Visiting

If you would like to visit, look around or have a chat about anything from building to veg growing to low impact living

Events

Lots of events happening all the time – find out more

Volunteers

We rely on volunteers from all over the world to make things happen here on the farm.Would you like to come along?

Lackan Cottage Farm is a permaculture smallholding near the beautiful Mourne Mountains in Co. Down. We live as lightly as possible on the land and offer the opportunity for visitors from all over the world to volunteer and learn with us.

We want to demonstrate how a low impact lifestyle can be a practical reality, meeting our own needs for food, energy, waste and water from the land around us. Sharing our experiences with others is important to us, and as well as offering practical courses, we welcome volunteers from all over the world to help with everything from horticulture to green buildings.

As part of a wish to live more simply, reduce our environmental impact, and as a reaction to the threat of a changing climate, and over reliance on fossil fuels, we are establishing an off grid smallholding using permaculture and organic principles. Our aim is to be able to provide working, practical solutions that people can learn about, and take away to use in their own lives.

Ecological footprinting

Ecological footprint analysis compares human demands on nature with the biosphere’s ability to regenerate resources and provide services. We are continuously working to lower ours to a truly sustainable level.

  • Average UK ecological footprint – 5.45 global hectares
  • Our ecological footprint – 2.8 global hectares
  • Target Ecological footprint – 1.5 global hectares

Latest News from the farm

Amazing reedmace

In researching what type of reeds were best suited for our new reedbeds, I discovered that the humble reedmace – or Bulrush as many people know it, is a quite remarkable plant. It is hardy, frost resistant, likes wet ground, and can remove high levels of toxins from the environment, although care should be taken if consuming it to ensure that it hasn’t come from a contaminated area.  Having found out more about this incredible plant, I wonder why there aren’t folk out there growing it as a crop. Here are many of the uses to which it can be put –   Roots – raw or cooked. They can be boiled and eaten like potatoes or macerated and then boiled to yield a sweet syrup. The roots can also be dried and ground into a powder, this powder is rich in protein and can be mixed with wheat flour and then used for making bread, biscuits, muffins etc. One hectare of this plant can produce 8 tonnes of flour from the rootstock. The plant is best harvested from late autumn to early spring since it is richest in starch at this time. The root contains about 80% carbohydrate (30 – 46% starch) and 6 – 8% protein. Young shoots in spring – raw or cooked. An asparagus substitute. They taste like cucumber. The shoots can still be used when they are up to 50cm long. Base of mature stem – raw or cooked. It is best to remove the outer part of the stem. It is called ‘Cossack asparagus’. Immature flowering spike – raw, cooked or made into...

Horizontal flow reedbeds

  This week we undertook the building of a ‘proper’ horizontal flow reedbed. Our existing little ones were a hastily built, stopgap measure that we installed when we got here, and it was time to do things correctly. A horizontal flow reedbed can cope with our greywater, which has been passed through a basic straw filter to remove large food particles.  We used washed stone and sand -2 tonne of stone, and about 3/4 tonne of sand. The reedbed is approximately 30cms deep, comprising mainly stone with a 50mm layer of sand at the top, and is planted with reedmace that were growing in wet spots around the site. Here is the system (illustration by Daniel)   The build took us two and a half days, with a lot of time being spent on ensuring that the levels between the inlet and outlet were correct, so that the reedbed will always remain full of water to just below the surface.   The area once the existing undergrowth was cleared The old little (non-functioning) vertical reedbed and pipework are removed.   The area between the new reedbed and the big pond being cleared by Daniel A crucial bit – the soil is cleared to form the banks of the reedbed, and the bottom levelled to give a gentle 1:100 slope. Just off horizontal, basically.     A test with some water to ensure that it does indeed head in the right direction before we put the proper liner in. It is crucial to get the slope right – you don’t want areas where the water settles and won’t flow through...

Small change

The last week I have despaired somewhat as I watch the government dismantle the renewables industry in the name of shaving a quid off people’s energy bills, whilst simultaneously propping up the oil and gas industry to the tune of £1 billion and shamelessly promoting the fracking industry. All the major players – the Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, Chancellor George Osborne, and of course Mr Cameron, have significant links and vested interests in oil, gas and nuclear. They or their families will make yet more money if these industries continue to thrive.  I’ve also watched as elements within the environmental and permaculture worlds realise that whatever they have been doing for the last 20 plus years, isn’t really changing things at the top. The machine ploughs on regardless. It is tempting to see the situation as hopeless. And yet, although the country is run by a pack of over privileged, corrupt and short sighted fools, there is plenty to be optimistic about. The first thing to do, of course, is say a massive ‘fuck you’ to the idiots who comprise the UK government, and our local brand of throwbacks in the NI Assembly. Say ‘fuck you’, and get on with the business of installing solar that shouldn’t be there, wind that you didn’t ask permission for, and energy saving improvements to your home that tell the building control rules to go and take a running jump. They only want the fees, anyway. Out there is a thirst for knowledge, driven partly by a growing realisation that we are on our own – that the rule makers are looking out for...

