The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

The First Cottage Smallholder Party 2011. Official unexpurged report

Ruth (Ruthdigs) enjoying a glass of sloe gin

Ruth (Ruthdigs) enjoying a glass of sloe gin

A party is a bit like a garden. You plan and dream but can never know exactly how it will turn out. Both will develop a life of their own.

Organising a party where most of the guests had never met before was a first for Danny and me. Most of these party goers had chatted on the CSH forum and/or had read the blog. So contact had been made in the virtual world, friendships forged and developed. But what would happen when everyone met in the real world?

And what would they think of us? The cottage and garden – a bit scruffy although we like to think of it as relaxed. Would the Min Pins escape through the front door or develop sore throats through endless yapping? And how about the problem of no hot water – all my attempts to fix this had failed to date.

There was no need to fret. Although the organisation was somewhat haphazard, the party was a success – everyone had interests in common and it was fun. The only being to fall in the pond (twice) was Heather’s dog Sally. MOS and Heather saved the day and filled in the vast gaps in the organisation that Danny and I had failed to spot. The cottage and garden were filled with laughter. The Min Pins avoided being stepped on and my one regret was that I would have loved to sit and talk to each guest for hours. The conversations that I did have were tantalisingly short.

Just a sample of the cakes

Just a sample of the cakes

Everyone was so generous with their presents of food and drink. We sampled award winning pork pies, regional wine, beer and cheese. Quiches, steaks, lamb burgers. Black and white puddings from Scotland, Ireland and Yorkshire. Cornish fairings, fudge, brownies, cucumbers, lettuce, mini fruit pies and enough cakes to fill a shop. The star cake was a Cottage Smallholder fantasy creation made by Heather – featuring the poly tunnel, bijou chicken hut and Danny wheeling a wheelbarrow (I told you that it was fantasy) filled with garden produce. Celia filmed The Grand Ceremony of The Cutting of The Cake and Danny provided the musical accompaniment.

Simon (Sumprat)

Simon (Sumprat)

Simon (Sumprat) demonstrated the gentle art of home smoking – hot and cold. With a home built smoker and a rather swish hot smoker. Smoking nuts, chillies, garlic, freshly caught mackerel and mushrooms. Being a bit of a hot chilli aficionado he brought a range of brain zinging sauces and his own recipe super hot chilli sauce. Which was proffered to the brave on the tip of a matchstick. Unfortunately one feckless party goer poured some killer sauce over her chicken wing and had to be revived with milk and yoghurt.

Danuta (Danast) had travelled down from Scotland, Ruth (Ruthdigs) and The Chap drove from Exeter via Reading – home of Simon (Sumprat). Roy (Seth) and Jean (Gottaknit) came from Lincolnshire. Audrey (originally from South Africa) and her daughter Lesley came from London and walked from Ashley. Janet (Terrier) and Judith motored down from York. MOS, Heather and shaggy ball loving dog Sally came from the Midlands. Martin (Liquineer) arrived from Worlington.

Celia with handy ladder in the background

Celia with handy ladder in the background

Celia (Magic Cochin) drove from the Cochinery – just 20 minutes away and was followed by the famed walker Cliff. Lynne, Brent, Frieda, TCL and S came from Cheveley. Sharon, Dave, young Coco and Scarlett the dog came from a village nearby. Chris (Paperman) and Anne travelled from Suffolk and Kent. And Veronica travelled all the way from France and a village near Carcassonne.

The extended party started with supper on Friday night for the people who were making a weekend of it. Cooked by Danny – slow baked goat’s cheese with a sprinkle of chopped walnuts and raspberry vinegar and honey sauce, followed by roast chicken and trimmings, roasted vegetables and new potatoes. Pudding was a pineapple and melon salad with kirsch and ginger.  This was washed down with my favourite wine of all time – Fleurie – generously donated to the cause by Chris.

On Saturday morning, whilst Chris, Anne and Danuta feasted at Anne Mary’s B&B, MOS, Heather, Danny and I settled down to a chic breakfast of warm brioche. Heather had found this at Tesco and it was excellent. An altercation under the table the night before had left Sally and Inca in non speaking mode.

Lesley and Roy (Seth)

Lesley and Roy (Seth)

The big event started at one pm. The Min Pins heralding each arrival with a peal of yaps. It was so good to match names with faces. Everyone was surprised how small the Min Pins are in real life but realised that this was a bonus when Dr Quito was passed from lap to lap when the weather turned a bit chilly.

The barbecue was a touch, feel and smell event as the wind blew out all the tea lights. The brazier that we had lit with damp logs guaranteed that everyone’s clothes were impregnated with the soft rich smell of wood smoke and even the non smokers developed significant coughs. Spectacular events were hand lit with torches and mobile phones.

At midnight we all drifted off to bed – in B&Bs, tents and vans. Unfortunately a rather wild party in the village kept us all awake till dawn.

The next morning feasting started early – with the 10 staunch remaining party people. Danny was chirpy at the grill, cooking the entries to the Best Taste Black and White Pudding event. The Black Puddings won – happily Irish and Scottish tied for first place so potential tears and huffs were avoided.

Janet (Terrier)hugging her camera

Janet (Terrier)hugging her camera

Janet (Terrier) confirmed that the Yorkshire black pudding was not the Real One so was out of the challenge.This was followed by the dividing up of the spoils from the day before – Magic Cochin’s chilli plants and Seth’s seeds were snapped up eagerly and cars loaded with cakes and treats.

We drove Danuta to Newmarket at 11 am and returned home to quaff a glass or five of Veronica’s exceptional rosé wine in the brilliant sunshine before climbing the stairs to sleep for a few hours.

Today I realised what a tonic the party was for us both. Please come back next year!

N.B. Our camera only takes a handful of photographs at one time – these shots are Danny’s contribution. I have video to be edited and there will be loads more photos from other party goers. If you have photos and are not a forum member you can email them to me – fionaATcottagesmallholderDOTcom. My plan is to make a video with stills and moving images.


  Leave a reply


  1. Hey, I am just scanning through, as you do and came across this. Fiona what great time we had, outside right now is snow and cold, inside it is warm and I am just thinking over a super summer weekend we spent near Newmarket last year, are we half way there to the next one yet please ??

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Chris

      Yes we’ll definitely have a party this summer. I think that Danny has announced the date on the forum. He’s gone out to Tesco so I’ll ask him on his return.

  2. Jacqui

    Sounds wonderful fun!! So wish I’d been there. If (when?) you hold another I’d love to go, we’re only down the road in Beds.

  3. Ruthdigs

    You better believe it!! 😀 Especially if MOS brings some more of his sloe gin. That was seriously good. Thanks again. xxx

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Thank you everyone for your comments! The party was fun and a real fillip for us both.

    We will definitely be having a party next year and will provide complimentary earplugs to those who camp in the garden (church clock and wildlife make quite a racket here!).

    I do hope that everyone who couldn’t make it to this party will be able to come next year. And of course all those that did make it will return.

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