Details. These days there are a lot of em. They pile up around us like snow. Like the snow, they seem to fall invisibly in the night while we sleep and when we wake, the world is covered in a blanket of more details and in our case, more snow too. eh eh. Yes, contrary to what our good real estate agent told us, it does snow here, and why this is so funny to me, I still don’t know.
The snow came and it stayed for a few long days. And oh how beautiful it was in the beginning and oh how very ugly it was in the end, but this is not a complaint, simply an observation. It came like a Faerie Queen, plumes of sparkling whiteness and it left like a grotty swamp creature, rivers of mud running down the drive, puddles of slush on the doorstep, wet socks drying out by the fire, muddy paw prints… muddy paw prints…muddy paw prints throughout the house. Between you and me, I am not sad it’s gone.
As for the details, they never left. I keep hoping that they will melt and the wind will come whipping across the valley to blow them all away, but so far, no luck. Nope, details multiply, have you noticed? Just as you get a handle on one, another is born kicking and screaming for your attention. No doubt there are others in the world who can relate. I think it’s safe to say that if you are a human being on planet earth this is a pretty regular phenomena. The question is, how does one choose to respond to the little devils? I am convinced that there are a number of wise ones the world over who have a system for accepting details, for moving through life with grace and ease and breath. For not allowing the details of everyday life to take them out, but I am not one of those people. (Not yet at least, I am still hopeful, remaining optimistic, practicing surrender, breathing, taking Vit B and drinking oat straw tea). Still though, it doesn’t always work, I have been knocked down by details more times than I care to admit. My nervous system screams, as I load another detail to the pile of things to do and then slam a deadline on the very top. Yep, they come along and take me out over and over again. And these last few weeks they did, or should I say, I let them.
You see, our work for these past few weeks has not been spent outside digging and raking or lifting stones. It has not been spent in the beautiful outdoors, below trees, hands in the earth, communing with the natural world. No, our days have been spent building spreadsheets, talking to people in banks (nothing wrong with people in banks, it’s just that banks can be very uninspiring), calculating costs, speaking to accountants, strategically handing out business cards, trying to communicate with our wonderful web designer (who thankfully has found a way to be ever so patient with two artistic farmers who know very little about things like marketing and color schemes). And when we are not adding and subtracting numbers, we have been hanging photographs on the cottage walls at bad times of the day, hungry and impatient while the rains pour down and a whole day goes by without seeing the light. These are the kinds of details that can, if one is not feeling totally stable, really take a person out. (Still though, despite the business of it all some very good things are manifesting. Below is a sneak preview of the fantastic work that our Graphic Artist is up to. This is our farm sign and honey label, and didn’t she do such a beautiful job? It is a lithograph). You can learn more about her work here.
Anyway, after 2 emotional melt downs, and a couple of decent disagreements, we created a plan. A plan to keep the details at bay, and so far, it seems to be working. It goes like this. Morning mediation before e-mail, or in Mark’s case, coffee before e-mail; no skipping meals, 8 hours of good sleep, and the secret weapon was something Gus offered up, and that is: “tools down at 2:00” and no matter what we are in the midst of, we stop doing it and a long 1 hour walk through the woods follows. This happens regardless of how productive we feel we are being, or how much more needs doing. At 2:00 we walk, we breath, we don’t speak and if we do, it’s not about work. We play with our canine friend, who teaches us about how great it is to be alive, to be walking among the trees on this beautiful Pacific West Coast. And you know what, I think it’s working!
The Zen masters say, “Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.”
Here at Honey Grove, we are definitely on the ‘before enlightenment’ side of the fence, but there is plenty of wood to be chopped and water to be carried, so hopefully we’re on the right track. It has been rumoured that this winter will be a cold one and so we have both decided that we’d rather have too much wood than not enough. This said, many more hours have been spent stacking and chopping.
This morning, looking out the window at yet another giant pile of wood waiting to be stacked, we were both feeling about as far from enlightenment as two people can get. “Another task,” we thought, “another thing we have to get done, before we can do that other thing we want to get done, before we can do that other thing we want to get done…oh boy, are there ever a lot of things we want to get done.” These thoughts were followed by an increase in heart rate and a shortness of breath, and an urge to start running toward tasks, full speed with eyes closed. In my experience, these kinds of moments can go one of two ways. They can cause an immediate spike in stress and a fight, or they can become an opportunity for a shift in perspective. Since we have had our quota of fights for the week, we opted for a paradigm shift.
