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. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Rob

    Thank you so much for taking the trouble to leave such a heartening comment. Delighted that you are enjoying the blog.

    John Seymour’s book is a joy! Best check that they haven’t already discovered the tome as it is the number one self sufficiency book.

  2. Hi Fiona,

    I just wanted to leave a note to say I’ve spent most of the weekend browsing through your site since discovering it on Saturday morning (I can’t quite remember how!) – thank you for providing such an entertaining and well written blog; and thank you also for giving me a number of christmas present ideas for my parents, who are very into self-sufficiency – John Seymour sounds like the bible they’ve been looking for!

    I’ll be back often – your recipes look fantastic, too!

    Thanks again,


  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Martyn,

    Thank you. Much appreciated!

  4. Your excellent site is going around the world…

  5. Catherine

    Thanks for getting back so quickly – I can relax and enjoy another “sample taste” this evening.

    I also put almond essence in a couple of bottles, tried it for the first time yesterday – definitely worth doing!

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Catherine,

    Don’t panic there are tiny amounts of cyanide in fruit stones and apple pips etc. The amounts are so infinitesimal they will not effect you.

    However. The Romans used fruit kernels to kill enemies. You need an enormous amount and they were cleaver in the way they processed them.

    Lots of people add almond essence to their sloe gin. We always do.

  7. Catherine

    Hi again, I have just (I know – prematurely) started to sample this years sloe gin. I have to say it tastes wonderful already so I’m not sure how much will get to mature fully! However, it has a very pleasant almond scent which I have been told could be cyanide from the stones…..should I be woried of can I just go ahead and enjoy. As a first time sloe gin maker I’m not sure what is normal.



  8. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Marion,

    Delighted that you are enjoying the site.

    Farming and cheese making – what a wonderful combination. Cheese making is something that I’d really like to get into one day.

    Thanks for leaving a comment.

  9. Love your site! It’s full of ideas. I just have to be carefull that I don’t get carried away and forget about my work (farming/cheesemaking).
    The comment above about being covered in jam and no dinner on the table sounds very familiar to me, luckily my husband eats jam too :).

  10. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Carol,

    The small bottles would be perfect for bottling rose hip syrup. Just wash and sterilise them first.

    Once the bottles of syrup are opened they need to be used pretty quickly so small bottles would be a good idea.

    Thanks for dropping by.

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