Victorian Blooms~

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to live at the edge of a Victorian flower garden.

Sometimes I think this desire comes from endless childhood hours spent in the company of old musty storybooks, with hand painted illustrations of faeries and summer blooms, but I don’t think I will ever know for sure.  There is very little else that inspires me about the Victorians, except perhaps their gardens, which might just be the wildest thing about them.  But, like any of us, I can only speculate. And in my speculation, from a fairly uneducated place, living at the end of a dirt road on an Island in rural Canada 130 years later,  I still managed to form an opinion on the matter, funny that, eh eh.

I imagine though, that surrounding oneself with abundant beauty in times of change and uncertainty is probably one of the best options we have as human beings.  Like us, the Victorians also lived in a world that was constantly changing, industry driven and more and more secular by the second.  A world dedicated to economy and speed rather than soulfulness and stillness. Like us, they had no idea how different their lives would be in the short span of a decade, and I believe (based on absolutely no fact and pure speculation) that the Victorians had an unconscious need to grow beautiful things because it helped to soothe and restore them like nothing else could.  Flowers offer light in darkness, or so I have always thought.

When you live amongst constant change you have to have something wonderful to count on, and a flower garden is something you can count on. Flower gardens are the perfect combination of constancy and spontaneity depending on whether you are admiring your faithful perennial friends, or your newly sown annual friends, or the ones you had no idea you planted, but they burst up through the soil at the last second to give themselves to the world. For me, flowers feed my soul the way vegetables feed my body, and in my completely un-academic opinion, this is a vital part of Self-Sustainability.  Yes, beauty sustains, it nourishes and it strengthens and as far as I can tell, growing flowers is equally important to growing food (not to mention you can eat some flowers).

And so, Mark’s parents have come to see us, all the way from England.  They are wise gardeners and plant lovers and his father is an expert on all green and growing things~ a botanist for over 45 years. We are very blessed to have such a wealth of knowledge in the family.  Mark’s father can name most plants he sees without consulting books of any kind and we have been taking many long walks around the property learning the Latin names of all those that grow here. As you can imagine I have been asking a fair number of questions on all green matters. Every now and again Mark looks at me, in some desperation for me to change the topic and speak about something other than gardening, and despite the fact that this takes great restraint, I know he’s right, and so I do allow the topic to shift from time to time.  And, when we are not talking about gardening, we are gardening.  Of course, as you have surely guessed, a Victorian flower garden has been planted, in lovely rows, in the vegetable garden, and it takes up a quarter of the 2000 sq ft garden, and I am just giddy with delight over it!  There is nothing more beautiful to me than flowers and vegetables sharing the same plot of earth.

Of course more vegetables were also planted.

And our peas are up and looking very good!

Otherwise, we have lots of tea between planting sessions, after all, it is an English tradition.

So there you have it, a blog on Victorian flower gardens and all things English.

Cheerio for now,

Nao, Mark, Gus and the Bees.


Busy Bees~

This week at Honey Grove, the sun shone for 7 full days and dandelions appeared over night.  One day we woke up to a fuzzy carpet of  yellow on the grass beneath our feet. And as all beekeepers know, those fuzzy yellow flowers invite fuzzy buzzing bees, and so, the dandelion honey flow begins. And our poor Gus learned about bees underfoot the hard way. It happened in an instant, one fine afternoon beneath a clear blue sky. First came the unmistakable yelp and then a mad dash across the front garden and into the house, with a whimper caught in his throat and his tail between his legs.

Gus has since recovered and as far as I can tell, he has completely forgotten. I am most certain of this because of the way he continues to run across the grass with the same wild abandon he always has, in complete disregard for bees on flowers.  I have decided not to discourage him, as a few stings are hardly worth sacrificing the glee that comes from racing across a meadow in spring (if you don’t believe me, you have clearly never tried this).  And when he is not gallivanting around the farm he has another job, one which he has only just recently acquired.  I might also tell you, that this job is of significant importance, or at least it will be in a few weeks time, when the baby chicks leave the safety of the spare-room, and head outside to their coop.  You see, Gus has been appointed Mother-Hen.  He has joined us in caring for the baby chicks.  Indeed, it is something that took us by complete surprise, for lots of, shall we say, obvious reasons. The main reason being that he is a canine whose favorite food happens to be free-range chicken (although I don’t think he has made this association yet).  But, despite all of this, and on the advice of a wise friend who has plenty of experience in a variety of farming matters, we considered the possibility that this may be a good job for Gus.  It was clearly explained to us that dogs can be excellent protectors for chicks and chickens, providing the dog you are working with has a certain demeanor, and is introduced to the chicks while they are still very young.  And so, introductions were made.  And the chicks seem very nonplussed about the big white Doodle dipping his fluffy white head into their warm nest.

