Here and Now

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Last night, over a beautiful dinner of delicious local fair, gathered from the Farmer’s Market, and prepared by the skilled hands of my visiting brother, an interesting thing occurred.  This thing that I speak of can only be described as a sense of present-ness.  The feeling that comes when one is submerged in a task without looking toward the future or back at the past.  It is a place I rarely find myself in ( being the busy-body that I am) and a place I often aim to be in ( aspiring to Zen-ness like I do).  Mostly though, in my aim toward Zen, I find myself falling a good deal short of the mark, ending up flat on my face in both physical and emotional ways. The funny thing is, after years of trying to be “in the moment”, I am beginning to think that the secret to this way of being, may very well be, that it does not come, from trying.  No, what appears to be happening to us, is happening quite naturally and without attempt of any kind.

Over a few glasses of a splendid bottle of Brunello, not exactly local, but what the hell, we realized, (Mark, my brother and I) that not one of us knew what day of the week it was. Beyond that, we didn’t have clue what the date was. The only thing we could collectively gather, is that it was sometime just after dusk in mid September.  This was followed by a string of jokes about whether or not we had slipped into another dimension whilst digging and clearing and stacking in the lower field.  I never mentioned it to the boys, but between you and me, I never under-estimate the power of Fairie. You never know what dimension we could stumbled into down there in the Alder Grove. eh eh eh. Needless to say, we spent the next while theorizing as to what sort of magic was indeed happening.

Here is what we came up with, be warned, some or all of the following theories below are Italian wine induced.

Number 1 Nature’s Rhythms

When living in nature, one quickly synchs up with the natural world. (This of course is not our theory, as there are continents of wise ones who have been saying this for millenia, but we can tell you, that we now know it to be true).  We have noticed that the light in the sky, and the weather patterns moving over head, and the sound of crickets at dusk, and the crow of the rooster in the morning, and the hum of the hive in the afternoon, all have a rhythm.  And this rhythm is organic and fluid and flexible and changing, and because it is, we too have become more accustomed to nature’s ebb and flow. We too have become more in tune with the here and now.

Number 2 No Set Schedule

Since we don’t have a schedule based on days of the week, our schedule tends to grow out of each day. What the priority is today, will be very different tomorrow.  The result then is that life becomes a string of tending to priorities instead of Tuesdays. When you are in the midst of a thousand details, at the beginning of an enormous plan, there is only one place to be, and that is here and now.  That is, giving your attention to one detail at a time, and then, when it is completed, to celebrate its being done.  This I think might just be the secret to saving oneself from the human condition of overwhelm, impatience and total exhaustion.  If we were to think about everything that needed to occur on our farm, throughout each and every day in a non-stop way, the result, I am quite certain, would be two very ragged people, getting very little accomplished, but more ragged-ness. Priority this week is deer fence.

Number 3 Keeping it simple

The 3rd secret to present-ness might just be “keeping it simple.” This way overwhelm doesn’t take you out of the present and land you in panic.  Yes, as far as I can tell, there is no need to do things the hardway, if you don’t need to. Google is an amazing tool, someone, somewhere in the world, has had this same problem as you, guaranteed, and nice of them to write about how they solved it.  Walkie talkies are also great.  And I laugh while I write this. Last week, when Mark first came home with a set of little blue walkie talkies I thought he had lost his mind.  But after a week of saying ” Apiary to Lower Field, do you read me, over” and “Lower Field to House, please bring water, it’s %^&in hot out here, over”  I think he made an excellent purchase, even if it wasn’t in the budget.

Yes, we have officially been here for 10 days, and 10 beautiful, hardworking, backbreaking, weed-digging, tree-cutting, stick-piling, land-clearing, fence-building days they have been.  It has been hot and tiring and perfect.  It has not been easy, but there has been ease, if you know what I mean. The neighbors have come over with berries from their gardens and offers of tractors and chicken raising advice.  Indeed, all things on Honey Grove Farm are very good, if you don’t mind being sweaty and dirty and a little sore. If you don’t mind squabbling about the best way to build a deer fence, and you don’t mind disagreeing about the priorities.  If you don’t mind that when you run out of batteries, town is far away.

Thanks for being out there, cheering us on, it means a lot.

N and M

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How it all began…

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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.

Mark has been cutting a few of those trees.  Many we are leaving for shade, but there has to be the right amount of sun and shade, as any good gardener will tell you.

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.

And I have been the wood stacker.  The long branches I am saving for bean poles for next spring.

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,

Harvest Blessings,

Nao and Mark and Gus ( Our Canine Companion, and Number One Supporter)