The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


Fiona from the UK, Michelle from Oregon and Danny from Ireland

Fiona from the UK, Michelle from Oregon and Danny from Ireland

As I glided over to Cambridge in The Duchess to pick up our American friends I mulled over the past five years of blogging. We met Michelle and Dan through our blog and forum. I’ve always had a soft spot for Michelle – she heroically defended me during the Great Guinea Pig Debacle. She also has a great sense of humour and a lot of down to earth common sense. But what would she be like in real life? And how about Dan – the man who loves to photograph trains?

Their train was delayed and, as there is no easy parking at Cambridge station, I was getting a bit of flack from the taxi driver contingent.
“You are not allowed to park here. It’s our spot.” And they added just in case I hadn’t twigged.
“It’s just for taxis.”
I was out of the oblong marked TAXIS so I stared stonily back at the enraged hands trying to waft The Duchess away. And in my strongest Country Woman Voice declared with rounded vowels:
“I’m collecting some very important people so I’m not moving.”
They backed down in an instant. I must try that imperious tone with Danny when he strays over the mark in the future.

Meanwhile buses hovered beside our grand old car and efficiently turned within an inch of her bonnet. Deep down inside I was starting to get a bit panicky. How long could I stay there before some one called the police.

Then I turned and saw Michelle and Dan coming towards me. I felt as if I was welcoming them home after years away. The friendship was suddenly tangible, huggable and real.

Although we had worked on the house and garden, the scene at the cottage was still a bit messy and frayed at the edges. But as I drove them back to our village I realised that this didn’t really matter at all – we were together and having fun. The bathroom was clean and they had booked into a good B&B in the village.

There was, of course, the matter of the giant rat that we had spotted frolicking in the garden and the family of mice that have moved into the inglenook fireplace but hopefully none of these would put in an appearance. The vacuum cleaner had also died. Danny and I had ‘dustpanned’ and brushed the carpets like two diligent house maids from Downton Abbey but hadn’t achieved their level of super squeaky clean success.

To say that Dan and Michelle were laid back would be an understatement. They had much more go than the flow.

We returned to Cambridge for lunch (Carluccios – good with excellent service) and a chauffeured punt trip. We walked quite a bit and I discovered that Dan liked to photograph everything! From the colleges, our plates at the restaurant to a rather eccentric clock that told the correct time every five minutes. This clock also housed a sort of pug nightmare daemon that turned out to be a ‘grasshopper’.

The next day we travelled to Sutton Hoo and examined the Anglo-Saxon spoils that had been discovered in the burial mounds on this site. We even stopped off on the motorway to forage. Not an ideal place to pick produce but they were there!

There was a lot of laughter, whisky medicine for Dan’s sore throat and Michelle’s cough. And lots of  eating and chatting between the trips.

When we said goodbye at sleepy Dullingham station at 7.19 this morning I felt truly bereft and crawled under the duvet with the Min Pins.

Can’t wait for the forum meet up in Milton Keynes on Saturday when we’ll finally meet Toffeapple, Kate and link up with Michelle and Dan again. If you’d like to join us just email me through the contact us link above for times and details.

  Leave a reply


  1. I can totally imagine your imperious tone :) It’s lovely to think of you, Danny, Michelle and Dan together at the cottage. Makes me all warm and fuzzy to reflect on how your blog has brought so many people together who would never have met without it. The Interwebs are a wonderful thing.

    And I bet they loved the cottage, mice or no mice!

  2. Of course they will have loved the cottage the same as the people who were lucky enough to be there in July. I shall so be thinking of you all on Saturday and wishing that I could be there. Have fun. I just know you will.

  3. Tanya @ Lovely Greens

    Awwww, I hope the weather clears up and you all have a great time. Are you planning on visiting Oregon as well? It’s one of my favourite states :)

  4. I expect that the tme went altogether too quickly. What a lovely tale, Fiona, heartwarming that friendships can be borne out of a simple blog site. I bet they had a lovely time with you.

  5. Of course they were okay with everything- they’re Oregonians! You have to understand that most (not all) Oregonians are pragmatic about life because IT RAINS ALL THE TIME HERE AND THE MUD IS HIP DEEP so a smudge here or there doesn’t bother. We also have lots of wildlife, so mice in the inglenook might be rather homey to them. I’m so very glad that you guys got to meet ‘in real life’ and that you all had a good time.

    and whisky medicine is what I take for sore throats and coughs too…..

  6. God bless the internet! I now have several very good friends in the real world whom I “met” and got to know via messageboards and blogs. The first time I met one ITRW it was odd seeing a stranger, but knowing so much about each other. I hope you have lots and lots of fun meeting the friends you’ve made via your blog. And while I’m here, thank you for all the hard work you put into The Cottage Smallholder; I may not have met you ITRW yet, but you’ve definitely had a positive effect on my life.

  7. Magic Cochin

    Have a great time on Saturday :-)

    Lucky you, going to Sutton Hoo – one of my favourite places.


  8. Toffeeapple

    It’s nearly Saturday! Yay!

  9. Wish I could be there, enjoy guys

  10. Double bonus. New blog and a revisit of
    Guinea-gate!. It is amazing how your blog has bought people together.

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