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Updated: Thursday 31 December 2015
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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
Interesting batch of post for me today
The first thing to arrive in the post was this - A Cultimate from The Grumpy Gardener range. It is a new multiuse single pronged weeder that lifts the entire root of a weed in one go.
Please see the video which explain how it works.
I must admit I found it rather useful! We now have more raised beds and I found the Cultimate got dandelions out just as the video shows.
I also picked up a copy of Kitchen Garden magazine, which had some free seeds and a useful dry wipe note board. That will be useful in the polytunnel! The seeds will be added to my collection for use on my Master Composter stall at the various summer shows and events I do. I always offer the option of seed sowing when I do a stall as well as offering advice and demonstrations on composting.
Finally, I have been sent some interesting seeds to try by Marshalls Seeds. I shall get planting them and will report back on how they grow, look and ultimately taste :) I do like the look of them on the packets I must admit :)
I love getting surprise parcels :)
I had such a fabulous time in Scotland :) Walking, canoeing, drinking wine, chatting, laughing, singing, some Forest School CPD, drinking wine, chatting, eating choklit, laughing some more ...you get the idea!
I am also SO pleased about the fact that I managed to go away to see my friends (who I have not seen for ages) and eat sociable meals with them even though they were not gluten or lactose intolerant so we had to make some alterations to meals ( thank you friends :) ) , drink some wine (well quite a lot of wine, actually!) and eat 100% chocolate ( I introduced them to it!) and feel in control and healthy AND come back having reduced a bit more of my weight! And do a heck of a lot of driving around in my fab new-to-me car without being TOO physically wrecked by it.
My friends were all intrigued and interested in my weight loss and my way of eating and I have lent several of the group copies of various Harcombe Diet books and pointed them to the website. They are not overweight but were interested to investigate THD.
They all saw what I was like a year or more ago so knew of my health and weight difficulties and were astonished and delighted at how much healthier and fitter I was.
A year ago I would NEVER have been able to do a hike into the mountains for hours over rough terrain in rather adverse weather conditions (did you see the weather forecast for the Highlands last weekend?)
Trust me, it was very wet and very windy and very cold. We had sleet/snow where I was and that is quite unusual for the Argyll and Bute region as it is temperate rainforest ( yes really!)
A year ago I would NEVER have been able to do a 4 hour sea canoe expedition in very challenging weather conditions. We were well looked after by Ian from Argyll Voyageur Canoes who was really great and very knowledgeable of the local area, having been born and raised there.
We had a camp out at the half way stage where collectively we Forest School Leaders managed to get a basha up and a Kelly Kettle lit and a brew up made in what I can only describe as really, REALLY very challenging conditions! Horizontal hail and vertical rain and a nearly gale and 2 C with a wind chill added to that! But IT WAS FUN :) We sang to the seals :)
This time last year I would just not have even contemplated doing this because I knew I would have been a hindrance and not capable of doing it as it would have been dangerous for me to join in, for all concerned.
So, finding THD and sorting myself out I now have back something else I used to love to do - hiking and outdoor activities
I loved seeing all my friends and I really had a great long weekend, even if the journey up and back down the M6 was a bit of a nightmare.
I am off to the Highlands of Scotland (today!) to meet up with friends, to go camping, hiking and sea canoeing. I am SO excited about this trip :)
Am going solo, so family are not with me. I am meeting up with Forest School and Outdoor Ed friends who I have not seen for years :) We are off on an Awfully Big Adventure :) And will be doing some CPD :)
Weather forecast is a bit dire but we all have waterproofs etc and a positive attitude so BRING IT ON is all I can say to the weather gods
Wish me luck!
He goes outside during the day and seems bright enough - runs around with the others and is very perky BUT as soon as it gets cold he hides in the polytunnel in the warm and if he is outside for any length of time, he looks very cold and shivers.
So he is still coming inside every night :) He has a cat carrier and eats and then goes to sleep :)
The cats seem ok with it, now.
Whispers quietly in his ear - I love you Algy chicken.
Really good day today, started in morning showing our Green Party PPC Daisy Blench around Ledbury.
