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.


And tulips in the garden.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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



Winter, he is still here. And, he seems to be enjoying his stay on Honey Grove like never before. The Pacific Northwest is experiencing the coldest winter in 30 years. The snow outside our door has been with us for over 6 weeks now, with temperatures well below zero. Our dear ducks have not bathed in their pond since November, and the woodland lake behind our house has been transformed into an outdoor ice rink for skaters and hockey players. As for our driveway, well, some would say that it too has become an ice rink.



Winter is, for some, overstaying his welcome, but I have not yet decided just how I feel about him. My feelings toward this seasonal guest seem to fluctuate, for there are days when I can think of nothing better then his quiet company.


Walking in the silent snowy woods among the firs with my dog friend and then returning to sit by the wood-stove with my tea offers a kind of nourishment that only comes in the company of a long winter. And on the days when the sun shines down from the bluest of skies making sapphire flecks on the snow that shine like jewels across the fields, I can hardly believe the beauty before me. I stand there in my felt boots and my wooly hat, saying aloud to my dear friend winter,”my goodness, how very beautiful you are.” And if Gus is with me (which he always is) well, I am reminded that winter is not only beautiful, but he’s incredibly fun too!





And then, on other days, when morning chores take me three times as long because I am carrying buckets of water from the house, and thawing animal dishes, while my hands go numb from the cold, I enjoy his company less.


When I am moving chicken coop straw to the raspberry beds with a wheel barrow, because I do not have a sleigh, I like winter even less still.



When there are places to go and things to do, and the roads look like this, I want nothing more than for this guest to pack his bags and get on the next train north.


And still, however much I appreciate him, or become frustrated with him, despite my eagerness to get back into the garden, to move soil or turn compost, to push the seasonal wheel forward with my own dedicated willfulness, there is nothing to do, but wait. And with this recognition (the kind of recognition that one has when one realizes the futility of one’s desires and the unnecessary suffering that results) comes the surrender, the great letting go and the deep breath. It’s usually at this point that I just go for another snowy walk with my dog friend, who is always waiting at the door.


And while the snow keeps falling and the temperatures keep dropping, Mark is still baking bread, and Katie and I can be found at the farmers market, with his fresh-out-of-the-oven-loaves, every Saturday morning at 10 am.

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Speaking of Mark’s bread, there is some very big and exciting news about Mark’s bakery, which we can hardly wait to share with you. As for Cohen, you will find him wearing two pairs of wool socks, making sausages in his kitchen, in a hand-knit Aran sweater (sent all the way for Ireland by Katie’s Dear Mum) while listening to podcasts, through a pair of very large headphones.

And now I must be off, for there is a fire to light in the oven and bread to bake in a few hours time.

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

Nao, Mark, Cohen, Katie, Gus 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