This time we’re joined by Mary McMullen of Rowan Wellness & Gardens – a centre for yoga, breathwork, meditation, nature and all things wellness. Mary’s gardens near Maudabawn in Cavan recently played host to Phil Wheal who delivered a very hands on workshop on creating and maintaining a “Food Forest” Garden. “Learning by doing” was the order of the day and all participants got mucky and active. But first things first…..
What is a food forest?
A food forest, also called a forest garden, is a diverse planting of edible plants that attempts to mimic the ecosystems and patterns found in nature. A well designed food forest:
Places emphasis on trees, shrubs, perennials, and self-seeding annuals,
Plants thickly and using ground covers to shade soil and suppress weeds,
Uses nitrogen-fixing and nutrient-accumulating plants, chop-and-drop techniques, and returning wastes to the land to create healthy soil rather than applying fertilizer,
Plants a diverse array of plants that attract beneficial insects to pollinate the fruit crops and keep pest populations from exploding and causing damage,
Creates micro-climates and windbreaks which helps smaller plants thrive.
Through time it will create a diverse and rich ecosystem of productive plants that can be easily maintained and enjoyed.
In this article we speak to Pat McKenna, a North Monaghan farmer about his role in the innovative conservation grazing programme on Sliabh Beagh. We also find out how “Virtual Fencing” and other conservation efforts are helping restore Sliabh Beagh’s ecological richness.
Increasing Fires Back in 2007 a massive fire destroyed over 700 hectares (1750 acres) of the Special Area of Conversation located on the upper slopes of Sliabh Beagh in North Monaghan. The fire wiped out ground nesting birds and vast areas of rare flora and fauna and it can take an upland many years to recover: in the aftermath of a fire some of the first species to reestablish are the invasive and quick growing grasses that can choke and restrict the rarer plant species. Locals were also noticing reductions in rare ground nesting birds as well as increasing amounts of self seeding Sitka Spruce from conifer forestry plantations. In response, a group of stakeholders developed maps detailing vegetation types across the vast area as well as history of burns in the area. It was decided that conservation grazing would be a cost effective method to graze the fire prone vegetation and thus reduce the intensity and spread of any future fires. The mountain area is vast and so electronic collars are fitted to the cattle enabling the farmer to track their movements and also allowing virtual fencing to restrict cattle to where they are needed.
READ THIS EXAMPLE OF “AN EASIER WAY TO DO THINGS”!
On a visit to Clive Bright’s farm in Sligo in 2016, as part of a group learning about organic farming, I recall him declaring with a grin that he “considers himself a lazy farmer”. Clive clarified this viewpoint by adding: “I’m always looking for an easier way to do things”. Clive’s statement belies a true passion for farming smarter, and his approach is reaping rewards. By paying close attention to every detail, and questioning the necessity of each step in the farming process, Clive has carved out a viable market for his 100% grass-fed beef. So how does he do it? Dermot McNally shares some insights.
The Barker home place near Derryvalley, Co Monaghan is enjoying a wonderful renaissance under the thoughtful stewardship of owner (and well known Toastmaster) Charlie Barker. A few intrepid members of Transition Monaghan took a visit to see and learn how diversification and respect for nature are paying dividends. Dermot McNally explains all.
Transition Monaghan members converged on Síolta Chroí outside Carrickmacross to see how the regenerative farm is progressing. We were blessed with a cool dry day to take the tour and chat to the owners, Karen and Gareth (also Transition Monaghan members).
Transition Monaghan members went on a tour of growers in Cavan – one at CAMCAS, a social enterprise with Community Garden and learning space in Ballyconnell: Barry Kavanagh grower, tutor and landscape gardener welcomed members. The second destination was The Patch near Kilnaleck where visitors helped planting windbreaks and fruits trees. The article below (published in the Northern Standard) looks specicifically at the commercial grower Tirloch O’Brien.
Teagasc in association with the Organic Trust occasionally run open days at selected farms throughout Ireland to showcase best practice. It also allows prospective organic farmers to network and learn from those who are “walking the walk”. Two Transition Members went along on the day and the following article (printed in the Northern Standard) gives a flavour of what they saw on the farm tour.
Monaghan newest start-up: the Irish Organic Mill
Few farmers have escaped the endless challenge of rising costs, falling prices and increased regulation. However in an effort to increase viability, two innovative Monaghan Farmers are teaming up to launch a new venture under the brand name, Irish Organic Mill. The Irish Organic Mill will serve the niche but growing market for stoneground baking flour. They hope to launch in 2021. Dermot McNally spoke to one of the two farming entrepreneurs to find out more.
As Spring approaches and our hedgerows are about to burst forth into growth, experienced hedge layer John McKeon considers the value of our hedgerows and how we should look after them. John is a committee member of the Hedge Laying Association of Ireland and he will be running a one day training course on hedge laying in Castleblayney on Saturday 8th February. Tel 087 1462790 for details.
Eamon Mc Loughlin of the Hedge Laying Association of Ireland secures a newly laid hedge with traditional wooden gabhlógs at a hedge laying demonstration.
Ireland needs more native trees. Packs of trees for planting are now available as part of an initiative to plant one million trees in Ireland on just one day – Saturday 11 February 2017. If you are a landowner or a member of an organisation with suitable space, why not join in and order your trees – they are an ideal Christmas or New Year gift to our country, our planet, our children and future generations.
The not for profit group behind the initiative is called ‘One Million Trees in One Day’ and they provide the trees at a small charge. There are three types of tree packs that contain 50 trees per pack. There is a Woodland Pack, a Coppice Pack and a Hedge Pack and the vast bulk of the trees supplied are of native Irish provenance. Packs include appropriate mixes of oak, hazel, alder, rowan, birch, crab apple scots pine. Hawthorn and blackthorn are the main species in the Hedge Pack. Trees can be ordered online and are delivered to a location that is convenient for collecting them.