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December on Honey Grove~

And just like that, the wheel has turned yet again, and we have crossed the threshold of the Winter Solstice.

And believe it or not, the light will soon be returning, for within the next moon’s cycle, the days will become noticeably longer.

And you can be sure that we celebrated the returning of the light here at Honey Grove, with feasting and friends, and storytelling, and comedic skits, and acts of magic and music making. There were candles lit, while fires burned, and green boughs decked the halls.

And there was the most extraordinary chocolate yule cake, made by my dear friend Nikiah to mark this special occasion.

We even had a yule tree this year, strung with lights and rose-hips and homemade ornaments and old birds nests that I have collected from the land here.

And once the solstice was over, and one lot of dear friends left, another set arrived, and Katie began to prepare for Christmas, the Irish way. And those incredible whiskey soaked fruit cakes that she began making at summers end, well, they were finally ready for eating.

And ohmystars they were good. Perhaps, I don’t need to tell you, that a Christmas dinner prepared by Cohen and Katie, is truly something to behold. If ever you find yourself invited to sit around their table, know that it will be an experience like no other, and that the quality of food and hospitality is unrivalled.

And these dinners, they go on for a long time, course after delicious course. In fact, hours can go by while enjoying the pleasures of eating at a long table in good company; sipping wines, that you feel sure were made just to go with this meal. Oh and the salads, they are simply art.

Yes, needless to say, we have been doing a great deal of eating here at Honey Grove over the holidays. It’s a good thing we have been getting our exercise too, and taking long snowy walks as a part of our daily routine.

And not without our beloved dog friend, who leads us through the fir wood with an extra skip in his step. Gus assures me (and on a regular basis) that there is nothing quite like taking his dear human friends for a walk. It is a pleasure (he says) like no other.

Of course, you also know by now, that it is not all leisure here at Honey Grove, and that as much as we love feasting with friends, we have also been buzzing around like a hive of bees doing the many things that need doing. Before our week off at Christmas, you could find us in the bakery and at the markets.
Mark was baking bread as fast as Katie and I were selling it, and by Christmas Eve there was not a single loaf left to buy in the whole valley.
Luckily we managed to put a few loaves away for our own table.  Yes, the evolution of Mark’s baking career is really quite something ( and, it seems that he is taking it very seriously, eh eh)
And when the markets were over, we were back at Honey Grove scrubing the cottage sinks and airing linens and preparing for the arrival of more guests, who came to retreat in the cottage for the holiday season. We have shovelled pathways and swept floors and made beds, multiple times.
And speaking of beds and guests, did I mention that we also renovated our farmshop? Yes, we have! It is no longer a place to buy jellies and honeys, but rather a little cabin, for farm helpers and family to stay. Cohen did the carpentry and even put in a new window.
And while Cohen did the structural work, Katie did the design and the electrical, and our friend David and I did the painting. Below you can see some of the process and the exciting end result.
BEFORE

AFTER

And so it seems that December on Honey Gove has been both busy and relaxing, and here, today, at the threshold of another year there is blue sky and a pile of sparkling snow out the door. There are guests cozy in the cottage and there is a brand new seed catalogue sitting on the table, just waiting for me to open it, so that I might begin dreaming of the coming year.

And there is Gus, having just returned from a snowy walk around the perimeter, with an abundance of snowballs attached to his legs. I best go and attend to him.
Wishing you a Happy Healthy New Year.

Nao, Mark, Cohen, Katie, Gus and All at Honey Grove~

November on Honey Grove~

On the first day of November the sun was shining and there were still nasturtiums blooming in the garden.

And Gus and I were working there, among the orange and yellow blooms, and it was a beautiful short-sleeve and hatless kind of day.

We were enjoying the warmth of the winter sun among the brussel-sprouts and the cabbages and delighting in the sweetness of such a blessed afternoon.

I was digging up dahlia tubers.

And gladiola bulbs, with the knowledge that the weather was going to change, for there were whisperings throughout the town, about the changing forecast.

And then, change it did, for on the second day of November, it snowed and everything froze, and although we had heard it was going to get cold, we were not quite expecting winter to arrive overnight.

And for 5 strange days we had extreme winter weather, snow and ice and terrifying roads, and then as quickly as it arrived, it left, and the sky went back to raining, and we have gone back to harvesting beets and turnips from the garden.

And when the days were gentle again, Cohen rescued thirty, ten year old grape vines, of the pinot-gris variety, from a local vineyard (where they were making room for new vines) and he brought them home to Honey Grove, where he planted Honey Grove’s very own mini vineyard. And he worked hard (backbreaking-stone digging- hard) for two long days to get those vines into the ground with everything they needed to be strong and well and laden with grapes in future years. I must admit, we are all very excited about this new addition to Honey Grove, for it has been a dream of ours for some years.

And once the grapes were all in (and what a job that was!) Cohen got straight to work with Katie, and together they planned Honey Grove’s first Pop-Up for dear friends, which took place last night at Mark’s new bakery space in town, and what an incredible success it was! The evening began with a twenty-four month old prosciutto leg.

