WELCOME!

Cae Non is a secluded five acre field in north west Wales where people and nature are working in tandem to develop a completely natural organic area for the mutual benefit and enjoyment of all.

Enjoy the wide open spaces; the clear dome of the sky and the vistas of mountains around you. Bask in the sunshine,the water, the banks of wild flowers. Explore the pathways, the labyrinth and the island. Discover the groves, pools and bowers. A walk around Cae Non can be merely a nice amble through nature, or a deeply meaningful spiritual adventure of self-discovery and connection.

This is an on-going project which is still in its infancy. Come and be part of it. Volunteers are greatly appreciated.... and well fed! Visitors warmly welcomed and well looked after.

Regular retreats and workshops are held, see the events page for details.



Herb Growing… The saga continues

Posted on: May 5th, 2015 by
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Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to post on this blog as much as I’d have liked over the past year… I have found myself rather busy setting up my herbal medicine business and trying to kick-start that side of my life.

But we didn’t stop working on Cae Non, and the land didn’t stop growing things!! The herbs I planted 1 – 2 years ago in the raised beds are now all mature, and doing really well. I got a goodly crop of plant material from them last year, which is presently sitting in tincture form on my dispensary stock shelves. There is no reason to think that those plants will not give equally as good a crop (if not better) this year.

So, how am I continuing to grow the herb garden? Well, there are two avenues which need developing now: Firstly, making more raised beds for the smaller herbs and perennials, and secondly, clearing some more ground and creating larger beds or places to plant larger medicinal shrubs and trees.

I have about 10 additional species of smaller medicinal plants and shrubs to go into the new raised beds… when I get round to building them(!!!), and I have got a couple of larger medicinal shrubs waiting for a home. These are more suited to planting straight into the ground, albeit with some compost or manure turned in to give some biomass to the heavy clay soil. But I have also ordered seeds for 9 more larger shrubs that I don’t presently have.

The list of shrub/tree seeds for planting this summer are:

  • Echinacea pururea (Echinacea)
  • Eucalyptus globulus  (Bluegum)
  • Phytolacca americana (Pokeweed)
  • Albizzia julibrissin (Silk Tree)
  • Solidago canadensis  (Golden Rod)
  • Dature stramonium (Thorn apple)
  • Prunus serotina (Black Cherry)
  • Lycium barbarum (Goji berry)
  • Vitex agnus-castus (Chaste tree)

It is worth noting where I bought these seeds: an ebay seller called ‘seedsworld’, a Lithuanian seller/shop who stock many unusual, interesting, and medicinal plants. Go and check out his shop if you are interested in growing these sorts of plants – his seeds are very reasonably priced, and of good quality ( I have bought from him before), and postage is very reasonable – about £2 to Britain for 10 packets of seeds. He is also friendly and approachable and will readily answer questions if you email him. Cannot rate his service or seeds highly enough!


The first Herb Harvest

Posted on: July 18th, 2014 by
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20140621_114832This time of summer is rather a slack time when it comes to gardening: the time to plan and construct is winter and spring, and the times to plant/propagate are spring and autumn. Now however is the time to harvest and gather, to prepare and process. So it is with my still small herb garden.

These long, lazy summer days are absolutely amazing at helping herbs produce aromatic volatile oils in their flowers, so now is an ideal time to harvest herbs such as Yarrow (Achillea milefolium) and Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis). So that is exactly what I did. Along with Mothwort (Leonurus cardiaca) they make up my first harvest from the herb garden at Cae Non. 2 weeks ago, bathed in gentle evening sunlight, I popped down to the field to see if anything was ready to harvest, and to my delight, these three herbs were. After a couple of weeks of drying, they are now soaking in alcohol to make tinctures; tinctures that will be some of the first stock put into my (soon to launch) business. It’s a lovely thought: Setting up my herbal medicine business using the harvest of seeds I sowed last year: just like my education is reaping the harvest of my knowledge and qualifications.

wpid-picsart_1404566317489

Harvesting more than just plant material: Harvesting the magic
of a dream – the dream of bringing health and healing from nature’s
gifts.


Easy Triangular Raised Beds

Posted on: July 5th, 2014 by
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Those who have have read my herb garden posts for some time will know that the only way to effectively grow herbs at Cae Non is to use raised beds. The first batch of raised beds I built were made of scrap wood and were rectangular. This poses several problems, especially if you’re using offcuts of scrap wood of varying thicknesses and sizes – getting the planks to meet up in the corners is rather challenging.

However, almost by accident I found a better way of utilising waste materials which make rather nice raised beds. The trick is to start off by making a triangle, with two tyres stacked on top of each other in each corner. Fill the tyres with soil or compost. These can be used as planters or large pots for plants you’d rather keep under control (especially true of creeping plants like mint or bugle).

