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.

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.

By The Stream

Posted on: August 10th, 2013 by
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The Stream 1Looking across Dafydd’s Californian poppy herb bed and the stream, with the bench just visible on the opposite bank beneath the big old gorse bush. The carving of the Owl stands guard to one side of the path.

The Stream 2

The Salmon of Wisdom stands at the other side of the path, near the steps down to the stream. In the background is our neighbouring hill, one of several low peaks which shelter us from the winds that blow in across the sea. It is easy to walk to the top and gives a fantastic view of the ocean on one side and the spread of the Llyn Peninsula on the other. Note that the balsam is in full flower, but is more valued now that we have our first colony of bees!

The Stream 3

The steps down the the stream, with moley’s little offering of tunnelled soil in evidence to the right of the bottom step!

Lammas Celebration

Posted on: August 4th, 2013 by
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Lammas 1Lammmas really did defeat us weather-wise. It was quite warm but blowy and wet and this time we graciously conceeded defeat; errected the teepee tent in the oak grove and sat thankfully inside it! As always, what needs to be, will be what will happen. We all enjoyed a peaceful, relaxed celebration of the grain harvest and examined the importance of relationships and agreements. We built a pretty celebratory bower in the centre of our circle and shared the specially baked sheaf-loaf. Later we retired inside the hafod, lit the stove and tucked into a communal feast which everyone present had so generously brought edible contributions for. Joy and prosperity for our harvest!

Lammas 2Lammas 3

Kitchen Garden

Posted on: July 30th, 2013 by
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Not to be totally out-done by Dafydd, I planted up some little containers which I had painted green earlier in the year. One of them is actually an old book shelf, which had begun to rot at the bottom, so has been recycled! (The spaces between the shelves make excellent divisions between the different herbs!).

Kitchen GardenThis is the start of my Kitchen Garden, the photo was taken just after I planted my herbs out: thyme, sage, chives, sweet cicely, marigolds, greek oregano, and rosemary, mint and parsley in smaller containers.  I also have Melissa (Lemon Balm) at the other end of the garden. These herbs are all for culinary use but of course they do have valuable medicinal uses too.

This is just the beginning though. On this slightly raised area of stream bank, I also plan to plant black currant and gooseberry bushes next spring, and maybe a couple of apple trees! After that, we will have to see where the land takes me…

In the bleak midwinter…

Posted on: July 19th, 2013 by
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Well, we might have finished singing this famous Christmas carol but the way winter took hold of the country yesterday just reminded me again of those words and also of other winter folk tunes full of lament about hardship and loss of livestock. It makes me think about the people back then, how they coped with such adverse conditions and got over them. Seeing the snow blowing fiercely in the bitter wind I truly felt for the poor sheep in the fields and their  possible demise as described in those tunes became a picture in my mind that was almost too close for comfort.

But on a brighter note, it was heartening today seeing various neighbours coming out and pulling together to clear our road which is rather steep and rarely ever gets gritted. Obviously, community spirit still exists and perhaps midwinter is not so bleak after all?

And finally, as a former weatherman myself I just have to praise my colleagues in the various meteorological services who weeks ago in unison correctly predicted the arrival winter proper for about the middle of January!

As we can’t change it we might as well enjoy it while it lasts!

The spring is sprung…

Posted on: July 8th, 2013 by
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…If not yet literally, then certainly in terms of activity!

This week a few things really seem to have fallen into place! The two most exciting thing from my point of view is that we have just taken delivery of a ton of top soil ready for the herb garden. It is bagged up waiting for me to use it where I need (mainly in raised beds). This is great news as it dramatically increases the list of herbs and medicinal plants I can grow at Cae Non.

Next, and equally exciting for me is that I have just sent in the first seed order of the year! So far the list looks like:

Angelica – Angelica archangelica
Borage – Borago officinalis
Burdock – Arctium lappa
Chamomille – Anthemis nobilis
Elecampane – Inula helenium
Foxglove – Digitalis spp.
Wild garlic – Allium ursinum
Gravelroot – Eupatorium purpureum
Marshmallow – Althea officinalis
Motherwort – Leonurus cardiaca
Milk Thistle – Sillybum marianum
Valerian – Valeriana officinalis
Vervain – Verbena officinalis
Wormwood – Artemisia absinthum
Yarrow – Achillea milefolium

If I could get these herbs prospering at Cae Non by the end of this year, I’d be very happy! I also have a load of other herbs in pots waiting to be planted out, and some bigger, shrubbier herbs waiting to go in too!

Hopefully, next winter will see me able to give you all an update on what took and what didn’t grow so well!

I’m aiming to get my first proper raised bed up and ready soon (next few weeks) but the others might have to wait until the summer… more on that in a separate post (I can promise it will be interesting as it involves other people giving me a hand – lips are pursed but will reveal all soon!).

Enjoy the spring guys, and whatever you do, take some time to get soil on your hands!

Harvesting Willow

Posted on: July 7th, 2013 by
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Winter and very early spring is the time to harvest – and plant – willow. Here is a view of part of a willow bed, local to us, where I was today helping to cut and sort the crop…. heads of willow can be seen standing waiting in the background; “stools” that have already been cut in the foreground and a pile of willow branches – or “whips” – lying on the ground ready to be carried off the field. And yes, that is water lying on the land; willows love it, which after the weather we have had in the past few months is just as well! Willow Bed

Cutting Red Willow

Here Neil is beginning to cut some red willow which looks particularly pretty at this time of year. I am going to have some of this to plant the heart-shaped centre of my labyrinth with!

This is the sort of material needed to build structures – and labyrinths! – beautifully straight, strong and pliant branches, 8 – 12 feet long.







Cut Willow Lengths

And here we have some of the smaller, thinner lengths, and some of the red willow, all ready bundled and tied for transportation… guess what I will be doing for the next few days????

Different Coloured Willow Lengths

Useful recycling

Posted on: July 6th, 2013 by
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A man sized pile

A man sized pile… and a tea break!

Useful recycling: Take two people, two wheelbarrows and about 80 bags of rubble and old plaster (discarded from our house in the process of eradicating an outbreak of dry rot), and tip it onto our waterlogged path up to the Hafod… creating this….

Hard core path

Hard core path

Wonderful way to use it all, creating a semi solid base on which to spread stone which should bed into the plaster and set. Should end up a good serviceable path which looks nice as well as making journeys up the field much easier….  Simples!