On Leaving and Returning~

There is something to be said for taking a holiday, for the nourishment that comes with going away, for rest and relaxation and soulful reflection. Something to be said, for leaving the tasks of daily life for a short while, and even the people that we love the most. Something to be said, for visiting the beauty of a land that is not our own, not the familiar sky or wood or sea. Something about taking a momentary step back from one’s life, if for no other reason, than to see if from a another angle.



You see, I am quite certain that there are times when one can get too close to one’s own life, so close that it becomes impossible to see the whole picture. And so we can spend our days zooming in on parts, without ever catching sight of the whole. If Honey Grove were a painting, than I am so close up, that I am familiar with the details of every brush stroke and nuance of colour, every variation of texture and shadow. Often, I am so close to Honey Grove, that I can no longer see the entirety of the place, nor can I remember the wholeness of the landscape that is my human experience. That is, without stepping back from it, without taking some distance, without gazing upon it from afar.

And so it was, with this in mind, that I took a short holiday, and for 7 days and 7 nights I left my beloved Honey Grove behind, to explore the magical landscape of Point Reyes Peninsula in Marin County, California, and to visit my dear dear friend Sylvia Linsteadt.


Together, we wandered through pine forest.


And along coastlines.


And over sand-dunes.


And down into to the wild December sea to run barefoot and splashing upon the foaming shore.













All the while Sylvia introducing me to the local birds flying overhead and pointing out the tracks of bobcat and coyote, their perfect prints, but for a moment in the soft dunes.


She took me to stand in a heard of Tule Elk, while the sky turned pink and the day became night.


She taught me of the medicine that comes from the hills that are her home, and we sipped wild-crafted tea blends, made of the steeped leaves and stems that we gathered along the way.


And when the sky grew dark, we sat beside a wood-fire, in Sylvia’s family’s woodland cabin, sharing the stories of the lands that we love, and the people and animals that inhabit them.

P1090221And it was here, in this faraway place, beside a hearth fire that was not my own (Sylvia knitting and me sipping tea) that I began to see the landscape of  my beloved Honey Grove rise up before me, and the ‘whole picture’ of my life came into focus, in a way that it has not for some time.


And suddenly, I remembered my infinite love for this life that I live in the Pacific Northwest. A life that has to do with tending land and keeping bees and baking bread and working together with the ones I love, in an effort to live a simple life close to the earth. And I was not prepared for the swell of feeling that this reflection would bring; not for the opening in my heart that flooded my eyes with tears. Somehow, it is easier to believe that we must get closer to the things and the ones that we love. That love is somehow one directional, that if we love someone or something the only movement is toward; is closer, but I am no longer sure that this is always the case, for surely there are times when the very act of moving further away, is the very thing that brings us closer-in. (And now all of the wise-ones, in all of lands, are nodding in divine unison, for my poetic musings have not lit upon anything new. There are cliche’s the world over holding this little truth snuggly in place, fridge magnets and cross-stitches, with the words “Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder” written across them in sloping pastel script, and everybody, everywhere, already knows this, except me, eh eh. Goodness, what a marvellous journey being human is).


Now, I am back at my beloved Honey Grove and the rains are pouring down all day and all night. The sky remains mostly dark and the firs around the edge of our dear land are being tossed about wildly in the winter wind. The power flickers on and off, and we lose it almost every other day for a few hours. But the fire burns bright and Mark’s bread is still rising and we are warm and dry in our our little house feeling the incomparable sweetness of  being back together, after a short time apart. As for Gus, he has told me that I am never to go away again, and that there is no universal truth to find outside of Honey Grove. Everything I will ever need to know, according to Gus, is right here, right now…  “please he says, for goodness sake, Honey Grove is the best place on earth, why go? I missed you… a lot.”


Otherwise, Katie and I are still decking the halls with fir wreaths as we get ready for the holiday season.




