Tales of the Honey Grove Harvest

There is something about September light that makes every day look as though it belongs in a fairytale.

And causes one to expect the next scene to involve a white horse, a crooked cottage and an old woman spinning straw.

Here at Honey Grove, we are almost there, we may not have a white horse, but we do have a white dog, a holiday cottage, and a woman lining chicken coops with straw (which she has yet to try to spin into gold. So far she has been too busy using it to mulch the base of fruit trees, once the chickens have had their way with it). Add to this the shimmering light of an autumn afternoon, and presto, you have a fairytale. Well, maybe not quite a fairytale, but you do have Honey Grove bathed in golden light and Nao wandering around in a long skirt, doing a thousand tasks, imagining that she is in a fairytale ( nothing new there). In this particular tale though, she has super powers that enable her to get all things done, and well before winter arrives. Yes, Honey Grove is a hub of harvest activity.

Our only hope (given that we have misplaced our magic wands) is to focus on the task at hand without thinking of what might be next, for to do so, is to invite nothing but overwhelm. And overwhelm, is not welcome at Honey Grove, for it can dissolve a golden fairytale almost instantly, leaving nothing behind but a big’ol pile of more work (of course, it is important to note that all fairytales involve work too, everybody knows that you must have a decent amount of trial and tribulation in order to have a good story). But back to our story, in which the Honey Grove protagonists spend their days trying to keep up with the harvest. For example, as I write these very words, the tomatoes are coming into their sweet red perfection, each one its own taste sensation. Those Italian and French heirloom varieties that I carefully grew for Mark’s pizza sauce are just itching to get into the sauce pot. I swear they are leaping off the vine, whenever I go into the poly tunnel, I can hear them shouting “pick me, pick me, I am ready!” To which I  reply, ” oh please, can you wait just one more week, you see I have so many things to do, how am I going to can tomatoes too?”  ( But of course, you find a way)

And so, one night last week (after supper and before bed) we simmered 30 pounds of Honey Grove tomatoes in herbs and garlic. By the wee hours there was a pot of reduced sauce on the stovetop that made the whole house smell like a Tuscan villa, causing us to dream of cobblestone streets and Italian wine. Yes, the first round of Mark’s famous pizza sauces have been created (there will of course be many more rounds, as the tomatoes continue to ripen, offering their fat sweet perfection to our sauce pot).

And once those first tomatoes were processed, and I awoke on the other side of a Tuscan dream, I turned my attention to potatoes. The following morning I went down to the garden with my pitch fork, shouting to Mark as I went down the path, that I would be back by lunch, with a sack full of potatoes. However, I did  not return to the house by lunch, but rather at supper time, and I did not return with one sack of potatoes, but five!

You see, I was not expecting to find two hundred pounds of potatoes, not in a million years did I expect that (like all good fairytales it is important to have an element of surprise at the manifestation of the seemingly impossible). Potatoes, for me, are buried treasure. Digging potatoes, is like digging for gold, and finding it, over and over again.  This was a very happy day and an exhausting one too.

By the end of the day I was walking like the old woman from the fairytale, bent over, stiff and sore, but indescribably happy with my proud potato harvest. Otherwise, there are herbs to harvest and hang, and the house smells of thyme and mint and oregano.

And there are fall raspberries offering their sweetness to the top of Mark’s homemade yogurt.

And there are seeds being planted for bees. Lots of seeds. 2500 seed plugs to be exact. In a few short weeks they will be planted out around the property.

And there are other bee seeds that are simply being scattered around the edges of our land.

Oh and Mark’s hops are ready too!

Some of them have already been picked and added to a very special brew known as Braggot.

Braggot is a magical drink (Welsh origin, bragawd).  It is a sacred drink of old, a Mead Beer (known to turn men into poets, just a few sips and the muse awakens). Over this past weekend we mixed honey and Marks freshly picked hops and hand-ground specialty grains. We stirred and poured and measured and boiled and sang (and followed Marks directions exactly). Our dear friends Clare and Neil helped us, and it was a lovely afternoon spent in the Honey Grove kitchen, hops simmering away on the stove top.

Honey being dissolved in well water.

Bee pollen being added from our beloved bees.

Pure magic…

Now we wait, for many months. This sweet elixir will be ready to taste at the Winer Solstice.

And, while the Braggot is fermenting.  Mark is still building his oven, which is really starting to look good.

It is our Honey Grove version of Pillars of the Earth.

Yes, please forgive us, if we have not returned your calls, or e-mails. We are a pair of very busy bees over here, weaving our Honey Grove tale, which lately, appears to be weaving us. Now, I must sign off, for there are more tomatoes to pick and biodynamic herbal bee teas to make. As long as the golden light of September shines, we have got to get out under it, and do the things that need doing.

