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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Introducing Compostwoman

By Compostwoman, The Compost Bin

Hello everyone, I am Compostwoman. I am very pleased to have been invited to join Simple, Green, Frugal and I am writing this post to introduce myself to you all. This is quite a long post (sorry!) but I hope you find it interesting.

I live in Herefordshire, England with my husband and 8 year old daughter. We have lived in rural Herefordshire for 11 years and own 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, 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 own produce for a lot of the year. When we are not, 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 all 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 here, which is not common in most areas of the UK although it is quite normal around us. We are still on main electricity but hope to install some photovoltaic panels in the not too distant future to reduce our grid dependence. A solar thermal water heating installation is planned for summer 2009 for the same reason. Oh, and we use fuel from our own wood for the wood burner, also.

We are fortunate here to have enough land to grow most of our own veg, keep chickens and I am working on us rearing our own meat. 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 14 chickens, 2 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 and am keen to expand my flock by hatching out further rare breed eggs under a broody hen (which was how I got the Silver Dorking’s in 2008)

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/Use Less Group 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 redundancy (me). In the last 15 years I have switched career path completely and I now mainly work as an Environmental Educator. I volunteer to teach Organic Gardening at my daughter's primary school and I help run a successful after school Eco Club which Compostman also helps a lot with. I am currently finishing my training as a Forest School Leader, so I work with children helping them experience the wonders of playing in woodlands as part of their school day. I am also a qualified Holistic Therapist and enjoy making household and personal care items.

I have been a keen organic gardener and composter for many years and am a Master Composter - a volunteer community compost advisor with my local council and Garden Organic (the working name for HDRA). I go to various events such as county shows, give talks and demonstrations, take schools assemblies and enthuse about compost to all and sundry!

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 102 year old house to make it as energy efficient and comfortable as possible. He also does most of the cooking and all of the 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 25 years and we have always recycled, saved water, composted, cooked from scratch and grown some veg, as that was the way both of us had been 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!)

After I took redundancy in 1994 I got involved with various environmental pressure groups and as a result I eventually started up my own Environmental Consultancy business, advising mainly small community groups on fighting planning applications for Incinerators, Road Schemes and things of that ilk. I 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. 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 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 Global Warming?

I strongly believe that it only takes everybody to each do SOMETHING positive (however small it is), for us collectively to make a BIG difference. So we decided we needed to try to do even more, which was achievable, 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!) 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.

Sorry, I seem to have gone on a bit (oops) - I hope you will forgive me! and I will try not to do it again. Anyway that's me and why I live like I do. I hope you found it interesting.


love, Compostwoman


Chiot's Run said...

I'm looking forward to reading your articles.

Kate said...

Is that an apple press? If so, I've never seen the like. We've been thinking about getting one ourselves. Would you recommend that brand, if it is in fact a press?

Love the picture of your hens indoors.

Compostwoman said...

Hello both!

Kate I am using a scratter to chop up a giant shredder but designed for food use. My friend is using a hand operated press to get the juice out.

We don't own this kit, we thought about buying/making some but our friends just up the road run a mobile juicing and pasturising business ( we are surrounded by apple orchards in this bit of Herefordshire...its one of the main farming activities!) so we use their kit and have a pressing party with some friends from our local cider making circle, we all bring along our apples, have a drink of each persons cider, pasturise juice to keep for drinking and make juice for cider......its very sociable!

And the hens regularly invade the house, one has worked out how to get in thro' the cat flap...unfortunatly she can't quite work out how to get out again, so it can get a bit messy!!

Chiots Run, thank you ! I am looking forward to posting as well!

Compostwoman said...

is a link to a similar scratter.

Presses are simple hydrolic ones, if you want more info I could probably find it for you..

I think I can guess what I might post about about soon ish !

Melinda said...

Welcome! Your home sounds beautiful and relaxing. I love the idea of an Eco Club. Maybe you could write more about your activities there? It sounds like a great idea that many of us could replicate in our own neighborhoods.

Compostwoman said...

Hello Melinda. I intend to write more about the eco club I help to run as well as the organic gardening I do at DD's school and my Forest School/environmental education stuff.

oooooh so much stuff to share, with such a wonderful readership!

Sadge said...

Nice to "meet" you! I'm looking forward to reading more. I was so impressed that your chickens were wiping their feet as they came in *grin*

aromatic said...

Fantastic article CW.. Really interesting to read and your enthusiasm is infectious. Looking forward to future editions!!

Compostwoman said...

I have well trained chickens ;-)Sadge!

Aromatic thank you, I am looking forward to being part of this blog too! I try to enthuse about the way we live as I LOVE it so much!

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

I'm looking forward to your posts about gardening in the UK, since your climate is similar to ours in the maritime west of the US.


The Cisneros Family said...

I envy everything you do. Are there any articles coming up soon that teach us how to start a compost pile in our yard? I want to start a square foot garden (very soon) and want to use my own compost but keep thinking the task of building a tumbler from scraps is a bit daunting. Any advice?

