The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

This past year


Photo: Flowers I picked this morning from the garden

Photo: Flowers I picked this morning from the garden

Three years ago when I explained my first “save money blog challenge” to my mum – not to buy cut flowers for a year – her response was immediate.
“But this is terrible. You love flowers. Why would you want to stop buying them?”
This was the toughest challenge. Far harder than cutting our weekly shopping bills by 50%.

I did plant extra perennials in the garden and gradually came to love the gentle look of these. Home grown flowers have far more life and charm than the rather stiff offerings from florists and supermarkets. In fact the challenge has continued and I have not bought cut flowers for myself for over three years now.

I had no idea that within a few years I would be growing my own flowers to sell. Now I have enough flowers to feed my passion and share with others too.

July 14th 2010 marked a whole year off work. What a year it has been. Frightening, especially in the early months, when I didn’t know what was wrong with me.  Until my doctor discovered after a couple of months in that I had a severe kidney infection, I suspected that I was suffering from a much more serious condition. And when the infection finally cleared up why was I still feeling so ill?

And I still don’t really know what is wrong exactly. Chronic fatigue syndrome/ME loosely describes the condition. My neurologist reckons that stress was a key factor in developing this. Before I fell ill I was not handling stress well, everything had got out of sync. Life had become a struggle. I was running with The Red Queen
“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”
“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”
Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
I was lucky, for years I had been collecting things. These were a sort of insurance policy that I hoped that I’d never have to cash in. I was able to sell some of these possessions to keep going financially. I remember that my voice wobbled when I first suggested this to my friend – Martin Beazor a local antiques dealer. I didn’t want to let these things go. But strangely I hardly miss them at all.  If you swap inanimate objects for time and freedom there are no regrets.

Time to think, drift, plan and sleep. Looking back I needed this phase to repair and rebuild the sort of life that regenerates itself rather than one that whips along to a place of burn out. I already feel more confident and balanced. I now have time to stop and stare. After all the heartache and frustration, writing this post today I suddenly realised that this past year has been a precious gift that few are given. An enforced break may not be as limiting as it first appears.

A key goal is setting up different streams of income to replace my old earnings. Each step forward is towards a much more rounded way of life. I strongly believe that this is possible although sometimes it seems tantalisingly out of reach and I still have a long way to go.

My life saver has been writing this blog. It has been a focus for each day – a still stretch of water in a choppy sea. Here I have found friends, ideas and encouragement that make me realise that even though I might spend hours in bed dozing with just the Min Pins for company, I am still part of a vibrant community.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Your support has helped keep me keep going this past year and spurred me on to rebuild my life.

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  1. claire

    God love you Fiona – thank YOU for writing your lovely blog.
    Your posts are always inspirational, even when not intending to be because they are just honest. That’s about as inspirational as you can get in this day and age – in my opinion!
    I’m glad that you are getting better and hope your recovery continues nicely. Sending you lots of luck for the future, love Claire x

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