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

December on Honey Grove~

And just like that, the wheel has turned yet again, and we have crossed the threshold of the Winter Solstice.

And believe it or not, the light will soon be returning, for within the next moon’s cycle, the days will become noticeably longer.

And you can be sure that we celebrated the returning of the light here at Honey Grove, with feasting and friends, and storytelling, and comedic skits, and acts of magic and music making. There were candles lit, while fires burned, and green boughs decked the halls.

And there was the most extraordinary chocolate yule cake, made by my dear friend Nikiah to mark this special occasion.

We even had a yule tree this year, strung with lights and rose-hips and homemade ornaments and old birds nests that I have collected from the land here.

And once the solstice was over, and one lot of dear friends left, another set arrived, and Katie began to prepare for Christmas, the Irish way. And those incredible whiskey soaked fruit cakes that she began making at summers end, well, they were finally ready for eating.

And ohmystars they were good. Perhaps, I don’t need to tell you, that a Christmas dinner prepared by Cohen and Katie, is truly something to behold. If ever you find yourself invited to sit around their table, know that it will be an experience like no other, and that the quality of food and hospitality is unrivalled.

And these dinners, they go on for a long time, course after delicious course. In fact, hours can go by while enjoying the pleasures of eating at a long table in good company; sipping wines, that you feel sure were made just to go with this meal. Oh and the salads, they are simply art.

Yes, needless to say, we have been doing a great deal of eating here at Honey Grove over the holidays. It’s a good thing we have been getting our exercise too, and taking long snowy walks as a part of our daily routine.

And not without our beloved dog friend, who leads us through the fir wood with an extra skip in his step. Gus assures me (and on a regular basis) that there is nothing quite like taking his dear human friends for a walk. It is a pleasure (he says) like no other.

Of course, you also know by now, that it is not all leisure here at Honey Grove, and that as much as we love feasting with friends, we have also been buzzing around like a hive of bees doing the many things that need doing. Before our week off at Christmas, you could find us in the bakery and at the markets.
Mark was baking bread as fast as Katie and I were selling it, and by Christmas Eve there was not a single loaf left to buy in the whole valley.
Luckily we managed to put a few loaves away for our own table.  Yes, the evolution of Mark’s baking career is really quite something ( and, it seems that he is taking it very seriously, eh eh)
And when the markets were over, we were back at Honey Grove scrubing the cottage sinks and airing linens and preparing for the arrival of more guests, who came to retreat in the cottage for the holiday season. We have shovelled pathways and swept floors and made beds, multiple times.
And speaking of beds and guests, did I mention that we also renovated our farmshop? Yes, we have! It is no longer a place to buy jellies and honeys, but rather a little cabin, for farm helpers and family to stay. Cohen did the carpentry and even put in a new window.
And while Cohen did the structural work, Katie did the design and the electrical, and our friend David and I did the painting. Below you can see some of the process and the exciting end result.


And so it seems that December on Honey Grove has been both busy and relaxing, and here, today, at the threshold of another year there is blue sky and a pile of sparkling snow out the door. There are guests cozy in the cottage and there is a brand new seed catalogue sitting on the table, just waiting for me to open it, so that I might begin dreaming of the coming year.

And there is Gus, having just returned from a snowy walk around the perimeter, with an abundance of snowballs attached to his legs. I best go and attend to him.
Wishing you a Happy Healthy New Year.

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

When August Comes

When August comes, gathering inspiration for dinner means a gentle walk down to the garden with a big sturdy basket.

A basket that can withstand the weight of potatoes and carrots and cucumbers, tomatoes and beans and beets. A basket wide enough that it can be gently topped with kale leaves and salad greens and flower petals.

Yes, summer dinners on Honey Grove are not complete without an array of edible flowers, which make it into nearly every course, including desserts. One of which was a raspberry lemon cake topped with lemon curd, nasturtium flowers, dahlia and cornflower petals.

Because, 0h-my-goodness the flowers are blooming, and we gather them daily, for markets and custom orders, for friends and cottage guests, and to adorn the top of every table and sill in our little Honey Grove house.

We even put them in the honeybee drinking water, which I am convinced they appreciate.

But, I am not the only one gathering flowers for bees, our beautiful niece Senay came to spend two weeks with us here on Honey Grove, and together we gathered flowers and went to markets and had more fun than any of us can possibly describe by way of words.

And are we ever grateful for her help.

For August is a busy time here on the farm, and when there are not markets to attend, there are 20 pounds of blueberries to jam and freeze.

And herbs to harvest and dry.

And gardens to water, and a cottage to clean.

And honey to collect from hard working bees.

And still, despite the fullness of this season, it is not only work, for there are also morning yoga classes with Gus to attend, as he reminds us to pause and stretch out on the grass beneath the summer sun.

And there are dinners with dear friends, who have traveled a long way to come and sit round the Honey Grove table.

And wonderful times spent with family, and especially my dear Mom, who came and stayed for a week and cooked beautiful meals for us, while we bustled around in our summer way. Thank you Mom!

Oh, and there is a little tree frog in the Honey Grove garden who spends his time between the soft pink petals of a giant dahlia encouraging us all to take breaks.

And while our little frog friend is resting in the dahlia petals, Katie can occasionally be found in her hammock ( although not nearly often enough!).

As for Mark and Cohen, they both move too quickly for photographs, but they are here among us, working hard and pausing to rest when they can, mostly down by the river or the sea.

And now I must sign off, for another day has begun and there are some things that need doing. Gardens to water, bees to look in on and a river to swim in.

Summery Blessings to All,

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