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 29 January 2014

Approved Food order

I have often read of other blogging friends ordering from Approved Foods and thought I would have a go as well - but it has taken me until recently for there to be anything I really wanted, to be on offer. 

No fault of AF, just one of those things, but finally a day came when I checked and there was loads of stuff there which we not only use, but we were also nearly out of!

 So I placed an order and a few days later was notified of the 1 hour window of delivery. As this was at a time when I was out, I altered it :) and the next day eagerly unpacked the parcel.

Lots of things we like to eat, both lots of staples and a few luxuries!

The box was a bit bashed about and sadly a few tins were very dented and two of the bags of wholefoods were split open, but a call to Approved Foods soon sorted out a refund AND an apology for something with I really do not think was their fault. So full marks for customer service AF.

I saved over £40 on this little lot, all things we eat regularly but at much lower prices than normal. And it saves food being wasted just because it is past a so called "Best Before" date

Not sure I will be ordering regularly as a lot of the food does not appeal to us,  but I will keep watching as who knows when I might spot some more bargains :)

Tuesday 28 January 2014

New followers and the closing of The Crafty Compostwoman Blog

Hello and welcome to all my new followers

I know I have some new followers on Bloglovin but unfortunately  I do not know a way to work out who you are?  But be assured you are most welcome!

And I have a few new followers on my Google feed - thank you ! 

So a warm welcome all my new followers and please do comment if you like  - I do try to respond and am always keen to read your comments :)

And while on the subject of Google - despite my best efforts I cannot renew the subscription for the domain for The Crafty Compostwoman  blog and it will expire on 6th Feb 2014. When this happens I will lose the whole blog as it won't revert back to the free blogspot site.

So, I am going to start  posting the crafting stuff on here, The Compost Bin, again rather than keeping a separate blog for it. Sorry but I can't think how else to manage it!

I have exported all the posts ( and the lovely comments) over from The Crafty Compostwoman and hopefully all will work out ok.

I will just have to remember to wash my composty hands before starting on some crafting :)

And while I am talking about crafts, here is what I have been up to with the crochet hook over the last few days

Sunday 26 January 2014

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2014

Ok did mine today,  so here is the list

7 blue tits
9 great tits
8 long tail tits
6 coal tits

5 chaffinches
2 greenfinches
2 bullfinches ( eating the buds on the magnolia!)

1 robin
3 sparrows
1 blackcap

5 blackbirds
1 song thrush
12 fieldfares
  8 redwing
( actually loads more but they were in the ivy behind where I was watching so I couldn't count them)

1 wren

3 crows
1 woodpigeon
2 jays
1 magpie

1 GS woodpecker
2 Green woodpecker - wonderful exotic looking birds, we have a lot around here in the wood and garden!

2 Buzzards

2 Mallards
1 Moorhen

I could see them bobbing around behind the fence...on the pool side.

My area for watching from the house has 2 bird tables, a couple of big oak trees, grass and hedges with ivy etc and also backs on to our little meadow with the pool ( which is full at the moment!) , so I do get some water birds as well.....

Basically we are lucky enough to own a small nature reserve here, with woodland, meadow, hedges marsh and a pool, so get a lot of different birds.

Friday 24 January 2014

Logging the hours, making some gift tags and a visit to Newent

Yet more rain fell overnight - the ground is so sodden there is nowhere for it to go and we are getting flooded patches in the wood, garden  and many of the raised veg beds and flower beds are under water.

Today I got on with sorting out documents to do with filing my Tax return, I have all I need to hand and am just inputting the data to the website - I think I may be owed some back tax, but am not 100% sure - we shall see.

I have also been sorting out the hours I volunteered as a Master Composter and Master Gardener, although I am very good at recording my hours I am much less good at actually sending them off to Garden Organic, and the same goes for expenses! I really must get more on top of this aspect of volunteer work.

Late morning we decided we were fed up with the rain and being indoors. We needed a few bits of shopping and had planned to go out, but rather than visit Ledbury we went to Newent for a pub lunch and a look around. Newent has some excellent charity shops as well as a couple of craft shops which I love to visit.. So after a very nice lunch, I visited The  Patchwork Shop and The Wool Garden  so I had a "fix" of crafty chat. I also collected some money from the sale of some stuff in The Stock Exchange  ( a shop selling " pre loved" stuff  - clothes, shoes, dvds, books etc), while Compostman browsed the books in the charity shops. He found an interesting History book but I found nothing I really wanted to buy(!) so I just came away with some quilting thread, bought with the money from The Stock Exchange sales :).