Surely there is some kind of wisdom in amongst the pressure of it all I thought, or maybe it’s more accurate to say, I hoped. Surely some wise one somewhere knew exactly of this human challenge and offered up a fantastic quote to put on fridge magnets and bumper stickers. A wise combination of words to help the human race get through tough times like this. And then it came to me, the light bulb went on as they say, and I remembered such a quote. It was something that Carl Jung once said, and goes like this, “if you’re on the journey, you’re at the goal.”
“Okay,” I said, to myself, to that pile of wood, to my white dog Gus, “it’s cool, everything is cool, because we are at the goal.” And so, on that quote, we went outside and shared our new-found inspiration with Mark, who looked like someone who was not remembering Carl Jung’s wise words at that particular moment in time. We marched right up to him, Gus and I, me in pajamas, Gus with an orange ball in his mouth and we told him (well, I told him and Gus supported me). I said, “I’ve got it, there is no need to be stressed, because my dear husband, we are at the goal.”
He looked confused.
And so I said, “we are going to make the work the meditation, there is no need to stress, because we are already at our goal, just doing the task is the goal.”
He still looked confused.
And so we (Gus and I) demonstrated. Gus did sun salutations and I sat in lotus on the top of the woodpile. And this time, he still looked confused, but at least he was laughing.
Yes, today we stacked more wood and we continued to work at getting the cottage ready for guests and we collected fresh steer manure for our Biodynamic gardening project and we considered plans for poly tunnels and we organized our receipts and we baked cookies and ate almost all of them. And when we were done, nothing looked any different, except our backs were sore and we now walk slightly more hunched over than we did, but other than that, it all looks pretty much the same.
But here is the thing, today we did it all without stress, without worry, without panic, without thinking that we MUST get it all done today, without thinking about what everybody else was thinking, or expecting of us, or what we thought they were thinking or expecting of us. We did it without a fight even. eh eh. We did it by surrendering to the wise words of Carl Jung, because, according to him “if you’re on the journey, you’re at the goal.” And as far as I can tell, and I hope you will agree, Carl Jung was a very wise man.
So here is what I say, “if you can’t see the forest for the trees, who cares, at least there are still trees.” (It’s no Carl Jung I know, but it cheers me up and keeps me carrying on if you know what I mean).
Today is November 1st and it has been exactly 2 months since we first arrived on Honey Grove Farm. 60 days of hard work, of inspired conversations, of hearty laughs, some honest tears, not to mention a few good fights. All in all, I think we are hanging in pretty well. Our home is finally unpacked and at long last we know where things like dictionaries and lightbulbs live. I have got the hang of fire lighting and kindling chopping. Mark has perfected his bread baking style.
And, he has finally had a full day to brew his first batch of All-Grain Beer. He set to work early in the day, on a misty morning, like a kind of mad scientist. When I looked out the window, whilst sipping my morning tea, I saw him squatting next to a vat of bubbling liquid with a test tube. He was wearing a grey toque and it appeared as though he had created some kind of outdoor chemistry lab.
It wasn’t long before the smells of simmering hops were drifting across the yard and steam was rising up into the fir trees overhead. If all goes well, he will have created a double IPA, and it will be ready for tasting in just 6 short weeks. If not, we will be calling it a learning experience, and adding to the long list of other things that have not necessarily turned out, since we set out on this dream. eh eh eh. However, I think I must tell you, that I have faith in the former, as Mark has rather a knack for brewing. I am convinced it is some kind of ancient British knowledge that flows through his blood. That he has tapped into some sort of ale making ancestral wisdom. Whatever the case, good friends the world over can vouch for his ability to create tasty ales.
I must admit I was skeptical when he first told me about his plans to brew beer in the back shed. As you know, I grew up in a small town, where everybody’s dad had a corner of the shop dedicated to “home brewing.” Mostly these “home-brews” were thin, slightly carbonated swamp water type beverages, that tasted as green as the plastic bottles they came in. Green was the color of the bottle and green was the color of the consumer after said bottle. Believe me, many of my teenage nights were spent throwing up my friend’s dad’s homebrew. Understandably, I was worried when Mark wanted to spend his time in a shed making “homebrew.” However, after two years of being the chief taster of Mark’s fine Ales, I can safely say, my fears have been put to rest. If ever you find your way to our farm, you must try one of his marvelous brews. I can assure you, it is a very lovely way to spend an evening, sipping a rich dark ale, by a warm bright fire, under a country sky.
