The Journey, eh eh.

A day or two ago, just after lunch, Mark posed an interesting question. He does this sometimes, just before he takes a sip of sweet milky tea from a large ceramic cup and goes back to work tending his oven-fire. This particular question I have considered for several days now, and still I am without a definite answer.

What he asked was this, “Why do you only photograph the projects that are complete on Honey Grove?  What is it that deters your from photographing the process, the mess, our untidiness?”  ( sip of tea and raised eyebrows).  Little did he know the serious psychological impact that his unassuming question would have on my pastoral and perfectionist mind set.

“Well, I said, “because…”  but no answer came, and I was forced to say, “gosh, I have no idea.” With that, I took my camera and my bountiful basket full of just-picked-blackberries into the house, this, while feeling a strong dislike for the way in which he sweetens his tea (which of course had nothing to do with my beloved man, or his sweet tea). Why do I do it, I thought? What is it about the process that I am constantly trying to get away from, and suddenly all those years of personal-develpment-workshops and Jungian textbook reading felt like a big waste of time and money. You see it became very clear to me in that brief moment, that I am far from adopting Jung’s marvelous philosophy that: “if you are on the journey, you are at the goal.” (much as it inspires me).

Our life, since we have moved to Honey Grove, has never felt more goal oriented. Despite the poetic notions I originally had about living a life in harmony with nature, I cannot say this is always the case. I regret to tell you that “goals” have not disappeared to be replaced with a constant notion of oneness with the natural world, although we do have our pastoral moments in the sun, working in the garden, under certain golden light. There are however, still plans and aims and targets, they just look different then they did before. The goal now, is called winter, get it done before winter. Bring in the firewood, dig the potatoes, can the tomatoes and waste no time. And so, I began to wonder, I began to ponder the intricate system of intention that rules our country life and I questioned, are the goals we have now really so different from those that once drove us forward in our city life?  In college? Through our 20’s? I am not sure I have a fully formed answer, but I have certainly had some (interesting?) thoughts on the matter. What I do know for sure is that the awareness of winter, somehow feels more “real” to me than some of my past goals. Perhaps, this is a cellular memory from my pioneer ancestors, a kind of inherited instinct that drives me out of bed in the morning to dig up 200 pounds of potatoes before the rain comes.

Perhaps, this is the same instinct that urges our bees to gather nectar all summer long without a pause, for this sort of motivation feels quite different from the kind of pressure that comes when I direct my mind toward achievement for some other end. But, what does this have to do with why I choose not to photograph the process? What can this possibly have to do with my significant disinterest in “the mess,” in the piles of old-roofing-material from the cold cellar restoration project, that are laying in a large pile at the back of the house, waiting to be taken to the dump?

Perhaps, it has something to do with recognizing  the infinite unfinishedness of homestead life, the samsara of rural living. I am, for what it is worth, beginning to recognize the reward that comes by appreciating the things that one has accomplished. One has to pause and appreciate the fruits of ones labours. And this blog, it seems, serves this very purpose. When I sit down here with my morning tea, and I begin to ponder the past several weeks, I begin to see what we have actually done and it feels good. As I report on our day to day, I become aware of our many successes and failures, and I must admit that I consciously choose to report the successes, and this, for me at least, is a very important part of my human experience. That is to celebrate the joys and the pleasures of living, to pay attention to “what has gone well,” and to be grateful even.

I have been called a romantic many times in my life, my dear sister asks me on a regular basis “will I ever remove my rose coloured glasses?” And the truth is, probably not, because simply put, I do not know how. Occasionally due to some shocking or heart wrenching experience they unexpectedly fall off, and I am, like all human beings, asked to look into the shadows, but inevitably, I do manage to find those rosy lenses again. Surely there are also a good number of wise ones in the world who are laughing heartily now, at how very much I have missed the point. It has been said (by the more enlightened ones in the world) that there is no goal, there is just the perfection of now, and this includes the piles of garbage and the baskets of blackberries. I am fairly certain that the wise ones would encourage me to photograph it all, eh eh.  All of this is to say, I do not have a definite answer to Mark’s question. I am still going around Honey Grove with my camera, looking through the lens of my rose coloured glasses. There is no question that I still have many lifetimes to go before realization, but I am okay with this, because when winter comes, I will be going into our newly renovated cold cellar to collect a jar of pickles for lunch. 50 pounds of pickles, made by Cohen and Mark that took them until midnight one day last week. Well done boys!

And the deal was, that if they canned the pickles, I would do the tomatoes, which are still coming steadily on the vine.

Of course sometimes, you just have to eat the odd one too.

Otherwise, Cohen has been experimenting with flowers and herbs. He has been collecting pollen from fennel and dill right along side the bees. Later he will dust his exquisite food creations with it.

