Oh June~ How beautiful you are.

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These are the golden days, they are long and abundant and sun infused. There are strawberries, lots of strawberries, and there are salads with flower petals, for dinner.

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And bouquets on every table and windowsill.

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There are roses rambling along the fence line and growing up the wall of the old wooden shed near the garden gate.

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There are bees flying and flowers blooming and the whole of Honey Grove hums from dusk to dawn. Bees on phacelia, bees on clover, bees on blackberry.

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And sometimes the only thing to do is to pause there in your busy day, and to go and watch them gathering the sweetness of the season, to sit there amidst the hum and the honey smells, under the solstice sun.

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And while the bees are flying, the garden is growing.

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And Mark’s Mum and Dad have once again come all the way from England for their annual June visit, and as usual, they have wasted no time in getting straight to work; helping us in countless ways. With their help we have net the blueberries and the currents, and perhaps this year we will get a few berries before the robins eat them all!

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And Marks Mum and I have worked together to tie a wild tangle of garden peas.

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And Marks Dad (a retired horticulturist and my exceptional gardening teacher) continues to teach me about the secret life of green and growing things as we walk through the garden every evening after supper.

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And oh the things I learn about leaf miners and mulching and carrot-root-fly!

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And while I am having my evening lessons, Mark and his Mum are going around the lower field on”slug patrol,” gathering the garden slugs with bucket and trowel and offering them to the ducks, who eagerly await their return each evening.

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And we all have a lot of fun too!

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And when they are not helping us in the garden, you will find them helping Mark in his new bakery, which is coming along beautifully.

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Yes, Mark has rather fallen in love with his new work-space and the inspiration is flowing once again. He has even started making pain d’epi, and look how beautiful they are. I mean just look.

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And here you can see his shiny Italian oven in action.

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And at last he is able to make it out to some of the markets, which his Mum and Dad have been helping him with, when I am too busy at the farm.

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Meanwhile, Cohen and Katie are as busy as the bees working at the local vineyard and preparing wonderful things to eat for all of their summer visitors. And when they are not running to and fro, they are down by the river, trying out their superpowers.

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As for Gus, he is spending his days meditating in the daises.

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And swimming through ponds of lilies.

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And reminding all of us to savour these sweet days of summer.

With Gratitude for your Company~

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

On Endings and Beginnings

And so it is that all things appear green and growing once again. There are apple blossoms on the orchard trees.

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And tulips in the garden.

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There are dandelion leaves for supper and one hundred shades of green that cloth the land in all directions. There is bird song in the morning of an orchestral nature, and there are bees humming through the afternoon. There is life.

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And where there is life, then there must also be death, for these are two parts of the same whole, or so the wise ones say. I mention this now because it feels important. Walking down to the garden barefoot after the long winter I find myself standing on the threshold of another spring, and as I come through the garden gate I am in deep awe of this recognition, that life brings death, and death brings life. For the first time it is a felt sensation, and the awareness is alive in my whole body, no longer just an idea, but a pulsing living truth. And those roses, the ones rambling along the old fence, the ones I love so much, they are nourished by the compost of decay.

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Yes, it seems that everything is dying into life, the seed to the plant, the plant to the flower, the flower to the fruit, the fruit to the seed, and on it goes, a big mysterious and unbearably beautiful cycle.

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Before me, in the soft light of dawn, my eyes rest upon the various gardens that I have planted in honour of the ones that I have loved and lost over these past years. On this new day I am struck by the beauty that they offer the world. I am awed by the life that has grown out of death. And oh the love that swells in my heart to see those blooms, and the tears that come.

Over the past two years, 7 beloved people in my life have passed away. Some of them dear family members, some beloved friends and some profound teachers. I have heard that sometimes it goes this way, and over the last short while, it has been this way for me. I am not sure why I have chosen to write about these things today, for it is not my usual style to share the more difficult aspects of being alive. Someone, not long ago, said to me, “you are always so cheerful Nao, does everything always go your way? The question found me speechless and for a moment I was unable to respond. This must have concerned my well meaning friend, for she then said, “no, I mean this as a compliment, you are always so happy, you are so lucky, good things happen for you.” And I had to laugh then before there was anything to say, because I was thinking to myself, oh goodness, what sort of impression am I giving the world? And even writing this now, sends me into fits of uproarious laughter, for although I do feel lucky and although many good things do happen, they really do, it is, I promise you, not the only way it goes for me, although my cheerful smile can deceive even myself at times.

Cheerfulness, for me, is a kind of well developed muscle, and it is very different from happiness which swoops down on a regular basis and cracks my heart open in surprising and unexpected ways. Happiness happens every morning when I let my ducks out of the coop and they race across the paddock to their pond wagging and quacking like upright wine bottles on legs. I am not sure why this is so funny to me, but every single day it takes my legs out and I find myself cackling like a wild witch at the edge of the wood in sheer delight of ducks. And when I go back toward the house to put the kettle on, holding big green duck eggs in my hands, what I feel, is happy.

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Cheerfulness is also not Joy, and Joy (according to the mystics of the world) is always present, unbounded and infinite, our true nature as the Buddha says. Yes, cheerfulness it is another creature entirely, and one that I would like to put to rest, for the effort that it can be to maintain, oh heavens above! I mean what a lot of work, the sheer athtleticism involved is really too much sometimes. Yes, this cheerful muscle of mine is perhaps a wee bit over-worked, and the truth is, even here in blog land, my posts are geared toward sparkling representations of the many good and new things unfolding, but today, these two things no longer feel separate, and I can feel an urge toward wholeness, toward offering you a more rounded-out glimpse of farm life. In the midst of all the life and growth here at Honey Grove, there has also been loss, 7 significant endings, and these came before some of the beautiful beginnings.

