Summertime On Honey Grove~

Summer has come to Honey Grove and we have found ourselves in the season of abundance, for everywhere we look there is something to eat or to harvest, something hanging ripe on the bough ready to nourish, to sustain and support us while we work these long days on the land. There are salads and berries and new potatoes. There are carrots and beets and cucumbers. There are peas and beans and flowers, and oh my, how there are flowers.

And some are made into bouquets, and some we pluck just to sprinkle on salads.

And some we leave in the garden so that they might carry on singing to us. For sing they do! Flowers, I am convinced, are dedicated to reminding us that whatever we do, “do not forget the beauty of this world.” And here on these July days, I am not sure that we could, forget the beauty that is, for this is the season that I refer to as “beauty overload.” The kind of beauty that stops you in your tracks, that brings you to your knees, that takes your words away and stretches your heart wide like the sky. It’s the kind of beauty that wakes poets at dawn and turns them into madmen. The kind of beauty that surely cannot be contained or sustained, because it’s bigger than you and I, and it’s edges, well, they extend far beyond the boundaries of what we can know with our minds.

And no matter how many berries there are to pick, or jars of jam there are to make, you cannot help but notice the luminosity of summer.

When you are sitting cross legged on the ground, back aching, braiding yet another strand of garlic, you cannot help but look up every now and then, just to appreciate the beauty there. Those bright petaled faces cheering you on in all kinds of unsayable ways.

And when there is such exquisite abundance, one simply has to share it, to fill up baskets of nourishment for dear friends.

 

Yes, we have baskets full of all kinds of things on Honey Grove these days, for while there is food to gather, there are also herbs to collect and dry and tincture.

Medicines for the winter months, that will sooth and heal and restore when the cold comes.

There is no question, these are full times, and it is easy to lose oneself in the busyness of these long days, for there are cottage guests leaving and arriving almost non-stop, and when there are not berries to pick, there are sinks to scrub and linens to air. Oh and there are three markets a week to bake bread for now.

And gardens to tend and bees to look in on.

But you know, somehow the beauty of this season urges us on, nourishes the soul in ways that awaken life force and activate the vitality needed to bring in the harvest.

And speaking of awakening life force, there are also swims to have, yes, this might be as essential as the beauty for sustaining us. For every single day, rain or shine, Gus and I make our way to the water, and we let the river and the sea take all our cares away.

Now I must be off, for a new day has begun and there are things that need doing, berries that need picking, gardens that need watering.

 

Bright Summery Blessings to All~

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

 

October on Honey Grove ~

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And so we find ourselves in the beauty of another autumn, among the fallen leaves and the rose-hip hedgerows.

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Waking to mornings on the edge of frost, there is no denying that summer has left us for another year, and winter is well on his way. And oh, how I love this time of year, for at long last there is a pause.

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The last of the root vegetables have been stored away, and the cellar is full to the brim with jars of tomatoes and summer peaches and dill pickles and sacks of potatoes and onions. Squash of every kind line the counter tops waiting to be turned into hearty soups and stews, and Cohen’s prosciutto legs, hang from the cellar ceiling, the invisible and transformative alchemy of fermentation hard at work.

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There are 25 chickens in the freezer, 10 litres of sauerkraut in the crock and 6 cords of firewood, stacked, dry, covered and ready to burn. Meanwhile, outside the door and down in the veg plot, winter crops of kale, turnips and leeks do not seem to mind the cold and the pelting rain. Sometimes I think they are growing more vibrant by the day, filling our baskets and our bellies with no sign of slowing down.

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And so the bounty of another season continues, but unlike the bounty of summer, much of the outdoor work has been done, and so one can go inside on a blustery day, sit by the fire and simply put the kettle on. Books can be opened and pages read, and occasionally, walks can be taken, up in the alpine, in the middle of the afternoon.

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There is, finally, some rest to be had. And I say “some” rest, because, as you well know, we never really come to a full stop here at Honey Grove. We are like the bees in this way, who, although they are tucked into their hives now (with plenty of honey stored) are still taking short flights on bright sunny days.

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And although the outside work may be lessening, Mark is still baking his beautiful bread, spending 40 hours a week in the bakery, where there is no slowing down for him. And Cohen is spending long days processing his pigs, with the exciting news that he will soon have some of his salumi products for sale, at the Comox Valley Farmers market. I will share more about this soon.

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And speaking of the Farmers Market, you can still find Katie and I there, every Saturday, even in the pouring rain, under a blue tarp, doing everything we can to keep Mark’s bread warm and dry.

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Katie, always looking much more stylish than I, eh eh.

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And speaking of Katie, she has been busy too. Making all sorts of old-world delights, from boozy Irish Christmas cakes, to Italian Nocino, a spiced green walnut liqueur.

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And one night, a few weeks ago, she made tortellini; for tortellini in brodo… A famous dish from Bologna, which was, absolutely incredible.

