The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


Grow good potatoes, bluestone and assorted memories of my dad

Posted in Vegetables | 7 comments

Grow good potatoes, bluestone and assorted memories of my dad

Fiona suggested that I contribute my first “Guest spot” this evening, while she cooks up a mouth-watering frittata. Seems like a good trade to me. The aroma of the frying bacon wafts up to my eyrie in the Rat Room to spur me on.  Her laptop is still in intensive care. The ‘fixes’ haven’t worked. She has stopped ringing the company twice a day to enquire about the health of her companion. She gets the health report each morning. The prognosis his spiralled rapidly down from. “We’ll ring you at the end of the day to arrange...

read more

Potato Head

Posted in Vegetables | 9 comments

Potato Head

Danny is enjoying tending his potato bed. At the moment it just is tweaking the drip feed watering system from our water butts so that his seed potatoes are perfectly irrigated every day. Somehow he managed to nick the first and strongest spur of drip pipe for his bed. Needless to say the spur that led to john Coe’s potato patch was a much weaker affair and there was a blockage somewhere in the pipe. I’ve been watering John’s spuds and the broad beans by hand. We returned home from an excellent lunch party today and I took the blocked...

read more

Undiscovered history

Posted in Cottage tales | 13 comments

Undiscovered history

Our cottage was owned by basket weavers until 25 years ago. Mr and Mrs D lived the simple life. They kept pigs and chickens and grew their own vegetables. I am told that they made their own wine and welcomed the village children to visit as they had none of their own. Sometimes I work with a man who has lived in the village all his life. When he mentions Mrs. D his face always softens. The D’s were traditional villager craftsmen. It sounds romantic but I reckon that it was a tough life. In their heyday there was a village shop for groceries,...

read more

White soda bread with oatmeal recipe

Posted in Bread | 5 comments

White soda bread with oatmeal recipe

Just before I met Danny I attended a bread making course at Darina and Tim Allan’s cookery school in Ballymaloe. It was a great course covering a vast swathe of bread making from brioche to Irish soda bread. The days were packed with information and practical sessions. Set in the heart of the Cork countryside, it was an unforgettable experience. After the course finished I spent the weekend at Ballymaloe House. The food was so good that, even ten years later, I still remember the amazing dishes on the massive hors d’oeuvre table in the...

read more

Wild crocus

Posted in Flowers | 13 comments

Wild crocus

I glanced out of the sitting room window and saw a splash of pale lavender blue in the grass. We are lucky. Wild crocus have naturalised and spread. They were here when I came to the house, large pools of shimmering blue. Just before I bought the cottage I passed its gate in a former Jalopy. There was a wash of the palest blue across the grass. Magical and almost unreal – like an illustration from a 1930’s children’s book. These flowers seem so much more delicate than the standard crocus. They respond to the gentlest breath...

read more

Soup: Broccoli and Celeriac recipe

Posted in Starters and Soups | 10 comments

Soup: Broccoli and Celeriac recipe

Years ago I met a lady who had married a famous Hungarian film director. They ran away together and rented a flat somewhere in Europe. Neither of them could cook. She had heard about one pot cooking. Apparently this magical pot stood constantly on the stove. Every day you threw in various tasty things. Cooked them slowly through and the leftovers were the base of the next day’s meal. After a week they gave up. The pot had become rancid and vile. In fact, from that day on they never cooked again for the rest of their lives. Sometimes I...

read more

Great Uncle Frank’s tip for broad beans: don’t throw away the tops of this delicate vegetable

Posted in Vegetables, Vegetarian | 8 comments

Great Uncle Frank’s tip for broad beans: don’t throw away the tops of this delicate vegetable

My great grandparents took their chances in the California gold rush. It didn’t work out and they saw their four children die of scarlet fever. They returned to England and had four more children. Three girls and a boy. Those four children would have been extra special. Boys were best in those days as they carried on the family name. My Great Uncle Frank was the one and only boy. He contracted consumption (tuberculosis). His mother was told that he wouldn’t live beyond 21. She didn’t tell him. At twenty and 10 months he...

read more

Haggis for two on Burns night

Posted in Discoveries | 0 comments

Haggis for two on Burns night

My paternal grandmother came from the Shetland Isles. This must be why I feel an affinity with Scotland. I’ve only been there once. I was flown to Edinburgh for a posh Christmas works outing about six years ago. It was great pottering in the little shops in the roads that lead up to the castle. The meal was pretty good too, despite the crazy office politics. Danny and I are planning a long trip to Scotland, starting with the sleeper from Kings Cross. Plotting this trip is as enjoyable as the trip will be. It could happen anytime over the...

read more


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


FD