Autumn Tales and Other Good Things~

These days, the woodland path to Honey Grove, might possibly be, more enchanted than ever.












A mist has rolled in and settled in our valley and all along our coast line, it is grounding planes and causing a chorus of fog horns to sound their haunting tones, waking us in the early hours before light. Sometimes, later in the day, the October sun manages to lift the fog and for an afternoon the most exquisite golden light filters down from above, making everything look as though it belongs in an old fashioned hand-bound book, with gold lettering on the side. Yes, it seems we are caught in another Honey Grove fairytale over here, only this time, we are not alone.












You see, while we are on the subject of fairytales, I must tell you about our new and dear friend Sylvia Victor Linsteadt, a writer of tales and a weaver of magic (and wool too) who has just spent a week here at Honey Grove, writing in the cottage. Some months ago (way back in the early spring, even before the daffodils were up) I discovered Sylvia’s work through one of my favorite blogs The Hermitage by Rima Staines. Without hesitation, and driven by a kind of forward momentum that is more a feeling than a thought, I ordered a 3 month subscription of her stories (which arrive every new moon, in a hand-stamped brown envelope, complete with beeswax stamps). The envelopes, are magical in themselves, and I often set them on my kitchen table, propped up against a potted vase of poppy pods, just to admire their old world charm. Eventually though, I have to open them, because you see, the stories inside are even more whimsical than their envelopes. After reading the first few sentences, the sharp edges of these modern times dissolve, and a landscape unfolds from a world existing parallel to this one; a world that seems ever so close and faraway at the same time~just East of the Sun and West of the Moon. And, once you begin to turn these pages, there is no going back.
















Sylvia, is a true teller of tales. She weaves whimsy with wildness in a way that can only be described as a kind of fairytale alchemy.  She re-writes old fairytales from around the world, setting them in North America, in places she has been and walked and explored and loved. All of her stories are rich with the ecology of the land that inspires her, with the plants that grow there and the animals that live there. Every page is alive with folklore and myth and magic, you can smell the woodsmoke from around her campsites, and taste the blackberries from the Meadow Beyond The Meadow (one my favorite tales written by Sylvia).  And so, all of this is to say, that when Sylvia wrote to me in high summer (when I was shelling baskets full of peas and braiding plaits of garlic and catching swarms of bees) to say that she was hoping to write a story about bees, and,”What did I think about her coming to Honey Grove in the autumn to get closer to bees and to write?”  Well, I simply said, “YES!  Do! Come!” And again, I found myself riding that same wave of forward momentum, following a feeling that was rising up from my belly through to my heart, causing my head to nod accordingly. The rest, as they say, is history.  For Sylvia did come, and she did spend time with the bees, and, she did write!












In fact, in just two short weeks there will be another fairytale arriving in my letter box, and this time, it will feature bees! I cannot think of anything that I might like to read more than this, a story steeped in the myth and mystery of honeybees, a story that takes place in the landscape of my homeland, of Honey Grove and the wild places and spaces that surround us here.
















Whilst Sylvia visited, she spent the days gathering threads for the tale she was weaving. Sometimes she worked along side me ( bless her for that, for her help was greatly appreciated) planting hundreds of baby clover seedlings in the lower field, and wrapping the beehives for winter. Other times we explored the forest together, along with Gus, in layers of skirts, collecting baskets of moss and pine cones.












Wearing red coats so that we might be visible to nearby hunters.
















One afternoon we spent hiking in the alpine. We drove up into the mountains west of Honey Grove, high up above the fog we went, to the golden landscape of alpine meadows, glowing rust colored in the fall.












For those of you who come to stay at Honey Grove, this mountain that I speak of  is very close by, and in the winter months you can be skiing or snow-shoeing within the hour. From cottage doorstep to mountain peak is a 30 minute drive. And while we walked, we talked of the things that inspire us, of the things that open our hearts and break them too. We had strong sweet tea and banana bread on a sloping stone, beside a looking glass lake. Mark took a nap there and Gus glistened in the sun, like a white dragon, or so it seemed, to these fairytale wanderers.












Yes, it was a magic infused week in Sylvia’s whimsical company, we have indeed met a true kindred spirit, and we are all looking forward to many more years of long wooded walks and heartfelt conversations.
















Otherwise, if you are a lover of stories, if you are enchanted by landscapes of otherness as I am, I cannot encourage you enough to wander over to Sylvia’s online home, here and here to learn more about her work, I promise you, you will not be disappointed. These stories are also for sale in our farmshop, available for guests who want to sip sweet honeyed tea, curl up under a warm blanket, and settle in for a magical adventure. Of course, you might be wondering what else we have been doing other than reading stories and taking leisurely strolls in the mountains. Well, I can assure you, a lot! Mark has been working hard on his oven, which now looks like this!
















