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!

Tuesday 30 September 2014

The Harcombe Diet Conference Birmingham

After our adventures in Wales I spent Friday collecting the chickens and guinea pig from various places where they had been staying, buying a new car (!) and generally catching up with life here at Compost Mansions.

However I did have another outing planned as on 27th September I went off to Birmingham to attend The Harcombe Diet Conference. The Harcombe Diet  is a way of eating which has, so far, helped me to lose more than 4 stone in less than three months.  It has a very friendly and supportive online community and I was excited to be going to meet Zoe and Andy Harcombe at the Conference.

I got on the 7.50 train from Ledbury and after a trouble free journey arrived at Birmingham New Street . The conference was being held at the Hotel du Vin so I had a very pleasant short walk across by the Cathedral to the Hotel.

Lots of forum members were already there and I settled down to chat and drink decaff black coffee.

Then we got started.

Zoe spoke first and introduced some of the research she has been conducting recently about food myths and the wrong advice we are all given about fats and carbs. Her grasp of how statistics can be used by main stream medical and food vested interests to tell a story is stunning :) A very interesting presentation and she is a lovely person as well.

Next up was Kevin Downey - a Learning and Development Specialist who was inspirational and motivating. He took us though the ideas behind "The Chimp Paradox" an excellent book written by Prof. Steve Peters which aims to help us be the best we can be, in every area of life. Some of the ideas are difficult to grasp at first but then it all becomes very clear indeed :) 
"The Chimp Model is a Model for understanding and managing the functioning of the mind. The Model is not a hypothesis nor strict scientific fact but based on the neuroscience of the brain. The model is fun but meant to be taken seriously when it comes to applying it"

At lunchtime we had the delight of  "Harcombe friendly" food in large quantities and all absolutely delicious :) We had lots of time to chat to each other, I heard some inspirational stories from other members and Zoe came and chatted to pretty well all of us during the break.

Then we went back for the afternoon session, with Dr John Briffa.

Dr Briffa is a practising doctor, author and international speaker and is a leading authority on the impact of nutrition and other lifestyle factors on health and illness. He is dedicated to providing individuals with information and advice they can use to take control of their health and optimise their energy and vitality.

Dr Briffa is apparently a bit controversial (google to see what I mean) but I found his views to be honest and consistent with the facts presented. His presentation was fascinating and for me there were a couple of "penny dropped" moments during it where I realised just why my weight gain started about 13 years ago, coinciding with gall stones/antibiotic use/major illness/low fat eating and inflammatory illness.

We ended with a session from Kevin Downey which was entertaining and thought provoking and certainly set me up with a positive mental attitude :)

I went home on the train full of energy and ideas - not even dampened by a 2 hour delay at Worcester. I got home and immediately downloaded "The Chimp Paradox" and "Escape the diet trap"  onto my tablet. Loads of food for thought there :)

So a great day out with lots of interesting food for thought, new friends made' an excellent goody bag with free books in,  and a positive reinforcement that I am doing the right thing for me :)

Monday 29 September 2014

Fun day in West Wales :)

After our exciting day with the book launch and then dinner, we slept well, got up and had an excellent breakfast and then paid our bill and left The Cambrian Inn. We called in at Solva Woollen Mill again and bought a few things ( chocolate and a beautiful rug)

This is my needlefelted "Small" riding on the back of one of Celestine and the Hare's sheep :)

 The chocolate is yummy :)

Then we set off for our day out in West Wales.We went to St David's and had a look at the Bishop's Palace and Cathedral, then we drove to Whitesands beach to have a look at rock pools and the sea shore

Compostgirl couldn't resist getting her feet wet so changed into a swimming costume and got wet in the sea. Far too cold for us so Compostman and I just watched :) Brrrr it was cold.

We saw seals bobbing in the water looking at the people on the beach  - I wonder what they were thinking?

Compostgirl dried off and dressed then we drove along the coast road admiring the view until we arrived at Fishguard, where we watched ferries arriving and departing


and went to the Sea Life centre. We have been here before and it is excellent to have a look at marine creatures.

it also has a very good cafe; where we stopped for an early lunch.

There were loads of seagulls in the car park and on the rocks which seemed to find Compostgirl very interesting. She tried to get one to feed near her feet but they were still a bit too wild to oblige - it amused us to watch their antics though :)

Finally we set off to visit Castell Henllys Iron Age Hill fort  - again somewhere we have been before and really loved. Compostgirl really wanted to re visit this place as she has not been there for 8 years.

Compostman and Compostgirl enter the gates at the top of the path up to the Hill Fort.

A Wicker Man stands on guard by the entrance.

Inside one of the reconstructed round houses

 back down the hill with a pause to pay our respects at the Sacred Spring.

Finally we went back down the hill to the visitor centre where Compostgirl had her face painted like a Celtic warrior. She is being fierce in this pose!

Sadly it was then time to go home so we said goodbye and spent a very tiresome 4 hours driving through torrential rain and spray to get home. We were all very tired by the long day but happy with our mini break in Wales :).

Saturday 27 September 2014

Jackie Morris book launch - Something about a Bear/Cat Walks

If you remember about a month ago I went on a road trip around Wales, partly to see friends  Jackie Morris and Karin from Celestine and the Hare  weave their magic with wool and needle and paint and brush and also to see other friends elsewhere. I was lucky enough for us as a family to be invited  to the upcoming launch of not one but two books by Jackie. The book launch, for Something about a Bear and Cat Walk, was to be held at Solva Woollen Mill starting at 4 pm on 24th September.

