Smith Island : Red Clover & Hairy Vetch
Smith Island, an island in the Willamette River just south of Corvallis, is still farmed by relatives of its namesake Green Berry Smith. The nearby community of Greenberry was also named after the same pioneer who arrived in the area in 1846. Loren Smith and his son Dan Smith grow a variety of seed and forage crops on the island including hairy vetch, red clover, orchard grass, arrowleaf clover, alfalfa, and pumpkins.
Loren has always been very conscientious about maintaining native pollinator habitat in the riparian areas, gravel bars, and periphery of farm fields. The staggered bloom times of the various crops he grows support impressive pollinator species diversity. We brought these bees in early to forage on the hairy vetch, but their main job was to pollinate later-blooming pumpkins.
Hairy vetch (Vicia villosa) is grown as a forage or cover crop. It’s a great nitrogen fixer, and it flowers prolifically over a long span of summer with small purple blooms. It used to be widely grown in the Willamette Valley but is fairly uncommon now. Its nectar makes a “water white” (colorless, clear) honey.
Red clover (Trifolium pratense) is a pink-flowered clover used as a forage or cover crop. It is notable in the Willamette Valley for attracting a lot of bumblebees. Red clover has a deep flower, so only honeybees with particularly long tongues can access the nectar. While most of our hives made some honey on nearby hairy vetch, only a few hives made surplus honey from red clover nectar.
The honey tastes of sweetgrass hay and walnuts.
Orleans, OR, situated between Corvallis and Albany, is more of a crossroads than a full-fledged town. Apparently it used to be an important steamboat stop in the Willamette Valley but was destroyed in the flood of 1861, which also moved the main course of the Willamette River to the west. Orleans was never rebuilt, and only the Orleans cemetery and a church remain there today.
Our Orleans apiary is on ground farmed by Lee Gilmour, a young farmer whom Henry met through his volunteer work as a director of the Benton Soil and Water Conservation District. The site has reasonably well drained but moist soil, and this year, it grew a great meadowfoam seed crop.
Meadowfoam (Limnanthes alba Benth.) is a low, almost succulent-like plant native to Oregon and California that naturally grows in vernal pools. If you’ve ever driven through the Willamette Valley in May, you’ve probably noticed blindingly white fields of meadowfoam in bloom. Nearly all commercially produced meadowfoam seed is grown in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. After the seed is harvested in early summer, it is pressed into an oil that is mostly used in cosmetics.
Meadowfoam honey is widely known for its strong vanilla and/or marshmallow flavors. Most commercially available meadowfoam honey is extracted after another summer nectar flow, so it can be more subdued. This honey was extracted right at the end of the meadowfoam bloom, so it has an intense vanilla and root beer flavor.
Logsden : Wild Blackberry & Groundsel
The small town of Logsden, Oregon is located in the central Oregon Coast Range along the upper Siletz River. Our Logsden apiary lies at the confluence of Mill Creek and the Siletz River surrounded by small farms, pasture land, and timberland. Spring nectar sources in the area include bigleaf maple, vine maple, bitter cherry, dewberry, and chittum.
The site gets enough inland heat to make a good, consistent honey crop, but it also dries out earlier than some of our other Coast Range apiaries. This season, however, we had enough late moisture for the blackberries and clearcut weeds to produce a lot of nectar through the end of August. In addition to blackberry and groundsel, this honey probably includes nectar from St. John’s wort and lotus (bird’s-foot trefoil) growing in recently logged areas.
Himalayan blackberry (Rubus bifrons) is a non-native, naturalized species that is widespread in the area. It fruits prolifically in the summer.
Groundsel (Senecio sylvaticus), also known as woodland ragwort, is a clearcut weed with petal-less yellow flowers. This nectar source is likely what gives the honey its yellow color.
This honey tastes like golden raisins with a buttery finish.