The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


Choosing and cultivating the best autumn raspberries

Posted in Allotment, Fruit | 13 comments

Choosing and cultivating the best autumn raspberries

I’m a raspberry lover. When the dessert trolley rolls up in a restaurant I ignore the profiteroles and sticky meringues and go for raspberries sprinkled ideally with a little vanilla sugar. My passion for raspberries has led me astray recently. Our allotment site in Newmarket is a raspberry lovers haven. There is a narrow path that’s a shortcut to our plot. Here bushes laden with fruit tempt me. These bushes are so fructulent that the branches stray across the path – waving, tempting and teasing. I have to admit that I have snaffled on...

read more

Rich ragout sauce recipe for the slow cooker or crock pot

Posted in Rice and Pasta, Sauces Gravy Dressings | 15 comments

Rich ragout sauce recipe for the slow cooker or crock pot

Spaghetti bolognaise is a favourite in the cottage. Our recipe is high on vegetables and low on meat  – delicious and economical, it’s difficult to tire of it. I cook it in the slow cooker and freeze it in bags flattened to about half an inch (one and a half centimetres) so that it can be gently unfrozen in a frying pan (lid on) when needed. No waiting for defrost! The slow cooker/crock pot really enhances the flavours of this dish. I’ve tried cooking it on the stove top but it just doesn’t taste as good. In March this year I didn’t...

read more

Growing the best tomatoes

Posted in Discoveries, Fruit | 11 comments

Growing the best tomatoes

Growing tomatoes is quite easy but growing tomatoes well requires relentsless enthusiasm. Their growing period can last for six or seven months before the first small and fragrant harvest. They are susceptible to blight. If not watered regularly they can fail due to blossom end rot. If you don’t feed weekly when the first flowers appear they will not set much fruit. And of course it’s very hard to remember to nip out every side shoot on cordon tomatoes. And when do you ‘stop them’ (nip off the tops) to finish flower...

read more

Allotment update: six weeks on

Posted in Allotment, General care | 11 comments

“You look so happy.” Danny said. We were resting from digging on plot 90B. The wind was warm. And yes I was happy. We were out and working together on our new project. An allotment, five miles from home, that feels like paradise. I’m finding it very hard to tear myself away from our allotment. There’s a lot of work to be done – preparing the ground and working out a rough layout. For the time being we’re going for long borders that are roughly 6’ wide, separated by grass paths. But it’s not the work that makes me happy –...

read more

Wild damson vodka recipe. How to identify wild damsons

Posted in Liqueurs | 27 comments

Wild damson vodka recipe. How to identify wild damsons

If you have looked up ‘wild damsons’ because you think that you have found some I do hope that you have discovered this highly prized fruit. But not on my patch! Wild damsons (the ones in the bowl) are the size of a small olive and have the same elongated shape. The dark bluish skins have the same greyish tinge of a sloe or dark plum. The flesh is a yellow orange and the stone small. If you want an instant tongue defuzz bite into one – it is very sharp but not quite as bitter as a sloe. The leaves of a tree are similar to a plum leaf...

read more

You can buy a pressure canner in the UK!

Posted in Kitchen equipment, Preserving, Save Money | 48 comments

You can buy a pressure canner in the UK!

I’d been thinking about importing a pressure canner from America for some time. I already bottle/can fruit and tomatoes each year but a pressure canner would enable us to bottle lots of other home grown vegetables for use during the winter. And of course the thought of being able to can spaghetti sauce, cassolet, confit of duck, patès and pesto to name but a few delicacies would be amazing. No need to pay electricty for freezer space, everything nicely on view on our shelves. Water bath canning and the oven method takes some time and is...

read more

The power of things left unsaid

Posted in Cottage tales | 6 comments

The power of things left unsaid

Danny is doing a kitchen clean up. We’ve both dabbled with this over the past week. “There’s still hot water after my shower. Great for the washing up!” “Hurumph.” “What’s that smell?” “I opened the bin.” “Oh. I’m sorry.” “What for?” “Everything.” The latter remark is a good one. It leaves no niggly teeny thing alive that might fester and spring up, snapping at your calf at some future date. Just a few moments of contrition for everything that has happened and, as there are two people in the cottage...

read more

How to improve soil organically on your allotment or garden

Posted in Allotment, General care | 6 comments

How to improve soil organically on your allotment or garden

We have two big borders at the bottom of our kitchen garden that formerly were just a rough patch where very little thrived.  With great hope and optimism these became our first space for growing vegetables. I scattered a bit of Growmore and watered my seeds fervently. Things germinated and grew in a spindly sort of way, the nasturtiums were the only great success – these don’t mind a poor soil and will grow virtually anywhere. We extended our kitchen garden to a slightly more fertile patch. Now we had the opportunity to compare the...

read more


Copyright © 2006-2012 Cottage Smallholder      Our Privacy Policy      Advertise on Cottage Smallholder


FD