Spring Days~

And so it has happened, winter has left us and spring has officially sprung.  Each day the elements bring us a mix of sun and rain, of cloud and clear skies, of wind and stillness.  Each day we record the weather patterns in a little red book from a pair of dear old friends.

There is no pattern in the elemental landscape except to recognize that it is ever changing, but isn’t this what it means to be alive anyway, accepting impermanence?  And there you have my philosophical ponder for this day, which let’s face it, has been pondered before there was even a word for pondering.  It seems I have had little time to ponder the meaning of life over these past weeks.  The tasks at hand are requiring my full attention and as a result many good things are getting done.  The bees are flying and the air is fresh and misty and the bird calls are like symphonies in the trees in the mornings.  There is also a good deal more mud on our boots and a dozen more things to do on every new day’s list.  On top of it all we have both experienced some back pain being the long tall people we are, all the digging is taking it’s toll.  Yes, I won’t deny it, there has been a wee bit of overwhelm threatening to consume, but despite that, we have also found humour hiding in the cracks of our minds, as well as fat worms under dark soil in the veg plot, and both of these things have brought us delight.  We have even managed to put our shovels down and have some local friends over for dinner to share food and conversation and some hearty well needed laughter.  And there have been more guests in the cottage to keep us busy and inspired.   And now I leave you with more pictures and less words, so you can see the goings on through this cyber space window.  Let’s begin with the important things.  Gus got a haircut.

And we planted more seeds indoors, squash and tomatoes and peppers and cauliflower and brocoli and loads of other goodness.

We also planted peas and onions in the veg plot, after turning under all the winter rye.

And we harvesed wild nettles for eating and drying and makingbeer.

And we finished the Rabbit Proof Fence, and Mark built 3 fantastic gates.

And there you have it, 10 days of Honey Grove at the beginning of Spring~


Nao and Mark and Gus

March Lions

I have heard it told that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. This I have gleaned from wise crinkly ones who have seen their fair share of winters turn into springs.  And though I know that these things are unpredictable, I am someone who has respect for experience, for years lived and things observed by those who have witnessed the passage of time. What nobody could have told me though, was exactly what the roar of a “March Lion” on this coast line was really like….and so it would seem that over these past few days, we have indeed found out, and I must tell you, it is a roar like no other.

You see a group of wild and raging winds swept across the Pacific West Coast three days ago, ravaging the coast line.  They woke us in the early morning hours, their whoosh and swoosh threatening to lift the very roof off the house (or so it seemed from under a pile of thick blankets, in the dark just before dawn). There were barn doors clattering and tree trunks crackling and rain coming down at fierce angles.  Hundred year old trees were up-rooted to come crashing down onto power lines and houses. Our nearest towns closed for a day and our power was snuffed out along with fifty thousand others for thirty-six hours.  The winds, “at their peak, were recorded at 63 knots or 116 km/hr at the CFB Comox weather station – only one knot (2 km/hr) short of being hurricane force.” (this from our local paper). If we were looking for a back-to-the-land experience, I think we may have found it. eh eh And although the storm was only a few hours long, its damage was felt for days afterward.  For two days we lit candles and collected rain water (our wells pump is electric). However, when we weren’t lugging 5 gallon pales of rain catchment water into the house, or milking our over-seas-neighbor’s-goat (in the middle of the storm I might add) while branches crashed down around the goat shed, or learning to cook on a woodstove, that we managed to see the poetry in all of it.  We sat around the blazing wood-fire in candle light, with full bellies, in a silent house without the electric hum we have become so used to, and truth be told, it was very nice.

And when the dawn came after that howling night and we could clearly see that this storm had had some serious impact, there was only one question for Mark and I, and that was, “do you think it’s still standing…?”  The poly tunnel that is, that plastic hoop-house we labored over for a month. In that moment neither of us was brave enough to say yes or no.  So you can imagine our thrill when we saw it there, standing amidst the fallen branches.  It looked to us like a temple standing strong and gleaming white in the morning light, shimmering in the calm after the storm.  We danced then, and kicked our heels up and yipped to the sky.  Later that day the neighbors leaned over the fence and said that even they were impressed it still stood.  For some reason, when the locals bid you respect, it sinks right into your bones, and soon we were glowing like our tunnel, with pride.  (however sinful that is).

Later that day we planted our orchard, as our lovely trees were sitting in pots waiting to stretch their roots into the earth.

So we gently got them out of those plastic pots.

And we dug deep holes and filled them with nutrient rich soil and bone meal before we packed the dark earth in around the root balls nice and tight so not to let any air in.  We sang a bit too while we did it.  Gus of course cheered us on, the way he always does.  And in an enthusiastic game of ball between tree planting,  he fell into one of the tree holes, and for a hilarious moment he was stuck in there like an upside down beetle, and don’t ask me why this was so funny to me.  It was something about seeing fluffy white paws kicking up at the sky where once a whole dog stood.  Sadly I don’t have a picture of this, but you can imagine.  (and our beloved Gus suffered no injury).