What else have we been doing, other than getting pissed whilst stirring vats of booze under fir trees (just kidding). Well, it seems we are back to one of our least favorite tasks….that is, the picking and stacking of stones. Yes, we are currently clearing and leveling a place to build our greenhouse and there are a number of stones sitting upon that bit of earth that need to be removed. We now understand the term, “back-breaking labour.” Today we lifted and piled stones for 4 long hours. We edged our vegetable garden and we assured one another that we were making a difference. I am not sure that we did make a difference, but surely it’s our efforts that count. In some ways, these days, my dedication to making a difference in the world is being satisfied more and more in my own backyard. I have relegated my “change the world” signs to the back shed and have decided to start with my own life.
We have also been getting our orchard ready for planting. The planting will not happen until spring, but there are loads of things to do now. A location has been cleared, the tall grasses cut down and Mark has spread 500lbs of lime onto the earth to feed the soil and create the perfect ph for fruit tree happiness. He looked rather like snowman after he was all done.
Our other major dedication is getting our guest cottage up and running. We have our first guests booked in for Dec. 3rd. Slowly it appears to be coming together, the furnishings have been chosen, rich warm and inviting fabrics…the kitchen is ready for the chefs of the world, the bed is a nest of feathery softness…there are a number of books that now line the shelves and there are games to play, and all sorts of other surprises. I will tell you more about this soon.
Yes, 2 months have gone by in the blink of an eye. Each day never seems to be long enough to get everything done that needs doing, but then again, if the day didn’t end, we wouldn’t stop, and that surely would finish us off before long.
This weekend we leave our country home for a few days to put on our city clothes. It is my book launch on November 4th, and so we are heading to the urban center of Vancouver to sip red wine and nibble on cheese. We may need to scrape the manure off our boots, and clean the dirt out from under our fingernails, but nothing a good soak in a hot bath won’t fix. The book is called Moon Mysteries and it has been a labour of love. It is a book written for women, that is dedicated to reclaiming the sacred cycles of the moon and menstruation. It is a book that follows the seasons and cycles of a woman’s life in relationship to that of the earth. It is also beautifully illustrated by a very talented artist. If you want to know more go here.
Otherwise, here is wishing you a delicious day. May you be warm and happy. Thanks for being out there, it helps.
Day by day and night by night the wheel turns. Autumn is turning crisp, and even it’s golden sunny afternoons require sweaters and wool socks. Yesterday, the ground was a sparkling white in the morning, and before I stepped outside, I knew the first frost had come. I heard the frozen grass tips crunching under Gus’s feet as he ran out to pee, lifting his leg to send a steaming yellow waterfall onto the trunk of the red maple. The leaves are falling and the trees are beginning to look half-dressed. It will be Samhain in just a few short days, also known as Dark of the Moon, Hallow’s Eve, All Souls Night, Night of Hecate and Caillleach, Feast of the Dead, Festival of Remembrance. It is the Celtic New Year, affirming rebirth in the midst of death and darkness. I have heard it told that the veil between the worlds is thin at this time of year. That the ancestors and the dead are close by. It is indeed a time of letting go. A time to honour life’s thresholds and crossings, to honour the passages of life and death.
This week our beloved cat Moph passed away. And as I write this sentence I am searching for words, meaningful words that might contain our love and sadness, the deep down ache and the swells of grief. Perhaps though, there are no words to be found that can contain this depth of heart. It is a wide open infinite expanse, that is the territory of love, the poetry of a life lived and shared. Who can name it, tie it down to a combination of words on a page? Moph, beautiful feline friend, thank you for sharing your journey with us, 13 years and 6 moons to the day. We will miss you, the sound of your feet, little staccato notes across the creaking hardwood, your rumbling purr, your fierce entrance into a room as you pushed doors open with your gleaming white paws, as though to say “fear not, I am here.” We will even miss the meow that woke us each day at 4:00 in the morning to feed you. We will miss you Moph, every thing about you, we love you, now and always.
Moph~ April 25 1998 – October 25 2011
Yes, indeed, it is a time of letting go, a time of darkness both literally and metaphorically. And still, there is a kind of exquisite unnamable beauty that prevails, and soothes, and brings us to a place that is beyond even sadness, or happiness for that matter.
