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 WordPress.com 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 24 May 2015

Ok. So I’m a neurotic dog owner. I never thought I would be, but I love him so much and there it is. I had planned a great post for today, all glitzy and shiny.  We’ve been housetraining Brinks all week and we were starting to feel a bit smug about his success. ‘We must […]

The post Setbacks appeared first on The Dorset Finca.

Saturday 23 May 2015

This weekend we will be painting our fence, what about uou? Painting the fence is a one of the most arduous tasks in the garden, but it also one of those jobs which needs to be done at some point. We have chosen a lovely shad of blue called 'coastal mist'. Being given a blank canvas is really exciting and we are starting to get all of the ideas together, the theme for the garden design is 'pink and blue', coincidentally the choice of colour scheme for our wedding in just 4 weeks time!
The garden is transforming all of the time. We decided that this year we will keep a fair chunk of lawn before we finally decide what the final outcome will be for our garden. I've made a simple curved border which goes from the right hand corner nearest the house all the way across to the far left corner  which is furthest away from the house. The border will be home to Amy's 'David Austin' collection. We both have a fascination with the wonderful appearance and fragrance of these particular roses. We have 10 different varities planted in the garden already. 
We have also planted 2 dwarf patio cherry trees, 1 Apple tree and also some gooseberry bushes. 
Here is a quick look at the work in progress...


We are still eggless, but the chickens are making the most of the sunshine. I've cut the grass today and they are currently rummaging through a big pile of the cuttings.
Have a lovely bank holiday weekend,
Martin

Wednesday 20 May 2015

‘Do not count your chickens before they are hatched.‘* *Aesop Please note: Cutest pictures are further down the page…! Sadly, we’ve said goodbye to five of our chickens in five months this year. Well, for the small bantam that was whisked away by a neighbour’s cat, we didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye! […]

I have decided to dedicate an entire post to this fantastic plant as it has totally won me over with its resilient nature, beautiful soft-looking foliage and vibrant flowers. This particular salvia was bought for me as a present and at the time, I didn’t have a suitable place in the flowerbeds in order to show it […]

The post Perfect Patio Plant | Salvia Hot Lips appeared first on The Dorset Finca.

Tuesday 19 May 2015


Almost 2 weeks in to our latest chicken keeping venture and we still haven't had an egg. As you may remember we recently purchased 3 POL (point of lay) hybrid hens from Cotswold Chickens near Stratford Upon Avon.We have no idea exactly how old Clarice, Clarabelle and Clara are but point of lay suggests anything from 15 weeks - 6 months old. From my previous experience with poultry I would guess that they are all around 18 weeks old. 
Despite currently being eggless there are promising signs from both Clarice (White Star) and Clarabelle (Speckledy) that eggs are not too far off. Clarice's comb has doubled in size this week and it seems to be getting a darker shade of red every single day. Clarabelle's comb although small is bright red and in the last couple of days she has started 'crouching' when you approach her. Normally hens begin to do this at maturity and it is a signal to the cockerel that they are ready to mate. We don't have a cockerel, but anything tall enough to hover above them is easily mistaken for a potential mate!

So the race is on, who will lay first? Will it be a brown egg from Clarabelle? Or a white egg from Clarice?  I guess I've jinxed it now and it will be a blue egg from Clara, but she's showing no sign of wanting to lay at all! Clara is an Aracauna cross and Aracaunas are known for taking a lot longer to get in to the wing of things than other breeds.
As I write this Clarabelle is sat in the next box...
Have a great day!
Martin


In my post on Tuesday, I said that in order to get us up and running I was willing to buy a couple of plug plant packs from the local garden centre. In addition to the lettuce plugs that I mentioned the other day I also bought some 'Longbow' leek plants.I absolutely love growing leeks, they are a true staple for allotment gardeners and even though we are currently plotless I just could not imagine a growing season (or winter harvest) without them.
The first thing to do when transplanting leeks is to use a dibber (the handle of a trowel will do) to make a hole about 5'' deep. The leeks don't need to be planted too far apart, a distance of about 6'' between them will more than suffice.After making the holes it is time to seperate the leeks out. Remove the leeks from the container you have been growing them in up until now and then you need to pull them apart. Try and ensure you keep as much of the root system in tact as possible. Some people say that you need to cut 1/3 of the leaves off and also 1/3 of the roots. I have never done this but I have always had a bountiful harvest of leeks in the past.Once separated they should look like this...You then need to simply place the leek plants in the holes you have made. After filling all of the holes with your leek plants you then need to 'puddle them' in. You should NEVER back fill the holes with soil or compost because the grit from the soil will get stuck in between the leaves of your leeks and they will not be pleasant to eat at harvest time.Just put your thumb over the end of a watering can and allow water to dribble in to each hole. The objective of this is to allow the small amount of soil around the side of the hole to fall on to the roots and effectively cover them. The hole will be filled out over time by growth of the leek and by rain water causing compost/soil to fall in to the hole.
The whole reason we use this method rather than simply planting the leeks at soil level is to ensure that the white part of the leek is larger than the green leaves. If young leek plants were planted at soil level there would be lots of leaf growth but overall this has quite a bitter taste compared to the sweeter white part.I can't wait to harvest these beauties and I hope they grow as well as leeks I have grown in previous years. I'm going back in to the garden now to sow some radish seeds in between the leek plants. The radishes will be harvested way before the leeks require all of that extra space.
Thanks for reading and have a lovely day!
Martin

