Tag Archives: Wales

Tales from Pan’s Grotto

Standard

wales-2014-058This past year, I’ve been writing and submitting short stories. Having had over a quarter of them published online and in anthologies, I decided to start my own Youtube channel, Phoenix and the Dragon, and read to you the WitchLit stories emerging from my pen right now. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCw3ee9CuNdek9ZC1Im8I_iA

I began at Samhain with a slightly longer story, Granny Hickson’s Blessings https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjBDk9eogZQ

This week’s story is called Lucky and is perfect for a tea break viewing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNRDQMuBv3U

If you enjoy the stories, please like, share and subscribe to the channel.

Bright Blessings xx

 

Advertisements

The Veil of Secrets

Standard

Upon the road to Samhein, I’m facing my fears. Working on my root chakra, Muladhara, the fears of the past haunt me less.

1655477_912692688801104_1676088900175960390_oI am no longer a child. Little Wendy met her fears in the safe place in the faery wood. They were part of her once, a constant reminder but now, they are abandoned. She leaves the wood a woman. Little Wendy is still there but she is more than that now. I have followed my dream, to live, write and teach in Wales. This bravery is new. This courage is inspiring.

As the Sacred Wheel turns, Samhein beckons, the time when the veil between the worlds is thin and the future, a step away. What secrets lie beyond the veil?

‘Wendy Woo’s Year – A Pocketful of Smiles – 101 ideas for a happy year and a happy you’, written in 2012, I suggest you take time to declare your intent….

“81: Declare your intent
As we draw towards the end of October, the summer is over and
before us, the long months of winter beckon. This is the time for new
ideas and new plans and, in my experience, choices.
Our ancestors used the coming months to preserve and conserve food
for the winter and organise themselves for the coming spring and we
too can follow this example by conserving the ‘seeds’ of ideas and
plans that proved their worth, burning those that didn’t and beginning
a new seed bank of our own.
A few years ago, two aspects of my life were taking off, writing and
dancing, but I didn’t know which to pursue. I sought advice from a
dear friend, a wise and wonderful lady. Her words have stayed with
me and I use them when making all my life choices.
I gave each of my plans an intent. To writing, I gave ‘to write a novel’
and to dancing ‘to share my love of dance.’ Both ideas developed but
at a different pace. Phoenix Bellydance was born and, in the five
years I taught Egyptian Bellydance, I introduced over 300 women
and girls to the dance. I wrote my first novel over three years while
waiting in the car to collect my children from school.
Write down your ideas for your future on coloured cards and place
them where you can see them (March). You could carry a small
version in your wallet or purse. Decide the intention of each idea and
add that to the card. If you plan to do something to make money, that
is your intent. If you want to help people, that is your intent. My
recent novel was published because my intent was to share the story
with as many people as possible.
Take your time. There’s no rush.
Enjoy this time of new ideas and choices and, by the end of the
winter, be ready to declare your intent.”

The secret beyond the veil is your intention for the coming year.

I work on my land, cutting back brambles and clearing away dead leaves and weeds. I work on my home, rebuilding, lime mortaring and white washing. The fear is gone. I allow my mind to realise my intent. On Samhein, I will release it to the universe.

 

DSC_015913083146_1733798136878675_2778952018034820534_n13112704_1734030426855446_828396087_o

You can find all my books via my Amazon author pages:

http://www.amazon.com/Wendy-Steele/e/B007VZ1P06/ref

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wendy-Steele/e/B007VZ1P06/ref

The Path to Success

Standard

Life in Wales was to be just that…a life, not an existence. When the weather allowed, we wanted to immerse ourselves in the landscape and create a home, surrounded by our four acres of land. Self sufficiency was another aim, using the wood on the land and planting new trees for the future was the first step; creating a vegetable patch, the second. My card for this month is II Wands and I embraced its message, gathering up the spark from the ace, propelling me along my chosen path and fulfilling my dreams of my life in Wales…and then reality hit me like a truck, out of control on the ice road…my partner and I have to work as well.

1655477_912692688801104_1676088900175960390_oThough we’ve been in our house since November 2013, without a roof and with major work needed at the house (heating, bathroom, sceptic tank), setting up my partner’s wood floor business in Wales is in its infancy so working away is the only option. Without him here, I’ve done my best, but this weekend was our first opportunity to make a real difference. On Thursday, I borrowed a strimmer from a neighbour, keen to get a headstart as the weather was dry and sunny.

