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, writer and Forest School leader at Moors Wood . I am a Master Composter and spent 10 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!


Sunday, 29 September 2013

To all of you who have left a comment recently...

I am so sorry but I can't make Blogger let me reply!

I can post a new blog post, I can publish your comments but...I can't reply to what you say! I click on the "reply" link and ...nothing happens.

Sorry !

I do appreciate your lovely comments and when I am allowed, I WILL reply!

Compostwoman xxx

Friday, 27 September 2013

Friday update with various good news


Compostgirl had another visit from the Nurse today to dress her hand - it continues to heal well which is such good news.

We also had Russell and Lee the builders return and finish the patio :) Hurrah! 


I have been busy with lots more fruit and veg to harvest and then preserve -



Today I have been making jelly and cordials - Elderberry Cordial and Hedgerow Jelly were todays preserves and I have very stained fingers as a result! They have been added to the ever increasing number of jars and bottles - I need to get labelling them















All tastes good, though.

I am off to Garden Organic HQ this weekend to attend the Master Composter and Gardener Conference - looking forward to it enormously :) Will bring back some photos of the wonderful organic gardens there :)



Thursday, 26 September 2013

Chick update - 4 weeks old today


Nutmeg and her two chicks. They are four weeks old today :)




See how big they are!




I think the black one ( a Copper Black Marans) may be a cockerel


I'm not yet sure about the blond one (Wheaten Marans x Cream Legbar)


Whatever, they are very entertaining and Nutmeg continues to be a superb mum to them :)

Let there be Light(s)


 
One of the things I dislike about growing older is the way I find it hard to see later at night - my eyes are getting tired by then!  I find now that to read or craft I need extra lighting to aid me and I guess I am not alone in this.

When Compostman renovated the sitting room we had long conversations as to whether we should alter the lighting but decided what we had, was just right for us  - a couple of ceiling mounted pendant lamps and some adjustable wall lamps - all of which can be independently on or off. We also have a small table lamp which provides a dim glow - usually this is on when we are all watching a film and just want a bit of light to see, so as not to tread on a sleeping cat :)
 
It is important to get lighting right for your needs and which fits in with the design of your home and there are some very helpful websites who give good advice about lighting. Here  is the Channel 4 website about lighting design and here is the Energy Saving  Trust site about using  energy saving lighting. I found both of these interesting and helpful.


The pendant lights in most houses are there to provide what designers call "ambient or background lighting" - a substitute for natural daylight. I was surprised to learn that the idea that we should light our rooms with one or at most two pendant lights is a hangover from the days of gas lamps.

I remember in my childhood home ( a large, high ceiling Victorian town house) we still had gas lamp fittings on the walls and we also had a number of beautiful chandeliers, made of crystal, which I was fascinated by. When we were considering new lighting here, I was quite tempted to get some modern versions of crystal lighting, but we have a smallish, Edwardian cottage, rather than a large Victorian, four storey town house so I decided against it. Part of me still hankers after a fabulous crystal chandelier as a centrepiece, though!

Anyway, although gas lighting is long gone from most houses, the idea of pendant lighting remains. The trouble is that, if you only have one or two overhead sources of light, this can cause problems.  Overhead lights alone can create a bland, flat effect in a room but if you use this more general lighting mixed with some other types, you can end up with a room well lit  for all sorts of uses. Usually the background lighting is augmented by such things as wall lights, downlighters, uplighters and standard lamps.We have a mixture of different types here, and it seems to work well for us. 

For example, if I am working in the sitting room during the day  I am lucky enough to have a North and two East facing windows providing lots of natural light. As it gets darker the main overhead lights can be turned on,  and there are also the wall mounted lamps which shine on certain areas of the sofas, this allows me to read or crochet while the rest of the room can be darker. The rest of the family can watch TV, while I can do my reading or crafting. Two other wall lamps provide similar "islands" of light for other people to read, if they wish.

When I am working at the table, reading, writing, painting, sewing, quilting or cutting out, as well as a pendant light overhead I can have one of the wall lights shine onto my work. I also have an excellent adjustable floor standing lamp which shines, over my shoulder, if needed. Compostman bought it for me as a Christmas present.

