Over a decade ago, our desire to try off-grid living was a reaction to the issues of climate change and uncertainty. These now seem to be an inescapable fact of life in the 21st century. We decided to become more self reliant whilst working with other like minded families to establish a resilient community. As a result that stretches from our immediate neighbourhood right across the island of Ireland.

Lackan Cottage Farm has become a centre for practical sustainability. We are the first accredited LAND (Learning and Network Demonstration) centre on the island of Ireland, and we are pioneering Green Tourism by becoming the first Green Key business in the country, as recognition of our commitment to sustainability.

We came from ‘regular’ 9-5 jobs, typical levels of modern debt and exhaustion, and decided to give it up to live in a converted horsebox while volunteering on a friend’s farm. From there we found Lackan Cottage Farm and established our own smallholding using permaculture and organic principles.

We do most things for ourselves, and then share the skills we have learned with visitors. This can be through courses, open days, visitors to Birch Eco Cottage or with the  international volunteers that we welcome each year.

Our vision

Our aim is to substantially meet our energy, food, water and waste requirements from our smallholding. Furthermore, to provide a healthy and ecologically sound environment in which visitors can learn from our experiences. We show how it is possible to live in a more sustainable manner without compromising their standard of living.

We offer our self catering cottage alongside open days and offering an ‘off grid experience’ to those seeking to live more self reliantly. Furthermore, rising food and energy prices along with recent revelations about the complexity of the modern food chain mean that interest in home food production, and living ‘The Good Life’ are at an all time high. We realise that for many people, taking this to the level that we have is not practical, however there are many aspects that they will be able to take away and adapt to fit into their lifestyles.

Organic food

Food is a vital part of off grid living, and we grow many of our own vegetables, both outside and in polytunnels. Also, we have planted orchards which will provide for our fruit needs. We are part of a local network of likeminded families, enabling us to exchange and barter. This allows us obtain all the vegetables we need, as well as a proportion of our meat. We shop locally wherever possible and are always keen to support local business.


Cooking, central heating and domestic hot water are fuelled using wood produced from our own woodland. This is coppiced to ensure that we have a constant supply of timber. In addition to the existing woodland, we have planted an additional 1000 or so  trees over the last few years, and continue to add to that total each season. Also we have solar hot water heating to boost the supply. This provides domestic hot water in the summer when lighting a woodburner is less desirable.

The woodlands are far more than a source of fuel, and we manage them carefully to encourage biodiversity. Also they are a wonderful space in which to sit or walk. Small pockets of woodland such as this are vanishing all to rapidly from our landscape and as custodians we want to leave them in better shape than we found them.

Off grid living is an attitude

We’ve come to realise that ‘off grid living’ is more than just the act of not using mains electricity or water. It’s an attitude and there are as many variations out there as there are people. For us it’s about independence and resilience. When we first thought of living off grid, it was primarily through necessity. This meant a combination of wanting less bills to come in and of living at that time in a converted horsebox.

Mains electricity, water and waste weren’t an option, and so a couple of solar panels and a little wind turbine provided power. We collected rainwater from the barn roof, and used the composting loo on the farm. It was a basic system that met our needs, and was also great to learn with, without costing a fortune or risking too much.


Taking responsibility

We’re learning about and building systems that will hopefully see us through many years to come. Then hopefully we won’t have to worry about what is being added to our water supply by a company we can’t hold accountable. Also we won’t have to fret over the rising cost of electricity as old power stations are retired, and a combination of poor policy and changing climate take their toll.

As much as anything, being off grid is about taking responsibility  for your power, heating, lighting, water, and waste. The latter involved building composting loos, of which I am very fond, if one can be fond of a loo.

Renewable energy

All the electricity used here at Lackan – in both cottages – is generated on site using a combination of solar pv and wind. Our original installation comprised just two 80w solar panels and a 400w wind turbine. That has grown over the years to around 9kw of solar pv and a 3.5kw wind turbine. This all charges a set of 1000ah tubular plate lead acid batteries (basically what you would find on a forklift). The 48v DC that comes from the batteries is then inverted to 240v AC  and fed to the cottages as if it were coming from the main grid.

We also use solar thermal panels to heat water in both cottages. These are very effective during the summer months when the fires are lit less often.

From time to time we run courses in renewable energy, contact us if you are interested in being kept up to date with details of forthcoming courses.



Horses are such a part of our lives that we couldn’t be without them. Our current lads both arrived via Hollys Horse Rescue, who did amazing work dealing with unwanted, abandoned and otherwise destitute horses. Mel here was a racehorse, having run 24 times, until he fractured a knee and needed to be retired.  Presumably the owner didn’t want to be responsible for a horse that couldn’t run, and so he wound up at Hollys. Now back in riding work, he is a complete gentleman, and we potter around the lanes here. There is no better way to travel.

Paddy was born in Hilltown, and we found him on facebook marketplace. He’s a lovely small cob, around 12.2hh, and he’s now about 8.  He was a wee scrap when he arrived and now he’s filled out nicely.

From a permaculture perspective it can be hard to justify having horses for pleasure, but their benefits are many. Psychologically, spending time with horses is incredibly therapeutic.  The horses also produce prolific quantities of manure, which all goes onto our vegetable beds, and is amazing stuff.

We have four cats here, Beric is the only boy and is the oldest, being born under our old horsebox in 2014 I think. He was extremely feral and would run away if you looked at him until he hurt his leg and we managed to catch him and take him to the vets, he’s now very friendly! Daenaerys, Arya and Sansa were born in the haybarn and are about 8, they are very friendly. All our cats are outdoor farm cats. n
Clem Fandango is a cockerdor, half labrador, half working cocker spaniel. She is a bit barky, but only because she wants to say hello and be patted. She really, really loves visitors.