And I have been sewing wool pillows for beehives, to keep the heat in during the damp dark winter months.












Which end up looking like this when they are complete, and then they fit in between the inner cover and the lid of the hive, before the whole hive gets wrapped in black tar paper.
















I am happy to report that the bees are all wrapped up and tucked in for winter now, which is a good thing, given that there are such a lot of other things to be getting on with.  Thanks to our marvelous student helper Alexia, the garlic has been planted.












And the apples picked.
























And half a trailer of aged organic steer manure has been dug into the veg plot. Alexia has been such a blessing here at Honey Grove, I cannot thank her enough for her hard working hands and deep love of the earth. With her wonderful help, we have been able to keep the winter garden tidy and tended.












Much of it steeping in compost, awaiting the spring. Speaking of spring, I am still saving seeds over here, one of my favorite tasks.












There are few things in this world that I enjoy more than putting little pods of pure potential into brown envelopes for next year’s planting. If ever you are in doubt that magic is afoot, I recommend considering a seed and the miraculous invisible mystery contained within it’s tinyness, that causes it to grow a stem and then a flower and then a fruit…filled with more seeds… ( it works for me every time)

And while we are on the topic of growing, look at Arabella’s babies now!












And there you have it, another chapter in the story of Honey Grove.  May it find you in the midst of a magical day, doing something you love. Let there be a cup of sweet honey tea in your very near future and dear friend to share it with.

Blessings from the Honey Grove Hearth~ From the woodlands edge, where eagles sit in fir trees and spiders make webs between thistle stems.

Nao, Mark, Gus and All at Honey Grove.


Good Day, Sunshine~

Yesterday, the sun came out, and not just a little bit, not just for fifteen minutes between showers, and not from behind a cloud, because there were no clouds, not a single one.  No, yesterday the Honey Grove sky was blue, and it was blue in all directions. It was blue and it was beautiful.  I spent the whole morning thinking we should be having some sort of party, a celebration in honor of this long awaited guest, first name Sun, last name Shine. It is a marvel to consider the ways in which one responds to light, having not seen it for some time.  There is a curious and wondrous adjustment period, as eyes learn to adapt to the brilliance of illumined spider’s webs and the glistening of dew drops.












There is a feeling of undeniable expansion that occurs when sheets of light come pouring down through a canopy of fir trees, causing one to break into a fit of unstoppable song and dance. There is a need that rises up in the heart, to give thanks, to offer gratitude, to shout HuRraH! And then to look around, to see if anyone else is noticing what you are, because lets face it, who can resist the urge to share the light ( and I don’t mean that in an evangelical way, eh eh). I was part way through my own song and dance (operatic version of Here Comes The Sun, complete with wispy arm moves and high kicks) when I realized that the party I so desperately wanted to throw, was indeed, already happening. One good look around revealed that Honey Grove was already in full swing without any need for me to make it so. And as this recognition popped into the blue sky of mind, I had to laugh, to think that I was so self-absorbed that I actually believed the party had something to do with me, what a tart! I was just lucky enough to be invited. The bees were flying for the first time in weeks.











Flying off to have their final love affairs with the sunflowers, before the frost (oh the poetry). I watched them spending every last moment together, savoring the sweetness of summer love, diving in without a thought of tomorrow. And you know, I could not feel sorry for them, for I am certain that we can all benefit from such bitter-sweetness as this.












The chickens were clucking and scratching and looking positively cheerful.











Photo by Jaime Kowal

Yesterday was the first day in many that they moved beyond the confines of their shelter (For if ever you have seen a chicken in a rainstorm, you are well aware that there are few in this world, who look more unimpressed). Oh, and up above, in that bluest of skies, ravens were surfing wind currents in a kind of  blissful surrender that was palpable. Black and shiny against a canvas of blue they were, and I thought for one tiny moment, I thought that I was sure that I knew what that felt like, to fly in the blue-sky and surf the wind. But I digress.

Photo from the internet.

It was perhaps at about this stage in the days unfoldment (well into the party) that I realized I had work to do. This recognition dawned on me in the same way it does at 2 am, when the dance party has just found its second wind, and you realize that you have to work in the morning (or it least it used to, I haven’t had this experience for a good long time, but I have memory of such things). Yes, I could not spend the whole day basking in the sun’s arrival, watching ravens surf wind currents and cheerful chickens scratching in the dirt, for there was work to do, and lots of it!  And so, I used the sun’s energy to help me get things done, pausing now and again to sing and dance. And like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves I too was whistling while I worked, or should I say, while I washed two garbage bags full of wool, given by our lovely sheep herding neighbors, to insulate my beehives for winter.
































It was a task that required a blue-sky day with just the right amount sun and wind to dry it.
























