News from Lackan Cottage
Prior to landing at Lackan, I’d never re-roofed a house – let’s face it, its not something you do every day. Throughout our search for a house, my primary selection criteria was ‘is the roof straight’, and on that basis, this cottage was winner. There are two cottages here, and on one we kept the old corrugated roof, for reasons of budget and fear, and the other we re-roofed, having a bit more money and confidence. Hopefully this post will be of use to others who are wondering what to do with their old cottage roofs.
The ideal present – a Birch Cottage gift voucher. Available in £10, £20, £50 or £100 these can be redeemed against the cost of any booking at Birch Cottage made through our website during 2018. Just quote the code when you book. We are selling these through our Lackan Cottage Farm online shop, where you can pay securely online using a debit or credit card, or paypal.
Today we had the pleasure of welcoming the crew from Animo TV, and presenter (and architect) Hugh Wallace, as part of filming for a new RTE series about restoring old buildings. One of the restorations they are following is a cottage similar to ours, and so they came...
When we heard that a hurricane was coming to Ireland, we were convinced that we were terribly well prepared, and in the event, the wind here wasn’t as bad as we expected. However we didn’t get away without some damage – two big 250w solar panels came...
Poor old Paddy. He woke up on Monday morning with what can at best be classed as terrible constipation. Horses are trickle feeders, and their gut relies on a small steady intake of food to keep everything moving. Colic, usually down to impactions or eating something that has decided to disagree with them, is never a good thing in horses and ponies, and down the years we’ve lost one or two to such things. Hence when it appeared that Paddy had spent a whole night rolling around his stable in discomfort, we called up Sean the vet immediately.
We had a surprise grape harvest this year – it is only the second year we’ve had grapes at all, and it was incredible to part the undergrowth and find so many. Very tasty they were too, but we realised that we’d have to do something with them as there were far too many to eat. Luckily our friend Ingrid had lent us her steamer-juicer. This incredible thing basically juices most things without a load of messing around removing stalks and stems.
This is one of thoseobvious things that I should have thought of a lot sooner. Our woodstore is on the back of the cottage with a door that allows you to get in from inside the house. It has slatted walls to let air circulate, but its always had a solid roof because...
We process a lot of firewood here and these two simple additions have made life a million times easier. First, we made up a thing to put long bits of wood in for cutting. Its a heavy bottom piece with uprights made from easily replaceable pallet wood, spaced so that cutting midway between them leaves us with 10″ pieces. Simply fill it up with wood, and you can cut mountains of fiddly bits with just 3 or 4 cuts.
Late summer in the garden and there’s an abundance of food ready to harvest – from beans to apples.
It seems that concentrating on range cookers for a while seems to be attracting them. Until a couple of weeks ago we’d never heard of the Wellstood Two (or WD 36) stove, and then having just put one in, out of the blue we are very kindly offered another.
I have a terrible habit of browsing Gumtree for interesting sounding things, and specifically for old, cheap range cookers in the hope of finding one that will keep our old Doric on the road. A couple of weeks ago I was rummaging around and turned up not a Doric, but a Wellstood Two – the bigger brother of the Doric, from the same 1950’s era, but with the addition of not only a warming oven, but a hotplate cover. In the world of little old ranges, these are positively the bells and whistles of any self respecting range cooker.
The recent incidence of DIY chain store B&Q selling Valspar branded paint that turned out to smell terribly of cat pee once applied, and some of the suggested remedies for those unfortunate enough to have applied the paint, have highlighted some of the reasons why we won’t use regular paints here in any of our buildings.
This is a busy time here at Lackan, not least because July appears to be the most popular month so far for visitors to Birch Cottage and the Off Grid Horse Box. We’re kept busy preparing the spaces for guests, the process of being self catering hosts is a constant learning curve, and we’re delighted that so many people are enjoying being here at the farm.
Rocket Mass Heaters are a really efficient way to heat a space, that you can build yourself for a relatively low cost. They are designed to burn at a high temperature, which results in less smoke and a more efficient fire. Ours is always a source of fascination, and when lit, the big room is warm in no time. Steve is off to Mayo in September to help run a course in building one, and in the meantime, here’s a reminder of how ours was put together.
One of the last existing buildings that we took down here was the old wooden garage outside the cottage, and the time has come to replace it with another useful structure that will be used to store garden produce and tools. We want to build it on a tiny budget using reclaimed or local materials to create a natural looking structure that has minimal visual impact.
Lackan Cottage Farm (and our compost toilets) have teamed up with Toilet Twinning, to help provide clean water, basic sanitation, and hygiene education to people in some of the most deprived areas of the world. Nearly one third of the world’s population lacks access to even the most basic sanitation, whilst at the same time, nearly one third of household water use in developed countries ends up being flushed down the toilet.
now opened up the circular walk around the woodlands opposite the cottage, and we’re always happy to show guests around the gardens, and introduce them to the horses.
We’ve got the loan of a camera from Google that can take these 360 degree images, and boy have we made the most of it, capturing views from all over Lackan Cottage Farm, and making a tour of Birch Eco Cottage. The last couple of weeks have been spent getting the...
Having put the rainwater harvesting in, we were left with a 4″ pipe running across the concrete outside the cottage, not ideal. It was always our aim to pull up all the concrete slab in front of the house and incorporate the area in to the garden – our permaculture Zone 0 through which we constantly come and go. On reflection though, we need some parking space for visitors, and so decided to pull up just the area beyond our front door, which is the bit we come and go through anyway.
