Humble Crumble (Or Pie)

This morning’s dawn came in on streaming golden rays, touching the treetops before slipping through the crack where drawn curtains meet. And as the sun touched my brow and stirred me to waking I could hear Ron the Rooster’s enthusiastic crow, welcoming the dawn. By 6:00 am the kettle was boiled and the tea was steeped and a new day had begun.

Photo by Trevor Sims

I must admit that waking to find Honey Grove splashed in sunlight was a welcome sight. For over seven days now, we have been splashing in puddles with no sun in sight. However, this is not a complaint, for the clouds rolled in after a long stretch of many weeks without rain, and our parched earth was in desperate need of a good drink. Not to mention that the right combination of rain and sun, is after-all, what makes the garden grow, and growing it is!

You could eat salad all day long on Honey Grove and you would not make a dent in the thick rows of spring greens offering their nutritious bounty to our kitchen baskets. I can say this with confidence, because I do, that is, eat salad all day long. I am like a goat that cannot resist the urge to munch on a patch of garden on my way by. Unfortunately, we have recently discovered, that we are not the only ones enjoying our spring greens. And this discovery is thanks to Mark’s Dad, who has come to visit us all the way from England (a botanist, with 50 years of Horticultural experience). Yes, we are getting a full education on the many pests that are delighting in our garden as much as we are. We have seen them too, because Mark’s Dad never goes anywhere without his trusty magnifying glass, ready and waiting in his pocket. And so, with firm dedication to our organic ideals, we now spend our evenings ( after dinner and before teatime) going through our vegetable plot, row by precious row, removing the “serpentine leaf miners” that are making their homes in some of our spinach leaves. Once the leaves are removed we add them to our nettle/comfry/chicken-manure-compost-tea blend, which steeps and brews and foams in large lidded vats that we dilute and feed to our tomatoes. As for slugs, they are collected and then offered to the ducks as succulent appetizers. I am quite certain that a slug is to a duck, what strawberry cheesecake is to me, pure heaven. Yes, I would have to say it’s a win win, all round.

Photo by Trevor Sims

So that tells you a wee bit about the pests we can SEE, but there are more. Some of them are lurking beneath the surface of the soil, hidden below the ground, invisible to those of us who dwell above, like “cabbage-root-fly,” for example.  If ever you see a young healthy cabbage plant wilt and faint for no apparent reason, like a pretty lady in a Victorian dress, it is most likely the result of cabbage-root-fly. Simply put, there is a fly that lays it’s eggs in cabbage roots and the result is always the same, a dead cabbage plant. Sadly, I must report that some of our cabbages have gone this way. But, we are not despairing, for despair never really seems to help that much. Instead we have simply planted more cabbages. And, we have  learned  a technique known to help prevent cabbage-root-fly. On the advice of Mark’s good  Dad (and with the hard-work of Mark’s lovely Mum) our cabbages now have orange felt skirts at the base of each of their stems which serve to keep the root-fly out (as well as to make our cabbages look even prettier than the corset-wearing-Victorian-ladies).

And yet, despite all the hidden pests, our garden still sparkles in its green and glowing glory. I don’t think that the average passerby would be aware of the myriad of creatures who are participating in the enjoyment of it’s abundance.

Otherwise, our peas have begun to climb, reaching their tendrils up toward the sky.

And the tomatoes are on their way to becoming a tomato forest. They are drinking up every ounce of their nettle tea compost.  And although it stinks to high heaven the mineral rich goodness is urging them onward and upward. Their stems are quickly becoming trunks and their little bell shaped flowers have begun to show a splash of yellow against all the green.

Oh, and I cannot forget to mention our sweet peas!  Yes, the sweet peas that we planted in Septmeber in the poly-tunnel are now blooming in May! Hurray!They offer their sweet perfume to the poly tunnel and to the bouquets that bless our kitchen table. If ever you are having a bad day, I suggest finding a sweet-pea and putting your nose up to it. It is an instant cure for melancholy, try it, you will not be disappointed, I promise.

Yes, the poly tunnel is a warm and happy place, even on rainy days, it’s always warm and dry in there.  I call it my Italy.  “Just off to Italy” I’ll say, to visit the tomatoes and the pots of basil, and to breath in the scent of sweet peas.

So that is the garden. The bees have been busy too, or at least they were before the rains came.  On sunny days they are out and about, visiting the neighboring orchards and gathering water from rain collection pails.