Instead of licking his lips, Gus simply sniffed the chicks and looked down on them with gentleness.  Later he lay down on the floor while the chicks walked around him, eager to get closer to his warm white fluffiness.  Gus did not appear to mind a bit, he was as relaxed and casual as ever. It was a sight to behold. It is our hope that he will continue to develop a bond with the chicks so that later on when they are free-ranging in the lower field beneath the hungry hawks and eagles flying overhead, they will have a four legged friend looking out for them.  I shall keep you posted.

Otherwise, we picked more nettles this week. Some we hung to dry.

And others were made into a batch of beer by Mark, (Chief brewer here at Honey Grove). Mark has decided to call this beer “Heavy Nettle. (Putting the Sting in Spring)”  (We laughed long and hard about this label, but nobody we’ve told seems to find it quite as funny as we do, not sure what this says about our humour, but we’re not losing sleep over it). eh eh

Mark followed herbalist Susan Weed’s recipe and according to this wise woman, we shall only be waiting a week or two before it is ready to drink.

Yes, there is beer brewing and there are chicks growing and more seeds being planted.  This is not to mention the Yurt Building Workshop that Mark does every weekend, or his part time job at the local brick-oven bakery (a shift he starts at 5 am, 2 days a week, making delicious European breads in a wood-fire oven) or the dance classes I’m teaching, or the lovely guests we have had in the cottage.  ha ha.  Yes, we are as busy as our bees these days.  Forgive us dear friends for not answering our phone, or responding to your beautiful and inquiring e-mails.  We love and appreciate each of you and we hold you in our hearts with every seed we plant and water.  At this time of year there is just not enough time in the day, and the days are getting longer!  We shall be in touch as soon as we can:)

There are also fruit trees on the edge of bloom, their little buds like lipstick tips just waiting for the right moment to burst open and give themselves to the world.

Yes, everyday is beautiful and new, and everyday there are endless things to do, and so we go through each day doing as much as we can, giving ourselves to the tasks at hand with everything we’ve got. By the end of the day we are exhausted and our cups of tea are sipped in silence before baths and early bed. But somehow it’s all worth it, every hour of hard work, every shovel full of dirt, every bucket of water carried to the orchard…every seed put into the earth, because nothing compares to spring’s blooms, to the bird song that wakes us in the morning, to the frog operas that bring down the house every evening, and to the love affairs that dandelions have with bees.  If someone asked me the definition of magic, I would say, and without doubt, I would say,  “the definition of magic, is Spring.”

Dandelion Blessings~

Nao, Mark, Gus, The Birds and The Bees, The Flowers and The Trees~

Birds and Bees and Daffodils~

This post is an ode to spring. It is dedicated to new life, to green and growing things, to buzzing bees and baby chicks, to yellow blooms and blue skies, to warm winds and sunshine.  And if I were Wordsworth, I would be able bring the landscape before me to life with my words and poetic musing, however, as much as I would like to be a romantic poet, I am afraid it shall never be the case. I will simply have to accept the plain and simple truth that I am a “romantic” and this will have to be enough.  eh eh.   I can tell you though that daffodils awe me as much as they did William, and if I could sing their yellow praises the way he did, I would I tell you, I would.  For now though, I am afraid you will have to be satisfied with my attempt to tell you of the magic unfolding here at Honey Grove without poetic stanza or lyrical grace.  So here it goes, my version of this glorious season.

There is spring in all of our steps here, the two legged and the four legged. We are all leaping about, over puddles and fences and across the garden.

And since the sun has come back, there is heaps to do, so many things in fact that the only way to get any of it done is to focus on the task at hand without thinking of the next project.  So project number 1 this week was bee hive building. Mark built 30 hives and I painted them.

We decided to paint them golden yellow and burgundy red, like Tibetan Temples.

I think they look beautiful, especially in evening sun, all stacked and awaiting more bees.  And when the hives were built and painted and tucked away in a dry place, there were potatoes to plant. The bio-dynamic calendar told us that the moon was in the right place in the sky for such an event to occur.  Gus helped.

We are almost potato growing experts now, thanks to his studious efforts. See below, isn’t it obvious that I know exactly what I am doing? eh eh

And while we planted spuds and discussed garden plans, the bees were flying.  Since the temperatures were warm and above 10 degrees, I opened the hive lids and took a peak inside on this sunny afternoon.  I stood there in a hum of bees, honey comb smells wafting through the air, yellow pollen coming in from all directions on tiny bee legs. It was wonderful.

But bees are not the only live stock here with us at Honey Grove.  Not anymore anyway, not since this afternoon when six baby chicks arrived to live in our spare room under a heat lamp until they are ready to be wild, free ranging egg layers.

We are in love with them.

Otherwise, the garlic is growing.

And so are the strawberries, which came from a friend’s organic farm down the road.  We planted them on a hill near the veg plot, because I have always wanted to have my very own strawberry hill.  It is a dream come true, like Disneyland is to some people.

And there you have it~

Spring Blessings,

Nao, Mark, Gus, Bees and Chicks~