I trimmed as far as the lead would reach but no extension lead could be found in the house. I read about using a white vinegar and salt solution to kill weeds and decided to douse the grass and weeds growing through our decking. I carried the two gallon can outside five times, liberally dousing the area. The following morning, I checked to find it had made no difference. I cleared nettles, barrowed stones and filled the holes on the driveway. I burned half the cleared bramble, twig and nettle pile, until the ash in our tractor wheel fire threatened to seep from its metal safety and a few spots of rain began to fall.

DSC_0157My partner came home. I’d cleared away brambles and nettles at the front of the house, dragging out the beech tree branches ready for chainsawing, splitting and barrowing…and then the chainsaw refused to work.

My head said ‘Forget it, you’re both tired. Give up,’ but my heart said ‘No way!’

Our fabulous neighbour lent us a chainsaw. Between strimming the driveway, extension lead having been extracted from partner’s car, I moved a dozen barrows…until we realised the piles in the wood barn were not going to work and we needed to move the wood we were using now. ‘You’re tired!’ yelled my head. ‘It needs to be done, you can do it’, assured my heart. By the end, my biceps were buzzing, my back screaming but the resulting wood piles were magnificent…and then it rained.

We worked in the rain on Sunday morning. I cleared nettles from around half our apple trees, my partner mowing without the grass boxes on as they clogged every five minutes and still it rained, a thundery downpour forcing us indoors. Just after four o’clock, the sun came out and we cleared the final uncovered logs from the front grass and finished mowing around the house.

Returning our borrowed tools, we sat on the riverbank with a cup of tea. DSC_0132

 

Whether its people or circumstances, we get knocked and buffeted on our path. Doubts creep in, as does the fear, both of the future and of failing. Only you can commit. Only you can turn a dream into a reality.

 

 

Taking our home back

Standard

One more day, and the builders will be gone. I can’t remember when the house and byre were last scaffold free. In two years, the byre has changed from this…Wales 103Wales 2014 044To this…12985581_1725096004415555_5059410862430744539_n And the house from this…m_DSC01452 to this…11150930_1600818576843299_7145038719453612890_n

Having been nursed and tended by the professionals, with a bit of help from us, we finally take charge of our baby. We began making lists…and added them to the fire! Lists longer than your arm are far too daunting so we’ve allocated four priorities we want to achieve by the end of the summer and we’ll see how we go from there…the truth is, our funds are depleted and as we approach three years in Wales, tent, caravan and house, we need to start living here.

So the outdoor stage stays…12998745_1725523984372757_3935931874685187204_nand we’re going to construct one under cover in the byre. Soffit painting, lime mortar ‘dobbing out’ on the walls needs to be finished on the byre and the gable end of the house also needs finishing. My partner is going to build a straw bale building inside his workshop…a soundproof, watertight room, ideal for planing wood and recording music and we’re going to dance and sing our way through the spring and summer.

We love living in Wales and we plan to enjoy it.

 

Welcoming the light

Standard

After eight weeks of rain in Wales and the end of term approaching, I set myself a challenge….to brighten up our fireplace for the winter solstice and welcome in the light.

Work on our house this year has focussed on practical rather than cosmetic. With the thatch on, work turned to mending the chimneys and building up the clom to try to make our home weatherproof. We had almost repointed the end wall of the house before the rain started.11150930_1600818576843299_7145038719453612890_nWhile my partner worked upstairs, boarding and insulating, I worked on the fireplace. DSC_0128First all the old mortar had to be scraped out and the mantel shelf and beam rubbed down. DSC_0129With my first bucket of lime mortar, I repaired the fireplace, rebuilding where necessary. DSC_0130

Part of the left hand wall had been mortared so I finished it DSC_0132

While the mantelpiece dried, I moved into the hall, prepped and repaired a small length of stonework. DSC_0133I limewashed around the lounge window…I had repaired it last year but never got any further. DSC_0135….and used three buckets of mortar to continue repairing up the stairs. DSC_0136 

Lime mortar in quantity is best made in an adapted cement mixer but for small amounts we make by hand and it’s hard work imitating a mixer! In two days, the fireplace was transforming and the lounge and hallway too but on Saturday morning, my partner added his expertise to the project, filling in the holes in the wood and glossing.DSC_0138Between adding thin coats of lime wash around the window, I attacked the other wall in the hall. DSC_0140Mike rubbed down the window and glossed it, as well as the kitchen door frame and a second coat on the beams. DSC_0142

More whitewash was applied around the fireplace. DSC_0143By the end of Sunday, the hall was repaired DSC_0145and the window and fireplace repaired and whitened. DSC_0144

It isn’t easy living in a house while working on it. For five days, washing hung cold and damp in the bathroom and fitting in meals required planning. My hands are bruised and sore and each night my shoulders and back ached from the physical effort but if you want something done, challenge yourself.

