The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


Cutting energy costs

Posted in Save Money | 18 comments

Cutting energy costs

We have been very lucky to have had such a mild winter so far. Last year I invested in two cheap convector heaters and we use these around the house to keep warm. They’re really good as they heat a room very quickly, have three settings from 750 watts to 2000 watts and have a good thermostat. The oil based central heating and hot water system is just too expensive to use regularly these days. It has an override and comes on automatically if the temperature falls below zero degrees. We are hoping that the remaining third of a tank of oil will...

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Allotment update: All Hallows Eve

Posted in Allotment, Save Money, Vegetables | 7 comments

Allotment update: All Hallows Eve

Our allotment neighbour, Mark, has grown a giant pumpkin on his site and lots of little pumpkins and squash. I reckoned that his kids would be carving the monster pumpkin but this evening it was still lying on the ground looking like a vast, beached Humpty Dumpty. The allotment below us has tomatoes and plump red pepper ready to harvest for the past few weeks – they are just rotting on the plants. I must admit that I’ve been eyeing this bounty. Danny is severe, “Even if they are clearly just going to rot, you can’t take them. It’s...

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Cooking in a Thermos or vacuum flask. Leek and potato soup recipe

Posted in Kitchen equipment, Save Money | 19 comments

Cooking in a Thermos or vacuum flask. Leek and potato soup recipe

When I first heard about cooking in a vacuum flask I had an image of a whiskery maiden aunts filling vacuum flasks with Spam, gravy granules and boiling water. Why on earth would I want to cook in a Thermos? The idea seemed grim until I bought my 1920’s Thermos at the village fete one year. This is a marvellous piece of kit. It was crying out to be used so I started researching the possibilities and I’ve used it for slow cooking ever since. During WW2 vacuum flask cooking was normal. Apart from a few minutes coming to boil on the hob and a...

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Collecting bean seeds from the garden saves money

Posted in Save Money, Vegetables | 10 comments

Collecting bean seeds from the garden saves money

This year I’m very behind in the garden. Seeds need to be gathered, pelargonium’s are crying out to be dug up and taken to a warmer place, the final lawn cut needs to take place. So yesterday I stepped into the bright autumn sunshine with a selection of bags. The seeds that I was chasing were sweet peas, broad beans, climbing French beans and runner beans. Last year I left the runner bean pods on the plants too long and they got damp, mildewy and rotted. This year I was determined to succeed. Seeds seem relatively cheap when you just buy a...

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Recipe for leftovers: broccoli, cauliflower and Stilton soup

Posted in Save Money, Starters and Soups, Vegetarian | 14 comments

Recipe for leftovers: broccoli, cauliflower and Stilton soup

A few years ago I woke up one night. I could hear a loud crunching coming from the bottom of my giant 100 year old bed. What on earth could it be? I hastily groped for the light switch and discovered that Inca, our youngest Min Pin, was gnawing a head of broccoli. She had stolen the head from the kitchen and dragged it upstairs. Inca loves vegetables and often thieves from the pig bin but this was the first time that she had stolen from the vegetable basket. I was too tired to take it from her. In the morning I was surprised to find that she...

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We are now the proud owners of a Kelly Kettle

Posted in Allotment, Reviews, Save Money | 14 comments

We are now the proud owners of a Kelly Kettle

Suddenly at the Milton Keynes get together, Jean and Roy (aka Gottaknit and Seth) stepped forward and offered me a large mysterious object – wrapped in a dustbin liner with a very tight knot. “Here is a late birthday present Fiona. You’ll need this on the allotment!” The package was bulky. As I struggled to open the parcel I wondered what was inside. I could feel cardboard and something hard. Could it be metal? Some sort of feeder? Imagine my delight when I finally peeped inside the box and found a Kelly Kettle lying on a nest of twigs...

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The Andrew James Halogen oven has been updated and improved: a review

Posted in Kitchen equipment, Reviews, Save Money | 13 comments

The Andrew James Halogen oven has been updated and improved: a review

We bought our Andrew James halogen oven  in February 2010. Halogen oven are plug in devices that use a fraction of the electricity consumed by a large fan oven. That was the reason why we invested in one. If you can fill your conventional oven every time that you use it , fair enough. But what if you just want to bake a pie, bake some spuds or rustle up some oven chips? If you buy something that is a relatively new invention/model there are bound to be a few teething problems. Product testing probably extends to just a few months. It’s...

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How to harvest and store walnuts and cobnuts

Posted in Allotment, Hedgerow food, Save Money, Vegetarian | 5 comments

How to harvest and store walnuts and cobnuts

“I’m going down to collect some walnuts. Apparently there are masses under the trees.” “Is it OK to pick them up from the ground?” “Yes. I used to collect them on the big estate when I was working there. They used to call me down from my ladder to gather them so that they could mow. The shells mucked up the mower.” We were sitting at the top of our allotment. On two ancient chairs that we inherited with the plot. We spend quite a bit of time perched on these. Looking down the hill and on to the flat area on the other side of the...

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