This was mid week and so it looked like I would be going alone, but after some discussion with school I was able to get permission for Compostgirl to attend as an educational visit! So, as it would be a very long drive back that night we decided to stay over and go somewhere the next day before returning home. After a lot of work sorting out a place to stay over night, chicken care and guinea pig care and cat care at home :) we collected Compostgirl from school late morning and set off. The three of us set off from home at noon to drive to Wales and on to Solva, for the launch party.

Solva Woollen Mill in the sunshine

This is Elmo, one of Jackie's cats :)

Lovely display of Jackie's books

All the bears in the wide wild world, on the book stand, made by Karin of Celestine and the Hare

Woollen Mill in operation - very noisy; very impressive

Beautiful rugs in the making

Panda and Black Bear had a cuddle with needlefelted Elmo (made by Karin) 

Jackie smiling with Sweary Panda and Mary next to her (also made by Karin). Jackie signed so many books for people and then read to us all from both the books; it was wonderful to hear her read aloud from her own works.

After the event (which was SO MUCH fun and Compostgirl especially was very excited to meet and talk to Jackie)  we drove down to Solva and booked into our room at the lovely Cambrian Inn

 Solva has a beautiful harbour so before dinner we all went for a walk, to build up an appetite

Looking back to the village

Compostgirl couldn't wait to go in the sea so took off her shoes and socks and had a paddle

 Too cold for me!

on the very pebbly beach

very interesting rock formations

A rare shot of Compostman and I :)

We then had a most excellent dinner at The Cambrian Inn with Jackie, Anna and Tom from Solva Woollen Mill, Tamsin and other friends as company and then the Compost family all went to bed (Compostgirl a bit late as it was a special occasion, we adults a bit early as we were shattered after a very busy day!) We all slept very soundly indeed.

More about the next day, soon.

Wednesday 24 September 2014


To add to the three Serama cockerels I got earlier this month I now have three pullets. Milly, Molly and Mandy.

Millie is the black Silkie pullet at the front, with Mandy the white pullet behind her and Molly the pheasant coloured one at the back (hiding)

 Ginger the Cockerel thinks they are lovely!

 A short video to show the difference in size between the big girls and the Seramas

All the new big hens are now laying regularly and Mandy the white Serama lays most days so we have lots of eggs now :) I made some baked scotch eggs from hard boiled Mandy eggs last Sunday and they were yum :)

Monday 22 September 2014

Weight loss update more success for The Harcombe Diet


I have lost another 6 lbs in the two weeks since I first posted about my weight loss from following The Harcombe Diet. My weight loss per week has slowed down a bit (which is probably a good thing as otherwise I would have faded away by New Year!) but I am so pleased to have kept on losing weight.

I have gone onto Phase 2 now and have had a few cheats and accidental mixes as I get the hang of this new way of eating, so am not surprised the weight loss has slowed down. I have lost loads of inches though.

On Sunday morning I wanted a waist strap to hang my archery quiver from and so picked up my "bum bag". The waist strap was still set from the last time I wore it, back in mid June. I have actually lost 11 inches from my waist and this is what it looks lik.

Now I am slowly re introducing foodstuffs I have identified I have a real issue with wheat as even organic, wholemeal bread seems to make me gain weight alarmingly overnight due to bloating and I feel very uncomfortable as well.

I  have also found that drinking even small amounts of beer or red/white wine (even organic!) makes me crave carby foodstuffs  whereas drinking my homemade organic cider does not (basically as you know we pick, wash and squash our apples, let the juice ferment due to wild yeasts on the apples, rack off and then bottle it)

So - my cheating tipple of choice is now our home made cider. Shame as I love decent beers and red wine - but I guess that tells me something about my body and my intolerances.

Apart from that I am still feeling ridiculously energetic and bouncy, my hair and skin looks great, my nails are so strong and I now have to cut them frequently as they grow so fast!

I also now have the joy of being able to buy "normal" (in very large sizes, but still!) underwear from mainstream stores rather than having to pay astronomical prices from on line suppliers. Sounds trivial I know but it  made my life miserable not to be able to just pick up a pack of knickers from a shop.

The only downside is, I bought a pack of cotton knickers from Sainsbury's last week and by this morning they were falling down as they were too big.

I can live with that, though.  So - onwards and ever downwards

Friday 19 September 2014

Mounds of produce from the garden, bottling, preserving - it's that time of year!

September here at Compost Mansions means picking produce, blanching, freezing, dehydrating and preserving by various means.
The kitchen is full of steam from blanching and the bench is full of beans, pears, plums, tomatoes and peppers from the garden

 I need these fermentation vessels to make this years cider

So finally I got round to bottling the cider we made last year.

 45 l of the stuff!

The tomatoes from the polytunnel are nearly finished but the pepper plants are still producing loads of peppers - these were washed, cut up and roasted before being frozen.


And we have so many beans this year! Runner and French beans - I have never had such a crop in our entire 16 years here.

Compostman is using the fine weather to paint the exterior woodwork all round the house - a huge job which takes up his time.

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Sunday outing - Archery, lunch and more h.Art visits

 Last Sunday we went out to Archery practise in the morning and then had lunch in The Bunch of Carots at Mordiford, which is right next to the River Wye.

After lunch we had a walk by the river.

Compostman showed Compostgirl how to "skim" stones :)

She caught on fast!

Then we left Compostman to do stuff at home and went out to see some h.Art events. Compostgirl was at school all week so missed out on our earlier trip to Mike and Tamsin's event, so I said I would take her there.

But first we dropped into blue ginger Gallery to see all the artists at work

and Compostgirl had an ice cream :)

Then it was off back to Tamsin and Mike's place, where we found Mike in full flow, making chair legs from Ash logs.

Compostgirl was fascinated by it all :)

Tamsin had the most amazing display hanging from the beam over the veranda outside her workshop

Fabulous :) Simply stunning :) I love her work :)

We enjoyed our trip out together :)