On the morning of the 21st December, we cleared the mess from the lounge and began to transform the space. My broomstick finally has a home. DSC_0148With the greenery we cut from the riverbank and white fairy lights, we watched the room change as the light faded. Jibby loved the new look fireplace and the window looked stunning DSC_0149DSC_0147

We lit lanterns and placed one in each window, calling into the darkness and welcoming in the light. Whatever you celebrate at this time of year, I wish you bright winter solstice blessings and may you be warm, loved and peaceful in the coming months to spring.

DSC_0156

A new book…a new beginning

Standard

Today is launch day for The Standing Stone – Silence is Broken. This is the second book in the Standing Stone series. It’s longer, faster paced and features the Goddess Ishtar.

Ishtar, or Innana, came into my life over 15 years ago when I picked up a book about goddesses in the children’s library and was inspired to paint her, my first ever water colour. Since moving to Wales, she has been a constant in my life and with her support and guidance, I’ve embarked on a new spiritual and emotional journey.

When I stand beneath the vast skies in rural Wales, the stars from her belt shine on me, reminding me that I’m part of an amazing universe. On wet Welsh days when the weather changes from torrential rain to sunshine in minutes, the rainbow necklace at her throat gives me hope, showering my life with a myriad of colourful blessings.

As Ishtar, the warrior goddess, I carry her with me always.

Eight pointed star, one of the symbols of Ishtar

Eight pointed star, one of the symbols of Ishtar

She inspires me to dance and teach others, even if my classes are depleted. She inspires me to share my stories, even when my book sales are low.

Every day can be a new beginning with the goddess and today begins the life of a new story, sent into the world to be shared.

Embrace Ishtar in your life today.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Standing-Stone-Silence-Broken-ebook/dp/B010NUJALG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1435824840&sr=1-1&keywords=standing+stone+silence+is+broken

http://www.amazon.com/Standing-Stone-Silence-Broken-ebook/dp/B010NUJALG/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1435824925&sr=1-1&keywords=the+standing+stone+silence+is+broken

 

Standing Stone Silence Is Broken ebook cover proof

 

Thatching is finished!

Standard

It’s been a long wait…our scaffolding has been up for a year but we finally have a roof. It’s not quite watertight up there yet though as the walls still need to be build up at the ends of the house to meet the roof…DSC_1334but we are close!

The thatchers laid a wooden frame over the new commoon rafters and new gorse DSC_1347Then thatched over the frame…DSC_1350The scaffolding is a brilliant place to get a phone signal!…DSC_1352 The ridge is begun…DSC_1354 before work starts at the back of the house…DSC_1356 My partner had to construct the frames to hold the new conservation skylights…14 inches above the roof! DSC_1364Thatching of the back of the house begins…DSC_1367

It’s been a long, tiring, messy process. We’ve argued with planning department, tussled with Listing and battled with the thatcher but finally, we are the proud owners of a Welsh, thatched, 18th Century Farmhouse.

10422389_1600818613509962_5003792390274671595_n        11150930_1600818576843299_7145038719453612890_n

I hope you’ve enjoyed following our journey….follow this blog to watch us rebuilding our 17th Century cow byre.

Wood and trees

Standard

After spending a lot of last winter with no heating, we now have two magnificent and efficient wood burning stoves.Wales 2014 040This one, to heat the lounge, hot water and radiators and this one…..Wales 2014 037that keeps the room we live, sleep and work in warm.

But with only tarpauline and tin on the roof and holes in the stonework, our house is still difficult to heat. We’ve an interesting curtain arrangement around the stair case…extra long curtains lined with velvet help stop the draught from upstairs. The insulation screwed to the kitchen ceiling helps a little too but in order to keep warm, we need lots of wood.

