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!

Wednesday 25 December 2013

Merry Winter festival

Wishing all my readers a very Merry Festive Season!

love from all of us at Compost Mansions


Wednesday 18 December 2013

Book review "Christmas Stories" by Michael Morpurgo

I have to hold my hand up and say with pride that I am a complete bookworm and the "rules" about children's books being for children don't really apply, in my opinion. I believe that if a book is well written, it will appeal regardless of the age range it is aimed at.

So there are many authors with books on the bookcase in Compostgirl's bedroom which I enjoy reading : Philip Pullman, Alan Garner, Michael Rosen, Elizabeth Gouge; to name but a few. Many of the books in Compostgirl's collection are books I owned and read as a child and teenager and have passed on to her and I still enjoy re- reading them, today.

I have long been a huge fan of the author Michael Morpurgo; Compostgirl has read pretty well all the books he has written and owns nearly all of them and I often pick one up and read it with great pleasure. I find his writing to be moving and realistic and very engaging. So I was delighted to be sent a review copy of  "Christmas Stories" by Michael Morpurgo

This is a collection of three of his existing Christmas stories, along with a fourth NEW story "The Goose is getting fat".

This is how the publisher's website describes the collection:

The Best Christmas Present in the World: A mysterious letter in a secret drawer brings one night in the Great War vividly to life. Writing home from the front, a soldier has an incredible story to tell.
On Angel Wings: A singing of wings, a glorious light, and a sudden beacon of brightness? It can only mean – can it really? – a visit from the Angel Gabriel himself...
The Best of Times: When the Prince and Princess marry, joy rings out across the land. But all too soon it fades away and a shadow hangs over the royal palace. As Christmas approaches, Prince Frederico must find a way to warm his new bride’s aching heart.
The Goose is Getting Fat: – A NEW STORY! Gertrude the goose is getting bigger by the day, and Charlie is proud to look after her. But as Christmas approaches, the thought of the grizzly fate awaiting her fills him with sadness. Can he save Gertrude from the Christmas dinner table?
Four very well know illustrators (Emma Chichester Clark, Sophie Allsopp, Quentin Blake and Michael Foreman) have provided beautiful illustrations  - indeed I delighted in the pictures as much as I did the words.

All four stories are wonderful - I won't say any more as I do not want to spoil the stories but they are really lovely.

Although titled "Christmas Stories" this book could be read and enjoyed at anytime. If Compostgirl were still a toddler this is exactly the book I would buy her for Christmas. As it is *I* loved reading it and I hope some of you will, as well. 

This book is a ( sturdy) paperback, beautifully illustrated and priced at £14.99 It is aimed at children aged 5+ years old 
(but this 50+ year old loved it, too!)

With thanks to Egmont publishers for sending me a copy to review.

Tuesday 17 December 2013

"Grow Harvest Cook" book review

I was sent Grow Harvest Cook to review some time ago and have only recently got around to using it, but am glad I did!

The press release which came with the book says
Grow Harvest Cook is a collaboration between experienced gardener Meredith Kirton and food writer Mandy Sinclair. This comprehensive guide, offers advice on growing your own produce, indispensible tips on harvesting, storing and freezing, and finally over 280 recipes for what to whip up from your home-grown yield. Grow Harvest Cook shows you how to grow everything from peppers to passionfruit and has recipes ranging from delicious Apricot Tiramisu and Caramelised Parsnip & Chorizo Salad to Pork Cutlets with Sage and Prosciutto.  

This book has instructions for growing ingredients, harvesting them and then some recipe ideas for cooking them.  If I am perfectly honest, I was a little dubious about the availability of some of the ingredients as the authors are Australian so I expected a lot of the recipes to contain things not easily grown here.

But I was wrong ! Some of the ingredients are probably more common "down under" - I certainly can't grow lemons easily in my back garden, but I know from reading blogs based in Australia that this is very common, there. The few items which we don't grow here ( lemons, papayas, watermelons and persimmons were the main ones I spotted)  are available in the shops if you want to use them.

The book is well laid out and easy to use, with a good list of contents at the front and a very useful index at the rear. The growing tips seemed easy to follow and the harvesting/preserving ideas I  looked it seemed to follow what I know to do.

I found lots of suggestions for combining some ingredients which were fresh and new to me and I think that is this book's best feature - it gets you thinking about different ways to use familiar ingredients. I particularly liked the idea of combining prawns, peas and avocado as a salad ( I added pea shoots as well) and the spinach and ricotta pie was very good.  I was intrigued by the idea of Jerusalem artichoke bread but have not tried making any!

This  is a solid, hardback book - which looks like it will withstand being handled in the kitchen without falling to bits, a huge bonus if you have ever had old favourite paperback books disintegrate due to handling! This book also has some lovely illustrations and beautiful photographs by Sue Stubbs.

So, I was impressed and "Grow, Harvest, Cook" has been added to the bookshelves :)

With thanks to Hardie Grant books for sending me a review copy.

