Summertime On Honey Grove~

Summer has come to Honey Grove and we have found ourselves in the season of abundance, for everywhere we look there is something to eat or to harvest, something hanging ripe on the bough ready to nourish, to sustain and support us while we work these long days on the land. There are salads and berries and new potatoes. There are carrots and beets and cucumbers. There are peas and beans and flowers, and oh my, how there are flowers.

And some are made into bouquets, and some we pluck just to sprinkle on salads.

And some we leave in the garden so that they might carry on singing to us. For sing they do! Flowers, I am convinced, are dedicated to reminding us that whatever we do, “do not forget the beauty of this world.” And here on these July days, I am not sure that we could, forget the beauty that is, for this is the season that I refer to as “beauty overload.” The kind of beauty that stops you in your tracks, that brings you to your knees, that takes your words away and stretches your heart wide like the sky. It’s the kind of beauty that wakes poets at dawn and turns them into madmen. The kind of beauty that surely cannot be contained or sustained, because it’s bigger than you and I, and it’s edges, well, they extend far beyond the boundaries of what we can know with our minds.

And no matter how many berries there are to pick, or jars of jam there are to make, you cannot help but notice the luminosity of summer.

When you are sitting cross legged on the ground, back aching, braiding yet another strand of garlic, you cannot help but look up every now and then, just to appreciate the beauty there. Those bright petaled faces cheering you on in all kinds of unsayable ways.

And when there is such exquisite abundance, one simply has to share it, to fill up baskets of nourishment for dear friends.


Yes, we have baskets full of all kinds of things on Honey Grove these days, for while there is food to gather, there are also herbs to collect and dry and tincture.

Medicines for the winter months, that will sooth and heal and restore when the cold comes.

There is no question, these are full times, and it is easy to lose oneself in the busyness of these long days, for there are cottage guests leaving and arriving almost non-stop, and when there are not berries to pick, there are sinks to scrub and linens to air. Oh and there are three markets a week to bake bread for now.

And gardens to tend and bees to look in on.

But you know, somehow the beauty of this season urges us on, nourishes the soul in ways that awaken life force and activate the vitality needed to bring in the harvest.

And speaking of awakening life force, there are also swims to have, yes, this might be as essential as the beauty for sustaining us. For every single day, rain or shine, Gus and I make our way to the water, and we let the river and the sea take all our cares away.

Now I must be off, for a new day has begun and there are things that need doing, berries that need picking, gardens that need watering.


Bright Summery Blessings to All~

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


July On Honey Grove ~


I am not sure how it happened, that is, how spring turned into summer, and July has suddenly arrived on our doorstep? Or, how overnight, the garden has become a forest of nasturtium and calendula and giant poppy.


Which the bees are absolutely mad about (and so am I).


I guess we were too busy picking raspberries to notice the seasons change.


Too busy making jam.


And looking into beehives.


Too awed with the exquisite top-bar-comb that some of the bees are now making, a profound work of art, I mean look.


Then I was off picking flowers


And making bouquets for market sales.


And practicing flower crowns, for a dear friend’s up-coming wedding.


And clearing 1/2 an acre of alder trees, with Katie. 1/2 an acre that will soon become the Honey Grove nut orchard!


And if you have been following us along here, you will not be surprised to learn that Katie not only knows how to safely use a chainsaw, and that aside from holding a Masters Degree in Food Culture, she is also a small engines mechanic. Yep, that’s her in the orange hard-hat.


And after a dedicated morning of falling and bucking, we have another load of firewood to burn this winter~ Hurrah!


All this, while Mark’s Mum and Dad were visiting us. And, for the three short weeks that they were here, they helped us with the many tasks of this season (which at this time of year, are undeniably non-stop). Our gratitude for their encouraging support overflows. There were also gardening lessons with Mark’s Dad (Honey Grove’s very own retired Senior Advisor of the Royal Horticultural Society of England) and I had the opportunity to ask a thousand enthusiastic questions about compost and pruning and planting and feeding, about roses and peaches and mulching, about tubers and staking and manuring…


Oh, and did I mention that there was also a practice- bread-baking-workshop with Mark’s dear Mum, who volunteered to be Mark’s first ever bread student.



Mark is in the midst of creating a one day bread-making-workshop, dedicated to the creation of sourdough bread at home, that will be scheduled for sometime this fall, and he needed to test run his workshop on a keen student. I am pleased to say that it all went very well, and that Mark’s Mum has proven to be a very fine baking student indeed!


We will keep you posted as to when this event will happen once we have a date set. For now, I will leave you with the above image of Mark’s Mum’s bread.

And while we baked bread and planted kale and picked berries and staked flowers, while I learned the difference between verbena bonariensis and verbena rodina, more baby chicks hatched.



And one of our dear ducks had a nest of 6 perfect eggs, for 5 perfect days, before the ravens came one morning and took them all away, sigh.


Otherwise, Cohen and Katie hosted another fine dinner party.


Which began with Cohen’s 20 month old prosciutto and fava-bean pesto on Mark’s woodfire sourdough bread.


And we all got dressed up and put red lilies in our hair that night.


Meanwhile, the tomatoes have started to turn colour on the vine.


And the bees went up the mountain and into the fireweed.


And people are still forming long queues at the morning market for Mark’s sourdough loaves.


And when Mark is not baking (which is rarely) he can sometimes be found looking for slugs in the lower field, and occasionally, with a glass of wine in his hand.


And now, I must be off, for this is all the news I have of Honey Grove, and there is a dog here by my side and he is gently reminding me that all work and no play is not a good plan for anyone. Now, he is encouraging me to take a walk through the woods and I must admit, he has convinced me. So here we go.


For now, I wish you a magical summer of long days with good friends and bowls full of raspberries.