It is a new moon today, and the nights in the country are dark and long. They are so dark that if you wake in the night, you cannot tell if your eyes are open or closed. We are getting to know the moon more intimately these days. We have even begun to work with her rhythms on the farm, pouring over Rudolph Steiner’s texts to find out what biodynamic agriculture truly means. You see, this includes following the lunar/astrological calendars of planting, just as the ancient ones did. “The approach considers that there are astronomical influences on soil and plant development, specifying, for example, what phase of the moon is most appropriate for planting, cultivating or harvesting various kinds of crops. This aspect of biodynamics has been termed “astrological” in nature.”(wikipedia)
With the moons influence in mind we waited until she was two days before new before we planted our winter manure crop of rye. According to the locals, this crop will give the soil more nutrients than it takes, making it a rich bed of minerals for spring planting.
We have also, under this same moon, began planting berries and preparing a space for our orchard. Our raspberries, blueberries and gooseberries are now nicely tucked in, under a dark moon, in a nutrient rich soil. The deer fence is now complete to keep the agile hooved ones from leaping into our garden and eating our precious plants.
This next week we will turn our attention to preparing the plot for the orchard. We have, after much thought and expert advice (from Mark’s good Dad), selected the apples we want to grow. There is much to consider beyond which ones are pleasing to the palette. Size of tree, time of blossom, number of years before fruit, how well the apples keep, when they ripen… all things to ponder. We have been tasting many an apple. Each night with our tea we slice up another variety to savour and consider. I think we have narrowed it down, but I won’t give you our selection just yet, lest we change our minds.
And so I will sign off on this note, on a note of sweetness. Wishing you a beautiful day and a magical new moon.
Some weeks have slipped by since our last post. It happens quickly, that is, the passage of time. Mark and I will begin a project in the morning, outside in the crisp autumn air, we will be digging, or raking, or lifting, only to find that the next time we look up, it’s supper time. Yesterday it occurred to us that it was not only supper time, but it was also October, and that the night’s have grown cold, and that the geese are flying south. And that all this digging and lifting has made us very sore, but just as satisfied.
Above image from internet
And so we have begun the seemingly endless task of “tucking things in” over here. I like to think of winter prep like that, I always have. There is something cozy and nurturing about it. Something soothing about singing a lullaby to a daffodil bulb and covering it up with dense earth and leafy mulch (but I am a romantic as you know). Gus has joined me in the department of bulb planting. I must admit that his enthusiasm for it has surprised me. He has decided to drop his favourite orange ball into the bulb bed whenever possible, encouraging me to bury it along with the tulips. It made me think how much he would love a tree of orange balls to sprout in the spring, and I laughed for a good long time with my white dog, under a fir-tree in the lower field.
Flowers are one of my autumn priorities, even though you can’t eat them, even though there are farmers out there who would think this a frivolous thing to do. But you see, there is nothing more glorious to me than a bloom in spring, than a colourful wide-open display of petals after a long winter. I am a bit like a bee that way. It satisfies like nothing else~ beauty and sweetness.
We are not planting any fall vegetables this year, as our soil needs to be nourished this winter. It needs to be mulched and seeded with winter rye and left to percolate, so those good ol’ nutrients can soak in. For now we have been planting bulbs and readying some beds with rich manured soil for garlic planting. Thanks to Mark the firewood is stacked and the stove will be ready to be lit tonight.
We have also been insulating and waterproofing the bee hives. Damp kills bees faster than anything else and so warm dry hives are essential. This year I have taken extra care to make sure the hives are well insulated given the rains that apparently fall here. Each hive has been insulated on all sides, they are full of honey and pollen, and the bees have been fed some extra sugar syrup, just to insure they have enough food for winter. The outside of the hives have been wrapped with water proof tar-paper and giant rocks have been placed on the lids to keep them from blowing away. I think my girls should be just fine. They are going into winter with a clean bill of health, lots of honey and pollen stores, and well insulated water-proof hives.
We have also begun to turn some of our attention from outside tasks to inside tasks. I suppose we are doing a version of preparing to tuck ourselves in too. We have begun doing a few renovations to our little house in preparation for winter. Tiles around the wood stove, extra windows for light on dark days. The locals have taken to calling November “Monsoon Month”, it all sounds rather ominous.
I am putting a few coats of cheery paint on the walls so when the clouds roll in I can make a pot of soup in a warm dry house and begin making my magical honey potions, which I intend to sell in the local markets, but more about that later. Let’s just say it has something to do with age-old recipes and flower petals and unspeakable magic. ( I can’t give my secrets away just yet).
Overall we are getting ready for the cold and the rain and we are also looking forward to the other things that winter brings, the opportunity to dream, to plan, to organize, and maybe even to rest, at least a little bit.
