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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And tulips in the garden.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

poppy copy

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

Honey_Grove_Print44

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.

IMG_0023

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!

katie muffin2

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.

IMG_0544

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

IMG_0570

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.

IMG_0227 2

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

Dandelion Days ~

I am not sure who first decided that dandelions were undesirable, but what a good deal of confusion this has caused. Ask any child or honeybee or wise-woman what they think of dandelions and they will tell you something very different (and just for the record, dandelions aside, I am convinced that the world would be a much better place if we gathered more of our information from these three sources, the child, the honeybee and the wise-woman).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The child will tell you (and without a moment’s hesitation) that dandelions are beautiful, soft yellow lion’s manes that bring the spring fields to life and a vitality to the heart and soul. The bee will tell you that they are incredibly nectar and pollen rich and absolutely essential to the hives at the start of the year. And the wise-woman will heal your liver, lower your blood pressure, and support your digestion with her brews and tinctures. Why we are encouraged to spend our days killing them and not cultivating them, has always been a mystery to me?

pollinisation-pissenlit

Yes, here on Honey Grove we love dandelions, and we believe there should be a special day set aside just for them, one in which everyone everywhere wears bright golds and yellows, and goes around writing songs of praise and making inspiring dishes from their leaves and flowers and medicinal roots. We would call this day, International Dandelion Day. And who could resist? I mean just look how the bees are celebrating, and their celebration lasts much longer than a day. It’s more like a kind of holy festival that lasts for weeks, more like Dandelion Days. Yes, at long last, that old familiar honeybee hum is back on the land all around us, and when you walk down the path into the lower field it soothes the heart like nothing else. Oh bless them, those bees and the dandelions they’re on.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And while the bees are busy gathering dandelion nectar, we are busy with the many tasks of spring. There are gardens to plant and beds to prepare and seedlings to sow and fruit trees to mulch, and on it goes, the list lengthening along with the days. Luckily, I have some wonderful help this year and her name is Sage. Sage has come to Honey Grove for 8 weeks to study organic gardening and beekeeping alongside me, and what a gift she is at this wildly busy and full time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Together we are getting the seeds into the ground and peering into hives.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Having Sage here this spring is an extra blessing, as Mark now spends his days off the farm, in his new town bakery, for the Italian oven has finally arrived! There is of course, still the business of getting it up and running, fine tuning the recipes, and settling into to a new rhythm, but it’s happening day by day, and Mark is still full of inspiration and enthusiasm. I will endeavour to keep you updated as things unfold. It’s all very exciting and busy beyond imagining.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You can however, still find Katie and I at the Comox Valley Farmers Market, every Saturday morning, with fresh loaves straight out of the oven. We are hopeful that it will just be a few weeks until Mark is baking all of his beautiful bread in his fabulous new space  and we will soon have bread on the market table for more than 20 minutes!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Otherwise, please forgive the space between posts these days, but there is less and less time spent in the house or near a computer. Our days here are packed full of tasks with the arrival of spring and the opening of Mark’s new bakery and there is not a moment to spare, or so I can easily believe. It’s a good thing our wise Gus is here to remind me that this is never a truth, and that there is always time for leisurely walks and cups of tea and rests by the fireside with toast and marmalade.

IMG_0162

IMG_0164

Now, I must be off, for the kettle is whistling and the rain has stopped and once my tea is poured, I shall be out the door.

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

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

April On Honey Grove, whew.

When April comes, twirling in her layered skirts of alder leaves, dancing as she does, up the tree lined path to Honey Grove, sending trees into leaf and buds into bloom, you cannot help but wonder how anything else in life could possibly be more important than this? That is, than the magnificent arrival of spring. And if you ever thought green to be a singular colour, than I beg you to reconsider, for there are shades of green worn by the month of April, that belong solely to the colour spectrum of elves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

These are things that one notices, if one can take the time to pause between tasks, to put down pitchfork or trowel, and to turn one’s head up toward the spring sky for just a moment. And there it is, the blue of sky, the green of leaf, the smell of the cottonwood bud, the robin’s song and the hum of bees. There all along, and yet, unnoticed by the one pushing the wheel barrow on her way by. I sometimes wonder if the birds ever stop their singing to notice the hurried woman down below, digging and planting, repairing fences and turning compost, moving quickly from here to there, and with such a determined expression on her face. Dedicated to completing her list of twenty-five tasks before the day is done. And I do wonder, what must they think, those birds? I mean really, what must they think, it’s spring for heavens sake and there she goes again!

