroom (last room and then we are finished, for now!)  or even towards fabric to make the log cabin quilt I have in mind for our bed in the new bedroom :)





The view from one of our bedroom windows.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Nutmeg update.

So, with Nutmeg very firmly ensconced on The Eggs, my morning routine has had to change a bit.

I now go out and open the door of the Brody Ark where Nutmeg greets me with a frenzied crescendo of
 " bock bock bock" while I carefully pick her up off the eggs and put her outside.



I have already put her food and water bowl nearby, so she has to move towards it, rather than turning round and going straight back inside to The Eggs.



 here they are - two French Copper Blacks (dark brown) a Dorking x French Wheaten (pale) and a Cream Legbar x French Wheaten ( Blue)

 I quickly shut the doors so Nutmeg can't get back in until she has eaten, drunk



 and eliminated. Broody hens only poo once a day and do huge, very smelly ones. Like this.


While I guard her eggs, Nutmeg eats a bit of grass, does a few stretches and flaps her wings. Then with a huge "squaarrrk" she heads back to the Broody Ark and I let her in.

I do this before I let any of  the other hens out and I shut the others in at night a bit earlier than normal so I can let Nutmeg out again last thing at night for more food and drink.


If I didn't do this I don't think she would bother - I have seen a broody hen turn to skin and bone, rather than leave her eggs and I do not want that for Nutmeg.

Fingers crossed, so far, so good.




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