Who are we and why are we here?
Jenny and I have been looking for the perfect place to grow cabbages and children for a few years and I have been looking for a place where I can unpack my bag, dig my soul into the earth and know every birds nest forever… We have found it.
A Bit More Detail..
Henbant is a small diverse family and community farm between the mountains and the sea in North West Wales. One of our core aims is to prove that a small farm in less favoured area can produce food, financial, social and environmental profit, sequester carbon and be enjoyable to manage. If we can prove this is the case then the future of agriculture, environment, health and economy is in a very strong position!
There is a common and incorrect assumption that food production is a negative thing and that it’s our job both as producer and consumers to make it less bad, more sustainable. However regenerative agriculture and taking a holistic approach can result in food production systems that actively help with current ecological problems.
The future of food production is currently undertaking a significant overhaul. Climate change and ecological collapse both threaten current food production models and in return are to some extent responsible for the problems in the first place. It is likely that future protein sources will be factory derived whilst the farming that continues is done so in a both very regenerative ecological way and using this ecology to increase the resilience of the food production itself.
Within terrestrial landscapes one of the most productive and diverse niches is forest edge. We thus propose to maximise the amount of forest edge, maximising diversity across the whole farm and to grow food crops within this system.
Our Holistic Context (Nov 2018)
Using holistic management methods (Savory, 2010) we have developed a set of holistic contexts for us as a family and for the farm.
We have time to enjoy each other, not get stressed and stay healthy
We have a abundant and productive farm with healthy soil, ecosystem and human community.
We have a stable, sufficient income
We live purposeful lives we can be proud of and we make the world a better place
We have a diversity of visitors to the farm and the farm becomes valued by them in their lives
To achieve this we apply the permaculture ethics of people care, fair share, earth care in everything we do.
Here are a few snippets from our old website
The push for great volunteers..
Inspired Intern/volunteers wanted for a wholesome, veg growing, dirty finger-nailed, summer between the mountains and the sea at a permaculture inspired, ecological farm and campsite in North West Wales.
This year we want to take growing veg more seriously, and we want a lovely fun person or couple to be around to make sure that we put lots of effort into this. We have grown enough food to feed the small farm population for the past few summers, but this year we want to grow enough to create a surplus.
Each summer we set off with this intention, but each summer animals, campers and the need to make some kind of income get in the way.. You will be our veg champion, defender of the dirt and caresser of cabbages.
In return for your efforts you will get to spend a healthy summer outside, have a cosy place to live with woodburner and sea views, healthy food, permaculture library, outdoor woodland baths, get to learn about permaculture, animal care, natural and traditional building and running a campsite.
This post would ideally suit a couple, and ideally people who can commit to spending a good proportion of summer here. In the shorter term if anybody fancies the above for help putting in fences to create small wildflower meadows and edible hedgerows and are available now(ish). let me know..
We've just launched a new string to our bow here at Henbant to try and pay for all the trees and edible hedgerows and forest garden that we want to plant this winter we need to raise some money.. and I think as a way of remembering Bill Mollison who said he wanted people to remember him after his death by planting trees.. We're going to sell permaculture inspired t'shirts, with our new brand name Wear the Change.. PLEASE have a look and consider buying one (or tell somebody else who may do) here.. we'll plant a tree AND donate to the UK permaculture association
We've had a brilliant summer here at Henbant, thank you so much all of you that were part of it.. Lots of lovely campers and yurtlings, lots of busy animals and a team of Brilliant volunteers.. We are still busy working on sorting out the veg garden for next year, sorting our fencing and planting 1000's of hedgrows.. So we can start planed holistic grazing in spring. Thank you..
Meet Meryn Emily Swarbrick
We are so so very excited to introduce our new staff member here at Henbant.. Meryn Emily Swarbrick was born on the 25th April and all are healthy and as happy as can be..
Ready for camping 2015
We have our yurt finaly up and running, and to say we made it from a log and roll of canvas we are really pleased with it, it also seems to be popular with lots of booking straight away (thank goodness!).. We are also working on a new toilet and shower in the farm yard.
Lambing 2015, all went really well. We lambed inside which is unusual for us, but it was surprisingly easy and we wanted to lamb earlier to have the lambs safely here by the time we have our own lamb in April (which as of 23 April, we are still waiting for)
August ' 14
Make Hay whilst the sun shines
We thought we would get 300 bales of hay, our neigbour thought 400, we got 800! and we had a brilliant weekend of campers helping, sore hands, campfires and BBQ's and making vintage tractors work.. Next year we will run a traditional hay making weekend, where you can come and do all of the above with us and feel part of a time gone by. We will also cut our hay meadow by scyth! P.S.. we have more hay than we need, if you want to buy some high quality small bale meadow hay let us know...
