Ever dreamed of living ‘The Good Life’? Here’s a selection of smallholders who’re doing just that – and even better, they’re blogging about it.
So don’t worry if you can’t afford to take the leap from your desk job to becoming a son or daughter of the soil, there’s more than enough here to keep the dream alive.
Living as self-sufficiently as possible – isn’t that what smallholdings are all about? Kev Alviti, carpenter by trade, smallholder by nature, shares his experiences of living a traditional way of life steeped in nature and family values.
Kev’s blog is full of great ideas and tips. Ever considered making all your veg beds the same size? In his post ‘Row cover chicken run', Kev extols the virtues of interchangeable matting and frames, and even creates a mini chicken coop that he rotates from bed to bed. Genius.
By tapping into the barter revival that’s springing up all over the UK, Gill, at Frugal in Derbyshire, shows how life as a smallholder often goes hand in hand with learning to be frugal.
In her post, The Apple Mountain Gill blogs about bartering with a local brewer by swapping apples for beer, and exchanging pallets and pheasants for her Godson’s marmalade and fish.
With its focus on family and community, Gill’s blog makes for a warm and honest read about the things that matter to all smallholders: food, livestock, family, neighbours and nature.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to take up smallholding, Liz’s blog has the insights you’re looking for. It’s just over a year since she and her partner, moved to a smallholding in Monmouthshire, and through her blog, she shares the trials and tribulations of ther new life in the countryside.
LIz would the first to admit it’s been a year full of highs and lows; learning to pluck and prepare a duck for the first time was an adventure with delicious results. But then came the enforcement of bird flu prevention zones, which meant her flocks needed to be confined to quarters.
“What a headache,” Liz thought, worried that her chickens wouldn’t be happy. Luckily, she had a lightbulb moment - why not turn her ‘garden room’ into a refuge…
Who knew that making home-cured bacon could get you arrested? It turns out that the recipe includes saltpetre – also a key ingredient of gunpowder. Part-time smallholders, Matt and Gillian’s top tip: Search for ‘food grade’ saltpetre, and you shouldn’t have any trouble.
You’ll discover plenty of practical smallholding tips on this wonderfully informative blog. As well as rearing pigs, lambs and poultry, the industrious duo also do a bit of beekeeping, grow lots of their own fruit and veg, and still find time to conjure up mouth-watering goodies like Courgette and pistachio cake and Elderflower Champagne.
The Chadfield family’s big move to a smallholding two years ago was their shot at the good life, an opportunity to change “from street house to small holding, fast food to self sufficiency, shop bought to homemade.”
Their blog records their adventures as they find practical solutions to everyday problems like how to go about plucking a chicken. The Croods solution: hang the dispatched bird from the barn roof and pluck it in situ.
Still keeping things simple, when DEFRA decreed that poultry needed to be kept indoors, away from wild birds, to prevent the spread of bird flu, the family just put their chickens in the barn with the horses. Clever Chadfields.
Smallholding isn’t ‘The Good Life’, it’s real life, Beth writes. Her land is mostly culm grassland, which means it’s most suitable for rearing livestock for the table.
Does the thought of eating your own animals make you uneasy? Read Beth’s post, Why killing is kindness: my decision. She says: “Killing animals isn’t fun, and nor should it EVER be, but if it means being in touch with our food then it’s the right choice for me.”
Beth, who co-manages Coope Care Farm, believes that working on the land can be an excellent form of Occupational Therapy.
She invites marginalised adults from the local community to come and help out saying: “Occupational Therapy is all about the therapeutic use of meaningful activity.” We’re sure you’ll agree that few things could be more therapeutic than helping out on a family run smallholding.
Do you believe that we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes? Richard does, which is why he blogs about experiences like attempting TB tests on his cows (failed because those particular beasts are “able to spot a vet at 50 paces”) and having AI carried out on his sows (succeeded on one sow and failed on the other).
Richard views his blog as being a record of his progress that should, in the future, help to remind him of where he started from – with 15 acres of land, three small vegetable beds, and some big ideas.
When, in December 2006, blogger Lucy Debenham brought home four ex-battery hens, it turned out to be a small act of kindness that was to change her life.
It set Lucy and her partner, Rich, on the path that led to them taking on a disused plot of land next to her house and turning it into the smallest smallholding. Through her blog, Lucy sets out to prove that everybody can enjoy a taste ‘The Good Life’, without having to sacrifice other pleasures like makeup and fashion.
BBC Countryfile made Lucy Debenham’s The Smallest Smallholding its Blog of the Month in March 2009, describing it as “engaging, informal and inspiring”.
If you’ve ever wondered what life might be like living on a smallholding in the wilds of deepest darkest Kinross-shire, then this blog is for you.
As well as writing about her smallholding, Square Sparrow shares anecdotes about life in Scotland, from tramping the Fife coastal path and supping delicious hot chocolate in East Neuk, to listening to the poignant sound of lone piper playing from the turret of the castle at the close of the Edinburgh Tattoo.
Check out Square Sparrow’s post about her husband, HunterGatherer’s fencing exploits. We think you’ll agree, the photography is awesome.
There’s a warm welcome for anybody wanting to pop down and hang out with the animals at Steve and Matt’s 2 acre smallholding in the West Midlands – just contact them first to let them know you’re coming.
In addition to their pet springer spaniels, Bracon and Rosie, the guys keep bees, ducks, geese, chickens and goats, and have even bred quails. If calling by in person isn’t possible, Steve is a keen photographer and the blog contains an impressive photographic record of their animal adventures. Check out this image of a very, very cute freshly hatched duckling.
As well as blogging about life on their smallholding, Steve and Matt love to travel, and share some wonderful photographs of their journeys throughout Europe. Ooh la la.
Ever wondered what to do about a red spider mite infection in your polytunnel? It’s all about keeping the soil moist and the air humid, says John, who blogs about the life he shares with his wife Sue, farming their smallholding on the Lincolnshire Fens.
John’s blog is full of snippets of useful information and advice. Is your land overrun by nettles? Then why not put them to good use? John offers up four carefully selected recipes to help you do just that: Garlicky Nettle Pesto, Nettle Gnocchi, Nettle Bread and Sweet Potato and Nettle Soup – tasty dishes that won’t sting your wallet.
A small holder who loves to cook, in 2015, Katy’s fabulous homegrown food caught the attention of Mel and Sue of GBBO fame. She soon found herself presenting one of her dishes on TV – rabbit nuggets with a tasty tomato ragu with garlic potatoes. Looks delicious.
Katy has won three blog awards to date: the Sew White Favourite Blog Award, the Very Inspiring Blogger Award, and the One Lovely Blog Award.
Foodies will love this blog. Katy shares some fantastic recipes that we can’t wait to try out, like this yummy sounding Gooseberry Chocolate Cake. Katy certainly does seem to be living the good life.
Have you ever fantasised about walking away from your desk job to live the dream in a countryside idyll, but deep down known that you simply can’t afford to break free?
Bonnie got around that problem by building the dream while still chained to her desk paying off her mortgage.
But it’s all worth it. Bonnie’s blog is full of the joy that living as a part-time smallholder has brought her – from helping her chickens enjoy their dust bathing, and making her own sourdough bread, to the the joy of foraging for free food just as our ancestors did.
Lead image: Africa Studio/Shutterstock