The Perfection of Paradox

It is a wonder, the philosophical ponderings that arise, whilst bent over in a patch of garden; the things one contemplates and turns over in mind, while spade is turning earth, while hands are picking petals.

(Calendula petals for salves and teas).

I sometimes think that my best ideas are born in the garden, as the earth gives birth to all things, she also gives birth to me, and yet such poetry is also a paradox. For just as the garden stimulates my mind, she also dissolves it. The ideas come, and then they go, arising and dissolving almost simultaneously. No sooner has a thought arisen, than it is dissolved by the smell of sweet peas.

Or the feel of damp earth between toes, or the cool long shape of a cucumber under hand, or the hum of a honeybee coaxing the nectar from a calendula flower.




Sometimes, when they go, I call out for them, ” Oh do come back,” I beg them, “pleeeeaase,” and I reach for those ideas with a kind of fervent desperation. I want to put my earth caked hands around them and hold on tight. Sometimes, I search for a pen, a scrap of  bark, anything to write on, to capture the vision before it flys away. But alas, even before I reach, I know that it is already too late; the idea plucked out of the sky of mind, like a fat and perfect cherry on a faraway branch, swallowed by a robin on his way by. And then, I am left there, ravaged by a passing inspiration, holding onto spade with earth-stained-hands… and it is back to turning soil, just through the garden gate.

But sometimes (at random and unpredictable intervals) something else happens, and in these moments, I simply watch the marvelous pattern of ideas coming and going, arising and dissolving all at once, and this in itself is an exquisite experience. When this happens, I just keep digging, or picking peas, or sowing seeds. All the while, I am nothing more than a witness to myself, to my wild mind and my blessed garden, just noticing the present moment, from a comfortable seat in the chair of paradox.

Of course, beyond this, there is also my human urge to categorize my experience, to say “this experience is better than that one, and it means this about who I am…”  T’is a good thing, that a few nights ago, I read a glorious sentence that got right inside me and soothed this human urge. I found it in Wendy Johnson’s marvelous book, Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate, and it went like this: “Open your mind so wide it includes your thoughts, your wish not to be thinking so much.”  And well, I have to tell you, that was like a poultice for me, it was a cool gentle salve for my hot inspired mind, and for a moment at least, everything was perfect. For, how can it not be perfect when there are bowls of cherries to be eaten (the robins did leave some for us).

Or should I say buckets.

Which Mark has been canning, almost as fast as I can pick them.

And while he is in the kitchen sweetening cherries with honey, I find my way up into the arms of our bountiful cherry tree and I hold onto it’s smooth branches with my long bird toes (half the garden under my toenails! )

And, from here, I reach for those ripe red orbs, one for the bucket, one for me and on it goes…

Precariously perched above the duck pond, peering down through green leaves, to see Emmet our handsome white drake cheering me on from down below.

Yes, the Honey Grove Harvest has officially begun, and we are as busy as our bees these days gathering the sweetness of this season.

There is a feast to be hand in every direction. The veg plot is over-flowing with goodness and we are enjoying every leaf and root, with the greatest of gratitude.

Each vegetable deserving it’s own private celebration. I could write an ode to every carrot I pull and crunch.


Garlic too is being harvested and braided.

And while the garlic is drying, Mark is still brewing…


Because, on these sunny summer days, you have to have cold brews to offer dear friends when they come to play their music round your campfire. And you must also enjoy the fruits of your own labour. (These are the laws of brewing, or so I am told.)

Yes, there is such a lot of goodness here on Honey Grove, there is nothing to do but give thanks, to get down on our knees and feel the gratitude that comes for this bounty. But you cannot linger there too long, for there is work to be done. Eh eh. And so, until next time, I bid you farewell, from in between the blooms, under a wide-brimmed- straw-hat, adrift in the poetry of paradox.

Summery Blessings to All,

Nao, Mark and Gus and All at Honey Grove.





Come on down…

“Come on down to Honey Grove,

where the bees are buzzin and the flowers are growin.

Come on down to Honey Grove,

don’t you know everybody’s goin.

Come on down to Honey Grove,

and why don’t you stay for a while?

There’s alotta nice things on Honey Grove,

they’re gonna make you smile…”

And now, hear those words sung with just the right amount of lilt and twang by a man in a well-worn-straw-hat, and faded denim trousers held up by suspenders. Add to this a little banjo and an old-time fiddle, throw in a guitar, a washboard and a stand-up base and you’ve got yourself the Honey Grove theme song.  Yes, this is the one I imagine, the song that plays through my mind while I push wheel-barrows of compost around the property and clean chicken coops. So far, there is only one guitar in my band and it belongs to me, I have yet to find the man in the straw hat, the banjo player and the fiddler, but I’ll get there. These things are easy to come by in our neck of the woods. Mark could do nicely as the man in the straw hat, but he would have to lose his British accent, otherwise, I fear it might sound more like an English Ballad, and between you and I, that just would not do. On another note, our musical friends are arriving from various islands this weekend with their banjo’s and guitars in tow, so perhaps my Honey Grove song will come to life yet. That is my hope anyway, that under the stars around the campfire, my song will be born.