We returned home past very flooded fields in time to greet Compostgirl from the school bus and then after all the evening jobs were finished I settled down to some crochet, watching Big Bang Theory re runs on E4 and making some gift tags from cards.

These are from Christmas cards

And these are from "other" cards and will be good for non mid winter presents

Anyone else make their own tags? I guess a lot of you do :)

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Granny square throw progress

With all the rain stopping outdoor work, I have been busy crocheting :-)

The plan is to make a "patchwork quilt" style granny square throw - joining the 9 squares together then putting a boarder around the block - then repeating the process so I end up with blocks of 9 squares joined together. There will be diagonal solid colour squares coming in from each corner of the finished throw, a very intricate square at each corner  and a thick border around the whole thing.

 This is the first of the "9 patch" blocks, crocheted together. it needs more blocking but it is square, honest!

 These are more  9 squares waiting for me to join them together with the red yarn and add a pale green border around the block.

 These are some of the other squares I have made - the purple/pink squares are for another wip - the brown/gold ones will be used in the patchwork style throw but scattered around as accent squares rather than in one block of 9 squares. The more intricate red/gold/green square is one of the corner squares I mentioned.

I am aiming for a King size throw for our bed, but maybe will make a couple of smaller ones instead - I will see how it looks when I have a few more of the patches completed. The colours are shades of golds, browns, greens, crimson, primrose and fawn from the Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino range (  love this yarn!)

I am planning on adding accent squares of solid colours as well.

I can make 3 or 4 squares an evening, while watching TV or listening to music/sitting by the fire. I weave  in the ends as I go and the biggest time taker is the matching up and slip stitching together so it looks neat and tidy. That takes me an evening to do and I have to concentrate on it, not watch TV!

I work with a 4 mm hook and each square measures 12 cm after 6 rounds.

I have just added in some more shades of Autumnal colours from the latest batch of Debbie Bliss yarn, Burnt Sienna, Fudge, Apple Green, Primrose and Butter  - all lovely toning shades and the effect, I think,  is very pleasing :)

I didn't make it to either of the crafting sessions this week as I was working at home, but I did get to visit a lovely Yarn, Patchwork etc shop in Ledbury called Bodkins which is a treat to visit, and is run by a lovely lady, so I guess I will be visiting Ledbury more often :)

Anyone else busy crafting due to the wet weather?

Monday 20 January 2014

Some grumbles to myself while hiding under the duvet.

Anyone else fed up?

More rain.
More issues with Blogger.
More broadband problems.
Treacle the maybe pullet is now crowing. So is a Cockerel. And has reverted back to being named Creosote. So I will have to re home one of them.
Tax return.
Family problems.
Washing having to dry in the house.
Muddy shoes and boots.

Too cold to work even in the polytunnel - no sunshine to warm it up a little and make it bearable in there.

I am so fed up, full stop.

Thank you for listening.

Roll on February!

Thursday 16 January 2014

Catch up with my doings.

Yet more rain is falling, so I have been wandering around today, photographing and making notes of all the things I want  moved/rejigged in winter so I don't have to wade through mud to do them.

These include:
  • More hard paths to/from the chicken run area: 
  • A new washing line set up by the new patio, so I only have to walk across paving slabs in the winter to hang out washing ( if it ever stops raining long enough for the washing to get to the hanging out point!) .
  • More slabs around the polytunnel:

I am sure there will be more things to add to this list! 

Blondin the cockerel is now King of the Roost and lives in with The Big Girls in the Mega Hen pen. He is very pleased with himself.

Still not 100% convinced that Treacle is actually a pullet, but s/he shows no sign of crowing yet, so I guess we will not know for sure until an egg is laid. 
Inside I have been busy sorting out old paperwork, doing my Tax return and generally clearing out the old to make way for the new.

<cough> The new in this instance also includes ordering some Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino yarn in glorious autumnal colours from a supplier who had lots of now discontinued colours in stock. :) 

Sadly our local Wassailing with The Big Apple had to be cancelled due to the appalling weather, so we will just have to " make do" with serenading our few trees with The Wassail Song and banging some pots and pans around them. Oh, and drinking cider, of course :) .

