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!
Sunday, 1 March 2015
Hello everyone, I am Sarah aka Compostwoman and I live in Herefordshire with my husband and teenage daughter. We have lived in rural Herefordshire for 16 years in a brick built house surrounded by nearly four acres of woodland and garden. These four acres comprise three acres of mixed broad leaf deciduous woodland, a small meadow with a pool, a small apple orchard, a veg plot, large poly tunnel, sheds, workshops, garage, lots of grass, fruit trees, flower beds and shrubs.
We manage this land organically, for the benefit of our wildlife visitors as well as ourselves, and aim to be as self reliant as we can. We grow a lot of fruit and vegetables and eat our home grown produce for much of the year. When we need to buy food we try to use local shops in our nearby market town or organic stalls at our local Farmers Market. We store lots of our produce, make our own bread, cider, jams and chutneys as well as some wine, yoghurt, butter and cheese.
We have our own water supply and sewage treatment facility which is not common in most areas of the UK although it is quite normal around us. We are still on main electricity but also have photovoltaic panels and generate our own electricity. Solar thermal tubes on the roof provide all our hot water from March to October. In the Winter we use fuel from our own wood for the wood burner to keep us warm.
We are fortunate here to have enough land to grow most of our own veg, fruit and keep chickens. Our woodland provides a playground for children and a place for me to carry out environmental education work. The wood is a comfort to the soul, a wonderful wildlife habitat, an endless source of fun and wonder and of course provides us with wood to burn.
I keep chickens, some of which are ex-battery hens. We have lots of eggs and I sell the surplus eggs to friends who comment on how wonderful our eggs taste. I am, I freely admit, rather fond of my chickens! I have an Eglu and a couple of more traditional wooden hen house (both bought and home made) and often expand my flock by hatching out eggs under a broody hen (which was how I got the Silver Dorkings, the Cream Legbars and the Marans)
We are fortunate here in Herefordshire to have a thriving local Freecycle network, which I love to use! There is also a very active and wonderful Carbon Reduction group (Low Carbon Ledbury) in my local market town, which I try to support as much as I can. We also have a lot of choice in buying local, often organic food and drink in Herefordshire.
Compostman and I support our local community as much as we can and have worked hard to try to make our personal and wider environment here as sustainable as we can. We are by no means perfect, "deep greens" in our lifestyle though. We have two cars as it would be hard to live here without them, a TV, computers and we live a normal life ( I think?) and there are so many people who could do so much more than we do here, I guess? BUT we are not aiming for perfection but rather to do the best we can at the moment. As and when we can, we work on the rest :-)
Compostman and I spent many years working as professional research scientists in Electronics and Material Science related areas, but we no longer do that anymore due to retirement (him) and voluntary redundancy (me). In the last 20 years I have switched career path completely and I now mainly work as a freelance environmental educator/writer/lecturer/Forest School practitioner and community artist;
I have been a keen organic gardener and composter for many years and since 2006 I have also spent a lot of time volunteering with my local council and Garden Organic; as a Master Composter (a volunteer community compost advisor); a Love Food Hate Waste cookery demonstrator and a hens@home mentor.
All this allows me the privilege of helping people have fun outdoors and live more enjoyable and sustainable lives. I go to various events such as county shows, give talks and demonstrations, take schools assemblies and enthuse about compost, gardening, chickens and greener living to all and sundry!
I am also (amongst other interests) a qualified Holistic Therapist and enjoy making household and personal care items using green and natural ingredients. I have had a go at many traditional crafts and enjoy textile crafts and basket making particularly.
My husband (Ian) Compostman spends a LOT of time renovating and improving the house and working in the garden and wood. He manages and maintains our woodland and garden and is involved in an ongoing process of renovating our 109 year old house to make it as energy efficient and comfortable as possible. He also does most of the cooking and baking (and he is VERY good at it)
So, how did we get to where we are now in our journey and how did we come to be living in rural Herefordshire?
Compostman and I have been married for nearly 30 years and we have always recycled, saved water, composted, cooked from scratch and grown some veg, as that was the way both of us were brought up. We both come from farming grandparents, whose respective children (our parents) took non farming careers in teaching, science or engineering ( the classic "bettering yourself" generation!)
My redundancy in 1994 from the Scientific Civil Service coincided with the start of a Public Inquiry into the building of a major road across water meadows near where we then lived. I got involved with the campaign to prevent this and then became active with various other environmental pressure groups. These groups seemed to find my scientific and computer knowledge very useful. Success with halting various environmentally undesirable planning applications lead to me set up my own Consultancy business, advising small community groups on fighting planning applications for Incinerators, Road Schemes and things of that ilk. I developed a media "presence" and gradually learned more and more and it all sort of grew from there.
We used to live in an urban town house with a very small garden but had been looking for some time to move to a more rural location with a bigger plot of land and we finally found Compost Mansions in May 1997. It was FAR more land than we had intended to get (!), but we fell in love with the woodland (we walked around the wood, meadow, pool and garden, and agreed to put in an offer before we had even looked in the house!) It was a place where we could live a more self-sufficient lifestyle so we made an offer for the property and it was accepted.
When we moved over to Herefordshire in 1997 things began to change for us. Our previous concerns about pesticide residues in food, GM crops, pollution of air, land and water took on a more personal meaning, as we were living in a place where such things more directly affected us. We had much more of a comnnection to the effects of pollution and climate change, as we were growing far more of our own food and could see at first hand the effects on the wildlife around us.
All this became even more important to us when we had Compostgirl in 2000. I found that being pregnant and then having a child concentrated my mind even more on what we were doing to our environment, as it was my child who would inherit the result. Talk about Climate Change suddenly had a very real focal point: our child and HER future. All the lobbying and campaigning on ethical and sustainability issues we had ever done suddenly came down to one real issue:
How could we look our daughter in the face and know we hadn’t at least TRIED to do something to minimise our own personal contribution to Climate Change and Global Warming?
I strongly believe that even if an individual only does one thing to change their habits for the better (however small a change it is), then collectively it can make a BIG difference. Compostman and I were already making lots of (quite big) changes but we decided we needed to try to do even more in our own family, under our own set of circumstances.
And that is part of the reason why we make compost here, and grow veg, and recycle and think about everything we purchase and re-use stuff and not fly and generally live a more frugal, thoughtful life....
The other reason is, well it’s fun! (most of the time, anyway, not so sure about mucking out chickens in the pouring rain or felling firewood in the depth of winter while suffering a heavy cold) We are blessed to live where we do and I am very conscious that I am SO lucky to live here.
I work doing something I adore, I LOVE talking to people about making compost, gardening, growing their own veg and getting out to experience playing in woodland! I am so happy if someone says “ I grew some herbs” or “ I tried washing with Soapnuts” or “ I started making compost” I am passionate about helping children AND adults to live a more sustainable life and see the wonder of our natural world. And I get to do all these things everyday.
Anyway that's me and why I live like I do. I hope you found it interesting.