The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Yesterday marked six months of being laid up


Photo: Log fire

Photo: Log fire

It’s been a strange life changing experience. My life was always a rush in the past. It was busy, stressful with very little time to pause and think. I was happy but, looking back now, I realise that I wasn’t content. I was running too hard to keep up.

And keep up with what? I have no idea when I think about it. All I can remember is the pressure.

There are new pressures now. Finding ways of making a living from home is the main one. I had no idea when I doubled the size of the kitchen garden slowly over last summer that I would be planning to sell organic vegetables on our garden gate stand. This isn’t happening just yet but I sowed some strawberry and tomato seeds in my heated propagator yesterday.

The little stand is a great way of testing out the “gateside” market with minimal investment – the run up to Christmas was good. Now it brings in a few quid, mainly at the weekends. I have bought some blank cards to make into Valentine’s and Easter cards for the stand. I’m also making flavoured vinegars – orange and raspberry.

All your ideas, suggestions and support have been brilliant. In fact, writing this blog has kept me sane these past six months. It was easy to find things to write about when I was out and about doing decorating as my environment was changing all the time. Now it’s not so easy but I’m living a simple life, which is what I’ve always wanted to do. Through this simplicity my horizons are expanding rapidly. I now have time to study and research and really explore the world from the confines of my bed.

We have sold a few things to keep going. It was sad to see them go until I realised that they were buying us time.  And time is far more precious than possessions.

I have no idea when I will be 100% fit again but I realise that these last six months have been valuable, as I have been able to set my life to sail in the direction that I choose rather than finding myself bobbing about in a boat without a paddle. Without realising it, I used to allow life to run me. Now I’m at the start of a really big adventure.

  Leave a reply


  1. And your blog has kept me sane too! Not just what you write, but also the comments from your readers. (I’m off to check out Penny’s suggestions.) Hope you get better soon.

  2. What a wonderfully encouraging blog, Fiona, thank you so much. I suppose mail order is not really a possibility? (hopeful smiles).

  3. From my own experience Fiona I can extend my sympathy to you in your current situation.
    The world does not take any notice of people who are not running in the main stream. I have had to accept the real grief which comes with the loss of efficacy, status and financial independence let alone physical vulnerability and social isolation due to illness.
    I tried alternatives in the early days but eventually we had to turn to social welfare support as the wolf had his head in the cat door. Lack of money can cause stress upon stress and a feel of real helplessness.
    I was then fortunate to inherit enough to turn things around but I had been ground down very fine.
    I am sure you have bad days particularly because you don’t know when the ship may right itself.
    It is really putting one foot in front of the other with hope isn’t it?

  4. Rosemary Dempster

    I am so sorry you are still laid up. Your blog brings so much enjoyment to so many people. Money is convenient, but is not everything. You have something that is priceless

  5. elrohana

    Wow, six months? It seems like five minutes, but the way my life has been in that time (i.e. incredibly hectic) I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Having slowed down once myself due to a mystery illness, and then sped up again when it vanished just as mysteriously, I strongly urge you to stick in the slow lane if you can. I didn’t, and some days I can see that in my face. Get well soon, but keep that peace you have found, and don;t swap it for money.

  6. Hello Fiona

    When you say you don’t do as much as you used to do, please don’t under-estimate all the pleasure you bring to others! Like many other of your ‘followers’ you give me such wonderful information and you inspire me to try things I had not previously thought of doing. So a big THANK YOU from me, and I truly wish you a speedy recovery.


  7. Your first paragraph could have been describing me – it was almost eery reading it! I had to give up a much-loved but terribly stressful job five years ago. I didn’t know how I was going to cope – in terms of money, self esteem, sense of purpose … It took quite a while but the turning point for me was getting an allotment. It opened my eyes to new possibilities. Now I still miss my job, but I wouldn’t want to plunge myself back into that lifestyle even if I could. For me, the illness that was initially so devastating became the catalyst for embarking on a new life. It was liberating. I hope this is true for you too.

    P.S. You have inspired me to buy a slow cooker!

  8. Toffeeapple

    Is it really that long? Goodness, I do hope you are on the road to recovery and that your income will soon be boosted by the projects that you have in mind.

  9. Hello Fiona,

    Thank you for today’s apposite post. I have been following your blog for about six months now, it’s my treat every lunchtime, when I grab something to eat at work and draw breath for five minutes. I suspect that I am not alone in reading it because secretly I want to stop the world and get off and do some of the things I am really much more interested in. Although it’s not nice to be ill,and for such a long time,I guess you’ve had a good chance to reflect and take stock, not something many of us actually do. You might be interested in a book I saw mentioned on another blog I follow – Hannah’s Country Kitchen. Hannah is a lawyer and country cook, and reached the final of Masterchef in 2007.She combines all this through her blog. The book is called ‘And what do you do – 10 steps to creating a portfolio career’ by Katie Ledger. I think this is what you have Fiona – a range of income generating activities, with your Blog building your brand. Maybe you’ll have to expand the Cottage Smallholder concept with a recipe book and mail order, taking the gate stand to a broader audience.

    Thank you anyway for keeping me entertained, and for providing such wonderfully inspiring recipes. My husband Dermot is very appreciative!

  10. I admire you Fiona for finding the peace in this time. May the horizons indeed open up to you

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