January on Honey Grove~

For all the things you cannot predict living here on the land, there are also those things that you can. The things, that after enough times around the seasonal wheel, you begin to count on. You begin to say to yourself, and the ones around you, oh, it’s just about time for the robins to return, or, have you noticed that the owls have begun their mating calls? Or (in the case of our own dear chickens) that regular eggs are being laid again, as they are every year, just after the first full moon, on the other side of the winter solstice.

And so, after a brief two month pause, we have found ourselves with an abundance of eggs again.

And this to me is always a sign that we are moving toward spring, that the days are indeed lengthening, and that the sweet green shoots of the daffodils, will be popping-up through the winter ground, just about now.

There are of course, also, all of those things that we cannot know. Like, for example, that our beloved ducks would be killed my a hungry mink in the middle of the day, during the last snowfall. Or, that five wild storm fronts would move across our island, one after another, over the course of a week. We could not predict that hurricane force winds would bend the firs sideways, causing trees to fall, and power outages to happen, and branches to come crashing down from all directions. Lucky for us, we were not terribly affected here on Honey Grove (other than being confined indoors for rather too many days). And so the moment that the rains stopped, you can well imagine that we went straight outside, and Mark and I headed directly down to the gardens, to do our winter pruning. And how good it felt to be out there at the beginning of another year, doing something we could do, while the sun shone down upon us.

And each year Mark skillfully prunes my roses down to knee hight, while I look on with a great deal of concern, until I recall that he has been doing this every year, and that come June, when my roses are in their full and glorious bloom, I will thank him ( as I do time and time again).  And, while he pruned the roses and the currants and the blueberries and the orchard trees (which are 6 years old this year, can you even believe it?) I go around with a wheelbarrow gathering the branches for a big old fire. This is satisfying work to me, I am not sure why, something about gathering things up, about making piles and getting things ready for the next cycle, about releasing the old to welcome the new.

And when our work here was complete, and we found that the sun was still shining, we did a very luxurious thing, and we went for a long walk in our favourite fairytale woodland.

And that same day, we had a picnic lunch of cheese and dark rye bread, and left over Christmas fruitcake and kettle chips (echm, yes, kettle chips, I will confess it, they are one of my great loves in life). Oh how splendid it all was, sipping our strong tea on that bench, next to that beautiful marshland, looking out onto a local beaver dam. And I felt so happy on this day.

Yes, it was a good, day, and Gus thought so too.

Now, the rains have returned and Mark has gone back to work at the bakery, where he is continuing to dazzle the community with his beautiful artisanal bread. He has even come up with three new specialty loaves, which you can only find at our bakery location and on varying days of the week. And so, if you have not tried them, you simply must. They are: The Sultan (a fruit loaf, featuring cherries, sultanas, raisins and cranberries and available on Mondays). The Smuggler (a jalapeño and cheddar loaf, available on Wednesdays) and The Peasant (garlic, roast potato and sage bread, available on Fridays).

Of course, if you cannot make it to our bakery, come and find us at the market, every Saturday, where Katie and I will be standing behind a mountain for fresh bread, very likely having a good laugh about some very ordinary and hilarious thing.
Oh and speaking of Mark’s bread, he also just recently offered his first ever, Sourdough Bread Baking Workshop, which, as far as we can tell, went very well. It took place on a Sunday from 9 am until 1:00 pm, and included a beautiful “bread centric” lunch made by the talented Miss Katie.

Participants learned how to make and maintain their own sourdough cultures, the history of sourdough bread, and of course ( and most importantly) how to make, shape, proof and bake bread at home. And the very best news of all, is that the people who attended the workshop, are now baking bread! And a good number of the participants have been e-mailing Mark photos of the beautiful bread they’ve been baking at home ever since, and, I must tell you, it all looks very good indeed, even Mark is impressed (and between you and I, he is very hard to impress).


He will be offering another workshop this coming weekend (which is full already) but if all goes well, there will more in the future, so stay tuned, that is, if baking sourdough bread is something you have ever wanted to learn. Well, I do believe that is really all I have to report. I must be off now, for I have another box of seeds to sort through before mid February when I begin to plant my starts, and there is also my dog friend here next to me, looking very bored with the way I have chosen to spend my morning. eh eh.

And so, for now, I bid you good day and with Great Gratitude for your Company~

Nao, Mark, Katie, Cohen, Gus and All at Honey Grove

November on Honey Grove~

On the first day of November the sun was shining and there were still nasturtiums blooming in the garden.

And Gus and I were working there, among the orange and yellow blooms, and it was a beautiful short-sleeve and hatless kind of day.

We were enjoying the warmth of the winter sun among the brussel-sprouts and the cabbages and delighting in the sweetness of such a blessed afternoon.

I was digging up dahlia tubers.

And gladiola bulbs, with the knowledge that the weather was going to change, for there were whisperings throughout the town, about the changing forecast.

And then, change it did, for on the second day of November, it snowed and everything froze, and although we had heard it was going to get cold, we were not quite expecting winter to arrive overnight.

And for 5 strange days we had extreme winter weather, snow and ice and terrifying roads, and then as quickly as it arrived, it left, and the sky went back to raining, and we have gone back to harvesting beets and turnips from the garden.

And when the days were gentle again, Cohen rescued thirty, ten year old grape vines, of the pinot-gris variety, from a local vineyard (where they were making room for new vines) and he brought them home to Honey Grove, where he planted Honey Grove’s very own mini vineyard. And he worked hard (backbreaking-stone digging- hard) for two long days to get those vines into the ground with everything they needed to be strong and well and laden with grapes in future years. I must admit, we are all very excited about this new addition to Honey Grove, for it has been a dream of ours for some years.

And once the grapes were all in (and what a job that was!) Cohen got straight to work with Katie, and together they planned Honey Grove’s first Pop-Up for dear friends, which took place last night at Mark’s new bakery space in town, and what an incredible success it was! The evening began with a twenty-four month old prosciutto leg.

And I wish you could have seen the expressions and heard the sounds of the people when they tasted it, for they could not believe what they were experiencing. I think some of them wondered if they had somehow been transported to the warmth of the Italian countryside, and faraway from the rainy wet, of the Pacific North West, in November.

And for one night, the bakery was transformed into a warm and glowing dining hall, complete with the hum and chatter of happy guests.

And we all buzzed around, like a hive of Honey Grove bees, taking good care of our guests and serving up a wintery feast to warm and restore and satisfy, all created and cooked of course, by Cohen and Katie. ( Who by-the-way are really quite something to witness in a kitchen. What a remarkable pair of people they are when they are combining their creative food talents. I mean just take a look at the menu…)

And while they cooked, I attended to the flower arrangements, which featured crabapples and winter herbs of rosemary and English thyme.

And our visiting friend David (who came all the way from Montreal) prepared his arty arboreal jelly dish, which he served near the end of the meal, on beach stones no less.

And Mark served his beautiful, fresh-out-of-the-oven-baguettes.

And before we knew it, seven courses had gone by and it was time to serve the dessert, which was a gorgeous inspiration of Katie’s: yogurt cotto con un biscotti d’oro (yogurt, cream, honey, pistachios, apricots, almond and cranberry biscotti.

And so it was that the guests left happy and glowing, their bellies full and their hearts content. We then cleaned up into the wee hours before falling into our beds for long and deep sleeps, all of us aching-tired but satisfied. And outside the door, the November rains continued to pour down.

Now, I must be off, for the others are still cleaning up the remnants of last night’s gathering, and I am in charge of keeping the home fires here at Honey Grove burning bright, and while I have been typing here this morning, they have nearly all gone out.

Blessings from the Honey Grove Hearth~

Nao, Mark, Cohen, Katie, Gus and All at Honey Grove


October has come.

And just like that October has arrived. And she has strewn the alder leaves across the woodland path and made the mornings crisp and the afternoons more golden. She has cast her light upon the garden in such a way that one cannot simply walk by without noticing, without being struck by the luminosity there, without turning ones face toward the light, just like every late autumn bloom is doing, with palpable delight.

And the crispness and the goldenness of these autumn days seems to seal itself inside of every apple, and suddenly what you can see with your eyes and feel on your skin, you can now taste on your tongue.
And the harvest, well it just goes on and on, providing us with the perfect food for every season. This week I harvested the squash, and I stored them away with the glee of a squirrel with a secret stash of nuts. For me, there is nothing like an abundant store of squash ready and waiting to become hearty stews and soups and sweet spiced pies. Just seeing them there, lined up on the counter, makes my heart sing. The truth is, I feel nourished just gazing upon them. No really, I do, this is true.

But before I harvested the squash, Gus and I gathered all the cabbage for sauerkraut, and since then our cabbage has been shredded and salted and is now sitting in an old German crock, steeping in the alchemy of fermentation.

Of course, as the squash and the cabbage came out of the garden, next years garlic went straight in.

And once I tucked the garlic into the earth, I began tucking the bees into their hives and insulating the hives for the winter weather (although you would not think they needed any kind of insulation just yet, seeing the hives illumined in the late afternoon sun).

Yes, all things are beautiful under the gentle warmth of the October sun, especially beehives and dahlias and wild swaths of nasturtiums, rambling over the garden fence.

And while I have been here at the farm getting the homestead ready for winter, Mark has been busy at the bakery and his beautiful bread has officially gone out into the world. It can now be found in three local health food stores: Healthy Way in Campbell River, Edible Island in Courtenay, and Seeds in Cumberland. Below you can see a photo of it, lined up on a shelf in Healthy Way, it’s all very exciting and our island community has been so incredibly supportive.

And you can still find us every Saturday morning at the Comox Valley Farmers Market, as well as at our very own Bakery, in Courtenay. Take a look here for more details regarding Honey Grove Bakery location and hours.

Yes, it has been an extraordinarily busy year for us, and we can hardly believe the changes that have occurred, or that it is already October, but despite the fullness of things, there is still so much gratitude for this good life, and however much there is to do, we still find time to take long walks in the mountains, with a thermos of tea, and our beloved Dog Friend.

And there we can sit, beside alpine lakes for some hours.

And those days are joyous days. (This next photo was snapped at the end of a long walk in the mountains, by a lovely friend who we bumped into at the end or our walk).

As for Cohen and Katie, they have been away for over three weeks visiting Katie’s beloved family in Ireland (as well as the local Irish pubs).

They also spent some glorious time in Italy with their dear friends (some of whom make exceptional biodynamic wine from their biodynamic vin yards, and you can see just how delighted Katie was about that!).

And as far as I can tell, they had a very fine time indeed (and well deserved rest after an astonishingly busy summer).

Well, I must be off now, for there is a rooster crowing reminding me that another day, has indeed, begun.

May you know of our gratitude for your company,

Nao,  Mark, Cohen, Katie, Gus and All at Honey Grove