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!


Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Product review - Ratchet secateurs and Tool Tidy from Qwerkity


I was recently sent some garden items to review, which was actually great timing as I spent the day outside finally doing some pruning and tidying up!



First up are these very useful rachet secateurs. I found them comfortable and easy to use, switching between rachet and single cut mode at the flick of a switch.  They were easier to use in rachet mode and certainly I felt my dodgy wrists benefited from the rachet action



The only very small quibble I had was that they did seem to open rather more than any of my other secateurs - I had to really stretch my fingers to hold them and reach the handle (see above) 
However this wasn't uncomfortable, just different. 


Qwerkity's website has this to say 
Make light work of pruning with these 2-in-1 Ratchet Secateurs. Lightweight and easy to use, they are perfect for cutting back and dead-heading roses, clematis and all types of plants and shrubs.Designed in the UK and expertly crafted by hand, the secateurs can be changed from single cut to ratchet mode at the flick of a switch. Beautifully crafted with super-sharp non-stick carbon steel blades, and soft grip handles, they are ideal for anyone with limited hand mobility or who suffers from arthritis.
In single cut mode the secateurs snip with ease through stems up to 18mm thick. In ratchet mode, the scissor action cuts through thicker stems up to 22mm with virtually no effort at all. There’s a safety lock to prevent accidents when not in use and an oil sponge for keeping the blades in perfect condition.
20cm long. 18+ 5 year guarantee £14.99



The other item I was sent was this rather nice William Morris Tool Tidy . I love the pattern and it's a good size to put hand tools in, with useful pockets on the outside for seed packets etc.  I did at first think that, with all the things I have to do here at Compost Mansions, it  would be a bit small to take all the stuff I use  - I tend to need a wheelbarrow to cart around all the tools, seeds, etc I  need when working in the garden!

But I have actually found it very useful, particularly for times when I am pottering around weeding the patio containers or herb beds or for taking a load of seed packets out to the polytunnel..

So, if you wanted to buy a present for a gardener, I think it would be a thoughtful and welcome gift.

There are other items in this William Morris pattern on the website also.

Qwerkity's website has this to say 


Take your tools with you as you work your way round the garden. A beautifully elegant accessory for any lady gardener, this sophisticated tool tidy is printed with William Morris's ever popular Strawberry Thief. Crafted in strong cotton canvas with faux leather carry handles, it has plenty of space for all your garden essentials. Four pockets in the front of the bag offer a handy home for secateurs, dibbers, trowels and more.26 x 12 x 25.5cm. £14.99


You can find these items and many more useful gardening gifts and items on Qwerkity's website. Go and have a look!



Disclaimer. I was sent these items to review. All opinions are my own and I was not paid to write this post.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

RIP Algy the Serama cockerel


RIP Algy. The one and only @Algythechicken. 

He died peacefully last night around midnight, whilst being cradled in my arms. Much loved companion, who has done so much to educate (and enchant) people about the delights of keeping chickens. 


I shall miss your company enormously whether at events, in my tent at festivals, 






when we did workshops and shows, at festivals, 


in the polytunnel and just by my side pottering in the garden.



Fly high and free little fellow and enchant everyone, wherever it is you are headed.

Monday, 10 April 2017

RHS Great British Village Show - review


So, thanks to the lovely Viv at DK Books, I got a beautiful hamper through the post today :)



Bunting! Jam! Chutney! Seeds! And a lovely book written by Thane Prince and Matthew Biggs :)

The jam and chutney were hand made by Thane Prince (you may remember her from the Big Allotment Challenge?) and are delicious :)


The book is beautiful, lovely illustrations, and a good solid volume with a sturdy hardback cover.


And although I have not read every single word (yet) what I have read is great and very informative.


The book is well laid out and very clearly written ( as one would expect from DK!) 

