Bealtaine Project: Colette O’Neill’s Irish Permaculture Journey

Reader Contribution by Wendy Gregory
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 Bealtaine Cottage before

Single, in her late 40s and living in London, Colette O’Neill spent several years plotting a return to her native Ireland. Holiday weekends were spent searching for the perfect cottage and a small bit of land to live out the permaculture life of her dreams. While the land and cottage in the West of Ireland she settled on were not quite the dreamy vision she had planned, something about the “north-facing, wet, rush-infested land” and the old cottage without plumbing, a view of the sky through the kitchen ceiling and an urgent need for new wiring spoke to her. Now in her mid 60s with a blog and YouTube channel filled with 11 years of content from that journey, one can see the vision come to life. Except for a few building projects and the original earth moving at the start of the project, Colette is the one who has been planting mostly from seeds and cuttings, chopping and dropping in permaculture style to create woodland paths and the caretaker of this magical woodland sanctuary.

Poly tunnel

Bealtaine Cottage Lane after 13 years of permaculture. 

In the years since, what was a boggy, rushy, barren landscape is now filled with life. The many fruit trees, berries, herbs and flowering trees are home to birds, bees, and small mammals. Two ponds teaming with life and the sound of water flowing show Colette’s careful stewardship of this lush ecosystem she created with her own hands. The story of her daily life, her successes and challenges are recorded in videos and blog posts and in her self-published book, A Cottage and Three Acres, printed in Ireland and mailed by the author at her local post office in true permaculture style supporting  local businesses as she funds her Bealtaine Project with her writing.

A bit about Colette and the project

Cottage before renovation

Videos and blog posts span many topics from the history and vision of Bealtaine, to trips to local Irish sites, London visits, charity shop fashion, cottage decorating and a dose of natural crafting and vegan cooking. Using the list of tags on her blog site or the SEARCH box on her website, Facebook and YouTube page will bring up posts in polytunnel building and maintenance, composting, compost toilets, and water conservation during the yearly Irish droughts. Colette has recently published a new book on the myths and legends of Ireland inspired by the sense of magic on her land in sight of Kilronan Mountain a place filled with legend. Before and after photos.

Cottage after

Cottage project over 13 years

To see the before and after photos is inspiring knowing that one woman with a vision and a love of hard work can create this sanctuary. She is a force of nature living her deeply held beliefs that one ‘should plant like her life depends on it-because it does.”

Cottage kitchen

Visit her blog bookstore for her yearly calendar, a map of the Bealtaine cottage and landscape, and three self-published books, all of which support her local community and the work of the Bealtaine Project.

Slideshow of cottage interior

Cottage tour

Off-grid living without solar or wind.

Wendy Gregory spent her career working with children as a culinary and gardening teacher in an arts-based summer camp for at-risk children in Nelsonville, Ohio, and as the director of a children’s museum in Lancaster, Ohio. She is a freelance writer exploring the ways seniors can contribute, grow, and reinvent themselves in a new chapter of life. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here. 

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