Ireland is a beautiful country.
Rich in natural resources.
Plenty of clean, fresh rain.
Few people; lots of land.
However, there is a disconnect between the land and the people, in that much of what is eaten in Ireland is produced elsewhere.
Everywhere one drives, one sees new houses with green lawns around them and beyond the green lawn lie fields of rushes and a lot of untended land.
I once spoke with a Dutch man who informed me that Ireland could feed most of Europe!
He affirmed that the land was good enough, here in the west, to produce huge quantities of valuable crops!
At the time I was sceptical to say the least! However, as I write, this is my 8th year at Bealtaine and I now know better!
Those of you who doubt this can visit ‘About’ Bealtaine Cottage and see the proof for yourself!
Part of the onion crop drying off in the sun on the veranda at Bealtaine.
Heavy machinery has taken over the land in the west of Ireland.
There are few instances of people, feet on the ground, walking the land here as they work.
Now, as the land is wet for most of the year, heavy machinery is very damaging as it compacts the earth and compacts the problem of poor draining soil.
This was precisely the problem I encountered when first creating Bealtaine Smallholding. Monocultured, wet, poorly drained, ill-fed soil!
The very productive polytunnel, surrounded by vegetable beds, orchards and much more!
Many people who venture out on the land are raised some 6 feet above it as they sit atop a very large tractor!
One sees very few people actually walking the land…and this is one of the cornerstones of permaculture…addressing this disconnect.
I was assured that little could be grown on this land I bought back in 2004. North-facing, no drainage, poor topsoil…indeed none in places, just bare rock…etc.!
However, walking the land and getting to know all aspects of it gave me lots of ideas!
Flowers carpet the ground in the orchards here at Bealtaine, ensuring plenty of food for the most welcome bees!
I recently applied to the Roscommon Enterprise Board for some help to get an information Road-show established for schools and colleges here in the West of Ireland and was prepared to organize and structure it all, using my skills base as a qualified teacher…but, alas, to no avail!
Few people grow the vegetables and fruit they need to have as part of a healthy diet. This can be addressed adequately with good information and encouragement!
Just one of the 27 fruit trees planted here at Bealtaine…absolutely laden with fruit…but the powers that be are not interested in this approach to farming…
It is worrying to note that in the event of any world crisis that impinged upon the importation of food to Ireland, there could well be a Famine…
The west of Ireland is hilly and in some cases mountainous. Indeed this is the case here at Bealtaine. I have used a form of terracing to keep the goodness in the soil and prevent erosion…this is simple to do and easy to work!