When August Comes

When August comes, gathering inspiration for dinner means a gentle walk down to the garden with a big sturdy basket.

A basket that can withstand the weight of potatoes and carrots and cucumbers, tomatoes and beans and beets. A basket wide enough that it can be gently topped with kale leaves and salad greens and flower petals.

Yes, summer dinners on Honey Grove are not complete without an array of edible flowers, which make it into nearly every course, including desserts. One of which was a raspberry lemon cake topped with lemon curd, nasturtium flowers, dahlia and cornflower petals.

Because, 0h-my-goodness the flowers are blooming, and we gather them daily, for markets and custom orders, for friends and cottage guests, and to adorn the top of every table and sill in our little Honey Grove house.

We even put them in the honeybee drinking water, which I am convinced they appreciate.

But, I am not the only one gathering flowers for bees, our beautiful niece Senay came to spend two weeks with us here on Honey Grove, and together we gathered flowers and went to markets and had more fun than any of us can possibly describe by way of words.

And are we ever grateful for her help.

For August is a busy time here on the farm, and when there are not markets to attend, there are 20 pounds of blueberries to jam and freeze.

And herbs to harvest and dry.

And gardens to water, and a cottage to clean.

And honey to collect from hard working bees.

And still, despite the fullness of this season, it is not only work, for there are also morning yoga classes with Gus to attend, as he reminds us to pause and stretch out on the grass beneath the summer sun.

And there are dinners with dear friends, who have traveled a long way to come and sit round the Honey Grove table.

And wonderful times spent with family, and especially my dear Mom, who came and stayed for a week and cooked beautiful meals for us, while we bustled around in our summer way. Thank you Mom!

Oh, and there is a little tree frog in the Honey Grove garden who spends his time between the soft pink petals of a giant dahlia encouraging us all to take breaks.

And while our little frog friend is resting in the dahlia petals, Katie can occasionally be found in her hammock ( although not nearly often enough!).

As for Mark and Cohen, they both move too quickly for photographs, but they are here among us, working hard and pausing to rest when they can, mostly down by the river or the sea.

And now I must sign off, for another day has begun and there are some things that need doing. Gardens to water, bees to look in on and a river to swim in.

Summery Blessings to All,

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

The Queen of Honey Grove

Last night, I dreamed I received a red sealed envelope, hand-delivered to me, from The Queen. The envelope contained a letter, written in elegant script and signed by The Queen of Honey Grove Farm. It appeared that she, and her royal entourage were soon to visit us. According to the letter it would be on Tuesday afternoon, around tea-time. We (Mark and I) were to be available for any questions that the queen might have, in our finest clothes of course, having scrubbed the dirt from beneath our fingernails and wearing shoes. The wearing of shoes, seemed to be of the utmost importance.

My first thought upon opening the letter was, “Oh dear, I will never get my fingernails clean,” and my second, was to wonder, what sort of questions she might possibly have? Moments later, as if studying for an entrace exam to Harvard, I found myself rapidly preparing answers for the infinite possibility of questions that The Queen of Honey Grove may or may not ask. I began to sweat. My head was spinning with compost techniques and beekeeping practices and tomato fertilizer recipes. If only she would come on Friday I thought, then at least I would have more time to prepare. Luckily, before the dream turned into a nightmare, I began to realize the hilarity of the task I had set for myself and the sheer impossibility of my undertaking. To have the correct answer to ANY and ALL of the questions that The Queen of Honey Grove might ask…Imagine! Even the chickens had a good-ol-cluck over this one. “You’re kidding they said, are you really trying to find the answers to all things within the farming/beekeeping/horticultural-universe? Good gawd girl, take a dust bath, you’ve lost it.”

Thanking the chickens for their insight, I began to see that it was a rather tall order. And then, just like that I woke up, from my dream yes, but from something else too, something I can only describe as a “self-created-illusion-of-pressure.”  You see, I am beginning to recognize, that I have lived most of my life, as though the Queen of Honey Grove IS coming to tea on Tuesday. There is a strong and over-powering belief system that all things must be perfect for her arrival, all gardens weeded, all chickens laying, all bees thriving, all fruit trees fruiting, all dishes done, and everyone happy, healthy and well (the happines part being essential). Ohmygawd that was fun to write! What is it about writing something down that makes the most serious thing take-your-knees-out-funny? Please bare with me while I laugh my head off for a good-long-while. There. Okay, the hilarity has passed, for the moment at least, but I do hope it will return. Please, (and I say this on my knees now to the greater powers that be) I ask, “let there be many more times in this good life in which I will be able to see the humor in my painstaking addiction to perfection. Let me have the good sense, from time to time at least, to go down to the garden to collect a bowl of salad greens without weeding for another hour, at the end of the day, before dinner.”

And so, if you have been wondering where we have been, then you need not wonder a second longer. We have simply been preparing to be visited by The Queen, this, despite the fact, that she does not actually exist.  Yes, our days are full and long and non-stop, fueled by a combination of inspiration and invisible-time-lines that have something to do with imaginary queens. (oh I do hope you are laughing at the delightful pair of sweet fools we are, such dedication, such heart, such foolishness) eh eh. But, sometimes, at the end of a long day we have the wisdom to take a pint of Mark’s ale down to the orchard with us, and we sit there, in our hammock and watch the bees come home at dusk.

And in the afternoon we have been known to go for a river swim, or to sip a cold drink in our new reclining chairs. Last friday night, we even had a spontaneous campfire sing-along with our dear friends under a starry sky. So all is not lost. And a few nights ago, Mark fired up his oven with the sole purpose of making dinner in it, all this, simply because he could not resist the urge to try it out, even though it is not yet completely finished, because of the myriad of other things that ask for our attention each and every day. And what a delicious dinner it was. The smell of the laburnum tree wafting over us, as we cut into our local free-range chicken and wood-fire baked root vegetables, before tucking into our just-picked-garden-salad (complete with wild-rose petals and baby dill and all the sweetness of Honey Grove).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two weeks ago, we even paused long enough to offer an apiary tour to a group of young Waldorf school children, and what a time we all had!

There is nothing like sitting and with honeybees, on a sunny day, in good company.

But now, I must be off, back to work. Hopefully though, with a bit more ease, and a lot more humour. And so I bid you farewell.

Blessings and Gratitude Always,

Nao, Mark, Gus and All at Honey Grove.

P.S- Gus would like it to be known that he does not believe in the hierarchical structures of any kind. He has no interest in Kings or Queens or Governments. He still holds true to his one and only secret of the universe, which is “not to worry, all you need is love” (and several ocean swims a week).