The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


How to save money in 2008: May review

Posted in Save Money | 12 comments

How to save money in 2008: May review

The radio is my lifeline. They key resource for finding about the world outside the cottage gates. If I’m working outdoors, which I have been for quite some time, I move in a mute world news wise. Danny fills me in with key events but loads of things pass me by. Last week I was working inside so tuned to BBC Radio4 to catch up, in depth. Apart from the slump in the housing market, the news was full of rising prices and horrible murders. Oil prices affect everything from the cost of a handful of peanuts in the pub to a tank of petrol. As...

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The mayonnaise obsession

Posted in Basics, Sauces Gravy Dressings | 14 comments

The mayonnaise obsession

It started last year. I sampled some homemade mayo at a client’s house. I was making a chicken salad lunch for a golf widower. Their homemade mayo was stunning. Light, tasty and sublime. He liked it too. The next week it was the same menu with a pivotal difference. “It will have to be the bottled stuff, Fiona. It’s in the door of the fridge.” I discovered that it was Hellmann’s, full fat. I could tell from his plate he wasn’t so keen on this one. Since then the thought of that first homemade mayo has stayed...

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Increase pollination by planting sweet peas with your runner beans

Posted in Vegetables | 12 comments

Increase pollination by planting sweet peas with your runner beans

We have had bumper crops of runner beans for three years now. I am sure that part of the reason for this is because I have planted sweet peas with my runner beans. The combination is beneficial for both. The scented sweet pea flowers attract insects and this increases the pollination and yield of the runner beans. They are perfect companions. Both are greedy and flourish in a border rich in home made compost. They need quite a bit of watering so the automatic watering system is doubled in this section of the kitchen garden. They both need to...

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Sleep

Posted in Cottage tales | 6 comments

Sleep

For the past few days the dogs have been allowed upstairs to sleep. The bedroom is a territory without dog baskets. They would be an affectation. On the rare occasions that the dogs are allowed upstairs, they sleep in our bed. Our tribe love the treat of leaping onto the human dog basket. Each one moves to their favourite spot and settles in an instant. Not one canine wants to rock the boat. This is fine on a calm night but last night we were all kept awake by the storms. Thunder, lightning and drumming rain. As we tossed and turned the dogs...

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Laburnum

Posted in Cottage tales | 11 comments

Laburnum

My grandfather was born in the 1870’s. His father was a diplomat in Buenos Aeries. One of seven sons, he was brought up in an age when terrifying stories were used to teach children important facts. This is the story he told my mum as a young girl: “One day we were invited to a tennis party. It was a very good day, with many families and young children enjoying themselves. Back then, nobody worried about the children. They were always safe in our houses. We were watching a long and riveting match. The players were so good that we...

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Wildlife pond

Posted in Wildlife | 12 comments

Wildlife pond

I’ve had a thing about frogs for years. At university I was actually called Frog. I like to think that this referred to my fondness for this amphibian rather than a similarity in legs, feet or grin. When I moved into the cottage, my mum raised frogs and toads in aquaria in the kitchen. The pond was well stocked with koi in those days and few amphibians visited. Each August we released the frogs into the garden. Tiny, precious creatures that would disappear into the undergrowth or swim courageously in the pond with perfect breast stroke....

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Broad beans revisted with delight

Posted in Vegetables | 9 comments

Broad beans revisted with delight

“These will make your hair curl.” Mrs Fromont wielded a large metal spoon into a vast steaming pot and served a pile of broad beans onto my plate. They loked like old men’s toes that had soaked too long in the bath and I didn’t want them. I had curly hair and longed for straight. I didn’t like vegetables. When I was speeding across Jesus Green, in my push chair with my mother at the helm, my sister had warned us about Mrs Fromont. So during my first days at school I knew that she had to be handled with care. Queen...

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Update on Mrs Boss and her ducklings: The final count is three

Posted in Ducks | 9 comments

Update on Mrs Boss and her ducklings: The final count is three

When I opened the wall of the Emerald Castle this morning Mrs Boss was sitting as far from the nest as possible. The ducklings peeped out at me from beneath her wings. Bright eyed and curious. The stench from the nest was rank. One egg was whole the other two were piped. This means that there was a small hole in the eggs. I don’t know whether Mrs Boss had pecked the eggs or they were made by a duckling struggling to get out. The smell indicated that the ducklings inside the eggs had been dead for some time. I removed them and cleaned up...

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