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!


Thursday, 31 January 2013

Quilting - update!

I have been cutting up lots of saved up cotton clothes  - mostly from Compostgirl - not good enough to gift or charity shop but too good for rags, so ideal for quilting.

I now have a rotary cutter, a much larger self healing cutting mat ( I only has an A4 one, before - now I have an A2 mat) and a really useful cutting template ruler, as well as a really nice quilting book

All courtesy of my lovely Husband Compostman - who gave me these as a Christmas gift :-)

Added to the existing metal rule I already had, plus the sewing machine and assorted stuff I use on a regular basis and I am all ready to go.

Now - what project shall I do, first :-)

A quilt, a cushion, a table runner?

Any ideas?

I am a confident machine and hand sewer. (I think)

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Seed order


I have abandoned crochet in favour of my seed packets today and am in the middle of an on line order to The Organic Gardening Catalogue/Chase Organics...am trying to be restrained, here...!

I get most of my seeds from them - as a Garden Organic member I get 10% off and they have a lovely range of seeds.

I also use MoreVeg for some seeds - they sell seeds in smaller quantities and also sell a few that The Organic Gardening Catalogue don't stock so are good for the varieties where I don't need so many seeds - they also sell some wonderful very early cropping tomato varieties which means I get to eat tomatoes from the polytunnel  from the start of June right through until October.

I have also sorted out all my seed packets, and put them the order I want to sow them.

Some seed potatoes arrived today :-)

In other news, it must be nearly Spring - it was still light outside at 5 pm! And we even had sunshine!


Sunday, 27 January 2013

All gone...

The snow, that is! It had mostly gone yesterday evening

And we woke up to green grass and a bright blue sky this morning, and virtually no snow..

We had a brief few hours of beautiful sunshine, here    ...but now it is raining and hailing and gloomy and dull.

I was meant to be driving to Ryton to volunteer at Garden Organic's Potato Day but decided it would be a bit risky with the dodgy weather forecast. Shame, as I love doing my Master Composter/Master Gardener duties and I love visiting Ryton. Still there will be many more chances to go during the coming year.

Looking out  over the garden it is good to see the snowdrops flowering and the daffodils showing through as green spikes. I am a bit concerned about possible flooding though, as the ground is already covered with standing water in places from the snow melt. Hopefully the rain will not last!

Have done my Big Garden Birdwatch for 2013 - must file it at the RSPB website. I will post about the results tomorrow.

One bonus to the rain - I looked out of the study window by my desk at the most beautinful rainbow. The end of the rainbow is apparently just across the road from me...wonder if I can find a crock of gold?



Saturday, 26 January 2013

Holocaust Memorial Day

Tomorrow  is  Holocaust Memorial Day and on BBC Four TV at 8 pm is a most wonderfully moving programme - Holocaust - A musical memorial film from Auschwitz

It was made for the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and reflects on the shocking fact that the Nazis used music as a psychological tool in their machine of death.

I saw this film when it first came out and it  moved me so much. I cried so many tears, of sadness at what happened but also at the wonderful music.

It is well worth watching.

Thank you for reading x

Friday, 25 January 2013

The big thaw begins

We had very cold nights the last few days and the snow froze solid, which made walking around tricky! The sunset on Thurs was amazing - I just caught the end with my camera


But by this evening it was obvious that a thaw was on the way.

I am pleased, but a bit concerned about the soggyness of the ground already - where will all the melt water go?

Has the snow gone where you are?

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Being prepared for an emergency


I have had a few interested questions about why we have a generator and prepare for bad weather as much as we do. So, thought this might be an interesting post for you to read.

We live on a very minor, rural lane and can get snowed/iced in. Sometimes our lane floods ( not near us) and we can't get through to the main road. Even in good weather it is quite a distance to the nearest shop, garage, post office etc. So it is not easy to just " pop out" to the shops sometimes!


We lose power quite often and as we have a bore hole and septic tank here, both of which need power to run, we are in trouble if the power is off for too long. Likewise we have a lot of home grown produce stored in the freezers, which we don't want to spoil.