This, and the wall lamps are called "task lighting" by designers.


Task lighting, however, needs careful placement for best effect. You should apparently always place the lamp opposite your writing hand or you'll be working in your own shadow. The beam of the light should fall on your working area and not reflect onto your computer screen or paper. Common sense, really!

Compostman and I have had similar conversations about lighting in every room we have renovated - we always take the opportunity to rethink the lighting as it can make such a difference to the functionality and usefulness of a room.

So, in our kitchen we have fluorescent overhead lights and some under the cupboard downlighters which are similar to some in the Mail Order Lighting endon lighting range, so there is always lots of light to see what we are doing when cooking.

In our bedroom ( newly refurbished, as I have mentioned several times :)  ) we have three triple, adjustable downlighters on the ceiling. These are really useful, can be operated separately and can also be dimmed. One of them is over the bed head, so one of us can read while the other goes to sleep in the dark :)




If you are thinking of renovating any room, or even redecorating, it is always worth considering what your lighting needs might be. There are many useful guides to lighting around, I mentioned a couple earlier on and  I found this BBC site to be helpful so I knew what "buzz words" to use! There are also many online sellers of lights - I found the huge range of different stock carried by Mail Order Lighting was very helpful, when browsing for ideas.


What do other people use as lighting? Do any of you use specialist craft lamps? If so, are they any help?

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Harvest and flowers.


The Nurse came after school today, to dress the burn on Compostgirl's hand  -  it is a nasty burn :( but it is healing well and looks uninfected (Hurrah!)



The patio being pressure washed, ready for the builders to return and do the pointing between the slabs. It already looks lovely and will look even better when it is finished :) Compostman did a very good job pressure washing it as well  :)


Lots of harvesting happening - there are another 140 lbs of assorted apples in the shed waiting to be juiced. Picking the apples has not made any visible impact to the number on the trees as there are so many! We are going to need more fermentation vessels I think!


The autumn flowers are lovely in the sunshine, these cyclamen are so vibrant and glowing in the late afternoon sunshine.

Monday, 23 September 2013

And the winner of the @Wellspoultryltd giveaway is...



As promised, I took all the names ( 16 people! Thank you all so much for entering !)  and I put them in the open top feeder  Wells Poultry very kindly sent to me.




I then shut my eyes and stuck my hand in and drew out three slips of paper 



And the winners of the   2.5 kg Delux Plastic Outdoor Feeder  are
 


Frugal Mum of 3
Flymac 
and Sue F ( from Facebook)

Congratulations and well done! If you could email me on Compostwoman@the-compostbin.com, I will send your email details to Mark at Wells Poultry so he can arrange delivery of your   2.5 kg Delux Plastic Outdoor Feeder

And thank you to all those who entered, even though you did not win anything this time. I really appreciate you leaving a comment and entering :)



Many thanks...


to all of you for your lovely comments and good wishes. Compostgirl is very touched by your kindness, as are Compostman and I.

Her hand is not quite so painful today, but she has to avoid all sports and using it for at least two weeks as well as no "two handed" stuff for another couple of weeks. She has a dressing and bandage on the hand and has to keep it elevated in a sling, so can't use it much or get it wet at all. The outreach nurse is visiting us tomorrow ( still can't get over this! A home visit!)  to dress her hand so we shall see how things are going, then.

We are doing some things for her that she can't manage one handed, although she is coping really well and doing as much as she can.

Once again, thank you all :) You are all lovely :)


Saturday, 21 September 2013

An injured Compostgirl :(

Today has been a curious mix sort of day.

We (mainly Compostman)  have pressure washed the new patio slabs and I have done lots of housework and preserving, but overiding all that is the situation with Compostgirl's hand injury.

She burned her hand on Thursday evening while at a cook out at Guides - she put her hand on a gas Tilly Lamp and sustained partial thickness burns to her left palm - cue a visit to Ledbury MIU until nearly 11 pm and a very late night and a very distressed daughter :(

Friday saw an very very early start as she had to be at a burns clinic for 9.15 - in Bristol, over 60 miles away and reached by a notoriously slow road network, despite it being so called  "Motorway".  Left in loads of time to arrive at the clinic, but were then caught up in the fall out of an M5 accident and arrived late - fortunately I called the Hospital and warned the clinic of the delay and they were able to sort out something so she was seen by the consultant.

