Sunday, May 29, 2011

Felt Workshops

Now that we've got the workshop up and running, we're able to host some of Elaine's popular felt making workshops here at Turnip house Benraw.

Many thanks to Down Arts for commissioning us to do them up to now.

The workshops are for small groups of up to 6 people, run from 11am to 3pm and include lunch and all materials.

you will be guided on how to create fantastic felt pieces from wool fibres such as 

  • flowers
  • bags
  • hats
  • textile art
  • vases 

The cost is £25 per person, including lunch and  materials.

The dates for the next workshops are:

  • 25 June
  • 16 July
  • 30 July
  • 13 August
  • 27 August
There are places available on all dates at the moment.

if you would like to come, please email Elaine on 

Or phone 028 4065 0848

Here's a selection of what has been made at previous workshops

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Last Days of May

Lots going on - workshop open each weekend now,
 it's a good feeling. 
The weather is cold and windy - put a halt to the composting toilet, 
but we'll be back. 
Just a few shots from the last few days - a taste of what happening!

evening rainbows - makes the rain all the more worthwhile!

plants bought at Mount Stewart - still waiting for a calm day!

meanwhile Eleanor is now 8 months old - this is her first swing!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mount Stewart 2011

This Saturday and Sunday we will be at the Mount Stewart Grand Garden and Craft Fair.

Mount Stewart is one of the finest of many National Trust properties around here.

well worth a visit any time, but particularly this weekend

We will be open at home as usual (Kate and Eleanor are in charge)

Charlie will be there!

Tir Na Nog - the burial ground of the Londonderrys

there is always a spectacular show of colour

inside Tir Na Nog

The watchtower

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I was travelling over the mountains and saw at close quarters the destruction caused by the fires.

the forest at the top of the beloved Trassey Road - completely destroyed

in the centre there's little left

this used to be the way in

looking down towards Clonachullion - the fires swept down the Shimna river

Despite it all, as I was taking it all in, clearly across the forest - the sound of the Cuckoo.

How to build a composting toilet

We always planned to be 'green' meaning that we would think about what we were doing - how much our activities would compare with the one planet philosophy, and aim to work towards sustainability and a 'sufficient' lifestyle.

We are lucky in many ways; one is that we have a well that we can take water from. This has been in use for generations, and served our predecessors well, as it does us.

If we take water off at too fast a rate for long periods, like watering plants, the well level drops, the pump runs dry and cuts out.

It's OK the pump has sophisticated electronics, so it looks after itself. 

After an hour or so, the water is back up, and all is well (!)

It does focus the mind however, and it feels like there is not a limitless supply (as there isn't of course!)

We are gathering the grey water in a primitive bucket based system, to be improved in due course, and we are now going to install a composting toilet.

So much of our beautiful clean water is used to flush away perfectly suitable compostable waste into a septic tank (in our case) or the sewage system, only to be cleaned up at later date. What a waste - why not keep it and use it ourselves? 

A bit unorthodox perhaps!

But as Kevin McCloud of Grand designs says:

But human poo? Who’d put that on their garden? Anyone who has a composting toilet. These lucky souls use their large intestine to create a supply of rich, sweet-smelling fibre (and it’s fine, I have smelt it) that, to all intents and purposes, might be the finest prepacked Arthur Bowyer’s: wholesome, healthy and about as recycled as you can get.

With no better an advocate here we go.

We have a ready made enclosure: an outside loo with more or less a roof. 
It's attached to remnant of other buildings - 

That will need tidying up!

Today we set about removing the unstable, and the unwanted.

The result:

the roof is off - and much of the side wall - but at least the greenhouse will get more light!

what better thing that smashing away at a concrete wall?

broken toilet pan, and overhead cast iron cistern made in Newry - a treasure

more rubble - oh joy

that's about it

ready to start!

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Opening Times

We are open every Saturday and Sunday 11am to 5pm, and still working on jobs around the place; the barbecue is nearly finished. 

It is already far more 'finished' that the one we had at Trassey!

Almost ready for action.
The bricks are from under the workshop floor
(follow the link to see the post)

Thank goodness the weather is now back to normal - drizzle turning to rain, wouldn't want to wear the barbecue out too soon!

Please come up and see what we're up to, we are getting making again, Mount Stewart Garden and Craft Fair is in two weeks (21 & 22 May) so it's about time!

If you want to visit outside weekends, that's no problem, just ring 028 4065 0848 or email to be sure we'll be in.

Charlie on duty!

a panorama of the Turnip House Courtyard

Thursday, May 05, 2011


After weeks of dry weather we have rain at last today - it was good to see a 'soft' day! The plants have been crying out for it, and it will put out the remains of the wildfires.

April was hottest on record in some parts, we recorded 20.5 degrees C on 10th April, with night time temperatures at the beginning and end of the month below 3 degrees C.

April's weather data can be downloaded here or from the link on the right of this blog.

There is an excellent monthly report from Met √Čireann which can be seen here

Slievenaboley wreathed in mistiness

welcome water droplets for the singed lupin leaves

Monday, May 02, 2011

Barbecue place

These old bricks from the floor of the Turnip House find new life as support for the slabs.
Another fantastic day; strong winds, but warm sunshine. We set to work on the plinths for the barbecue table.This area at the lower end of the Turnip House courtyard gets the evening sun right to sunset.

We are thinking about doing barbecue evenings, if there is a demand for it.
When finished, this will be a great place for entertaining.

fires still burn in the Trassey Valley this evening; our old home

Plumes of smoke from Northern Ireland seen 700km above Earth - Northern Ireland, Local & National -

This remarkable picture courtesy of The Belfast Telegraph,


Plumes of smoke from Northern Ireland seen 700km above Earth - Northern Ireland, Local & National -

Trails of smoke across Northern Ireland, seen by the Aqua satellite yesterday, with sources of the fires outlined in red

The Mournes Ablaze

We're in the unfortunate position of being able to see all too clearly the fires - caused deliberately - on the Mournes these past few weeks.

As the Belfast Telegraph said:

Embattled firefighters have had to deal with more than 1,100 gorse fires in Northern Ireland in the last two weeks — a staggering 97% of which have been started deliberately

Read more:

smoke form the fires on Lamigan yesterday pour over Slievenaglogh
multiple fires on our side of the mountains this morning
this seems to be from the wood at the top of the Trassey Valley near Fofanny reservoir

Meanwhile life settles down in the New Turnip House, we are now open every weekend, and are delighted to say that people are finding us! Some of you who follow the blog have come down, and new visitors who just find us in passing.

We are heartened by all the lovely comments that we're getting, and are so pleased to have established 'base camp'. This gives us motivation to continue onwards!

In the pipeline for the next few months:

  • get making again!
  • build the composting toilet
  • start the vegetable beds
  • plant more trees
  • finish the barbecue area
  • get ready to replace the roof in the Big House!

Furby's just worn out by the thought of it all!

The red kite

another great sunny day