Blessings to All, from amidst the Honey Grove Harvest,

Nao and Mark and Gus

Gus sends his love from a forest walk, through a woodland close by, where he has been helping a friend search for chanterelle mushrooms. And although a basketful of beautiful chantrelle mushrooms was collected, it has come to our attention that Gus is no truffle pig. According to our mushroom gathering friend, Gus is better at standing on mushrooms than finding them. According to Gus, mushroom hunting with Neil was an absolute blast and he cannot wait to go again. We are not sure how to tell him it is not his forte, and that he is simply better at other things. eh eh



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Late Summer Days

Late summer has been wetter this year than it has in years gone by. For two weeks now, this part of the island has felt more like October than August. Yellow grasses have turned to green again, and I have had to put my bare-foot-summer-feet back into my rubber boots. Pots of beet borscht have been simmering on the stovetop, and we have switched from iced-herbal-teas, back to hot-steaming-milky-ones.

But perhaps the oddest of things to report (since the rains have begun) is the rapping on our backdoor, that occurs every night at about eight o’clock. The knocker is not the sort of visitor one might expect, not the friendly face of a neighbor looking to borrow an egg, or a dear friend stopping by for tea, no, nothing like that. Instead, what we find when we open our door, is a number of shiny, somewhat spotted, medium sized frogs, always more than two, often up to 5 or 6.  So far, we are not entirely sure what it is they want with us, or our door. I have for some time speculated that Honey Grove is a portal into the Fairie world, and if this be true, than surely these frogs are really princes who have been turned into frogs by the Faerie Queen. I am convinced that they have simply mistaken our house for her palace, in hope that she might turn them back again. But as I said, we don’t really know for sure. Mark thinks they may have mistaken me for a princess, which has also lead him to believe that their eyesight is very bad, given the state of my dirt stained hands and my bedraggled farm girl attire.

What we do know is that we are ready for the sun to show itself again.  The rains have indeed been a blessing for the recently parched earth, and over the past 10 days she has received a much needed drink, but now, it seems that she hath drunk her fill, and the ground beneath our rubber-boot-feet is saturated with the rains that have fallen,

and fallen,

and fallen.

Inadvertently, knocking down our 15 foot sunflowers and tipping cosmos that once reached up into the clouds…

to turn their petaled pinkness face down toward the earth.

Yesterday, our summer garden looked as though it had been ravaged by a wild autumn night. I went down in the morning to find everything groaning under the weight of  a thousand water droplets. Our Russian sunflowers lay there, completely up-rooted, over a patch of very crushed turnips. Dahlias flopped down on their broken stems, their giant petaled faces looking sad, no longer tipped up toward the sky.

A spray of purple petals lying on the ground.

Still though, the bees were not despairing, some of them having ventured out of their hives for the first time in days.

To collect the perfect globes of water that sit upon nasturtium leaves.

I must admit though, that even the bees looked a little bit wet, less fuzzy, less golden, less sparkling than usual.  It was in this moment that I became aware that I am not quite ready for the season to change just yet. Up until the rains began I was still celebrating the height of summer. I was out there, bare legs under cotton-skirts, picking berries and bouquets before the clouds rolled in. I was eating cucumber salads and fresh tomatoes topped with basil leaves, and these are the sorts of foods that need to be eaten under the warmth of a golden sun, they just do. Still though, I should not complain, because this morning, there is the promise of the sun returning, or so it would seem.

And to give the sun a good amount of credit, it did shine, for many days and months. It shone and shone, and some might even argue that it shone too long, without a break.  And while it did, all things bloomed and our bees were as busy as bees are. Lucky for us, they managed to store some of that summer sun, by turning it into honey, alchemists that they are.

They have even shared some of it with us, bless them.

And, for some of our lucky guests, there is a wee bit of honey in the farmshop for sale, dark liquid amber this year.

Unfortunately, it was not a very big honey harvest this season. The rains in May made it impossible for many of our new queens to get mated, and well, this put a number of our hives behind. Still, it is no matter, because we are not honey producers here at Honey Grove, just two people with a deep and whole hearted love for bees. To have any honey at all is a gift (and in my humble Honey Grove opinion, one of the greatest gifts of on earth). It has been said throughout the ages that honey is a holy substance, a sweet alchemy, a medicine, a magical elixir. It is the sweetness of summer distilled, infused with the essences of the bee and the flower. For Rudolph Stiener  (Austrian philosopher,  biodynamic agriculturist, beekeeper, social reformer, architect, estotericist) honey was the result of love; made manifest by the bee’s love affair with the flower, the unity of the masculine and feminine.

“The whole beehive is permeated with life based on love. The bee lives as if it were in an atmosphere pervaded thoroughly by love. The bee sucks nourishment, which it makes into honey, from the parts of a plant that are steeped in love life.” (From the Book Bees, Lectures by Rudolf Stiener.)

Imagine that.

Otherwise, the blessings from the garden are still abundant, and every day we fill our baskets with the bounty.

(photo by Shanti Williamson)

Thanks to the hardwork of our blessed bees. ( and a bit of work on our part too, eh eh).

( photo by Shanti Williamson)

And even though my muscles ache today from all the lifting and the digging, I wouldn’t trade Honey Grove for the world.

(photo by Shanti Williamson)

As for Gus, he has taken to wearing scarves made from fallen dahlias. He recently told me in secret, that if he were a flower, he would be a dahlia, I had to agree.

Harvest Blessing To All~

Nao, Mark, Gus and all at Honey Grove

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