The mediaeval Master's House in Ledbury is finally finished and now houses the Council hub and our new library, along with other local services. It is FABULOUS inside - so I showed Daisy around.
it has taken a very long time to restore but my word the wait has been worth it.
Then we had some lunch and took Compostgirl to Hereford to attend her monthly Write On writers workshop, then after some shopping we came home and I got on with more seed sowing. I then did all sorts of Lugg Valley Company of Archers paperwork and form making : )
Algy Serama chicken returned to inside house ( he is still a bit poorly ) and we settled down to watch The Voice on TV. Now catching up with admin stuff on computer and blogging about my day
Clear and sunny here so we have had an excellent view of the Eclipse
Eclipse status Herefordshire - was sunny - got darker - cloud came over, cloud went away - got darker - birds stopped singing mostly - cats and chickens looked confused - gloomy and got cold - then slowly warmed up and birds started singing again. Chickens and cats were relieved :)
Fab day today
Lovely weather here so we got lots of gardening done in the sunshine. Planted lots of seeds and pricked out toms, aubergine and pepper plants. Also moved one of the raised beds around ( as you do!)
Finished bed planted up with 25 of the 1st Early Rocket seed potatoes :)
Then I came in and did lots of paperwork stuff as well, but good paperwork involving progressing stuff I love to do
Then I went over to Garway to a Forest School FEN meeting which was fabulous, at Garway Primary School - made me wish I were teaching there! So good to meet with like minded people and we made a willow tepee and drank tea around the fire.
I drove back home with the sun setting behind me from Garway back to Ledbury to take part in the WI Quiz as part of Putley WI quiz team - and we are into the final! 5 teams will battle it out next month and we are one of them!
Tired now though :)
Looking forward to the Eclipse tomorrow and the Spring Equinox. Hope it will be fine :)
What we have been been up to today.
with various members of Lugg Valley Company of Archers. 13 of us entered and we had a great time :)
You can read more on the Lugg Valley Company of Archers website here
Compostgirl won gold, and we won the Team Trophy as well as several other individual trophies and awards. Go Team Lugg Valley :)
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!
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!
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.
Some time ago I recieved a lovely cold frame from Gabriel Ash. But then I was bitten by that pesky Blandford Fly and then I got ill and then it was late summer and I didn't really need a cold frame. And then it was Winter and dark and cold and wet.
So my lovely cedar wood coldframe has sat in bits in boxes in the garage all through the winter, waiting for better weather so we could put it together and site it on the patio.
And finally today the weather was fine and sunny so we did.
As always we were " assisted" by chickens - this time the Serama gang came to help!"
The cold frame instructions were very clear and we were soon doing the final bits and bobs
Algy Serama came for a cuddle
I caught the cats chewing the catnip plant !
Proud parent (!)
I was sent a link by a friend to this. We all feed the birds in our garden but one young girl in Seattle is luckier than most. She feeds the crows in her garden - and they bring her gifts in return. Wonderful stuff, so magical that the girl has such a close bond with a wild creature.
But made me a bit sad as it reminded me that when I was young I had Magpies who would come to me and bring me shiny gifts. I reared a Magpie chick (his nest had been robbed - he was on the ground, barely alive and with no feathers yet) I fed him mashed stuff and, when he fledged I taught him to fly - and he then went off and came back with more magpie friends (wild ones) and got me to feed them. I loved him, and he would ride on my wrist like a hawk ( by his own choice - no jesses) when I rode my pony on the Common.
He used to bring me gifts of mainly shiny stuff - milk bottle rops, ring pulls from cans, bits of metal and washers, stuff like that. No gold or silver unfortunately!
Then the neighbouring farmer's teenaged son, knowing full well who he was, shot Magnus dead and nailed his body to our gate post. The total bastard. I was 9 at the time.
The memory of this made me sad at how Magnus had died, but also happy to recollect an event which was so special in my life. I felt so blessed to have been a part of a wild bird's life in that manner.
So I went and dug out the only two photos I have of Magnus Magenpie
This first one is of him just fledged and you can see the sheath still on his primaries We have just had a flying lesson in that photo.
That's me in the picture, with him on my arm, standing on Kempsey Common just next to our house.