As for today, the apples, plums, pears and quince are all in the ground staked, fed and watered.  The winds have at last become still.  Today will be a quiet day, mostly because my back has gone into spasm from all the lifting and digging. I too will pause along with the wild winds of spring.

Wishing you all a beautiful day from the fireside, tea brewing, back resting.

Nao and Mark and Gus



Holding Fast and Letting Go…

Recently, I read some words, in an inspired novel, late at night, when everything was still and my hands were in danger of falling asleep (having held the book up to my eyes for far too long). I read, “hands are for holding fast and then letting go..” and for me, for some reason, on this half-moon night, this little phrase was layered with meaning. Meaning that comes, bit by bit, the way flavours do at the first taste of wildflower honey or good wine. Upon reading those words I was struck with an initial hit of meaning, closely followed by subtler layers, each one profound in it’s own right.  And so I found myself there, under layers of feather blankets with tingling hands and an epiphany I was not expecting, of course, epiphanies cannot really be expected though can they?  The very nature of an epiphany is its spontaneity, like shooting stars and breaching orcas, they come when they come.   Anyway, those layers of meaning, well, they walked themselves right into my bones and for a few short moments, I was overtaken by ah-ha, and this was followed by Ha Ha Ha, because you see, there is always something funny to me when the human experience actually makes sense for a second.

Image from internet

And you may be asking yourself, ‘good heavens what is she on about?’ Surely such a late night moment has nothing to do with farming or bees?  But I beg you, bear with me a moment longer, and you will soon see that indeed, it does.  And it goes like this.  It has been 6 months today since we packed our things and moved to this little clearing at the edge of the woods.  6 months since we found ourselves here because of a dream we “held fast” and held fast we did for year upon year, without losing hope or sight or inspiration.  Of course, beginning a new chapter in one’s life always involves turning a page, and so although we held fast to one part, we had “let go” of another.  With heavy hearts we let go of our community and our well defined city roles.  We let go of our careers and those definitions of self that we had so carefully carved and maintained both consciously and unconsciously for a decade. Arriving at Honey Grove, we had to hang up our nice clothes, put on our gum boots and start digging.  If I am to be honest, I would have to say that our egos might have suffered a little then, although we denied it in the beginning.

You see, we left lives that gave us permission to believe that we knew things. We did jobs that involved directing others, we managed and we taught, and we felt “in charge,” for whatever it’s worth. I would say we did what most human beings do, and we held fast to those identities.  When we got to Honey Grove however, we found that we were the ones needing direction.  We did not have much knowledge or skill when it came to farming (and this is not to say we know everything now, eh eh, but we know a little bit more than we did).  We did have a dream though, a fine golden luminous dream, and a whole pile of books with beautiful photographs of hobby farms and biodynamic gardens and healthy chickens roaming free.

But once all our boxes were unpacked and winter settled in and the good people down the road began asking us what we did for a living…and we said, “well, we’re hoping to……and no, we have never done anything like this before,” well,  it was shall I say, a humbling experience.  Yes, to let go of who you think you are, it is humbling. But you know what else, there is also something profound about letting go, something I can only describe as relief.  Relief to not know. Relief to not be an expert. In this you have the first layer of meaning that struck me.

The second layer of meaning is one I did not know before I came to Honey Grove, and this has to do with physically holding on: holding on to fencing, to fence posts, to power tools, to chainsaws and drills and sledge-hammers…

…to the 100 feet of poly that we put on our greenhouse on a windy, windy day…It has to do with holding on to your vision when your hands are cold and your feet are frozen and you can’t stand the sight of the person who you live with for another second, because he/she is the only person you have seen for weeks (how much you love them, is irrelevant).

And then, just when you’ve done nothing but hold on and hang in, once your poly is on your greenhouse, and your fence posts are in the ground, and your garden is dug and it doesn’t look exactly like the one in the picture book, you have to let go again.  You have to say, well shit, we did our best and that’s that.  And this is an art, and like all arts, it’s not always easy.  Sometimes the only option is to pour one of Mark’s fine ales, or to take a good long walk with Guru Gus, or to drop down on the meditation cushion and just breath in and out in the name of acceptance.  Sometimes, a good old stomp and shout puts the world right.  The secret though, I think, is to practice this art with a combination of respect and humour and even faith.  And, while we work out the meaning of life, spring is sending up her tender shoots.

And Gus, he has been letting go lately too.

Letting go of his winter hair ~ a once a year thing for a non-shedding Doodle Dog.  This year he has decided to donate his hair to the local birds for nest lining.  They seem pleased and he feels good about it too.

So here is to new nests, to upright poly tunnels and crisp sparkling new chapters.

In Gratitude,

Nao, Mark and Gus