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. What a lovely review of the year and you’ve reminded me to get in touch with Solartunnel to price up a greenhouse (I live in a conservation area and suspect there would be Issues if I put up a polytunnel).

    I’d not heard about halogen ovens before but I am definitely interested as, having just had an oil delivery (shudder!) and seen our most recent electricity bill any chance to reduce either is very welcome! Happy New Year.

  2. LittleFfarm Dairy

    Dear Fiona & Danny, here’s wishing you a fruitful & peaceful New Year – may it be filled with light, health & happiness. We look forward to reading another year’s adventures! Love & Best Wishes from Jo, Tony & all the “Funny Ffarm” Madcap Menagerie. xx

  3. Just wanted to wish all at cottage smallholderland a very happy 2011. Having very recently discovered your your site,I have quickly become an addict! I am thoroughly enjoying your thoughtful musings, good humoured anecdotes and all the tips I am picking up to enhance our own lives. I have been interested in permaculture for a few years now. I started by reading the excellent Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway and it was encouraging to find out how far along the path we had already come. I am now looking forward to following more of the adventures of you and Danny and your menagerie over the year ahead! May 2011 bring you all you hope and wish for xx

  4. Happy New Year to you both, I found your blog when looking for a recipe for elderberry cordial, which I made very sucessfully and still have a small supply of. Have subsequently made other jam/jelly as per your suggestions which I have thoroughly enjoyed. I love hearing about your ideas and seeing them come into being, and wish you the very best for 2011. Keep being an inspiration to us all …

  5. Happy New Year Fiona! I am hoping that this comment will post at long last.

    Enjoyed your retrospection, and guess that it would be a good thing for me to do as well, considering. Andrew has me interested- a whole 25%?! Not that our electrical bill is so awful, but that would be a sweet piece of change to save! I am always in favor of anything that adds to the beer fund…

    What kind of roof do you have? You might also think about capturing rain water for two reasons: one is the obvious savings of money that you don’t spend on municipally provided water, but the other is storm water management. As weather the world over gets whackier and whackier, storm water management will get more important. Rain water is also supposed to be the absolute best thing with which to wash your face and hair.

    I sincerely hope that 2011 turns out to be a banner year for you and Danny!

  6. Happy New Year Fiona and Danny, hope this next year brings as much joy as the last one. It is amazing what delights can be wrapped in poor packaging and so what seemed like a tough year was actually a year of discovery and joy for you.

  7. Mariam.

    So sorry Danny, just called you by another “D”, but the intention remains, do have an even better year in 2011 !

  8. Mariam.

    Dear Fiona, so glad you took time to look at the recent past and realize that so many GOOD things happened ! Happy healing indeed. HAve an even better year, Fiona and David, and may you always be able to see the silver lining…

  9. Ali at Very Berry

    I think it’s such a good idea to review the old year because it’s so helpful in planning the next (I’ve been doing it too over on my blog). Am fascinated by all your plans, and wish you luck with your income streams… especially with your making, because that is something close to my heart too. Now I’m off to read about your halogen oven and solar tunnel. Thanks for always inspiring me with lots of ideas. Have a great 2011!!

  10. veronica

    Happy New Year Fiona and Danny! You have been incredibly industrious — I am really impressed at what you’ve managed to achieve in 2010. Here’s wishing you an even more industrious and prosperous 2011 — you both deserve it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.

2,254,426 Spambots Blocked by Simple Comments

Copyright © 2006-2023 Cottage Smallholder      Our Privacy Policy      Advertise on Cottage Smallholder

Skip to toolbar