Bright Blessings from the edge of this West Coast woodland~

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





The Things That Need Doing~

When a beekeeper refers to a specific time of year, he does not reference a specific month, instead, he will name the plants that are flowering at a particular time. For example, he might tell you that it is the time of dandelions, or blueberries, or that we are in the season of blackberries or fireweed.


He will do this in the same way that any gardener will, that is, to indicate the time of year, not by naming the month, but by naming the harvest. My Oma Brown has always divided the calendar year into growing seasons, and these days, when she telephones the farm to say hello, she still asks, in her thick European accent: “How are you dear Nao? You must be so busy, it is berry time now ya? Or tomato time? or sauerkraut time?” Not once, in all my life, have I heard her refer to a season, by naming a calendar month.


Yes, it is a funny thing, the notion of time and time keeping, for there is a point in every homesteading experience, when one recognizes that the calendar hanging on the wall, no longer dictates the flow of one’s life. That the day ahead is organized by looking at the sky and noting the outside temperature, by the fullness of the moon and the moisture in the ground, by the fruits that are fruiting and the flowers that are flowering, by the snow we did or did not have last winter, and the level of the nearby rivers.

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These days, here on Honey Grove, it is a constant effort to conserve water. We are nearing a level 4 drought here on the Pacific West Coast, with almost no rain for over 40 days. The ground is cracked and brown and parched. The sea is too hot for the salmon. The wild-fires are blazing throughout the province, and everything is suffering under a ceaseless expanse of endless blue-sky; hazy with the smoke of the forests that burn. There is such little moisture in the earth that there is hardly any nectar flowing in the flowers. Our blessed bees have not experienced a honey-flow since dandelions, and thus far, they have not been able to store enough honey for winter. Yesterday, we took them up into the mountains, into the fireweed bloom, in hope that they might find there, the nectar they so desperately need.


We are hopeful that there will be enough moisture in the alpine ground for the nectar to flow freely, and for our bees to fill their hives with an abundance of sweet honey. I might also add that the fireweed is blooming 4 weeks sooner than it has done in previous years. Goodness me, these are crazy times we live in.


And while the sun shines down, life goes on, and the harvest rolls in, and we do the things that need to be done, like braiding garlic.


In someways there is a strange and haunted blessing to the fullness of this season, for it urges us on, encouraging us to focus on those things that need attending to, and in this way, keeps despair from lingering too long on our doorstep. For now is not the time to be paralyzed under the weight of  a despairing heart, or to rage against the undeniable recognition of global warming and the ecological crisis of planet earth. The fact is, we are living in difficult times, and we all know this. If we do not know it, it is only because we have become overly distracted with our busy lives, and we have not paused for long enough to acknowledge the difficult truth. Our only hope, as far as I can tell, is to do whatever we can to reduce our impact on this good earth, as individuals, as families, as communities, as a planet, and to keep on keeping on, whatever it takes. And for me, this includes believing in a greener more sustainable future, for me, this includes believing in humanity and my own ability to keep believing.


Yes, there are things to do. There is action to take. There are chores to be done. There are prayers to be uttered and there is still water to conserve. There are bees to move and there is fruit to pick. There are fires to put out and hope to resurrect (there is always, in my rose-coloured-universe, hope to resurrect). There is faith to have and communities to gather together. Yes, these are the things that need doing. And so, with the help of Mark’s dear Mum and Dad (who returned to England just yesterday) we did just this, we spent our days doing the many things that needed doing. Together, we picked raspberries… bowls and bowls of raspberries.


And cherries, ohmyheaven, so many cherries…

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And Katie turned some of them into the most extraordinary pies, which Mark’s Dad photographed, before we ate.

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And despite how many cherries we picked and froze and canned and ate, despite how many pies Katie made…

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there were still some left to share, with the local bear, who stopped by in the wee hours of the morning, while we all slept soundly in our beds; our white hound snoring on the floor.

2015-08-17 16.02.00-1 (1)Photograph taken at 5:00 am, with Mark’s fathers wild-life camera, near the duck pen.

Otherwise, the flowers in our vegetable garden (the ones that we grow for the bees, the ones that receive the nourishing water from our well) continue to bloom and to offer their sweetness to the bees and to us.



harvesting sweet peas

Their perfect symmetrical faces, reminding us that there is always some beauty in the world, despite all the rest of it.

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And while the garden flowers bloom and the bees visit their sweet petaled centres, Mark is still baking his beautiful bread, and people are coming up the drive to Honey Grove to give him their business, and to say the nicest things about what he is doing.

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And speaking of Mark’s Oven, it is so close to being completely finished. Katie and I did the mudding a week ago and we are now just waiting for it to dry completely.


And while Mark bakes and Katie and I mud, Cohen is curing more Salumi.


And making Capocollo – neck muscle cured with wild fennel…


And gathering aromatics for crema di lardo.


And together, he and Mark are making pizza’s in the Honey Grove Oven.


Perfect Italian Pizza.


And Katie is making Nocino, an Italian digestive made with unripe walnuts, which, according to Katie, “are typically picked on June 24 (the day of san giovanni) by barefooted virgins in Emilia Romagna, then steeped in wine and spices for three months. A little bit of Italy right there in that jar (minus the barefooted virgins…).”


As for Gus, he is still offering his secret of the Universe, which is, as you know is, “Not to Worry” and to Keep on Loving, whatever the circumstance, whatever the difficulty, whatever the joy or the heartbreak, or the drought.


And so, I leave you now, as I step into this new day, to do the many things that need doing, to send despair on her weary way, and to pray for rain, let there be rain. Thank You for your Company. It means more than we can properly say.

Until Soon,

Nao, Mark, Gus, Cohen, Katie and All At Honey Grove~