January is here.

Standing at the beginning of another year somewhere between winter and spring, in brand-new-rubber-boots, with a long list of inspired plans, it seems that January has arrived again. January, such a determined month, he always arrives with a briefcase full of important plans and willful resolutions. My January wears a pressed uniform and stands confident with a sense of purpose. He takes charge. He directs. He manages. He orchestrates. He builds spread sheets and logs hours. Truth be told, I do not like him one bit, but, we seem to meet this way year after year, and so, I cannot say I am surprised, eh eh. The very moment I hang my new calendar on the wall, I feel like a tardy school girl, behind even before I have begun.

“I am sorry January, but it seems that you will always be more organized than I am.”

(I am not sure if you have noticed yet, but good ol’ January even has the sun working longer hours these days, for the evening sky is light until supper time now).












Oh, but it is a good thing for that extra light. An ever-so-slightly extended evening at this time of year is a kind of promise. It is something to hold on to when the North wind blows pink into your cheeks and jack-frost freezes the morning into starched patterns.












Yes, another year hath begun and we are as busy as ever here on Honey Grove. Despite the cold crispness of this season, we know that spring is not far off, and so plans have already begun for this year’s vegetable and flower gardens. Seeds are being sorted and some of them will be planted in a few weeks, in the warmth of the house and poly tunnel. I must confess that I take great pleasure in gazing upon colorful seed packets on wintry days, especially with a cup of  steamy tea and the company of furred friends (who seem to love the musicality of seed packets as much as I do).


































And there are a tremendous number of seeds to be planted over the up-coming months, as the Honey Grove gardens expand and multiply. On this note, I  am happy to report that our new herb garden has officially been dug! I have spent the week pulling stones and digging wheel barrows of compost into it in preparation for the coming months.












And whilst I am digging compost and preparing herb gardens and sorting seeds, Mark is experimenting in his new oven. He is perfecting pizza’s and wood-fire-sourdough-bagels and old-world bread recipes.












He is collecting long lengths of wood to create hot even temperatures,










and he is cutting them into perfect lengths,












before I stack them in neat and sturdy piles.












Otherwise, we are still drinking last summer’s tea blends; mineral rich tonics for these hardworking bodies.














And, when no one is looking, I go for afternoon twirls in the vegetable garden, don’t tell January, but it helps me think.












As for Gus, he sends his love from a cozy bed, after a long walk through a nearby fir-wood, having told January to take a hike.

Blessings from the Honey Grove Hearth,

Nao, Mark, Gus and all at Honey Grove


3 days before the last new moon, the ground froze solid and so did the pipes. The stars hung down low among the bare branches of the alder trees. The frosty ground sparkled during the day and the starry sky sparkled at night, and for 10 days or more, we lived our lives between the twinkling landscapes of heaven and earth.












Shimmering new fern patterns appeared on the windows of the potting-shed every morning, glittering Jack Frost landscapes, gifts from those mysterious freezing winter nights. Inside, we kept the hearth fire burning, a pot of spiced tea warming on the wood-stove. Beside the fire, on a sheep skin rug, our beloved 16 year old cat Venus was leaving this world, and on the night that the moon went new, she passed away, my hands holding her tired body. Bless her, for we loved her so.












Venus 1998-2013

And then the snow came, it fell and it fell along with our tears, and everything turned white. It was exquisitely beautiful and deeply sad all at once, the way death is, the way winter can be.












And so, we put on our wooly clothes and we went out into it, down the driveway and into the woods, across the fields and up the road.












Gus leading the way, our white steed, our dragon-dog, galloping with the purpose and playfulness that only a dog in snow can know. And we laughed.












For days, we brushed snow off the poly-tunnel and the woodshed and the chicken coops.












We did this while the chickens clucked and scratched and made mandala patterns at our feet. It seems that chickens look particularly beautiful against a backdrop of white. (Organizing themselves in splendid ways to display their orange and black featheredness. Dividing into colour-coordinated-kaleidoscope-choreography. There is nothing quite like it.)












As for Mark’s oven, it stood like a monolith against the whiteness, solid and present and still.



















Watching over a quiet Honey Grove, sleeping soundly, under a fluffy white comforter. Our farm was tucked in.












The bees in their hives, the bulbs in the earth, the people in their cozy little house.









Where summer flowers and braids of garlic and medicinal herbs are hanging from the rafters, reminding us of long warm days, their goodness stored away in jars for these cold wintry ones.
















Yes, winter, it is here, and it is exquisite in it’s stark perfection.
















And speaking of perfection, something quite wonderful has happened. A week ago (by serendipitous circumstance) Mark discovered two 6 month old kittens who were in need of a home. And well, it seemed that we were also in need of some kittens, and so, Jasper and Pepper came home with Mark, one day last week, after a bakery shift.









And they have moved in on Honey Grove. Again there is the sound of pitter-pattering-paws and of yule tree ornaments crashing down in the night.