IMG_20151204_164318 And Katie has been making mince pies as well…just look at them.IMG_20151210_165345



















As for Mark, he is still baking his magnificent bread and Katie and I are still selling it at the Farmers Market every Saturday in Courtenay.





















Cohen is busy too, making delicious pate for the holiday season.








































And carefully wrapping his cotechino – a traditional poaching sausage from Emilia Romagna in Italy.




















And so it is that we are all tucked in here at Honey Grove, giving ourselves to the tasks at hand, to our daily lives, in the good company of one another, while the winter wind blows wildly outside the door. Yes, it’s good to be home.

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

Thank You for your company~

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


The Honey Grove Hearth~

And so it can be said, that winter hath indeed come to Honey Grove.


And I wonder, how I ever managed to forget, that winter is beautiful.


That there is a quality of lemon light that belongs solely to November and December, and no other time of year.


Light that turns everything into a prayer. Lemon coloured prayers.










So that all things illumined by the late afternoon sky, appear to be backlit and shimmering. Even white fluffy hounds searching for alder sticks.


Sticks, which are inevitably found.


And then carried, with great enthusiasm, to the man at the glowing oven.


The oven, our Honey Grove hearth fire. It has become our winter gathering place. It  draws us in, enticing us from our daily chores, so that we find ourselves, like children, following the Pied Piper of Hamelin, unaware of the enchantment taking place, the smell of freshly baked bread, calling us onward.
















And if you were a bird flying over Honey Grove, you would see us there, leaving our pitchforks in the middle of compost piles and dropping our tools on the unthawed ground;  walking away from the tasks at hand. You might watch us, from the branch of a tall fir tree, as we wander up toward the oven, wearing the smiles of intoxicated fools, giving ourselves to the smells of just baked bread.

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And woodfire granola.


And Katie’s delicious pain d’epices, which go into the oven, and within moments of being in there, cause one to believe, that everything on Honey Grove is made of  gingerbread. Oh the smells that are wafting through the frosty air these days, they are like nothing else.





















Of course, if any of these things sound good to you, you can try them too! For Katie and I take them to the Farmers Market every Saturday morning, in Courtenay. You will find us there between the hours of 9 am and 12 0’clock noon, in our matching denim aprons (made by Katie) selling Marks Bread and other wood-fire delights.

IMG_20151128_110210And if Saturday is not a good day for you to collect your bread, you can also come on out to the farm on Wednesdays. Yes, we will be here, between the hours of 2 and 4 pm, and you will find Mark pulling bread straight out of the oven. (please note: we do recommend pre-ordering on Wednesday’s as they can get quite busy). So, come on down to Honey Grove.













And sometimes, when the oven has finished baking Mark’s bread and Katie’s French spice cakes, we fire it up again and make pizzas, which we eat, on cold winter’s nights, huddled around the flames, under the light of the moon, having just the right amount of fun.


Yes, winter hath come to Honey Grove, and we are decking the halls with boughs of holly.


And if you are Katie, you are getting especially creative, and hand-crafting every decoration for the Honey Grove Yule Tree.


For now though, I bid you farewell, from a cozy winter’s day, gingerbread and woodsmoke infused.

May you find yourself in the midst of a beautiful day, doing something you love~

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



November Days~

November has come to Honey Grove.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd the long awaited rains have begun to come down,

to mist down,

and to pour down.


And there is great relief upon their arrival. Relief that is palpable, like a deep breath, like a sigh, like being held and rocked and soothed. One can lean into this season and rest. Yes, at last there is rest, and the sweet nourishment of stillness.


The quality of stillness that comes after movement, after the flurry of doing and making and building and planning. After the planting and digging and watering and weeding. After the pickling and freezing and jamming and preserving.


