Thursday, 15 January 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