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

 

The Sweetness of Summer

 

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Summer, she’s here, like a long awaited visit from a dear friend, she has finally come up the path to Honey Grove and through the garden gate, as beautiful as ever, more beautiful perhaps, glowing in her floral prints; a marvellous tapestry of unbelievable colour.

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And we have waited a whole year for her return, dreaming of bright warm days and harvest dinners near the wood-fire oven, and bouquets of flowers on every windowsill.

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But her stay, it never feels quite long enough, for her arrival coincides with our busiest time of year, and we, like our blessed bees, are buzzing about, rather non-stop.

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There is little time for pause, for afternoons spent admiring the slant of the light on the boughs of the maple, not when there is a holiday cottage that needs cleaning and more ripe berries that need picking.

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Not when there are beehives that need checking.

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Some of them, high up in the mountains, gathering fireweed nectar.

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No time for pause, when there is market bread that needs baking.

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And market muffins that need making.

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Not when there are gardens that need watering and garlic that needs braiding.

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But every now and again, a kind of soulful sanity breaks through, and you cannot help but look up from the tasks at hand to recognize that summer has come all this way just to visit you, and that you have hardly noticed.

And hopefully, you have the good sense to pause then. To go and make a cup of tea, or to sit down in the orchard with a good book, or to lean into the trunk of a nearby fir tree and to watch the play of flickers at the edge of the wood. And in moments such as these you might enter into a conversation with Summer, and she can fold you into the tiny blossoms of her grass skirt, and you can rest their in her warmth and beauty, with the full acknowledgement that she will not be here forever. And that this, this is what summer is all about. And then suddenly, all of those things that seemed so important, well, they are much less so, and there is only the hum of bees and the sound of flicker wings moving across the blue sky.

And if you are wondering how I know this, it is because I actually paused this summer. It’s true, I did, for the first time in 5 years on Honey Grove, I paused for 5 sweet days, while my dear friend and writer Sylvia and her partner Simon, came to visit us from California. And in their splendid company, we had long lunches and endless pots of tea. We went on beach picnics and hiked in the alpine, we even spent a whole day making flower essences under the summer sun.

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And in the evenings we had long country dinners around the picnic table, and we stayed there visiting until the light had completely faded and the moon had replaced the sun entirely. And one time we made pizza.

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And another time we ate Katie’s blueberry/huckleberry pavlova. And goodness me, what a time we all had.

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Now, Sylvia and Simon have returned to their southern home and we have found our way back into the rhythms of daily life. We have gone back to bread baking and beekeeping, to gardening and housekeeping, but there is something that lingers from those 5 sweet days, and if I were to say what that is, I might say it has something to do with presence. That is, the profound recogntion that beneath the surface of ‘doing,’ there is a territory of great and unwavering beauty, and I am quite certain that this is the territory that the wise-ones call ‘being.’

And speaking of wise ones, there is one laying in a beam of sun at this very moment, his belly to the sky, watching the birds flying over head and waiting for his afternoon walk through the quiet wood, where he can sniff tall-peed-upon-grass, and I can eat handfuls of huckleberries, alongside the black bears. And maybe, just maybe, if I continue to remember the great truth of presence, there will be an ocean swim later.

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Meanwhile, just down the way, at Uncle Ken’s Farm. Cohen’s pigs are having a lovely summer too.

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Now, I must be off, for there is a cottage to clean and more hives to peak in.

Bright Blessings to you, on this Summer Day,

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

July On Honey Grove ~

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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.

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

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

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Too busy making jam.

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And looking into beehives.

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

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Then I was off picking flowers

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And making bouquets for market sales.

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

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

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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.

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

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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…

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Otherwise, Cohen and Katie hosted another fine dinner party.

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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