From DK's website ;-

Enter a world of tents, tea, and terrifically good jam with RHS Great British Village Show. Written by Thane Prince and Matthew Biggs, and with a foreword by Alan Titchmarsh, this is the only guide to a unique British tradition.
Every year, hundreds of country shows and fairs take place across the UK. Celebrate this tradition and step behind the scenes of the British country show with insider facts and beautiful photographs that show you every aspect of preparing, presenting, and prize-winning on the big day.
Discover how judges reach their nail-biting decisions by using official RHS guidelines for over 100 fruit, vegetable, and flower categories, and learn how to prepare show-quality preserves and bakes with tips from the experts. RHS Great British Village Show tells you exactly what the judges are looking for - and what to avoid.
Packed with staging tips, expert guides, photo diaries, and prize-winning recipes, RHS Great British Village Show is a unique insider's look behind the scenes of a wonderful British tradition.

So, if you were wanting to have a go at entering a village show this summer  ( with fruit, veg, flowers baking, preserves or other goodies)  or even just wanted a useful guide to growing and making stuff from what you grow - this is a great book to add to your bookshelves.


RHS Great British Village Show, published 3rd April 2017 by DK books price £20
ISBN:9780241255612

Thanks, Viv!

Disclaimer. I was sent a copy of this book to review. All opinions are my own and I was not paid to write this post.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

The chickens are out!


Finally!

After nearly 3 months of being kept inside due to the Avian Flu lockdown I let the chickens out to taste fresh grass for the first time since December :)










So of course they came and " helped" me with my composting work. Normal service resumed :)


Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Why Compostwoman? Why call it The Compost Bin?


10 years ago I started this blog, and I needed a name and an online identity to sign up to Blogger.

I am passionate about composting. Apart from making my own compost from the green waste we generate at home, I also "spread the word" about the benefits of home composting to my fellow man.  I had been a Master Composter for nearly a year at this point ( I started in April 2006) and this is what I still do, nearly 11 years later

Master Composters are volunteers who encourage people in their local community to start composting at home, and offer support to people who are already home composting and may be having difficulties or need encouragement.

So back in Feb 2007, when I needed a name to blog under, I thought for a bit then remembered what our 6 year old daughter had said to me when I came to give a talk at her school.

"you're like Superman Mummy, only you are called Compostwoman, and you can't fly."

So, even though I don't wear my pants on the outside of my tights (!) and I still can't fly, Compostwoman I became :) And still am, after 10 years :)

Monday, 27 February 2017

10 years ago today, we had snow!


10 years ago today, it was snowing here!




and had been for some days.




Bit of a contrast with today! Last night we had a terrific storm, which actually managed to overturn this (heavy!) hen run on to its top. Fortunately it was empty, all the big hens are still inside the Mega Hen Pen as part of the Avian flu lockdown and all the Seramas (apart from Algy) are in the polytunnel for the same reason. Algy is, of course, inside the house with us ;)

No snow at all this last winter, here.


Sunday, 26 February 2017

10 years of blogging


10 years ago today I made my first post on here and pressed "publish", with I have to admit some trepidation.

Would people like it? Would any one even read it? Would anyone comment?
(and yes, someone did! I was so pleased)

My first post was about feeding the birds and you can read it here

10 years on, still here, still blogging.. Not as much as some years - but still here.

It's interesting to read back over my blog with the benefit of hindsight!

And we are still here at Compost Mansions.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Weekend 1 of PDC at Applewood


I've finally started doing something I've wanted to do for a long time - a Permaculture Design Certificate.


So I've spent the last two days at Applewood Permaculture Centre doing the first weekend of a 6 weekend, 12 day PDC


Learning about stacking and edge effects


Making a mulch bed.





Made some new friends as well :)


Hard work, long days and I loved every moment of it :)

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Making yoghurt

I was in converstaion with a friend the other day about making basic foodstuffs

Now we make our own bread and I have a stock of home made butter in the freezer, and yes I do also make my own yogurt, even though I can't eat it any more the rest of the family can, so I shared with my friend how I do it. 

And I thought maybe you all might like to know , as well?

I keep a stock of UHT organic milk in our store cupboard, for drinking/cooking but also for yogurt making.

If you use UHT milk you don't need to scald it first...and UHT milk will keep for ages in a store cupboard so it is always on hand.

Yogurt can be made very easily on a small scale with very simple kitchen equipment. It is important to be very clean though!

