“All the flowers of the tomorrows are in the seeds of today.”
Wildkitchen is primarily a family home with an organic garden/tunnel, small coppice area, shelter belt of native Irish trees for food for wildlife and an embryonic forest garden, that we are developing for use as an educational project. As a trained organic horticulture tutor, studying countryside management and sustainable development, I have a deep respect for the natural world and care passionately for the environment.We grow a lot of our own food, and supply a local market stall and health food shop with salad crops, herbs, and homemade produce using only organic methods of production.We live work and play with an emphasis on a low carbon, sustainable way of life. We are close to the sea, and I use my horticultural knowledge to guide Wild Food Walks, on land and on the seashore, and care of these precious resources is at the heart of my work. We as a family and small eco-tourism business strive to minimize our impact on the environment, and monitor these impacts with a view to continual improvement.
The original cottage was extended and modernized using principles of passive solar design. Solar panels for hot water, 6” insulation in wall cavity and 150mm sheep wool. We have a wood burning stove, and are harvesting our first cutting of Biomass willow this Spring, grown on an acre of borrowed marginal boggy land with the hope of being fuel sufficient in the coming years. We feel privileged to live in such a beautiful part of the world, 5 mins. from the Wild Atlantic Way, and our aim is enjoy what’s on our doorsteps to the fullest, while keeping to a minimum, any adverse impact on our environment as a result of our activities. The region we live and work in, is known as the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark, and I was delighted to avail of the invaluable training in sustainable tourism under the Geoparklife programme this Autumn/Winter. As a new member we are committed to adapting the Geopark Sustainable Code of Practice into our work, and beyond, by promoting what we do, with our neighbours, friends, families, staff and customers.
The Burren Code of Practice and Wild Kitchen
As I work from home when not guiding walks, and intend to eventually use it as a place to bring walkers for cookery, workshops and tastings, my energy uses and green purchasing policies are tied in with my home life, and I’m taking all this into consideration now and for the future as a commitment to respecting the Geopark Sustainable Code of Practice for Tourism.
Our long term objectives are to one day run the house off grid, by eventually installing a wind turbine, to complement the existing environmental initiatives in place. We also aim to produce enough fruit/herbs and produce from the wild harvest for our own consumption through- out the year, and supplement any short comings with produce from the local community garden I work in, in lieu of vegetables and seeds. We aim to be as self-sufficent as we possibly can, and aim to monitor this to show reductions in water usage, waste creation and one day having NO ENERGY BILL.
- Water Use
We are on the public water supply and enjoy water heated by the sun for all our hot water needs, though it is supplemented from the oil burner when the days are dark. We closely check for taps left on, and involve all the family in the importance of water conservation. We have an aerator on the kitchen tap, and eco shower head, and recycle water when possible for watering plants and the garden. We collect some rain water in barrels covered with mesh (for safety) though feel we could do a lot more in this area as we use a lot of water for the polytunnel in the growing season. We aim to reduce our demand on the public water supply, for financial reasons and environmental ones, and see it as a precious resource to be looked after and recycled where ever possible.
When building the extension I designed it around the principles of passive solar, with large double glazed windows to the south, and small ones to the north. We used heavy gauge insulation and sheep wool, where possible. We have found that this significantly reduces our energy costs, and don’t use any oil heating from February to November. Having solar heated water is a huge bonus and I availed of the S.E.I grant for installing the 60 tubes I have. As part of an initiative from Transition Towns Ennistymon of which I am a member, I facilitated a workshop in the Spring of 2010, to plant, grow and harvest biomass willow for fuel logs. We started to harvest the first timber this Year, in October 2014,and on the Winter Solstice we organized a free biomass harvesting workshop, which was attended by 30 people who all leaned how to grow their own willow and each took enough home to plant an area 25sqm in size. We are delighted with the results, and we aim to rotate the acre and have a continuous supply of our own carbon neutral fuel into the future. We also planted a coppice area of Ash, Willow and Hazel for use in weaving, fencing, tool handles, bows and arrows, walking sticks and kindling.
We have replaced 90% of the light bulbs with energy efficient ones and continue to make improvements in this area. We are very mindful of using electricity and are lucky with the big south facing windows, that allow for minimum use of artificial light.
In 2016 we changed to Panda Power, for our electricity needs.
They claim that Panda Power is Ireland’s low-cost green electricity provider. Launched in 2015, Panda Power sells green electricity which is generated from renewable resources such as solar, wind and wave energy.
Panda Power’s parent company, Panda, is Ireland’s largest recycling company with over 150,000 households using our utility service.
Here is a link to some power-savings tips www.pandapower.ie/Power-saving-tips
We recycle as much as we possibly can, and actively encourage recycling in our daily routine. As we have little land fill we share a refuse collection with a neighbour, which keeps costs low for both of us. We have a 3 bay composting area and see it as the heart of the garden, and use it to recycle all our uncooked food waste, grass clippings, weeds and dead foliage. We collect leaves in the Autumn and make leaf mold, comfrey mold and worm compost, this is used to address fertility in our garden/tunnel. Reducing the need to ”buy” in fertility. Our recycling area for bottles and cans has been improved and with our overall reduction in buying in groceries we have reduced our recycling amount, and now reuse a lot of bottles and jars. We intend to get hens again, and to use the small amount of food waste we have to supplement their diet.
