The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


front door and rosa BanksiaQuite often I sit at the kitchen table and think about the people that have sat in this room over the last 360 years. Until 25 years ago this was a small two bedroomed cottage with a couple of lean to barns each side. Probably in its infancy, our kitchen housed cattle and hens along with the humans.

Three hundred years ago, domestic livestock often shared the ground floor with the inhabitants of a cottage. Upstairs was the purely human realm, with a scatter of dogs and cats that crept up and were welcomed to warm cold feet on a chilly night. It’s likely that the cottagers living here tilled the fields that now host roads and houses in the village. Just the gardens hold a faint echo of what went before.

I don’t know when the lean to barns were built. The beams are not ancient. But could have replaced ones infested with woodworm. Like everyone that lives in a really old place, we coexist with woodworm. It’s difficult to keep on top of the problem. Sometimes I lie awake at night and think about them gradually chomping through the wood deep within the cottage walls. They outnumber us and fumigation just holds them at bay.

25 years ago the south facing barn was converted into a downstairs bathroom and the sitting room was extended. The Rat Room ranges above. A wonderful space that is mysteriously cushioned from the noise of the cottage. A big window, set into the roof overlooks the garden. Too high to observe anything but sky and the tops of trees when you are sitting at the desk beneath.

The room is like a tree house attached to the cottage. Accessed by a small door beside our bed, it’s like stepping into a different world. Large insects, that I’ve never seen on ground level, land on the window to rest. The same window opens the sound of rippling leaves. In spring these leaves are full of birds and nests and the excitement of a fresh beginning.

It’s our cottage but we are only the keepers, like the long line of people who lived here before us. Babies were born here, cows calved inches from where I sit now and occasionally someone didn’t wake in a bed upstairs.

  Leave a reply


  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Stephen

    It’s a lovely space – easy to write about.

    Thanks for dropping by.

    Hi Kate(uk)

    You are so right, it’s the earth that matters!

    Hi Sally

    There is something nurturing about our cottage. As D says, “It looks after us.”

    Hi Jules

    Over the last 230 years your cottage must have soaked up loads of stuff. It’s interesting living in an old place, it gives loads of perspective.

  2. Your cottage sounds wonderful.

    Our cottage is about 230 years old and was originally built for mill workers. Sometimes I wonder about the people who have lived here and the things our house must have seen.

  3. Yes, it is a lovely entry.

    I also skipped to your link with the Rat Room. Everyone should have a retreat like that.

  4. Kate(uk)

    Not sure I would want to live in a brand new house:best thing we have found so far in this house, the flint tools and arrowheads that turn up in the garden. The house is young,only 70, but the site is not.

  5. stephen

    Lovley entry into an already wonderfully written blog. Beautiful picture as well…. and yes i am thoroughly jealous of your picturesque cottage lol 🙂

Leave a Reply

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

HTML tags are not allowed.

2,266,211 Spambots Blocked by Simple Comments

Copyright © 2006-2024 Cottage Smallholder      Our Privacy Policy      Advertise on Cottage Smallholder

Skip to toolbar