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 27 December 2016

A New Year next week.

So. A New Year next week. 2017

I don't do resolutions and all that stuff...if I want to do something I do it and I do it when *I* want, not on a certain date dictated to by the calendar/the media etc....

BUT I have decided to try to be a little more balanced in the way I work during 2017, so as to spread out my work load. Several friends have commented that I seem to do "a lot" and that maybe, sometimes, just sometimes, I overdo it a bit..(Moi? Overdo it? Surely not?)

Well, actually, yes I do. So much of what I do seems like fun, not work, so I don't notice how shattered I am until I have finished. I am not good at doing nothing and never have been!

But, I am aware that as I get older my health gets worse. My immune system is still pretty poor. I still have CFS/ME and although I am so much better than I EVER thought I would be, if I overdo things I suffer the consequences of days and days of fatigue and I seem to catch the weirdest illnesess. The fact that I am a Type "A" hyper achiever doesn't make resting up any easier, either. Lol.

Losing 10 stone in weight and keeping it off has helped me enormously but I still have to be careful I don't overdo things.

So. I have to recognise these facts. I have to make myself pace myself and factor in some rest time during the day, so as to be able to keep on, keeping on. This is worse during the winter months, of course.

So I am going to try (again!) to only do "One Big Chore" (OBC) a day, either outside or inside, depending on the weather. Obviously I have a family, a house and business to run and animals to feed etc and they need doing everyday, but apart from that I will try to do only do one chore which is the sort of thing that takes a couple of hours to do. Things like spring cleaning one room, or washing all the windows, or mucking out the Mega HenPen or digging out a number of compost bins and spreading the compost. BIG CHORES. You know the sort of thing.

Previously I would do One Big Chore (OBC) and then think "oh still time to do ..." and get stuck in to another OBC, and then another one, even though really I needed to go and sit down with a cup of tea for half an hour and rest. I also want, need to make time to do some of the craft things I so love.

I also now find I need to make time to practice meditation at least twice a day to keep me calm and my blood pressure under control, given all the stress going on around here all the time.

Today my OBC was mucking out the Mega Hen Pen hen house and the three Serama hen shouses in the polytunnel. I also cleaned out all the feeders and drinkers and re filled them and re filled the treat balls with lettuce and cabbage leaves.  

And then I had a sit down, and a cup of tea and I wrote this post. And then I did my meditation :) 

See, I CAN "do" resting and pacing, honest! :-))

I hope you have all had a very enjoyable festive season. I have not, due to illness and other stuff. I hope, this way, I can keep as healthy as possible,

Sunday 25 December 2016

A very Merry Christmas

... to you all.

We are all ill with a really nasty cough/cold thing and I seem to have developed a chest infection as well, so its not much fun here.

Hope all of you are well and happy and stay healthy!

with love from Compostwoman and all the family (human, cat and chicken plus all the wild creatures in the wood and garden )


Tuesday 20 December 2016

Chicken antics and being shut away.

My chickens are really not happy at being shut inside, due to the Avian Flu precautions. The Seramas are shut in the polytunnel, a huge space for 14 tiny chickens to free range in, but are they happy? No!

The same thing goes for the big Hens and Chancellor their Serama cockerel - shut in a walk in Mega Hen Pen which is larger than a lot of people's sitting rooms, they have lots of space BUT they are used to free ranging in the wood and garden so are NOT happy.

They are VERY free range hens! They are bright, friendly, inquisitive and such good fun to be around. How ANYONE can possibly think it is OK to shut hens up in very little space is beyond me and ESPECIALLY when you get to see what the NATURAL behaviour of a hen actually IS...I find it truly beyond comprehension.

BUT THAT is what the life of a battery hen is like and UNLESS YOU only ever buy free range or Organic eggs (AND make sure that's what ALL other products you eat which have got egg in) then YOU may well be eating eggs laid by hens who live in FAR FAR less than ideal conditions ( I am restraining my language deliberately here...) The same goes for the chicken meat you eat. Unless it is free range or ideally Organic....it may well have been reared in an intensive broiler unit.