You will need:
One pint of Sterilised or UHT Milk.
a saucepan or a glass jug if using a microwave.
a thermometer (optional).
2 Tablespoons of live Yogurt.
a thermos flask.
a jug and maybe a basin


Method:
Heat the milk until it reaches blood temperature ( 37° C /98.4° F )either on a stove or in the microwave.
In a jug blend in the 2 tablespoons of yogurt with a little of the warm milk, when a
smooth mixture is obtained, pour into the rest of the warm milk and stir. 
If using a microwave I just add the yogurt a little at a time into the jug of warm milk.
Pour the milk/yogurt mixture into a pre warmed wide necked thermos flask, seal and leave for 7 hours ( I have left it overnight before now)

Pour the Yogurt into the basin or into smaller containers with lids cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to allow the
yogurt to thicken further.

Yogurt made this way can be kept in a refrigerator for 4 or 5 days.

If wished add pureed fruit or other flavourings to portions before serving.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

The Wassail

More about Wassailing the Orchards



Taken from the Leominster Morris website

The words comes from the Anglo Saxon 'was hael' meaning good health - literally 'be whole'. Ella Leather in 'The Folk-lore of Herefordshire' (published 1912) refers to the custom of lighting bonfires on Twelfth Night, with associated ceremonies, and called locally 'wassailing'. She quotes the Gentleman's Magazine (1791) describing the event. In Herefordshire, wassailing has long been associated with morris dancers and mummers,  THE LEOMINSTER MORRIS uphold this tradition.
The Wassail was the first event they revived after the side was re-formed in 1983. That first Herefordshire Wassail of the new era took place in the orchard of Sandy & Eileen Thompson at Tudor House, Yarpole.

The Wassail begins by gathering at a given watering hole, where flaming torches are prepared & distributed to the public, whence the side leads the crowd of followers (usually about 200) to the orchard. Toast is soaked in cider, then placed in the fork of the tree chosen to represent the orchard. Cider is then sprinkled about the roots of the tree. Next, the Herefordshire Lantern is ignited: this is a beribboned thorn-cage stuffed with straw on a pole. It represents the sun reborn, and shows why this ancient ceremony took place at this time of year. At the midwinter, the coldest & darkest part of the year, people encouraged the return of light & warmth, and by so doing they performed an affirmation of their faith that it would be so. Next, the 13th fire is lit and immediately stamped out; the Fire of Eternal Renewal or the Judas Fire. This is the sign for the simultaneous lighting of the ring of twelve fires, The Wassail Song is sung by THE LEOMINSTER MORRIS under the branches of the tree and two or three dances danced there too.

The we all go back in procession to the meeting place where THE LEOMINSTER MORRIS perform the Mummers Play. The text for which is taken from several local sources, and enlivened by individual members adding topical references or variations to their parts. More dances follow, then it is in to the bar for music, song, dance and drink!

The Wassail songs are spoken or sung.

(The Butler)
Old apple tree we wassail thee,
And hope that thou wilt bear.
For Lord doth know where we shall be,
Till apples come another year.
To bloom well and to bear well,
So merry let us be.
Let every man take off his hat,
And shout out to thee,

(Wassailers' response)
Old apple tree we wassail thee,
And hope that thou will bear,
Hat fulls, cap fulls, three bushel bag fulls,
And a little heap under the stairs.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

A very cramped Christmas 2010. 20 years of Compost Mansions #2

[ We have lived in Compost mansions for 20 years in 2017. So I have been looking back at all the things we have done since we moved in. Looking back through the blog at past posts I came across this one from winter 2010. Christmas 2010 where we were squished into the dining room, pressed into use as a living room. We lived like this for 12 months. I had forgotten!



Eating Christmas dinner in there at a fold down table in there as well having the tv, stereo, sofa and everything. Talk about squished! The sofa only just fitted across the room and you can just see the fold down table behind it. When it was time for meals we had to move the sofa back against the bookcase, to get the table out :)  ]

Nov 2010 The ongoing HUGE chore - Living area renovations.

As I think I might have mentioned, Compostman is in the middle of demolishing our main living room.

He has dug up and re concreted various bits of the floor and has recently been taking down the 1993 addition of a stone chimney breast around the woodburner. Nice though it is and local stone though it is, it is not in keeping with our 1906 brick cottage!
It also takes up vast amounts of floor and wall space and makes the room look very dark.