We have some lovely volunteers from Italy who have helped us wih the decking for the yurt and we also managed to get in our winter fodder crops such as swede, kale and potatoes, it feels brilliant to have bigger areas of veg growing, Matt loved casting is seed like a peasant.
We have had a glorious June. We had Reem and Shaun as volunteers and managed to get the woodwork of our yurt all beautifully finished (now just a lot of sewing and the decking to follow). We also had our polytunnel really come into production, to have ripe tomatoes and cucumbers in June has been brilliant, and we are still finding new recipes for our courgettes!
We had our last lamb delivered this weekend, on the same weekend we also ran (shockingly successfully) our first Introduction to Permaculture course taught by the inspirational Steve Jones.
October '13, the last addition to our large mammals, we finally have our Shetland cows.
Cattle are a key part of the biodynamic farming system, and the Shetlands will help us a great deal with conservation grazing of our woodlands and wetlands and they are less discriminating in what they eat than sheep so should help us a lot in our grazing management.. eventually we will milk them, but for now they are busy exploring our tree lines and wetland.
September '13, Henbant goes scaffold less
Just within a year of it going up we took the scaffold down and revealed Henbant properly with it's new roof (it now almost looks as good as they day we started pulling it apart!)
September '13, bringing home the bacon
With lots of land we want to plant up with trees this winter veg in spring we need some help with the digging we have some new volunteers, they are Oxford Sandy Blacks and we may keep the ginger one as our sow.
August '13, Green seeding our hay meadow
We are VERY excited to have just green seeded one of our fields as a wild flower hay meadow. Hay meadows are an essential part of the UK's biodiversity and over 97% of them have been lost since the war. Henbant's no-inputs over the past forty years means that our grassland is already low nutrient and high-diversity but this green seeding is the next step on a longer road to re-establishing this hay meadow. It's part of the Coronation Hay Meadow Project and you can read a lot more about it here
We have had some brilliant help from Hilary from the Wildlife Trust and Lleyn Landscapes Partnership and a little bit of money from the Gwynedd Biodiversity team to whom we are very grateful.
August '13, We get some new sheep
We have just brought home some beautiful and diverse new ewes. They are native breeds, but quite a mix of Jacob, Shetland and Welsh mountain, they should thus be able to cope outside here through the whole year, they shouldn't need much in the way of extra food and they should be able to lamb without our assistance. The other big advantage for us is that they are all friendly!
Our campers help us make some more progress on the house, August '13
We had a lovely day lime plastering with some of our campers whilst they had a day out of the rain and their children enjoyed a day on the sofa watching TV.. not quite what we meant to be teaching campers, but they had lived in the field for three weeks!
Were looking for our family cows, July '13
We are looking for a cow (or actually a couple of cows).. We have been talking to neighbors, visiting folk with different breeds, and I think we are going to buy Shetlands.. they were bred as the crofters cow and are perfect for what we are doing here, they are small (but not silly small), they are friendly and rare native breed, they can out winter, they are 'milky'.. all in all they are perfect for us..
Here are the two Shetland cows that we are thinking of buying..
Henbants volunteers, May 13
We are really lucky this month to have two really experienced gardeners join us here at Henbant, amongst other things they are helping us establish our main veg garden..
Holly and Wilkie creating a beautiful garden from a field...
If you're interested in volunteering here, please get in touch.
Henbant has a permanent population of three! March '13
Permaculture tour of North Wales
Since settling here we have found an abundance of inspirational Permaculture or sustainable living projects and peoples around us, its taken me a while to find them all and we are now going around to visit as many of them as we can so I'll share what I have found..
Busy Wednesday Oct '12- Jenny
Woke up to a stressed boyfriend
- where are we putting the windows
- what do we do about this thermal bridging
- do we have to put in concrete
- are we going to have to wheel barrow a whole ton bag of sand down from the to field
- how does this sarking board fit?
Little did we know stressing was worthwhile as by 10.30am little Henbant was is chaos. The joiners and van were on on putting the wood in for the roof. Then 2 vans from Scottish power turned up to reconnect us, just as we thought nothing else would fit in the yard our neighbors giant tractor turned up carrying a the dumpy bag of sand. And then to cap it off BT turned up with another van and a cherry picker to do the phone line. Why why do you wait 4 weeks for something to happen and then everything happens in the same morning.
