Thursday 31 December 2015

So, that was 2014. I was going to write a full colour, links and photos year end review but I feel too tired to do it. I am so glad we have got past the Shortest Day as I loath the dark days of winter. The short, sunless days make me feel gloomy and tired and fed up and yes, depressed. I am not depressed for any other reason that I know of but every year I feel dreadful - I believe it is SAD and as soon as the days begin to lengthen I feel better :) But at the moment even trying to be up beat and positive is an effort.

But I have had a think about this year and actually just focussing on the great things that have happened this year has made me feel better :) so I will just highlight a few things from 2014.

Strange to say the biggest and most positive thing to happen to me was getting bitten at the end of June by a Blandford Fly and getting Very Ill Indeed as a result. I know that sounds a bit odd, but being in Hospital for three days and bed ridden for another two weeks and really very ill indeed gave me lots of time to think and ponder about  my health. So I did something about it at last - I went on a new way of eating and have lost six stone since 28th June. I also found out along the way that I have a huge problem with wheat and if I eat any now I am very ill indeed, so I don't. This has meant some modification to our diets so I can avoid wheat and gluten but it has been worth it in terms of health and well being.

Also during the Summer we as a family took up Archery. We now shoot several times a week and have made new friends, have our own bows and kit and are beginning to see improvements in our aim! Great fun and very good for posture and core strength.

I have also welcomed new chickens to Compost Mansions both large and very tiny indeed! The Seramas are a hoot - they are so funny and entertain us all enormously with their silly antics and fun. The Big Girls watch them with bemusement (I think) but continue to provide eggs and turning-over-the-veg-patch duties for us.

The three cats continue to delight and entertain and give love - and lots of dead things as "gifts". Tabitha in particular is a very good ratter and can catch several per day. Good puss!

Despite illness in the Summer I have been out and about a fair bit this year - both as a Master Composter promoting home composting; as a Love Food Hate Waste cookery demonstrator promoting home cooking and real food and with various Arts and craft events and on trips away.

I have also engaged more my artistic and crafty side and have had a go at both needlefelting with Gretel Parker  and silver jewellery making with Hannah Willow. I have also been to many more book launches and gallery exhibitions and charity auctions than usual and have come away with some beautiful unique items. Featuring several times this year have been trips to see artist and author Jackie Morris and Karin of Celestine and the Hare, fibre artist and creator of magical mayhem. Also visits to talented  friend Tamsin Abbott to hear her speak and see her in action at her workshop.

I had a memorable solo trip round Wales at the end of August where I sat by the sea, re visited beaches and sacred sites from my childhood, saw family, watched Ospreys, walked through Slate mines and visited blogging friends. I must go again, soon.

I also met many people this year who I have never met in real life but know well via the internet - I finally met up with John "Compost" Cossham and Deb Millar at the Green Gathering and fellow Forest School Leader Jan came for a visit on her way home to Scotland - I also had a great time meeting up with friends from THD forum at the Conference and at the Christmas get together in Birmingham.

Other stuff has happened here - Compostman and Compostgirl are well; the wood grew, the veg garden flourished and the polytunnel produced loads of food although all was less tidy than normal due to my enforced absence due to illness during July and most of August. The new patio and the flower beds around it were a great success though and I had a wonderful supply of cut flowers from the cutting garden as well as loads of herbs from the new herbery - it all looked fab as well from inside the house.

We still have not started on the pond filling/ digging new one yet though! I have also had a rethink about the new pond in the garden area - because I don't want to attract Blandford Flies and because we use the grass area to shoot over and a pond would stop it being used for Archery.

But this year has been mainly about changes for me; new friendships and moving outside my comfort zone a little; going off on a solo holiday, dramatically changing the food I eat, getting a new car (had the old one for 12 years so this was a big change for me!) and of course always learning new crafts.

