The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


On birthdays

Posted in Cottage tales | 23 comments

On birthdays

  The first birthday that I can remember was when I was two. Sitting in my wooden high chair at the kitchen table of our Devon cottage. The sun glimpsing through the small windows – the table full of people. There was suddenly a commotion at the door. A parcel had arrived for me. Someone unwrapped the parcel and placed the contents on the tray of my high chair. A baby doll lay in a cardboard box staring up at me through the cellophane window in the lid. It was a present from my godmother, sent from America. I was overwhelmed as much by the...

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Harvesting bags

Posted in General care | 13 comments

Harvesting bags

  For years I’ve used carrier bags when out foraging. They are convenient and slip into a pocket – so if you unexpectedly come across some hedgerow treasure you have a bag for your bounty. However, it’s difficult to keep the neck of a plastic supermarket carrier bag open so picking has to be one handed. Earlier this year I treated myself to this smart harvesting bag. The long strap means that it can be worn across the body, leaving two hands for picking. The opening at the top is rigid and less fruit falls to the ground than when...

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Japanese maple. Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’- six years on

Posted in Trees and shrubs | 8 comments

Japanese maple. Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’- six years on

  “Danny can you come down to the garden? I’ve got something spectacular to show you.” In the summer the Rat Room Velux window is open so I can call up to D. I heard him rumbling down the stairs into the kitchen. He stood at the back door. “Wow! Where did that come from?” “It’s that Japanese maple that I bought from Ebay six years ago. It’s been lurking behind the rose bush by the other back door.” “Well it definitely isn’t going to go back there. I want to enjoy it every day.” You’ll probably find this difficult to...

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The Alternative kitchen Garden an A-Z by Emma Cooper. A review.

Posted in Reviews | 3 comments

The Alternative kitchen Garden an A-Z by Emma Cooper. A review.

I’m always really pleased when bloggers publish books as it proves to me that books are still treasured and valued. Who wants to stare at a computer screen for hours even though there’s access to an unbelievable breadth of knowledge and experience. There’s nothing to beat opening a really good book. And this is one that I’d highly recommend. When Emma Cooper emailed me asking if I’d be interested in doing a review of The Alternative kitchen Garden an A-Z  I was pleased but had that slightly panicky feeling that I might not like the...

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The best gardening tools are not necessarily the most expensive

Posted in Discoveries, General care | 14 comments

The best gardening tools are not necessarily the most expensive

I’d cut down the rose bushes to large stumps and wheeled away about ten borrow loads of rose branches and quite a lot of bindweed roots. John Coe cast an eye over the warzone border covered with hefty skeletal stumps. “I can see what you mean. With this and the new potato border you will have a much more productive space for growing vegeatbles. Kitchen garden borders always fill up fast.” He picked up my spade and stabbed at the biggest rose root. “This’ll take some shifting.” Within five minutes the base of the spade had snapped...

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The magic of seeds

Posted in Vegetables | 12 comments

The magic of seeds

This has been a weekend of feverish digging and preparation. The new potato bed has such wonderful soil that we have ripped up half the rose walk to have a similar sized bed beside the spuds. This will be the brassica bed this year – cauliflower, calabrese, Brussels sprouts and sprouting broccoli. Although we won’t harvest the latter until April 2010. It’s our first year for cauliflower and Brussels sprouts so there has been quite a lot of thumbing through the vegetable gardening books. I can highly recommend Joy Larkcom’s...

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Gardening presents

Posted in General care | 12 comments

Gardening presents

The pleasure that I get from special garden tools and gardenalia is immeasurable. I love my two traditional Sussex garden trugs (giant and baby sized), the set of three cedar seed trays, my paper potter and my new mouseproof Burgon and Ball Seed Packets Tin. Seraphina has given me most of these luxury items. As with friends who have given me plants, I always think of the donor when I use them. Good solid old fashioned quality. The things seem timeless. The seed packets tin was given to me when I gave Seraphina a hand with her elegant...

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The best gardening tools

Posted in General care | 9 comments

The best gardening tools

I inherited a lot of gardening tools from my aunt. Gradually over the last fifteen years I’ve enjoyed discovering the benefits of each one. I’ve found drawbacks too. Most garden tools are designed for bigger hands and taller people. Fostering a sizeable family of tools has taught me two things. • If you have access to the correct tool for the job you will work faster. • The range of each ‘correct tool’ is massive. Finding the perfect tool for you within this range will conserve your energy and increase productivity and overall...

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