Mary-Sue said...

what an amazing blog. i get so inspired reading all these posts. and now a 'compostwoman' on here as well! fabulous! can't wait to read more from you.
wow. just loving this blog. i just read back posts for ages. thank you.

Tea with Willow said...

I really enjoyed reading about your life at Compost Mansions, CW - I think your posts will be a fantastic addition to the SGFC Blog.

I know I've commented about your chickens on your blog, but I just love to see them popping into the kitchen, as mine do! So glad mine haven't mastered the cat flap yet though!!

Willow xx

Bel said...

Ooh, someone else has chickens inside her doorstep too! :)

I would love to read an article about the very basics of composting, and then how different weather can affect the process of composting.

Welcome to SGFC blog!

MouseDemon said...

Hmmmm, don't I know you from somewhere? :D

That made a really interesting read. I know I knew bits of it, but it was good to put all the pieces together.

I look forward to reading your posts on here.


Compostwoman said...

Thank you for all your kind comments, I feel quite overwhelmed :-)

I AM planning a post on composting, here in the UK it will soon be time to start getting the compost out to use and re filling the bins/heaps with stuff and I guess those of you in the Southern hemisphere will be going into autumn clearups, so composting advice will be useful also I hope.

But first, to finish my Forest School portfolio.....

Compostwoman said...

Hello MD ;-)

Kate said...

CW, thanks for the info on your press. We press the apples from our one old tree on a huge manual press owned by a relative of mine. I posted about it here:

We'd love to have our own press, just so that we could do our pressing at home, and not all on one very cold and very long day. My relatives won't sell this beautiful old press though. They keep waiting for their non-productive apple trees to start producing. I guess I can't blame them, but I sure covet their press.

Eilleen said...

Welcome Welcome! I am really looking forward to reading your articles!

kittyboo said...

Hi CW,
Great to see you on here - I've been eagerly awaiting your first post since I read on your blog that you'd been invited to join the co-op. It was nice to learn how you came to be doing the things you do (and I'm always happy to see Herefordshire mentioned!) Looking forward to your future posts.

EJ said...

Sounds like you are really living a good life.

You write: it only takes everybody to each do SOMETHING positive (however small it is), for us collectively to make a BIG difference.

But isn't it a bit late for only small steps, and aren't these small step canceled by the bigger negative things we all do? By being satisfied with small steps are we rocked into complacency, satisfaction and laziness?

Kendra @ A Sonoma Garden said...

Nice to meet you Compostwoman. I look forward to reading your posts. It sounds like you have a really lovely life!

Compostwoman said...

Eileen, Kittiboo, Kendra, EJ

Thanks for your comments, I do appreciate them and EJ thank you for your point.

You comment :
But isn't it a bit late for only small steps, and aren't these small step canceled by the bigger negative things we all do? By being satisfied with small steps are we rocked into complacency, satisfaction and laziness?

Well, maybe it IS already too late, but doing something has got to be better than doing nothing, IMO. Doing nothing about waste and pollution and over consumption and inequality for a long time is how we collectively got into this mess.

Obviously the more we CAN do, the better. But a lot of people feel they can't make any difference, whereas doing one small thing, multiplied by a lot of people actually equals quite a big thing.

And one small thing leads to other small ( and then bigger) steps IMO

Just my view, of course :-)

Gavin said...

Hi Compostwoman. What a great intro! Glad you joined the co-op, and look forward to many more posts from you.

Julia said...

Thank tou for your very interesting post. As a primary teacher in the uk myself I too would be very keen to learn more about your eco club and forest school work with children.

Maxine said...

What a lovely post! I have been popping in and out of your personal blog for a while now so its nice to hear your full story!!

FiFi said...

Compostwoman, I am most envious of your lifestyle! You are where I am aiming towards. At the moment I work full time and have no children - me and hubby live in that small-gardened semi (albeit in a fairly small village) with our 3 cats, and we recycle everything possible, compost all kitchen waste (I made our compost bin from decking panels I got free from a previous workplace of min - VERY proud of it!) and we're going to prepare our veg patch once this darned frost has thawed out. We're even getting chickens this year now I and my army of allies have persuaded hubby that we DO have enough room for them!

Could you do me a favour? I'd love to come visit your setup some time, and I'm only in Shropshire, so please contact me through my blog (I know I've not written anyting on it for ages but I'm planning to do another entry at the weekend). I think I could learn an awful lot from you and yours.

All the best,


cathy c said...

So glad you are here! I look forward to your posts. I have been composting as much as I can for a few years now. We are in bitter cold Chicago US, I usually save my scraps in the freezer until the snow is gone. I am interested in worm farming for the winter/snow months.... do you do that at all? Thanks again!

cathy c

Compostwoman said...

Hello Gavin, Julia Fifi, Maxine, cathy c and everyone! I have returned from the land of "finishingabigpieceofacademicwork" and am back in the land of the living again!

Thank you all for your comments, I am most pleased to read them all,

I have just posted about making chutney, but my next post will be about either compost making OR seed starting and cutting taking.

But as I have only just handed in my portfolio, I am going to relax and read a few blogs tonight!