More than 850 million broiler chickens are slaughtered every year in the UK. And of these hundreds of millions of chickens, most of them - more than 95% - are reared inside, produced in industrial conditions in vast, enclosed sheds. Their lives are pitiful – but at least they’re short...

Standard chickens are grown from newly hatched chick to oven-ready bird in an astonishing 39 days, that’s just over 5 weeks. (An organic chicken, which grows at a natural pace, takes more than twice as long.)

How do they do this? Poultry scientists have bred chickens which grow fast. As they grow, their living space – smaller than an A4 piece of paper for each bird – gets more and more cramped as they near the end of their short lives. With around 17 birds packed into each square metre they have barely enough space to walk, preen themselves, stretch their wings or even turn around.

Such cramped conditions and rapid growth cause severe welfare problems. Chronic lameness is common – one third of chickens have difficulty walking without pain. The stress on their hearts and lungs can cause heart failure. About 5% die or have to be culled prematurely.

A typical chicken shed holds 40,000 birds… They never set foot outside or see natural light… They feed around the clock - with as little as one hour of darkness for every 24 hour period.

It’s not nice – but it’s certainly cheap. And THAT is how supermarkets can afford to offer you two whole birds for a fiver… or sell a whole fresh British chicken for £2.

There is another way… You could rear your own hens for eggs and/or to eat......or if that's not for you...you could make sure you ONLY buy free reange ( and ideally Organic) eggs AND meat!

And I PROMISE you, once you have tried the taste of proper free range eggs and chicken meat you will NEVER want to eat anything else! 

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Childhood memories of washing lines

I was struggling today with damp sheets on the washing line and when I came in and hung them to dry over the indoor dolly in the kitchen, as I hoisted it up to the ceiling I remembered my childhood 49 years ago. 

My family moved to a very rural smallholding in 1969, no mains water, electric, oil or gas,  oil lamps, candles, wood range for cooking, a well for all water, chamber pots inside and a pit privy at the bottom of the garden, the building covering it which was moved once a year to a new location, with copper and dolly and mangle for washing, and a tin bath which we all shared once a week and a kitchen garden, a larder, a cold shelf ( no fridge!) and killing and gutting game, chickens etc.  My poor mum spent 2 years living  like this!

She even made beer in the copper wash kettle! (real Lark Rise to Candleford stuff, and my Mum actually lived in that area in the 1920's! - I was born in 1962 when she was in her late 40's btw) and we had bees and pigs and chickens and rabbits and ducks and geese and sheep and goats and horses and a milk cow.

No electricity for the first 6 months we lived there... so we had tilley lamps and candles for lighting and an iron heated on the range.

I helped with all this and can remember the effort involved even now, nearly 50 years on (I was 7 at the time) helping Mum with the washing and the cooking and the getting water from the well.

I remember washing as an absolute MISERY in the winter. Trying to get clothes, especially sheets and towels, dry was terrible, and the house wreathed in stream, and the pages of my Christmas present book getting damp ( it was the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as I recall!) 

BUT it was also magical and the first winter we were there, it was the BEST Christmas I can ever remember,  which is why I can STILL remember it so vividly I guess :-)

Hard to imagine now, living like that, within a middle aged person's lifetime (me)...but we did,  until 1971 when we finally got the new kitchen and bedrooms and bathroom built, then it was radiators and electric cookers and 'fridges etc, (although my Mum always said nothing she cooked ever tasted quite as good, compared with what she had done on that old range) 

I also had horses and we had chickens and pigs and sheep,  .and I used one of those LETHAL chaff cutters to make food for them, omg child protection laws would have a field day over that now! Whirling, unprotected blades being operated by an 8 year old! The Mangel Worzel cutter was almost as dangerous!

Actually, it WAS ALL dangerous, not all the old stuff is good!

But I do look back on it with immense pleasure, not least because I KNOW I could do it all again ITSHTF (!)

Funny what memories small domestic tasks can trigger :)