The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


We grow our sweetcorn in a large recycled storage bin

Posted in Vegetables | 13 comments

We grow our sweetcorn in a large recycled storage bin

An old friend of ours, Edward Twentyman, used to tell us how delicious corn on the cob is if it is harvested and cooked within minutes. “Once the cob is cut, the sugar starts to turn to starch.” Now that we grow sweetcorn ourselves we’ve found this fact to be true. Unfortunately for us, Edward and his wife Chantal moved to France a few years ago. They are defenitely not the couple whose story ends this post! Tonight we are going to enjoy the first two cobs of the season. As an accompaniment to pork chops baked with a couple...

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Blackberry and apple jelly best recipe

Posted in Jam Jelly and Preserves | 51 comments

Blackberry and apple jelly best recipe

The blackberry season is just starting here in Cheveley and it’s time to make our first batch of blackberry and apple jelly. I think that this is definitely the queen of jellies, so good that it can be spread on toast in the morning for breakfast or dolloped on plates and eaten with mild soft cheese. Try and pick the blackberries when the sun has been on them; midday is ideal. For the apples, we use windfalls because they are bruised and will not keep even though they might look perfect. Blackberry and apple jelly is sometimes referred...

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Dandelions. A treat for chickens and bees

Posted in Flowers | 0 comments

Dandelions. A treat for chickens and bees

I was surprised to hear recently, that dandelions are one of the largest sources of nectar for bees in the spring. So now I don’t feel quite so guilty about leaving them be and only snapping their heads off just before they go to seed. Like most people, I find weeding out enemies with deep roots to be a slow and boring process. I always start the year with good intentions but gradually am drawn into other self sufficiency activities and the weeds then flourish. The feverfew in the photo self seed prolifically, and many consider them to...

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Birthday beekeeping

Posted in Bees | 3 comments

Birthday beekeeping

It’s Danny’s birthday today. As requested, I gave him a very smart pair of washable beekeeping gloves and a hive tool. It was quite hard buying gloves for him when he was working away from home and not available to try them on. I buy most of my beekeeping supplies from John, at the Springwell Apiary in Little Chesterford, near Saffron Walden. You need to ring him before visiting so contact me for his phone number and email address (through our contact us page). John explained that there are basically two types of hands, those...

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Mrs Boss is broody. How to stop a hen being broody

Posted in Chickens | 120 comments

Mrs Boss is broody. How to stop a hen being broody

Mrs Boss is one of the original bantams that we bought three years ago. A bantam is a breed of small chicken. As you can see from the photo she is white with pretty black and white feathers around her neck. She reminds me of the portraits of English cavaliers sitting so proud in their lace collars. She also has feathered feet. When she arrived she was boss, ticking the other hens off if they stepped out of line. But gradually the others fought back and now her demotion is final. She is right at bottom of the pecking order and has a tough...

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Rats

Posted in Cottage tales, Min Pin dogs, Wildlife | 0 comments

Rats

The rats are back.As soon as the corn is cut the rats return. It’s war. We’ve tried everything to keep them away. One year we supplemented poison with rat traps (a giant version of a mouse trap) but they were very difficult to set. Then we hosted a rat shoot. Great fun but not effective. Another year we just hoped that they’d get fed up with living here and did nothing. We spent Christmas with rats that threw wild parties in the kitchen ceiling. Now I’ve found a poison that works quite quickly. We keep a large drum of...

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We replaced the city commute with the good life

Posted in Cottage tales | 2 comments

We replaced the city commute with the good life

I found the cottage fourteen years ago. It stood quite a way back from the road, with dormer windows and a low terracotta pantiled roof. The plot was a third of an acre with most of the land lying behind the cottage. Everybody said that I’d be mad to buy it. The ceilings were too low, less than six feet in places.Tall friends stood hunched silently at the back door gazing at the long garden. Shaking their heads, they would explain that maintaining a garden of this size would kill me. Back then, it was nothing more than a field with a...

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Runner Beans

Posted in Vegetables | 4 comments

Runner Beans

Our runner beans have perked up with all this rain. With their “fresh from the garden” flavour, we could eat them every day. The early beans were poor, even with regular watering but now we are getting a good harvest every second day. There are loads of flowers and with them the promise of more beans. Last year we bartered some pots of jelly and chutney for the runner bean seeds from an old boy in the village. His seeds produced good, strong plants. I was feeling a bit smug about our runner bean yield until this evening when I...

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