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. Just found you while looking for quince jelly directions (I live in Utah in the U.S. and have a flowering quince) and wanted to thank you for your delightful blog. How fun to think of people all over the world boiling a few quince for some jelly. Will be visiting you again and again.

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Jane,

    Thanks for leaving a comment. Lucky you with a bumper harvest of quinces. I am so pleased that you found what you wanted.

  3. Hello,
    I found you by accident when looking for recipes for my bumper harvest of quinces. I live on one of the smaller, less known Canary Islands – La Palma, and logging onto your site makes me feel a lot closer to all I left behind 12 years ago. I will certainly be visiting you regularly, and by the way the quince recipes were just what I wanted.
    Many thanks

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Catrin

    Glad to hear that your blackberries are still edible.

    There are loads of uses for gin soaked sloes, see the comments section on both our sloe gin posts. Sloe chocolate, crumble, mincemeat, Christmas cake etc.

    Thanks for dropping by.

  5. I thought there must be some fellow foragers out there somewhere! Have just returned from my (almost) daily walk with another bagfull of blackberries – can’t believe no-one else picks them around here. They are so abundant if you know where to look!

    My husband says that our sloe gin gives him wierd dreams – I think it’s a case of quantity and not the quality doing the damage, but then again they were French sloes! Having read your sloe sherry recipe I am kicking myself for discarding the sloes from the gin in the past – in future I shall certainly be recycling them – thought there must have been a use for them apart from compost material. Thanks for the knowledge.

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Moira,

    So pleased that you are enjoying the site. Good luck with the marmalade.

  7. Moira Mulligan


    Found your website while searching for dark orange marmalade recipe – what a wonderful site – will come back and look at it in more detail. Best wishes from Perth Australia

  8. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Vanessa,

    I’m delighted that you are enjoying the site. I do hope that our recipes work for you. Thanks for leaving a comment.

    Hi Minamoo,

    It’s great that you found the site. What a shame about the damsons going to waste.

    I am foraging obsessed too. There is nothing more mellow than to be out and about looking for nuts and berries. Any if I discover a new source of bounty, it is a joy.

  9. Hi Fiona,

    I absolutely adore your site! I came across it last week when I was trying to find a recipe involving the quinces I found growing in a hedge near me and I must say that I am hooked. I only wish I had come across it earlier in the year when I could have taken full advantage of it – I speak in particular of the damson cheese recipe. There were so many damsons on the trees near us that we just stopped picking them after a while as we had no idea what to make with them and my poor boyfriend was getting very tired of coming home from work to find no food and a girlfriend covered in jam, licking the back of a spoon and looking quite pleased with herself for having made a jam that set so wonderfully! I did also find that the stones skimmed from the pan after the sugar is added make delicious snacks to suck on when they’ve cooled. The bf got some very strange looks when he took some into work and spent all day spitting out damson stones!

    Basically……….thank you for this wonderful resource. It is a joy to read and I cannot wait for the day when we can afford to buy enough land to grow our own food.

    And in reply to the lady who said she thought she was “sad” for rummaging through hedgerows for sloes to make gin aged 30….I am 23 and have been making my own jam since I was 22 and am totally foraging obsessed!

  10. Hi, Fiona

    Just discovered your site this week and am loving it.

    Have already tried one of your recipes and it was delicious. Know I will try more in the future as they all sound like just the sort of food I enjoy.

    Thank you.

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