The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

It’s the little things that make the difference

Honesty - white Lunaria odorata

Photo: Honesty - white Lunaria odorata

I don’t often write much about the little things that give me pleasure. They initially seem too insignificant to merit a blog post but these small, precious moments buoy me up. I return to the experience during the day and often for many days afterwards.

A couple of days ago I saw a Mistle Thrush pair resting on a pile of timber in the front garden. The husband calling voraciously, chest puffed out – a real swell of a male. His wife was demure, slimmer and looking much gentler. Watching her mate.

They suddenly flew up to their nest above our kitchen window. What joy – I might see Mistle Thrush young this summer.

The Mistle Thrush is not a rare bird in the UK. There are loads of them in our garden. I love watching them. They are beautifully marked with tiny white dots on the chest. I’ve never spotted an obvious pair so that morning was very special for me.

I didn’t grow up learning the varieties of trees or birds or flowers – they just were not in my frame of reference. I do know where to go if I need help or information – a quick visit to Celia of Purple Podded Peas fame will quickly, tactfully set me on the right path. She doesn’t boast or make people feel small. Celia shares and empowers without a qualm.

When I moved here 21 years ago I gradually got into the natural world that I discovered in the cottage garden. I didn’t steep myself in knowledge, preferring to just look. It was a slow process of letting go and welcoming the life that I found around me. This wildlife came independently and it’s treasured just for that. Apart from planting hedges and making a big pond I did very little to attract more to our garden.

In a way I count myself lucky. The twist of a newt found under a stone, the steady progress of a water boatman across the pond, the fact that goldfish have successfully spawned all fill me with pleasure and awe.

Whatever is happening in my life there is a far more complex, amazing and multi layered world just a few inches away from my doorstep. All I have to do is stand still, open my eyes, focus and look.


  Leave a reply


  1. Susan@Holly Grove

    Agreed, agreed, agreed! I was out in the garden in my PJs this morning taking a photo of the soft sage green unfurling leaves of our little whitebeam – life affirming!

  2. cathy

    loved this post, fiona. felt kinship.

  3. Chris Grogan

    My neighbours were cat lovers and as a consequence we’ve never had many birds in our garden – only the thuggish magpies who enjoyed taunting the felines. In the 5 weeks since they and the cats left we’ve acquired a whole new world of feathered visitors. This morning I spent an hour watching a blue tit hop round and round an old mirror trying to catch the bird behind the glass. Hilarious.

  4. casalba

    One of my joys was the return of the house martins every spring. This year they didn’t come – I saw them at a neghbour’s house a week ago and wondered why they hadn’t chosen us this year – until yesterday – when one started dipping in and out under the eaves – oh joy! At least we’ll have one nest and maybe more will join. (We had a very bad winter and it did cross my mind that they took one look at the damage done to last year’s nests and just thought it wasn’t worth the effort.)

    I would absolutely love a pond, but unfortunately they attract mosquitos, which is a no-no here in summer.

  5. Veronica

    I joined blipfoto in January. The idea is simply to take and post a photo every day. It’s amazing how this makes you notice every little thing around you. Working from home, I don’t generally go very far, but it forces me to take a walk around every day and just notice everyday things.

  6. KateUK

    I passed some deep purple honesty in a hedgerow this afternoon- gorgeous!

  7. Some people go through life never noticing what is going on in the natural world around them. Gardening and noticing nature around us go hand in hand, you see more, appreciate the seasons, and feel as one with the world. I feed a busy blackbird mum a few times a day. She’s on a nest right now and looking a little scraggy from toing and froing with worms to her babies. She flies to the edge of the patio as soon as I appear at the back door and has a few choice raisins, before flying off again, back to her busy life. She has also invited her ‘husband’. He’s not quite so tame. Last year (and it’s behaviour leads me to believe it is the same bird) I could sit on my bench reading a book, with the raisins lined up on the arm of the chair and it would fly down and take them, one by one. I can’t tell you how exhilarated this made me feel, and now I’m waiting for the house martins to arrive.. usually the weekend after my daughters birthday, which is today. My red mason bees hatched out on Monday in all that lovely sunshsine and me and my kids have marvelled at them, and peek at them as they are now hiding back in there little cells for shelter in the evenings. You can just see their little faces looking out! I look forward to summer to hear the invisible skylarks twittering their unmistakeable tunes. The changing of the seasons, the inevitability of it all seems monotonous to some, but for me, it brings and inner contentment and i just can’t wait for the treasure that each new week brings! I feel sad for those who don’t take time to “stop and stare” as they miss out on so much of the worlds natural beauty… it puts so much into perspective, and yes!, Mandi, makes the big things seem very small. Glass half full I think it’s called.. life?.. I love it!

  8. mandi

    Since we got our 2 ducks jemima and daphne last Nov every morning when I marched across to their pen to change their mini ponds and clean out their house I started to notice a robin in the apple tree close by. Through the cold of winter and over the xmas and then during the period of snow, the little robin tuned into my footsteps on the gravel path leading to the pen and would be there sitting singing to me in the tree, and as a reward I would sprinkle a few of the ducks precious meal worms on top of their food cupboard as I left. As time went on the robin would come down from the tree and wait for me to be the other side of the pen, patiently sitting on a fence post waiting for the worms. Then I started tapping my finger nails on the top of the plastic box and he would hop along the posts stopping 1 post away waiting for me to back away. Now he sits on the food cupboard watches me moving about, eating his worms without a care in the world, sitting proudly and still whilst i photograph him with his red breast all plumped out showing off… its the little things isn’t it? That sometimes make the big things seem very small.

  9. I get an immense amount of pleasure out of watching the wildlife in my pond – how the tadpoles twist as they come to the surface to breathe/eat, because their mouths are underneath them, has kept me enthralled this week, so I understand exactly what you mean.

    It’s good to slow down and take pleasure in the little things around us 🙂

  10. Tanya @ Lovely Greens

    It’s the smaller things in life that make it more special…and personal. In a way this blog sums up those twenty-one years you’ve spent getting closer to the earth. Learning about and becoming sympathetic towards all of nature’s inhabitants. Thanks for sharing this moment with us.

    PS – the description of the pair as husband and wife made me smile 🙂

Leave a Reply

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

HTML tags are not allowed.

2,254,429 Spambots Blocked by Simple Comments

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

Skip to toolbar