When we moved here, we realised we needed to build up stores of food, water, fuel, medicines, animal feed etc. We had lots of food, wind up torches, lamps and candles, a battery and a wind up radio and could cook on the Aga and woodburner (or even using the Kelly Kettle, outside, if all else failed!)  if the power went off for short times or if we could not get out of the lane.Obviously we also had clothes, bags, etc ready in case of an evacuation situation.

We thought that was enough. THEN we got caught out big time in Autumn 2002 when we had no power, after the terrible Oct storms, for more than a week.

We lost the entire contents of 3 freezers, which meant all the organic meat, home grown veg was lost- all of it apart from what we could cook and eat during that week and cook and freeze in a friend's freezer - but we still lost a lot of good food, which was very expensive to replace . (We also lost the Polytunnel cover in the gales - but that is another story!).

And without water or sewerage here (both of which need power to run) we rapidly used up the tank in the loft so no showers, no drinking water or washing water and as  Compostgirl was in washable nappies back in 2002 it all got a bit dire here! We could flush the toilets with a bucket of pond water, but even so it was all a bit difficult.

We didn't starve or go cold   - we had lots of food, bottled water, fuel, lamps and candles and could cook on the Aga and woodburner or camping gas ring , but rapidly realised we needed a higher state of preparedness than we had previously thought.

So we saved up and invested in a generator, and over the next few years we re arranged things so it will run the freezers for some of the day, the central heating can now be run off the genny as can the water and sewerage. We can also run the microwave and some lights off a circuit in the kitchen so by swapping what is plugged into the generator we can cook, have heating in upstairs at bedtime, keep the food frozen and get water and sewerage sorted. We can even watch TV or use a computer! It has taken a lot of thought and planning and re arranging though.

Another thing people forget nowadays with mobile phones is that they need power to charge up again - and  modern land line phones rely on mains electricity as well, whereas old style phones can still use the power coming down the telephone cable! So, we have made sure we always keep an "old" style phone to hand, ready to plug in, just in case . We just bought another one to replace our very old BT phone which died after 25 years of faithful service.

We also keep a stock of 5 l water bottles just in case - if all else fails I use them in the wood for drinks for people on my woodland courses. The bottles get re used for wine making and eventually recycled.

I also now dehydrate a lot more of the garden produce for storage, rather than using the freezer.

But with the increased renewable energy products we have added to the house comes a new set of "issues" - the solar thermal tubes are wonderful at providing free hot water BUT if the mains power goes off on a hot day the liquid inside the tubes can boil and tune into gloop - which would require a lot of work to flush out and make good again. At the moment if the mains power goes off  on a sunny day we would have to get the generator out to keep the system running - so Compostman has a scheme to make sure that the solar thermal system will still run even if the mains power goes off, so that is hot water in the summer taken care of.

We also don't get any electricity from the pv's if the mains electricity goes off - we would need an off grid battery system and a lot of side by side wiring systems to be able to use the electricity generated by the panels if our mains electricity went off and frankly it is not something we have got around to doing, yet.

I would love us to have battery back up from the pv's ...maybe next year?

Obviously all these stocks need to be checked , used up as their use by dates are reached and new stocks purchased to replace them.

I am sure we could do much more to be prepared for emergencies but that is what we have done so far, here. I am always on the look out for more ideas to do more.

What do you do to be prepared? Any of you have stockpiles, alternative or back up energy arrangements or such like?

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Last week in review - 5 good things



As promised I am going to have a go at reinstating my "five good things" posts - so here it is for the last week

  • We have enough food for all the family ( furry, feathery and human) to last for several weeks, even if it does snow like mad and stop us getting out.
  • The hens have started to lay again  - hurrah! fresh eggs.
  • We are all reasonably healthy - human, furry and feathery.
  • The days are lengthening :-)
  • It is time to start planting for the 2013 growing season :-) I am sorting through seed packets and awaiting deliveries :-)
What are your 5 good things ?

