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, 27 February 2014

A reminder about my "How to" guides


Don't forget to enter my Blog 7th birthday giveaway!


Hello lovely people I have been tidying up a bit more on this blog and re reading old posts - gosh I have written a lot of stuff on here and you have all left some wonderful comments.

I have identified more posts which I think are useful or will answer questions you might have so I have added them to the "How to" guides.

Just to remind you all, just in case you didn't know, look up ^ and below the main header picture you will see a line of tabs, click on the "How to guides" tab and you will find the ( I hope!)  helpful articles I have written over the years on various subjects.

At this time of year the most useful for gardeners would probably be "Things to be doing in Dec/Jan" , "things to be doing in Feb",  "Starting Tomatoes, Peppers and Aubergine seeds (Feb)" and " Growing Potatoes in bags" The last one is for those with polytunnels or some sheltered indoor place - it is still a bit cold in my opinion to put potatoes outside. But if you want to try, feel free :)

There are also guides on composting (!) crafts and chicken keeping. If you find them helpful please leave a comment to let me know :)

Enjoy xxx



Wednesday, 26 February 2014

A blogging birthday and a giveaway


I have been doing a bit of spring cleaning of this blog today; updating lists; making sure the review page is up to date and generally having a tidy up. One of the things I also did was to re read some of my past posts for the month of February and it was interesting to see what I was up to and thinking about several years ago.

I also realised that it is 7 years ago today that I started this blog :) Predictably my first few posts were about nest boxes, organic gardening and my local farmers market, along with photos of Compost Mansions under snow :)

There was also a post about why I am called Compostwoman, which featured Master Composting, Garden Organic and a lot of stuff about making compost :) Oh what a surprise!

And here I am, 7 years, 1290 posts and a lot of pageviews and visitors later. I am still writing about local food, organic growing, hens, compost, gardening, wildlife, teaching, crafts, food, compost, animals, renovating Compost Mansions, growing veg, daily life - not much has changed over the years (except I have got older and have more gray hairs and Compostgirl is now a teenager!)

Since I started blogging we have started keeping chickens again, we have gained and lost beloved pets and done a lot of work on the house and grounds. In the last 7 years amongst other things I have also trained as a Forest School Leader, an Adult Education Teacher, a Master Gardener, been nominated for a number of awards, become a Love Food Hate Waste cookery demonstrator and a hens@home mentor (phew, after all that training no wonder I feel so tired all the time!) All of this has allowed me to widen what I do in my volunteering roles and Environmental Education business and I hope I have helped lots of adults and children to have fun and be more sustainable in their daily lives.

I also hope I have helped some of you, readers of this blog, in some small way, with gardening, hen keeping or cooking advice or just by sharing my small triumphs and tragedies.  At the very least I hope I have sometimes amused you with my antics :)



So in honour of my blogging birthday and to thank all of you, my lovely readers, I am going to have a giveaway!

Leave me a comment below and next week I will draw out a name and send who ever is drawn a little surprise present - possibly something home made, possibly something I have been sent to review but it will be nice, I promise.

Good luck!

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Spring?


After my last post I must admit I am beginning to feel cautiously optimistic that Spring might be on the way...


The snowdrops and crocii in the front garden are all blooming



 As are the ones in the Wood, and the wild daffodils are beginning to open.



The Bluebell foliage is very much in evidence now and the flower buds are beginning to push up out from the stems.

I also saw my first Queen Bumblebee emerging from hibernation !

I set up my heated propagators in the porch last week and sowed the first of the tomato, pepper and aubergine seeds and they are already growing - lots of seedlings have emerged. I have also sown onion seeds along with lots of brassicas and salads.

The ground is still far too wet underfoot to venture on to the veg garden or walk on the lawns, so I can't do much about digging over flower beds or preparing the soil but at least I feel I have finally got started on the 2014 growing season.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

A lack of rain (!)


Oh dear blogging friends I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to type those words!

It did not rain here at all, today!

And in fact, we even had SUNSHINE!

I managed to do my daily outdoor tasks in SUNSHINE. I did not have to wear a waterproof, or wellies. It was cold so I did wear lots of layers, a fleece and boots though. But I can live with that :)

The hens were able to do some sun basking :) I hung out and line dried two lots of washing, oh the smell of outdoor dried washing after several months of drying the stuff inside!

There are snowdrops and crocii blooming all over the place and I did several hours work in the garden and the polytunnel, while basking in the wonderful golden rays from the SUNSHINE.


 And then, we had the most fabulous sunset :)


I feel much better about life now I have had a small taste of Spring. Please, let it come soon :)

Thursday, 13 February 2014

RIP Babs Hen.