And each year, stillness comes to Honey Grove hand in hand with the rain. Coupled, they arrive at our doorstep, offering us the most exquisite pause. And if I were to reach deep down into my pocket of metaphors, I would say that this pause is like a kind of ceremonial blanket, marking the transition between seasons, and designed to cover the whole of Honey Grove. Beneath it, Honey Grove can rest. The bees tuck in, the gardens let down, the land turns in.


And on our wiser days, we accept this gift and we allow ourselves to be wrapped in the soft woolly warmth of this seasonal pause. Until, in our humanness, we get distracted by a fancy idea, and for a time, go running off here and there, seduced by another wild tangent of doing, convinced that busyness is better.

Gus on the other hand, can always accept the gift of stillness. According to him, “stillness is actually the greatest truth, and all of this hurrying about is not getting anybody anywhere.” This is usually followed by something about,  “there not being anywhere to go anyway.” And once his wisdom has been offered (in the form of unconditional canine companionship) he takes a long nap in the brassica patch, and leaves me fairly certain, that he is indeed, on to something.









And speaking of brassica’s, did we ever grow a lot of cabbage this year. Oh goodness me, never have I had so many cabbages in all my life, basketfuls came out of the garden, and we have made almost 20 litres of sauerkraut and kimchi combined (which is a staple part of every lunch here on Honey Grove). We are, as you might have guessed by now, great fans of fermentation.


According to Mark, the best thing about fermentation is that you only do a little bit and then the rest is bacterial alchemy, which requires little to no effort on the part of the human.


Yes, my good man, he appreciates those things in life that have some degree of effortlessness, and between him and Gus, I might just learn something yet, eh eh.  Of course, one can hardly say his bread is effortless, for this is one aspect of Honey Grove that is not on pause at all.


The fact is, Mark’s bakery has never been busier, he is now baking 96 loaves a week, which are sold on our farm here on Wednesday evenings between 4 and 6 pm, and in town, at the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market, on Saturdays between 9 am and 12:00 noon. So, if Wood-fire Sourdough Bread is what you are after, do come find us! If you come out to Honey Grove on Wednesdays, you can experience Mark’s delicious loaves coming straight out of the oven (which we have recently lit up with faerie lights, since the seasonal wheel has turned the late afternoon into darkness). Katie laughs heartily whenever she goes past the oven in the evenings, she says it looks like Mexico, with my bright selection of table clothes and the shimmering holiday lighting. ( I think she might be right).




Speaking of the beautiful Katie, she has also been busy, making incredible edibles as usual.


This weekend, she was at our local farmers market selling, Ciaccino Ripeno: A Sienese street food, like a stuffed focaccia, which traditionally contains prosciutto and mozzarella, but she made one with kale, garlic, cheese, olive oil and sea salt to celebrate the Honey Grove kale patch. She sold every last one of them too, for who can resist?


And when she is not making Italian street food, she is busy making cakes for eager
customers and cottage guests. I mean just look at this beautiful Russian honey cake for example, with chantilly cream and peach layers, and a salted caramel buttercream.


Oh! I mustn’t forget to tell you about Katie’s Boozy Irish Fruit Cake, which is made in our wood-fire oven. They go in, when Mark’s bread comes out and all that incredible woodfire heat bakes something else. Katie is taking orders for Christmas now, and so, if you are a fan or fruit cakes, I urge you, do not waste another second and order one now, you will not be disappointed. For more about Katie’s Cakes go here .

IMG_20151014_095744And whilst Katie makes cakes, and Mark bakes bread, and Gus and I pause in the brassica patch, Cohen is in the kitchen too. Last week, he was busy making an enormous batch of Membrillo: A Spanish quince paste served with cheese and his cured meat products.

IMG_20151012_171503Yes, November has come to Honey Grove and we are, each of us, finding our way into a winter rhythm, staying warm by the wood stove as the rains come down, and considering the possibility, of stillness.

With Overflowing Gratitude from the Honey Grove Hearth~ The smell of alder smoke permeating the wintry air and a slumbering hound by the fireside.

Thank you for your company,

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