Monday, 21 January 2013

Monday snow

Hello, all :-)

The Hens finally ventured out today, they were slightly mollified by my leading them to a patch of green grass ( I cover up patches of ground when it snows, so I can uncover grass especially for them!)



But then they went and sat grumbling in the Barn for an hour.  Ungrateful girls that they are, they jumped into a wheelbarrow of used bedding and flung it out all over the floor of the Barn, for me to find and clear up later.





And then they all trouped back inside the Mega Hen Pen and sulked.




I think they don't like the snow :-)




I also found that the netting on my netted Kale bed had collapsed with the weight of snow, damaging quite a few plants :-( so I picked off the broken tops and we will eat Kale for the next few days - the tops are deliciously tender and the side leaves will be turned into a kale, potato and chorizo soup tomorrow I think. Hopefully the side shoots will re grow on the stems still in the ground.


As there has been a slight thaw Compostgirl went to school ( both the school and the school bus obliged!) and we managed to get our car out of the drive and out of our (very icy indeed) lane onto the (clear) main road and into Ledbury to do some bits and pieces of shopping at lunchtime - I went to a charity shop and nearly got a lovely cashmere jumper, but someone else just beat me to it :-(

The pavement was very icy in Ledbury and lots of people were walking on the roads - dangerous but understandable I guess.

More snow forcast for here tonight so after chores we sat inside by the fire watching "Father Brown" and drinking hot chocolate. Anyone else watching "Father Brown" (on BBC1 at 2.10 pm) Really good!

Stay safe and warm, everyone.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Reminder about my Givaway

While we have snow in the UK, I am guessing that more of you will be looking at blogs as you have a bit more indoor time - so if you are here because of this - please do remember to "follow" me and leave a comment so you can be entered into my 1000 post celebration Givaway.

And if you are not from the UK, please do enter as well - I may not send you something  large and heavy but I will send you something, if you win!

Cw xxx


Saturday, 19 January 2013

 If you would like to see what I have been up to, while inside more during the snowy weather, please pop over to my crafting blog

and have a look :-)

Thank you for reading xxx

Crochet and more crochet

 With the snow rather halting any work outside I have been doing a lot of this



Cutting up a couple of old, holey fleeces to make cushions for the cat carriers and yarn for a crochet cat blanket.

 Untangling my good Debbie Bliss yarn, where naughty Cassie cat has a play with it (Arrrggghhh!)



Sorting out lots of ends of aforementioned yarn to use up in granny squares.



using this pattern - nice and straightforward, although I have a fancier centre square and border squares planned!

 So far I am well ahead with my plan to crochet at least a square a day - I have done 25 squares so far since Jan 1st and also have several several other items part completed :-)


 The view from my crafting table - all very cosy :-)

How are you occupying yourself during the snowy weather?

Snowy Saturday at Compost Mansions



Day two of the snow and the hens are STILL disgusted by it all and won't come out of their run - which is fine by me as I don't want to have to worry about where they are, out in the snow!























I opened the run door and brave Titch stepped into the strange white stuff - of my seven hens only Nutmeg has ever seen snow before - the others were either still inside the polytunnel when it last snowed here ( Feb 2012) or were still in prison in the cages.



She was followed by Babs and Tiny hen but they only stepped out a few inches then went back inside.



Titch ventured a bit further - about 12 inches out of the run door and then climbed up onto the feeder.




But she decided she, too, did not like this strange, cold, white stuff and so she turned tail and went back inside the cosy hen run.

They have had lots of corn and mealworms and warm mash made of pellets, so I hope they are reasonably content.

We have had lots of hot drinks and apart from outside essential jobs we have been sitting by the woodburner keeping nice and warm :-) and reading and crafting.

Hope you are all ok, wherever you are.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Snow!

Well, they were right! Lots of snow fell on Friday  on us, (well lots for here in the UK, at least)


We are having to keep the bird feeders stocked up - not much else for the poor things to eat at the moment.


Cassi Cat seems unbothered by the snow and came out with me as usual.


Very pretty, very cold.





Looking down into the wood - very Narnia - like.



You can see our roof is well insulated! No snow melt.


