The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Happy New Year


Strawberry plants with babies

Strawberry plants with babies

To me, New Year is a fresh start that is more official than a birthday. D tends to look back whilst my focus is usually forward. I reckon that I’m very lucky to have an optimistic outlook although sometimes my expectations are unrealistic – causing frustration and woe. D’s a realist and I’m a dreamer. He practices expectation management – I’d not even heard of the term until I met D.

I don’t make New Years resolutions. I generally have ongoing plans in place throughout the year. These are made to stop me drifting about in a haze and give me a bit of focus. I’m still not fit enough to go back to work but I’m trying to get the best out of this period of enforced recuperation. Reading more, developing my crafting skills and trying to build a life that’s more balanced and rounded than the one that I had before. Life has to be much more frugal now but I’m happier than I’ve been for years.

I thought that it would be fun to “do a Danny” and look back over the last year as it has been an interesting one. In fact I thought it had been pretty hard but Danny thought it had been good.

I sold quite a lot of things to my pal Martin Beazor to keep afloat but now gradually I’m building up small streams of income to replace my old painting and decorating shekels. Creating a new source of income from scratch can be done but it requires much more patience and determination than I expected.

Developing the herbaceous parts of the garden has been a joy – once I’d cleared the stones and bricks from the extended borders. Free hardcore anyone? Sometimes last summer I just opened the back door to gaze at the flowers and lose myself in the scents and general fructulence.

Although the development of herbaceous garden has been a success, sales of the flowers didn’t go as well as I hoped.  But this year we will be building on last year’s experience. Tulips and daffs sold well – so I’ve planted loads of these. Dahlias often don’t have a long vase life – so we are investing in Karma dahlias this year (they last for 10-12 days in a vase). We are growing carnations to sell in the local shops. Carnations are ideal as they have a decent shelf life. I bought teeny carnation plugs in the autumn and these are now about 4”/10cm tall. At the gate we’ll continue to sell seasonal flowers, preserves and smellies.

Finding the sewing machine and material stash was a super lucky break. Shereen’s stash was the icing on the cake! I discovered that I love sewing and making things as much as I did when I was a child. It’s very calming and creative and as Danny is involved in the design process it’s a project that we share. Just before Christmas, Danny set up our online shop which is doing well – I’m the Manufacturing Princess and D is the Prince of The Post Room. At the moment I’m working on a design for a chicken shaped pin cushion.

The biodynamic gardening experiment gave good results with decent yields of vegetables that kept well when harvested. I noticed that when I didn’t follow the biodynamic principles I didn’t get very good results. So we will be continuing to follow basic biodynamic principles in 2011 and extend this to the herbaceous borders too.

Companion planting was another area of experimentation gave good results. A fascinating field and well worth looking into if you haven’t tried it yet. 

This year will be our first experimenting properly with our fabulous solar tunnel and I can’t wait to start growing vegetables and fruit undercover. At the moment it is filled with carnations and hardy annuals. In January it will become home to an apricot and a peach tree. I’ve invested a lot it our garden this year and see this as investing in our future.

We’ve continued to try and cut costs and become more self sufficient. Andrew – our halogen oven has cut 25% off our electricity bill in the last 12 months and has paid for himself over and over. The dehydrator means that we have large stores of home grown vegetables – enough for three months just takes up one small carrier bag.

We are sharing our old/new car (The Duchess) as I don’t need to drive to work anymore. We’ve invested in a sturdy trailer for my bike so we have supplementary transport for emergencies and flower deliveries. I’m planning to clear out the little brick shed in the front garden to become a bicycle and root vegetable shed.

I’ve also started to look at permaculture in some depth – sustainable living has to be the way forward, I reckon. Next year we’ll definitely dig our well, water is expensive and it would be good to harvest our own, if only to irrigate the garden. My mind is buzzing with plans – a new dedicated strawberry patch, planting more roses, developing my range of smellies to enhance moods. Above all I want to get as much of our land working for us as possible.

So actually in retrospect 2010 was a good year and not the grotty one that I thought it was. So many new things have happened and so many lessons learnt.

I’m hoping that 2011 will be a great year for us all.

Happy New Year and thank you for visiting this blog!

  Leave a reply


  1. PatsyAnne

    Dearest Fiona and Danny (and the Min Pins), Happy New Year and many, many more… I’m curious that you haven’t spoken in awhile about the chickens, do you still have them? Also curious about your hedgehog(s) – you mentioned it in a long-ago post and was wondering if you still had one about…
    Again, Happy New Year, whether you look forward or back, it comes and it goes – its how you live each day that counts..

  2. (oops hit submit comment without meaning to) and where I’ve had my lifetime’s dream built into the plans – a walk in pantry. Can’t wait to fill those shelves with bottled tomatoes, jam, home made booze and preserves. Thanks again Fiona and Danny for the inspiration.

  3. Happy New Year to you both. Thank you for writing your blog, it’s given me loads of pleasure and also some super tips. I LOVE my Andrew, and would recommend a halogen oven to anyone, and thanks to you I’m also the proud owner of a slow cooker and a dehydrator. We too are living the frugal lifestyle; initially through necessity, but now it just feels RIGHT. We hope to move to our barn sometime this month, where we have 2 wells, a septic tank and no mains water at all, and where I’ve had my .

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