Raised Triangular Bed 001

Next, get some long wood screws and individually screw the ends of each of the planks to the side of the tyre stack. As the tyres are flexible, You don’t need amazing precision carpentry skills, and if you use 3 screws at the end of each plank, the sides of the bed will be really strong, with enough ‘give’ to move slightly without breaking (a consideration if using ratty old planks.

Raised Triangular Bed 002

Line the bottom of the bed with old rubble sacks to retard weeds, fill with good quality topsoil, ideally topped with compost or a mulch, and you’re there.

Raised Triangular Bed 003

It can take quite a while to fill with topsoil, but the shape allows easy access. You can extend the bed by adding three side triangles butting onto the first bed.

Raised Triangular Bed 004

The finished article with a grass mulch after settling down for a couple of months.


The Herb Bunker

Posted on: July 2nd, 2014 by
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Again, a dearth of blog posts has very much been the case recently… but it is not because we have been idle; in fact it is because out in the real world, we have been very active! But often, the best laid out plans tend to be different in their planning to their execution, and sometimes an opportunity arises that is too good to pass up.

I had planned for some time to build another shed at Cae Non to use exclusively for my pharmacy equipment and herbal preparation; also as a space where I can teach one or two people at a time. I’d planned to do this sometime next winter. So, there I am taking my university finals, and a friend from Llanberis posts that he has a shed for sale. It’s listed as being ‘Very strong’. Ideal. It looked like it was about 5′ x 7′. So I said I’d have it in the middle of June and thought little more about it.

Fast forward a month, and I’m back at home, and arranged to go round to look at/dismantle this shed. I’ve done this before with other sheds, and it is usually pretty easy. Most sheds sold in the UK are built with 1/4” wood. Which is very thin, but also light and easy to manage. When I arrived to look at this building, I found something more akin to a nuclear bunker. It was designed to survive living in a garden in Fachwen, a thousand feet above Llanberis. So it was built with 3/4” decking panels with 2x2s for the roof, held together with 8” screws and metal strapping in the corners. First thought: It isn’t going to go in the Berlingo. Holger turns up, and it takes us another 5 hours to dismantle the shed into individual panels with a seperate roof

Cae Shed 1Cae Shed 2Cae Shed 3Cae Shed 5Cae Shed 6 Cae Shed 04

 

 

 

 

 

2 days later, we’re back with a hired van. I’d ordered a ‘Short Wheelbase Transit’ and instead they gave me a Vauxhall Vivaro. The transit has a 9′ bed, the Vivaro has a 7′ bed. The shed panels were 8′ long. Soooo, with an hour of further twiddling, and with the shed panels sticking out of the back doors by a foot, we ponderously set off to Cae Non.

So, we now have the nuclear bunker ready. I’ll probably reassemble it in the autumn or winter, after the busy herb harvesting and processing season has finished (more on this later). But it is an exciting winter project!


Arrival of Spring

Posted on: March 14th, 2014 by
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Unfortunately, we haven’t made as many posts to this blog for a while – mainly due to me being tied up with university commitments. But Spring has well and truly sprung here in North Wales, and this makes a great time to write about our successes from work over the winter, what we are doing now in the busiest season of the year, and my plans for the summer ahead.

Stone Pathway 01

Stone Pathway

Stone Pathway 02

Spending a penny without getting your feet muddy!

Over the winter during the dead time of year, Holger invested a large effort in getting some of our most used paths up to snuff: He has been spreading hardcore on the muddiest paths and topping it off with quarry stone from our local quarry. This makes a really big difference to the path from the gate to the Hafod, and from the Hafod to the loo cubicle. Even at the wettest times it means dry feet at the end of your walk. They really do look lovely, and much more clearly defined as ‘paths’ than the muddy stretches of ground we had before! I didn’t have much time to spare, given that I was only in the area for two weeks over Christmas, given the poor weather at the time, and limited slots of time during the days of a family holiday, I put my (somewhat basic) knowledge of woodworking into practice: I made a new beehive. This is different than my existing hive – it isn’t a National beehive, it is a long-hive of the top-bar design, and is supposed to be healthier for the bees and easier to manage for the bee keeper. Whether this proves to be the case or not, we’ll see. It certainly looks lovely, and I will post more about it in time. Speaking of the bees, they came through the winter very well: they were still out and about foraging up until November, and were pretty much dormant until March. 6Ag4BDI had worried that they would run very short of stores of food, given that they swarmed so late last year: Not to worry; they were absolutely fine. I did supplement them with two pound boxes of Fondant, which they slowly ate, but on the first inspection of the year in March, they still had two brood frames of honey stores. I added another brood box to the hive, and the colony should keep on growing. I may very possibly split the colony later in the summer (either into my second National, or into the long hive). The herb garden is just starting to grow for the new season: It is looking a little grey, but healthy. Some of the larger perennials didn’t actually die down this winter because the weather was so mild: this has also given them a head start. The biggest concern for the present time is to build more raised beds; expect an update on this very soon!