Compostgirl has a very bandaged left hand, the prognosis is good, fortunately for a full recovery :)

She will be visited by community outreach nurses to dress the wound for the next week, at least. I was astonished to find they do home visits. Home visits!! I thought they had long gone and am so grateful to find they still exist.

All of which brings home the seriousness of the situation :( Compostgirl is coping but is in pain and is quite affected by not being able to use her left hand - fortunately she is right handed but even so, it is having a huge effect on her daily life. Getting dressed, brushing her teeth or hair, eating, doing her pets and other jobs, playing sports or practical subjects at school  - all is affected and it hurts her to do stuff  :(

And I can do very little to help her, apart from the obvious practical stuff  - wash her hair, her hand, cut up her food, reassure her it will be ok. -  is to cuddle and reassure it will be ok and her hand will heal.

It will, of course, but the getting there is not great for any of us. Especially her.

If you want,  could you send some good wishes please for Compostgirl - who would love to read your comments ( she is fascinated by this blog and the way people comment :)   )



Compostgirl ok'd this post, btw I would not have written it , otherwise.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Trees, patios and garden seating ideas


The Giveaway is now closed and I will draw the names out of a (clean) hen feeder later today


After the excitement in the last couple of weeks of the patio build, it is so good to think that soon I can get started on the garden redesign. I am itching to get digging! For now though, I have been looking around on line for more ideas and have pinned more products and ideas onto my Pinterest "Dream Gardens" board (a good use of Pinterest I think).


So far, my pinboard  seems to be mainly garden benches, ponds, greenhouses, cold frames and not much else - I suspect my veg growing habit is having an impact on my Internet searches! Or I just like to sit down a lot when out in the garden? Anyway, a few days ago I spent some time pruning this weeping silver birch tree near the house.





It has become a good place us to sit and have a coffee and a bit of a rest during the day as it is shady and also surprisingly dry when it rains.




After I had a good look at how my pruning efforts came out  I began to think about getting or maybe even making a rustic "round the tree trunk " bench for it. It is a lovely shady spot to sit and will have a good view of the new patio (am still so excited!) and all the new herbaceous flower beds I will be planting up really soon.  It is also near to where the new garden pond is going to be dug ( more excitement!) which we hope will end up looking a bit like this picture on my Pinterest board, only more wild. You can see a few images of "round the trunk" benches on there as well.
  
As the patio work is nearly complete I have also turned my thoughts to what sort of seating we want for it. As I discussed in a post a few months ago, our existing table and chairs are well past their prime, they are more than 10 years old, have had a hard life and have been chewed by Hornets (yes, really) .

So, time for a change. This time I have been looking at slightly more naturalistic/rustic seating. As always we insist that anything made of wood which we buy must be FSC Certified (Forest Stewardship Council and ideally made from fallen rather than felled timber. I have not seen many suppliers who use fallen timber, so I was really pleased and surprised to find that The Garden Furniture Centre makes FSC Certified Rustic Garden Benches from fallen rather than felled timber, wherever they can. I was also impressed that they sell furniture made from recycled plastic.

I was particularly taken with this rustic bench and if you go to the website you can see a selection of different locations and surroundings where they have sited the bench for the photo shoot. Some of them could be in our garden or wood!

Image copyright The Garden Furniture Centre

You can also have carving on the bench seat back and I  love the idea of something carved as a memorial or to commemorate a special occasion. You may, if you watch it, have seen one of these on a recent ITV gardening makeover show.

I know I said I was going to go for metal garden furniture because of the Hornet damage, but I just love wood so much! I will have to think hard about this as it IS quite a lot of money but our Wedding Anniversary is on the horizon so perhaps a bench with some commemorative message would be nice. I would justify spending the money on something so very special to commemorate that :).

