The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


Kitchen Garden update September 2009

Posted in Save Money, Vegetables | 11 comments

Kitchen Garden update September 2009

  Thank goodness the cabbage white butterflies have stopped using our kitchen garden as a prime love fest location. They were attracted by so many tasty brassicas they are the new super food after all. Watching them canoodling was fun but fighting with their caterpillar offspring was a nightmare. For a good two months it was war. By the end I was patrolling morning and evening with the organic gardener’s version of a Kalashnikov – a powerful soapy spray gun. I don’t know whether it did much good. But the chickens enjoyed eating the...

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Gooseberry Sawfly Beware

Posted in Fruit | 54 comments

Gooseberry Sawfly Beware

When I was at school and hadn’t revised properly for an exam, I put the main course text book under my pillow hoping that magically the information would be transmitted into my brain as I slept. This guaranteed a restless night, especially if the tome was large. I’d usually wake feeling tired and stressed. Perhaps it was the adrenalin and desperation that made me creative with my exam answers. Generally I passed. But would have done far better if I had prepared properly for the exams. These days my radio headset is a boon but often I’m...

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Our garden’s alive 24/7

Posted in Cottage tales | 13 comments

Our garden’s alive 24/7

The front door opens into the cottage kitchen and from the same room the back door reveals the garden. In summertime it’s always a wrench closing the garden door when it gets too dark to see. I keep it open for as long as possible. I’ve even been known to cook supper wearing a thick fleece. Then I can enjoy the birds and, as the light gradually fades, watch the colours in the garden slowly drift and fall asleep. Some summers have us eating by the pond, wrapped in blankets, serenaded by the owls and the rustles in the undergrowth...

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The conundrum of thieves in the soft fruit cage

Posted in Fruit | 16 comments

The conundrum of thieves in the soft fruit cage

Earlier this year I built a fruit cage for our raspberry canes. I have since discovered that the metal rods from the giant’s staircase are a bit bendy on a windy day. But this has given me a lot of experience with knots and stabilisers. It’s like being on board ship after a storm. Hauling and heaving and trying to predict how to survive the next choppy sea. I have another soft fruit border and used to wonder why we have such a poor harvest. Anne Mary gave us superb red currant tarts with melt in the mouth sweet pastry, made from...

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Selective views

Posted in General care | 5 comments

Selective views

It’s easy to be selective and just ignore areas that don’t work well in a garden. I’m trying to concentrate on these patches at the moment rather than spend hours tending and polishing my favourite corners. I must have spent a good two hours removing the brambles that have crept up through the yew hedging and were waving like valiant anarchists across the top. One specimen has evaded all attempts to restrict him and is still at large. I see him every morning, bobbing about above the hedge. So along with the daily hunt for the...

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We have rats in our chicken run

Posted in Chickens | 60 comments

We have rats in our chicken run

Poultry and rats go together. The rats are attracted by the supplies of food and fresh water. We live in fat rat country. The village is surrounded by farms and studs that are a haven for rats. Rats carry disease, in particular Wiles Disease. This is a killer. The disease is spread through contact with the excrement and urine of carrier rats. A garden pond can attract rats as they need access to water. The disease can infect the tiniest scratch. So I always wear decent waterproof gloves when dealing with the chickens or pond and wash my hands...

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The Dreaded Lily Beetle

Posted in General care | 8 comments

The Dreaded Lily Beetle

Three years ago my mother started to mutter about the Lily Beetle. It was attacking her lilies, chomping all her flowers when thery were just tasty shoots. I checked our lilies carefully. They were fine. Two years later the Lily Beetle reached our village, fifteen miles away. I didn’t notice the invasion. We had no lilies in flower that year. Lily Beetles are bad news. Generally in the first year you find the decimated lilies before you find the beetles. You never make that mistake again. They seem to have a great love life as you tend...

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Kill your slugs with milk

Posted in Discoveries, General care | 21 comments

Kill your slugs with milk

I am working in Saffron Walden at the moment in my friend Anna’s new house. It doesn’t have a fridge. A pint of milk doesn’t last more than a day. Two days ago Anna cleared the kitchen of various dead milk containers and put them on the terrace outside. One container was a transparent plastic cup, half filled with stale milk. The next day I was having a break in the garden and spotted that a lot of tiny curled things were in the cup. Initially I assumed that her little girls had put a handful of gravel in it. But something...

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