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. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Catherine,

    I am pleased that you are enjoying our site. We have a third of an acre. This is not enough to be totally self sufficient.

    We are a bit more self sufficient as each year passes and we become more experienced in the kitchen garden. Our wine is now quite drinkable! Basically we have a large and productive garden. We could never be completely self sufficient. This requires more land and more time.

    I reckon the ideal plot is five acres. You can do a lot on an acre. If you haven’t got it already, a great book on self sufficiency is John Seymour™s The New Complete Book of Self -Sufficiency. I review it here

  2. Catherine

    Hi, I’m enjoying your site and finding alot of new info! We’re in the process of trying to uy a smallholding and I was wondering how much land you have and how self siiufficient you manage to be?

    thanks, Catherine

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Alexia,

    You can email me through the contact us page and attach photographs. If I can’t identify the fruit I can put it on the site for the world to comment.

    Of course you are not ‘sad’ foraging for sloes. You are clearly someone who is bright enough to twig that there are hedgerows bouncing with loads of things that are delicious and free.

    Thanks for leaving a comment. I am 20 years older than you but still experience the adrenalin rush when I find something delicious in the hedgerows. I just wish that I had twigged all this 20 years ago.

  4. Hi

    I found your site whilst looking for ‘foraging’ information and it has great information; is there anywhere on the site I can post a photo so someone may help me identify a fruit??

    I am 30 and I thought I was a bit ‘sad’ going to pick sloes every year and make sloe gin but I am glad to see other people my age do it too…. mind you my friends never called me sad when they were drinking my sloe gin!!!

    Thank you.

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Edwin,

    I am pleased that you enjoyed reading my site.

    It is a WordPress blog ( The software is free and there are loads of free pieces of software available for WordPress sites.
    Very tickled by your description of the ducks and bees!

  6. Edwin Pottle

    I enjoyed reading your site. Could you tell me what software you use to create it as I like the layout/style. Many thanks.
    Mt grandfather kept bees, my grandmother kept ducks. Not a good combination. The ducks ate the bees as they landed at the hive. Fast food! Edwin

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Dawn,

    So pleased that you are enjoying our site. Life wouldn’t be the same without the Min Pins, they are bantering under the kitchen table as I write this!

  8. Dawn Kirby

    hi enjoyed reading your site , I have 3 min pin dogs also, and think they are wonderful .

  9. Toni-anne

    I am enjoying your stories so much, especially as you live in an area to which I aspire.

  10. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Susan,
    So pleased that you enjoyed your visit!

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