But anyway….

Come on down to Honey Grove, where the bees are buzzin.

And the flowers are growin.

Come on down to Honey Grove, don’t you know, everybody’s goin.

Come on down to Honey Grove, and why don’t you stay for a while?

There’s alotta nice things on Honey Grove, they’re gonna make you smile…”

Although, these days, that line should be “there are alotta nice peas on Honey Grove.”

Yes, we are picking peas and shelling peas and eating peas and freezing peas.

I have recently discovered the wonder of listening to pod-casts, on my i-pod, while picking pea-pods. I am having a full education over here, learning all matter of interesting things from ancient Egyptian astrology to Greek mythology to unsolvable (or rather Un-provable) mathematical mysteries. I will have all kinds of interesting new facts so share next time you stay up all night with me, sipping mead around the campfire.  eh eh. But, you’ll have to “Come on down to Honey Grove for that.

Otherwise, I spent this week wheeling wheel-barrows filled to the brim with 10 year old bark mulch (which I acquired from an old riding- ring in the over grown woods on our property) up to the veg plot to create this sparkling new path. It divides our garden into four lovely quadrants for ease of use, and of course, crop rotation.

And looking upon it from another angle.

I am rather pleased with it, which is a relief, because after you wheel barrow 54 loads of bark mulch up the driveway ( yes I counted), you want to be pleased with the result. You really do. And speaking of being pleased, Mark is also feeling very pleased with his brick oven progress, which is proving to be an absolute feat of engineering. I cannot even begin to comprehend how he is doing it. Seeing him doing the calculations alone, is like watching someone do advanced algebra. Tomorrow, he is having a big work party to take things to the next level as he pours the next concrete pad, which the fire bricks will sit on.

And, while we work, everything just keeps growing.

But, all the working never stops us from putting our noses in roses. We have no choice but to succumb to their perfume. They seduce us whenever we attempt to walk past, clutching our agendas. Yes, you will find me bent over roses, breathing deeply, several times a day.  The below rose is called Elle, and she belongs to a romantic novel, or olden fairytale, or the elegant garden of an 18th century stately home… or maybe, maybe she belongs to Honey Grove.  Truth be told, I think we belong to her. Her smell is utterly transporting, nothing else exists when you spend time in her company.

So, “Come on down to Honey Grove, where the bees are buzzin and the flowers are growin, come on down to Honey Grove, don’t you know everybody’s goin, come on down to Honey Grove and why don’t you stay for awhile.  There are alotta nice things on Honey Grove, they’re gonna make you smile..”

In Gratitude,

Nao, Mark, Gus and All at Honey Grove.








Home on Honey Grove

If you are looking for us these days, you will find us just through this gate. Our hands will be filthy and we will most likely be bent over in a patch of green. Still, about 10 days ago, I did manage to get to town. I had a bath, cleaned under my fingernails and left Honey Grove. There I was, pushing a shopping cart through our local grocery store when I bumped into a dear friend, who said, with some disbelief, “Nao, you’re all dressed up, where are you going?”  To which I replied…”grocery shopping,”  And then we both began to laugh very hard, as it dawned on us, that grocery shopping, for me, has become an occasion.

You laugh, but I am not kidding, a little trip to town to post a letter and buy a sack of rice has become a good reason to put on a clean and tatter-free dress. To take a pair of dangly earrings out of the painted Indian box that sits on my dresser, and to wear them out into the light of day.  This is not to say that I do not wear jewelry on the farm, or dresses for that matter.  In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find me in anything other. I have been known to clean chicken coops wearing a pair of North African wedding bracelets and an old silk skirt, but my farm style tends to be verging more toward fairy-princess-vagabond than out-on-the-town-elegant- lady.  Dresses worn on Honey Grove are stained and torn and worn again. You see, I  have never been one to wear trousers or over-alls. Truth be told,  being a non-trouser-wearer is a 32 year protest that began when I was four. One summer’s day, at the age of four, I came downstairs for breakfast in a pink chiffon dress with a crinoline underneath. My mother looked at me with some concern as she placed my oatmeal in front of me, before saying, “I hate to tell you this Nao, but you can’t wear that dress.”

“Why not,” I said.

“Because you live on a farm,” she said matter-of-factly.

This made no sense to me. I just remember sitting there thinking she had lost all semblance of reason. I sat there for a good long time going through my mind looking hard to find the logic in her firm resolve, and, I could not. For the life of me, I could not understand how living on a farm could have anything to do with wearing or not wearing a pink chiffon dress. The breakfast ended with me returning to my room, the pink chiffon dress being re-hung on its hanger in the closet, and a pair of denim overalls with pooh-bear embroidered on the leg becoming my mother’s outfit of choice. I stood there in my tight braids, yelling from the top of the stairs, “Fine then, fine,” I shouted. “I will wear these over-alls, but when I grow up I will have my own farm, and you will see, I will wear dresses everyday!”  My Mom, in her loving way said that would be fine with her and she carried on cleaning the kitchen.  The rest as they say is history.