Grow Harvest Cook retails at £20 hardback

Monday 16 December 2013

An unexpected gift from Ecover UK

 I got an unexpected padded envelope in the post today. When I opened it

This was inside!

And when I untied the ribbon, look what I found!

Special Christmas washing up liquid :) 

Thank you Lauren at Ecover UK for my lovely festive smelling washing up liquid and the lovely card. The washing up liquid smells delicious - like a Christmas Grotto full of cake :).

Thursday 12 December 2013

A bit of a catch up

Having been quite poorly recently, I have not written much about what we have been up to - mainly because I have not done very much.

The strong winds we have had here recently meant we had to " batten down the hatches" and make sure hen house roofs, wheelbarrows, garden furniture, pots, compost bins etc were all well fixed down - even though we did have one compost bin blow over ( it was nearly empty, when I thought it was half full :)  )

The chickens were not impressed by the wind  and grumbled about it. A Lot. Cassi Cat seemed to like it wild and windy, though as she ran around the garden, ears flattened, eyes wide, running up trees and pouncing on whirling leaves.


With her help we have managed to finish off re building the compost bin area and very nice it looks, too :)

I have been trying to summon enthusiasm for the upcoming festivities, but am not doing terrible well on that front. I hope to feel more festive as I recover a bit more strength and the Year turns from dark to light at the Solstice on 21 Dec.  

But for now, about all I can manage is to stay warm, read, do some crochet and sit by the fire, resting.

I hope all of you are well and safe and busy :)

Monday 9 December 2013

Scotch tape

As you know I get sent all sorts of things to try and  I was recently sent a Scotch Pop-Up Tape Handband Dispenser.
This has neat pre-cut sticky strips held in a case, which is mounted on an elastic band which can be slipped over the wrist so both hands are left free to fold, dispense and stick. Scotch say it will save you time while also making Christmas gift-wrapping a hassle-free task.
The idea here is that you have both hands free while wrapping parcels and indeed it is very useful for doing just that. No more bits of tape stuck to the edges of tables or on my clothes!

So, I wrapped some presents using the tape and indeed it did make the task a little easier.

But it is also VERY VERY useful when laying out pieces of fabric whilst quilting :)

And when laying out cut out papers for a craft project.

So thumbs up to Scotch (both of them, not stuck together!) for a useful idea.

Friday 6 December 2013

Leaf mould bins build

It's that time of year again, when the leaves are ( finally!) falling and are there to be gathered up and used to make leaf mould - that wonderful, rich, dark, crumbly soil enhancer :)

I have been sent a new ( to me ) sort of leaf mould bin by The Recycle Works - normally I use their wooden compost bins and excellent leaf mould they make too  - you can read how I do it in this post 

The new leaf mould bin I was sent to try out is a variation on their usual compost bin modules - this model fits on the end of an existing bin or you can get a stand alone version with a few more boards and parts.

This leaf mould bin is The Recycle Works usual easy to put together wooden posts and boards, but instead of each side being five boards high there are only two of the boards which are then held apart by vertically placed plastic strips

The bottom board ( the thicker one above)  is slotted into the post as usual then the plastic strip is slid down the post until it sits on top of the bottom board

then the top board is added - held in place at the top of the post by the plastic strip, as in the photo below. Chickens are not supplied with the kit!

A roll of plastic wire mesh (also supplied) is added inside, to hold the leaves in place. The leaves will compost down as the air and rain can get to them easily

 This is not fixed into place yet by the (provided) tiewraps, but you get the general idea.

I think this is a good product, it is a good idea and easy to assemble and as usual from The Recycle Works is of good quality.
I am, however going to disassemble it from where we put it today in the row of compost bins and re errect it as a stand alone leaf mould bin. I am doing this so I can compare this new bin with my usual method of making leaf mould - you all know how I love doing composting experiments :) I have enough spare parts to create a stand alone module.

You can buy these leaf mould bins from The Recycle Works as single, stand alone modules ( four posts, 8 boards, 8 plastic spacers and extra tiewraps) or to add on to an existing one of their compost bins.

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Compost bins and leaf mould bins rebuild part 2

 Today we added more modules to the compost bins we put up last week - It was Compostgirl's birthday on Friday, Compostman and I then had a few days feeling very unwell and a family situation left both of us very distressed and stressed, so we didn't get back out to them until today.

I sorted out more of the planks and posts and started  putting them together whilst Compostman gathered up a couple of wheelbarrows full of leaves from the front garden.

Then he came round and helped me put more of the bins together

 The Recycle Works compost bins are easy to assemble, they just slot together!

We actually added a Leaf Mould module to the line of bins as well, but are rethinking where to put this so a "normal" compost bin will be going where it is at the moment.

 As always, we had chicken helpers !

it was lovely outside, cold but sunny and it felt good to be working outside after a very trying few days