Herne Cottage – A Self Sufficiency Lifestyle and Business
Moving to Pitstone from Watford and Slough 3 years ago has been a life changing experience for Rachel and Philip Toy. They met in 2003 at a local Chilterns based walking group and when Philip proposed in 2006 they instantly knew the Chilterns countryside was where they wanted to settle in their newly married life together. They soon found a lovely railway cottage with ample gardens in Pitstone which enabled them to start working on their long term dream of living a Self-Sufficiency lifestyle by growing their own food, raising chickens, learning crafts and perhaps even adding bees and a goat to the mix in the future.
The first step was to start a vegetable plot within the somewhat previously neglected garden. Lots of clearing, burning, weed-killing and digging was done in the long, allotment-sized, rear garden to make way for raised beds, and other marked out areas for the first year’s vegetables to grow. It was a big learning curve for Philip & Rachel as they had never really grown vegetables (on a large scale) before, but with the help of various books and magazines, TV programmes, the internet and advice from other growers they soon had a lush and green productive plot in full swing by that summer.
The first harvest was a very exciting time, with many vegetables ready to eat over the summer months. They also learned about foraging and enjoyed picking wild hedgerow fruits, flowers and plants all to add to the larder. However they soon realised that this gave them more than they could possibly eat at any one time, so Rachel began to research what to do with it all, learning about different ways to store vegetables and fruit, and how to preserve it. The latter was what excited Rachel the most, to be able to create all sorts of jewel coloured jars for the cupboard containing yummy ingredients taking them into the winter, and also to share them with family and friends. She made gift baskets that Christmas to give to family, and they all commented on how wonderful her jams and preserves tasted and how professionally they were presented.
So this gave Rachel a new business idea in that she would sell her jams and chutneys the very next year. Farmers Markets have always been an inspiration to Rachel, as she likes buying local, seasonal produce directly from the farmer and producer, which helps support local, rural businesses, and gives great tasting food in return! So she began in January with the aim of first selling at her favourite local market in Tring with the harvest of this year’s vegetable plot (and other carefully selected local suppliers), adding other markets later, and sales online.
This in fact, brings us right up to date as they are pleased to announce Rachel is to sell regularly at Tring Farmers Market, starting on Saturday 17th July. She will initially have on sale delicious jars of the first of the season’s fruity jam such as strawberry, raspberry and blackcurrant. Then, as the Autumn and Winter progresses and the rest of the harvest comes in, they will introduce chutneys, jellies and other preserves. The garden is always a source of inspiration to Rachel for other handmade items (which also fits in with a self-sufficiency lifestyle), so towards Christmas she hopes to introduce other nature-inspired gift items such as handmade soaps, lavender pillows, cards and prints.
Update June 2011 – after a lifestyle change and downsizing our self sufficiency plans somewhat, we no longer sell jams at the farmers market. Thanks to all those who did support us though, and we still very much make them for personal use as part of our Country Living lifestyle in the Chilterns. We do hope you continue reading our blog and enjoy!