Living Legend~

Today, I would like to tell you a story, and it begins like this…

About a month ago, I found myself at our local Farmer’s Market, talking to children on behalf of our beeclub, about the importance of Honeybees and the fascinating lives they do live.


This is one of my joys, that is, sharing my love of bees with the world, particularly children, who seem to posses an innate understanding of the magical mystery that bees are.

IMG_2713Anyway, my love of bees (for the purpose of this story at least) is neither here nor there, for this story, is about my other love, Mark.

Now, where was I?

Oh yes, at the Saturday Market, with the beeclub, pointing out the Queen Bee to a bright little girl, when a well dressed couple approached the booth, and began to ask me what I knew about keeping bees in a city?

They were, as it turned out, from Vancouver, and visiting a family friend, in our rural valley for the weekend. They had an interest in bees and wondered if they might get more involved with bees in their own urban community. And well, you can imagine that I had quite a good deal to share with them, for my own beekeeping journey began in that very city, just 7 years ago. I can still remember the day that my first hive came in the post, ready to assemble.


And with the unwavering support of Gus, I built it.


It was at this point in our conversation that the man began to look at me with a kind of hesitant recognition, before he asked me, “Are you Mrs. Honey Grove, per chance? ( well, I don’t think he actually said per chance, but for the sake of the story, lets go with it).

“Why yes, indeed I am,” I said.

“And is your husband Mark,” he asked?

“Yes, I said, indeed he is.”

And then he reached across the table and shook my hand firmly, as though I was someone important, before saying, “Your husband, he is A Legend.”

“Oh, I said, feeling nervous now, “Do you mean this in a good way, or a bad way?”

“Oh, he said, in a good way, a really good way.”

And then he began to tell me his story, which went like this: He told me that 3 years ago, he got a job at a big corporation in the city, doing sound design for video games. He told me that he was hired one year after someone named Mark Sims had left. Who this Mark Sims was, he had no idea, except that his name was mentioned in celebratory tones at the lunch table, in the cafeteria, on a regular basis. Everybody was talking about this guy, who had left his high-paying job in the city, to follow his dream. His dream, according to those around the cafeteria table, was to become a baker and to build a woodfire oven on his own land, in a rural community, with his beekeeping wife and their white fluffy hound.


He wanted to grow gardens, raise chickens and bake bread they said. He didn’t want to spend the rest of his life working at a computer, in a dark room because the pay cheque was good and the benefits unparalleled. And so, one day, he simply left. He sold his house in the city and moved to a 6 acre parcel of land, in a place called Merville, on the North Eastern side of Vancouver Island. There he did build that woodfire oven and dedicate his life to baking the perfect loaf of wood-fired sourdough bread.

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Yes, for 4 hardworking years, he applied himself. During the day he built his oven (from a design he found in a book) and at night he baked, and he learned the skills of mason and baker all at once.


He also learned, early on, not to leave his practice loaves on the counter, while Gus was home alone…

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Yes, there was a great deal to learn, but learn he did. And being the humble human that he is, he had no idea that around a cafeteria table, in an urban centre, just across the water, he was A Legend, for most days, he felt more mad than legendary. But, he does not give-up easily this Mark Sims, and so he applied himself and applied himself until one day his oven was complete and he made a loaf of bread within it, that he was happy with.

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And this was a very happy day indeed, not only for him, but for reasons you might imagine, his beekeeping wife was quite thrilled too. eh eh. And that day was approximately one week before his beekeeping wife learned that her own husband was A Legend. And so, just as soon as the Farmer’s Market was over, his dear wife went straight home, having decided then and there that it was time to tell her good man about his Legendary reputationand that his bread was ready for the world.

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And tell him she did, and before long, signs were made to celebrate the bakery, for Cohen and Katie encouraged him too.


And all of Honey Grove celebrated The Legend among them.

And bread was made, for the first time, to sell.


And sold it did (in under 20 minutes, at the very first Market!)


And so, this story pauses here, for as you can see, it is not over, but rather just beginning and heaven knows exactly where it might go from here, but if I were to guess, I would say it has something to do with a heartfelt man, a passion for bread and a dream realized.


And now, I bid you farewell, may this find you in the midst of a beautiful day, with a dream of your own wrapped safely in the folds of your hearts call.

To find out how to get yourself one of Mark’s delicious loaves go here.

Bright Summery Blessings,

Nao, Mark ( AKA Living Legend) Gus, Cohen, Katie and All at Honey Grove.