June is here and Harriet the Horsebox is now available for bookings. As always there have been a million little things to prepare but we’re happy that everything is ready, and that all you need to enjoy a break from the connected world is here. The house truck features a unique upcycled pallet wood interior, well equipped kitchen, wood powered shower, and of course, an outside compost loo with a view. Harriet even has her own decking area where you can sit and admire the view, and is powered by solar electricity.
We really enjoyed the recent permaculture weekend course, and one of the exercises we regularly do is to ask participants to look at our site and see if they can come up with suggestions or improvements. We got several great ones this time around and so set about acting on them. The first was the observation that the area around the pond was being wasted
We’re into the final stages of readying Harriet the horsebox to welcome visitors, and it is always those last details that take forever to complete. Our truck house was home for so long, and in it’s new incarnation, refitted with reclaimed materials and things that we have collected along the way, it is a really lovely place to spend time in. Harriet will be available from 1st June.
Finally. Just 10 years after putting a coat of primer on the truck, it is painted. Not the best day for painting anything, let alone a lorry, but it had to be done. The transformation is remarkable (thankfully) and after three coats of paint, my arms are falling off, but the old girl does look magnificent.
When I headed off to Tipperary to collect willow cuttings so that we might grow our own basket willow, Richard was kind enough to give me a trailer load of dry willow. The smaller stuff is all for baskets but I’d been wondering what to do with the heavy stuff. In a bid to protect the young hedge around the garden, Claire and I decided to make a woven fence, which then evolved as Claire suggested bending it over into hoops. The result is excellent, and blends into the garden without shading plants too much.
Sorry those of you who might have wanted to come on our ‘build a compost toilet’ course – we had to go ahead and build it early, and the course won’t be happening now. We needed to get our truck ready for visitors early, and having the loo nearby was a part of that.
We’re always making things here at Lackan, and now Steve is making more baskets and willow things, we decided that it is time to make them available on the website. Many items are one offs, and once they are gone, they are gone, but they are all hand made here, from local materials (on site where possible), and always from sustainably produced materials, or in some cases, reclaimed items. Anyhow, we’ll be adding more items as we go, so the shop will change constantly, and hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised by some of the things that you can buy here.
Somehow in amongst the porch building, ponies, baskets and cottage letting, I managed to gut our truck, which was home for 18 months, and has subsequently been the residence of many volunteers. It ended last season desperately in need of a refurb, but even I was surprised just how much work it has taken to turn it into a really nice place to stay. Now it is complete inside, I want to move back in.
I’m going on tour in September to teach a rocket mass heater workshop at our friend Claire Templar’s place Tir Na Nog in Mayo. Not many of these get built so its a rare opportunity to find out how and get hands on experience.
This is Paddy, who is what you’d call a happy accident. When I saw him advertised on facebook, I really did not intend to end up giving him a home. Really. But I casually asked a couple of questions and heard no more. Then I get a message back a fortnight later, and the guy sounds desperate to rehome him, and next thing I’m bringing home a tiny three year old cob stallion, who turns out to be not quite two. Makes a change as they are usually older than people say, not younger.
Nearly mid April and we’ve already run three great courses – An introduction to green woodworking; make a rustic stool, and willow garden structures. The weather has been incredibly merciful – the willow course participants were practically overcome by heat. Along the way, new friends have been made, and some wonderful new items created as people disover talents they never knew they had.
Whether you have a project already started, or are dreaming of your ideal plot, this course will help you turn your dreams into reality. A hands on course for all abilities and experience levels.
Been so busy that I forgot to mention that I went hedge laying on possibly the wettest day of the century so far, back in February. It was a great group to work with, and I learned a lot. It was great to see the transformation and I can’t wait to take a look in the spring as the new growth emerges. Plus I am an accredited hedge layer now..
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.
Last year we were approached by a couple of production companies about appearing in TV programmes, and we said yes where they were factual. The first was one about homes in Britain and Northern Ireland, so we spent half a day with a camera crew and played host to Gloria Hunniford
This week we went off to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, to their annual Horse Ploughing and country skills day. Apart from anything else it was a good chance to go and have a look at everyone’s harness, as it turns out that literally every single set seems to be different in some way, and we fancied seeing how ours compared.
An exciting development for 2017 is the formation of our first Forest School group, which will be led by Lucy, an experienced Forest School teacher. Ever since hearing about the idea of forest schools or outdoor schools we’ve been excited by the idea of getting a group going and an amazing bunch of children and parents have come together to make this happen.
This course is aimed at those who are keen to find out more about the potential of small scale renewable energy and heating, and the opportunities for DIY and home energy storage where a grid connection is not always practical.
We get a lot of requests from folk who would like to come and have a look around, find out more, and share their stories with us, so this year we have decided to have an open day on June 17th , when anyone can come and see what we get up to, and ask questions about any aspect of what we do here at Lackan Cottage Farm.
Green woodwork is one of the most accessible and enjoyable woodcrafts you can experience. Using traditional tools to shape green (unseasoned) timber with the rhythm of the pole lathe and versatility of the shave horse is pleasure that is hard to match. The beauty of green wood lies in its ability to be shaped easily as it is soft and easily worked by handtools.
This workshop will teach you the skills needed to make your own piece of furniture in the form of a rustic stool, encompassing the use of the shave horse and a variety of handtools including the axe, draw knife, auger drill and spoke shave.