For a while there we thought it might never be sunny again, but once again we are enjoying the warmth, and  the knowledge that the sun is providing our electricity and an increasing amount of our hot water.  All around us the place is bursting into life, and the brown is gradually turning to green. It is exactly one year since we got the keys to Lackan Cottage Farm, and time to pause for breath (briefly) and look back at what an amazing year it has been.

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Our volunteers – Eugene (from Ballyward) and Bettina (from Austria).

Firstly the people. Much has happened here but it wouldn’t have been possible without all the amazing folk that we have come to know in the last 12 months.  People that we had never met turned out to help us when we were in trouble, and many have become good friends. We’ve welcomed volunteers from nearby villages, and across Europe, enduring truly terrible weather to make our vision a reality.

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The old cottage still bore its original thatch, turned mainly to dust. The old roof spars found a home in the bannisters on a new platform.

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It seems a long time ago now that we began the task of making this old cottage habitable, let alone it being self sustaining for power and heat. Now the place is alive again, not least to the sounds of our baby daughter Lyra, the first to be born here in many years, by all accounts. We love the cottage, with all its idiosyncracies – the lumpy walls, plastered by friends and family; noisy plumbing, (my fault); temperamental old wood range; and the tribes of mice that come and go.  As I look around, I get immense satisfaction from knowing that every inch of this place is our own work, even if some of it isn’t terribly polished.

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I love our kitchen. Everything was made by us and friends, or reused from elsewhere.

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Lyra celebrates being 7 months old with her first wooden spoon

No sooner than we moved out of the truck into the house, when Lyra arrived, bringing her own brand of mayhem.  Through this, work continued, volunteers came and toiled, and from the mud, paths began to emerge, a polytunnel went up, someone dug a pond and vegetable beds. Stables were fixed up, much to the horse’s relief. I got to know the woods (all too well), as we fed our tiny range cooker’s insatiable appetite for fuel through the cold months.

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Initially it snowed and sleeted so heavily that the pond filled up.

More volunteers, and even colder weather.  We laid new water pipes, buried old ones against the frost, made more paths, climbed down the well, and planted hundreds and hundreds of trees.  Fields were fenced, woods coppiced, fuel hauled, cut, split, stacked, hauled again.

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Tree planting with local volunteers

Then the serious snow, proper winter. We got off lightly really, others not so far away suffered terrible losses.  And then off again. A composting loo, more vegetable beds. More tree planting, and then one big push, and another huge polytunnel to round things off. photo (68)

And now a different kind of rush. Planting all those beds and tunnels in a race to claw back some of the time lost to the snow, which is still clinging to the mountains in the distance.  Suddenly everything is growing, and we are back in the sun again, and our year is up.

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What did we achieve? Well, we have managed a winter with a baby in a house fuelled entirely with wood from our own woodlands. We made many new friends. Our animals all now have somewhere to live. We planted 0ver 700 native trees. We’ve got a neighbour to commit to planting another 4000 trees. We were entirely responsible for our own (human) waste, using 2 composting toilets.  100% of our heating, cooking and hot water was came from on site, renewable resources. 95% of our electricity is now generated here using solar.  Our vegetable beds and polytunnels are all up and ready to grow. We made a house that uses only natural materials with minimum impact, and saved an old structure from demolition, and we began the long process of managing our woodlands. And that’s just the start 😉

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