Well, the phone rang the other evening; just across this stretch of water that separates us from the mainland, a wonderful old friend was calling to find out how we have been doing over here “on the farm.” He was calling to say hello and find out the “truth of things.” It seems that I have not taken my rose-coloured glasses off and am painting a rather pastoral picture of our new life on the farm.
I think that perhaps my well-intentioned blog is appearing a wee bit more romantic than I originally intended it to be, but this is the way all things appear once my eyes have looked upon them. It is no big surprise though, given that I have been known to see such things as food poisoning in India in a positive light. Yes, I am a person who does indeed see the glass as half full. I am not sure why this is, and it is not an attempt to be dishonest, just a natural and inherent tendency. You see I come from a long line of optimists, my 95-year-old Japanese grandfather is able to see the time he spent living in a chicken-coop during world war two, as good luck. He has forever seen the blessings that life bestows upon him and is known for his appreciation of the simple things.
Nonetheless, if it’s truth you want, I am going to attempt to tell you the way things have been around here these past few days, without my rose colored spectacles. Let me begin by saying the sun, is not shining. The rain is pouring down and has been since early this morning when two cords of firewood were dropped off on the front lawn, three hours earlier than expected, and two weeks later than hoped for. Mark says that in his opinion, working with cords of firewood is much harder than working at piano chords and I laughed hard at this, being a very unsuccessful piano player. So for 3 long hours Mark wheel-barrowed, and I stacked. By lunch time each piece of wood was in its new dry and proper place, and as my dad would say, “we got er done.”
We then spent another two hours spreading top soil on our new veg plot, soil that was quickly turning to mud. We did this until our bodies insisted that we stop and irritability took over. Our frustrations came out on the rakes and the shovels, but truth be told, mostly on one another. After giving up on the mud spreading, we came into our cold little house (cold because all the contractors are busy at the moment, and our wood stove requires tiles around it before it can be lit). We have now taken to wearing 3 layers of wool indoors. The saving grace, would of course be a bath, that is, if we had a bathtub that would fill up with hot water beyond three inches…Otherwise we spent a good while cleaning up cat pee, as one of our dear sweet kitties is finding some difficulty in adjusting to her new home.
So there you have it, “the truth.” And even as I write this, I am laughing, because it all seems very funny. I mean, to be able to have a go at one’s dream at all, is a blessing indeed, and if the only thing challenging you is a little cat pee and a rainy day, well hell, how lucky can you be? Yes, there is much to be grateful for. We also drank home-made chai tea today and we felt a deep sense of productivity sink in our bones, as we are beginning to see our dream take some shape. The air is fresh and clean and the view from the window is nothing but trees dancing in autumn’s wind. Our dog is peacefully sleeping on the floor and there is a local free range chicken roasting in the oven. There is hot tea in the pot and a plan to go out this evening. Yes, truth be told, we wouldn’t change any of it, not for the world.
PS- Happy Autumn Equinox~ Day and night are of equal length today. Tis the celebration of opposites. So, it seems that we are right in line with the greater flow, moving back and forth between the positive and negative. I think the wise one’s call this balance.
Patience is not something I have lots of, despite the fact that I would like to say it is something that comes naturally, it does not. It never has, and although I have aimed to cultivate it, I cannot say I have been entirely successful. Imagination, vision, creativity, I have oodles of that stuff. Trouble is, you sort of need both when you are stitching together a long time dream. I think the ladies who sit in quilting circles around the world know this better than most. I know that my Polish Oma has no problem accepting the time it takes for the compost to ripen, and the seed to grow into a fruit, for the time it takes sauerkraut to ferment and the pig to fatten. She just keep laughing and accepting what life sends her way. I admire her, I always have.
I would like to tell you that I can peacefully accept the time it takes for a vision to be birthed, and that I love “the process” more than the result, but that would not be the whole truth. Hell, I don’t even think that would be half the truth, although I would like it to be. Yes, any romantic notions I had of gardening in the countryside are being slightly adjusted this week, as the autumn rains begin to fall and Mark and I hand-pick our freshly cleared garden spot stone by stone. I try not to look up too often, because I swear that stones muliply, faster than bunnies in spring.
Mark seems to have found a lovely groove with the stones, some kind of one-ness. He has a serene monk’s look on his face that I am sort of jealous of. Yes, I can be an impatient little grasshopper, I have to own that. Although, the funny thing is, when I asked Mark what his secret was to his apparent zenness, he said, it wasn’t exactly zen. He said it felt more like he was playing some kind of giant great game, and he was just completing tasks, like some kind of reality TV show contestant. He said that the serenity was more likely exhaustion.