Disgusted hens - they refused to come out of the run.



Cassi looking in at the hens

Pretty.




Thursday, 17 January 2013

Keeping the hens happy and a trip to Ledbury

As I said in my post yesterday, we decided to go into Ledbury on Thursday to do a few bits of shopping - not urgent, but stuff which we could do with in the next 10 days amd which we might not be able to get if we are snowed in...

But first I wanted to make sure the hens would be comfortble if a lot of snow fell and they could not go out of their run.

I decided to put down a lot more straw in the run - previously I have put down some pallets to keep the girls' feet off the nasty cold ground, but as we have a bit of a rat problem at the moment we have removed all but one pallet - the rats LOVE to use them as hiding places and "lurk" under them   - Yuk!

So straw it was. The hens LOVE straw - they cluck and croon and chirp to each other like they were calling chicks - and squabble like mad over "special" bits of straw. (Not quite sure what makes them special but never mind!)


Bunty hen eyes up the camera and wonders if it tastes good.


 Yarrow hen ( in middle) is still looking a bit sad and low but has improved since last week - she seems to be enjoying life, anyway.


We had a light dusting of snow but nothing to worry about, so later we went to Ledbury in the car and visited various shops and then the Co Op - and what a sight met us! Lots of empty shelves!

No bread at all ( even muffins etc had largely gone) hardly any milk, no veg at all apart from some salads and pinapples and grapes - toilet rolls virtually all gone ( good job I have lots!) and to be honest it looked like people were expecting a month of not being able to get tothe sops rather than a couple of days?

Still - at least they will have lots of food, although apparently lots of people came in very early and bought most of the stuff, leaving lots of later people with nothing...which is not so good I guess.

We didn't need any of the food which was not there ( if you get my meaning) so we just got the things we needed and came away home.



We had our evening meal and settled down by the fire to watch some tv and I did a bit more crochet. I siuspect we will be doing quite a bit of this, along with reading etc, in the coming few days.

Update  Thurs night

It started to snow at 8 pm and has kept on snowing solidly ever since - so I suspect the Met Office were correct and we really ARE going to get a bit of snow.

Hopefully you will all be ok, wherever you are. Stay safe and warm!

S xx



Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Battening down the hatches...

ready for some serious snow (?)

Today we had temperatures below freezing all day - the hen's drinker kept on icing over and I had to keep on refilling it (and the Guinea pig's drinker) with fresh warm water.

Compostman noticed the rats had tunneled back in to the Mega hen Pen - blast it I hoped we had scared them off - they won't take the bait or get themselves killed in the trap and  so far only Tabitha Cat has caught one rat - well done her but I suspect there are many more to catch!

We had a few flakes of snow but nothing like that which is predicted for Friday and the weekend. Even so, I decided to check that we have all that we need if a lot of snow does fall in the next few days.

Wood - well, yes we have lots! We have to go and get it from the store, but as that is the barn where all things are stored and is on theway to the hens, we would be digging a path out to there as a priority, anyway.
We also have fuel for the Generator, if our mains power goes off as well as torches and candles and oil lamps

Animal feed/hay etc. Lots of that, enough to last a few weeks at least. The hens need cleaning out but my back is pretty bad at the moment so they may just get a top up of bedding and if it is very cold it will be ok for a few more days.

People food. Yes, lots - plenty of potatos, onions etc in store and Compostman lifted a couple of parsnips and some leeks so if the ground freezes we will still be ok. I will still be able to pull some kale leaves and there are more Kale and Spinach plants inside the polytunnel. The freezers are well stocked, we have plenty of flour to make bread and lots of tinned goods.

Milk I do need, but I have some long life and some dried in store.
Toilet rolls - lots as there was an offer on in the CO Op last time I went so I got lots!
Medications, first aid etc - plenty of all that as well.
 
I intend to go and do a "top up" shop in Ledbury tomorrow, but if I don't make it it won't be a problem.And if we can't get out for a week or so it won't be a problem, either. And if we have to(in a crisis, say)  if all else fails we have the JCB and could dig our way out.