They have certainly been doing their job on the pollination front too.  The cherry trees over the duck pond, have now completed their cot-split ( their blossoms have been shed, to make way for the set fruit) and are loaded with soon-to-be-cherries.

I think the ducks are quite happy that the cherry blossoms have all gone. The thousands of falling petals were clogging up their pond, and I am not sure they were impressed. Speaking of ducks, I must also tell you that there will be no ducklings this spring. It seems that Arabella’s eggs got chilled, and so the eggs did not develop fully. The area within the coop where she built her nest was a bit too wide, and this caused her eggs to roll out from under her warm duck body and become cold. It was a sad day for Arabella, and for us, when we had to take her off the nest, having realized that no babies would come this time. By shining a flash-light up through the eggs on day 38, we were able to see that they still contained their yolks. Unfortunately, we did not realize how the eggs got chilled until it was too late. We have learned, that in future we will need to make the duck nesting area much smaller to prevent this from happening again. We have promised our beautiful Arabella that she can try again, after she has stretched her legs a bit. 40 days of sitting is a long time and she could do with a break. I am now calling May our Humble Pie Month, for there has been such a lot of learning these past few weeks. Not all things have turned out as planned and expectation has proved to be disappointing a good number of times. Despite all the wise words uttered from zen masters and experienced farmers, I am still not entirely sure just how to fold my mistakes into the batter of life with a good dollop of acceptance. I have a long way to go in this department, and still, we are here doing our human-best to give thanks for the learning that comes from each humbling experience.  If all goes well, I am going to be a very wise old lady. ha!

On that note, one thing we have learned from experience (and we learned it the very first winter that we were here) is that you cannot burn wet wood!  Eh eh. This said,  firewood season does not begin in September as we once thought, but in May!  ( and all the country folks reading this now, will be nodding in agreement)  And so, while I have been pulling weeds and dealing with cabbage-root-fly, Mark has been busy getting wood from a clearing up the road and for the past three days he has been cutting rounds and splitting it, with the help of his dear Mum, Pam.

And while he split it, his Mum and I stacked it. Gus cheered us on from a relaxed position near the project.

Now our wood sits in neat little piles where it will spend the summer drying in the hot sun.

And while it drys we carry on. Mark and his Dad have started another brew, this time a Rhubarb Bitter, which will be ready for tasting in 10 short days.

And it boiled and simmered and bubbled in special ways at all the right times, as Mark measured and calculated and watched over his latest creation.

Photo by Trevor Sims

Mark has taken his brewing to the next level these days and you can see him here, like any mad scientist gazing into his refractometer to measure the sugar content.

Photo by Trevor Sims

And while Mark was brewing and I was digging, Mark’s Mum was in the kitchen making her famous Three Fruit Marmalade.

photo by Trevor Sims

Which is now available to purchase in the farm-shop!

Photo by Trevor Sims

Yes, we are nearly there, our farm-shop is slowly  beginning to take shape, bit by bit and day by day.

And there you have it, the month of May, our Humble Pie month. We are working hard, but not without remembering to appreciate the view of the sky from below a fully flowering laburnum tree.

To smell the bloom of a sweet-pea and to eat Strawberry Rhubarb cake. After-all, eating nothing but Humble Pie is never a good plan.

Until Next Time~

Blessings and Gratitude,

Nao, Mark, Gus and all at Honey Grove.







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Spring’s Tango


Sitting here this morning, yerba mate in hand, the sun already high in the sky, I have to work to stay sitting at this computer. This to me, being desk-bound that is, is much harder than picking stones or pulling weeds. I would rather sift through piles of rocky earth than unopened official looking letters. I would rather attend to cleaning chicken coops than paying bills. And despite my best intentions to get the paperwork done and neatly filed, it has suddenly occurred to me that I have not sat down to blog in ages. And well, such a lot has been unfolding here on Honey Grove, I think it is high time for an update. On this note, the paperwork has been relegated to the back of the desk for a cloudier less inspiring day, and as you can clearly see, a blog has begun! (So has spring by the way, and it has not only begun, but it is well and truly here, and steamrolling along I might add.)

