Tuesday, 29 September 2009


All summer long, the cottage has been filled with the turbulence of our three teenage boys and all their visiting friends, fellow students, girlfriends, friends-friends, and cousins. So, September and the start of the autumn term, has given me a real taste of empty-nest syndrome. Son number three is staying on at school to take his Scottish Highers and is thankfully still living at home - but his elder brothers have both flown the nest to their respective universities in Edinburgh. Mr Country-Cottage and I are very proud - but feel the cottage is suddenly too quiet.

We decided to solve the problem of a too quiet life – by introducing a new and very noisy member to the family. We now have a rather handsome pure bred Welsommer cockerel to entertain and protect our three hens. He crows very loudly every morning at dawn. It’s a good job we don’t have neighbours!

What shall we call our cockerel..?

The new cockerel needs a name and, bearing in mind that the hens are named Kylie, Britney, and Beyonce, we would favour keeping with the theme of popular stars. So, this is where you come in, dear cottage-blog reader. Do click on this month’s poll to choose a name for him!

And, our other animal news is that on the 2nd of the month, it was wee Ruby’s first birthday!

Wee Ruby is one year old this month...

This month, interest has been expressed in knowing more about the cottage, so I thought I’d tell you a little about it’s fascinating history. It was built as a shepherd’s cottage in the mid 1800’s from the very same pink sandstone used to build nearby Drumlanrig Castle. Until we bought it twenty years ago, the cottage was owned by the estate of the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry. We bought it in a derelict state. Before it fell into decline, however, it was lived in over very many years by families who were born here, happily brought up their children here, and died here.

Years ago, at the end of our lane, there was once a local school and schoolhouse. Both are now privately owned houses. So our own children, and all the children in the outlying farms and cottages, have to travel six miles into the village for their schooling. That is also where we go for the nearest shop and post office. The nearest supermarket is well over twenty miles away!

The aerial photograph below, taken by the Ordinance Survey in 1964, shows our shepherd's cottage being lived in by a family who worked the land. You can see the neat rows of cabbages and potatoes growing on the patch of land opposite the cottage and the greenhouse/potting shed in the garden. I suspect it was these keen gardeners who originally planted the blackcurrant bushes which still thrive today.

The next photograph was also taken by the Ordinance Survey but in 2004. You can see that we have bought a bit more land, expanded the boundaries, and built an extension to accommodate our growing family. In 2004, we were still to landscape the garden and to begin planting vegetables of our own, but this photograph shows the cottage more or less as it stands today.

To give you an idea of how the cottage looked when we bought it derelict from The Estate, these photos show the kitchen before and after. The sandstone fireplace which now houses the Aga is an original feature found behind the crumbling brick fa├žade of the previous century fire and oven housing. What a find!

Above: Original Kitchen vs now and the cottage hallway in 1990..!

In the garden this month, I’m still picking tomatoes from the greenhouse. The peppers are doing very well but are all still green. They will go from green, to yellow, to red as they ripen over the next few weeks. The pumpkin was doing marvellously until wee Ruby thought it was a football for her to play with on the lawn. It goes without saying therefore that we won’t be having a home-grown pumpkin at Halloween this year. The weather in September has been much improved and I have spent some time in the garden doing a last sowing of salad, rocket, and coriander. Plants to admire this month have been the flowering Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and the white-scented Prunus, which has taken over from the Buddlia in the garden as the focus for butterflies.

The White Flowering Prunus

Sedum, Autumn Joy

Recipe for September: Oven Baked Squash Frittata

A frittata practically cooks itself and is an excellent supper dish.

I cook mine by lining an oven dish with butter or olive oil rubbed greaseproof paper and letting the oven do all the hard work. This month, I’m using seasonal squash instead of my usual potato as the main ingredient and the result is texturally sublime.

The method:

Use the middle of the roasting oven on a range cooker or turn up the oven to moderately hot at 180 degrees C, 350 degrees F, or Gas 5-6. Chop up whatever squash variety you have to hand into cubes and together with a sliced onion, I used a red one for a fabulous colour contrast, roast until soft and golden/caramelised. Scrape into a mixing bowl and add grated or crumbled cheese for a contrasting flavour. Again, use whatever you have to hand, cheddar, feta, mozzarella: it will all taste good. Scatter in a handful of rosemary with rocket, spinach or watercress for texture and beat in the eggs – as many as you need for how many you are feeding and the capacity of your oven dish. Pour the whole mixture into the greased greaseproof paper lined oven dish and bake until it is fluffy, set, and a little bit wobbly on top. Turn out onto a plate or slice into wedges for serving. This is fantastic with a seasonal pickle or chutney!

Next month, in October, I’ll be looking forward to the golden days of Autumn closing in. Already, the leaves of the deciduous trees in the woodland opposite the cottage are starting to curl and dry with the increasingly shorter days. I feel there is something comforting about the gathering in of crops at this time and the enthusiastic collecting of fallen wood for the log fire. The village thanksgiving festival, celebrated every year in October to signify the end of the harvest, and known locally as ‘The Cairn’ is the official start of the long winter ahead in this part of Scotland. No doubt, I’ll have lots to tell you about it all next month…



  1. Looks a fabulous place, Janice. Will try the recipe. Love squash! Especially roasted.
    Oh and love the Aga - I had to settle for a copy-cat multi fuel but it fools some people ;0)

  2. Hi Sue - lovely to 'see' you and thanks for your comment. I too love my Aga. It's a reconditioned model born the exact same year as me!
    Janice x