Chicken day

Today was ‘chicken day’ – 15 weeks or so ago, these 10 birds arrived as day old chicks, supplied by our friends Brian and Becky, as something of an experiment in rearing our own meat.  They have led a happy outdoor existence, foraging, enjoying plenty of space, sitting in trees and generally having a fine time while they could. Today though it was time for us to kill them, and we give many thanks to Brian, and wwoofers Felix and Daniel for their hard work in dispatching, plucking, gutting and cleaning the birds. We now have ten good sized chickens in the freezer, and a collection of odds and ends with which to make a chicken stock. As novices it took nearly the whole day to get through them all, bringing them up two at a time so as not to stress them unduly, before breaking each bird’s neck.  It is quick, and done with as much respect and humanity as we can possibly provide. Certainly it was a big learning opportunity and know that the meat we are eating is ethically reared and prepared. You really do value meat in your diet when you have seen the animal throughout it’s life and been so closely involved with it’s death. Now we have a good few weeks before the next group of young chickens reach sufficient weight to cull out the males, keeping the females for egg production. Because they are all  crossbreeds, they are a fair bit smaller than the birds bred specifically for meat, and so take a lot longer to get to that weight. As the...

Permaculture weekend workshop 5-6 September

Coming soon –  our 2nd ‘Introduction to Permaculture’ weekend workshop,  the weekend of the 5th & 6th of September. In the 2 years since our first Permaculture course at Lackan the farm has developed to include a natural build classroom complete with a rocket stove mass heater. The off-grid power system has evolved to include wind & solar power, & the woodlands & permaculture gardens are now quite established. Lackan also features eco-renovation, forest gardens, regenerated & newly planted native coppice woodlands, waste-water treatment systems, rainwater harvesting, small livestock & horses. It is a practical, lived-in permaculture demonstration site. So this is a really excellent opportunity to learn & live Permaculture theory & practise at an established Permaculture site. Places are limited to 16 participants so do let us know if you are interested in joining us for a weekend of interactive, exploratory & hands-on learning. The course This workshop is a full weekend of interactive, exploratory & hands-on learning. It’s an excellent opportunity to learn permaculture theory & practise at an established permaculture site, taught by experienced permaculture teacher Hannah Mole. Hosts Steve & Claire will also share their experiences, give a site tour and explain how the off-grid set up works & fellow permaculturalist Heiko Vermeulen of Portaferry Permaculture Project will treat us to foraging walk. No prior permaculture experience is necessary to join the workshop. Over the weekend we will cover the core Permaculture themes; ecological design principles & ethics, & we will explore the practical application of these at Lackan cottage where Permaculture design is used in the garden, woodlands, forest garden, animal management, water harvesting,...

One for the techies

The last couple of weeks have seen our renewable energy setup almost completed, as the wind turbine was commissioned, although we quickly realised that we would need some additional capacity to deal with all the power coming in. Our Victron Multiplus 24/3000/50 inverter was frequently overloaded, and the worry was that a strong wind coming after a sunny day (not too unlikely, it happened a week after the turbine went up) could cause mayhem. The reason? The wind turbine is a grid tied model, designed to be connected directly to the mains grid, which will provide a constant load on the turbine. This is needed to prevent the turbine free-wheeling, which is never a Good Thing. Our Inverter/Charger creates a local micro-grid, which the Aurora 3600 GTI (Grid tied inverter) that is fed by the turbine, is happy to connect to – a process known as AC Coupling. Trouble is, if our batteries are full, there is little power demand, and the wind blows, there is only one way for the power to go – into the batteries. This is potentially a Bad Thing, and they will boil. So, in these circumstances, the system has to do something with the excess power. In our case, send it to a couple of storage heaters that come on in sequence, as the battery voltage rises. Between them they are enough to soak up all the power the wind turbine can generate if necessary. This is all pretty cunning. We had to install a second Victron Multiplus to be able to deal with it all, and it works in parallel with the...
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Trees Planted

kwh electricity generated

Rescue animals rehomed

Volunteers welcomed

Visitors – We are always happy to welcome visitors as long as you contact us in advance. Much as we love dogs, we ask that you leave them at home as we have free ranging animals and children around the farm. Smoking is not permitted anywhere here.

Contact us at – Lackan Cottage Farm, 79 Lackan Road, Ballyroney, Co.Down. BT32 5HR. Northern Ireland

You can email us – lackancottage [at] riseup.net or use the contact form

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