Worm Compost, Leaf Mold, Compost Area, a bit untidy…
How we incorporate the Code of Practice into our walks.
Information and Interpretation
“With an emphasis on enriching personal experience and environmental awareness through interpretation, ecotourism promotes greater understanding and appreciation for nature, local society, and culture.” The international Ecotourism Society.
The lines above say it all really, and I see interpretation of the whole experience I offer on my walks as the core of my business. One of my greatest pleasures is to share the knowledge I have learned from studying my subject for many years. Blessed with the call of the wild, I immerse myself in it as often as I can, sometimes to just watch and listen, take photographs and mental notes of the forever changing landscape I live in.
In keeping with ecotourism principles, I endeavor to promote what I do,
In the most sustainable way, i.e.
-keeping group numbers small, 10 to 14 max.
-by communicating with walkers about local areas of historical interest
and special conservation. One of our designated walks has an archeological site, turlough and holy well all in the same small area.
-by pointing out and identifying plants flowers, and seaweeds, noting any that should not be eaten and that are endangered. Teaching walkers how to sustainably forage, while having fun and interacting with nature.
-Using good plant books and identification cards and keys to inform and encourage walkers to learn a new sustainable skill.
We joined We are an Ark in creating a wild area in our space here.
Biodiversity is “the variety of all living things, and the systems which connect them.” This includes all the planet’s different plants, animals and micro- organisms, plus the genetic information they contain and the ecosystems of which they are a part.” Mary Reynolds” founder of We are an Ark.
Wild Kitchen is on the map of Ireland as part of We are an Ark.
In the Summer of 2019 Wild Kitchen signed up to the All Ireland Pollinator Plan, to help with Bio- Diversity and in playing a tiny part in the race against species loss. We are all part of this huge jigsaw!
We have remained members and now incorporate a huge amount of knowledge learned into our work and have developed training modules in biodiversity that are aimed at schools and businesses which is a follow on from our tutoring days.
www.Leavenotraceireland.org I convey their message of how to be responsible in the countryside and encourage walkers to use and share this knowledge with others.
I am currently putting together a training manual on all aspects of my business for staff use, to equip themselves with the information they need to relate to visitors/customers about the natural and cultural heritage of the region.
I also guide walks for Trafalgar Tour Company which is a part of a joint initiative with The TreadRight Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation established by The Travel Corporation to encourage sustainable tourism within their own family of brands and in the places they visit.
Attended the Interpreting the Burren training session and visitor education and management training session, which we intend to, continue with further training, specifically in this area in the coming Autumn/Winter.
- Leave No Trace
As a partner of Leave No Trace, we actively encourage responsible use of the outdoors and are aware of concerns regarding removal of plants and vegetation from the wild. To this regard we have adapted best practice advice from www.UrbanOutdoorSkills.com. Which addresses the issue around sustainable foraging, that we communicate with our walkers as follows.
DO leave at least a third of the blossom, flowers, berries, seed heads, nuts, leaves, seashore vegetables and seaweeds on the plant and cut, don’t pull.
DON’T break branches to make gathering easier.
DON’T pick or bring home fungi that are over mature.
DON’T venture into private land without permission.
DON’T pick plants in conservation areas where there is a Department of
Environment notice that states you should not do so.
DO take care where you park your car. Don’t block farm gates.
DO close all farm gates after you. DO bring all your litter home.
DON’T dig up wild plants
- Contribution to Conservation
Planting Biomass Willow, native trees, and a wildlife hedge to encourage bio-diversity.
Making a Bug Hotel in the garden with my young children
Member of BurrenBeo since, Nov.2013. and guided two walks with them over the Summer of 2013.
Member of Slow Food Clare since April 2013 and have travelled to Turin twice to the Terre Madre slow food convention.
Actively involved with Transition Towns Ennistymon, where I hosted wild food events, and a willow for fuel workshop.
Attended a four day course on Forest Gardening with Kes Clarke, from the C.E.L.T, centre in east Clare, which led me to plant a small forest garden for produce and as an education project at home.
Run organic gardening classes from home.
Actively involved in gardening with my local Gaelscoil, and planning a living willow structure for the garden.
Helping out with a local group who have just opened a community garden and are working on a larger conservation project, I hope to be involved in.
Helped in the big clean up in Liscannor recently, after the storm.
Planted apple trees with Ennistymon Tidy Towns.
Attended the contribution to conservation workshop and participated the very well attended Meitheal in the Burren with Burrenbeotrust,to repair 20 m of stone walls.
Member of the conservation and advocacy committee, that have great plans for the coming year, including another clean up locally, adopt a hedgerow scheme for B.e.n businesses, and attending invasive species workshop to learn how to teach our members this skill.