Babs died today – she came through her moult in December, and seemed fine with a beautiful new set of glorious ginger/copper/cinnamon feathers, and she seemed in good spirits despite the horrible weather.


Babs one day after rescue. She and Bunty were in the same rescue crate  together when we got them, two years ago.
 

A year ago.


But then Babs started looking a bit droopy a few days ago, so came inside the house for tlc and love and special treat food. She seemed ok, eating, drinking and chatting away to us and the cats. She was a little disinclined to move around though, and stayed in the cat carrier bottom, which was temporary home.
 


But then she finally went downhill yesterday evening and was off her legs early this morning.

So, after gently stroking her and telling her what a good hen she had been. I
gave her a quick end.
Very sad, but she had two years free from the cages and had a good life here with us 


RIP Babs, gone to join Bunty, Tiny, Titch and Ginger.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Wild weather


We had thunder, gales, rain and hail here this morning and the  fields on the other side of the lane and either side of our property are flooded. Fortunately we are on a small mound well above any risk of flooding and we are lucky enough not to have rivers close by.



But the sheer volume of surface water and the saturated ground means no water is draining away. More water falling from the sky makes the situation worse.

At the moment ( late afternoon ) we just have gales and heavy rain to cope with here but the ground is awash. I just
went out to shut the chickens away and even the raised veg beds are full of water!

I also just
had to duck to avoid a (head height!) flying cold frame lid.

Compostgirl has made it home on the school bus, although it had to divert from the usual route due to flooding - I wonder if she will make it to school tomorrow? 

The weather forecast for here is really dreadful and I suspect tomorrow will bring more flooding and damage to our area as well as further problems for the Somerset Levels and the Thames valley 

- how any one can still doubt that we have affected the climate with our profligate, wasteful, polluting use of fossil fuels is beyond me...

Anyway, with all the animals fed and bedded down for the night and as much stuff tied down or put away as we could manage, we have retreated to eat food, watch TV and stay warm by the woodburner.

We also have candles, torches and the generator prepared, in case the power goes off...

 
Stay safe everyone. xxx

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Evening wind down

I am drinking tea, catching up with the emails and thinking about when to grab the bathroom to have a shower - with an 13 yr old daughter it gets harder to grab a slot !

Compostman is lighting the woodburner, so I will shortly go and sit in front of the woodburner with a glass of wine and my crochet- I am currently doing a red dishcloth, very relaxing as I can switch off my whirring thoughts because I have to count what I am doing. A bit like counting sheeep, but more productive!

Call The Midwife later - looks to be a bit sad :(

Friday, 7 February 2014

Drowning in Money

This is a really interesting and thoughtful article by George Monbiot about the issues involved with the whole " blame the lack of dredging"  with respect to the current flooding situation here in the UK.

I agree with the basic argument George puts forward about tree planting absorbing loads of water in the soil , as I know it works from observing what happens here in our wood.

 Go and have a read and then come back and comment on your views?

Drowning in Money

It is still very bad weather here and the South West is really getting a hammering from the rain, wind and waves. My heart goes out to all affected by these dreadful condition. We are soggy here and buffetted by storms but so far no flooding of anything which actually matters.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Flour free pancakes - yummy!



I just made some banana pancakes - over ripe bananas, eggs, and a tiny bit of baking powder - yummy! No flour at all. I will be adding them to my Love Food Hate Waste demo recipe list!

Compostgirl and Compostman liked them as well
 


How to make them

 













Mash up peeled ripe bananas until very smooth




 



 








whisk eggs in another bowl (two eggs to every large banana) Mix together the banana and eggs (optionally add a pinch of baking powder) and then 




drop a tbs or two ( no more for each pancake)  into a medium fry pan with a small amount of oil already heated.  Dry frying WILL NOT WORK with this even in a non stick pan. 


Gently cook until pancake is set and you can flip the pancake over without it falling to bits (!)



When other side is golden brown serve 
 

and eat - Honey, Golden Syrup etc are lovely additions but these are seriously yum as they are.


 





This recipe needs to have starchy veg/fruit to substitute for the flour so I am going to try with pumpkin, tomorrow :)

I know mashed potato works and from reading on line, Plantain also works as a substitute for Banana.
 
 A good result I think:)




Recipe here






Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Love Food Hate Waste cookery demonstration in Hereford


Some of you may remember that I took part in a food preparation course last year.  Stephen, the Council officer who manages our Master Composter scheme, had a great idea for live cookery demonstrations at events. He asked for volunteers from the existing Master Composter group, who would be willing to cook "in the field" and hand out samples of food.