The Things That Need Doing~

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 gardener 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.

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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…

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And Katie turned some of them into the most extraordinary pies, which Mark’s Dad photographed, before we ate.

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And despite how many cherries we picked and froze and canned and ate, despite how many pies Katie made…

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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.

2015-08-17 16.02.00-1 (1)Photograph taken at 5:00 am, with Mark’s fathers wild-life camera, near the duck pen.

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.



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Their perfect symmetrical faces, reminding us that there is always some beauty in the world, despite all the rest of it.

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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.

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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.

Until Soon,

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




To Be Here Now…

There is a moment that comes along once a year, it happens right about now, just before the Summer Solstice, just before the sun reaches it’s northernmost point and the days begin to shorten.


And if I were to describe this moment, I might call it an exquisite paradox, for it delights and torments all at once, holding us suspended between the poles of savouring and anticipation. Savouring handfuls of new peas, crisp and fresh and sweet, encapsulated in pods that always manage to taste of spring rain, as though they have stored the water of the spring sky within them.


Savouring the sweet-red-tartness of just-picked-raspberries.


And cherries…


Breathing in the heady fragrant blooms of old-world roses.


This, and simultaneously anticipating the plump perfection of vine ripened tomatoes. Standing in the poly-tunnel urging each plant along, enriching the soil with ash and bone meal, gently removing side-shoots, celebrating the evolving roundness of each fruit.


Encouraging the borlotti beans to climb higher.


Imagining Tuscan dishes, made under a harvest sun, eaten around a country table overflowing with bouquets of sunflowers and rudbeckia and dahlias. There is no question, gardening invites us to be entirely present and simultaneously one step ahead, every step of the way.


Yes, exquisite paradox. To hold onto one moment whilst simultaneously peering into another, this is the world of the homesteader. For a life lived close to the earth brings the awareness that we are always on the threshold of something. That while one thing is happening now, something else is completing and another thing only just beginning.


And I wonder, perhaps this is what is meant by “being in the moment,” that a moment is the sweetness of savouring and the thrill of anticipation combined. That being present to what “is” contains within it, ALL that we are experiencing, that is, the savouring and the anticipation, the rapture and the torment, the joy and the sadness, the complete totality of experience, with nothing left out.


I have for so many years worked hard to find this place the wise ones call presentness. I have worked hard to “be here now” and I am fairly certain, that despite my heartfelt, somewhat naive and dedicated efforts, I am nowhere near any kind of enlightened destination. It has however, recently occurred to me, that to be here now, might have little do with favouring one thought over another. That presentness is an invitation to be with all that is, and this includes the paradoxical landscape of the human experience. I still don’t know anything for sure, except what I am feeling now, and that it has something to do with being suspended between the poles of savouring and anticipation. And so, what to do when you find yourself standing in a paradox between here and there? Well, there is only one thing to do: Eat freshly made strawberry Pavlova, made with Honey Grove eggs and strawberries, in the kitchen of Katie.

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And then share this cloud of summer delight with Mark’s Dear Mum and Dad who have traveled all the way from England to be with us, and to lend their loving hands and hearts to Honey Grove, as they do year after year. Or you might wish to harvest some of the flowers that are growing in the garden now, to celebrate their momentary radiance by making them into crowns and archways. (There is, after all an event taking place this summer at Honey Grove that will require lots and lots of flowers, and there are new techniques to practice. Floral art classes with Mark’s Dad have officially begun!).


Or, you could cut into Mark’s freshly made wood-fire-sourdough bread and eat it with an inch of butter and this spring’s dandelion maple honey.

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Yes, Mark’s Bread! He is baking twice a week now, and you are welcome to drop by Honey Grove on Monday and Wednesday evenings, between 4pm and 6pm to get yourself one of his incredible loaves. They are, as dear friend has recently said, like tasting a bit of the old-world. (There is a whole blog post coming soon, that will highlight Mark’s Oven and the Grand Opening of his Wood-fire Bakery, so stay tuned).

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And now I must be off, for a new day has begun and it is calling me away from my computer and back into the garden.

In Gratitude for your company. May this find you in the midst of a beautiful day~

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

PS- Gus would like to say that life is always a combination of savouring and anticipation. He says he experiences this particular paradox of sensation every time he eats his supper  (although his version of savouring manifests differently than the human version, I can assure you). Mostly though, he suggests we simply enjoy the varied landscape of feeling that comes with being alive and to remember his secret of the universe, which is, as many of you well know, “not to worry.”