So - hoping it won't be too bad but prepared if it is.

Stay warm and safe, everyone.


Tuesday, 15 January 2013

1000 posts givaway

To celebrate my 1000 post milestone yesterday  I am going to do a givaway!

So, follow me and leave a comment and in a week or so I will put all the names  in a hat and get Compostgirl to select one at random.

I will then send the recipient a small token of my appreciation and thanks, for reading my blog ;-)

Monday, 14 January 2013

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch - 1000th post!

Ok this is IT, my 1000 th post on this blog ( cue drum roll!) http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/cfs-filesystemfile.ashx/__key/communityserver-discussions-components-files/3711/8371.BGBW-logo-2013-colour-small.jpg

I could have blogged about compost, or growing veg  or organics or hens, but I decided to blog about the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch as it is coming up very soon and is something very dear to me.

As the RSPB say
Helping garden wildlife is fun - and it couldn't be easier. Over the weekend of 26-27 January 2013, the RSPB would love you, your friends and family, to get involved in Big Garden Birdwatch - the world's largest wildlife survey!
As an activity that started life as something for our youth membership to do in winter, Big Garden Birdwatch has grown into fun for all the family. All you need to do is count the birds in your garden or a local park for one hour then tell us what you see.
If, like us, you love wildlife and want to do something to help, this is your chance to get involved in something that really counts.

We are really lucky here at Compost Mansions, we have a 3 glass sided porch which looks out onto the bird feeders so sitting there for an hour nets a lot of results!

Pleae join in - it is really good fun and is helpful in so many ways. The birds in the UK really need our help in this!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Wassail!

 The Big Apple Wassailing this year was at  Aylton,  to see in the New Year and bless the fruit trees for the coming season. Compostgirl, Compostman and I went on Sat night  -  it was VERY cold indeed. We met up with a friend and her children and then saw lots of other friends there :-) it is a big social occasion around us :-)

We arrived at about 7 pm and had hot mulled cider (us) or hot blackcurrant (the children) - all locally produced -  and there were hot pork rolls on offer from a local farm's pig roast ( again local and free range and really yum)

We then processed with flaming torches to the nearby apple orchard, ledd by our local Morris dancers the  Leominster Morris Side, faces blacked up as is traditional in winter ( to avoid being identified by thier landlords or employers in times gone by!)





 where the bonfires were lit,  libations poured to the tree to ensure a good harvest, songs sung,


shotguns fired (!) to scare away evil spirits or bad omens which would blight the apples




 and dances danced to help ensure the harvest is good this year.





We then went back into the Great Barn and watched the traditional Mumming play, about St George and the Dragon - with many amusing and topical extras!

At about 9.30 the mumming finished and we said goodbye and went home to drink hot chocolate before out friends went home.

I have written about our local Wassail here, and about Leominster Morris and wassailling here

As always it was a fabulous thing to be a part of - one of the local things we do which we really love participating in ;-)



Saturday, 12 January 2013

h.Energy Saver volunteer facilitator training.

I spent yesterday (Fri) doing this training, funded by Herefordshire New Leaf  as part of a project to actively engage Herefordshire residents in their own long-term household and personal energy descent plans.

The training has equipped me, and other people from around the county as h.Energy Savers, to work with small groups of 5 - 6 local people (friends, neighbours, community members) in order to start to address the energy efficiency needs of our households.

 The training was free of charge, and was provided by Hal Gillmore and Mary Popham of Transition Town Totnes. 


The h.Energy Savers training is based  on an adaptation of a proven, award-winning peer-to-peer model developed by Transition Town Totnes where groups of friends and neighbours meet every few weeks,  with a practical workbook to help seed ideas,  to make easy changes in how they use energy, water, food, packaging and transport.  

I help to get things going in my neighbourhood and go to the meetings to give any support needed as the group works through ideas from the workbook  but it is NOT my meeting and the workbook is NOT a text book which has to be followed to the letter but  more of a general guide, full of good ideas.  I like that :-)

As the h.Energy Savers website says
Previous experience suggests that householders working together in this way will save an average of £570 per annum and reduce carbon emissions by 1.3tonnes, whilst learning more about issues such as water use, waste, transport and food.

