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Self-Sufficiency – The Good Life

Gelli has a large polytunnel, veggie patch and two greenhouses. We’ve planted fruit trees and have a plentiful supply of blackberries. We’ve been fairly self-sufficient with veggies and some fruit over the years. We normally produce a good 12 month harvest, swap veggies for local eggs and give plenty of produce away. Find out more about the polytunnel and greenhouses below.

We take advantage of any fallen trees or unwanted trees to provide enough wood, including kindling, for our three fires each year. We still use the oil central heating, but we’ve kept costs to a minimum. We’re on a private treated water supply from the borehole (which is beautiful spring water) & private sewage, so have avoided water costs other than a service to the water system every 18 – 24 months. The polytunnel, main greenhouse and veggie patch all use water from gravity fed water systems, so don’t cost us anything to run. We haven’t installed a solar energy system, but if we were staying then we would certainly do so. Gelli is south-facing and so we’d think would suit ground or roof solar panels.

Gelli has the modern conveniences of mains electricity, oil-fired central heating, phone and broadband, but gives you the option of self-sufficiency or a bit of both!


The polytunnel is located on the slope above the house, in a peaceful, sheltered position. Its length is south-facing, so it keeps warm and is mostly protected from the wind. I spend many, many hours in the polytunnel and greenhouse. It’s a little oasis and the plants grow so well in here. There are raised beds, as well as space for pots.

It was purchased from the well-respected supplier ‘First Tunnels’ in 2014. It’s 14 x 50ft, with vent screen down one side, double sliding doors at the front and single hinged door at the other end. It’s got a thermal anti-fog cover, anchor plate crop bar kit, twin support brace kit and staging down one side with a potting area.

Water supply is a gravity fed water system, from a water tank further up the hill, which is supplied by the stream. So far, it has never run out of water, despite being used to water all the beds daily during the heat waves over the past 10 years. It has overhead watering, but we don’t tend to use it as we found that it encourages blight. Instead, we use an individually-controlled soaker hose system in all the beds, with automatic timers that come on at night. There are 3 taps from the gravity fed system and an addition 2 taps from the house’s private water supply, just in case the stream ever did run dry.

There’s a compost area, servicing the polytunnel and the greenhouse, (or this could be made into another outdoor raised bed).

Upper Greenhouse

The doors of the Upper Greenhouse are directly opposite the doors of the polytunnel, so you can move seedlings or plants straight across from one to the other. It’s a really good greenhouse in excellent condition – as good as new.

It’s a Premium Rhino greenhouse bought in Dec 2016 and is 8 x 10ft, with sliding double doors at each end, automatic top vents and blinds along one side. It has integral staging along one side and both sides have higher shallow staging. There’s also free-standing staging with water reservoir.

We currently have an external above ground cable running from the garage to the greenhouse, so use heatmats and electric bar heaters to get the seeds started early.

Water is from the same gravity fed system as for the polytunnel (see above). We don’t have automatic watering set up for the greenhouse, but it would be easy to do so.

Lower Greenhouse

The Lower Greenhouse is a small, three-sided greenhouse attached to Cattle Barn. It was already in place when we purchased the property. It has some glass panels missing and is not nearly as sturdy or good quality as Upper Greenhouse. We grow a productive grapevine in there (mostly used for wine), along with a few small bits of veg underneath the vine.

Veggie Patch

The Veggie Patch is such a peaceful place to spend many hour pottering with the veg. It’s situated in a sheltered spot behind Cider Barn. It really is beautiful on a sunny day, and the bird song on a spring morning is wonderful.

It’s a big fenced-off plot, with a large number of raised beds. There’s a gravity-fed water system from a water tank and additional water reservoir up the hill, with good pressure. The raised beds all have individually-controlled soaker hoses. In the past, the water tank has dried out in hot, prolonged summers, but we’ve used a long hose from the house supply on those occasions. There are a number of compost bays.

Eating Off the Land

Aside from the plentiful veg and fruit we grow in the poytunnel, greenhouses and veggie patch…

We have planted a lot of fruit trees in Gelli in the past 10 years. We have a number of apple trees of varying types. Some are eaters, some cookers and quite a lot are with cider in mind, so some are high in tannins, etc. There’s also one or two pear trees, but they’ve not fruited as yet. There’s damson trees and a plum tree, but it’s not very prolific as yet.

We have a lovely fig tree up on the patio near the house, which gives us really lovely figs.

There are plenty of hazelnuts to be found on the hazel trees, and if you have the patience to shell them all, they are amazing roasted and keep well.

The blackberries are abundant! We freeze loads of them and eat them all year round. We also make jam and occasionally some nice wine with them.

We have a blackcurrant bed near the polytunnel, which does really well and is another source of jam & wine.

There are number of elder trees, so elderflower juice/wine would be possible and we use the elderberries every year to make wine (combined with the grapes from Lower Greenhouse & blackcurrants).

The wild garlic is one of my favourites as it’s the first sign of spring. Found in abundance by the river in Far Meadow, we eat loads of it!


We’ve never had to purchase firewood since we’ve lived here. We do use the oil-fired central heating, but we’ve really managed to keep costs down by using the wood-burning stoves. We’ve normally only used firewood from wind-blown trees or trees that have needed to be felled due to sickness (e.g. ash die-back) or for safety.

I love the cycle of the firewood, from planting young trees and using fallen trees to keep us warm. I like the physical effort of moving the logs and chopping logs and I never tire of the enjoyment of lighting the fires.

We season all of the firewood in Cattle Barn, and some years have filled all the bays (it’s currently pretty low).

Some of the fires are multi-fuel, so coal could be used if you didn’t want to use firewood.