Baile Geamhraidh farm

Sebastian and I (Eva) have been here in Baile Geamhraidh on the island of Lismore for 12 years now. We were both in our sixties by the time we moved here, but we were healthy and fit.

For the first 8 years we lived in a hut which we brought with us from Edinburgh, it had been our garden hut.  And yes, it was cold and hard and during storms and rains, but also very worthwhile as I developed a connection with the land and the sky, the wind and the birds, the island history, and the Gaelic language.

We designed the house ourselves and my husband, with the help of Wwoofers  and some locals built the house. My neighbour, who had sold me the land wanted to keep grazing his cattle and sheep on our land, which suited me, as this gave me time to study what animals I wanted and how and where to get them from.

The first thing I did was to explore tree planting and grants for that.  I planted 10 000 trees of native species on the 40 acres – I chose a natural method of planting so that the trees will look like they planted themselves.  And now, 10 years on, they are towering beauties. They make a difference by sucking up excess water, slowing down the howling gales, increasing the bird and insect and all the soil-borne life.  The pastures have become much lusher and resilient with the trees nearby and the cattle like their shelter from hot sun and driving rain.

Once our neighbour retired and no longer needed our land for grazing, it was time to get some animals of our own. I decided I wanted Shetland cattle, and no sheep.  The land here has been seriously over-populated and over-grazed with sheep over the years.  The reason I chose Shetland cattle are manifold; they have horns (a prerequisite for BD farming), they are relatively easy on the ground, small feet and quite dainty, important for the very wet times we get here, easy calving, outdoors all year, a bit smaller than many breeds, as well as being healthy and powerful. They are also so versatile, both used for meat and dairy and can graze rough and hilly ground, they even chomp away on rushes.

Farming methods overall on the island are conventional and I wanted to do it differently from the start.  As a student of anthroposophy, I have always favoured the Biodynamic way of working with nature, learning from nature. I also started on the path to Organic and then Biodynamic certification. That was another learning curve and took 5 years to accomplish.  

As I spent my whole professional life as a homeopath in Edinburgh and Glasgow using homeopathic remedies instead of conventional medication has always been my first port of call and I attended a course for farmers at HAWL (Homeopathy At Welly Level).  It’s not that different from working with children as you need to learn to look, listen and smell rather than ask.  Homeopathy works brilliantly with animals and mine have never yet needed any vet drugs at all.
Financially –  in an island community everyone has multiple roles.  I have worked in the school as a support teacher, I take groups out foraging, mostly for seaweed (which I also feed to my cattle by the way – saves on money on licks), I translate the occasional book from Dutch to English, our garden is open to the public in the Scottish Gardens Scheme and make money there on lunches, tea and coffee and plant sales; I sell vegetables, egg and meat to islanders and holiday makers. 

What’s next?  Well, we are not getting any younger and will need some young blood to help us start our next project here.  Still under wraps this, just in case it doesn’t pan out!