I hope I continue to learn and grow and change in 2015. I do hope to visit more sacred sites in 2015 than I managed this year; I want to go back to Avebury, see some long barrows, Silbury Hill again and hopefully re visit Stonehenge now it is less cluttered by a road!  And I must finish some of the WIPs in the quilting and crochet piles! I also have jewellry making kit to play with, now ;)

One thing is sure life is never dull here.

I also hope I meet up with more of you in 2015, I love meeting up with blogging buddies so please if you are in my area do get in touch and let's try to meet up :) If you "do" Facebook and want to friend me personally (as opposed to the Compost Bin Fb page)  - send me an email with your real name so I recognise you when the friend request comes in, otherwise I won't know who you are :)

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year and a wonderful 2015. xxx

This has been a truly great year and I can’t believe we’re on the cusp of a new one. Don’t get me wrong, the last twelve months have had their fair share of ups, downs and mega downs, but looking back … Continue reading →

Wednesday 30 December 2015

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. Here’s an excerpt: A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,800 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 47 trips to carry that many people. Click here to see the […]

Sunday 29 March 2015

… a section of the original manor house … Our discovery of Fiddleford Manor was a complete, unexpected pleasure! How did I never know of its existence? I have probably driven past its little, lane entrance about a squillion times and never investigated further. What I loved most, at first sight, was the massive, free car park. […]

Wednesday 25 March 2015

… freshly baked … It felt like a baking kind of a day yesterday and it didn’t take long for the cry of ‘ooh macaroons’ to confirm what I was to make. I had planned to spend a morning, perusing my beautiful new recipe book The Hummingbird Bakery Home Sweet Home, over a cup of tea. I […]

Monday 23 March 2015

‘Eggs Benedict is genius. It’s eggs covered in eggs. I mean, come on, that person should be the president.’* *Wylie Dufresne We were so pleased to have been invited, again, to the Country Living Spring Fair last week… Sara was up at the Business Design Centre in Angel, Islington, for all five days of the […]

Sunday 22 March 2015

Hello fellow Earthlings!
Well, we made it.  After the doom and gloom of the solar eclipse, when some predicted the end of the turned out to be a slightly cloudy 10 minutes and the world kept on turning.  I am relieved as I had a cake in the oven and it would have been a shame to waste the eggs, they are so few and far between.  
All is ok here, it has been a bumpy ride, filled with operations (not me, but J), hospital visits (with me being a Londonphobe - not good) and plenty of dog walks, cleaning out hens, cursing stones on the new allotment, baking, jamming and no crochet whatsoever as I still can't do it.  I have learnt many things over the past few months.  
Number one - Don't leave a tube of Germoline to repair allotment related damage, next to your toothpaste.  Ever. 
Number two - When cooking in a Rayburn at 6pm and placing a delicious Cornish pasty in the oven, set a timer.  Otherwise you will find it at 8am the next day, Fossilised. 

December. Yes, it was a long time ago that I last wrote my blog....I know I'm bad at this.   So, a few pictures from Yuletide as I like them :0) and feel bad that I didn't post a single festive post. 
A Christmas Cake for a friend.  He's Danish (which isn't relevant, just explains the use of the Scandi ribbon).  

My kitchen table with about 50% of the orders I made last year.  That there's a lot of cake, jam and puddin's! 

More cakes and German Spiced Almonds..

So, let me explain whats been going on.  J had another brain tumour removed (lucky number 3)! and was due to spend 6 days in hospital.  8 weeks later, after many complications, (an understatement) he was finally set free!  It was getting to the point that they were going to have to name a wing after him and to be fair, the food is enough to drive anyone insane. 
A 2 1/2 hour commute each way for me, but I like to think I kept him from completely losing his mind.
He is doing ok, now, but 5 general anaesthetics have left him really tired.  It will pass but he is doing really well.  
Bento land is alive and well here.  I am still trying to do one for work, but they aren't that healthy anymore.  They are still better than crappy airline food though, so at least I'm trying. 

and a new bento box for day trips....because I really needed a new one.