Alder Catkins

Alder Catkins

And the trees are coming into leaf… The Alder trees have catkins on them, which is precocious as they were only planted 3 years ago. The Willow beds are romping away, and even the Oak trees are coming into leaf. It’s heartening to see that individual trees are noticeable above the sea of grass as they are growing larger. Another step in the birth of a woodland. We hadn’t planned on ordering or planting any trees, but ended up planting almost 100 trees that we had waiting in pots from various sources. Cae Non is really starting to feel like a working project now, rather than just the birth of an idea. Gillian has been running her Earthwalking course at Cae Non over the winter, and it is heartening to see the place used for learning and spiritual succour. I am looking to run some day-courses on medicinal plants and growing herbs over the summer, and using herbs at home during the autumn. All in all, it feels like things are in a much better state now than they were last spring!


One Day Spiritual Workshops

Posted on: February 16th, 2014 by
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New for the summer, Gillian will be leading a series of individual one-day workshops on a variety of spiritual subjects. Read what’s on offer and book your place now!
 


 

30th March:  Develop Your Psychic Sensitivity: A practical hands-on approach to deepening your intuition and enhancing your connection to the many levels of existence for a richer, fuller and more rewarding life. (Also includes divinatory techniques)

27th April:  Psychic Cleansing and Protection: Simple ways to cleanse and protect yourself, your home and your workplace, leading to a safer, healthier and happier life.

25th May:  Becoming Friends With the Natural World: Ways to experience nature and access its essence at a deeper level and why it is of vital importance for our survival that we learn to do so.

29th June:  Meeting With Yourself: How to get to know yourself on a more intimate, deeper level, which will ultimately lead to understanding, acceptance, healing and happiness.

27th July:  Banish Your fears and Worries:  Practical and straightforward ways to deal with your worries and fears, putting you firmly back in control of your life and emotions.

31st August: Meeting With Your Higher Self: Experience and learn simple techniques to help you connect with your higher self and access your own ancient wisdom.

28th September: Past Lives and Soul Healing: The relevance of having lived before, soul fragmentation, retrieval and healing.

All workshops use a very down to earth and  accessible approach which is rooted in basic personal experience. No previous knowledge or experience necessary.

Each day begins at 10.am. and finishes at 5.pm..
Each workshop costs £35 and includes all tuition, refreshments and home made lunch.

email me to book your place on a workshop


Arrival of the Bees

Posted on: September 1st, 2013 by
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Arrival of the Bees 1This last couple of weeks has brought a real blessing to Cae Non – we finally have a bee colony in residence! It is amazing news and marks the fulfilment of a long standing desire of mine to have bees involved in our project. Yes that’s right, involved. I don’t cultivate bees, I look after them and the live here. I consider them like I would a person or an animal.

So, the back story. Back at the end of July, I was asked at work how ready I was to be able to take a swarm. As some of you know, I have all the equipment anyway, and bought a hive last year. So I said ‘Now’ to the offer, and a week later I housed the bees (which had been housed and looked after by a friend/work colleague) in my own brood box/hive.

Arrival of the Bees 3

Now, there is a saying on the viability of swarms of bees at different times of year… It goes something along the lines of :

A swarm of bees in May
Is worth a load of hay;
A swarm of bees in June
Is worth a silver spoon;
A swarm of bees in July
Is not worth a fly

…And my swarm was housed in July. Not that this means they are worthless to me, they are worth a great deal. But it does mean that I’m having to look after them very carefully and feed them 2 – 3 times a week on sugar syrup. Now this isn’t something I like doing as it isn’t the bees’ natural diet, but it will support them in establishing a viable colony.

We moved them down to Cae Non in the second week in August… and they have been there for just over two weeks now. I have fed them about 5 times and they are doing really well. There is still a lot of Balsam and Heather about and they seem to be off out in the surrounding area foraging. They had their first visit from the Bee Inspector last week and he was happy that they are healthy and if I keep on doing what I’m doing, should make it through the winter. So let’s have a closer look at them:

Our healthy nucleus

Our healthy nucleus – taken today. They are on 5 frames, but have capped honey on 2 more

It should be mentioned just how gentle the bees are – I’m not certain I even need to wear my gear when I have the crown board off the hive, though I do of course wear my veil at all times, especially necessary if I have the frames out! They are really placid, but have laid down a lot of honey and grown in strength quite a lot since they were housed. We started off with bees on two frames and honey on another, making three frames in total. That’s more than doubled.

Arrival of the Bees - Brood Frame

Brood frame with capped honey, and uncapped honey (Balsam (yellow), heather (Dark), and syrup (almost white/clear))

So, the start of another exciting adventure for us – I’m really enjoying the company of the bees so far, and will of course post updates when there is something to report!