Today’s task is to find spoiled hay and steer manure to add to the topsoil that is being delivered tomorrow and then we simply wait. We wait for winter to do it’s magic, for the hay and manure to feed the soil. There are of course other projects waiting for our attention once the garden is percolating. I think this is where my impatience really threatens to have me for supper, because I know that I am standing in a sea of uncompleted projects that extend for miles in all directions. I tell myself, I have my whole life to get it done, and this helps for a minute. I hum sanskrit mantra’s as I pick stones, I take deep breaths and this helps too, but the impatience, it doesn’t totally go away. I, like my garden, am a work in progress. ( I should have t-shirt made with that on it). I have though, found some way to satisfy this monster of mine and that is by doing little projects that have the potential to be completed in a day or an hour. Like dishes drying in a rack. Like freshly baked apple crisp. Like a bouquet of wild flowers on the window sill. Like laundry hanging in the wind. Like stacking wood.
So there you have it. My ugly confession, but those of you who know me, know that I am not really telling a secret, just owning up to an undeniable fact. I am also hopeful that this marvelous and saintly virtue will not always be a stranger to me, that I might one day accept the passage of time and embrace “the process.” And as I sip my tea this morning, and look out at the September rains, I feel a sense of peace, that might even contain within it, the seed of patience, so perhaps it’s not all lost. Mostly though, I watch my wise dog, because he’s got this thing totally figured out.
Today is day 13 on Honey Grove Farm, and I must confess that I have a whole new respect for power tools. But, before I begin, let me preface the above by saying that when it comes to most things, I like to live my life the old-fashioned way. You see, respect for power tools was not something I ever had, until today. Our love of the old way is reflected in all areas of our lives. Stepping into our kitchen, can sometimes feel like you have gone back in time. We hand-grind our coffee beans and whisk our egg whites with nothing more than elbow grease and a thrift store whisker. Even our honey extractor is hand crank. Our garden shed has always been much the same, that is, until we moved to the country and the push lawn mower was relegated to the back of the shed.
Yes, when it comes to clearing an acre of overgrown meadow, full of brambles and scattered trees, in order to make a vegetable garden and a place for a greenhouse, push lawn mowers and shovels just don’t quite cut it. And let me also say, that if I knew of a local horse logger, like my good old dad used to be, trust me, I would have found him. So what are you gonna do when you have 4 foot stumps sticking out of the ground that are too big to hand dig, and all the horse-loggers are retired? Well, there is only one thing you can do, you have to call in the “big boys with the big toys,” as they used to say, back in my hometown. There is, in my humble opinion, a place in this world, even for power tools. Even for big clunky giant mad-max type machines, (and I never ever thought I would say that, but time for me to get off my hippy high horse before I fall off). teh heh heh- (Dismounting)
I won’t lie and say that I didn’t cry when the first tree came down. I won’t be telling the excavator driver that I knelt down behind the compost and said a prayer for it either. I won’t deny that I got terribly sad when I saw the drone bees being kicked out of the hive today by the worker bees, so that they might get through the winter with less mouths to feed. Yes, if there is one thing I am learning on the farm, it is that sacrifice appears to be a very big part of agriculture. (and we don’t even have any livestock beyond bees yet). I don’t know if there is ever a way to justify our human taking. I told myself that bringing those trees down was a worthy sacrifice which will allow us to have the space to grow an enormous garden that will hopefully feed us all year round. I told myself of the warmth the wood will create as it burns in our little stove in the cold winter months. In my mind, down some logical pathway, it all seemed okay then for a minute, but in my heart, the sound of a tree hitting the ground will always bring tears to my eyes. Yep, truth be told, I have this problem when I harvest carrots too. (think what you want, I don’t mind).
And so, what gets me through the night, short of flying to India and becoming of Jain? And what the hell is someone like me doing out here on a farm anyway? Well, all I can say is that I take great comfort in Joseph Campbell’s teachings, when he talks about living things being part of an all-consuming fire. That life has always fed on life and this is the inevitable creation and destruction of living~ the life/death/life cycle. I find the philosophers and poets of the world help to make sense of this complex field. I read their words to comfort me, to help me live a human life and not feel forever guilty for it.
So today, a very big excavator came and did a very big job.
And Mark was busy with his chainsaw and brother Cohen was stacking wood.
And I was weedwacking in funny glasses and digging manure into raised beds.
It was a busy day and lots was accomplished and we had a stew for dinner and we toasted to a hard days work ~ to seeing the first outline of our vegetable garden and to power tools.
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)