Pathways and Possibilities

Just out the backdoor, next to an old brick path that leads out the back gate (a gate that jingles when it swings because of the tinkling fairy-bells attached to it) are a bunch of snowdrops.
















And, if you passed them in a hurry, carrying groceries, or post, or an arm-load of tools, you may not even notice them, for they are just beginning to reveal their soft pointed petals.












They are just beginning to show their sophisticated whiteness against a backdrop of sage-green-stem, just beginning to whisper to the passerby, the secrets of early spring. I am convinced that snowdrops work together with robins and pussy-willows and daffodil shoots, together, they form a kind of secret spring society. They show up quietly and unannounced, in the background and beneath our feet, only to be noticed by those who are willing to look for them. They dare us to believe in the new dawn and the spring song. They celebrate the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. It is (for me at least) a magical time of year, filled with mysterious new beginnings, with promises and possibility. I am certain I can hear the backdoor snowdrops whispering every time I go up the pathway that leads through the back-gate. As for what I hear them saying, I am afraid I cannot say, for you will have to go and have a listen yourself. It seems they have different messages for different people (but you’re not surprised).

Speaking of pathways, they appear to be a theme around Honey Grove as of late. For quite some time I have wanted to build solid pathways through the vegetable and flower gardens, but with all the busyness here on the farm, I must confess it never seemed a priority, until now.












Now, it is all I can think of, and truth be told, I have become somewhat pathway obsessed. This past week, with the support of our dear student helper Alexia, we have begun laying the foundation for the veg plot pathways. Together she and I went down to the garden in our work gloves and rubber boots, balancing cups of chai tea with our shovels, and we worked hard under that January sun. Of course, we made sure to whistle while we worked and to talk of heart-felt things between shovel fulls of earth, and to laugh hard whenever there was good reason (which was almost the entire time). You see, the thing I am learning here on Honey Grove, is that I have spent way too much of my life being far too serious. And the problem with serious is, is that it keeps the mind so pre-occupied and the eyes so focused, that one is unable to notice such things as snowdrops, let alone hear their wisdom. So I am giving-up on seriousness and joining the secret society of spring, if they will have me that is. I might simply be too human for a seat at their table, but it is a worthy aspiration nonetheless.












Yes, we have been bent over digging trenches and salvaging wood to build retaining walls that will hold my pathway stones in place and create a solid foundation for wheelbarrows and trampling garden feet, for pattering dog paws and intricate sprinkling systems. We have been dividing our blessed garden into quadrants, an inspiration that burst into my mind some years ago, whilst pouring over a gardening book that I found in a bed and breakfast, in France. I remember eating chocolate croissants (like a proper tourist trying hard to be French) and reading about old-world-monastery gardens of the local area. Heaven knows what the book was, but it matters not, for the inspiration has stayed with me all these years and the pathway has begun! Otherwise, I am still eating chocolate and pretending to be French. eh eh












And what about Mark you ask? Well, he still busy with is oven.  If I am pathway obsessed then it seems that he may be oven obsessed.  He is still experimenting with recipes and burn times and oven temperatures. He is applying himself the way that Mark does, with method and calculation and careful consideration. He sets his alarm clock to ring in the wee hours of the morning, and hops out of bed to check the temperature of his oven. He burns different kinds of wood and records the results. He has joined on-line-brick-oven-forums, where he spends his evenings, drinking english tea and chatting with other wood-fire-freaks around the world (yes they exist).
















And with every passing day, he is learning the intimate details of his oven. In fact, just the other morning, while he was kneading yet another loaf of bed, I walked into the kitchen, poured myself a cup of tea, looked him in the eye and said, “Should I be worried?”

About what, he asked?”

“Your oven,” I said, “quite frankly, I think you love her more than me.”

And it’s a good thing he laughed so hard and for so long, or we might have had a problem on our hands. eh eh. But, I digress, you see bread recipes are not the only thing to perfect. There is also the further construction of the oven, which includes a roof and counter tops and the aesthetic finish.  For now though, the focus is on the counter heights and so Mark, with the help of his dear friends Neil and Tim, have been working on the design, and they have started to rough it out with salvaged wood, before they set to the task of the more permanent structure. Oh I can hardly wait to see the finished results!












So, as you can see, we have not yet run out of things to do here on Honey Grove.  The most difficult decision we face each day, is deciding what the priority is, but we do what can and we trust that we have chosen well. As I mentioned earlier we are giving up on” serious,” it has not proved to be all that helpful, and if seriousness should threaten to over take ( which it does on a regular basis) we simply follow the wisdom of Guru Gus, and we go for walk.













In gratitude for your company and may you always be able to hear the secrets whispered by snowdrops,

Nao, Mark, Gus and All at Honey Grove

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.