We’re very lucky. Our land has trees and lots of them and no one has trimmed them or managed them so this weekend, we’ve worked hard to take out the trees and branches that are dangerous or have been left to grow in daft places. A few weeks ago, we took down branches over a track we share and began a wood pile for next year with a layer of oak. Wales to 13th Sept 2014 004This weekend, we’ve been taking down ash which can be burned immediately. Any trees and branches endangering buildings are being removed before they become too big for us to handle and we’ve continued our scheme of coppicing, taking out wood to allow more to grow.

As our land provides for us, we give back. In March, we planted fruit trees, apple, pear, plum and damson. Wales 2014 March 015Ash saplings are sprouting all over the land, especially down on the river bank. Some we’ve left in situ until they grow bigger and some we’ve dug up and moved to the slope at the bottom of our field. We’ve planted willow, given by friends but it’s not taken very well so we’ll try again next year.

Our beech tree, the Queen of the forest, is another tree that needs attention, seen here the day the removal van brought our possessions. summer 2013 and tent pictures 432Great leathery rows of fungus are visible from the roadside at the base of the tree and we are concerned that the roots are being eaten away. We have a neighbour who is a tree specialist so we will be seeking his advice as to the best way to proceed.

We moved to Wales to change our lives and live closer to the earth. Our Land provides for us and we will look after her, removing the decades of rubbish left by previous owners and looking after the trees and replanting. In the future, we hope to plant hedgerow and soft fruit as well as erecting eco camping pods in our field using recycled materials, enabling others to immerse themselves in the beauty of the Welsh countryside. On our land, we see the wood and the trees.

 

 

Autumn Equinox…Everything changes

Standard

walk in woods SeptFrom Autumn Equinox, 21st September, the sun’s strength diminishes until the Winter Solstice, when the sun grows stronger and the days become longer than the nights. This is the time of year we can look back to the abundance of the harvest and prepare for the coming months.

Since coming to Wales, the changes in the seasons and the weather are more obvious. A neighbour visited yesterday, leading her young horse and we talked about the past few months. While our focus has been Bramble Avenue, digging decades of poo from our cow byre, cutting down dead and damaged trees for firewood and freezing or potting up the produce we’ve grown or been given, the farmers are overwhelmed with an abundance of animal feed. From one cutting of their fields in June, they have twice the silage, more than they would usually get from two cuts. This profusion of lush grass is the product of the sunshine and rain at the right time this year so changeable weather plays a huge part in how the farmers deal with the land and livestock from season to season.

My first ever batch of apple chutney

My first ever batch of apple chutney

The poo heaps...and we're not finished yet!

The poo heaps…and we’re not finished yet!

The riverbank at the end of Bramble Avenue

The riverbank at the end of Bramble Avenue

As I look back at the summer and mourn the loss of the summer sun, the cold winter lays ahead of me so am I ready to change? Can I bring light into a dark situation? Have I the power to change like the seasons?

While waiting for news from Planning and CADW, we’ve done our best to put other plans into action, rather than dwell on a situation we have no control over. The good news is, Planning and CADW have now agreed to issue us with the necessary paperwork to go ahead with our roof…there are conditions but nothing we can’t work around so, we’ve put a call in to the thatcher and we will know tonight when our thatching will commence.

The even better news is, I may have found a society who may give us a small grant towards getting a roof on the byre before the winter so I’ve emailed for an application form. This help will be greatly appreciated as working on the byre was not in the budget for this year…or next but, the storms in February have necessitated a speedy response or we’ll lose the byre completely.

We lost the light from our hillside location at 7.29pm last night and the chill and damp that descended was almost tangible but we’re proficient in producing heat quickly from our two wood burners and the pile of wood in the drying barn is huge, both for this year and next, so we will be warm this winter….especially with a roof!

Since Mike came back from Essex, he is getting more and more work by raising his profile and doing a great job so where one floor was quoted for, they want him back to do another. We’ve both been promoting and I’ve been invited to take part in ‘Making Together’ on 4th October in Lampeter, to talk about my books, sell some and offer the opportunity of workshops to new writers. I’m also dancing with Tribal Unity in Lampeter on 11th October at the ATS® Belly Dance World Wide Flash Mob where dancers from across the world dance to the same music at the same time, Friday 17th October at the Lampeter World of Dance event and teaching a beginners workshop the following day.

Have I the power? I think I have.