Looking at pictures of the Permaculture gardens at Bealtaine Cottage, it seems completely impossible that such beauty and abundance could have come from 3 acres of north-facing, wet, rush-infested land, without the help of any chemicals or tilling. It’s even more remarkable that this garden of Eden was built almost entirely by one woman working alone. And yet, that is the story of Colette O’Neill, who dared to leave the big city life in London and take up the simple life on a small-holding in Ireland, dedicated to planting trees, sowing seed, and living in cooperation with nature.
And if this seems impossible–as it must to any lone gardener who’s ever tried to manage more than a few hundred square feet–then it’s because it is impossible, on one’s own. The real inspiration of “Bealtaine Cottage” is how Colette used the tools and principles of Permaculture to recruit the assistance of over 900 trees, a wild diversity of plants, and the bees and other wildlife she’s invited to share the land and work with her.
The gardens at Bealtaine Cottage provide an oasis for wildlife while at the same time producing food, fuel, and supplies for crafting. But more than that, of all the Permaculture homesteads I know of, Colette’s project is proof that Permaculture can provide beauty and food for the soul.
But the inspiration of Colette’s story doesn’t end with gardening, she has pioneered a self-sufficient life in tune with nature: sustainable wood fuel for cooking and heating, rocket stoves, recycled building materials, composting toilets, appropriate technology and tiny structures, and many other skills for living well and frugally.
Colette has generously made most of her story and her advice available for free on her Bealtaine Cottage blog. She also shares her love of nature, her animal friends, open-pollinated seeds, bees, and of course, trees. You can watch many beautiful and inspiring videos, free of advertisements, on her Youtube channel, by clicking one one of the videos below.
Colette also has occasional sales at her Etsy shop.
Raised sheet-mulch beds at Bealtaine Cottage
Simple and Useful Rocket Stove Demo
Tour of the Edible Gardens at Bealtaine Cottage