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

313 Comments

  1. Carol (Woodcock)

    A friend works in a bar. They have lots of empties of small size wine bottles with the screw caps they can let me have for free.
    Is it ok to use those for bottling rose hip syrup?

    Brilliant site

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Teya and Mildred,

    Mark left a comment about buying jars and bottles a few weeks ago and recommended a place in London http://www.frenchflint.com. This company looks like a pretty good source of bottles and jars too.

  3. Thanks for that info Teya, I will add it to my ‘Favourites’, they have a great stock of jars!

  4. Hi Mildred, (Sept 30th). You can get jars very cheaply from www.ebottles.eu . I’ve just bought 180x llb jars with gold lids for £63 delivered. My daughter and I need that amount for all the Quince stuff we make, but you don’t have to buy that many. However, smaller orders incur postage costs. They have endless types of jars to choose from.

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Margaret,

    I am so sorry that I have no damson jam recipes that include other fruits. We do have a wonderful damson chutney reccipe http://www.cottagesmallholder.com/?p=70 (that includes other fruits). I am very proud of our recipe as it is delicious and one of the first recipes that we created.

    We find that our preserves are great as swaps for things that we want – demi johns, plants, bacon, cheese etc. If we had more they would sell well at a farmers market. Why not go and examine a local market. I bet that you could sell your preserves from someone’s stall.

    Thanks for leaving a comment. Good to hear from people who are interested in the same as us but judging from your comment, a little more philosphical. I cried when our potatoes got blight. The only way I can produce flowery (Irish style) pots for Danny is to grow them myself.

  6. Margaret Griffin

    I have just come across this website, by accident,whilst looking for recipes for Damson jam recipes that also include other fruits – I have one for Apple and Damson jam and Damson and Marrow jam. Does anybody have any other ideas!!!! I love your site, I did’t realise there was so many other people that are as mad as us. I have shelves full of every sort of jam you can think of, we shall never eat it all. It’s got so bad that my husband is now as fanatical as I am. We scower the countryside looking for the ‘raw’ materials, but I am rapidly running out of space.

    To Catherine who would like to be self sufficient,- we have just over an acre of land, and grow 80% of our own vegetables and fruit. We also keep chickens, we have 13 at the moment, which means I usually have a few to sell, and this helps with the cost of the their food. Unfortunately this year has been a bit like the curate’s egg, good in parts, and we shall have to buy in potatoes because our’s got the blight. The onion crop was also poor, but that is part of the fun of growing your own, you never know how it will turn out. It also tastes much nicer.

    Nice to come across like-minded people.

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Martin,

    Thanks for the tip. Definitely worth experimenting with this idea.

  8. Referring to gin soaked sloes. I know of a producer of sloe gin who actually added a small amount of water back to the sloes once the gin mix had been drained off, and this resulted in some further gin alcohol and flavour extraction from the sloes, and this could be returned back to the rest of the gin mix. I don’t remember the exact quantity unfortunately, but it might be worth experimenting with.

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Liz,

    Thank you for visiting. So pleased that you are enjoying the blog.

    Quinces are a great autumn fruit that are ignored and left to rot by so many people. I do hope that your jelly turned out well for you.

  10. 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.

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