This month: Smallholders James and Dee Garrett who live on a 2.5-acre holding on the remote Eday island in Orkney.
WE USED to live in South Wales, had full-time jobs we enjoyed and went on regular geocaching weekend trips and holidays. Then one day James woke up with the idea of living on an island and here we are. We live in a one-bedroom stone cottage built before records began in 1740. The house has 3ft thick walls and a wealth of history. We wanted a little garden and a couple of chickens, but find ourselves living on 2.5 acres of open land. You might think that’s great, a huge bonus, but we often find ourselves overwhelmed and discouraged. It will take a lot of work to get it established.
James served in the armed forces for years and learned many practical skills which are invaluable on our remote smallholding. He is prepared for various emergencies, able to solve problems creatively and always looks on the bright side.
We have just had our first baby, Ronald Simon, and we’re so excited to be parents. Eday is a perfect place to raise a child as it is peaceful, clean, safe and we are surrounded by the sea, open fields and wildlife. We are also a part of a small and caring farming community.
We keep chickens, ducks and quail and are working on establishing a garden in the harsh windy Orkney climate. Orkney has an abundance of fish, lobsters and crabs, so the fishing industry up here is booming. We also like to wade in at low tide to place a couple of creels for an easy lobster dinner.
We are very new smallholders and our first successful hatch of baby chicks this June was such a great experience. The chicks were fluffy and adorable. Many people told us that the Orkney climate is too harsh for keeping quail, but we wanted to try it for ourselves. Now we have an abundance of delicious quail eggs which are highly sought after and great as gifts or when trading items locally.
James loves making homebrew from anything and everything which sometimes results in some strange concoctions, but there is no such thing as a failed experiment: we give it a new name, a new purpose and it is all used in the end — if not for an evening glass, then to cook with.
An attempt to make some delicious homemade cheese was one of our latest experiments and it was so successful that we now rustle up some regularly. It goes so well with freshly home-baked bread and a wee bit of chutney.