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One such beginning is the opening of Mark’s new bakery, which he moved into just three short days ago. He is now baking beautiful bread in his shiny new Italian oven. And although it will be sometime before he is running at full capacity, he is at last working from his new space! We will continue to sell our bread at the farmers market, and it won’t be long before you will find us in the local health-food store too. We will keep you posted over the next month as to how things are unfolding.

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And while Mark is baking bread for the market, Katie is baking muffins, savoury and sweet varieties which are incredibly delicious and nourishing too. Do try one next time you are at the market, you won’t be disappointed, I promise. They are wonderful!

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And when she is not in her kitchen creating a thousand inspired things or teaching the local people of this country community how to make pasta and pair wine, she is out in the woods collecting elder flowers for elder flower syrup.

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As for me, I am far from the kitchen and have moved back into the garden almost full time.

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I spend my days planting and weeding and mulching, and these days, I am lucky enough to be picking tulips alongside my beloved dog friend, who is convinced that everything I do is wonderful. Bless him. I feel the same way about him.

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And there will be tulips at the Market for another week!

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And while I am putting tulips into colourful bouquets, Cohen can be found in the shop, or behind a skill saw at 7 in the morning, or swinging a hammer with a pencil tucked behind one ear and tape measure in his pocket. For while his salumi cures in the cellar, he has graciously accepted the roll of Honey Grove builder, and for this we are all grateful.

Otherwise, when we are not digging earth or mixing dough, or sawing wood, we are all of us, processing 7 cords of firewood for next winter, which is quite the job and causes every muscle in the body to ache. Still though it has to be done and the thought of a blazing wood fire on a cold winters day really does help keep the momentum going.

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Well, I must pause there, for the sun is up now and the another day is before us. I best be off, the rooster is reminding me it’s time to get the chickens up.

May this find you in the midst of a beautiful day~

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

Tea for Troubled Times

Sitting here this morning, in the deep night of pre-dawn, the fire flickers, the cat meows, and somewhere in the distance there is a rooster calling out through the morning-night to the morning-light. His crow, a reminder that the sun will indeed rise again, that even the darkest night has a dawn.

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Goodness, what strange times we live in. Waking up this morning, crossing the same cold patches of floor, stepping over the familiar creaks on the stairwell, putting the kettle on, lighting the fire while the tea steeps, the same things I do every day, and yet everything feels different.

“There is crack in everything” I remind myself. “That’s how the light gets in,” I say aloud to the cat, as I set a match to the crinkled the paper between the kindling and utter a silent prayer for the world. A world without Leonard Cohen in it. A world in which Donald Trump has been elected president of America. And here I am, still putting the kettle on. And yet, according to Mark’s dear British Mum, it’s the only thing to do when darkness falls.

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She told me once, while stirring her tea after a difficult day, that there was a power outage in London on the day that WWII began. She said that every person in England put the kettle on at the exact same moment and that it caused a great power surge. Yes, tea for troubled times, it is without doubt, a tried and true remedy. There is nothing like holding a warm mug of tea close up to your chest, when the world has gone mad.

And when the kettle has boiled, and you have finished your tea, what then? How to go forward in difficult times? I am not sure what the Great Masters would say about this, and I certainly do not have an answer, but I do know what I do on challenging days, and it helps.

1) First, I look to the poets of the world, I open those tea-stained-dogeared-pages of my most cherished books of poetry and I take the words found there deep into my heart.

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I sip them like medicine throughout the day, and I go about the business of my life saying them aloud to any fir tree that will listen, to the passing chicken and the raven flying by, to the compost worms and the winter-wrens, to the flowers, those ones that are still blooming in mid-November.

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2) And then, I keep working. I just keep doing the things that I can do: chopping wood and doing dishes and hanging laundry and helping Mark load his beautiful bread into the oven.

 

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I carry on attending to those things that I can attend to, fixing the things that I can fix. There is, for me, something deeply satisfying about repairing and mending, something that soothes my heart when everything else feels broken. And so, I am here, going around Honey Grove with hammer and nails. I am fixing old chicken coops and replacing fenceposts and darning the holes in my sweater arms. I am stretching my aching back and rubbing soothing herbs into my sore muscles. I am gardening, because I still can.

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3) And when all the jobs are done, I pray. I just sit down wherever I am, in the garden or the field and I say the things in my heart aloud. I give them to “The Sisters of Mercy, who are not departed or gone, who are waiting for me when I thought that I just can’t go on….”

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And while I am praying Mark is still baking, he is putting his prayers into bread.

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And Katie is pouring all her love into fruit-cakes and Irish Soda bread and great pots of soup that warm our bellies and our hearts. And the smells coming out of her kitchen these days, they are surely going out to heal the world, of this, I have no doubt.

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Meanwhile, Cohen, who is named after Leonard Cohen, is playing “You Want it Darker” in the background.

With Great Gratitude for Your Company. Thank You for being out there, it means a great deal.

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

PS ~ Gus sends his love from the cozy place by the fireside, and he wants me to remind you that taking long walks in the woods is another important remedy for troubled times. He also wants you to remember his secret of the universe, which is, in case you have forgotten “not to worry, because all you really need is love.”

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