And for some reason Tabitha has taken to sitting on the Kitchen window ledge, outside .


Monday 13 January 2014

A crafty solution to my rural isolation

(Sorry about the formatting issues- I am having problems with Blogger)

I really do not like this time of year. The wet weather is curtailing yet more outside work and I am struggling to keep motivated and cheerful, here. Yet more rain! How much more can actually fall from the sky? (Don't answer)

Part of my problem is that, although I am happy with just my own company, I am also a sociable person and I love talking to people and getting out and about. I often do need an "excuse" of volunteer work, though, to make myself leave behind work here in the garden or polytunnel.

I have lots of chances to get out and about in Spring, Summer and Autumn - working or volunteering as a Master Composter/Master Gardener or LFHW Ambassador. In the Winter months, however, there is little of that to do so I get less and less sociable. Much though I love where we live, it is an isolated place and I do not see my neighbours or wider community in the winter. Many days can go by where I only speak to my family and I often go many days without leaving Compost Mansions or speaking to anyone else.  I then have a tendency to hibernate and do as little as I can get away with, which makes me feel miserable. Add in the bad weather, a few bouts of ill health and a spot of SAD and I find I get more and more lonely and withdrawn. It is a downward spiral and one which makes me unhappy.

I think this is what is meant by rural isolation? I recognise this is not a great way to feel. To stave it off I have been checking out local craft sessions/clubs in an effort to make myself more sociable and talk to more people during the winter months.  I don't have much time in the summer months for crafting and usually by the time I have finished outside for the day I am too tired to do anything, so again, an hour or two a week where I am committed to going out will be welcome then as well

 And yes, there ARE things I can join :) So far I have joined my local WI (once a month for a couple of hours in the evening, with nice people I know from my local area) and I have also found several "drop in" sessions of the craft and natter sort. One group meets once a month in the early evening in a Ledbury pub and is for knitting and crochet. To my delight several Ledbury based friends are already members, so I will be going to that.

There is also an active Quilting group who also meet once a month (different night!) in Ledbury. And I have found that the café and craft gallery just up the road from me does a weekly afternoon drop in "knit and natter" for a small fee - cake and a drink available. A café in Ledbury now does a similar thing, on another day in the morning.

So, I am going to make time to go out at least twice a month (more if I can) to do some crafting. And I will try to keep it up every month. I can combine the Ledbury session with shopping, and speak to more people. AND in the process of looking; I have found more nice crafty shops in Ledbury and other local small towns. I am feeling better, already :)

But it did make me wonder just how many other people there are who feel isolated and lonely all the time, but can't do anything about it.

Thursday 9 January 2014

Joining the local WI

Yesterday I had an evening out which is rare for me and which I really enjoyed. I went ( just up the lane/in summer across the field via a footpath) to my local WI and really enjoyed myself, so much so that I have joined up :)

We listened to an interesting talk about the WI Denman college and the wonderful courses they offer - I can now see what I will spend a bit of my inheritance from Aunty Betty on - some residential course involving textiles I suspect :)

She would have liked that :) She liked nice feeling/looking fabrics and was always very interested in my latest craft efforts :)And then I can look at what I made and every time I make something else I can remember her :)

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Grass, what a mess it is in and how to fix it (maybe)

Today we had a few hours where water did not fall from the sky so I went around and had a good look at the damage and water logging in the garden and wood.

The land is sodden, far too wet to do anything on or with it and where ever anyone has walked over the  ground, footprint shaped holes rapidly fill with muddy water.

We have paving slabs to walk on alongside the poly tunnel to the hen runs, but areas of grass where we have had to walk even once are just liquid mud. One of the drawbacks of being on very heavy red clay!

There are areas in the garden where the grass looks suspiciously like it is dead - I suspect that some of the lawn, where the JCB has driven over and where the soil was still very compacted, will not recover from the damage.

and we have standing water on the grass, the soil, the flower beds are under water in places and there is even water standing on the surface of the raised beds - that is how waterlogged the soil is. The area around the old pool, where we are slowly filling in the large hole, is like something from a battlefield - churned up mud and subsoil with muddy pools of water.

