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. mowdrops

    Picked 5 pounds of sloes this afternoon [surprised they were ripe yet] They are now washed and in the freezer until i have bought the gin.Also found loads of small plums, nobody round here seems to pick them. What a waste.

  2. You write in the style of Betty Macdonald “the egg and I” book funny ,warm and very helpful to those who want to have a go.Found you by accident!As was out foraging picked heaps of (I now know sloes) made sloe and onion chutney husband refused to try until fruit was confirmed sloes! and loved it

  3. so happy i stumbled upon this site. don’t know if our place could be called a smallhold, but we also had same thoughts before our retirement. also started early enough and now there’s hens, a veggie plot, fruit trees and berry shrubs. we collect our own water and grow willows for keeping the place warm in winter. cheers and thanks.

  4. mowdrops

    Just made 7 pounds of runner bean chutney,can’t wait to try it. Also made plum brandy and plum vodka.Roll on xmas so can try it all.Great site,and great recipes. Many thanks.

  5. love this site,found it by chance and am just in awe. we have an allotment and it’s great to read what to do with whatever is season.we also forage and living in a city we are amazed at people walking by loads of produce,we can be found on hands and knees picking up the droppped hazel nuts much to the amusement of other pedestrians.will certainly be visiting your site again,a true wealth of knowledge thank you

  6. the Urbane Forager

    Nice to see someone doing good stuff.
    I’ve been setting up my own fruit and nut picking and processing blog this year, with my children.
    I go under the guise of the Urbane Forager.
    Any idea where I might get swing top bottles for my elderflower champagne that needs bottling tonight – Yikes!

  7. Damaris San-Juliano

    Hi there all

    Am soooo excited to have stumbled across this wonderful site.I’m 34 have dreamed of a smallholding all my life but for now my tiny garden,all container,has to suffice. Found you while looking for info on seed sowing and propagators!!

    I see there are so many other areas I’m yet to enjoy,jam making and foraging for starters.

    I’m actually new to gardening,last June I planted my first seed and now all visitors are amazed when they step through the front gate. My mum calls me Monty Dam.

    Thanks again comrades

  8. Anthony

    Just came across your website, really good, my family want to start a small holding and are making plans, can’t wait for next blog post

  9. Like Graham have just come across your site looking for ways to grow watercress and was fasinated by your recipe for curing bacon, cant wait to try having had quite a few bacon free saturdays living in france

    look forward to trawling through the rest of the site.


  10. Graeme Simpson

    I have literally stumbled across your website, and it’s fantastic. I quite envy your lifestyle. My dream is(or was to be self sufficient,probably too old now at 54) However I’ve just secured a small allotment, so hope I can at least grow fruit and veg successfully. I’ve already started making my own chutney and pickled onions; using recipes at the moment, however I’m using shop bought ingredients at the moment. I was actually searching the web for a recipe for a sweet lime pickle, but can’t find one anywhere. Any ideas, or do you have a recipe for this? I will definately put this site on my favourites, and ‘tune in’ regularly now.


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