Yes, my daffodil-pondering-days are over for the time being. The fullness of this season has swept us into the whirl of her dance routine. We are whirling along with not a moment to think or wonder or worry. We are simply dancing the dance of spring. The symphony of the season is playing an orchestral chorus that moves us onward. Honey Grove is our ballroom, the plants and animals our dance partners. Our feet are moving all on their own, our hands following their lead, pushing wheel barrows and turning compost. The steps are all there, as I imagine they have been for millennia, since people first began tilling soil and planting seeds. I believe, in my heart of hearts, that we know this dance, we all do. Perhaps it is a dance that is not so much learned, as it is remembered, it is there in our bones, a part of the fabric of who we are.  And as you well know, the only thing to do when you are dancing, is to surrender to the energy of that moment, to give yourself to whatever is unfolding. In our case, here at Honey Grove, we are giving ourselves fully to the madness and the marvel of Spring’s Tango. Because, let me tell ya, the tasks are non-stop. There is no end in sight, nope, not until next winter, eh eh, to complete one task is to begin another, and so, we just keep going, riding the energy of this magnicant season, pausing for tea and food and sleep.

If I were to describe this dance to you in more detail, I would describe planting rows and rows of flowers.

Over 800 square feet of cut flowers and bee food have been planted. Gus helped too, he is the official keeper of the flower seeds. It is an important job and he takes it very seriously. And while some flowers have been planted in straight lines, others have been scattered in a circular mandala. Our circle has been divided into 8 parts and seeded by colour. By July we will have a flowering mandala filled with bee friendly flowers. I can hardly think of a more beautiful sight!

Speaking of bees, they are also doing their version of the spring tango, and if we seem busy to you, you should see what they are up to!  The dandelions are blooming and the bees are buzzing.

Two days ago we split several colonies on the verge of swarming. Lucky for us, a friend from down the road stopped by just as we were on our way to the apiary. Before he knew what was happening, we had him suited-up and working with us in the beeyard.  You see, when it comes to finding Queens in order to split hives, 3 pairs of eyes are far better than two. Thanks for your help Adam, you are the best!

As you can see finding Queens on frames with this many bees can be a bit tricky. I must say that we have some amazing Queens in our hives at the moment. Below is a photograph of a beautiful frame of brood (the covered cells in the middle of the frame are all babies bees about to hatch).  This is an exceptional laying pattern, our Queen, bless her, did not miss a single cell, incredible.

So that is the bee news, good healthy happy bee news! You might be wondering what else is keeping us so busy…or should I say Mark so busy. Mark has been spending every moment he has on the construction of his outdoor wood-fire brick oven. He is very inspired and once he has completed it, he intends to write a whole blog post dedicated to it’s construction.  In the meantime I will give you a sneak preview. He began by digging a very wide and very square hole in the earth. Some of the stones were too big for him to move by hand and so our car was involved…I came up from the garden to find this going on.

But, the car alone was not quite enough, there was physical labour involved too!

Once all the stones were removed and the ground was smoothed over, the preparations for the concrete were made.

And after the concrete had dried some, it looked like this.

And once it had dried a little more, you could see Mark’s fancy work.

After a day or two, Mark started to build upon his foundation, and this last photo you see is how it currently appears.

There will be more on this project in our next blog. In the meantime, the garden is growing.

And so are the tomatoes. I swear I can seem them grow by the hour.

There are also trays of seedlings still waiting to be planted out, waiting for warmer nights, soon I tell them, soon.

Yes, everything is in a state of becoming, including the 10 eggs that Arabella duck is sitting on! We should have ducklings in a couple of weeks and the thought alone makes me giddy!

Whatelese, well the cottage has been full of lovely guests as of late. Guests who delight in bees and farm life as much as we do. On that note, our Honey Tastings have officially begun.

We are now offering our “Around the World Honey Tasting.”  This includes sampling honey from every continent, including the continent of Honey Grove, eh eh.

Beeyard tours are happening too!  To be honest, I think we love doing them as much as the guests.  Speaking of guests, Gus has recently fallen in Love with Victoria, our new four year-old friend from Vancouver.

Yes, love is in the air!  I think we are both feeling totally in Love with our blooming Honey Grove in this Magical Season.  Sometimes, after a long day, we still have the energy to dance around our beehives. This photo was taken, one hilarious evening last week, with old friends who came to stay. ha Ha!

The thing is, despite all the hard-work, there always time for a pint of Mark’s Aged Belgian Trippel, and if there isn’t time, we now know we have to make it.

So there you have it. Honey Grove in the full swing of the dance called Spring. Here I go, back to work.

Blessings and Gratitude,

Nao, Mark, Gus and All at Honey Grove~







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