Back in 1997, upon a black sand beach in Bali Indonesia, I met an Englishman, who had what it takes to stay up with me until dawn, to talk about this thing they call self-sustainability.
We talked about what it means to grow your own fruit trees and collect your own eggs and raise your own meat. About solar power and wind power and water power. About being “off the grid”. About rural life and community.
Perhaps it was the rice wine that made it all seem possible that night, or maybe it was youth, or maybe it was a real desire to follow another path~to make less of a footprint on this precious earth. Whatever it was, this longing, it has not gone away, and 14 years later, this same Englishman and I can stay up until the wee hours of the morning discussing the possibilities of a sustainable life. Although now we mostly drink tea instead of rice wine, and after 13 years of marriage we are more comfortable disagreeing.
The thing I am most astonished about though, since that first night on that Indonesian beach, is that we have not stopped dreaming, despite the 10 years we spent living in a big city on Canada’s Pacific West Coast. It was 10 good years and we have no regrets. We were surrounded by good friends, and we created a good life there, but over time, our little city lot became too crowded, too limited for our dream to fully manifest. It wasn’t long before we knew that it was time for us to get out of town and follow our old dream to the hills . You see, when the number of beehives was more than the city would allow, and all the lawn was dug up and turned into gardens and still we could not grow more fruit trees, we knew it was time to get serious about making our dream into a reality, or at least giving it a fair go.
And so, for the past two years, we searched for the perfect place to make our country home. We looked high and low for the perfect land to grow vegetables and fruit trees, to raise chickens, to keep honeybees and to begin a more sustainable life. And well, I am happy to report, we have found it! We found 6 beautiful acres, 1 mile from the sea, on the edge of 400 acres of woodland. There is open space and lots of sun, there is privacy, there is peace, there are abundant blossoms for honeybees and good soil, well drained and ready to be mulched. There is a little house here too, just the right size for two people and two cats and a big fluffy white dog. And there is a little cottage, that sits in a perfect meadow, sheltered by trees, down the path from the little house, soon to be a B & B for guests who want to come and stay on a honeybee farm. Guests who want to eat from the veg plot and crack fresh eggs into the frying pan in the morning.
This blog is therefore dedicated to an attempt at a more sustainable life. We welcome you now to Honey Grove Farm. The new chapter of our life that officially began on Sept. 01 2011. When we put our life in boxes.
We packed up our honeybees too, and my good Dad and I sealed them up, so that we could put them in his van and drive them onto a ferry. All of this just days after the bees passed rigorous health inspections by the Ministry of Agriculture. I am glad to report the results showed that our bees are very healthy and mite free.
Although a 3 hour journey is not a long journey for bees, in my mind it is long enough. I am not a fan of moving honeybees around, I don’t believe it’s good for them, or me. I am grateful though, that I had my father to help me. He is a wise and experienced beekeeper and he showed me how to make sure the bees were well ventilated for the journey. We loaded them in his van at 4:00am in the morning and when several bees escaped and flew about the van on the highway, my father just calmly kept driving. He was relaxed, so I was relaxed and if I were to guess, I would even say the bees were relaxed. It wasn’t long before we had the bees set up on the new property in a sunny, yet sheltered place. And it wasn’t long before we had built an electric fence around the hives, as the lady from down the road came by to tell us of a hungry bear, who was making the most of the fruit trees in the lower field and would love a honeybee snack.
We were grateful for her insight. Within a few hours the bees were oriented and settled into there new home. Within a day they had found a nectar source and were as busy as bees are in the spring. I think they like there new home.
We like it here too. We have unpacked enough of our kitchen to cook fresh food from our local farmers market.
Enough to sign up for a mushroom growing workshop and a food preservation workshop. Enough to buy garlic seed for planting and enough to sit down with all our plans and prioritize.
Enough to begin clearing a few trees from the lower meadow to make a sunnier place for our vegatable garden and poly tunnel.
My fantastic brother Cohen has been clearing brush and offering skillful advice that he has acquired since working on an organic farm in Italy for the past year.
Yes, we have quite a few plans, but hard-work has never inspired us more. Indeed, we have more to do on this acreage then I can possibly begin to share and I have no doubt that we are going to collapse into our beds at the end of each day in complete exhaustion. I am sure we will have moments of total frustration and unforseeable challenge, just as I know we will also feel deeply satisfied. I know this because I know how I feel when I pull beets up from my garden. I know the joy that comes when I braid my own garlic and I harvest my own honey.
I know there is nothing more satisfying than harvesting the fruits of one’s labours, than knowing that you have been a part of a magical process. Since I was a child and I first put a seed in the earth and it grew into a bush of beans, I have always been in awe of nature’s ability.
I have heard there are people out there who don’t believe in magic. I have to wonder, who are these people? What is more magical than photosynthesis, a green and growing plant harvesting the energy of the sun to power it. Yes, we are surrounded by magic here at Honey Grove Farm. I have only been here for 6 days and already I know this to be truer than anything. Today, I sit here, look out my window, sip my tea and marvel at the magic of it all.
Now I must sign off. Mark has finished his coffee. He has a pen and paper in his hand and plan in his pocket.
I wish you a beautiful September day,
Nao and Mark and Gus ( Our Canine Companion, and Number One Supporter)