Books – The self sufficient house

None of this energy saving, off grid stuff has appeared out of thin air. Back in 1980, Brenda and Robert Vale wrote 'The self sufficient house', which is still an incredibly useful resource and which is full of good practical information on improving the energy...

Affordable off-grid?

Yesterday I went on the radio to talk with a couple of other people about living off grid. Trouble is though you get a few minutes to talk and then its over without really getting to say what you wanted, unless you're a trained media professional, which I'm not.  As...

Congratulations to a happy couple

It is always wonderful when guests choose Birch Cottage to pop the question, and even more wonderful when they share the news with us. Gary proposed to Grainne this week, and they are now engaged to be married. Congratulations guys 🙂

Starting on a positive note

It's only a few days into the new year and already it's been a busy one. We're heading into our seventh year here at Lackan, a lot of the physical heavy lifting of sorting buildings and structure is done. Over the last years we've welcomed a lot of volunteers,...

Pioneering Eco Tourism with Green Key

We’ve always been passionate about increasing awareness of the many environmental issues that face us all, and a major part of that is through our self catering accommodation here at Lackan. Visitors can see that is is possible to reduce their environmental impact and still live in a beautiful, comfortable space. As pioneers of ‘eco tourism’ in Northern Ireland, we’re always looking for ways to increase the profile of green living.

Off grid living series of courses

Once again this year we are offering our popular one day 'Off Grid Living' course, which takes a look at all the aspects of living the off grid life here at Lackan, and gives practical examples of how elements of this can be used in your everyday life. Our new off...

Exciting times ahead

The coming year promises to be an exciting one. We're celebrating our new LAND centre status by running a full programme of courses, and opportunities for visitors to find our more about the work we're doing here at Lackan. As well as a series of Practical...

Some new websites

In a previous life, I was a partner in a website development company, and as well as building our own website, I still keep my hand in by developing sites for other people when I feel we share a similar ethos

Latest news

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.

Early summer in the tunnels

This growing season was slow to get going, even in the polytunnels, but after all the warm weather, it’s all growing like mad. Today we’re having a look round with Claire at what is coming on in the tunnels. We’re new to this film making thing so bear with us.

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We’re running a competition!

All this week we are running a competition to win a 2 night stay in Birch Eco Cottage. All we are doing is asking you to like (and sharing too would be great) the competition post that you will find on our facebook page. In order that we can easily contact the winner, please also like our Birch Eco Cottage Facebook page. Click here to like the post.

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A walk in the woods

A brief stroll around the beautiful woodland here at Lackan Cottage Farm, which was once bog, and has been cut over for peat. The birch trees are natural regrowth on the old bog, which has dried out significantly as a result of surrounding drainage and the trees themselves. It’s a beautiful place, full of life, and one of few pockets of such woodland in the landscape. 

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Book your stay in the off grid horse box

Why not unplug and unwind on a stay in our unique converted horse truck. Refurbished using reclaimed materials, this cosy space enjoys great views of the Mourne Mountains and is tucked away on a corner of our off grid smallholding in the County Down countryside. If you’re looking for a unique place to stay, that is truly off the grid then the horsebox is for you. We are offering you the chance to get an additional 10% off the cost of your stay, by quoting the offer code WEB1 when you book direct. Visit to check availability and book now.

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Summer abundance

For months there, it seemed like winter would never end. The longest, wettest most miserable winter in memory for many. But now here we are at the start of June and all that is a distant memory – the heatwave has arrived, and once again water is very much on our minds but for a very different reason.

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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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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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