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The truth is: we live to eat here at Honey Grove, and almost everything we do has something to do with food, growing, creating or eating. Below is an image of  the perfect late afternoon snack, Mark’s sourdough toast with HG honey and duka. Yum.

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And now, I must be off, for the day is beginning and I can hear the rooster crowing, telling me that the hens are ready for their breakfast.

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

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

PS- Gus has just reminded me that one should always take walks in the middle of the afternoon, regardless of the season, or how many seemingly important things there are to do.

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Harvest at Honey Grove ~

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And just like that, we are standing on the threshold of another autumn, and the alders that line the wooded path to our house, are already beginning to let down their leaves.

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And for reasons both known and unknown there is an invitation to breath deeply now, for the relief of this seasonal transition is palpable. The fullness of summer is already beginning to lessen and there will soon be time to pause again. Time for gentle walks through the mountains with a thermos of sweet tea, time to slow down and turn our gazes skyward, up toward the Canadian geese, as they begin their v-shaped journey south. The afternoon light has already deepened, and these days, when you find yourself eating a perfect apple, down in the orchard with your beloved dog friend, you notice that everything appears to be more golden.

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And you wonder if there is something held within that apple that makes all things appear more luminous? Can the colour of a season be contained inside a fruit?

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And perhaps this is why you feel like a character in a old-time story, standing in the place between summer and autumn, in a pool of late afternoon light (the kind that could very well be spun into gold) because picking an apple and eating it beneath the very tree it grew upon, is a timeless thing to do. But, I get ahead of myself, because before there were apples, before the leaves began to fall, we had August, and what an August it was. First of all there were figs.

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And Katie, having lived in Italy for many years, might just love them more than all of us combined.

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And while the figs ripened on the tree, the tomatoes ripened on the vine (and like never before).

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And after canning tomatoes and freezing tomatoes and canning them some more, they are still coming in, and will be for another month I expect. There really is nothing quite like a vine-ripened tomato, and it is possible that we have enjoyed them at every meal time since they first began to turn red and sweet. Come to think of it, I cannot think of a meal we have had recently that did not include tomatoes, or green beans for that matter.

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And while the garden grew up around us and everything came into fruition at once, other things happened on Honey Grove. Our dear friends Zoe and Ken got married here for example.

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And although we do not normally host weddings, we could not help but host this one, because these two people are very dear to our hearts, and so Cohen and Katie made all the food, including this exquisite cake, made by Katie’s fair hand.

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Oh and believe me it tasted as good at is looks. And while Cohen and Katie catered, Mark made his beautiful bread, and I arranged flowers for the bride.

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And a harvest crown for her head.

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Part of the crown was collected from the wild hedgerow, and part from the bounty of the Honey Grove flower garden. And speaking of the flower garden, oh my stars, it was really something to behold this year.

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You can hardly find Senay hiding in the blooms~ Yes, our beautiful niece Senay, bless her, she came all they way down from her mountain home in the Interior of British Columbia, to spend two glorious weeks on Honey Grove with Auntie and Uncle, and what a time we all had!

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We got a tremendous amount of work done too, like canning dill pickles (which Senay happens to be an expert at, as she lives on a homestead with her family, and she and her Mom can dill pickles every summer). So together we got the job done.

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And Mark wasn’t baking that day, so he helped too.

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I must admit it was fun to have his help, for we see so little of Mark outside of his bakery, where he continues to create his beautiful artisanal loaves, that continue to sell-out in 20 minutes at the Farmers Market each week. Luckily, I had Senay to help me with bread sales during the busiest markets of the year.

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Meanwhile, back at the farm, Cohen and Katie have been harvesting fennel pollen to sprinkle on a myriad of culinary delights.

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I made them promise that they had to leave some for the bees though, who need all the support they can get after such a wet July. Our bees made such a small amount of honey this year (due to all the rain early in the summer) that we left them with most of their harvest and just took a very small amount for ourselves. It was not a fantastic honey year, but the bees are healthy, and this is always the most important thing.

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Still though, if the honey harvest was small, the potato harvest was enormous, and there are 200 pounds of potatoes stored away in the cellar now.

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They are lined up in large paper feed bags next to the sauerkraut, which is bubbling away, after a phenomenal cabbage harvest.

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And while the sauerkraut ferments and I continue to can more tomatoes and Mark continues to knead bread, Cohen and Katie have just adopted a new kitten, who they have named Beemo! And so I introduce you to the newest member of Honey Grove, who is adapting tremendously well and keeping all of us highly entertained. Meet Beemo, and get ready to fall completely in love.

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And now I bid you farewell, as I head out into the garden to gather a basketful of basil, for there is pesto to make and freeze~the harvest is not all in just yet.

Harvest Blessings from all of us at Honey Grove. May this find you in the midst of a beautiful day~

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