The Accidental Smallholder began, well, by accident. I suppose I am “The Accidental Smallholder”, since it’s become my business, but there are many other people who have helped over the years, and continue to help.
The Accidental Smallholder website was established in 2003 as a web-log for our smallholding, with the aim of supporting and encouraging others interested in growing their own food and becoming more self sufficient generally. Since then, various articles have been added and in 2007, a forum was created to allow smallholders and like-minded folk to share knowledge, experience and comradeship.
We have been incredibly fortunate that the vast majority of those who have joined have subscribed to these aims and have helped many, many people – The Accidental Smallholder very much included.
The Accidental Smallholder is also a smallholding. We are based in Carnoustie, in the County of Angus, on the east coast of Scotland. We moved here in May 2010 and our diary gives some idea of the sort of work we’ve been doing here since.
We keep Coloured Ryeland sheep, Shetland cattle, laying hens, and table poultry. We are planning to get our first weaner pigs since 2009, early in 2012. In addition, like many smallholders, we have a few pets around the place, disguised as working animals - four dogs, three cats, a Highland pony and a Shetland pony.
In 2012, we will be running some short courses on various aspects of smallholding and we’re looking forward to that tremendously. Details will be published on the website as soon as they are available.
So who is the Accidental Smallholder?
Well, my name is Rosemary Champion. I was born and brought up in a small town in Central Scotland. I’m not from a farming background, but my paternal grandfather was a ploughman and my father was raised on a farm, my uncle was a shepherd and my maternal grandfather was a professional gardener, once employed at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh – so maybe it’s in the genes somewhere.
After failing to make the grade for vet school, I worked for a year on a dairy and pig farm, before going on to Edinburgh University to study for a BSc in Agriculture. During those four years, I worked my vacations on a mixed sheep and beef farm in beautiful North Northumberland. By the end of my second year of study, I had decided that this wasn’t the right course for me – I enjoyed working on farms, but not the academic side. After graduating, I was off to do other things – catering management, personnel and training management and finally into local government administration.
In 1994, I met Dan, now my wonderful other half, and in 1999, we dug up the front garden of our little semi and planted vegetables. Until then, I had never grown anything – in fact, I could kill spider plants. But, so it began. By accident.
In 1999, we bought two semi-derelict farm cottages with an acre of land – because we liked the view. Over the next ten years, we grew vegetables and fruit, bought our first laying hens and our first weaner pigs; acquired two dogs and a variety of cats; bought our first sheep. We cured bacon, made sausages (yum) and salami (yeuch), jams and chutneys and pickles. We had some wonderful successes and a few disappointments and failures. We shared much of this through the website’s diary.
In 2009, I took redundancy from the local council and at that point, TAS became my business rather than just a hobby, albeit a pretty time-consuming one. At this time, we felt we wanted more land, so bought Dalmore, our 12 acre holding in Angus. Our progress here to date is documented in the diary and in some forthcoming articles.
Our additional land has allowed us to fulfil a long-held (by me, at least) desire to have a small herd of cattle. In October 2010, we took delivery of two March born Shetland heifers. If all goes according to plan, we will have our own milk and dairy products in 2012 and our own beef sometime thereafter.
We’re still learning – and that’s part of the fun. And it is fun – maybe not so much when the ground’s thick with ice and I’m slithering around with water containers and bales of hay, but that’s all made up for and more when the sun comes out and the lambs are bouncing around the field or when I pull the first new carrots or pod fresh peas.
We’ve never aimed to be self-sufficient – we love John Seymour’s book but we don’t live by it. Like many people, we want to reduce the impact that we make on the Earth’s natural resources and live sustainably – but we won’t be giving up wine, bananas or chocolate because we can’t produce them here. We hope that you enjoy the site and learn something new or are encouraged to grow you own or make your own. We’re not doing anything new, either.
The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.
Ralph Waldo Emerson