Love Food Hate Waste is a campaign dear to my heart, as food waste is a major issue. We throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year, the majority of which could have been eaten. It's costing us £12.5bn a year and is bad for the environment too. Some of you may remember I am also a Love Food Hate Waste advisor.


Personally speaking I HATE food waste. I think we should make the very best of all the food we grow and if we eat meat we should honour the animal who has died to give us the meat, by using all of it as much as we possibly can. I compost waste to get the maximum out of the food stuff I grow or buy, to return any left overs to improve the soil for the next season. So it stands to reason that I feel the same about cooking food - I want to get the very best out of the ingredients and make the most of any leftovers.

Anyway, several of us volunteered, and we all passed our Food Hygiene course so now there are four of us Master Composter volunteers who have done the required training and are ready to actually demonstrate various LFHW related recipes, rather than just handing out recipe cards and information.

We have been exchanging lists and emails of equipment needed and after a planning meeting with our Council contacts, purchase of a set of equipment and lots more email discussion we were ready to roll with the first cookery demo.


This took place in Hereford Library, as part of a healthy eating week. We had to provide all our own cooking equipment, and get it upstairs to the room we were in - fortunately there was a small staff kitchen area next door for washing up.


We had to set up the cooking demo and the LFHW stand between 12 and 1. Mary, Diane and I set up the tables, cooker etc and then we got on preparing the veg - the plan was to cook a simple Leek and Potato soup and hand out samples while talking through how we made it. Meanwhile Alex, Denise and Ste from the Council set up the information stand, full of good ideas on how to Love Food Hate Waste.


and then from 1 - 3 pm we three cooks demonstrated from scratch how to make soup, serving up cups of soup to the public and discussing variations on soup making - we discussed lots of ideas for using up extras and leftovers!


The first pan of soup went very quickly, so we got cracking making another pan, which was also eaten quickly :)

We handed out 25 cups of soup (compostable cups, of course!) and the LFHW stand spoke to around 35 people in total. The Healthy Eating people also had an information stand (Change for Life, BHF information)  and between us we handed out lots of hints and tips to reduce food waste and make the most of food.

Clearing up and packing up took some time and we also discussed what extra or different equipment we would need for future events, but the general feeling was that it was well worth doing and had been a successful event. .

I think for a first attempt we did really well and we are looking forward to doing more events over the course of 2014.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

A surprise! #feelgoodprizes from @EcoverUK


I was not expecting any more deliveries so was very surprised on Fri to get a parcel from Simon the Postman, a cardboard box filled with shredded paper...



but inside these Ecover cleaning products!

Apparently I have won a Pioneer Pack of Ecover through being one of the lucky winners of an Ecover Competition.

I have used the wipes before and they are really good; I have not tried the Oven cleaner but I am sure using it will be a much more pleasant experience than some commercial oven cleaners available!

The non bio laundry gel is also a new one for me - I wonder if it is the stuff I used as part of a trial of possible new Ecover products? Anyway, it got my cotton long sleeved t shirts nice and clean.


 

Although notice that, as it is raining AGAIN, I have had to set up the airer in the utility room as the ceiling dolly in the kitchen could not cope with all the drying we are having to do indoors.

Oh I cannot wait for the rain to stop. But at least we are not flooding, here ( well not much) My heart goes out to all the people in the UK who are suffering terribly with floods and rain and storm damage :(

Monday, 3 February 2014

Guest blogging on First Home News

I am writing as a Guest Blogger on First Home News, today. Pop over and have a read as there are lots of interesting articles there, not just mine :)

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Yuck what a fowl day

Ha ha did you get my pun in the title!?

Today was really horrible weather but the feathery ladies and the cockerel brothers needed cleaning out so, despite it  being only 3 Celsius mid afternoon and pouring with rain I set to,  to make them cleaner and more comfortable.

If we have animals we have to look after them, despite the horrible weather and our deep desire to just hide inside and drink hot tea and do crochet in front of the wood burner




Mud and water every where


So I togged up in waterproof coat, wellies and a lot of layers of clothes underneath.  As I normally am mostly impervious to the worst the weather can throw at me and wear a t shirt and jeans in the most wet and horrible weather, this will give you an idea of howreally horrible working outside was today.








After a lot of mucking out, the contents of the hen run and hen houses were added to the compost bins


 Creosote the cockerel was not impressed!


Normally I am much tidier with the bedding, but frankly in this weather I could not give a damn about spilled straw!


And the chickens were very pleased with the clean arrangements!
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