Obviously I have not yet bought anything from The Garden Furniture Centre so I do not know how good they would actually be,  but the website is impressive

As regards the patio, we have to clean up the slabs this weekend (using a pressure washer and brush) and then, on the first dry day next week the builders will return to finish off the pointing :) I love pressure washing things :) I find it very satisfying, in a probably strange way.

I can't wait :)




Disclaimer - I am writing a series of posts about my plans and hopes for our garden redesign - this post features a paid link to a company I would be happy to order from. As always, the words I write are my own and are my honest opinions.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Reminder! Giveaway closes tonight!

Reminder! Don't forget to enter the Wells Poultry outdoor feeder giveaway! Entries close at midnight so leave a comment on the orginal post to enter

Good luck

Rugs, rags, recycling and a new floor.


This week has been a very busy one for us here  at Compost Mansions. We are having a lot of work done outside as we are having an expanded and redesigned patio being built. I have been redesigning the garden for a long time now and finally I have some new beds to plant up and a whole load of plants I have grown to put into them.





The new kitchen floor is finished and looks lovely, and now the evenings are drawing in I have returned to some crafting at last :)

One of the things I have been doing is play with a small peg loom - I have made a start on a rug made from (again) unwanted cotton tee shirts  and I have also resurrected the rag yarn crochet rug I was working on at the start of the year.




I actually unwound a lot of it as I didn't like the colour scheme and am crocheting it again.  The plan is that this will be a rug for the cats to sleep on in the kitchen as the new terracotta tiles are a bit cold for them, otherwise.

Rugs are also on my mind for elsewhere in the house. Now that our lovely new bedroom has a wooden floor, I want to get a couple of smaller rugs to go with the large woollen rug which sits at the foot of the bed. I want warm comfortable rugs to stand on with bare feet when I get out of bed. I also want them to be woven from either wool or some other natural yarn.

I had a look around on line for traditional rugs for the home and found a company called mail order rugs. I love the fact that on their website you can select rugs by colour, yarn, shape or style. I was particularly taken by the colours of some of the rugs and got some great ideas for making my own.

As far as the rugs are concerned, I want them to be made from natural materials, probably wool. I would ideally like them to be washable or at least damp spongable ( the cats are always bringing us "gifts" and also have muddy paws even as far as the bedroom!) and I would like them to come from a supplier who doesn't exploit rug makers in other parts of the world ( often underpaid children) so I was pleased to see that mail order rugs say on their website
All our rugs are responsibly sourced using suppliers who understand our opposition to exploiting children in the rug industry.
There is a really good Rug Buying Guide on their website as well which is full of interesting info.

A couple of the modern rug designs  in particular caught my eye as ideas for a large quilt I want to make to go on our bed. This will be in shades of brown, gold, green and cream. I have dusted off my quilting tools and sorted out some lovely strips of fabric as well as cutting out a lot more strips. This is for a child quilt :)



So, as the nights draw in I return to my crafting :)




Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Cider, harvesting and patio news.

 We finally got round to bottling the 2011 cider last night.


Am slightly surprised I could find my Hydrometer straight away ( actually, am astonished!) , but pleasantly surprised by the strength the cider came out at - 6.5%, Tastes good as well :)



And I took 4 Kg of Damsons out of the freezer and set them off on the road to Damson wine ( in the white fermentation bucket)

When they have thawed I will add lots of boiling water to them, leave it to cool, add pectolase then leave them for four days, stirring now and then.


This freed up space to open freeze another 6 kg of Damsons, for use later in the year in another batch of wine or to make Jelly or Cordial. I have no time to make any more at the moment!

I have 80lb of Beth pears to process - will be using the steamer which fits on my pasteuriser to make pear and tayberry juice - and then some of the juice will be turned into pear jelly while the rest will be bottled immediately.

It is a bit of a drawn out process using the steamer/pasteuriser but it has the advantage that the juice comes out pasteurised, and just needs to go into hot bottles.

I will also cold press some of the pears and pasteurise the juice from cold - but that will be a job for the weekend, along with the first of the cider and apple juice making :)

Cheers!