So it has been coming down over the holiday season. Fortunately it is all just cosmetic, although very substantially built!

We have be taking delivery of a skip for the large amount of mortar  and have a home for a lot of the stone and will also be keeping some for our own future needs.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Eggs


Our eggs come, obviously, from our normally VERY free ranging laying chickens. This means the chickens normally eat grubs and worms and the bits and bobs which they furtle up by scratching around in the soil. And grass. LOTS of grass. It is actually quite astonishing how much grass and greenery chickens like to eat.

Our chickens are fed on Organic Layers Pellets ad lib and Organic Mixed Corn as a treat. They LOVE bits of wholemeal bread soaked in warm water but they only get that as a treat, also. They get some fruit and veg including raisins, broccoli (a favourite with all chickens I think!) and any other bits and pieces which we have to hand or which they can raid from the garden ( apples are a favourite!) They also get a warm porridge made from their layers pellets in the afternoon  to keep them cosyif it is cold.

To supplement all this we add a number of other things to their feed to keep them happy and healthy. Their warm mash is mixed in with some Poultry Spice, a blend of minerals and spices which chickens generally find very attractive ( I like the smell also.) Apple Cider Vinegar is added to their water as a general tonic. Sometimes they get some garlic powder added to their feed but I am careful not to add too much as it can come through as a taste in the eggs, as can anything strong tasting!.

I also spend at least an hour a day in total with my chickens, checking them over and talking to them and looking after them. I freely admit I actually spend more time with my chickens than is really needed, as I enjoy being with them and seeing what they get up to! This also means I can spot if one of the chickens is unwell and take prompt action.

Compost Mansions hens eggs are VERY different from what I have seen of bought, supermarket eggs! Our hens lay eggs where the yolks are a deep, wonderful yellow, due to all the green stuff they eat whilst free ranging. EVERYONE who has tasted our eggs has commented on how fabulous they are! We eat lots of our eggs and think they are terrific, and all our customers have made very happy sounding noises ( but have not started clucking...yet). We had several people buying them to eat especially on Christmas Day, scrambled with smoked salmon, for breakfast. Which was nice!

Also our eggs are VERY fresh! The eggs we eat or which are sold to our customers are laid within the last few days, maybe even laid yesterday or this very morning! I have been know to sell eggs which are still warm from the nest! Or even allowed someone to go and get their own egg from the nest box ( children young and old LOVE doing this!) how much fresher can you get?

If you buy eggs from a Supermarket, do you get to know who laid the egg? *I* can tell who laid what egg by looking in the egg box at the colour of the egg. I can even tell who has actually just laid without looking out of my window, by identifying the different " I've laid an egg" racket.

Top THAT, supermarket eggs!

Friday, 6 January 2017

Miserable and cold weather, and eggs!


Today has been a horrible day, weather wise. I didn't sleep very well last night, couldn't get to sleep until gone 3 am despite meditation and relaxation techniques. Eventually I fell into a restless, dream laden sleep, and managed to get some rest.

When I woke the cold snap had gone and instead of cold fine sunshine outside there was cold, wet rain and low cloud. It matched my mood, tbh!

It was around 4 C outside but with the driving rain felt colder and made doing the outside jobs most unpleasant! And it has been so gloomy all day that we have had to put the inside lights on to see.

I am still getting some eggs from both the big hens and the Seramas ( thank you girls) and today had a big egg and three small ones. I am impressed the hens are still laying, given their displeasure at being shut in!


Twelth Night today, so the Christmas decorations have all come down and I am currently tidying up and dusting the newly bared surfaces :)

Thursday, 5 January 2017

A trip to the dentist.


So today I had to go to the Dentist for some work to be done and I now have a very aching face.

I struggled to actually walk to the dentist from the car park due to feeling very weak and wobbly. I couldn't believe how wobbly my legs felt!

The cold air set me coughing as well and I must have looked a bit unwell as they offered me a chair as soon as I arrived at the dentist!

However, I AM getting better and I managed to do the hens again, today. So that is two days on the trot I have been outside and looked after them. Compostman has been doing all the work for the past two weeks as I have been too poorly to go outside.

