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 29 November 2013

Food handling training - with a difference!

So yesterday I spent all day on a CIEH (Chartered Institute of Environmental Health) Food Safety Level 2 course - with a difference!

I spent it outside, cooking in the woods at Bishops Wood Environment Centre

We were an assorted group of ( mostly) Forest School leaders, but although I am a FS Leader, I was actually there with a couple of other Love Food Hate Waste Ambassadors, as we want to do some cooking demonstrations as part of our volunteer role.

We talked through the usual Food Safety stuff, different bacteria, danger zone/safe zone temperatures, how to keep clean, the use of different colour coded chopping boards, general food preparation,  the importance of proper storage and reheating,

and then we put it all into practice by making a delicious vegetable soup for lunch, cooked over the fire

We also toasted teacakes and made hot drinks and then mid afternoon packed up camp to do the CIEH (Chartered Institute of Environmental Health) Food Safety Level 2 exam

I have done a more conventional version of this course before and although it was helpful I did have a lot of questions about cooking outdoors which were not really addressed. This time they were :)

The course was taught by Sal Teasdale of Anubis Training - those of you who read my past posts will know I have done lots of training with Sal and Anubis and as usual the whole day was excellent.

Just hope I have passed!

Thursday 28 November 2013

Building some new compost and leaf mould bins part 1

It's time to make more compost! So I took delivery of some more modular compost bins from The Recycle Works

This is my composting area, the yellow builders bags are full of finished compost and leaf mould, dug out from the compost bins


There were six wooden compost bins in this empty space before, but some of the wooden planks had rotted away ( well, they had been buried in decomposing material for more than eight years!) and the ground had become uneven due to tree roots and needed levelling.

So we dismantled the old bins and dug out the base. Quite a lot of the older posts and planks can be reused but the inner posts and planks will be replaced by new ones, as they are the ones which get the most contact with decompostition :) The bricks are there to put the compost bin posts on.

Because we have a bindweed problem everywhere we always put down geotextile under the bins - it does NOT affect the compost process at all

First couple of new The Recycle Works wooden compost bins in place, they simply add on to the old ones :)

Tuesday 26 November 2013

RIP Bunty Hen

RIP Bunty Hen, another of our rescue ex battery hens who lived a life longer outside the cage, with us , than in it. You can read about how they came to us here.

Here is Bunty ( on the right) with her very best friend Titch. Titch was very ill in this picture. It was taken the day she got lost in the wood and, after I found her, she then came inside the house to be nursed for the last 10 days of life. The other hens went out to feed but Bunty stayed with poor Titch and preened her and crooned at her.  These two hens ( plus others, now sadly departed) were in the same rescue crate together when we got them and stayed the very best of friends the entire time they lived with us here.

Once Titch died on 2 Nov Bunty rapidly went into a decline, not ill, but just winding down. I hesitate to say she was missing her friend, but I do wonder if she was, even though she still had Babs and the other girls for company.

She got very cold a couple of days ago - it was a biting wind and she just stood in the open, not bothering to move to shelter so I brought her in for some warmth and special feeding and cuddles - she perked up the next day and was much brighter and her last day was spent dozing in the sunshine and pecking at Blondin the Cockerel, to teach him his proper place.

But as the sun went in today she had a seizure and was obviously dying, so I helped her out of this life. Sad, but needed to be done so she did not suffer.

RIP Bunty Hen, gone to join her best friend Titch.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

He, is a she... and other chicken news.

In other news, Blondie the chicklet has been re named Blondin the ( escapologist) Cockerel - he has finally perfected his crow ! Blackie is ( I am pretty certain) a pullet and is already a HUGE one  - she is only 11 weeks old and is already far larger than the adult hens.

And we are having some fabulous sunny days :) The autumn colours are finally here :)

Monday 18 November 2013

Playing with the layout :)

Hmm this?

or this?

this one?

or this one?

I like the last one best - what do you all think?

Saturday 16 November 2013

The last few days

 Have involved a lot of these ...

And a lot of this ...

 More of these - this time cooking  and baking ...

 Lots of these now filled with lovely apple juice and pasteurised, safely stored away to drink over the next year.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Jungle cat...

Wherever I go, whatever I do outside I am accompanied by my faithful furry familiar - Cassi Cat. At this time of year she can be quite hard to spot - she loves to hide and pounce out at me.

She is very vocal and loves to comment and grumble about everything - the hens, the weather, the state of the ground underfoot - she chats all the time.

