When a beekeeper refers to a specific time of year, he does not reference a specific month, instead, he will name the plants that are flowering at a particular time. For example, he might tell you that it is the time of dandelions, or blueberries, or that we are in the season of blackberries or fireweed.
He will do this in the same way that any gardner will, that is, to indicate the time of year, not by naming the month, but by naming the harvest. My Oma Brown has always divided the calendar year into growing seasons, and these days, when she telephones the farm to say hello, she still asks, in her thick European accent: “How are you dear Nao? You must be so busy, it is berry time now ya? Or tomato time? or sauerkraut time?” Not once, in all my life, have I heard her refer to a season, by naming a calendar month.
Yes, it is a funny thing, the notion of time and time keeping, for there is a point in every homesteading experience, when one recognizes that the calendar hanging on the wall, no longer dictates the flow of one’s life. That the day ahead is organized by looking at the sky and noting the outside temperature, by the fullness of the moon and the moisture in the ground, by the fruits that are fruiting and the flowers that are flowering, by the snow we did or did not have last winter, and the level of the nearby rivers.
These days, here on Honey Grove, it is a constant effort to conserve water. We are nearing a level 4 drought here on the Pacific West Coast, with almost no rain for over 40 days. The ground is cracked and brown and parched. The sea is too hot for the salmon. The wild-fires are blazing throughout the province, and everything is suffering under a ceaseless expanse of endless blue-sky; hazy with the smoke of the forests that burn. There is such little moisture in the earth that there is hardly any nectar flowing in the flowers. Our blessed bees have not experienced a honey-flow since dandelions, and thus far, they have not been able to store enough honey for winter. Yesterday, we took them up into the mountains, into the fireweed bloom, in hope that they might find there, the nectar they so desperately need.
We are hopeful that there will be enough moisture in the alpine ground for the nectar to flow freely, and for our bees to fill their hives with an abundance of sweet honey. I might also add that the fireweed is blooming 4 weeks sooner than it has done in previous years. Goodness me, these are crazy times we live in.
And while the sun shines down, life goes on, and the harvest rolls in, and we do the things that need to be done, like braiding garlic.
In someways there is a strange and haunted blessing to the fullness of this season, for it urges us on, encouraging us to focus on those things that need attending to, and in this way, keeps despair from lingering too long on our doorstep. For now is not the time to be paralyzed under the weight of a despairing heart, or to rage against the undeniable recognition of global warming and the ecological crisis of planet earth. The fact is, we are living in difficult times, and we all know this. If we do not know it, it is only because we have become overly distracted with our busy lives, and we have not paused for long enough to acknowledge the difficult truth. Our only hope, as far as I can tell, is to do whatever we can to reduce our impact on this good earth, as individuals, as families, as communities, as a planet, and to keep on keeping on, whatever it takes. And for me, this includes believing in a greener more sustainable future, for me, this includes believing in humanity and my own ability to keep believing.
Yes, there are things to do. There is action to take. There are chores to be done. There are prayers to be uttered and there is still water to conserve. There are bees to move and there is fruit to pick. There are fires to put out and hope to resurrect (there is always, in my rose-coloured-universe, hope to resurrect). There is faith to have and communities to gather together. Yes, these are the things that need doing. And so, with the help of Mark’s dear Mum and Dad (who returned to England just yesterday) we did just this, we spent our days doing the many things that needed doing. Together, we picked raspberries… bowls and bowls of raspberries.
And cherries, ohmyheaven, so many cherries…
And Katie turned some of them into the most extraordinary pies, which Mark’s Dad photographed, before we ate.
And despite how many cherries we picked and froze and canned and ate, despite how many pies Katie made…
there were still some left to share, with the local bear, who stopped by in the wee hours of the morning, while we all slept soundly in our beds; our white hound snoring on the floor.
Otherwise, the flowers in our vegetable garden (the ones that we grow for the bees, the ones that receive the nourishing water from our well) continue to bloom and to offer their sweetness to the bees and to us.
Their perfect symmetrical faces, reminding us that there is always some beauty in the world, despite all the rest of it.
And while the garden flowers bloom and the bees visit their sweet petaled centres, Mark is still baking his beautiful bread, and people are coming up the drive to Honey Grove to give him their business, and to say the nicest things about what he is doing.
And speaking of Mark’s Oven, it is so close to being completely finished. Katie and I did the mudding a week ago and we are now just waiting for it to dry completely.
And while Mark bakes and Katie and I mud, Cohen is curing more Salumi.
And making Capocollo – neck muscle cured with wild fennel…
And gathering aromatics for crema di lardo.
And together, he and Mark are making pizza’s in the Honey Grove Oven.
Perfect Italian Pizza.
And Katie is making Nocino, an Italian digestive made with unripe walnuts, which, according to Katie, “are typically picked on June 24 (the day of san giovanni) by barefooted virgins in Emilia Romagna, then steeped in wine and spices for three months. A little bit of Italy right there in that jar (minus the barefooted virgins…).”
As for Gus, he is still offering his secret of the Universe, which is, as you know is, “Not to Worry” and to Keep on Loving, whatever the circumstance, whatever the difficulty, whatever the joy or the heartbreak, or the drought.
And so, I leave you now, as I step into this new day, to do the many things that need doing, to send despair on her weary way, and to pray for rain, let there be rain. Thank You for your Company. It means more than we can properly say.
Nao, Mark, Gus, Cohen, Katie and All At Honey Grove~