I have been taking photos of the worst areas (I have odd hobbies!) with a view to re laying some of the paths around the garden and I have been thinking of replacing some of the damaged lawn areas. I was originally thinking about buying grass seed with a view to  re seeding, but I have also now been looking into buying turf, as the small areas we turfed last year seem to have withstood the rainfall rather better than other parts of the lawn.  I suspect that is because we dug over the soil underneath and so it is rather better aerated than the old area of lawn.

As I would have to dig and level the soil regardless of sowing seed or laying turf, I might go for the slightly easier option, especially as the cats and the chickens are less likely to destroy turf, rather than a nice seedbed! I can also  grow and then plant out wild flower plug plants through holes in the turf into the soil beneath, which is an easier way to get a wildflower filled lawn more quickly.

If I do decide to buy turf rather than seed I am thinking of using Turf Express as the supplier. They deliver all over the UK and offer a hard wearing grass mix at a good price, with a minimum order of only 10 m2 and with next day delivery at no extra charge. The small minimum order is attractive, as I don't want to re do the whole garden, just certain selected areas ( although re doing the whole lot would be lovely, it just is not going to happen!)

I found an interesting and helpful guide to laying turf on the  BBC Gardeners World. website.  Has anyone else re turfed large areas of lawn? Any comments or experiences to recount? I would be interested in your experiences, if so.

Interestingly we often go to Hereford via Stoke Edith, where the B road cuts across the flood plain of the River Frome and there are very flat fields where turf is grown - it is a fascinating process to watch how it is cut, harvested (rolled up just like strips of carpet!) and taken away.


Tuesday 7 January 2014

Thinking of building an Ark

Wow we have had so much wind and rain here recently! We are both rather exhausted as the violent weather kept us awake over the last few nights, with worry about what was happening outside and due to the sheer noise and buffeting.

We have been fortunate enough to escape major damage here; a few trees have come down in the wood (only small dead ones) and there has been a small water leak in the loft around the chimney stack due to a combination of the severity of the rain and the wind direction; not serious and did not damage anything and can be easily fixed BUT it needs the wind and rain to stop before Compostman can go up on the roof to fix it. Apart from that we have not lost anything as we had tied/nailed down or put away pretty well everything which might fly away or get damaged.

Our lane floods at the far end where it joins the main road and so was impassable for a few hours, several times in the last few days. Near to us there has been major flooding, not just impassable roads but houses with their ground floors under several feet of water, so sad for all the people concerned.

The land is sodden, far too wet to do anything on or with it - and we have standing water on the grass, the soil, the flower beds are under water in places and there is even water standing on the surface of the raised beds - that is how waterlogged the soil is.

Compostgirl returned to School today and so Compostman and I have been catching up lots of indoor jobs  - but to be honest mainly we have been snoozing in front of the fire as we are sleep deprived. Maybe we are turning into Bears and are hibernating!

I hope you are all safe and not flooded ( if in the UK) or frozen (if in the US of A)

Please stay safe and warm during this extreme weather.


Sunday 5 January 2014

RIP Mango

Sadly yesterday Mango the very poorly Guinea Pig was found to have diabeties. We took her  to our vets  where she stayed in overnight and had blood and urine tests. Sadly she was found to be diabetic but the prognosis was not good and we agreed she was too poorly to survive  :( and so it was decided it would be most kind if she was  put to sleep, saving her any more suffering

If she had been younger, maybe she would have had a better chance , but as an already elderly rescue guinea pig  sadly it was not to be.

RIP Mango lovely piggie.

Saturday 4 January 2014

The passing of time and the start of wisdom?

Today when Simon the Postman arrived I was called to the door to sign for a recorded delivery letter.

This makes my heart sink, as in the past for me it has nearly always heralded some sort of bad news ( a death, a parking fine, some legal issue  - that sort of stuff ) Only occasionally has it been good stuff ( like the recent arrival of my Food Hygiene certificate, following on from my Outdoor Food Handling Course)

Anazingly today it held a substantial ( well it was by my standards) cheque and a gold wedding ring - a bequest from my late, much loved Aunt Betty, who died a few months ago.

This triggered an interesting discussion with Compostgirl about inheritance laws, burials, funeral rites, my jewelry box contents, our family tree and the Arts and Crafts movement.

