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Here at Lackan Cottage Farm people often say we are living the good life. We grow our own food and wood fuel, generate our own electricity, take responsibility for our own waste, harvest rainwater and are using natural building techniques. Additionally we help other people to do the same, and welcome visitors and volunteers here to the farm to stay and learn about what we have to offer.

Developing the forest garden

2018 is our sixth year on the land here at Lackan Cottage Farm, and although we’ve often had seemingly rapid progress, it is only now that some systems are becoming established enough to produce results. The forest garden area is the best example of this.

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The great house revival

Way back in November 2017 we got a call from Animo TV who were making a series for RTE about property restoration with architect Hugh Wallace as presenter. They were filming an episode about a woman who was bringing a near derelict property in Donegal back to life, but with a fairly sensible budget of about 100,000 euro.  The reason for us being included was for two reasons. Firstly because we did our cottage up on a tiny budget, and secondly because of our use of materials. 

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The joy of working horses on the land

Using horses to work and manage the land means that we can eliminate compaction by machinery, get onto bits of ground that are just inaccessible to machines, and also as you are walking behind the horse, you get to know the land really intimately, and spot things that you could never notice when driving a tractor. Plus of course you are producing no pollution and noise. 

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Filming Rachel Allen – A Cook’s Adventure

It seems like an age since we welcomed Rachel Allen and the crew from Big Mountain here to film for a programme called ‘Rachel Allen – A Cook’s adventure’ celebrating the best of Northern Irish produce, but it was  screened on More 4 last night, and we’re really pleased with the results. The premise was that Rachel travelled around the country visiting producers and then cooking up delicious dishes, and Lackan Cottage Farm was one of 7 locations included.

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Flat out in April

April has been an incredibly busy month here at Lackan Cottage Farm, as for the first time we're keeping pace with all the jobs that traditionally need done before spring arrives properly. Finally the ground is drying out, and all the plants are coming back to life....

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The promise of spring

The spring equinox has arrived, and with it, thankfully, some signs that life is returning to the gardens. It also marks the start of the volunteer season, and we’ve been delighted to welcome Tasha to the farm for the past few weeks. Visitors have also started arriving at Birch Eco Cottage, and the calendar is starting to fill up. It is time to get busy.

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European Permaculture Convergence 2018

For the first time, the European Permaculture Convergence (EUPC) is coming to Ireland, and will be held at Knockree Hostel, Enniskerry, County Wicklow from the 8th to 13th August 2018. The EUPC is a 5 day celebration of permaculture, primarily aimed at, but not...

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Mourne international walking festival June 2018

This internationally recognised walking festival offers walkers, of all levels of fitness, stunning routes in the Mourne Mountains and surrounding countryside. These routes vary between 10k and 40k at both high and low level. The next annual Mourne International Walking Festival will take place from Friday 22 – Sunday 24 June 2018 in Warrenpoint, County Down, Northern Ireland.

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Spoon Carving workshop – 10 March 2018

Stephen Ryan from Green Woodwork Ireland, will teach you the skills needed to become a traditional spooncarver. Using locally sourced green wood, each participant will learn axe and knife carving skills to produce their own spoon. All tools and materials are supplied. No experience necessary, although it is advised participants should feel confident using sharp tools.

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Birch Cottage at the heart of green tourism in County Down

One of the things that makes Birch Eco Cottage a unique Green Tourism business is that it is powered entirely by renewable energy made here on the farm. We are totally off-grid as part of our commitment to reducing our environmental impact.  We use a combination of solar panels and wind to charge batteries that ensure that there is always power when we need it. 

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Weathering the storm off grid

We’ve been weathering the ‘beast from the east’, and so far everyone is bearing up well. The horses have been tucked up in their stables with hay most of the time, only venturing out to have a roll in the snow before retreating again. Our hens are similarly unimpressed, although they have decided to keep on laying eggs despite the conditions. We were warned about this weather for a good week before it happened, so there was plenty of time to prepare, and on the whole we got everything ready in time. Here are our top off grid bad weather preparation tips:

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A strawbale barn

One of the hardest things about producing your own food isn’t growing it, it is storing it afterwards. It really wants to break down as fast as possible, and all manner of creatures want to eat it first. Until now we’ve stored food all over the place – hanging up in the living room; in cupboards. In short, not ideal. Another issue that we had was that our 4000 litre rainwater tanks and pump were not terribly pretty and very exposed to cold temperatures. The pump especially has been badly damaged by freezing twice now. The problem, as they say in permaculture, is the solution, and in this case takes the form of a strawbale barn, which incorporates the water tanks as its back wall.

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Soup!

We grow a lot of squash here, it seems to like our polytunnel. Our favourite so far is Burgess Buttercup, which grow squashes to a decent but manageable size and can be quite prolific. They also store beautifully, so we don’t tend to eat them until the dark days of January and February, when sometimes you just need a decent, cheering soup on a wild oul day.

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Willow garden structures – Saturday 3 March 2018

Our willow basket making courses with tutor Sabine were so popular last year that this time around we’re adding some new days where you can learn to make your own willow garden structures in time for the growing season ahead. Beautiful and practical, you’ll make your own and the course is suitable for those who have never tried basketry before.

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Thank you all

As always here at Lackan Cottage Farm, it was people who made the year memorable, and helped us to achieve so much. A huge thank you to all the volunteers who came and gave their time - it was a pleasure to meet you all, and great new friends have been made.  To all...

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Roofing for the DIY renovator

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.

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Birch Cottage Gift Vouchers

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.

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