Open Day Weekend August 2013

Posted on: August 22nd, 2013 by
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Having had to cancel the Herbal Week back in June for a number of reasons, the long planned Open Days did go ahead though on the weekend of the 17th and 18th August. And what a contrast of days it was! The Saturday, earmarked for the people of the neighbourhood, saw strong winds and horizontal rain for much of the day. No wonder that the only visitors were Sue and Peter from Network News who happen to live only a few miles away and who were brave enough to face the inclement weather. Their tour of the field was kept rather short though, but a god long chat over hot cups of tea inside the cosy Hafod made up for their trouble of turning out.

Open Day 2013 0022What a difference a day makes! Having announced the event for several weeks in Quaker meeting, ten Friends plus two children made their way to Cae Non on the Sunday to spend a lovely afternoon with us, in dry and mainly sunny weather. Some of them came as far as Anglesey and most used the chance to join the tour around the whole field and see for themselves how far we have got with our endeavours, the herb beds, the willow structures, the trees planted so far etc. In typical quakerly fashion, no one was in a hurry to leave and so, over cups of hot beverages and delicious home baked cake, we then talked about all kind of things, from the way of the bumble bees to what it means to be a Quaker.

Open Day 2013 0044Thanks to all who came and made this first Open Day a successful and very enjoyable event! Open Day 2013 0033


Raised Beds – Building the Herb Garden

Posted on: August 20th, 2013 by
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Raised Beds 1

Building Raised Beds

The year is flying round at quite a pace, and it has been quite a while since I posted updates with progress on the herb garden. But we haven’t been idle…

Unfortunately, due to ongoing renovation work at our house, we have rather a lot of reclaimed timber at the moment. It has been absolutely ideal for making raised beds for my herbs, and so far, I have made 4 largish (7 x 3′) beds that are about 18” deep. As it happens, the hard work was not in building them, but filling them with soil; each bed took about 25 sacks of topsoil to fill. As the soil at Cae Non is so heavy with clay, we have bought in a ton of topsoil, and these beds have used most of it.

Planting up

Planting the first set of herbs for 2013

The soil is enriched with some good quality topsoil/compost we found on site, this has generally been used to top the beds as it is of better quality than the topsoil we bought in! I have also added layers of grass clippings to try to introduce some organic matter into the soil. The one different thing that I have done with these beds that is entirely new to me is the addition of bio-char. Bio-char is the introduction of small charcoal pieces into soil – it serves two purposes: firstly it locks up carbon in the soil in a very stable form that is stable for thousands of years, thus sequestering carbon. But it is the second remarkable property of bio-char that we are interested in in these beds: It greatly enriches the soil. It improves drainage as it is porous, acting as a growth media for beneficial bacteria that will put life back into the soil. It will also directly fertilise the soil too as it is rich in potash and some other minerals. This idea originates with the South American tribes who use this process to make what is known as ‘Terra Preta’ – the foundation of their crop cultivation for millennia. For those interested, more information is available here on Wikipedia.

The first bed to be constructed had the most bio-char in it as I’ve been enriching it for the longest time: It has also grown the best herbs as you can see from the photo below:

First raised beds finished and in bloom!

First raised beds finished and in bloom!

The planting list for the four raised beds so far is:

Bed 1:
Eschscholzia californica – Californian poppy
Matricaria recutita
– Chamomille
Achillea milefolium
– Yarrow

Bed 2:
Borago officinalis – Borage
Silybum marianum – Milk Thistle

Bed 3:
Althea officinalis – Mallow
Leonurus cardiaca – Motherwort
Digitalis purpurea – Purple Foxglove
Arctium lappa – Burdock

Bed 4:Valeriana officinalis – Valerian
Verbena officinalis – Vervain
Inula helenium – Elecampane

Many more raised beds are planned, but this is a good start for this summer, and we should soon be reaping the harvest of some of the herbs planted this year!


Down the Field

Posted on: August 10th, 2013 by
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Down the Field 1

Taking a walk with the dogs around the field, I took these pictures. I feel that the photo of the little Dog Pool captures the essence of summer here; greenery and wild flowers almost hiding the pool away and the water all stirred up with clay from the bottom where the dogs have jumped about and sat in it. Well, after all, it was originally made for them – somewhere they could cool off and enjoy!

Down the Field 2

The willow tunnel leads away from the hard standing and the Hafod, down into the less frequented area of the field where most of the trees have been planted. It seems quieter here somehow, and for now more open to the sky – if that is possible! A good place to lose oneself in the magic of the meadow.

Down the Field 3

Here is Melly – one of our two golden labradors – sitting on top of a pile of stone proudly surveying her little kingdom! The stone is actually piled at one corner of the hard standing, waiting to complete the path to the hafod this winter.