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 Clare

    Happy New Year to you too.

    Thanks for leaving such a positive comment – it made my day!

  2. Happy New Year to you both! I spent Christmas without the internet and checking your blog was one of the first things I did when we got back. Needless to say the posts I’d missed were as brilliant as ever.

    Christmas has brought me a new stash of recipe books to peruse and I’m looking forwards to trying some new vegetarian dishes.

    I hope 2008 brings you both happiness and plenty of new challenges and adventures!

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Woof

    Happy New Year to you, let’s hope that is great for us all!

  4. Hi
    Happy new year to you all, just a short note to say what a fantastic site to find all the info I needed for a fantastic phesant meal/menue, keep going the hedgrow section is amazing
    cheers WOOF

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Robert

    Thanks so much for dropping by and leaving an update on your parent’s Christmas presents. I am delighted that they were a success. Bushcraft is a great magazine and the John Seymour tome is a wonderful addition to any house with an interest in self sufficiency.

    The walk on the beach and tree planting sound like you had the sort of Christmas that I love.

  6. Hi Fiona,

    A note of thanks – my parents received a subscription to Bushcraft magazine and a copy of Seymour’s Self Sufficiency on the basis of your recommendations here – and their noses have rarely been out of them since Christmas day (except a trip to the beach yesterday and tree planting this afternoon).

    So the success of our christmas is largely down to you – thank you again!


  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Stephen

    Thanks for leaving a comment. Hope that you found a pheasant recipe that you liked.

    We will be cracking open the sloe gin at Christmas! And we have some sloe vodka left…

    Great that you are enjoying the site.

  8. Just looking for a pheasant reciept for tonight & stumbled upon your site..Had to leave a comment as I have already finished a gallon of my sloe gin and still have seven gallons of cider left. You have brought a smile to my face and purpose to my day!! that is until I freeze again in my workshop!!!!!!

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Crystal

    I made the last minute Christmas cake today! I had 2 hours to go shopping and of course dallied a bit. I returned to find Danny lifting the cake out of the oven. Have just fed it with its dose of Whiskey!

    Our way of life is great and we do realise that we are lucky. Our life is busy – up early and it’s late before I crawl into bed. Sometimes I miss the old sparky city life. It’s the buzz that I miss not the tube and the dirt and the rush. If I spend a day in London I am always delighted to get home to the stillness and quiet.

    So pleased that you are enoying our blog.

  10. Thank you for a wonderful site. I have bookmarked a fair few of your recipes to try and will let you know how I get on. I’m especially excited about the marzipan! I am also making your quick Chritmas Cake.

    I’m truly aspiring to your way of life, but walking out the front door has a way of bringing me back down to earth with a bang! I live in a terraced street in Liverpool…however your Christmas cake will be enjoyed by the Mother in Law in Ely and my Mum in London!

    Thanks again for the great site…am off now to find out how to make gin! I can always forage when visiting the in-laws! Mmmm…

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