Wrote an article for Burren Insight magazine, on how to sustainably harvest wild food.
Enjoy my relationship with Burrenbeotrust and have been asked to give a workshop at their learning landscapes symposium in late February 2015 on ‘’Incorporating wild foods into your work’’. www.burrenbeo.com.
- Co-operation with others
As a member of the Burren Ecotourism Network it helps to cooperate and communicate with other businesses in the network. I do this through networking, linking to websites and word of mouth. I have made many new friends and am proud to be part of the Burren Ecotourism Network, through which I can promote my sustainable efforts in the region, hopefully ensuring economic, social and environmental benefits for the local community, visitors to it, and the region itself.
- Sustainable Travel
From attending many bike fixing workshops locally, facilitated by An Taisce, I have opened my eyes to the great experience enjoyed by using a bike, and see it as a viable and alternative, sustainable, healthy way to get about. So I am actively encouraging visitors and customers to cycle to our meeting points and or wildkitchen, and to offer a discount/reward and clothes drying facilities (if needed)
I have a voucher on the Geopark app. That says
‘’Arrive on 2 wheels, get a 20% less deal’’ available for all wild kitchen events.
As part of Bike Week in June 2014 Wild Kitchen and St.Tola’s cheese company, with support and funding from An Taisce and with the expert tuition of their sustainable travel officer, Roisin Ni Garbhith, held a Wild Food Cycle, that was attended by 14 people and included bike maintenance and safety training, and was great fun and ended in a wild food picnic and tuition workshop. we since went on to host two more foraging cycles in 2015 and 2016, harvesting and learning about our wild plants and seaweed along the Wild Atlantic Way and creating a wild food lunch to enjoy afterwards. I am a new member of the sustainable travel committee. We have enjoyed hosting a bike week event every year since 2014, with Bikeweek.ie and Clare Sports Partnership. It’s great fun.
I promote the new cycle way from Ennistymon to Lahinch, and promote any sustainable travel initiatives locally, www.e_whizz.com in Kilfenora and the bike hire places in Lahinch such as www.lahinchadventures.com and beyond. I will have sustainable travel information on my website and a link to www.burrenecotourism.com/getting-here info. With details of how to down load the Burren and Cliffs Of Moher Geopark App.
Sustainable Travel, It’s the way to go….
© Oonagh O’Dwyer @ www.Wild kitchen.ie
Green Purchasing Policy
Local is the new Black…..
As a founding member of the Ennistymon Farmers Market, Wild Kitchen
Promotes the whole ‘’Think global/shop local’’ ethos, and see’s it as a focal point for the community, creating an awareness with the consumer of the importance of local produce. We try and grow as much of our own food as possible and sell our surplus locally. We make our own bread that we use for picnics on our walks, and use the local Health Food shop for organic flours and ingredients that are fair-trade and eco-friendly. We save a lot of our own vegetable seeds and swop them with other growers. We make 4 different types of compost, avoiding the need to buy in fertility.
Wild Kitchen is a member of the wonderful local Moy Hill Community Garden, where we help out in lieu of amazing organic vegetables.
Wild Kitchen has a range of Deli products we make and sell locally and these are made from organic/foraged/locally sourced ingredients. We use compostable packaging made from corn starch from www.down2earth.com to sell these products in.
We also use a simple bartering system, exchanging gardening classes, for music lessons, art, and homeopathy.
We do buy from a supermarket, but support local, fair-trade, organic and Irish whenever possible, and try to keep packaging to a minimum, using cardboard boxes that can be reused, composted, or used as mulch on garden beds. I try to support local new start up businesses; I use lovely recycled bags and aprons from www.Marthaserens.com a local entrepreneuand try and buy as much as possible from other network members. Swopped lots of willow cuttings for a wonderful free range Ham for Christmas with Burren Free Range Pork.
Our Objectives at Wild Kitchen in relation to our Green Purchasing Policy are simple:
Avoid Reduce Reuse Recycle
- Eliminate unnecessary purchasing;
- Reduce our impact on the environment;
- Reduce our impact on human health;
- Develop a green purchasing culture at Wild Kitchen
- Try to be ethically ‘’CLEAN’’ when purchasing kitchen appliances, and stick to makes like Rowenta and Moulinix .
- To share our passion for all things local, with our customers and staff through workshops and information and by displaying this policy.
- Avoid Reduce Reuse Recycle
- Avoid Identify ways of carrying out a function or task without using materials that generate waste. An example is sending information electronically instead of on paper.
- Reduce– Using less in the first place and avoiding waste. Examples of this include purchasing in bulk to reduce packaging, re-filling detergent bottles at the local shop, re-using glass jars/bottles for cordials and preserves. Buying veg at market that has no plastic wrapping, and using recycled shopping bags/paper bags.
- Re-use Using the same item more than once, and extending the useful life of products and equipment before replacing them. Aim to re-use or repair an existing product.
- Recycle Purchasing products that contain recycled materials or those that have been or can be recycled.