In addition to this the project hopes to generate up to 250 home energy assessments, carried out by accredited Green Deal Assessors. These homes will then be regarded as 'Green Deal Ready' - i.e. eligible for finance to support their recommended energy efficiency measures once the Green Deal provider network locally is established (work to develop this network is continuing alongside the h.Energy Savers project).

I know this pattern of engagement works as it is how the Master Composter and Master Gardener schemes work and I know they work really well!

I really believe we need to be building more sharing and resilient communities around us all  as the impact of Peak Oil and other issues begin to really hit home. I already try to help with this as a Master Gardener and Master Composter and the other things I try to do and this looks like a good way as well.


I really enjoyed the day of training ( although it was a very long  and tiring day's work!)  I am very excited to be a part of this.

Watch this space!

Friday, 11 January 2013

Wrapping up the wormeries.

We have colder weather forecast coming so a couple of days ago Compostman and I   wrapped up the Can o Worms and the Hungry Bin in bubblewrap. They were moved into the Polytunnel in December 2012, and the worms have happily carried on munching our veg waste but I want to make sure they stay cosy and happy and content, even if it does get a little colder in the next few days.


So with bubblewrap around the body and fleece over the top of the wormeries the worms inside should be ok - and I can still get to lift the lids to keep them fed.


The worms are still very active. Hello worms!



I have also grouped all the more vulnerable plants together and draped them with fleece - they should be ok until it gets to below -5 all day - if that happens I will have to get out more fleece, net curtains etc.

Off to harvest the Spinach now - don't want it to spoil from the frost.



Thursday, 10 January 2013

Looking back over this blog, after nearly 1000 posts

I have been feeling rather under the weather the last few days and have spent a fair bit of time sitting at the computer keyboard ( as it is in a room next to the bathroom...enough detail there I think!)

So of the things I have been doing is reading back over this blog and all the things I have posted about on here. As I am nearly at 1000 posts ( a bit of a landmark, there I feel)it felt like a good idea to see what I have been saying.

What a lot of words and photos! I am amazed at how much I have written, to be honest:-) I am also amazed at so many comments and especially followers, who have stayed with me over the last nearly 6 years I have been writing here.

I am aware that I used to post more about what we did in the garden and what the hens got up to etc, but I feel there comes a point in a long running blog, which follows the cycle of the seasons and which carries on year on year, that I start to repeat myself - so lots of stuff now just does not get mentioned.

One thing I did do for a while was the idea of Five good things - every day finding five good things about the day and posting about it. But I stopped, largely because last year to be honest I just didn't want to do that sort of post - indeed I had to try very hard to post at all, for many reasons, on many occasions. But looking back on my posts from 2010 and earlier, I can see finding five good things had a helpful purpose of making me see that life is not as gloomy as it sometimes feels. I actually have lots of blessing ( family, animals, love, food, a roof, etc) even when life is a bit of a struggle.

Something else I used to do, but seem to have dropped, is a monthly round up of what has happened. Again, I think that was helpful.

Also missing as stand alone posts are the Chickenailia posts - I do still post ( a lot!) about the hens, but often now the stuff about them is mixed in with the other stuff. So I think a monthly Chickenailia post would be a good idea, also.

Apart from those points, I really enjoyed reading back over my blog - looking at all the stuff we have done and remembering fun things. Some things I had forgotten we did and some things need doing again. I am so glad I started blogging!

And I think the trying to find good things in each day is something I will re instate - anything which makes life seem brighter has to help! Ditto the monthly review and Chickenailia posts even if I don't, this time,  list the eggs laid and the weight of each item harvested from the garden :-)

Thank you for reading, as always and if you have any observations or things you would like me to write about in future, please do comment!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Decluttering, tidying up and sorting out

On Monday I spent a lot of time sorting out stuff - clothes, books, bric a brac etc. Some books have been earmarked for sale on Amazon, some went into the Charity box to be taken to the Charity shops in Ledbury, along with both good and rag bag clothes. Compostman had a sort out and some clothes went into the charity bag from him.

