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. puddychops

    Dear Fiona, very sorry to hear your news. It’s always tough to change the world you thought you had and to adapt your thoughts and ways to a new one. But you’ve proved so much to us your readers, with your courage, innovation, and creative flair. This is a new beginning for you and everyone’s routing for you. We love your blog and we love you as you are! Lesley

    • Fiona Nevile

      Life is amazing because we generally plan our routes and expect to keep on that course with the fairest winds to guide us. And so often that simple route that we traced so easily on the map just does not happen. We are blown way off course.

      This was a much a surprise to me as to everyone else.

      Thank you for your support 🙂

  2. David and Frankie Wallis

    Great Blog, very interesting web site, we will be following blog from now on!
    I am an Estate Manager on a private 19 acre estate in Warwickshire.My journey here has just begun,and I have exiting plans to create a smallholding with the backing from my Enthusiastic Employer!!!

  3. Victoria Prest

    Fabulous website! I love it! So glad I found it by accident 🙂

  4. HI Fiona

    I wondered if I can please post your Elderflower cordial recipe on my website for my fans to read? I will post a link to your site from the recipe 🙂



  5. Thank you Fiona, your website is encouraging, informative and interesting I will enjoy the recipes I have found on it so far. It may go some way to fulfilling my own dreams of a similar lifestyle.

  6. I enjoy your site very much. I am in NW Pennsylvania in the U.S., live on a farm but work outside the home. I raise rabbits, we have a few beef cows and I enjoy cooking, canning, herbs, knitting and stumbled across your site looking for a recipe for elderflower wine (I discovered elderberries behind the barn). I don’t know what a sloe is or what doddle means but I’m learning! Your site reminds me a little of Charles Dickens books. Your cottage sounds lovely.

  7. Lisa Sime Boland

    Hi Fiona and Danny

    I live in the mountains of Portugal in a village called Monchique. My husband and I also ventured into the world of chickens and grow your own (after he had had a heart attack and stroke)and have never been happier. I have four chicken Mavis, Mabel, Maud and Mildred and a Cockrel Mac the ‘M’ squad. I read your blog with great interest to compare my flops and disasters. At times i have never had so much fun failing. My pantry is full of fruit jams and chutneys and I am very interested in your recipes. Thank you for shareing your wonderful life. Bright Blessings Lisa

  8. Great site,good luck.

  9. Izzy Bee

    love the new site layout. No problems with this one, think it looks great. Izzy

  10. I find your site very interesting as over the last couple of years I have changed my son’s football pitch into an allotment. I too would like to be fairly self-surficient and with that in mind I am about to get chickens and bees. I try to forage in the hedgerow for anything I do not grow and have just finished a meal that included asparagus picked this morning from a local apple orchard. I look out over my garden with contentment and pride (just a little bit smug too}. Thank you for your site with some very interesting ideas, I going to try and turn my chimnea into a smoker for my garlic.

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