In the end my mother and I found a compromise. Over the years she would go to thrift stores and come home with long cotton skirts, which she would cut the bottoms off.  She would then make the top half of a skirt in to a skirt for herself, and the bottom half into a skirt for me.

( My sister and I in 1980. I am the one on the far left. The skirt I am wearing is one of the bottom pieces cut off Mom’s skirt)

We could wear them around the farm without concern of wear and tear. I could be a princess and a farmer all on the same day. Yes, I wore those skirts until they were rags. I wore them into the garden, and on my pony, and up into choke cherry trees. In the end, dresses were okay to wear on the farm, but, there were two categories of dress.  There were town dresses and farm dresses.  The pink chiffon dress was a town dress, and now, as I sit here sipping my tea, writing this post, I laugh because nothing has changed.  And if you are wondering why on earth I have begun this blog post on the topic of fashion, it is because, what I have come to realize this past month, is that the town dresses in my closet these days, hardly ever get worn. They hang there just waiting for an occasion (like grocery shopping).  And so, all of this is to say, that we have been spending our  June days here on the farm.  With such a lot to do we rarely leave. Our summer days are fuller than I can even begin to tell you. We are working from dawn to dusk and we could work right through the night if we did not have such a strong need to rest these hard working bodies and sleep. The garden alone is a full time job.

Between the feeding and the mulching and the planting and the weeding, it never ends and I am slowly coming to the realization that it will never ever be done.  But, despite this inevitable truth, I am, in my very human way, still working toward surrendering to the full acceptance of this recognition. On good days, the awareness of acceptance comes easily and acceptance becomes a place to rest. It becomes something to lean into, like a sun-warmed river stone, soft and firm all at once. For me this happens when I finally come to the sign on the road that says, STOP, go no further, you have done all  that you can physically and mentally do, now, you must simply accept this. At this point, I can do one of two things: I can either feel overwhelmed and panicked (which happens far too often, and always results in injury and frustration. Last week it resulted in 15 bee stings and the accidental laundering of Mark’s i-pod) OR, I can lean into the recognition of acceptance, and, I can rest there. I am slowly coming to realize that the rest option is definitely preferred, and ironically it is actually more efficient in the long run. And so, this being said, sometimes, I simply go down to the garden to eat salad, not to plant it, or weed it, or mulch it, not to work, but to simply taste the fruits of our labours, and oh, the taste.

And while I am down there, there are artichokes to harvest, which I bring up from the garden for Mark and I to eat with Mark’s amazing duck egg hollandaise.

And in the morning before the day begins, I go out and pick strawberries for my breakfast granola, and as I sink my teeth into their sweetness, nothing else in the world exists.

So we are working and we are eating and we are contemplating the possibility of acceptance. But Whatelse? Well, our bees are also working hard, now that there is more nectar available. Two weeks ago, here on Vancouver Island, we had a major dearth and our bees required emergency feeding. The combination of the cool temperatures and rain and the lack of forage meant no food for bees. We had to intervene with sugar syrup and chamomile tea blends. We are happy to report that we caught it just in time and all of our beloved bees survived.  Now that the clover is out and the black-berries have begun to bloom, all should be well.  Not to mention some of the flowers we planted specifically for our bees are now in bloom, and our bees are taking up their nectar with the greatest of appreciation. Below is an image of a bee on Phacilia, a flower that bees absolutely love and that we planted in abundance on the property.  Next year we hope to have 1/2 an acre of just bee forage.

Yes, we really do love these winged friends.

And speaking of Honey Grove residents, there are some new ones…11 in fact.  They are growing by the day, learning to perch and taking lots of cozy naps.

They are the cheeriest bunch, there is absolutely no chance of being depressed in their company. You have never met a happier crowd and I look forward to my visits with them throughout the day. Yes, between the garden and the bees and the chicks and the guests, we are non-stop over here. Mark is balancing farm life with bakery shifts, and when he is not hard at work on his own brick oven, he is hard at work baking in another brick oven at our local bakery.

( Mark at the bakery in town)

When we are not in the garden, or making bread, or airing linens, or picking peas, or planting seeds, or watering the orchard, or shoveling compost, we are simply leaning into accepting the fact that we might not get it all done. Of course, whenever we are taking life too seriously we can always count on Gus to put us straight.  His secret of the universe is, after all, not to worry.  So carry on we do, and worry we don’t, and acceptance we are endeavoring to try.

Summery Blessings from Honey Grove.  May this find you in the midst of doing something you love~

Thanks for Being Out There~

Nao, Mark, Gus and all at Honey Grove.