The Permaculture Challenge

IMG_0057This is the tenth anniversary of Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture Smallholding.

IMG_0002It’s hard to believe that ten years ago this was a desolate cottage on three acres of the poorest agriculture land imaginable.

permaculture at Bealtaine CottageWet, north-facing, thin, dauby soil promised little in the way of growing.

www.bealtainecottage.comIt was a challenge few in their right minds would have contemplated, let alone sink their life savings into, as well as borrowing from the bank!

DSCF1274But, I fell in love with the land, for it looked immeasurably forlorn and abandoned.

www.bealtainecottage.comMy approach was simple…it was holistic, nothing was separated or apart…all was connected and that included being connected to me, as the new caretaker and caregiver.

www.bealtainecottage.comI have never taken a Permaculture course, but read every book on the subject and applied the principles. Autumn 2013 at Bealtaine Cottage 015As a teacher I had created environmental gardens in primary school grounds in London, bringing Mother Nature to children living, in many cases, remote from Mother Nature and all her wonders!

www.bealtainecottage.comIn the early days I was physician and surgeon, intensive care nurse and visitor, channeling all my energy and hope into the sick land.

DSCF0813Working on my own was a blessing, for the land took all my time and love.

Autumn 2013 at Bealtaine Cottage 002
After ten years, this once barren little place is one of the most fertile and productive pieces of land in all of Ireland…in fact I would like to issue a challenge to The Botanical Gardens in Dublin and it is this: Bealtaine Cottage has more biodiversity in it’s flora and fauna than the Botanical Gardens, Dublin!

Dog Daisy benchVisit and prove me wrong!


And in the beginning there was only this…






  1. Your cottage and land is an inspiration. I hope yet one day to have the opportunity to do something similar. I’ve liked your FB page in hopes of receiving updates in my feed so I may continue to be inspired. Thank you for the love and time you take in sharing your journey.

  2. What an achievement! Bealtaine is a magical place and you have a remarkable connection with the land that comes through strongly in your writing. I love seeing it all!

  3. So inspiring, and I am living this here in Goshen, Indiana: “It was a challenge few in their right minds would have contemplated, let alone sink their life savings into.” Thank you for modeling what’s possible. We’re on more like half an acre surrounded by rather a industrial and run down area, but when I get discouraged, I look at how much this forgotten land has already transformed, and I look to Bealtaine Cottage for further inspiration. Know that you are changing lives with this blog, Colette! I thank you, and so do my neighbors, who have watched this property transform from “the worst in Goshen” to one of the more delightful experiments in permaculture gardens. Blessings, Laura

    • Working for Mother earth is so rewarding and it’s great to hear your story Laura…can you post a link, as we’d all love to see and be inspired. The world needs inspiration indeed!
      Blessings to you and your work at Goshen XXX

      • I’m getting together some before and after photos. Of course, the after is still very much a work in progress. I don’t have a real before photo, either, because when we moved in, masses of neglected and diseased overgrowth had been cut down. Our backyard was literally all weeds, bare soil, and tree stumps. The ash borer came through Goshen in 2011-2012, and because this yard was just overgrown trees, none were healthy. The maples and ash trees were almost all cut down, and the land was very sad, dry and painful to look at. It has really changed even in the 1.5 years we’ve been here. This spring, I’ve planted 6 trees and several shrubs, along with lots of garden. I’ll let you know when I have the photos up. It probably won’t be until next week. Thanks and blessings! Laura xxx

  4. Congratulations! You are such an inspiration. Every blessing to you and the land you are caretaker for! Warmest wishes Alex Tennant


  5. What an achievement. I constantly refer people to your site to see what can be achieved. Some “Before and After” reference pictures would be fabulous!

Your comments are welcome!