Not sure what I will do with the money but I am NOT using it to just pay everyday bills - I will use it for something special, something I can look at or experience and think about and remember my lovely Aunty Betty, who was a Mum to me after my Mum went into Hospital when I was 11, never to return to me at home again.

After all this, as I had my jewelry box open I sorted out a lot of silver and gold jewelry ( with Compostgirl joining in) which I DO NOT want to keep as they have nothing but unhappy memories for me, and I am going to sell them for what I can get and buy something I do value with the money.

At nearly 52 years old I have finally decided I am not going to keep stuff that makes me feel uncomfortable or unhappy. Despite who gave it to me and however much I loved them, once.

Is this the start of wisdom? I do hope so :)

Part of my letting go of the past in 2014 process

Thursday 2 January 2014

Feeling slightly better :)

I feel a lot happier today, as I spent several hours in the Polytunnel getting my hands into soil and compost and planting and sowing stuff

I suspect I was suffering nature deficit disorder yesterday, as after several hours outside today with my hands in compost etc  I feel much more calm, if not physically better.

Am also back online now on my main pc, now with a super dooper new operating system and lots more memory.  Computer now working very well and very fast due to my lovely husband Compostman doing the work and buying the software for the upgrade (as part of my Christmas present :)

Lots of other old software for me still to re install, and my old drive to be plugged in as well but it is lovely to have a working pc again, rather than using my tablet to blog with.

Today we also had a trip to Ledbury to replenish our supplies - the Co Op is doing a "spend £20 and get a £5 voucher off your next shop" offer,   so we stocked up on  lots of staples ( mainly cat meat!) and also some of the Christmas luxury now reduced stuff and as we divided the shop into two batches, we saved £10 out of a £40 shop of stuff, most of which we needed anyway. Result! 

We also now have a house Guinea Pig - Mango is poorly and has lost an alarming amount of weight in the last few weeks so she has been brought inside and we are monitoring her food and water intake for a couple of days, ready to go to the vets if needed.

Many thanks to all of you who left a comment after my post yesterday - I do try to pace myself when I feel very unwell, but it is very hard with a long term illness and those of you who know me, know it is hard for me to do this!

Thank you for reading xxx

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Happy New Year.

So, a new year starts.

I hope 2014 is better than 2013, which quite frankly was not great for us here at Compost Mansions. Although the weather was better for gardening in 2013, ill health made it harder for both of us to get the things we wanted to achieve, done. 

This trend continued right up until the very end of 2013, as I injured my shoulder and neck muscles just after Christmas and am finding it hard to sit up straight, bend down or turn my head. This just added more misery to the post 'flu aches and pains I was already feeling. So yet again lots of outside jobs have had to be put on hold until I am well enough.  Being ill before Christmas also knocked a hole in my work schedule

Despite this, life has to go on and the chickens need tending, regardless. I had to go outside today in the wind and the rain, to put down pallets in the hen runs, so the poor things had somewhere dry to stand. At 2 pm it was nearly dark! The hens are not impressed by this weather or by the dull days (and who can blame them?) and huddle together in the barn, moaning at me to " make it stop" whenever I go outside.

Blondin the nearly-a-Cockerel dances around them, nearly but not quite brave enough to try his luck with the Big Hens. His  fellow hatchling Treacle (who was formerly called Creosote) is not quite yet mature enough to squat for him and she just runs away, so he is not happy at all.

He is a handsome fellow and has a very melodious crow, and is not (so far) at all aggressive.

While outside this afternoon tending to the hens I looked around through the grey veil of rain onto a totally sodden garden which looks a mess. The bindweed is taking over the veg plot to the point where I am seriously considering razing the existing beds back to grass and starting all over with new ones, elsewhere. The ground is awash and everwhere I walk I leave foot shaped mini ponds behind. 

Gloomy weather makes for gloomy thoughts in my head, which only longer days, outside work (with less rain!) will put right. 

So, having written this post and having had a good look around Blogland, I am off to watch the first episode of the new series of Sherlock - can't wait to settle down in front of the fire and enjoy it :)

And it is STILL raining outside - and now the wind is rising and wuthering around the house.  My thoughts are with all of you and hope you are safe, wherever you are.