Sunday, 31 May 2009


The darling buds of my Clematis Montana open up in May. A wedding anniversary present from my mother fifteen years ago, it is growing up a trellis outside the kitchen door, it flowers prolifically at this time of year and provides a vanilla-scented home to a darling family of pied-wagtails.

There is so much going on outside in the garden this month but by far the most exciting thing for me is the completion of the greenhouse build. I was given the aluminium frame via our local Freecycle Group and, having bought some glass panes, glass clips, a door repair kit, and a base, (I’m still in need some shelves and a potting bench) I have sown some tomato seeds and potted-on the basil sowed indoors last month. Hurray - and more on the greenhouse next month..!

Interestingly, although not surprisingly, the outdoor sown basil has yet to make an appearance – unlike the spinach-beet, the spring onions, and coriander – which are all showing strong early growth. Also outside, I have a good crop of rhubarb. The surplus of which, I intend to cut and freeze while the storks are still tender.

The potatoes are just loving the sunshine and showers and are in need of another earthing up. They are growing in the raised bed used for salad leaves last year and, as the soil has settled down, it looks as if I’m going to have to bring in some more soil.

A real sign that summer is on it’s way to this part of Scotland is the arrival of bluebells and other wild flowers in the banking around the cottage.

The hens are enjoying the warm damp weather and spend all their day in the field, grazing on juicy worms and succulent grasses. They are always on alert for the sound of the back door, however, and the real possibility of a tasty morsel from kitchen.

The social highlights this month have been plentiful. First, midmonth, we had our Scottish Writers group meeting at nearby Drumlanrig Castle and Country Estate. We had a fabulous lunch followed by a guided tour of the castle. It was a wonderful day to catch up with all my writerly buddies. On the last weekend of May, the weather was sizzling – and not only was it Mr Country Cottage and I's wedding anniversary - but it was also a very dear friend’s special birthday. We certainly celebrated in style with fantastic friends, a munificent barbeque, and rather too much champagne!

Before I go on to the May recipe, I’d like to tell you that this month I received an email from Debbie Attewell, editor of Candis Magazine. I had entered their Blog Competition in April, and she was writing to tell me that, although I hadn’t won - out of over three hundred entries - my blog had been short-listed and judged as ‘highly commended’. I was absolutely delighted! Check out Candis for yourselves.

May Recipe – Easy Rhubarb Jam

Ingredients: There are only three!
1kg fresh rhubarb, chopped into small pieces.
500g of jam sugar – this sugar has pectin added for a sure set!
200ml of orange juice.
Method: In a large pan, combine the three ingredients: rhubarb, jam sugar, and orange juice. Bring to a slow rolling boil. Carefully skim off any foam (this will ensure a clear jam). Cook for 45 minutes. In the meantime, wash your jars and lids, and place the jars in a warm oven to sterilise them (about 120 C deg/ 250 F/ Gas 2). Take out after 30 minutes and place (carefully) onto a wooden board to cool. Don’t put onto a cold surface or the glass jars will crack (as has happened to me loads of times!) Once the rhubarb is cooked and the jam looks ready, take it off the heat and let it rest for 10 minutes. Ladle while still warm into the slightly warm jars and fill to the brim. Seal with lids tightly. Enjoy with your morning toast instead of the usual marmalade. Delicious!

More cottage chat next month. In June I hope to be growing tomatoes, peppers, and other goodies in the greenhouse. See you then!