It is now five years since we first saw the land here at Lackan, and looking back it is amazing how much has happened here, and how much our lives have been shaped by the land almost as much as we have shaped the place itself.

Looking around, all the changes that we’ve made bring with them reminders of the people who came and helped make them happen, and without whom most of this would still be wishful thinking.

There is of course an awful lot still to do, but it is satisfying to reflect on what we’ve achieved so far. We’re entirely self sufficient in power, via solar and wind. We’ve managed to largely provide for fuel in the form of wood, for heating. Each year we have produced an increasing amount of food, and indeed in February we still have a considerable amount stored from last year’s harvest.

2017 could well be the year that we manage to achieve financial self sufficiency on the farm, thanks mainly to Birch Cottage, our increased range of courses, and some new craft ventures. Indeed, taking the old cottage and turning it into a 4 star self catering eco accommodation is something we’re really proud of.

Crowdfunding and building the classroom was a major effort, and it has been great to see it full of people and used as we intended it to be – for film nights, yoga, seminars, basketmaking and spoon carving courses, and as a place for people to enjoy freshly cooked meals.

Events such as our open days have brought people together from as far away as Donegal, Antrim and Wicklow, and volunteers and guests have travelled from literally all over the world. We’re proud to have welcomed people from all and any background – our not for profit Forest School sessions see children playing and learning together in what these days is known as a non denominational cross community (ie normal) environment.

We’ve done our bit to keep traditional crafts such as green woodworking, basket making, and building with natural materials alive through our many courses, and we continue to develop our own learning as we introduce our own working draft horse Rain, to work on the smallholding, and start to grow a range of basket willow varieties to support our own craft work.

Preserving and increasing biodiversity has been really important to us, and in removing heavy machinery, hedge flailing, mechanical ditch clearing and verge cutting from the land, it has had a chance to recover and for diversity to flourish. We’ve planted well over 2000 trees now, providing habitat and wildlife coridoors across the land, and it is incredible to see how quickly these are establishing themselves as life returns to the land.