Thank you to everyone who has left kind comments after our posts and to everybody who has given us a warm welcome back to blogging.For those of you who have been reading you have probably ascertained that Paddington House has already begun its transformation in to a 21st century version of 'The Good Life'. We were without broadband from when we moved in on 27th March and it has only just been installed in the past week.Therefore the raised bed has been standing and full of plants and seeds for over 5 weeks already despite one of our latest posts only just showing it having been erected. So today I will attempt to bring you up to where we are today. The first thing we planted when we had finished building the raised bed were some lettuce plants we bought from our local garden centre. They were tiny little plugs when they went in, but now they are almost ready for harvesting. These are 'Little Gem'..
I normally detest buying veg plants from garden centres, but this year I said I would buy a couple of plug packs if necessary. It cost me £1.50 for 12 plants, but I know in some of the 'high end' garden centres they charge around £4 for the same quantity. Rest assured, I have already planted some more lettuce seeds and the plants can be transplanted in to the raised beds after this current batch has been consumed.Alongside the lettuce is some 'French Breakfast' radish. I absolutely detest shop bought radish, but I could eat the fresh homegrown stuff straight out of the ground. The stuff in the shops always tastes very woody and does not have a nice texture to it. These roots appear to be swelling up quite nicely, it shouldn't be long before they are ready to eat...
The raised bed is up against the shed and in order to maximise growing space I have attached some trellis to the shed and I have sowed some 'Blauhilde' purple podded climbing beans along the edge of the raised bed closest to the shed. I have grown these before on the allotment and they are absolutely delicious, they are fantastic roasted with other Mediterranean vegetables. The plants are just starting to take hold and should be climbing away in no time.. I was hoping to paint the shed before they emerged but they appear to have beaten me on this occasion.
Our raised bed also has beetroot and Swiss chard growing in it. The seedlings have just appeared and are making good progress. I can't wait to taste fresh homegrown produce once again, it surely can't be long to wait now.
Thanks for reading,
Martin

Sunday 17 May 2015

I thought I'd share a picture of this charming herd of cows who were intent on watching us as we walked around the beautiful village of Haselor...



I hope you are enjoying your weekend too.

Martin

‘Of course I’ll be able to blog when we get the puppy,’ I thought. Surely there would be breaks when I could take pictures, edit them, write something and get all the social media synched up at the same time? A doddle. Thank you to all of you doggy people who are now chuckling at my […]

The post He’s Here… appeared first on The Dorset Finca.

Saturday 16 May 2015

It was always inevitable. A new home was always going to mean new chickens!

We managed to buy a pink eglu for £35. It was in a pretty bad state. The bolts had rusted and were not budging so the run was stuck to the eglu. After days of WD40, penetrating fluids etc. we finally managed to get a little bit of movement from the rusted bolts. Admittedly all 4 bolts did snap, but due to this we were able to drill them out. A few new bolts later, a can of green spray paint to respray the run and a couple of new bits from Omlet, we finally had an eglu which was in pretty good condition.

We visited Cotswold Chickens in Kineton, near Stratford Upon Avon. We chose chickens based on the eggs they would lay rather than considering any other factor.

We decided to go for their own blue egg laying hybrid creation which is Aracauna x Leghorn, they call it a 'Blue Angel' and we called her Clara!

Our next hen is Clarice, she is a traditional white star. She is already number 1 in the pecking order without a doubt. She is very flighty around us at the moment, but this is completely normal for the breed. She will lay beautiful, big, white eggs, perhaps in excess of 330 of them in her first year. Very exciting!

Our final choice was a beautiful Speckeldy, I have always wanted one not only for their big brown eggs but also for their pleasing appearance. Clarabelle is absolutely adorable, she appears to be very sweet natured. I thought she might have been number one in the pecking order based on first impressions, but she seems happy to sit back and let Clarice rule the roost.