I have had a ruthless purge of charity shop books bought in the last year - most were 70's crafting books and whilst lovely they are taking up space and I have only used one of them regularly - the rest I looked at but either did not feel inspired OR I already had other, more usable books on the same subject. So the "rejects" have gone back to the charity shop so someone else can enjoy them. They only cost me 50 pence or £1 in each case, so I don't feel hard done by. I kept back the one book I was inspired by, though!

As it was the last day of the school holidays for Daughter, she did her jobs and then spent a lot of time doing "stuff" on the laptop.After lunch we went into Ledbury and visited the charity shops, we donated to two shops and had a browse around, but did not buy anything.

I did get some coloured headed pins for pinning fabric, though, and I also ordered a rotary cutter and a larger cutting mat as I am about to make a quilt. But resisted anything else in the fabric and wool shop - I have enough ufos as it is!




Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Things to do in the garden in Dec/January

These are some of the jobs I do in the garden in Dec/Jan - thanks to Garden Organic for sending me their list which reminded me I had this post to publish. I have added in a few of their tips as well, as they seemed good ideas ( as always with Garden Organic advice)

In the Garden
  • Move pots of herbs, ornamental plants etc inside shelter if you can, if not, wrap with pots bubble wrap and secure, cover plant with horticultural fleece.
  • If you grew Celery, lift what you need and cover the plants in the ground with a thick layer of straw to protect them from winter frost.
  • If very cold weather is forecast, lift Parsnips, Carrots, Leeks before the ground freezes. and store in a cool place.  Pick Spinach and harvest Celeriac as these will not survive a hard frost. Fleece plants left in the ground for protection.
  • Plant Garlic if the weather is mild enough. Garlic needs a period of cold weather to grow well so now is the time to get those cloves in!

  • Protect your Worms! Wrap up your wormery or move it into shelter.

  • Stake and earth up Brussels sprout plants, PSB plants and also larger Kale plants that are at risk of blowing over in harsh weather. Loose soil around the roots leads to Brussels sprouts not hearting up properly. Kales and PSBs can fall over if blown around.
  • Ensure brassicas and any other vulnerable crops are protected from pigeons by using fleece. Build a frame over the crop and line it with fleece to keep them off.
  • Make room for a new Compost bin. You can NEVER make too much compost, in my opinion!

  •  But, do not add any material infected with soil borne diseases to your compost heap when doing the final clean up. This will put a stop to the spread of disease through your compost the following year.

  • Mulch bare beds with last year’s leaf mould. If you’ve only got leaves from this season they can be used as a mulch. Rake them back before sowing and put them into a bag or compost bin to continue to compost down.
 Inside the house/in the polytunnel/greenhouse/store

  • You can make early sowings in pots and trays in January. I sow Lettuce, Rocket, Mizuma, Spicy greens, round varieties of Carrots, Salad onions and Radish for harvesting from the pots. I also plant Summer cabbage, Chard, Spinach for transplanting later on.   They will all need a bright, cool location to keep them safe until they can be planted out under cloches or in cold frames in February.
  • You can sow greenhouse tomatoes, for growing on in a heated greenhouse, as early as January. Tomato cultivars are available specifically for growing under cover, for example, Shirley F1 (medium size) and F1 Aromata (large). I grow early varieties such as Salt Spring Sunrise, Roma and Latah as well as Shirley in my Polytunnel, which give me fruit in early June well before other varieties are ripening.
  • Sow onions in January, as onions from seed need a long growing season. Raise in modules on a warm windowsill for planting out in March. Mine go into the Polytunnel for a month or so before planting out.
  • I start my Broad Beans in paper toilet roll tubes in Jan, ready to plant out under a cloche in the veg garden in March. I do not over winter mine as it does not work here! Again these start on a warm windowsil then are moved into the Polytunnel.
  • Wash all your pots, trays etc with hot soapy water and put them to dry in the sunlight if possible. If they can't be washed give them a good clean with a stiff bristled brush. This will reduce pests and diseases being passed on in the new growing season.
  •  When you’ve got your seed potatoes, put them in a light, cool, frost-free spot and leave them to sprout. This is known as chitting. Egg boxes make good chitting trays so start saving them now.
  • Check stored crops regularly. Remove immediately anything showing signs of decay, to prevent rots from spreading. Some varieties of potato will begin to sprout sooner than others – so if one variety shows signs of sprouting, eat it up quickly.