Time to cuddle up on the sofa with the cats, a book and some crochet I think!




Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Polytunnel in all its (in) glory




See the floor! That is growing medium on top of the geo textile, so the Seramas have something nice to scratch up :)

It's a tip everywhere else. Ho hum.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

A messy polytunnel.

I shamefully left tidying up my polytunnel until December this season, just been too busy and too unwell and too stressed to get around to it.

Then of course DEFRA dictated that the hens had to be kept undercover so the Seramas, rather than just being housed in there at night and free ranging during the day, are now shut in all the time.

This means it's a tip in there.


I am going to have to get on and sort it out as soon as I am well enough, even with the Seramas in situ. 

I don't grow much in the polytunnel in winter, I have some herbs and a few different salad leaves on the go but we tend not to eat much salad stuff in winter! I DO use my poly tunnel to overwinter various pots of herbs and patio plants, and also as a sheltered place to put the Serama runs and houses to keep them warm at night.

I know the protection order is in force until at least 28 Feb 2017. I do hope it doesn't go on much longer, as I need the polytunnel in March to start  growing on my pepper and tomato plants for sale and for our use.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Organic gardening

I am a long term Organic Gardener and I often get asked why I bother, well here are 10 very good reasons why!

1. It’s healthier for the soil
Your soil will become healthier. A rich, healthy soil is the answer to almost everything! Artificial fertilisers damage the soil, weaken your plants and pollute the water supply.

2. It’s magic!
You'll discover the magic of composting. Compost is a rich source of food and nutrients for the soil, and is created by recycling waste organic material (garden waste, food waste, paper and cardboard), so it is therefore a 'double positive'.

3. It’s safe
You'll never have to worry again about all those poisons lurking in the garden shed or under the kitchen sink, that your children and pets just might get hold of.

4. It’s healthier for you and your family
You can be absolutely confident that all the delicious food you grow and bring fresh from your garden to your kitchen doesn't contain any potentially damaging pesticide residues (and hasn't been transported halfway round the world!).

5. It’s satisfying
You'll begin to adopt a more holistic way of thinking and looking, discovering the ways in which everything is connected and interacts, and being part of this connectedness can become an enormous source of satisfaction.

6. It’s wildlife-friendly
Wildlife will regard your garden as a haven from the ravages of intensive farming. Birds, bees and butterflies, hedgehogs and worms will all become your friends and contribute to the health and well being of your garden.

7. It’s eco-friendly
You will realise that your garden is part of a much wider environment and that by your eco-friendly practices you can make a contribution to the sustainability of the planet. You'll find yourself looking for new ways to work with nature rather than constantly feeling you're fighting against it.

8. It’s good for biodiversity
Organic gardeners delight in the rich diversity of the natural world. Instead of just growing the same half a dozen varieties every year, you'll discover there are a thousand different types of tomato or lettuce or potato or tulip or whatever takes your fancy. You can save your own seed of rare or unusual plants and even, if the idea appeals, become a guardian of a particular variety, thus preserving it for future generations.

9. It's therapeutic
Organic gardening is about balance and harmony. Gardening can become an enormously therapeutic activity when you discover ways of relieving yourself of the struggle to 'keep everything down'. Plants want to grow! It's what they do. The organic gardener is simply looking for ways to co-operate with and support them.

10. It’s supportive
You'll find you belong to a worldwide family of friendly, like-minded, enthusiastic, knowledgeable people, who will be only too happy to share their experience of gardening and growing, and enrich yours.



So, if you're new to the idea of gardening organically, and in the past you've been used to using weedkiller and pesticides and artificial fertilisers, you may think there's a mountain to climb to become organic.

Although gardening organically is really an attitude of mind, you can go a step at a time; no body's going to send the organic police round!

The organic attitude is about 'live and let live' (except, perhaps, when it comes to slugs and weeds!). And there are simple, easy steps you can take to move towards a more sustainable and eco-friendly way of working.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Happy New Year


A very Happy New Year to all readers and friends of The Compost Bin.

I hope 2017 brings you all health and a good growing season :)

Sarah aka Compostwoman,  and all of us at Compost Mansions
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