(LtR - Clarice, Clarabelle, Clara)

We actually have some bigger plans for this space, maybe a walk in run eventually, but I will definitely be getting them off the grass and on to a wood chip area in the very near future.

Thanks for reading,

Martin

Friday 15 May 2015

Our aim was always going to be to grow lots of tasty fruit and vegetables in the garden here at Paddington House.

When we had the allotment whilst living at our previous address I clearly remember the back breaking slog of digging over the soil, forking in well rotted compost, getting on my hands and knees to sow the seeds and then.. having to get back up again!

Seeing as we are going to try and grow as much as possible at home before we reach the top of the allotment waiting list in our new parish, I wanted to ensure that vegetable growing here was as comfortable as possible.

I bought the raised bed from Harrod Horticulture. It measures 4ft x 4ft and is 2ft deep. I have put it behind the shed where it tucks in perfectly and I can easily access all areas of the bed without it being an obstacle in the garden.

One of the greatest fears that a new raised bed owner can have is that the cost of filling the thing with good quality material can often exceed the original cost of the bed. I did spend about £20 on 480 litres of compost, but if I had filled the bed purely with the stuff it would have exceeded that figure greatly.

I actually filled the bottom layer of the raised bed with turf which was left over from the border I created at the weekend. I turned it upside down and hopefully it will compost away under all of the layers of goodness I had to pay extra for.

I have cheated a little bit and I have bought 12 lettuce plug plants for £2 from the garden centre. I have put them in straight away and we should be harvesting fresh veg at Paddington House in absolutely no time at all. I also have an abundance of lavender, lots of strawberry plants, some gooseberry bushes, and 4 fruit trees to get in the ground too. Despite the joys of spring, roll on harvest time when we can taste all of our hard work's rewards!

Thanks for reading, don't forget to check back soon!

Martin

Thursday 14 May 2015

I am getting very excited about going to The Big Lunch Extra May 2015 camp at The Eden Project this weekend :) Details HERE

I take the train Fri morning and the train back Monday lunchtime and I have a whole weekend of networking, talking, workshops and fun, learning about better ways to build resilience and sustainable community projects. 

Mine, of course, involves compost. Lots of it :) And teaching people about keeping chickens and growing veg and good nutritious meals.

Watch out for updates during the weekend on my Twitter feed, Facebook page and personal page :) Compostman and Compostgirl are at home all weekend and I have promised to keep them posted as well :)

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Welcome to our garden at Paddington House!!
As you can see, it is another blank canvas and you can also infer from the houses opposite that we are living on a working building site! These houses are brand new and even though the house is very modern we really believe we can have our own good life here and we truly believe we will be very happy with it.


We have big plans for this little area here.. Tucked around the side of the house and in between our house and our neighbours..

We bought this house purely because of it's garden. It is the biggest garden for any of the 3 bedroom houses on the 168 home development site and most importantly it is south facing! Perfect!
We really hope you'll visit our blog soon to see our progress.
Martin

Tuesday 12 May 2015

Hello everybody,
It has been almost two years since we last blogged. In that time a lot has happened and I am delighted to tell you that Amy and I are getting married next month and we have recently just purchased our first house together.


Being such a momentous time in our lives, we have really got the urge to come back to blogging so that we can record our memories and also share them with you!
The theme of our blog was always 'living the 21st century good life' and this is still case. This time we really will be seeing how achievable 'the good life' is in the modern day. We have bought a new build house with a moderate sized garden compared to other new build gardens we had seen and we are wondering whether we will be able to grow, raise and make everything that we want to. We have had to give up 'Plot 114' due to relocating outside of the parish and we have left our 8 hens with Amy's Dad who is completely attached to them. We really will be starting again from scratch and implementing our own stamp on the blank canvas we have found ourselves with.
It feels so great to be back. I really hope you will join us on our adventure!
Martin

Monday 11 May 2015

‘Bread is like humanity itself. We come in many different shapes and sizes, colours and guises, yet underneath the skin/crust, we’re all made of the same stuff.’* *Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall As I’m typing this I have another batch of sourdough proving – it tastes so good! For those who have ever made it, you know that […]

Wednesday 06 May 2015

The final countdown has begun. The Hound of the Finca will soon be upon us and it’s time to make things cosy.  We’ve decided to go with a crate option for his initial bed, mainly as a retreat away from the cat if he decides to get a little too friendly. Hmm. We’ve put in some […]

The post Fabric Dog Crate Cover DIY appeared first on The Dorset Finca.

Sunday 03 May 2015

‘He was as fresh as is the month of May.* *Geoffrey Chaucer We, like many other families across the country, are approaching GCSEs and this quote, above, is from the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales which I read for English Literature many years ago. The reference is to the Squire, son of the Knight, who […]

Omlet Cartoon