It was great though to have so many people here doing things it made the place feel alive.
By the end of the day we have a very mashed up drive way, a BT socket in the field, a full new roof of rafters and a condemned power supply.
Tue 7th Oct - Jenny
It was fine weather today but we are not ready to get on with the roof which is frustrating as we know this good weather can't last for long so we built things instead which. Matt spent the day building a work bench. It's massive big enough for several people to get inside but it will be very useful as at the moment we use the picnic bench for everything.
I helped with the bench and built a bird table for outside the caravan, very simple three lime rods cut from the nearest bit of woodland and tied in a tripod with a slate hung between. (we have a lot of spare random slates.)
The bird table is a complete success bar the minor detail that the birds don't want to go anywhere near it.
Carried away with the fun of making tripods we then made a bigger lime tripod and stood it in the wetland bit below the house. I can hear what I have decided are barn owls at the bottom of the hill so maybe this tripod will work as an owl stand but we will have to be patient if we are ever to notice it in use.
Spent the evening talking to a new friend called Keith about woodlands chainsaws and vegetable oil as diesel, took the poor chap for a walk all the way round the woodland, first time we have known the paths well enough to get all the way round so satisfying all the same. Still sorry Keith know it took ages.
Caravan electrics -Jenny
The caravan is randomly half way across the field a good 150m from the house (paranoid we put it far away from the falling ash tree despite the fact the tree probably has another 100years left in it. We have piped water to the caravan straight across the field so it will probably freeze solid in a few months time.
So next things next and that's electric, we can't keep putting the generate on every evening it's noisy and smelly. So we have installed two solar panels by the caravan they are pointing east and west so that they can't meet their full potential as we fear they may blow the inverter. The panels are attached to three second hand batteries, and so far these are running all the lights in the caravan and is enough to charge laptop's etc. which is brilliant makes life much easier.
Just a little technicality although we love the simple life we are not hermits and we are not trying to cut ourselves off from the real world we plan to do this as sustainability as possible but i still want to watch a bit of TV every now and then and check what friends and family are up to on Facebook. We do this via 3G. New phones provide a wireless hotspot ie you can connect the laptop to the Internet via your mobile 3G coverage. I know this sounds dull but it is a life saver to have the internet when you you don't know the answer to things, and on the 3 network it is free and fast enough to watch live TV.
A note from Matts mum
I arrived at Henbant the day after my 61st birthday. My thoughts the day before had been on the next chapter of my life…
what will this bring what will I do how will I feel etc. you know like ‘ones’ inner thoughts the sort of thoughts one only really shares with their therapist.
I had been intrigued by a researcher I had listened to earlier in the week about how she had spent time with individuals in the last few days of their life. What were their thoughts and more importantly their regrets in life I pricked up my ears at that point could I learn anything here, I asked myself, what could be gleamed from their experience if anything?
‘live life for yourself’,'do what you choose to,” don’t delay’… that was the comment that resonated with me the latest mindfulness CBT in a nutshell I told myself just get on with it, get on and strip the roof slates.
We worked as a team and got the majority of the job done in two days. Short breaks for tea and biscuits Matt and Jenny appear to be believers in good quality biscuits for their workers ‘look after the workers’ maybe their motto at Henbant!
Well roof stripped the heavens opened the rain poured down as only it can do in Wales strong gusts of wind and driving rain. All spiders webs will be removed with this downpour I thought lets always look for the positives.
Sadly Sunday afternoon comes too soon my muscles are aching but my face is smiling Henbant is off …. I smile as Matt whispers to me I think I am beginning to live in one of those Enid Blyton novel’s from my childhood. Yes, I thought your dreams are really happening ‘in the now’ only one better than that was to see the excitement in Jenny’s eyes too as we wave goodbye to them in the caravan. (Or was that I offered to take and return the washing next week!) I think it was the former.
My message to you two is enjoy the now for in the now are your memories to enjoy make them good ones.
Lynne visited Henbant on September 30th 2012.
Organic Farm Grown Food
Fire and Story
“Henbant is not a hotel, it's not a resort.. It's muddy, it's wild.. it's beautiful, friendly and honest.”
“Sitting at our back doorsteps, all we need to live a good life lies about us. Sun, wind, people, buildings, stones, sea, birds and plants surround us. Cooperation with all these things brings harmony, opposition to them brings disaster and chaos.”
Bill Mollison, Introduction to Permaculture