The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

The mouse farmer

Photo: Potato border July 2009

Photo: Potato border July 2009

As a child I loved the idea of farming and on my ninth birthday received a deluxe farm set. This had two fields, six stables, a barn with a loft and a farmhouse. The roof of each building lifted off. My favourites were the barn and the farmhouse.

A family of felt mice lived in the latter. The hard farm work was carried out by the small group of Britain’s human farm workers that came with the set. The mouse family spent most of their time riding around in the gig – pulled by a white carthorse, as the boundaries of the farm went way beyond the confines of the wooden board. The carpet in my bedroom was a patterned Wilton type with lots of sections. These became country lanes and five acre fields. Way over in the distance was the market where the mice sold their milk and eggs and did their weekly shop. Towered over by a huge Victorian wardrobe which the mice referred to as The Old Town Hall.

The mice ran the sort of fantasy farm that had no bearing on real farming. A crop could be planted and harvested within few days on the hills of my bedroom floor. The mouse farmer was kept busy with his stock whilst the horse drawn plough and rakes toiled endlessly in a constant round of ploughing, planting and harvesting. There was a large dairy herd, sheep, goats, a few pigs who permanently had piglets, chickens, geese, turkeys and even ducks that swam on an imaginary pond. At dusk he would gaze out beyond the boundary of the board and survey the hundreds of acres of wheat, barley, carrots, spuds for human consumption. Hay and Mangelwurzels were grown to feed the livestock. I had seen these left in great piles in fields beside the Devon country lanes.

I find our kitchen garden as absorbing as my childhood farm. Having expanded the planting area by 50% we are now seeing the benefit of being able to produce a much larger range of crops. We are now planning to dig up the remains of the rose walk and lay the entire end section of the garden over to chickens, soft fruit and vegetables. This will give us the equivalent of nine large beds (12’x12′ 4mx4m) and the space to expand our range and extend the seasons with cloches and fleece.

Although I don’t have a gig and the band of Britain’s human helpers I am as happy and absorbed as the mouse farmer. Inspecting our vegetables, fretting over caterpillars and blight, enjoying the freshest tasty fruit and vegetables and optimistically planting seed for future harvests.


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15 Comments

  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Kerry

    I can’t wait to see the mouse family 🙂 Delighted that you enjoyed the post.

    I’m really enjoying the kitchen garden this year and it’s wonderful to go down and harvest stuff for supper.

  2. I loved your mouse farm story and it has inspired me to make a little needle felted mouse family…Will let you know when I’m done and send you a peek…keep up the garden inspiration too! Winters here on Vancouver Island are quite mild as are yours by the sound of it…although not as big as yours we are enjoying our late fall veggies too.

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Pamela

    I do hope that you get your allotment soon – you’d love it and even though seeds are expensive the vegetables are so much cheaper than buying them and they taste great.

    Hello Joanna

    I loved your story. Great idea wearing your dressing gown back to front. Perhaps I could get D to do this when he brings me tea 😉

    Hi Linda

    You were a very chic child?

    I agree growing your own vegetables and crops is glam.

    Hi Wendy

    I enjoyed writing this too.

    Hello Michelle

    The dogs are not keen on the kitchen garden as they are not allowed on the borders! Danny has enough space to grow enough spuds for the winter and that’s it. Although we want to grow some earlies next year.

    Hello Toffeeapple

    Yes, I only realised that recently.

    Hello Tamar

    Once you’ve started growing things it’s hard to stop. Unless they don’t grow or are eaten by pests then it’s maddening and so frustrating.

    I reckon that there’s a great market for a gritty reality farm set, I’d love one!

    Hi April

    Mine lives in the spare room wardrobe. I couldn’t bear to part with it.

    Hi Thud

    That’s good news.

    Hi Kate(uk)

    Lucky you. I only discovered Britain’s zoo as an adult. My sister had Britain’s garden. I loved my Scaletrix too.

    Hello Free

    Glad that you enjoyed the tale.

    Hi Jan

    It’s such a shame that they are no longer available.

    I now collect pre war lead toys – wonderful miniatures.

  4. You can’t get the Britains stuff any more, so hang on to what you’ve got!

    I too had a massive farm and riding stables on my bedroom floor, and spent many happy hours in my other world.

  5. Thanks to your childhood memories I can start this new day with a happy smile on my face

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