Dandelion Days ~

I am not sure who first decided that dandelions were undesirable, but what a good deal of confusion this has caused. Ask any child or honeybee or wise-woman what they think of dandelions and they will tell you something very different (and just for the record, dandelions aside, I am convinced that the world would be a much better place if we gathered more of our information from these three sources, the child, the honeybee and the wise-woman).

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The child will tell you (and without a moment’s hesitation) that dandelions are beautiful, soft yellow lion’s manes that bring the spring fields to life and a vitality to the heart and soul. The bee will tell you that they are incredibly nectar and pollen rich and absolutely essential to the hives at the start of the year. And the wise-woman will heal your liver, lower your blood pressure, and support your digestion with her brews and tinctures. Why we are encouraged to spend our days killing them and not cultivating them, has always been a mystery to me?

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Yes, here on Honey Grove we love dandelions, and we believe there should be a special day set aside just for them, one in which everyone everywhere wears bright golds and yellows, and goes around writing songs of praise and making inspiring dishes from their leaves and flowers and medicinal roots. We would call this day, International Dandelion Day. And who could resist? I mean just look how the bees are celebrating, and their celebration lasts much longer than a day. It’s more like a kind of holy festival that lasts for weeks, more like Dandelion Days. Yes, at long last, that old familiar honeybee hum is back on the land all around us, and when you walk down the path into the lower field it soothes the heart like nothing else. Oh bless them, those bees and the dandelions they’re on.

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And while the bees are busy gathering dandelion nectar, we are busy with the many tasks of spring. There are gardens to plant and beds to prepare and seedlings to sow and fruit trees to mulch, and on it goes, the list lengthening along with the days. Luckily, I have some wonderful help this year and her name is Sage. Sage has come to Honey Grove for 8 weeks to study organic gardening and beekeeping alongside me, and what a gift she is at this wildly busy and full time.

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Together we are getting the seeds into the ground and peering into hives.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaving Sage here this spring is an extra blessing, as Mark now spends his days off the farm, in his new town bakery, for the Italian oven has finally arrived! There is of course, still the business of getting it up and running, fine tuning the recipes, and settling into to a new rhythm, but it’s happening day by day, and Mark is still full of inspiration and enthusiasm. I will endeavour to keep you updated as things unfold. It’s all very exciting and busy beyond imagining.

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You can however, still find Katie and I at the Comox Valley Farmers Market, every Saturday morning, with fresh loaves straight out of the oven. We are hopeful that it will just be a few weeks until Mark is baking all of his beautiful bread in his fabulous new space  and we will soon have bread on the market table for more than 20 minutes!

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Otherwise, please forgive the space between posts these days, but there is less and less time spent in the house or near a computer. Our days here are packed full of tasks with the arrival of spring and the opening of Mark’s new bakery and there is not a moment to spare, or so I can easily believe. It’s a good thing our wise Gus is here to remind me that this is never a truth, and that there is always time for leisurely walks and cups of tea and rests by the fireside with toast and marmalade.

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Now, I must be off, for the kettle is whistling and the rain has stopped and once my tea is poured, I shall be out the door.

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spring? We hope!

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Well at last, and only three days ago, she came. She arrived one sunny morning, just after the last drop of snow had melted.

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She arrived after several days of constant rains, when temperatures finally warmed enough for the snow to stop, for it snowed right through the first week of March. Yes, Spring, she is finally here! (Although I hesitate to shout it too loudly for fear that I might frighten her off. But surely crocus are sign of Spring?)

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And yesterday the bees were out collecting hazel and alder pollen.

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And crocus too.

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Gosh, it’s been so lovely these past few days, I even planted my peas, although I did think to cover them with a bit of fleece, just in case the weather turns cold again, for what a long long winter it has been.

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But while the snow fell down and piled up outside our door (for nearly 4 months) we were as busy as bees in our Honey Grove hive. And when we are not shovelling pathways and digging beehives out of snow drifts and pushing snow of barn rooftops (for fear that they might collapse under the weight of it all) we were planning the coming year with endless mugs of tea by the fireside.

And what a year it is going to be! Perhaps I should tell you the most exciting news of all (for this has always been my style, as I can hardly wait to share those things that are bursting forth from my inspired heart). So without further aideu, I must begin by telling you that Mark will be expanding his bakery, and that he is currently setting up a bakery in the nearby town of Courtenay! It seems that Mark has outgrown his humble basement bakery here on the farm, and that his little brick oven simply cannot hold the number of loaves he wishes to bake and sell.

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Our dear Mark works over 40 hours a week to make one hundred loaves of bread, all of which promptly sell-out at the Farmers Market in less than an hour.

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This being said, the only way for him to meet the demands of the community, and to earn a living-wage, is to move to a bigger space and to invest in some finer equipment. Currently he spends 90 percent of his time getting his oven up to temperature, and although it sounds poetic to bake bread in an outdoor wood-fire oven, it is not so very practical (especially, as we discovered this winter, wading through 3 foot snow drifts, during a power outage, baking bread with a head torch). Mark has come to realize that he would like to spend his time and energy baking bread and creating new inspired loaves as opposed to managing fires in all kinds of wild weather.

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And so, very soon, our baker-man Mark will be baking bread in his new space, in his brand new Italian oven, which is traveling to him now, coming on a boat, from far across the sea. If you would like to follow him along on Instagram, you can do so here. But for  now, I will leave you with a little shot of his new space, on it’s way to becoming the Honey Grove Bakery.

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Meanwhile back on the farm, plans have been made for a nut orchard to be planted. And our neighbour, has been by with his very large machine to clear a ragged patch of alders, so that we can start planting hazelnuts, which will be underplanted with another acre of nitrogen fixing bee forge.

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We are still aiming to be as sustainable as possible here on Honey Grove, and growing nut trees is an essential part of that plan. Nut trees, especially walnut and hazelnut, grow exceptionally well on Vancouver Island, and yield nuts within 5 to 10 years. We will share more about this over the coming months. For now, we have a patch of good earth that is ready for planting.

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And while I am clearing land with my trusty hound

 

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and doing the odd little dance here and there….

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Cohen is busy building a beautiful new maple-wood bar for the wood-fire brick oven.

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And look how beautiful it is already!

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Although Mark will no longer be baking his bread in the farm oven, we will continue using the brick oven for our own bread baking, pizza nights, herb drying and family dinners.

Katie is busy too, working on the farm, helping to get the gardens ready for spring planting. She is moving compost and digging steer manure into all the beds. She is repairing chainsaws and bucking up the fallen alders that came down after the heavy winter snow falls. And, she is also, still making her famous muffins and selling them alongside Marks bread every Saturday at the Farmers Market.

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As for Gus, he is still offering his secret of the universe and enjoying the warmth of the sun as much as we are.

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And now I must be off, for the sun is shining once again and I simply must get out in it!

With Gratitude for your company,

Nao, Mark, Gus, Cohen and Katie~

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