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. Achaeos

    I have similar interests as you, living off the land, gardening as well as native plant gathering, chickens, bees and fermenting. I have been searching for more perennial options to my vegetable needs to increase the edibility of my landscape so I can never starve no matter what happens. Naturally, the Asturian Tree cabbage found its way into my attention. However I cannot find anywhere I can acquire this vegetable. Do you know of any sources for someone in the U.S.A.? Thanks.

  2. Hi, Great site. Just wondered if you were still selling things from your gatden gate. It sounds like a great idea. Are there any restrictions/regulations I need to be aware of. I would welcome your advice about how to get started.

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Juli

      Yes it’s a fantastic idea – when it was operating we always had cash for the kitty sort of things from the corner shop – milk, bread etc.

      However when some people stole my cash box I gave up, we had a strong suspicion who did this 🙁

      D is keen for me to start again. Maybe I will some day.

      I must admit that the theft of our box put me off a bit.

      Re regulations – look up national guidelines.

  3. Fiona ! Just found your site from Google as I was looking for a dark Oxford Marmalade recipe. We bought some at a country market while on a weekend away and alas it is all gone! We only got one jar.
    Living in South Australia, my 61 y.o. partner (originally from Trumpington, been in Australia 40 years plus) has hankerings for such things – which can be hard to find here.
    It will be some time before we can get away to the same place again and stock up, so, with Christmas holidays coming up for me, I should be able to face the ordeal of watching the pot. Hence looking for recipe – now to source some Seville oranges !
    Many thanks for sharing your wisdom and information on this site, I am reading in my tea breaks at work.

  4. It’s 5a.m, been up for hours as my daughter poorly with gastroenteritis and she is pregnant, wanted advice that’s why I’m on computer at this silly time. Found the advice I needed and thought I would look for a chicken soup recipe to try and tempt her when she feels up to eating again.Clicked on your page and hey presto! found just what I am looking for. Thankyou so much. Have added you to my bookmarks and when I am not so tired, I will definitely be looking again. Many thanks and good luck to you.

  5. Hi Fiona and Danny what a great site you have I was looking for an article about watercress and did a search and found your site 4 hours later I am still reading about the chickens ducks dogs and bees lol. I am an expat living in Azerbaijan and have a small holding in the south in a place called Lankeran. As it is semi tropical there growing things could not be easier and this year after clearing the land of blackberries (several pounds of jam made) We planted clover and had three cuttings from it. We did have several goats but with winter being rather wet and the chance of snow they were sold. We’ll get more in the spring. Love the recipes and will be trying a few on my Azeri friends you keep telling me to open a restaurant, I™ll pass on a few of my favorite Azer dishes that you may like. And a local delicacy called Lavengie which is made from walnuts and prunes that makes a great chicken and fish stuffing.

  6. jenni blackmore

    I stumbled onto your site while searching for a recipe to accommodate the bucket or so of green grapes a friend gave us. Thanks for the info.

    I was delighted to read a little bit about your expeiences so far as they quite closely resemble ours(husband Calum & I) except that we are striving for a level of self sufficiency on a small island just east of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Our climate and terrain are much more rugged than I imagine yours to be. Not ideal in many ways but as we subscribe to the Permaculture principle of seeing not the problems but the creative solutions we are enjoying (most of) the challenges. At this point we have various heritage poultry breeds and fairly extensive veggie gardens. The next step seems to be goats. Stay tuned! And yes, hope you’re feeling better. Jenni

  7. Sarah James

    What a wealth of information and a lovely read to boot. I have just blogged about discovering the joys of foraging and my first efforts at turning my plunder into something more edible. My blog seems to going down well with the Mummy readers on Britmums site too. Wishing you all the best for the future x

  8. Hi, just found your website and it is fantastic. My daughter and I are trying to find ways of raising money for one of her twins, he has just been diagnosed with Cerebal Palsy and we are doing everything we can to raise the money to send him to St Louis so that he will be able to walk independantly and keep up with his brother.

    We are learning fast how to make jams, marmalades, chutneys etc to sell on to friends and at craft fairs. You site has helped us enormously. My grandsons website is if you want to check it out.

    Thanks again and have saved your website to my favourites so will be a regular, thanks.

  9. Hello, just wanted to say i came across your site a couple of days ago … reluctantly i persuaded my partner to spend a few hours yesterday looking for anything we could find in the hedgerows. We now have a fridge and cubourd full of 3 different varieties of apples and probably 6 kilos of pears all found growing wild! Recently our local supermarket was selling apples at nearly £4 a pound so now i feel like we did something worth while…just got to work out how to use them all up! I have never even thought about using things that grow all around me so thanks for the advice on here, now me (and my partner!)cannot wait until next weekend to explore again

  10. “Picked 5lbs of sloes this afternoon” [Mowdrops]

    Yet again, another has fallen into the mistake of picking sloes TOO EARLY.
    The “best” sloe gin will only be made AFTER the first frost – picking sloes in September and then freezing them is not the same.
    They’ll still be there in October and November and will be the better for it (when ‘frosted’ naturally) – take my word for it!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.

2,241,576 Spambots Blocked by Simple Comments

Copyright © 2006-2023 Cottage Smallholder      Our Privacy Policy      Advertise on Cottage Smallholder