What with work getting in the way and hospital visits, I hadn't been to dog training in 9 weeks.  Furface was getting a bit stubborn and to be fair, I missed going for the social aspect.  I don't go out that much (aka I'm a hermit) so meeting up with the 'dog clan' every week was nice and I missed it.  I was told that they had all lost weight since my absence due to lack of baked goods.  I've made up for that since returning...hmmm, cheese straws.

The Allotment

I have been very busy with the allotment, (mainly going to the cash point to get money for the builder) but don't judge me.  I am hopeless when it comes to building things.  Unless it's a huge sandwich.  The fence is up, beds in, shed done, painted by me and it is looking fab.  I've had 11 days off so armed with a mattock (like a pick axe, but with a blunt end) and my new trusty lunch tin (essential), I started the back breaking task of digging over each bed.  All 8 of them.  HUGE beds. It has taken me all week with much muttering and cursing but it is done and I am over the moon.

Painting the shed on a cold day, did little to help my back, so off to the physio I went.  She advised I start yoga, as apparently I have a fantastic 'arse and legs, very strong...and amazing abs...' (it was at this point, I thought she must have been secretly downing a few cans of Stella between clients), but she was referring to my core strength, not my six pack.  Obviously.

Having received a fair few John Lewis vouchers, (thank you JL partnership Mastercard), I ordered a 'Yoga Bunny' mat.  I was so excited when it arrived beautifully wrapped in that plastic shrink wrap, that I tried to rip it open....

And pulled a muscle in my back.

It could only happen to me.  Or Mr Bean.  The mat hasn't moved from the spare room since January.  I still need to find a local yoga class.  And a Kaftan large enough.

After a week of agony, I visited the new Doctor, (no wedding ring, just saying) and he prescribed codeine and diazepam.  What a marvellous man he is.  I love modern medicine. I floated for around a week.

The first two beds and amazing cold frame made by my neighbour from my old bedroom window -

Look at that soil! 
I managed to pick up a couple of rickety chairs from the local auction place for £10 each and I think Furface approves!

*cough, I need a cushion
Everyone needs a lunch tin! And too many packets of seeds. My new addiction.  

I am due back to work on Tuesday.  Bleurgh.  More trouble at t'mill, but won't go into that here.  Needs must and I have a cute terrier to provide for.  I've been so busy, the time has flown by.  His 'Furriness' has been waking me at 6.30am every day, but I now get up, feed and walk him, get ready and head off to the allotment by 8am.  Spend a few hours there, then back home, quick bite to eat and then take him for a 6/7km walk.  Home by 2pm, resist the urge to collapse on the sofa and head off to the conservatory to get at least 2/3 hours of writing done.  It is going well so far and I'm enjoying the work.

When I'm doing my writing, Furface is usually sparko under my desk -

The hens are laying again.  TODAY, I actually got 4 eggs!  Well one was broken and eaten by 3 deranged hens screeching, like banshees to get to the yolk.  But you can expect thin shelled eggs when one of your hens is 6 1/2 years old.  Pru, the Matriarch of the group is 7 now and laid today!  A weird, torpedo shaped thing, but still an egg.  Good girls.  

It's now Sunday night, I'm listening to Michael Ball on Radio 2 (I'm so rock n' roll) and the little man is spread-eagled across 3/4 of the sofa.  Snoring.  And farting.  *mental note to not add a few left over sprouts to his supper next time* 
I will leave you with this adorable picture of him.  I now I am biased, but just look at that face. 
Night night Peeps!
C x x x

 … my first anemone flower of the year … With the clocks soon to go forward and as the days get longer, it really is making me believe that we are shaking off the winter and heading full on into spring. However, it isn’t really spring yet and I need to be careful not to […]

