A few days ago we visited a smallholding belonging to old friends, this couple had emigrated from Belgium to Ireland in the late eighties. Back then they set up a smallholding and were soon self-sufficient. About two years ago they bought a smaller piece of land, just about one acre in size.

Being who they are, hard working people, they amazed us totally with the amount of vegetables and herbs they have growing in an already very organized garden, the one acre is totally utilized and apart from vegetables they keep hens, ducks, a cock, and goats, so they have eggs, and milk from the goats.

We found their way of life so inspiring, totally self sufficient, they are so very organized, because of yearly flooding of their land they have built raised beds, the soil they used in these beds is totally organic, there being organic waste from the goats, the chickens, and their own compost heap, and lots more go into a recipe that is excellent to enrich the soil. A local strawberry farm provides mulching material. So the vegetables and herbs grow very well, they look the picture of health.

Among one of the things that is very important to them is to save their own seeds.  They reckon that seeds saved from their own produce, and swapped perhaps with neighbours, will produce easy to grow crops.  Crops that would naturally grow well in this particular micro climate, and soils.  Some of the crops we saw were, potatoes, mais, beans, peas, broad beans, onions, leeks, carrots, spinach, oca, spring onions, asparagus, lettuce, quinoa, marrows, cucumbers, kale, broccoli, and lots of herbs, among them rosemary, oregano, chives, comfrey, milk thistle, angelica, bay leaf, mint, and so many more.  There is also a wide variety of berries that grow along the side of the acre.

There are six home-made tunnels in which the couple grow a variety from tomatoes and quinoa to millet, and all sorts of other interesting things. Along the beds the grass is kept short by guinea pigs, these do a good job. The guinea pigs are kept in specially made large wire cages, that get moved along the grass, they also have a larger cage inside, there seem to be quite a few of them, and they are looked after very well.

Use is also made of ferrets, these guys keep the rats down.

Everything has a use, there is no sentimentality at the smallholding. We shared a meal with this couple and it was delicious, all produce out of the garden, except the fish which had been locally sourced too. From the photos you can see how efficient the place looks, lots of hard work goes into it, but I think that the satisfaction one gets when all runs smoothly and the produce is great, is wonderful.








  1. Wow, that looks like an amazing garden and very productive. Are the gerbils just kept in the polytunnels or do they keep the grass short outside too? What a great idea!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sorry, I might add this bit of info too, the gerbils are kept in specially made wire cages, that get moved along the grass, they also have a larger cage inside, there seem to be quite a few of them.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, a smallholding is a small farm, it is mainly growing vegetables, fruit trees, grains even, and having small animals or even one cow, horse, or pig depending on how much land one has. Gerbils are similar to hamsters, but I am not sure what they look like exactly, as I only saw them in their cage, and was more interested in the vegetables. I can find out for sure if you like. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. this looks like a little paradise, wonderful what kinds of flowers and vegetables they have and animals. We want to do the same in the next years, becoming self-sufficient. Thanks for sharing this, dear Agnes. Hope you are fine, kind regards from warm Hamburg, Mitza

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  3. Amazing! They’ve already accomplished so much in that short amount of time!! Hard working indeed! Tell me more about the gerbils and ferrets please. Did they introduce them and just let them go wild? If so, what keeps them in the area and what keeps the chickens from eating the gerbils? So many questions!

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    1. Hi James, just getting back to my blog. For starters I must correct myself and let you know that they are not ‘gerbils’ but they are guinea pigs that keep the grass down on this smallholding, they are not used for any other reason by the way, I got that wrong. Guinea pigs are kept here as pets.
      There are a lot of wild ferrets around here and they will kill your chickens if you don’t lock those up during the night. People might have ferrets also as pets, they are a beautiful animal actually, and they might keep the rat population down, but I am actually not sure how that is achieved. To be honest James I will have to look at my ‘reporting’ methods/skills because as far as this my latest blog goes, I feel that I did not put in enough effort to report on facts properly, I guess one learns all the time, and I will.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nonsense, you reported well enough to peak my interest and adore those photos.

        Did you read my post about the Case of the Cursed Egg? I deliberately invented facts on that one. Funny facts, but grossly untrue.

        It’s our blog and we can do what we want! You could edit it and say that there are great winged hamsters that glow in the dark and alight upon the meadows in a great flurry bringing much needed solace to wayward ferrets. Jazz it up a bit! I love embellishments in my posts.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Good post and very informative! I love organic vegetables! Always good to know how others growing their organic foods. I love sharing info on becoming more healthy and being conscious of what we eat. Like the post and I look forward to the next one!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes it is actually a good idea, we ourselves used wood, old scaffolding boards and some of them are rotting. In the case of the smallholding, these people get some flooding during the winter and I think the stone also protects the bed to a certain extend. Thanks for the follow.

      Liked by 1 person

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