And while I washed and hung wool, Mark worked hard at installing the chimney on his brick oven.  The Honey Grove “Pillars of the Earth” is getting more magnificent by the day. Oh just wait until you see it!
















But, it is a slow process, you see there is only so much Mark can do each day, because a good part of the day is spent waiting for mortar to dry, and so while the mortar drys, Mark does other things. Things like making quince jelly, which will be a delicious treat with cheese and crackers this winter.












Otherwise, we are still enjoying the bounty of autumn’s garden.



























































Photo’s by Jaime Kowal

And even though the flowers are mostly gone to seed, I cannot help but pick their seed heads and seed every corner of Honey Grove on my way by.




















As for Gus, he is not thinking about work in the morning. Guru Gus has dedicated his days to enjoying every single moment as it arises, ready to offer his wisdom on the nature of being, if ever we should ask. Some of you may remember his secret of the universe: “Not to worry, All you need is Love.”  And now he is reminding me that this is actually not a secret at all, and that there is even a song about it, which is why he cannot figure out how anyone could forget, especially given the catchiness of the tune.  And now, he has gone for a nap, by the fire.












And there you have it: The Sun Came out on Honey Grove, and we noticed.

Harvest Blessings To All~ Thanks for being out there and cheering us on.  May this find you in the midst of a beautiful blue-sky day.

Nao and Mark and Gus and All at Honey Grove~

Harvesting Honey Grove

Oh where to begin? How to catch you up on the unfoldings here at Honey Grove? Let me just say this, that if a poet can be ravished by the muse, than I think it is fair to say, that the farmer can be ravished by the harvest. For when the harvest doth come, it doth come, and there is nothing else in all the universe that exists ( or so it would seem). There is gratitude that threatens to tear you open, and enough work to keep you up for days on end. There is pleasure, and joy, and happiness, and there is oh so much to do. Yes, the bounty rolls in like a tidal-wave, and your only hope is hop on that wave and to start riding it to the shore of winter, and this, this is just what we have been doing this past month. Lucky for us, our beautiful friend Miss Jaime Kowal (who just happens to be a talented photographer) stopped by with her camera this week, and she was able to photograph this tidal-wave of harvest. And so, if you have wondered why we have not been answering our phone, look no further than the beet patch…

















Photo by Jaime Kowal

Or the poly tunnel… (where we are harvesting our third lot of tomatoes).
















Photo my Jaime Kowal

Or the cabbage patch, where you will find me lovingly lopping perfect heads with inspired ideas for fermentation, my own head full of memories that smell of Oma’s root-celler, filled with crocks of saurekraut.












And if you can’t find us in any of these places, then surely you will find us in the kitchen, where we might be canning tomatoes…again.












Or, making sauerkraut with the help of a dear friend (for there is nothing like the crunch of cabbage under your hands whilst sharing love stories).
















Or, it might be pear marmalade that is simmering on the stovetop (with ginger and citrus being added, and a spoonful of  winter imaginings in which I pair pear marmalade with goat cheese and Mark’s homemade crostinis).












And, if I have left the kitchen, it will not be for long. It might be that I have just popped back to the garden to get the last of our cucumbers for lunch.












Photo by Jaime Kowal

As for Gus, he helps in whatever way he can.  Mostly, it is moral support that he offers, just the right amount of cheering-on and heartfelt-encouragement to support any task.












Photo By Jaime Kowal

And Mark, where is he you ask? Well, he can still be found working hard on his oven, mixing mortar, stacking stones and pouring over scribbled notes with lots of mathematical equations, and an expression upon his face, that leads one to beleive he is thinking.












Yes, Mark is trying hard to complete his oven before the weather turns and winter knocks upon our door.  Speaking of winter, it was about two weeks ago, when it suddenly occurred to us, that we better get our firewood in before the rains come. We had over three cords of wood piled high around the property, drying in the summer sun. Lucky for us, we’ve got some good friends (and a lovely student helper named Alexia, who, bless her, comes to help us out on weekends). So, yes, help arrived and wood was split,












and moved and stacked, and a good amount of fun was had too.












Thank you so much, to everyone who helped, because, when the thunderstorm rolled in the very next day, and our cozy fire was lit, the happiness was palpable. Otherwise, we are endevouring to remember to see the humour, the deep down hilarity that the rises up out of these hard-working Honey Grove days. For whenever we are taking life too seriously, something comes along to snap us out of it.  This week, it was Mark’s “photo-shoot humour” that brought  me to my knees in a fit of unstoppable laughter, as we re-enacted Adam and Eve in our winter vegetable garden, trying to look natural for the camera, one chard leaf at a time, ha!











Photo by Jaime Kowal

Sending Harvest Blessings with a good dollop of Hilarity,

Nao and Mark and Gus and all at Honey Grove~
















Photo by Jaime Kowal