IMG_20160408_125130

Yes, what it is about productivity, and the overriding belief that productivity is the hallmark of success? It is a big old question, and one that we have all been pondering here at Honey Grove, rather a lot as of late. For, it seems that we are pausing less and less to hear the robin’s song, or to sit down in the blossoming orchard, listening to the hum of bees.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
There is, as you might have guessed, always something else to do, or make or bake, something else to build or plant, and the carousel of tasks is spinning faster and faster as the season takes hold.

IMG_20160408_131527

And it occurred to me just yesterday, while coaxing an eager little lettuce start out of her snug pot and into the earth, that one of the reasons that spring is so very beautiful, might have something to do with that fact that she has just woken up from a good long rest. The Great Mother awakens in the spring fully restored, having slept through the fall and winter months, nourished by the pause of the inward cycle. It is no wonder that April finds her radiant, refreshed and alive, ready to begin again.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Yes, I do believe that productivity is a season, it is one part of a whole cycle, it is not, as far as I can tell, a steady way of being in the world, not something that we are meant to sustain (but oh how we try). And perhaps this is what we have forgotten here on Honey Grove, the fact that we too are are part of the natural order of things. That we are as much a part of the earth’s cycling rhythm, as the alders and the cottonwoods, and that pausing to listen to the robin’s song is more than a good idea. It is an essential part of being alive.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Recently, a bread customer at the Farmer’s Market asked me, “why doesn’t Mark make three times as much bread? He should up his production (and there is that word again) for he could surely sell it, and just think of all the income you could generate!” And each time this is mentioned (for it is often and many times a week) I am uncertain how to respond, for I hardly know where to begin.

IMG_20160330_160927-COLLAGE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do I explain, for example, that Mark’s bread is as good as it is, because of the time and energy he spends creating it, and that he is already working more than 40 hours per week in the bakery? Do I mention that it has taken him years and years to learn this craft, and that it is not a matter of simply hiring staff to knead the dough? Do I explain that the wood fire-oven takes 4 hours to heat, and that once 65 loaves of bread are baked, we have to re-fire it for another 4 hours? Do I tell her that bread is simply one part of our life here, and that we do not want to start a franchise and become full time managers of bakers? And that if we did this, if we hired staff and expanded in a multitude of ways, that the very bread that people love so much, would no longer be the same? And do I mention, to this well intentioned and lovely person, that it has already been too long since Mark has left the bakery to sit down in the orchard on a sunny day?

The truth is, I find it difficult to say anything at all, for I am not sure that such thoughts will even translate at this modern time. And so, I just thank our encouraging customers for their enthusiastic ideas and carry on putting Mark’s bread into brown paper bags. It is  only later that I begin to ponder the implications surrounding the great myth of infinite productivity, that I begin to wonder where all this expansion is going to lead us in the end. I’ll let you know what I come up with, eh eh.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, despite my philosophical ponderings, we can hardly sit down in the orchard all day smelling the apple blossom. No, we are as busy as our bees, who bless them, have just returned to Honey Grove after a short holiday to a dear friend’s house, this, after a bear got into the bee yard, one cold March morning some weeks ago.

IMG_20160325_092843

Yes, it happened, and it was big old mess to clean up. The bear even got into our storage shed where we keep beekeeping equipment, and everything had to be moved and in a hurry.

IMG_20160325_092812

Luckily, all of our hives survived, and we have a wonderful beekeeping friend down the way who came to rescue the girls. Bless this friend, for he took all our bees to his house and kept them safe for a number of weeks while he helped me to build a new and much sturdier electric fence. Thank You Del, I appreciate you more than I can properly say.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And believe me, no bear will be attempting a honey tasting any time soon.  This is better for bees and bears.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And now that the bees are home, safe within the arms of their new fence, they can get down to the business of dandelion season.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And whilst they have been visiting dandelions, Katie has been building an outhouse, because, if you haven’t realized it by now, Katie can do almost anything.

IMG_20160418_175016

Otherwise, with the help of our dear Uncle Ken from down the Island, 8 large fir trees were fallen on Honey Grove a week ago. This had to be done for safety reasons and to let more light onto our beloved land (for there is a plan for solar power in the not so distant future, more about that later). Now, we have firewood for the winter, and the cycle of life continues.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And Mark and Cohen got a little stronger too, eh eh.

thumb_P1015012_1024

While the ducks cheered them on.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And Katie made another cake.

IMG_20160401_133241

And the month of April invited more buds into bloom.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And we managed at least one picnic in the orchard, on bonfire day.

IMG_20160403_134724

While the apple blossoms burst into flower overhead and gave us a good reason to stop, for at least 5 minutes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Blessings to you from another spring morning~ and may you find the time today to put your nose in at least one spring bloom. As for me, I must be off, for there is a fire to light in the oven and cup of tea to make before.

With great gratitude for your company,

Nao, Mark, Cohen, Katie and Gus