Wednesday 18 March 2015

… newly planted primroses on the bank … You’ll remember from this post a few weeks back that we are in the process of creating a wild flower bank at the front of the house.  The bank already exists, just incase your mind conjures up visions of diggers and mounds of earth (in Mr D-F’s dreams). We […]

Monday 16 March 2015

‘Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’* *Robin Williams We are so pleased to have been invited, again, to the Country Living Spring Fair this week…   Sara will be at the event every day from Wednesday 18th – Sunday 22nd March, giving talks, food demonstrations and joining a panel of experts on Saturday […]

Sunday 15 March 2015

… the tide going out at Kimmeridge Bay … ‘Where’s Kimmeridge?” Mr D-F asked a while back. I was so astonished that anyone in Dorset and the surrounding counties could possibly not be aware of the existence of this very cool spot. It was decided then that Kimmeridge would be our next mission out and luckily the […]

Saturday 14 March 2015

Algy chicken (very tiniest of the very tiny Serama chickens) got chilled today while strutting around outside and basically started to shut down and go into hypothermia.

I have brought him inside, cuddled him until he warmed up a bit and he is now in a basket by the fire, stuffing his beak with mealworms and crooning to himself.

He already was very keen to come inside and be cuddled - guess after this he will now be even more keen!

Wednesday 11 March 2015

… one of the many beautiful hair clips at Stone Bridge hair accessories … I know that I don’t usually write about anything to do with hair or beauty. I think this is because I am, by no means, an expert in this field. I wanted to write this post because I had a little […]

Monday 09 March 2015

‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’* *Maimonides What with our wonderful morning in The Holmewood School, a Teacher Training session with the Heathland Learning Trust, and a nursery class visiting last week we have had a great […]

Sunday 08 March 2015

At [book-ish] in Crickhowell doing a Ffolkyffelt felting workshop with Ems Cariad Bevan, Emma Corfield Walters from Book ish  and Kathryn from Bo Peep Quilts. Making an owl :)
— at [book-ish]

Compostman and Compostgirl are at an Archery competition in Builth Wells :) Good luck Team!

… the brightly coloured, enticing displays at Sparrow UK, Shaftesbury … Last week, I stepped into the crafty world of Sparrow in Shaftesbury. It is not often that I have far too many wonderful photographs to choose from for a DDB post, as usually there are a handful that really stand out.  However, this time […]

Friday 06 March 2015

I have been busy this week, so apologies for lack of posts!

Obviously the most time taking stuff has been planting and digging and sowing - yes it is THAT time of year when suddenly I am running around trying to get stuff sown or dug or cleaned up so I can use it in the garden :)  Spring does seem to have arrived here, at last.

I have also been to a Green Party meeting in Leominster, with fellow members from Ledbury. It was excellent to see so many committed activists willing to help get Herefordshire more Green!. Inspiring talk by existing GP councillors and  Daisy Blench, our PPC for the General Election. Am looking forward to offering whatever help I can  to make Herefordshire more Green.

And  now I am off to a meeting in Hereford to discuss Community Composting schemes. Compostman is enjoying the sunshine while pruning and shredding stuff in the garden. Big Hens and Algy Serama Cockerel are keeping him company in the sunlight.

The other Seramas are sunbathing next to Tabitha and Cassie cats. No idea where Tom cat is - probably lying on Compostgirl's bed in a patch of sunlight!

Wednesday 04 March 2015

… golden sleeping hares by Charley of *Artist Not Included … It’s my birthday next week and I know that somewhere lurking in the Finca are two beautiful illustrations by Charley of *Artist Not Included, all wrapped up and waiting for me to open. Well, I hope all wrapped up… it wouldn’t surprise me if Mr DF […]

Sunday 01 March 2015

Lots of new readers at the moment so I thought I would do a hello message
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.


love, Compostwoman

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We lost our 18-year-old cat Miss P a couple of months ago. It was a very sad time around here. But I still think I see her shadow out of the corner of my eye from time to time. Two months later I’m pretty sure some of the pet hair I see on my coat […]

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