There is the soothing rumble of afternoon purrs by the fire-side, and sweet morning meows insisting on breakfast. We are in LOVE with our new four legged friends.  Gus does not seem to mind them either.  Although, he was not so very interested in the couch-cuddling Jasper attempted with him the evening before last, but over all, he does not mind them one bit. And so we wish you the happiest of holidays~ May this find you sitting in front of a cozy fire somewhere, enjoying the magic of this season, surrounded by the ones that you love.

Blessings from the Honey Grove Hearth,

Nao and Mark, Gus, Jasper, Pepper and All at Honey Grove.



Herbs and Hearth and Heart

Recently, one sparkling morning about three days ago, whilst the sun was busy illuminating strands of gossamer web that ran between thick rows of Italian kale plants, a friend dropped by from down the road. She came to lend me a well-loved book and to give the exquisite gift of an antique honey jar. She came in a rust coloured wool sweater, with bright eyes and an even brighter smile.  She walked over to me, bubbling over with the light of the new day, and then with tremendous heart and genuine curiosity, she  asked me, “How are you Nao?” And she asked me in such a heartfelt way that I actually paused to consider her question, for her penetrating and loving gaze, demanded more than a “fine thank you.”












And even though it was only a brief moment before I offered her my response, a profound recognition dropped into my cluttered morning mind. For when I opened myself to her question, a warm wave of ease washed over me, and I said:

“You know, I think I am content.”  (You see, contentment for me is not something I am very familiar with. As I have mentioned on many occasions, I still have a long way to go on the road to peace. eh eh)

But, what I can tell you is this, what I felt in that moment, was not really a feeling at all, because it was more than that, it was more expansive than a feeling. It was bigger than happiness or sadness. It was bigger than “how.”  Yes, on this particular sunny November morning, it occurred to me that contentment is not the same thing as happiness at all. Contentment is not attached to an outcome or a goal or a feeling or an idea. Contentment has nothing to do with when, or how, or why, or should. It is rather, a sort of ease-fullness, a kind of acceptance, a celebration of all that IS. It is perhaps what the wise ones call wholeness. And so, you may well be wondering, what this contentment I speak of actually looks like, and if I were going to answer that question honestly, I would have to say it is many things, but it is especially the warmth emanating from Mark’s brick oven, as it burns through the afternoons, curing the inside of the dome and sending its orange brilliance into the world.












Mark is now an official fire keeper. He stands for hours watching and feeding the flame, sipping strong cups of sweet tea, smiling from the inside out.
















And while his oven burns, the fire calls his greater vision forth and he imagines homemade pizzas and loaves of  steaming bread coming out of his earthen creation, on long wooden peels. There are still a good few months to go before it will be completely finished, and so there is time to daydream as he goes.

As a matter of fact, it was just this sort of visioning that brought Mark across the garden toward me wearing a pair of old green gumboots, a sense of purpose in his stride, to say, “I need a herb garden.”

“Oh,” I said, “we have a herb garden.”

“No,”  he said, “I mean a really big one. I need herbs for pizza and sauces. I need herbs for breads and soups.  I need enough herbs for you and I and all of our guests.”

“Oh,” I said, it sounds like you need a herb garden.”

“Yes,” he said, “that’s what I said.”

And so, with the guidance of Mark’s wise horticulturist father, plans are being made to create “a big herb garden.” A 600 square foot bed just for culinary herbs, for rows of oregano and tarragon and rosemary and thyme and parsley and cilantro. The digging has already begun and I spent yesterday taking rosemary cuttings and making divisions of thyme and oregano plants from my current herb garden, for this inspired new plan.












I put little rooted bundles of aromatic greenness into pots which I then buried in our vegetable garden until next spring.  Later, once they have established, we will move them to their final location.




































And as I spent the afternoon in the fresh and invigorating company of thyme and rosemary, I recognized that contentment has a smell too. The next day I found myself jarring the herbs that we dried this summer. And although we shall miss their presence in the living room, hanging from the stairwell rafter, we will enjoy the flavour they will be offering our winter meals.











I sat at the table in the fading afternoon light and I de-stemmed them, I crushed their scented leaves in between my fingers, and the room smelled like a country hillside in Greece. I was sure I could hear the bells of sheep clanging in the distance and there was the faint smell of Mediterranean sea air coming from somewhere. I labeled and shelved each jar. I did this with tenderness and appreciation and gratitude, for there is something about a process, about an experience that takes you from start to finish, that is a marvelous thing. There is something about growing a plant and harvesting it and drying it, before adding it to soup, before taking it into these hardworking bodies.












Yes, contentment today is the warmth of Mark’s fire, it is the smell of Mediterranean herbs on a winter’s day and the illumination of a glistening strand of spiders web, in a garden of kale, that just begs to be picked and eaten by the basketful.












Blessings and Gratitude to each of you, thank you for your company on this journey.

Nao, Mark, Gus and all at  Honey Grove.

And of course, if ever we should need reminding of this thing called contentment, we can always go and ask Guru Gus, who seems to have this down better than anyone I know.