She loves to kiss my hand or face - and is often to be found sitting on my shoulder or chest.

The latest thing she has been doing is to chase leaves whirling on the patio in an eddy of wind :) Very entertaining to watch :)

Saturday 9 November 2013

And this is how the neighbours harvest apples

This is just one of many apple orchards which surround our house and grounds. The trees are planted in straight lines to allow tractor access between the rows.

At harvest time each tree is shaken vigorously and the apples fall to the ground.

They are then blown sideways by a giant blower. This puts the apples into positon to be gathered up mechanically.

Finally they are gathered up from the ground by a rotating brush and go up a conveyor belt and into a trailer.

A bit different to the way we do it, but then our farming neighbours do have a lot of apple trees!

Thursday 7 November 2013

Even more apple stuff !

Having scratted and pressed over 100Kg of apples so far this week we now have 25 bottles of pasteurised juice and 30 l of  cider on the go.

so as it was fine today, we went and picked some more apples,


 It was glorious outside, sunny and crisp and with just a hint of wind and a fabulous blue sky.

Compostman picking apples

And, just to prove I do actually do, do some of the work around here (!) I graciously allowed myself to be photographed in action..

 We weighed each bucket

 and then I graded them into "juice" or "cider" quality.

 This is some of the pommace from the scratting and pressing we did earlier in the week. All added to the compost bins now, to make some beautiful compost next year :)

After a morning of apple picking another 150 Kg now await my attention to be turned into something else.

 I think tomorrow, I will be mostly pressing apples again!

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Yet more apple stuff

So today started with yet more apple washing

While Compostman scratted some I had washed earlier

 I bottled up yesterdays juice and pasteurised them, 13 bottles as a time.

Here they are, cooling down. I did 26 bottles today, as well as washing, juicing and pressing many, many more apples.

Compostgirl was roped in to help :)

Here is a 30 l fermentation vessel, full of juice-to-be-turned-into-cider-by- magic ( well, or biochemistry!)

Washing up takes a very long time!

Tomorrow we are having a day off apples and will be doing Other Things - we need a rest!

Sunday 3 November 2013

Gosh our house smells of apples!

 Today has been a day of much sloshing water of around, to wash apples.

 And as you can see a lot of water went on me!

Lots of apples.

 We did our stuff today inside the kitchen annexe as it was too cold ( but lovely and sunny) outside - I have more cleaning up to do because we worked inside but at least I could operate the scratter and press - if outside my hands would have stopped working asap due to Raynaulds


Much juice collected - some to be pasteurised for juice tomorrow ( that will be my mornings work!) , most to be converted into Cider 

BUT I feel guilty  ( Gods above, what IS it with me and guilt?)  as there must be 100's of pounds more of apples on the trees more, not picked - but we have more than we can deal with AND no one wants them - I have offered but we live in Herefordshire apple county so no one wants as they ALL have loads surplus


Am now drinking 2011 Cider and about to eat some (much needed) food - then will watch Only Connect on catch up TV , and a bit of patchwork also beckons. And probably more Cider

Love this time of year - gathering in all the good stuff I have grown to feed the family and our friends

More of the same, tomorrow :)

Saturday 2 November 2013

Friday 1 November 2013

RIP Titch

Sadly Titch the rescue hen*, died last night. 

She had recovered well from wandering off into the wood overnight while ill, a subsequent chest infection and she settled into several weeks as a House Hen, under careful treatment and care. But, she also went blind and largely stopped eating despite my best efforts to help her by putting her in a carefully designed small indoor run, with food and drink always in the same place and with me feeding her by hand, many times a day.

An extra job but one I did not begrudge her as she deserved every possible chance to enjoy her life And I loved her

She finally had what looked like a heart attack last night, not long after I said goodnight and stroked her head and crooned at her - she purred back at me as usual

(* ex so called "enriched" or barn " caged hen)

Trip around the world quilt

So now the nights are drawing in and the clocks have changed, I find myself with time to craft, again.

I have been making 2 1/2 " strips from various saved and recycled cotton fabric to start on my next quilting project, a Trip around the World quilt. I also have some strips I purchased from the Quilt show I went to a few months ago and a few rolls I found in a charity shop last month :)

Playing with layout and colours :)

Sewing the strips together

Cutting the strips

After sewing them into tubes, I unpicked the tubes so that the strips started on a different square

Not yet sewn together as I want to make more strips and play with the orientation and design.

If you have no idea what I am up to and want to know more - see this excellent tutorial from  Bonnie K Hunter here