Friday, 30 October 2009


The hawthorn-trees blow in the dew of the morning
Robert Burns.

At this time of year, while outside the cottage is a swirling mass of gold and rust coloured leaves, the hawthorn trees in the lanes and the hedgerows are at their best. With its abundant clusters of blood-red ‘haws’ the hawthorn tree heralds the onset of Winter. Many people think its berries are only fit for the birds but they are very tasty, high in vitamin C, and can be made into jams, jellies, preserves, and even wine. Folklore in this part of Scotland tells of how a circle drawn around a hawthorn tree provides a special trysting place for Fairies!

Country walks at this time of year are particularly refreshing. Polly and Ruby love to play in the fallen leaves and pine cones. The air is both fresh from the hills and pungent from the pine forest and, while walking through the fallen debris, I am continually having to stop to inspect the fascinating array of fungi hiding beneath it all. The landscape picture shown below is my all time favourite view from the cottage. Whatever the weather or season this scene is constantly changing colour and it both inspires and thrills me. The colours are fiery just now and the hawthorn in the foreground, although it looks bare, is actually full of bright-red berries and is where I took this month's opening photograph.
The view from the cottage
October has been a difficult month in the henhouse. Prince, the new cockerel, has been given many chances to settle in and numerous opportunities to behave himself but I’m afraid he has to go – and it’s not just Kylie, Britney and Beyonce who are afraid of him – I am too! He raises his illustrious feathers whenever I come near and he hisses: resembling a rather terrifying Raptor from the Jurassic Park movie.

The Cockerel formerly known as Prince

His bad behaviour, at first, I put down to him being in a strange new home and, as he had obviously suffered from being previously pecked, he has been given plenty of time to settle down. However, he had gone from being understandably defensive to downright offensive and the ‘girls’ are not happy. I’m not happy either, in fact, this morning, for fear of being attacked by him again, I asked my six foot four inches tall youngest son to open up the hen house and lay down the food. Although, I still have to plan how to retrieve the eggs (if he hasn’t stamped on them) and clean out the hut. I expect the cockerel formerly known as ‘Prince’ not to be with us much longer…

On a lighter note, Polly and Ruby have had their Autumn hair cuts and are feeling very proud and pretty. You might think they would prefer long thick coats in the wintertime - but they will be much easier to keep clean (and white!) with short coats as the wetter and muddier weather sets in.

Polly and Ruby with their new haircuts

This month, Mr Country-Cottage and I had shared rare quiet time and evenings out together when our youngest son decided to spend his half term in Edinburgh visiting his brothers who are at university there. Then, in complete contrast, we had a busy weekend mid-month when they all returned home. Suddenly the washing machine was going non-stop, the bathroom floor was continually laden with wet towels and, although I had filled the fridge and baked lots of tray bakes and cakes, every scrap of food in the cottage had disappeared by Monday. It was wonderful to see them!

We had a lovely time socially this month when we were invited to dinner by some good friends who live in a converted mill just a few miles away. My dear friend JB is a wonderful cook and a perfect hostess and she always sets the table so beautifully. I took a photo (with her permission) of the impressive table centre she had created on an Autumnal theme.

JB's Autumnal table centre

I was delighted and excited to be given a ‘Lovely Blog Award’ this month by my dear friend, wonderful writer and writing mentor, Anita Burgh. The rules say that you should:

1) Accept the award, and don’t forget to post a link back to the awarding person.
2) Pass the award on.
3) Notify the award winners.

So, I happily accept the award from Annie and pass it on to two friends who have very interesting and consistently updated blogs. They are (drumroll) Rosemary Gemmell, a multi-talented writer who writes articles, short stories, poetry, and novels. And, Sue Houghton, a wonderful writer whose blog is always informative and entertaining.

Finally, this month I’m cooking venison. I consider it a flavoursome treat and something to look forward to eating at this time of the year. The richness of the meat, which is low in fat, is complimented by many of the other long awaited seasonal treasures - like chestnuts, wild mushrooms and seasonal vegetables. I source my venison locally and inspect the carcass for myself. This assures me that the animal I am serving to my family has, until recently, lived a good life on the land around me; that it has been shot for the table by an expert marksman and that, even in death, its life has been respected. This is important to me as a meat eater. Some of you might find the picture below a little distressing but I’m showing it to you because I absolutely believe that if we choose to eat meat, we have to take responsibility for it, and to know that while it was alive, it had the opportunity to live a free or a well-cared for life.

Photo: courtesy of A. Treadaway

Recipe for October:
Roasted Shoulder of Venison with seasonal vegetables
As venison is so low in fat, I always marinade the meat overnight before roasting it and this is my basic venison marinade recipe:

Venison Marinade:
4 tablespoons of good quality oil – I use olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 small glass of red wine
1 grated lemon rind
A sprinkle of nutmeg
1 tablespoon juniper berries, crushed
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 dessert spoon tomato puree
1 dessert spoon soy sauce
1 level teaspoon mustard – I use wholegrain
1 teaspoon brown sugar
salt & pepper

Venison in Marinade

Place the marinated venison meat, in this case a whole shoulder, into a suitable oven tray, covered for half the time in a roasting oven of 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for about one and a half hours. Then prepare the seasonal vegetables. I’m roasting potatoes on the shelf above the venison and boiling carrot and swede. When the meat is done, slice it and make a gravy with the strained meat juices. Pour the gravy over the sliced meat and serve with the vegetables.

Next month, in November, we are planning a Big Birthday for Mr Country-Cottage, with friends, family, and fireworks. See you then!


1 comment:

  1. Janice, you are such a lovely person. Thank you so much for my Lovely Blog Award - what a great idea. I am honoured to be given it.

    Loved your blog as always. Sorry to hear you're having such a terrible time with the former Prince.
    Rosemary x