January on Honey Grove~

For all the things you cannot predict living here on the land, there are also those things that you can. The things, that after enough times around the seasonal wheel, you begin to count on. You begin to say to yourself, and the ones around you, oh, it’s just about time for the robins to return, or, have you noticed that the owls have begun their mating calls? Or (in the case of our own dear chickens) that regular eggs are being laid again, as they are every year, just after the first full moon, on the other side of the winter solstice.

And so, after a brief two month pause, we have found ourselves with an abundance of eggs again.

And this to me is always a sign that we are moving toward spring, that the days are indeed lengthening, and that the sweet green shoots of the daffodils, will be popping-up through the winter ground, just about now.

There are of course, also, all of those things that we cannot know. Like, for example, that our beloved ducks would be killed my a hungry mink in the middle of the day, during the last snowfall. Or, that five wild storm fronts would move across our island, one after another, over the course of a week. We could not predict that hurricane force winds would bend the firs sideways, causing trees to fall, and power outages to happen, and branches to come crashing down from all directions. Lucky for us, we were not terribly affected here on Honey Grove (other than being confined indoors for rather too many days). And so the moment that the rains stopped, you can well imagine that we went straight outside, and Mark and I headed directly down to the gardens, to do our winter pruning. And how good it felt to be out there at the beginning of another year, doing something we could do, while the sun shone down upon us.

And each year Mark skillfully prunes my roses down to knee hight, while I look on with a great deal of concern, until I recall that he has been doing this every year, and that come June, when my roses are in their full and glorious bloom, I will thank him ( as I do time and time again).  And, while he pruned the roses and the currants and the blueberries and the orchard trees (which are 6 years old this year, can you even believe it?) I go around with a wheelbarrow gathering the branches for a big old fire. This is satisfying work to me, I am not sure why, something about gathering things up, about making piles and getting things ready for the next cycle, about releasing the old to welcome the new.

And when our work here was complete, and we found that the sun was still shining, we did a very luxurious thing, and we went for a long walk in our favourite fairytale woodland.

And that same day, we had a picnic lunch of cheese and dark rye bread, and left over Christmas fruitcake and kettle chips (echm, yes, kettle chips, I will confess it, they are one of my great loves in life). Oh how splendid it all was, sipping our strong tea on that bench, next to that beautiful marshland, looking out onto a local beaver dam. And I felt so happy on this day.

Yes, it was a good, day, and Gus thought so too.

Now, the rains have returned and Mark has gone back to work at the bakery, where he is continuing to dazzle the community with his beautiful artisanal bread. He has even come up with three new specialty loaves, which you can only find at our bakery location and on varying days of the week. And so, if you have not tried them, you simply must. They are: The Sultan (a fruit loaf, featuring cherries, sultanas, raisins and cranberries and available on Mondays). The Smuggler (a jalapeño and cheddar loaf, available on Wednesdays) and The Peasant (garlic, roast potato and sage bread, available on Fridays).

Of course, if you cannot make it to our bakery, come and find us at the market, every Saturday, where Katie and I will be standing behind a mountain for fresh bread, very likely having a good laugh about some very ordinary and hilarious thing.
Oh and speaking of Mark’s bread, he also just recently offered his first ever, Sourdough Bread Baking Workshop, which, as far as we can tell, went very well. It took place on a Sunday from 9 am until 1:00 pm, and included a beautiful “bread centric” lunch made by the talented Miss Katie.

Participants learned how to make and maintain their own sourdough cultures, the history of sourdough bread, and of course ( and most importantly) how to make, shape, proof and bake bread at home. And the very best news of all, is that the people who attended the workshop, are now baking bread! And a good number of the participants have been e-mailing Mark photos of the beautiful bread they’ve been baking at home ever since, and, I must tell you, it all looks very good indeed, even Mark is impressed (and between you and I, he is very hard to impress).


He will be offering another workshop this coming weekend (which is full already) but if all goes well, there will more in the future, so stay tuned, that is, if baking sourdough bread is something you have ever wanted to learn. Well, I do believe that is really all I have to report. I must be off now, for I have another box of seeds to sort through before mid February when I begin to plant my starts, and there is also my dog friend here next to me, looking very bored with the way I have chosen to spend my morning. eh eh.

And so, for now, I bid you good day and with Great Gratitude for your Company~

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

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

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).


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?


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.


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.


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


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.


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!


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.



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.