Monday, 31 August 2009


From the bonny bells of heather, They brewed a drink longsyne,
Was sweeter far than honey,Was stronger far than wine…
From Heather Ale, by Robert Louis Stevenson

You know it’s August here at the cottage when the hills all around are carpeted with vibrant purple flowering heather - that tough traditionally Scottish plant used for centuries to thatch cottages, fuel the fire, to make ale, tea, honey, as well as being woven into fences around the croft. Today, here on the shooting estate, the heather is managed by game-keepers to ensure it is plentiful enough to feed the grouse and so maintain the local shooting industry. Which, come the Glorious Twelfth, is the reason we have so many tweed-clad trained guns trooping past our cottage and through our blooming heather until the grouse shooting season ends in mid-December!

In the cottage garden, early in the month, we harvested our not-so-early potatoes. I was a little late in putting them in the ground this year but this didn’t stop us getting several buckets full of delicious potatoes in return, which I have used, stored, and even frozen ready for roasting later in the year. As I might have expected, Polly and Ruby, who have made a great job of digging up the flower beds this month while persuing mice, voles, or even frogs and toads, wanted to help me dig them up.

Also in the garden, despite a summer of torrential rain and little sunshine, the Buddleia has been taking centre stage by flowering magnificently and attracting plenty of butterflies into the garden – which I then have to keep ‘rescuing’ when they flutter into the greenhouse!

The hens have been disgruntled with the wet weather throughout August. They hate it when their feathers get wet and, instead of trouncing through the muddy fields after juicy worms and bugs, they sit all dedraggled looking under the henhouse, complaining loudly. I do hope September offers us more in the way of sunshine...

Socially, the highlight of the month was a village wedding. Robert and Laura, a local farmer and his new wife, were married amongst the August summer flowers in their farmhouse garden and with the magnificent heather-clad hills behind them. Afterwards, they held a reception for everyone living in a twenty five mile radius, in their cattle barn. Except that, despite what it sounds like, this was no traditional barn dance! Everyone was taken by surprise when, upon entering through the flower festooned barn door, they suddenly arrived into a sumptuously decorated silk-lined and glass-chandelier lit marquee, fully carpeted except for the bedecked dance floor and stage, over which tiny lights sparkled and resembled a midnight sky. Seating was at one of the dozens of tables set for a what turned out to be a fabulous evening of celebration, great food, lots of drinking, and dancing to a live band. Not a hay bale or stray heifer in sight – and the only green wellies and waterproof jackets - were the ones Mr County Cottage and I took from the back of our Landrover at around two o’clock that morning in order to walk home over the hills. Congratulations to Robert and Laura and thank your for sharing your special day with us all in such fine style!

Back in the garden, the new greenhouse, a welcome addition to the cottage garden this year, has been a saving grace for the tomato plants. Last year, grown outside against a sheltered wall, the tomatoes rotted on their vines before ripening due to the wet summer. This year, the summer has once again been wet and, not particularly warm either, but the tomatoes have thrived and are ripening nicely. They are full of flavour and delicious in salads and summer soups just now and, the end of seasonal glut, will keep us in tomato based sauces for some time to come. So, this month's recipe, made mostly from the contents of my greenhouse, is called Greenhouse Soup...

Greenhouse Soup.

1 Medium sized onion, chopped.
3 medium sized potatoes, peeled and chopped.
Dash of olive oil/butter.
1 kilo or approx 2lb of tomatoes.
1 sweet red pepper
2pts or approx 1 litre of vegetable stock (I use stock made with Knorr Stock Cubes).
1 tablespoon of tomato puree.
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
Good handful of fresh basil, washed and torn up.

Wash peel and roughly chop the red pepper, tomato, and garlic. Place in a tin and sprinkle with olive oil. Roast in a hot oven until starting to blacken. Remove from oven and allow to cool – then you will then easily be able to peel away the skins and discard them. Put the onion and potato into a large soup pan and cook in a dash of oil/butter until softened. Prepare the vegetable stock cubes (2 or 3) by adding 2pts/ 1 litre of boiling water together with the tomato puree. Add the roasted vegetables to the onion and potato in the large pan and pour on the stock. Add the tinned tomatoes and torn basil leaves. Simmer for 20-30 minutes. Season to taste. Puree with a blender and serve up with your favourite crusty bread.

I hope you have enjoyed this month’s county cottage update. I’d love your comments and I have extended the preference poll until the end of September, so please do vote on what you’d like to see more of on a year in a country cottage blogspot before you click away!



  1. Lovely blog as always, Janice. What a great wedding evening and the soup sounds delicious.
    Rosemary x

  2. Hi Rosemary - nice to 'see' you and I hope you try the soup!
    Janice x

  3. I had the privilege of sampling Janice's greenhouse soup and it was delicious. Glad you didn't mention the drunken photographer at the wedding Janice!

  4. Do hope all the photos were in focus, Sara!