Author Archives: Dafydd

A little author bio about Dafydd

Dafydd came into this world in the springtime of 1988 in North West Wales, growing up in Wales and Lancashire. He has had his feet in the soft nourishing soil of his homeland ever since, and in 2007 this lead to him developing green fingers and a white coat as he set out on his journey towards becoming a practitioner of herbal medicine. Currently he divides his time between Lincoln and North Wales, and is a student Herbal Medicine at Lincoln University.

He has a specific interest in the indigenous medicine traditions of the Celtic lands and the use of native and local plant species.

Sheep, Fences, and a Sunspill

Posted on: March 15th, 2017 by
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 Last week while I was away, I got a rather excited phonecall from my father, Holger. He’d gone down to Cae Non and found three heavily pregnant ewes had got into the field. There was nothing I could do from afar except call the farmer, who removed them the next morning (Diolch, Alwyn!) fortunately no damage had been done, but it soon became clear what the problem was: a thirty foot section of fence had blown over in the recent storm ,Doris’ – the dead bracken acting like a sail and snapping the raher rotten fenceposts.  So, this afternoon, I thought I’d get some spring air in my lungs and have a go at repairing the fence. I thought it might take a few hours to do as I reckoned I’d have to dig all the posts in – the last time I had anything to do with a pig wire fence was when I was 7 with my grandfather. But I was pleasantly surprised. 20 minutes to clear the bracken, then the posts went in easily with a little persuesion from a 13-Lb sledgehammer. The ground here is very soft. Satisfied that the posts were secure, another  10 minutes of stapling the pig wire to the posts and job done. ​ I have noticed other areas of fence that are going to need similar treatment before too long, and as usual I’m looking for a more natural alternative. Perhaps a hedge, or maybe trees every few yards to act as living posts. I don’t know yet, only that something will fit. In other news, as you can see in the photo, spring has come to Gwynedd… today we have had a very big event that terifies the renewable energy industry. A sunspill. I’m enjoying it while I can!

No-Dig Herb Beds with Mulch Membrane

Posted on: March 11th, 2017 by
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An alternative to lasagna beds, straw bale beds, etc. As I mentioned in the last post about our plans for 2017, and my plans for the herb garden at Cae Non in particular, I have a need to rapidly extend the amount of land I have ‘under the boot’ to grow my herbs in. This year is shaping up to be the year that, having got my herbal medicine practice established, I turn my attention back to growing herbs in earnest. Before, I had used raised beds filled with topsoil, but I just can’t get enough soil to do this. Various no-dig methods appeal to me, but most require a lot of biomass to make it work and I just don’t have access to that. Despite being mostly clay and not having much organic matter, the soil at Cae Non is surprisingly rich – the boulder-clay laid down by a glacier thousands of years ago is packed with minerals. It is also incredibly hard to dig. With my busted elbow, digging is out. So I made these. No dig herb beds with mulch membrane. Have a watch of this video and see for yourself:

2016 into 2017

Posted on: February 1st, 2017 by
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Oh my goodness. A perfunctory look at this blog shows that I didn’t write any posts at all in 2016. Whoops. So not only is now a good chance to share what is on the horizon at Cae Non in the year ahead, but to recap on what happened in 2016. 2016 was the year that Cae Non matured in a lot of ways… the trees are all well established now and areas of the site are starting to look more like a wood and less like an open field. Though young, many of the alders and birches are now between 12 and 16 feet high, with trunks thicker than my arm. Unfortunately, in some places the trees are too thick and will need thinning as they grow. In others we planted the trees far enough apart to create a light, open wood that will be lovely to relax or work in. In terms of the herb garden, last year didn’t see too many new developments. The raised beds I built and planted a couple of years ago are now mature and giving their gift of medicinal herbs to my dispensary. I didn’t have much free time to build or plant any more raised beds… but I did decide to try something different. Instead of building raised beds, I made beds out of mulching membrane held in square frame which looks like a raised bed but is held against the ground and is a no-dig system. The three I built last year have done amazingly well so far and I have built another 6 already this year. I have also started vlogging (video blogging) and one of the videos deals with building these beds – so I will share that here in the coming days. 2016 marked the second year I taught my short course ‘a year of herbs’ down at Cae Non. This time with a bigger group and nicer weather than 2015. It is always lovely to share this place and what we do with it and our way of life with others – and such a privilege to be able to inspire others to heal with plants and herbal medicines. The course is running again in 2017 and there are still places – take a look at the prospectus here and facebook event here. 2017 will bring more posts on this blog and video blogs from Cae Non as due to starting my vlog, I will be making regular videos at the Cae Non herb garden. The priority at this time of year is to get as much planting area as possible to accept the plants that are already sprouting in our windowsills. This means that there will be more beds full of medicinal herbs at Cae Non and Cae Non will contribute even more to my dispensary than before. In addition to the smaller herbaceous plants, there are many medicinal trees, and my attention is starting to turn towardsplanting a medicinal arboretum. This will be a large grove of medicinal trees, planted in three dimensions, a bit like a permaculture food forest but medicinal in nature. I have a shortlist of at least 10 trees to go into this new grove and will be posting about it shortlist. Well, that’s about all from this post – keep your eyes peeled a I Will post more soon! In the mean time, have a flick through this wee gallery:

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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This 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. 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). 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. 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. 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. 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             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. 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. I 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! 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!

Arrival of the Bees

Posted on: September 1st, 2013 by
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This 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. 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: 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. 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!

Raised Beds – Building the Herb Garden

Posted on: August 20th, 2013 by
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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. 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: 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!