The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

It’s my seventh week off work. Discovering great blogs and dehydrators.

Photo: Chic brunch

Photo: Chic brunch

I’ve been put on a two week course of antibiotics as the last course didn’t clear the kidney infection and I’ve finally been referred for a scan. Still in bed for most of the day, feeling peaky. I do get up in the afternoons and potter about.

So I’ve had the chance to do much more harvesting this year. I’ve developed a new plum chutney recipe, a good mango chutney and a tasty chow-chow (piccalilli). The recipes for the last two will appear on the site shortly.

Being home alone has meant that I have been visiting more sites and discovering some real gems. It also means that I can eat a chic brunch in the garden while I catch up with blogland.

I have been inspired and intrigued by the Starving off the Land 2009 challenge. Tamar’s plan of trying to eat something every day that has been harvested, grown or hunted by her and her husband is charted so well on this witty and well written site. It encouraged me to adopt the same challenge. And that doesn’t mean just making gallons of sloe vodka to have a daily ‘homemade’ night cap – although the hard work that the challenge involves might have one lunging for a bottle at the end of a gruelling day.

Apart from making essential liqueurs to see us through the winter months, I’ve been bottling (canning) fruit madly. Lots of wild cherry plums, pears in lemon syrup, apple and blueberry, blackberry and apple and even a pineapple that was reduced to 30p. We have been snacking on the occasional tomato but yesterday I harvested our first full kilo and bottled them.

I love the idea of bottling and not using the freezer. Then I started to think of other ways of preserving fruit and vegetables. Hank over at Hunter Angler Gardener Cook had me licking my lips over his dried zucchini.  But we don’t have a sweltering garage and I didn’t want to waste fuel running the oven all night.

I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a food dehydrator for a few weeks now. They can be very expensive (up to £250!) but with one I could dry tomatoes, courgettes, rosehips for tea. I could make prunes from wild plums and raisins from our very own grapes. I could even make beef jerky, dry herbs, mushrooms and figs – the list goes on and on. Danny wasn’t so enthusiastic.

I’ve been following a charming blog called Chickens in the Road for a few weeks now. Yesterday she was canning, freezing and drying some of her harvest. Within minutes I was trawling the internet for a cheap dehydrator. Well my birthday is just days away. I found an inexpensive 
food dehydrator
 that has had some good reviews on the UK forums and I also discovered that Westfalia have a 10% off voucher code at the moment SAVE10. So the was just over £30 including shipping.

Yes Danny, I know that I didn’t mention this when you rang last night but it’s ordered now…

  Leave a reply


  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Michelle

    Thanks so much for your support! Preserving does give me a real kick ATM.

    Those plums sound awesome. Can’t wait for the dehydrator to arrive!

    Love to you and Zebbycat

    Hi Geodyne

    Although this is just a simple one (on or off) it seems to get the thumbs up from people on the gardening and budget forums. It’s also just 250watts so uses minimal power.

    As soon as I’ve put it through its paces, I’ll review it.

    Hi Pamela

    Thanks for those brilliant ideas. I love dried mango but the packs are so expensive. Thanks for the link to the candied peel recipe – looks fantastic.

    Hi Lynn D

    What a hoot! But the perfect environment on a sunny day.

    Hi Danny

    Dehydrated socks – yuk.

    Hello Pebbledash

    Biltong – yippee! Even D is smiling now.

    Hi Tamar

    Love your blog and your sense of fun.

    Hi Kathy

    Thanks for your good wishes 🙂

    Hi Ana

    Thanks for dropping by. Have a good weekend too.

  2. Ana Powell

    Hope you get better soon.
    Have a nice weekend x

  3. Just to say I wish you well, you sound cheerful…sure you will be better soon. At least you are not bored!

  4. Thanks for the kind words about Starving off the Land! And I must say that a sloe vodka cocktail every day sounds like an excellent way to meet the challenge. I’ve certainly had days when dandelion wine was the best I could do.

    The official rules state that bartered goods that have been grown or gathered by others count toward the challenge, so if I ever find myself across the pond I will most certainly bring you some smoked bluefish or dried boletes to get you off the bottle.

  5. Pebbledash

    I have some friends who dehydrate virtually everything to boost their supplies through winter – strawberries are delicious! And homemade biltong from local organic beef….

    Hope your energy returns soon…

  6. Hmmmmmmm. Well, OK I guess, so long as I can dry my socks overnight in it occasionally.

    Remind me again, Fiona . . . . when exactly is your birthday?

    Only joking, ladies.

  7. We get a weekly farm box from a local farmer here in Oregon. A recent newsletter from the farm suggested drying fruits and vegs in the car with rolled up windows on a sunny day!

  8. Couldn’t resist clicking on the link to see what you have ordered but now I’m wondering just how big that pineapple in the picture is? My friend in Canada borrowed a dehydrator from a friend one summer when I was staying with her to try it out. I chopped loads of garlic one morning to go in the machine. I think she ultimately decided that dehydrating wasn’t for her but it was the summer that she had the fruit steamer on the go most days making jellies and cordials for iced tea. Have you thought about making some crystalised fruit? I always associate it with Seychelles as we were given crystalised grapefruit when we were there when we were little at some friend of my grandmother’s. I loved it, it was offered as pamplemousse as I am sure I wouldn’t even have tried it had I known it was grapefruit. I also had crystalised papaya in Mauritius a few years ago. I saw this in August about making candied peel which you might like to look at

  9. I used to own a dehydrator and absolutely loved it. Unfortunately I had to leave it behind in an overseas move. Darned different international power standards!

    Please do let us know what you think of this one. If it’s any good, I’m going to jump and purchase one myself. The price certainly can’t be beat!

  10. Michelle in NZ

    Back when my Folks had a dehydrator and a couple of plum trees they used to dry out plum slices. Fiona – these are my favourite dried fruit, lovely to snack on and have a slightly tart zing. They moved away from this place 7 years ago and I’ve eaten all the supplies they’d made.

    Hope you feel more energetic soon. Even with mornings snozzling you are achieving huge amounts. I hope you have the chance to sit back and gleam as you survey all the preserves, all those jars of jewel coloured beauty.

    Care and healing huggles, Michelle and snoring Zebbycat, xxx

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