Magnus learnt to talk and could say quite a few things - his favourite saying was "magnus magenpie, pretty boy " and " come on, hurry up and feed me" and he would tap in the window to wake me up so he could get me to open the window. He would then fly into my bedroom and tug on my hair until I got up and fed him. He frequently brought a number of "wilder" magpie friends with him - and obviously had communicated that I was "ok" as they, too, would come in and wait for food. This was 44 years ago. I still think of him :)
As we had got up early to greet Bonnie Ann, and had eaten an early lunch to accommodate her need to leave us to get her plane back to the US of A, we were fed, watered and had done all our chores by 12 noon. It was a glorious sunny day with clear blue skies and a gentle breeze so we decided to Go Somewhere.
At one point it looked possible that Bonnie Ann might be able to come with us to see something archaeological on her way to the airport, so I had researched a few places on the way to Heathrow. Stonehenge, Avebury, Silbury Hill and West Kennet Long Barrow were all options but of course on the day Bonnie Ann had sadly run out of time to do anything other than drive straight to Heathrow.
But we were ready and had the whole afternoon and evening free, so having gathered walking boots, a flask and food and other supplies we got in my car and off we went to one of my favourite areas.
After a lovely drive through the landscape filled with ancient sites - mounds, white horses, cairns, barrows, within less than two hours we were in Avebury.
After we had walked around Avebury we went to the nearby Silbury Hill
From there it was a short distance to the West Kennet Long Barrow.
Compostgirl and I walking down to the River Kennet
Compostman and I
Me trudging up a very muddy track!
West Kennet Long barrow, just before sunset
inside the barrow
We came back down the hill just as the sun was setting over Silbury Hill.
Lovely visit yesterday on a fabulously sunny morning from a friend from the United States, now on her way to Heathrow to return home to the U S of A. She arrived after a week in Pembrokeshire where she sat by the sea, photographed pebbles, walked with cats and met Jackie Morris, visited Solva Woolen Mill and met Anna and Tom Grimes, and did loads of other lovely stuff in my most favourite part of the world ever. :)
She arrived here late morning en route to fly home and had a late breakfast with us and we talked. And talked. And then talked some more :) . Then we went outside where she met all the chickens and Cassie, Tom and Tabitha Cats , who were friendly but would not be cuddled.
Archie Serama Chicken was however keen to be cwtched :)
As was Juniper the Guinea Pig
And Compostgirl :)
Sadly all too soon it was time to say goodbye, so we had a look at the map to make sure Bonnie Ann knew her route,
then a final big cuddle before she set off again.
She had to leave us all too soon to drive to Heathrow to fly home. Lovely lady, wonderful to have met up with her. Safe journey home my dear friend.
I have a blog which goes into much more detail about my way of eating and weight loss. It is invitation only so we can all be very frank about stuff without Google finding it !
If you wanted to read it or join in with the comments please email me and say why :)
Sarah aka Compostwoman xxx
Well my BBC Hereford and Worcester radio interview on Fri went well. I went over to Worcester to the studio and was live on air with Malcolm Boyden at just after 10 am. I had more than 10 mins chatting to him live on air. And yes it was great to be back in a studio doing live press stuff again :)
Programme link HERE
I get introduced at 04:28 and then the interview proper starts at 08:28 - 20.08
BBC H and W have also put my story and some photos on their public Facebook page HERE
I do hope that other people hear and take on board the story and that it helps them as that is the only reason I have done this media stuff in the first place. I have had a lot of interested comments from people I know around here about my weight loss and I hope my message is helpful to those listening.
I am just so grateful that I finally took control of my diet and health as I feel so much better, now.
I have featured in the local media today :)
You may recall my recent post about how I have lost a lot of weight in the last 7 months - well as a result I have been honoured with the title of "Harcombe Diet Champion" by Zoe and Andy Harcombe - there are many others featured on The Harcombe Diet forum. I feel proud to follow in their (ever shrinking!) footsteps :)
So far I have been in my local paper the Ledbury Reporter; I am in other papers soon and - who knows what else? I have also done a live interview with the BBC local radio station today and will blog about that some other time. But for now here is the link to the online version of my bit in the local paper.
If you want to join my private blog about my weight loss please send me an email.