And if there is not something to pick, there is something to plant and our fall/winter garden is well on it’s merry way.

And while things grow, Mark is still baking.

And while he is baking I am still harvesting…

things like shallots and honey.

Of course, if you are Gus, there is only one thing to do, and that is to BE at peace in the present moment, offering the secret of the universe to the busy humans, on their way by.

And if they stop for long enough (those humans) he reminds them to pause, or to go for a walk, or to take tea down to the duck pen to watch Charlotte’s new babies take a swimming lesson.

And now, I must be off to the duck pen myself, for Cohen and I are fixing the duck-house door this morning. May this find you in the midst of a beautiful late summer day, enjoying the journey of this human experience.

Harvest blessings and thank you for your company, truly.

Nao, Mark, Gus and all at Honey Grove

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Summer at Honey Grove

Recently, after a long day, Mark looked at me and said, “You know it is odd to think it, but summer used to be a time of relaxation for us.” And don’t ask me why, but this statement caused me to laugh really hard, for a long time. It is perfectly clear that there is actually nothing funny about what he said, but in true Mark style, it was his impeccable timing that took my legs out. His comment was delivered from an arm chair, at the end of 14 hour day. There he was, sprawled out and covered with cobwebs (from the root-cellar restoration project that he and Cohen have recently embarked upon) recalling summers on the beach. His hair was glued to his face, and the shape of the straw-hat that he had been wearing since 9 o’clock that morning had given his head a new shape, which made me think of those plastic potato people form the 1970s. As for me, I was going by with another basket full of tomatoes. There was honey in my hair and a lighting-bolt-dirt-smear running across my brow, from a recent potato dig. All this, while trying hard to imagine a time, when summer was relaxing.

Yes, summer on Honey Grove is a lot of things, but I must admit “relaxing” is not one of them. This is not a complaint, just a fact, for it is harvest time on all fronts, and we are working from dawn to dusk these days, trying to get it all done. We are, as the old-time-farmers used to say, “Making hay while the sun shines.” And shining it has been, although I must admit we would like it very much if it would stop shining for a time. We are in the midst of an extremely dry summer here on the Pacific West Coast. The constant blue sky is beginning to feel strange, haunting almost, the same cloudless expanse,day after day. The local farmers from down the road have not known a drought like this for over 20 years. The earth is desperate for water. Each day, we watch our bees fly out of their hives to land on flowers, but those flowers contain no nectar.

There is so little moisture in the ground that even the flowers have dried up. This said, the honey harvest this year is very minimal. Only a few of our hives have enough honey to share with us, others do not have a drop to spare, and they will need feeding if they are to get through winter. To have any honey at all is a blessing. Honey is always sacred to us, but this year it is more so than ever.

The bees are doing well though, and at the end of the day this is the most important thing. Going into the hives we can see healthy bees with very few mites and young strong laying queens.

And whilst we are counting our blessings we should also celebrate that our well has not run dry! That we are still able to water our gardens and our fruit trees. We have seen the drinking-water-trucks parked outside a number of properties in our area this past month. This said, water is being used sparingly on Honey Grove. These days we hand-water only the things that need it.  It seems to be enough though, because the garden is ripening and the harvest is non-stop. Thank goodness for our student helper Alexia for her hard work on Honey Grove, as she picks beans and berries and cucumbers and helps me to plant the winter gardens.

And while I am hand watering and putting turnip seeds into the earth with Alexia, Mark and Cohen have been out catching salmon.

And sun-drying tomatoes and blueberries.

Oh and Mark’s experimental barley crop was a success! So he is inspired to grow more next year. His dream of a “zero mile beer” might just become a reality yet.

Otherwise, while the figs were coming into their ripe perfection.

and the onions were drying in the summer sun…

my dear Mom and our beautiful niece Senay came for a visit.

And it is a good thing they did, because we remembered to pause for a moment amidst the summer harvest, to have delicious dinners at the picnic table.

and to build woodland altars for the local faeries.

and to pick the garden flowers…

with the sole purpose of making bouquets, just because.

And of course, Uncle Mark and Uncle Cohen had to make their famous sour-dough pizza.

which food critic Senay, gave a 10 out of 10. And now, I must be off now. For I have indulged for long enough, sipping my morning tea and telling Honey Grove tales. There is, as you know, work to be done. There are biodynamic bee teas to make and more tomatoes to harvest. There is a wee bit of honey to jar and a pile of wood to stack, oh and there is a a root-celler roof to put on.

From the edge of a late summer garden, I bid you farewell. Blessings to All and may this post find you in the midst of a sweet summer day doing something you love.

Nao, Mark, Gus and All at Honey Grove.

PS-Gus sends his love from a morning wander round the lower field, where he is inspecting Mark’s hops and peeing on the property perimeter. Unlike us, he has not given up his summer’s of leisure.

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