And I wish you could have seen the expressions and heard the sounds of the people when they tasted it, for they could not believe what they were experiencing. I think some of them wondered if they had somehow been transported to the warmth of the Italian countryside, and faraway from the rainy wet, of the Pacific North West, in November.

And for one night, the bakery was transformed into a warm and glowing dining hall, complete with the hum and chatter of happy guests.

And we all buzzed around, like a hive of Honey Grove bees, taking good care of our guests and serving up a wintery feast to warm and restore and satisfy, all created and cooked of course, by Cohen and Katie. ( Who by-the-way are really quite something to witness in a kitchen. What a remarkable pair of people they are when they are combining their creative food talents. I mean just take a look at the menu…)

And while they cooked, I attended to the flower arrangements, which featured crabapples and winter herbs of rosemary and English thyme.

And our visiting friend David (who came all the way from Montreal) prepared his arty arboreal jelly dish, which he served near the end of the meal, on beach stones no less.

And Mark served his beautiful, fresh-out-of-the-oven-baguettes.

And before we knew it, seven courses had gone by and it was time to serve the dessert, which was a gorgeous inspiration of Katie’s: yogurt cotto con un biscotti d’oro (yogurt, cream, honey, pistachios, apricots, almond and cranberry biscotti.

And so it was that the guests left happy and glowing, their bellies full and their hearts content. We then cleaned up into the wee hours before falling into our beds for long and deep sleeps, all of us aching-tired but satisfied. And outside the door, the November rains continued to pour down.

Now, I must be off, for the others are still cleaning up the remnants of last night’s gathering, and I am in charge of keeping the home fires here at Honey Grove burning bright, and while I have been typing here this morning, they have nearly all gone out.

Blessings from the Honey Grove Hearth~

Nao, Mark, Cohen, Katie, Gus and All at Honey Grove

 

October has come.

And just like that October has arrived. And she has strewn the alder leaves across the woodland path and made the mornings crisp and the afternoons more golden. She has cast her light upon the garden in such a way that one cannot simply walk by without noticing, without being struck by the luminosity there, without turning ones face toward the light, just like every late autumn bloom is doing, with palpable delight.

And the crispness and the goldenness of these autumn days seems to seal itself inside of every apple, and suddenly what you can see with your eyes and feel on your skin, you can now taste on your tongue.
And the harvest, well it just goes on and on, providing us with the perfect food for every season. This week I harvested the squash, and I stored them away with the glee of a squirrel with a secret stash of nuts. For me, there is nothing like an abundant store of squash ready and waiting to become hearty stews and soups and sweet spiced pies. Just seeing them there, lined up on the counter, makes my heart sing. The truth is, I feel nourished just gazing upon them. No really, I do, this is true.

But before I harvested the squash, Gus and I gathered all the cabbage for sauerkraut, and since then our cabbage has been shredded and salted and is now sitting in an old German crock, steeping in the alchemy of fermentation.

Of course, as the squash and the cabbage came out of the garden, next years garlic went straight in.

And once I tucked the garlic into the earth, I began tucking the bees into their hives and insulating the hives for the winter weather (although you would not think they needed any kind of insulation just yet, seeing the hives illumined in the late afternoon sun).

Yes, all things are beautiful under the gentle warmth of the October sun, especially beehives and dahlias and wild swaths of nasturtiums, rambling over the garden fence.

And while I have been here at the farm getting the homestead ready for winter, Mark has been busy at the bakery and his beautiful bread has officially gone out into the world. It can now be found in three local health food stores: Healthy Way in Campbell River, Edible Island in Courtenay, and Seeds in Cumberland. Below you can see a photo of it, lined up on a shelf in Healthy Way, it’s all very exciting and our island community has been so incredibly supportive.

And you can still find us every Saturday morning at the Comox Valley Farmers Market, as well as at our very own Bakery, in Courtenay. Take a look here for more details regarding Honey Grove Bakery location and hours.

Yes, it has been an extraordinarily busy year for us, and we can hardly believe the changes that have occurred, or that it is already October, but despite the fullness of things, there is still so much gratitude for this good life, and however much there is to do, we still find time to take long walks in the mountains, with a thermos of tea, and our beloved Dog Friend.

And there we can sit, beside alpine lakes for some hours.

And those days are joyous days. (This next photo was snapped at the end of a long walk in the mountains, by a lovely friend who we bumped into at the end or our walk).

As for Cohen and Katie, they have been away for over three weeks visiting Katie’s beloved family in Ireland (as well as the local Irish pubs).

They also spent some glorious time in Italy with their dear friends (some of whom make exceptional biodynamic wine from their biodynamic vin yards, and you can see just how delighted Katie was about that!).

And as far as I can tell, they had a very fine time indeed (and well deserved rest after an astonishingly busy summer).

Well, I must be off now, for there is a rooster crowing reminding me that another day, has indeed, begun.

May you know of our gratitude for your company,

Nao,  Mark, Cohen, Katie, Gus and All at Honey Grove