Making a comfortable living from a small piece of land

As the word smallholding implies, we do what we do to support our family through a combination of cash crops and subsistence farming. We do all the work ourselves between the jigs and reels of raising a family and various other obligations and distractions. There’s no design laid out before us. Instead, season to season over the past several years we figure bits out and do it, always incorporating two essential qualities. The first and most important for us is to provide food for our family. The second is to do so while designing a modest, simple and functional area where others can discover that it’s possible to create their own supermarket on just one acre. We may not be making our entire income from it yet, but day by day and year to year we get that much closer.


Three new outside beds were added to the garden in the last week. All three are at the north end of the polytunnel, one is actually an addition to the artichoke bed. We also divided the artichoke plants to double the amount we now have and there’s still room for plenty more.

At the southern end of the tunnel, the path project is progressing nicely. Johnny removed the soil down to the stone earth below and then sifted it. The stones were put back into the path and the cleaned soil was then used to fill new beds. Flowers and mint are beginning to line the left edge below the high wall. There’s still more to do on the path but the toughest part is done.

Below are the seeds sown this week and although peppers don’t do great without lots of sun and heat, we’ve chosen seven different varieties. Several of them belong to the lad who loaned us his grow tent and, yes, of course I sowed extra for ourselves. One of the types is called ‘king of the north’, and as the name implies, it’s claim to fame is that it does well in cooler northern climates. Here’s hoping they live up to that promise. Also, a few tomatillos and some melons were sown. The melons have already germinated, taking only four days to do so.

Courgettes are another seed that germinates quickly and the ones sown at January’s end have already been potted up. I planted two in the polytunnel under water bottle cloches and two into six inch pots which I then put back into the heated grow tent. The early lettuces are coming along nicely in the tent also. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that they’ll be ready for selling in April, six weeks earlier than the Irish weather has made possible in past years.

That’s all for now. I’ll be spending a good portion of the next gardening week cleaning. Both the polytunnel and plant pots need scrubbing and several herb and flower beds are now ready to be trimmed and tidied before regrowth begins.

Enjoy the final days of February everyone! Melissa Xx


“The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land.”

— Abraham Lincoln



  1. My grandparents grew enough vegetables and raised their own meat to last an entire year. I think it is harder today to do that with all the weather and pest issues we deal with as gardeners. Applause to you and your family for your efforts toward ‘supermarket’ status. 🙂 We use clear bottles as cloches as well. I think I also see aluminum foil around the seed trays in the last photo. We use the silver $4 emergency blankets that runners use or you carry in your car to cover shelving units to keep the light and heat in. Good luck with your early preparations. 🙂


    • Judy, I was wishing for those emergency blankets when setting it up. The entire tent is foil lined by the manufacturer but I put additional underneath in hopes to protect it from water running through the pots.
      The cloches are great. We also flip them over and use them as waterers for individual plants, slow drip like.
      The weather has been appalling for the last week and the ground is saturated. Can’t lift the soil, not that we’d be working in the pouring rain anyway. Good to catch up on office and kitchen things. Hope you have a nice weekend and making it home safely. I look forward to seeing your own garden posts soon. Melissa

      Liked by 1 person

  2. King Of The North is a pepper I grow every year, it’s a good one! Another 3 weeks before things start hopping here…in the greenhouse or otherwise. This is the year we switch out the plastic on the hoop houses ( the green house another two years from now). I think I have your email , has some questions about heaters…Sally researching for the farm there. The path looks awesome…tons of work, you guys are champions of hard work!Bravo!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well that is encouraging news about the King of the North peppers. I purchased them from Baker Heirloom seeds with a Ukraine friend who lives here also.
      That is no small undertaking, the switching of the plastic, but such a great feeling when it is finished…like a fresh coat of paint on a house, or getting all the windows washed (including the hard to reach upstairs ones!)
      We don’t heat our tunnel, if that is what you are referring to. Or perhaps you meant the grow tent? Either way, my email is Hope you are enjoying a happy Friday. Talk soon Denise. Xx


  3. pamela mills says:

    I really admire what you are doing and wish I could do the same.I spin and dye and weave from fleeces and teach when I am able.I love the whole process and the fact that the yarn I am working with is made by me and not bought.I have one angora bunnie and use her fur to. Are you able to do anything like that? Making your own clothes has become popular again thank goodness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ditto that admiration! I would really enjoy knowing the skill of making my own fibers. My husband Johnny’s family were weavers but sadly there are none left alive who do it and his generation turned to fishing so none have acquired the skill. I thought to learn when we first moved here, but my talent (and expensive equipment) was already invested in seamstressing. If you don’t mind sharing, where are you located?


  4. Brenda says:

    Your path looks wonderful. Isn’t early planting time fun? So full of hope. Like Denise, I had great success with King of the North peppers last year. All my peppers did splendidly, actually, after a very, very slow start. Do you get any seeds from Fedco here in Maine, Melissa? Most of their selection is geared toward northern climes and they are a fantastic c-oop. Their seed germination rate is the best I have ever had and their prices are incredibly reasonable. I love your little cloches. I have taken to planting all my seedling starts in gallon plastic water bottles. Cut through the middle and the bottom makes a seed try and the top a cloche. Works beautifully. Happy spring!

    Liked by 1 person

    • So much useful information in your comment Brenda. I’m familiar with but haven’t ordered from Fedco. Must will look into it immediately! What a great review for them you’ve given me. And your tip on making seed trays is just brilliant and another must try. I do love the early planting. Fingers crossed our rain takes a break soon. Just a little sunshine is all I’m wanting.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. josypheen says:

    This is all so impressive! You are a gardening superstar!

    Although that is a lots of hard work for a chilly time of year. I hope it was worth it and that you have an amazing harvest soon!!

    Liked by 1 person


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