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~

Oh June~ How beautiful you are.


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.


And bouquets on every table and windowsill.


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


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.


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.


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


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!


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


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.


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


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.




And we all have a lot of fun too!


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.


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.

blog 2

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


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.


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.


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


And swimming through ponds of lilies.


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

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.

IMG_0142 3

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.

IMG_0142 2

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.

2016-02-07 05.43.03

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.

2016-02-07 04.51.25

With Gratitude for your Company,

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