Patio update :)


It's now finished, apart from the pointing, which needs a dry day and dry slabs to do. Which we did not have, yesterday or today.

I have not taken a photo of it as it has been too blooming wet!

Monday, 16 September 2013

Cats, cooking and firelight.


Saturday and Sunday were very wet here, so lots of baking ( Compostgirl) and brewing and preserving (me) happened.


While the cats snoozed.

only occasionally waking up long enough to have some food.


And it is now officially Autumn, as we lit the woodburner for the first time since April, here.

I spent Sunday evening on the sofa with crochet and a cat and a book, watching the flames :)

Friday, 13 September 2013

Patio update and a very wet Fri


On Thursday builders Russell and Lee returned to work on the patio, joined by Rob in the afternoon. We had a lovely fine day so they got a huge amount of work done - I couldn't believe how much more of the patio was laid!



 It is looking really good.

 

 We have made a start on filling in the large hole in the meadow



 
Spot the Compostman?


As always any thing which happens around here has an interested obvserver, either cat or chicken.
  




The plan was for the builders to return on Fri and hopefully finish the patio slabs and maybe get some of the pointing done, but of course we has epic rain all day on Friday, so the plan was ( literally) a washout.

I spent a lot of Fri resting my back, sewing, crocheting, writing and creating order out of the chaos which was my desk.

And harvesting more stuff.



Wednesday, 11 September 2013

(nearly) Wordless Wednesday - more of the same!


From this...

 And this...

 And this...

plus a whole lot more produce grown in the garden...


To this - 20 portions of  vegetable and red lentil soup and 7 jars of courgette, tomato and plum chutney. And a load of stuff blanched and frozen. The Dehydrator is also on.


As well as ...

Patio work today has been lots of stone deliveries, moving stone around, taking rubble away to fill in the hole-where-the-pond-once-was ( yes we have started on that as well !) Then lots of compacting down and getting the stone level along with putting replacement manhole covers down. The first slabs have been laid by the back door, and the cats have a temporary ramp to get up to the cat flap - they are not impressed AT ALL and are mostly hiding in various bedrooms in disgust.

It's all progressing very fast, our builders are great and work well with us and we just need a couple more days of good weather and it will be done.

Then I can get on with making the new flower borders.





Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Look what I have been sent to review :)






Scotch 3M has just introduced Ralph the Dog, the new fun Scotch Magic Tape Dispenser Dog.

They say Ralph is the perfect accessory to brighten any creative space,  and I must admit I rather have to agree :) He certainly brought a smile to m face :)




I intended to keep Ralph for myself but there is no chance of that as, as soon as I unwrapped the parcel he has disappeared into Compostgirl's bedroom, never to reappear :)

He sits obediently on Compostgirl's desk keeping her Scotch Brand Tape close to hand – and is also rather cute.


Scotch Magic Tape is a matte-finish tape, which becomes invisible on paper and, as it can be written on with pen, pencil or a marker, I like to use it for identifying documents I want to keep.

It is pretty good as sticky tape as well, for wrapping presents etc.


 
He is easy to refill 




and looks very cute :)


 

I was also recently sent a load of other Scotch items to try, which I will be using and posting about in the near future.

Thank you to Escapade who sent me the Scotch 3M stuff  - I know it will get lots of use here, if not by me then very definitely by Compostgirl, who loves sticky tape!



The Scotch Magic Tape Dispenser Dog comes with a 19mm x 8.89m roll of Scotch Magic tape. It is available from Tesco and Staples. RRP of £8.99

Digging and yet more digging

Tuesday was fine and dry, so the work started on the patio 


  


 Compostman taking up turf.


Getting rid of the old patio and finding the not very good foundations - we now know why the old patio went so horribly wonky and sunk!


 The new area of patio. We are reusing all the slabs



Compostman was busy with the JCB and it came in very handy today :)


 Cassi Cat is not impressed by all this


Lovely new terracotta floor tiles - easy to clean up the mud :)

 

In between making hot drinks, answering questions, doing some writing work and my normal chores I also managed to make some Damson Jelly and Cordial

Another busy day here :)
And more of the same tomorrow
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