The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

About us


Photo: Fiona in a bee suit with smoker

Photo: Fiona in a bee suit with smoker

My name is Fiona Nevile. I want to share our journey towards our goal of partial self sufficiency. It is such a satisfying, old fashioned endeavour, that provides moments of glowing pride alongside the occasional smelly disaster.

I started this blog after we decided to invest in our future. Retirement looms in a few years time. Before I fell ill I often worked in houses where people had recently retired. Usually they were testing the water. They had plans that they had dreamt about and tweaked for years:

  • Raising a few chickens
  • A small vegetable patch
  • Bees
  • Homemade wine and liqueurs
  • And the individual extras which could include stock car racing, dabbling on the Stock Exchange, breeding terrapins, planning the trip of a lifetime and dreaming about a lottery win that would finance the lot.

Watching from the sidelines, I realised that often the first four of these interests can take years to get up and running. So I decided to start early. These activities are so satisfying that within months I was peering over the parapet. Why not cure and smoke our own bacon and make salami? How about making sausages and homemade butter? And where could we find food for free?

Six years later we are investing in now as well as our future retirement.

Why just plan for the future? Investing in now can be a bumpy ride but generally we’ve found that it’s fun and our quality of life is so much better than before. Each week our horizons expand.

We live in a pretty 17th century cottage (pictured above on the header) in the heart of an English village on the Cambridgeshire/Suffolk border. Our East Anglian cottage cast includes three Miniature Pinscher dogs, one Maran hen, five lady bantams, a small Golden Seebright cockerel + three Leghorn cockerels, two hives of bees (140,000 at the height of summer) and a 28′ pond that used to house a lot of fish before the heron visited for the gourmet feast of a lifetime.

This website charts our journey towards deluxe self sufficiency and beyond. Our aim is to live like kings on the lowest possible budget. Visit our new forum for inspiration and ideas from our readers.

My articles have appeared online in the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Chicago Sun Times and many other publications. Use the ‘contact us’ tab to speak to me. Writing commissions are always welcome.

Some people like to visit us here at the Cottage Smallholder.

Because I have been ill and unable to work since July 09 we decided to host advertising on the Cottage Smallholder site from December 09. Click here for more details.

a brief potted history of Fiona’s career, which has ended up in our attempt at partial self-sufficiency.

  Leave a reply


  1. Diana Noonan

    I really enjoyed your blogs. I’m a bee keep and self sufficient in fruit and veg on 800sq metres. I’ll be sure to call again!

  2. Sue Askew

    Hi Fiona, I am new to this and am having problems registering to your foru , can you help please. I want to join under the name of Squirel.

  3. Alan Gibson

    I run “the Urbane Forager” community project and we recently published a new book, to celebrate 5 years of our blog. This volume is currently available from all good outlets (and probably some bad ones too).
    It would be an ideal read for your members and think it would thrive very well in your bookshop.
    Would you be happy to give it a listing?
    I’m very happy to post you a hard copy, if you would like to review the tome. Just send me the address, if you would like this.
    Keep up the good work
    Alan (aka the Urbane Forager)

  4. Paula D. Lopez


    I’d like to inquire if it’s possible to purchase adverting space on your website

    If there is any space available please let me and we could discuss further details.

    Looking forward to your positive reply.

    Best Regard,
    Paula Lopez

  5. Alexia

    Good evening,
    I was wondering if you can help me, i’m having problems logging says my email address is incorrect when im trying to log in.
    Your help in this matter would be very much appreciated.
    My username is AlexiaW.
    Many thanks.

  6. julia woollen

    hi im just starting on a journey to raise funds for a self sifficient refuge for people struggling with mental health.any help or advice would be much apreashiayed.unfortunatly im dyslexic and not much good at scanning.thank you.julia woollen

  7. Bada Kim

    Hi Fiona

    Thanks so much for sharing your tips and advice. I genuinely enjoy your lovely website.

  8. hi Fiona, like yourself make wine,cider and liqueur. i have a 23 pint presto pressure canner, in very good condition, which im going to sell along with lots of jars 1/2 pint 1pint and larger. if you or someone you know is interested let me know. all he best, John

  9. Hi Fiona, I too use coconuts cut in half to feed the birds, I too make my own mixture using:

    Cheap Lard x 1 Kg. Cheap Margarine x 1 Kg. Cheap Digestives 400g Packet x 3. Mixed Bird Seed x 1 1/2 Kg. Nuts x 1 1/2 Kg (Cut up small in a food processor)

    I break up the biscuits & nuts in food processor, the add all ingredients to melted lard & margarine (you can scale this down (I have a very large saucepan) I the bag up the mixture into coconut size amounts and freeze then, then when required take them from freezer and when thawed enough push the mixture into the coconut shell.

    I also had a problem with mixture falling out in sunny weather, I overcame this by drilling small holes in the coconuts and threading wire in and out to make a sort of grill, it works great.


  10. Gary Jordison

    Hi Fiona
    Love this website and am mad for your fruit liqueurs. This year I am going beyond the annual sloe gin attempt and have been busy down the local PYO.

    I have followed your recipes creating a gooseberry gin and raspberry vodka.
    I also picked some strawberrys. Strangely there are very little by way of booze recipes for these anywhere on the net. I have basically used 400g of straws, 700ml vodka and just 50g of sugar. The one recipe I saw said that this can then be used in 3-4 days??
    I was wondering if you had any ideas? Is it ok to drink now or should I be adding more sugar and leaving for months a-la the standard fruit recipes?

    Many thanks

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