On Reverence~

There was a time, in the not so distant past, that I believed I knew where my food came from. I  thought that because I grew up on a farm and that I witnessed the cycles of birth and death from a very young age, that I had some kind of privileged comprehension about what it means to “live on the land.”












Truth be told, I realize now how arrogant this assumption was. I thought that because I watched my father slaughter animals with his kind hands, in quick and reverent ways, that I must also inherently know something about what it means to take the life of another being to sustain one’s own. I thought that because I grew a garden, and that I went to the farmer’s market on Saturday’s to source local free-range organic meat, that I understood something about what it means to farm.












Over the past 48 hours, the only thing I know for sure with regard to this topic, is that the sacredness that is a result of taking the life of another being to sustain your own, cannot be put in the category of “thought.” For this experience belongs in the category of the profound. It belongs in a place of heartfelt reverence that surpasses any and all notions of “thinking.”

2 days ago, we took the lives of three of our precious male ducks and all that I “thought I knew” about “the cycles of life and death” dissolved. I held each one of our beautiful ducks through their passing.I wrapped each one tightly in a blanket and I whispered a prayer, while Mark and our dear friend James took their lives swiftly and lovingly. I can honestly say that it was a sacred act, and I believe with all of my being that such acts should be nothing less. I cannot imagine taking the life of a being in any other way.

I will also say that I cried hard, harder than I even knew I would, but it was the only way for me.  I had to let those tears come. I had to forget everything everybody else told me about “how I should be” in that moment, and I had to let myself feel.  All week I told myself I was going to be strong, but before I found myself in the actual moment, I thought that strong meant something else. It was not until I allowed those tears to come that I began to see that strong is not about holding it all together. Strong is not about being upright and without feeling. Strong, at least for me, in this moment, had to do with facing the honest truth of what was asking to be expressed, and allowing it. After my tears, I was able to hold each one my ducks with the calm and steady love required to honour their sacrifice.  And I did.  And they went.  And it was profound.  And the gratitude that I feel for their sacrifice cannot be properly articulated on this page.  And I do not know if I will grieve as much next time. The experienced farmers say, “it gets easier,” perhaps, but surely it will always be sacred, for this is the only way such a thing should be.

Before that day, before I found myself there holding my ducks in their death, I did not believe I could do it. For the past several months, I tried to convince Mark that we should keep all our ducks as pets…”and then what,” he said tenderly? “Do we buy our food from the farmer down the road?  What is the point of that,” he honestly asked me? “Is this not what we came here to do, to grow our own food and raise our own poultry and to give the animals on our land the best life possible?  And have our ducks not seemed happy bathing in their pond and digging for slugs? They have had a good life,” he whispered.













And as I stood in our kitchen, tears welling up in my eyes, I could feel the truth in Mark’s words, and I felt myself nodding in agreement that “yes, they have had a good life.” I recalled the summer afternoons I spent with them, feeding them kale and holding them in my arms.













And so, on the Winter Solstice (a sacred day for us here at Honey Grove) there will be a feast in honour of this good land. In honour of the ducks who gave their lives. In honour of our honest attempt at a homesteading life. In honour of our trials and tribulations, our joy and our pain. One of the ducks will be roasted and some lovely friends will be gathering to join us. We will raise our glasses to our ducks, to their good lives and to the lessons they have given us. Every part of their bodies will be used. The carcasses will be made into soup stock and Mark will render all that good fat for inspired french dishes.  I have kept the feathers for sacred art projects. The livers are being made into pate, and Gus has enjoyed a gizzard or two. Otherwise, it snowed at Honey Grove and it sparkles and crunches beneath our feet. It is a proper winter wonderland and we are all rather enchanted by it.  The cottage is full of guests, those who are  looking for a country Christmas. Yes, Honey Grove is alive with holiday charm.












There are gingerbread coming out of the oven.













And wreaths being made.













But mostly there is tremendous respect for cycles of life that bless this beautiful farm.  Which reminds me, on the day that I went to get the ducks for their departure, I found our first egg in the duck house.  The girls have been laying ever since. Such poetry as this, it leaves no room for anything but awe.













Holiday Blessings to All, and Thank You for being a part of our journey,

In Gratitude, Nao, Mark and All At Honey Grove~


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The Good Life~

When I was a little girl, my Oma would gather us together at meal times and in a thick german accent, she would say, “come now children, let’s make a prayer.”  And although we only ever said grace at Oma’s house, I still knew exactly what to do. I would sit there with eyes shut tight and hands folded, listening to every word between her and God.  Oma is making a prayer, I would think…and I would picture her in my mind’s eye, with needle and thread, sewing a prayer for God. I would imagine her doing this the way she sewed us aprons and cotton nighties, her words the thread that held it all together.  I saw her stitching something so beautiful together that even God must have been awed.  I will never forget grace at Oma’s house, those words that she put together to “make a prayer.” Those sacred words that floated up above that big oval table, in that farm kitchen.  Those words that seemed to infuse every morsel of food on our plates.  Homemade food infused with homemade prayers…her prayers were real, the way that bread made in your own kitchen is real.  They were real, the way that carrots are real, when you pull them right out of the earth and eat them standing in the garden. This morning I spoke to Oma on the phone.  We talked about raising ducks and making sauerkraut, about gingerbread and happiness, about the blessings of this good life.
















So this fine morning on Honey Grove, as the December sun rises over the farm, I am feeling gratitude for all of the goodness that this plot of earth offers us.  I feel gratitude for the healthy bodies we have. For the strong muscle and bone required to do the work that is asking to be done.  I feel gratitude for our beautiful community of good-hearted friends and neighbors that offer their wisdom and support. I feel gratitude for the abundance that our garden has offered us this past year, and is still offering us!












These days on Honey Grove we are enjoying the fruits of our labours. We are dipping into pots of jams and honeys on rainy afternoons. We spoon the sweetness of summer onto Mark’s homemade bread and butter ( yes, he makes butter now too). We pour ourselves steaming cups of tea while the rains pour down and the sky turns dark by 4’o clock and we toast to work we have done.
















The flowers that we dried in summer hang from the ceiling and flop out of baskets in their jolly way, still offering a bit of July’s charm in December. I keep thinking to make them into arrangements, but I must admit they look so beautiful as they are it’s hard to do anything but admire them.












We are organizing our cupboards and lining our shelves with glass jars of bulk foods.








We are cracking into baskets of nuts brought to us by my uncle, from his beautiful and inspiring farm down island.












We are melting and straining beeswax on the woodstove in preparation for candle making.












We are going for long walks, and we spent November’s walks looking for wild mushrooms. We got rather inspired after taking a course down the road on harvesting edible mushrooms.












The woods here are full of delicious toadstools, if you know what you are looking for, and so we have begun to learn…luckily our good friend Neil has been kind enough to offer his wisdom and contagious enthusiasm in this department.  Thanks Neil!












Otherwise, when the darkness comes too early in the day, and we really long for spring, we can always go and visit the narcissus bulbs on the windowsill that should be blooming for Solstice.












And so, I dedicate this post to all the blessings and to my Oma Brown.
















In Gratitude,

Nao and Mark and Gus~

Posted in General, Sustainability, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments