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


Here we go, it’s summer!


And so it is that we have at last found ourselves on the border of another summer (although comparatively speaking all things are later this year by about two weeks). We are only just beginning to eat salads from the garden now and the raspberries are still another week or more away. I know because I assess them daily, counting the days before we can gather them in large ceramic bowls to pour fresh cream over them. Oh I can hardly wait.


Yes, the sun has finally come out to bless us with her warmth, and for many days and weeks in a row. I am back to barefoot gardening and spending sweet afternoons with the bees down in the orchard, who are as pleased as I am to have the sun back.

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Of course not all days are spent in a cloud of honeybee fragrance or wandering barefoot through the garden in the mornings. Some have been spent sawing, splitting and stacking 7 cords of firewood, which is more wood than any of us have ever processed at one time before. ( And yes, that’s Katie using a chainsaw! Don’t worry, she has been using one since she was a teenager, and she knows how to sharpen and fix them too, this among her many astonishing talents).


And while she and Mark sawed the logs into rounds, Cohen and I got to work splitting them.


And it was loud and hot and dusty work, and after two solid days the back of our property looked like a lumber yard. I am not sure how it is that we all look so cheerful or upright in this photo, for as I recall, we could hardly stand at the time it was taken.


Even Gus was impressed with our efforts, for he, more than anyone appreciates the warmth of a blazing wood-stove on a cold winters day.

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And when the wood was finally processed and left to dry in the sun, we got to the business of organizing a party to celebrate the grand opening of Mark’s new bakery, which was a tremendous success, and people came out from all across the valley to cheer him on. Cohen and Katie created the most marvellous bread centric menu and we all raised a glass to Mark and his beautiful bread.

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Speaking of Mark’s bread, we are now able to bring even more of his gorgeous loaves to the farmers market, and although we are still selling out, the bread is lasting for an hour longer each week. We are working hard to find ways to meet the demand without compromising the quality, and without Mark having to work around the clock (which currently he is). Oh and he has started making baguettes now too! True french baguettes, crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside, just delicious. They remind me of picnics in the french countryside ( or at least as I imagine picnics in the french countryside, for I have only ever had one there, and it was a very long time ago).


And the really good news is, you can now find us at two Farmers Markets, the Saturday Market in Courtenay, as well as the Monday market in Merville (called Gumboot Market) and in two weeks time we will also be at the Wednesday morning market in Courtenay.


Meanwhile, back on the farm, the strawberries are almost ready to eat and I have netted them with the fabulous help of Daniel, who is our wonderful new farm helper, botany student and friend. I cannot even begin to tell you how grateful I am for his support as the bakery gets busier and busier and the others are spending most of their days off the farm. Goodness knows what I would do without him. Thank You Daniel!


Yes, it’s a full time of year here at Honey Grove. We are up with the birds at the crack of dawn (Mark well before that even). This is the season of long light when all things are green and growing and there is always something to do, to water, to weed, to plant. The cottage is full of guests, the bread is rising in the proofer, and we are simply riding the wave of summer. Still though, despite all the things that need doing, one must always find the time to pick a bouquet of daisies.

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With Gratitude for your Company,

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