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


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Spring Bees~

When does one decide it’s spring?  I think it’s quite possible that we all have a different barometer that tells us that spring has officially sprung.  For some it has to do with certain flowers being in bloom, for others it is marked by the length of  daylight remaining in the evening sky.  For Mark and I, spring has arrived when the bees come out of their hives for a full day in search of the first signs of tree pollen because their Queens have started laying and the babies need feeding.  Today, was just such a day; the sun was out and so were we (without our winter coats) and the bees, they were buzzing. Yes, our bees were filling the blue skies with their golden bodies, while streams of their yellow poop cascaded down from the great above, to land on the white sheets that were airing on the clothesline.  But, despite the shimmering bee poo falling from the sky, we were thrilled to see our bee friends; to hear their hum upon opening the door this morning.  They have been very missed you see.  It is a long time to be without their company, from early winter until now.

Yes, when the bees tell us it’s spring, well we believe them, and spring activities begin…And so Mark and I began planting seedlings in little pots that will sit on our sunny kitchen windowsills, until the greenhouse is ready.  (which should not be long now!)

And we have also begun turning the winter rye (our nitrogen fixer that we planted back in the fall)  into the soil to make space for the peas that will be going into the ground in a few short weeks.

We are like two enthusiastic school kids these days, as we diligently follow the guidelines of our bio-dynamic farming texts.  We are transplanting on the designated transplanting days, and planting fruit seeds on fruit days, and root vegetables on root days.  It is taking some getting used to, but we are slowly getting the hang of it.  Biodynamic Farming is an age old agricultural technique that pays much respect to the ways in which the lunar cycle impacts the growing cycles on planet earth. It all sounds rather folkloric, but some of the best truths do, and as far as we are concerned, it certainly cannot hurt.  In fact next time you have the opportunity to try a bio-dynamic bottle of wine or carrot grown using the said method, do, I urge you, try it!  I think you will find a surprising difference between bio-dynamic and just organic.  ( but I am not here to convince you about such things, just to update you on Honey Grove)

Otherwise, whatelse have we been up to?  Well, we started framing our greenhouse with wood and high hopes to put the poly on tomorrow or the next day.  Mark was very patient with me, while I learned about power tools, not really a forte. Lets just say that not all the screws went into the exact bits of wood they were supposed to. ha ha.

Mark on the other hand, seems like a bit of a pro these days and I have to tell you, for a man trained to be an electronic sound artist he has become a fairly decent farmer.

So there you have it, that about sums it up. The bees came out to let us know spring has arrived, and, we got to work. It seems that we will be getting busier and busier as the sun shines brighter and the days warm and lengthen, but isn’t this what we have been waiting for?!

Spring Blessings to All,

Nao and Mark and The Bees~

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