Here we go, it’s summer!

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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.

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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.

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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).

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And while she and Mark sawed the logs into rounds, Cohen and I got to work splitting them.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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!

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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.

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With Gratitude for your Company,

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

On Leaving and Returning~

There is something to be said for taking a holiday, for the nourishment that comes with going away, for rest and relaxation and soulful reflection. Something to be said, for leaving the tasks of daily life for a short while, and even the people that we love the most. Something to be said, for visiting the beauty of a land that is not our own, not the familiar sky or wood or sea. Something about taking a momentary step back from one’s life, if for no other reason, than to see if from a another angle.

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You see, I am quite certain that there are times when one can get too close to one’s own life, so close that it becomes impossible to see the whole picture. And so we can spend our days zooming in on parts, without ever catching sight of the whole. If Honey Grove were a painting, than I am so close up, that I am familiar with the details of every brush stroke and nuance of colour, every variation of texture and shadow. Often, I am so close to Honey Grove, that I can no longer see the entirety of the place, nor can I remember the wholeness of the landscape that is my human experience. That is, without stepping back from it, without taking some distance, without gazing upon it from afar.

And so it was, with this in mind, that I took a short holiday, and for 7 days and 7 nights I left my beloved Honey Grove behind, to explore the magical landscape of Point Reyes Peninsula in Marin County, California, and to visit my dear dear friend Sylvia Linsteadt.

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Together, we wandered through pine forest.

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And along coastlines.

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And over sand-dunes.

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And down into to the wild December sea to run barefoot and splashing upon the foaming shore.

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All the while Sylvia introducing me to the local birds flying overhead and pointing out the tracks of bobcat and coyote, their perfect prints, but for a moment in the soft dunes.

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She took me to stand in a heard of Tule Elk, while the sky turned pink and the day became night.

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She taught me of the medicine that comes from the hills that are her home, and we sipped wild-crafted tea blends, made of the steeped leaves and stems that we gathered along the way.

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And when the sky grew dark, we sat beside a wood-fire, in Sylvia’s family’s woodland cabin, sharing the stories of the lands that we love, and the people and animals that inhabit them.

P1090221And it was here, in this faraway place, beside a hearth fire that was not my own (Sylvia knitting and me sipping tea) that I began to see the landscape of  my beloved Honey Grove rise up before me, and the ‘whole picture’ of my life came into focus, in a way that it has not for some time.

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And suddenly, I remembered my infinite love for this life that I live in the Pacific Northwest. A life that has to do with tending land and keeping bees and baking bread and working together with the ones I love, in an effort to live a simple life close to the earth. And I was not prepared for the swell of feeling that this reflection would bring; not for the opening in my heart that flooded my eyes with tears. Somehow, it is easier to believe that we must get closer to the things and the ones that we love. That love is somehow one directional, that if we love someone or something the only movement is toward; is closer, but I am no longer sure that this is always the case, for surely there are times when the very act of moving further away, is the very thing that brings us closer-in. (And now all of the wise-ones, in all of lands, are nodding in divine unison, for my poetic musings have not lit upon anything new. There are cliche’s the world over holding this little truth snuggly in place, fridge magnets and cross-stitches, with the words “Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder” written across them in sloping pastel script, and everybody, everywhere, already knows this, except me, eh eh. Goodness, what a marvellous journey being human is).

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Now, I am back at my beloved Honey Grove and the rains are pouring down all day and all night. The sky remains mostly dark and the firs around the edge of our dear land are being tossed about wildly in the winter wind. The power flickers on and off, and we lose it almost every other day for a few hours. But the fire burns bright and Mark’s bread is still rising and we are warm and dry in our our little house feeling the incomparable sweetness of  being back together, after a short time apart. As for Gus, he has told me that I am never to go away again, and that there is no universal truth to find outside of Honey Grove. Everything I will ever need to know, according to Gus, is right here, right now…  “please he says, for goodness sake, Honey Grove is the best place on earth, why go? I missed you… a lot.”

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Otherwise, Katie and I are still decking the halls with fir wreaths as we get ready for the holiday season.

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IMG_20151204_164318 And Katie has been making mince pies as well…just look at them.IMG_20151210_165345

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As for Mark, he is still baking his magnificent bread and Katie and I are still selling it at the Farmers Market every Saturday in Courtenay.

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Cohen is busy too, making delicious pate for the holiday season.

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And carefully wrapping his cotechino – a traditional poaching sausage from Emilia Romagna in Italy.

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And so it is that we are all tucked in here at Honey Grove, giving ourselves to the tasks at hand, to our daily lives, in the good company of one another, while the winter wind blows wildly outside the door. Yes, it’s good to be home.

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

Thank You for your company~

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

 

Poetry and Pizza

Come up the pathway lined with trees, come see the flowers and the bees…

Come, step through the garden gate,
And forgive this blog for being late.
There is you see, much to be done,
for harvests come with summer sun.
And lazy days come in the fall,
when firelight flickers upon the wall.
Until then, we just keep going,
like a river, to the ocean flowing.
Rising with the cockerels crow.
Making lists:
 Ready!
 Set!
 Go!
Now, jam the berries and pick the peas,
and dry the herbs for winter teas!
Pull the garlic when the sky is blue,
and don’t forget the firewood too!
 
Give praise to the greens that keep you going,
give praise to the garden and all things growing.
 
And so, this blog is “deep-thought-free”
my ponderings have gone to sea.
For now we gather like the bee,
willing slaves of July’s bounty.
(I am afraid the poem ends there, but perhaps this is a good thing, eh eh. The photo’s however continue, as I thought you might like to see the wonderful things happening in and around Mark’s oven…)
This, and I cannot wait to share the exciting news that my brother Cohen has moved to our neck of the woods! Yes, after living in Italy for the past 5 years teaching sustainable food and animal welfare in Sienna, he has come to work together with us here at Honey Grove. Cohen and his fabulous fiancé Katie will be joining forces with Mark and I in the realm of sustainable food and farming. (There will be a good deal more on this topic coming soon.) For now though, I invite you to picture a sweet summer evening by the wood-fire oven. Imagine homemade mozzarella cheese and freshly picked tomatoes and basil. Imagine wood-fire-sourdough- pizza and the taste of Honey Grove.
Oh, and do not forget to add a pint of Mark’s Farmhouse Ale to your imaginings, for there is nothing quite like it!
Now, I must be off, for there is honey to extract and a winter garden to plant.
Sending Summer Blessings to All. Thank You for your company, it means more than we can properly say.
Nao, Mark, Gus and all at Honey Grove.
PS-We do get the occasional rest/daydream in too. Although I must admit that Gus seems to be able to squeeze in more naps than the rest of us. Still though, we do our best;)