  • Need more space? How about finding out about an Allotment? Now is a good time to get you name on a list! Or register for Landshare.
  •  One of my favourite jobs at this time of year - check over the seed packets! Before I buy any new seed I go through all the packets to see what I have and what I actually really NEED to buy. I also weed out the less successful varieties or those which we dod not like or which did not do very well. Apart from parsnips, most seed will keep for at least a year. If you are not sure if the seed is still viable sprinkle a few seeds on a bit of damp paper and see if it germinates. I do this with my parsnip seed to see if it is still ok even though it is last year's seed.
     
  • If you are planning your veg plot for next season don’t forget to use a crop rotation.
  • Start collecting plastic bottles! I find 5 l water bottles ( I collect them from a friend) make excellent individual  cloches and plastic milk bottles, bottom cut off and upended, make excellent watering devices when buried top down in the soil next to large , thirsty plants such as Courgettes.

  • What about investigating  Garden Organic membership ?
Fruit trees/bushes.
  • Take off any ‘mummified’ fruits left on the trees as they can provide a source of infection later in the year.
  • Complete picking very late-maturing apples, before the hard frosts come.
  • As with herb pots, insulate pots of container-grown fruit to protect roots from the worst of the winter weather.
  • Plant new fruit bushes, trees and canes when the soil conditions are suitable. If the soil is too wet heel (temporarily plant) the plants in at a 45-degree angle. If the soil is frozen, keep the plants in a frost-free shed or garage, in their loosened packing material, till the ground defrosts.


    There are lots of other things to do, but all these jobs will keep me going for a few weeks - assuming the ground dries out enough to actually walk on.

A nice walk in the wood with Cat accompaniment




I promise there WERE signs of spring and it was NOT raining - it was actually rather nice :-)



Tom Cat looking thoughtful

 Cassi Cat as always with me.


 Look! Wild daffodils poking through! :-)


Monday, 7 January 2013

Well...Quilting?

I have just used some of my 2012 saving coin stash to buy various extra items I want to use for crafting - a rotary cutter and a larger cutting mat  - I only have an A3 one and need a bigger one! I was very frugal, though, and only spent £30, including a few other craft supplies. I can re use various stuff I already have but I did want a bigger cutting mat and a rotary cutter (as my wrists are not very good now.

I have been gathering fabric for many years - especially saving some  treasured clothes from Compostgirls past outfits and I finally am ready to " have a go" at a quilt.

I have a number of really helpful Quilting books ( mainly got from charity shops or given to me by friends) plus advice from lovely quilting experienced friends.

So...I will soon be embarking on The Quilting Experience.

Any tips? Hints? Suggestions?

I have never done any quilting, so am open to any ideas :-)

Working in the garden

 Yet again it did not rain over the weekend, so we all got busy in the garden. Compostgirl gathered up a load of wet leaves and put them into the leaf mould bins, ready to rot down and make lovely soil conditioner for the veg patch.

 


Here she follows a fine old tradition of jumping up and down on the leaves!


The hens are still not too keen to venture far from us and tend to spend a lot of time in the barn, so I have put the Eglu house in there ( in case any hen wants to lay an egg) and also food and water for them.




For the last couple of months we have only been getting one or two eggs a day, and for the last two weeks less than a dozen a week but finally they girls are coming out of moult/winter darkness sulks and today we had three eggs! As one hen has given up due to old age, three are moulting and not laying that is 100% laying rate from the other three so well done girls :-)

Yet again we were rewarded with another lovely sunset :-)

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