Tea for Troubled Times

Sitting here this morning, in the deep night of pre-dawn, the fire flickers, the cat meows, and somewhere in the distance there is a rooster calling out through the morning-night to the morning-light. His crow, a reminder that the sun will indeed rise again, that even the darkest night has a dawn.


Goodness, what strange times we live in. Waking up this morning, crossing the same cold patches of floor, stepping over the familiar creaks on the stairwell, putting the kettle on, lighting the fire while the tea steeps, the same things I do every day, and yet everything feels different.

“There is crack in everything” I remind myself. “That’s how the light gets in,” I say aloud to the cat, as I set a match to the crinkled the paper between the kindling and utter a silent prayer for the world. A world without Leonard Cohen in it. A world in which Donald Trump has been elected president of America. And here I am, still putting the kettle on. And yet, according to Mark’s dear British Mum, it’s the only thing to do when darkness falls.


She told me once, while stirring her tea after a difficult day, that there was a power outage in London on the day that WWII began. She said that every person in England put the kettle on at the exact same moment and that it caused a great power surge. Yes, tea for troubled times, it is without doubt, a tried and true remedy. There is nothing like holding a warm mug of tea close up to your chest, when the world has gone mad.

And when the kettle has boiled, and you have finished your tea, what then? How to go forward in difficult times? I am not sure what the Great Masters would say about this, and I certainly do not have an answer, but I do know what I do on challenging days, and it helps.

1) First, I look to the poets of the world, I open those tea-stained-dogeared-pages of my most cherished books of poetry and I take the words found there deep into my heart.













I sip them like medicine throughout the day, and I go about the business of my life saying them aloud to any fir tree that will listen, to the passing chicken and the raven flying by, to the compost worms and the winter-wrens, to the flowers, those ones that are still blooming in mid-November.





















2) And then, I keep working. I just keep doing the things that I can do: chopping wood and doing dishes and hanging laundry and helping Mark load his beautiful bread into the oven.














I carry on attending to those things that I can attend to, fixing the things that I can fix. There is, for me, something deeply satisfying about repairing and mending, something that soothes my heart when everything else feels broken. And so, I am here, going around Honey Grove with hammer and nails. I am fixing old chicken coops and replacing fenceposts and darning the holes in my sweater arms. I am stretching my aching back and rubbing soothing herbs into my sore muscles. I am gardening, because I still can.













3) And when all the jobs are done, I pray. I just sit down wherever I am, in the garden or the field and I say the things in my heart aloud. I give them to “The Sisters of Mercy, who are not departed or gone, who are waiting for me when I thought that I just can’t go on….”


And while I am praying Mark is still baking, he is putting his prayers into bread.


And Katie is pouring all her love into fruit-cakes and Irish Soda bread and great pots of soup that warm our bellies and our hearts. And the smells coming out of her kitchen these days, they are surely going out to heal the world, of this, I have no doubt.


Meanwhile, Cohen, who is named after Leonard Cohen, is playing “You Want it Darker” in the background.

With Great Gratitude for Your Company. Thank You for being out there, it means a great deal.

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

PS ~ Gus sends his love from the cozy place by the fireside, and he wants me to remind you that taking long walks in the woods is another important remedy for troubled times. He also wants you to remember his secret of the universe, which is, in case you have forgotten “not to worry, because all you really need is love.”


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October on Honey Grove ~


And so we find ourselves in the beauty of another autumn, among the fallen leaves and the rose-hip hedgerows.


Waking to mornings on the edge of frost, there is no denying that summer has left us for another year, and winter is well on his way. And oh, how I love this time of year, for at long last there is a pause.


The last of the root vegetables have been stored away, and the cellar is full to the brim with jars of tomatoes and summer peaches and dill pickles and sacks of potatoes and onions. Squash of every kind line the counter tops waiting to be turned into hearty soups and stews, and Cohen’s prosciutto legs, hang from the cellar ceiling, the invisible and transformative alchemy of fermentation hard at work.





There are 25 chickens in the freezer, 10 litres of sauerkraut in the crock and 6 cords of firewood, stacked, dry, covered and ready to burn. Meanwhile, outside the door and down in the veg plot, winter crops of kale, turnips and leeks do not seem to mind the cold and the pelting rain. Sometimes I think they are growing more vibrant by the day, filling our baskets and our bellies with no sign of slowing down.


And so the bounty of another season continues, but unlike the bounty of summer, much of the outdoor work has been done, and so one can go inside on a blustery day, sit by the fire and simply put the kettle on. Books can be opened and pages read, and occasionally, walks can be taken, up in the alpine, in the middle of the afternoon.


There is, finally, some rest to be had. And I say “some” rest, because, as you well know, we never really come to a full stop here at Honey Grove. We are like the bees in this way, who, although they are tucked into their hives now (with plenty of honey stored) are still taking short flights on bright sunny days.


And although the outside work may be lessening, Mark is still baking his beautiful bread, spending 40 hours a week in the bakery, where there is no slowing down for him. And Cohen is spending long days processing his pigs, with the exciting news that he will soon have some of his salumi products for sale, at the Comox Valley Farmers market. I will share more about this soon.


And speaking of the Farmers Market, you can still find Katie and I there, every Saturday, even in the pouring rain, under a blue tarp, doing everything we can to keep Mark’s bread warm and dry.


Katie, always looking much more stylish than I, eh eh.


And speaking of Katie, she has been busy too. Making all sorts of old-world delights, from boozy Irish Christmas cakes, to Italian Nocino, a spiced green walnut liqueur.


And one night, a few weeks ago, she made tortellini; for tortellini in brodo… A famous dish from Bologna, which was, absolutely incredible.


The truth is: we live to eat here at Honey Grove, and almost everything we do has something to do with food, growing, creating or eating. Below is an image of  the perfect late afternoon snack, Mark’s sourdough toast with HG honey and duka. Yum.


And now, I must be off, for the day is beginning and I can hear the rooster crowing, telling me that the hens are ready for their breakfast.

May this find you in the midst of a beautiful day~

Nao, Mark, Cohen, Katie, Gus and all at Honey Grove.

PS- Gus has just reminded me that one should always take walks in the middle of the afternoon, regardless of the season, or how many seemingly important things there are to do.













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