Honey House Construction and Honey Sale

Okay, folks, this is a call to action. We need your help.

We are now in the final stages of building a licensed and certified honey extraction facility (aka “honey house”) on our new property in Philomath, OR. Our building currently has four walls, a roof, and a concrete floor. We just got our small-batch extractor, and we’ve purchased a used stainless steel bottling tank and commercial sink. Our equipment is scaled exactly to our needs, and we’ve designed the space to be extremely energy efficient both in terms of human effort as well as electrical usage. When this building is complete, it will serve Old Blue Raw Honey and our customers for a very very long time with minimal upgrades and expenses.

The reality is that right now we are scraping the bottom of the barrel of our business and personal finances, and we’re due to be more or less out of money in just a few weeks.

We have the honey equivalent of all the funds we’ll need to finish this project, but we just need to sell it and send it out into the world. If you’ve ever considered buying honey from us, now would be a great time. Will you need a birthday/anniversary/Mothers’ Day/Fathers’ Day/graduation/teacher/thank you/housewarming/hostess gift in the near future? Do you want to invite your friends over for a varietal honey tasting flight? Have you considered joining our honey subscription programUse the coupon code “HONEYHOUSE”  at checkout for 15% off your next purchase from our online store.

Old Blue Raw Honey honeybees

What we’re doing is different from other honey companies and different from other direct-market beekeepers.

•We only sell honey from our own hives.

•We offer a wide array of interesting, small-batch varietal honeys not readily available elsewhere like poison-oakbigleaf maplecoriander, and clary sage.

•We give our customers a LOT of information about specific honey varietals as well as about our beekeeping practices more broadly. (Each bottle is labeled with the harvest date, apiary location, and primary nectar source(s). Beyond that, varietal honey listings contain extra information about apiary ecology and nectar source plant characteristics. Customers can also learn more by reading through our FAQ, checking out our blog, or following @oldbluerawhoney on Instagram. )

•We are actively preserving and improving Northwest-adapted honeybee genetics by raising and breeding our own queens and using isolated mating areas to propagate resilient, feral-based stock suitable for both migratory pollination and honey production in Oregon.

We’re not the only honey company doing some these things, but we don’t know of any beekeepers doing all of these things. (If you know someone who is, we’d love to connect with them!)

Old Blue Raw Honey hive inspection

To be clear, we are not asking for (nor accepting) donations. We are asking for your patronage. This is not a Kickstarter campaign. We already have bees and bee gear, and we’ve had a fairly large honey harvest (~10,000 lbs) for the last two years. To continue to produce great varietal honey, we need to get to the point where the income generated from honey sales can start paying off our considerable investment into this building sooner rather than later.

To establish a honey extraction facility and buy necessary equipment, we’ve spent income from Henry’s horseshoeing services, pollination contracts, sales of bees, logging on the homestead property, and personal savings. We’re also looking into our options for a loan from more traditional financial institutions, but we would really like to bridge this financial gap without going into debt.

We are committed to independently marketing and distributing our honey to customers and a few restaurants and businesses. We want the pipeline from hive to consumer to be as short and direct as possible so that we can continue to guarantee an interesting, quality product. While we are hoping to expand our wholesale honey options after the 2016 harvest this summer, our preference is to conduct most of our sales with individuals. If you value the idea of beekeeper-direct, diverse varietal honey, if you think we should have the infrastructure to keep doing this at a viable scale, please buy honey from us and/or encourage others to do so.

If you can’t buy honey now or if you’ve already made a purchase and want to go one step further, please consider telling your personal and/or professional network about our honey and bee breeding efforts. Tweet out a link to our Spring Honey Sampler. Encourage your friends to follow Old Blue Raw Honey on Facebook or Instagram. Bring some honey into the office, and leave it near the coffee station. Share a link to this blog post or one of our more educational blog post (i.e. queen graftingfreeze-brood hygienic testing, or a colony removal from a barn wall). Feel free to regram any photo from my Instagram feed (@waywardspark) or Henry’s (@oldbluerawhoney) as long as you include our IG handle(s), and if you decide to post your own photos, please tag them with #oldbluerawhoney so that we and others can find them. Or do things the old fashioned way, and tell folks about our honey in person. Bees make for a great conversation starter!

We do not aspire to be the biggest, most widely distributed, most influential, most sleekly marketed honey company in America. We DO aspire to live satisfying lives, provide for our children, be contributing members of our community (both locally and online), educate others through our day to day conversations, take care of our bees to the best of our ability, produce high-quality honey and wax for our customers, and continue to use this business as a chance to learn and grow as curious people.

There’s a lot of talk about “saving the bees” these days, but as beekeepers, we’re not at all confident that signatures on a petition or awareness-raising campaigns by major brands will do much good for the challenges all beekeepers are facing in the modern era. What really does make a difference for us and others is when folks choose to buy beekeeper-direct honey. In our case, your purchases support not just our family but also our bee breeding efforts that we believe are a small but significant step toward sustainable beekeeping in every sense of the word “sustainable” (environmental, economic, bee health, etc).

Thank you so much for your continued support. We really could not do this without you!

Camille and Henry Storch

Connect with us!

website: oldbluenaturalresources.com Use coupon code “HONEYHOUSE” at checkout for 15% off your next purchase.

Instagram: @oldbluerawhoney (Henry) @waywardspark (Camille) and #oldbluerawhoney

Facebook: facebook.com/oldbluerawhoney

email: oldbluerawhoney@gmail.com (Many common questions are answered on the FAQ page of our website, so we’d like to encourage you to check that out before emailing in your questions.)

Here’s a list of places you can buy our honey in Oregon.

Here’s our events schedule if you want to see us and sample honey in person.

Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey in a blooming almond orchard

We’d also like to acknowledge the hardworking contractors and partners who have done a lot of the physical labor to make the honey house possible.

Jim Schrock did most of the dirt and rock work, putting in our new road and making the pad for the building.

John Moser delivered load after load of gravel to our place.

Pete Owens designed the pole building shell and gave us great suggestions about possible added features. His crew (Luis, Rosedel, Serafin, and Manuel) carried out Pete’s vision pretty flawlessly.

Chris Foos and his team did an expert job pouring the concrete slab and loading dock.

Valley Electric is working on wiring up the building.

Albin’s Plumbing is in line to finish up all the water and heating infrastructure.

Contractor Will Harris and Milo Roberson are working tirelessly on the interior buildout and siding.

Eugene and Chip Cooper milled the fir siding for the exterior of the building and some dimensional lumber (out of logs from our homestead property).

Our new custom-built honey extractor was made by Cowen Manufacturing.

Most of our building materials have come from Spaeth Lumber Co., our local, independently owned hardware store.

Many of the people on the list above have been friends and/or horseshoeing clients of Henry’s for ten years or more. They are all reputable, upstanding folks/businesses doing fine work. We can’t recommend them highly enough.

Old Blue Raw Honey honeybees

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Spring Honey Sampler

Our Spring Honey Samplers will begin shipping on Tuesday, March 15. You can find our spring honey sampler for sale here or become a year-long honey subscription member here.

Logsden : Vine Maple & Dewberry

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 timber land. Nectar sources in the area include bigleaf maple, vine maple, bitter cherry, dewberry, chittum, and non-native blackberry. 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. As Henry was expanding his migratory beekeeping operation five years ago, the Logsden apiary was one of the first sites he selected to host hives away from our home. 

Vine maple (Acer circinatum) is a large, native shrub that can form impenetrable thickets. It blooms in late April to early May with small, red flowers. Often wet Oregon spring weather prevents bees from producing an abundant vine maple honey crop, but the flowers are a good nectar and pollen source if bees can fly to access them. 

Dewberry (Rubus usinus), also knows as trailing blackberry or trip briar, is a low-growing native blackberry that produces edible fruits later in the summer. The dewberry bloom is one of the principle spring nectar flows for bees in the Pacific Northwest.

This honey has an earthy, woodsy flavor with spicy undertones.

Boone Island : Wild Blackberry & Lotus

Boone Island and the adjacent shallows was formed by an ancient oxbow in the Yaquina River near Toledo, OR. The area has interesting tideland marshes dominated by tufted hair grass, gumweed, yarrow, Douglas’ aster, sedges, and orach. Upstream of the saltwater exclusion gates, the honeybee habitat is primarily made up of non-native blackberry and lotus. Boone Island was a major navigational point on the lower Yaquina for tugboats towing log rafts from the turn of the last century until the 1960s.

Himalayan blackberry (Rubus bifrons) is a non-native, naturalized species that is widespread in the area. It fruits prolifically in the summer.

Non-native lotus (Lotus corniculatus) was widely touted during the heyday of small scale dairying in Western Oregon as “poor man’s alfalfa” because of its adaptability to our region’s growing conditions. Lotus is nitrogen fixing and tolerates waterlogged and/or heavy clay soils. Its high tannin content prevents bloating in livestock but also reduces the forage quality of the plant material. It blooms early and continues to produce yellow flowers on wet sites until the first frost. The extra moisture in this area created by tidal influence causes the plant to secrete more nectar than is seen in other sites. The bees work lotus for both nectar and pollen. 

This honey is bright and fruity with a slight tannin edge and a clean finish.

Kiger Island : Pumpkin

Our Kiger Island apiary is located on an island in the Willamette River just south of Corvallis, Oregon. Our apiary sits on property owned by a fourth-generation farmer in the area, Mike Hathaway. Henry moved in the bees to the site in late May to pollinate Mike’s clary sage crop, producing our clary sage varietal honey. The hives remained in place to pollinate the neighboring seed pumpkin crop on Smith Island across the slough.

The pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima) field was planted with an heirloom, hubbard-type “Golden Delicious” pumpkin grown for its edible seeds. The vines bloom through August, and the resulting pumpkin honey was the latest-season varietal we produced in 2015. 

This honey has a toasty candy corn flavor with a tart tamarind finish. 

 

Thank you so much for your support!

Camille & Henry Storch

Old Blue Raw Honey

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Winter Honey Sampler Box

Tangent : Coriander

The town of Tangent is at the heart of the grass seed growing region in the Willamette Valley. Farmer Cody Younger, a classmate of Henry’s at OSU, rotates vegetable seed, oilseed, and cover crops through his grass seed fields. This was Cody’s first year growing coriander as a rotation crop, and it performed well on the site. 

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) is the seed of the cilantro plant, a widely used culinary herb. The flowers provide easily accessed nectar and pollen resources for honeybees and other native bees. Flowering cilantro in a home garden makes for a good opportunity to observe a diverse array of pollinators. 

The coriander honey has a floral flavor reminiscent of the smell of Queen Anne’s lace flowers and a lingering buttery finish. It has been very popular at tasting events this fall.

Cardwell Hill : Blackberry & Chittum

We have two apiaries in the Cardwell Hill area, but this honey comes from hives located near Cardwell Hill Cellars. The site is at about 600 feet elevation in the foothills of the Oregon Coast Range. In the spring, the bees forage on vineyard cover crops such as crimson clover, mustard, radish, and vetch. These pollen and nectar sources are mostly used for spring population buildup. The nectar flow peaks when the weather warms up and the chittum and blackberry bloom periods overlap. 

Himalayan backberry (Rubus bifrons) is a non-native, naturalized species that is widespread in the area. It fruits prolifically in the summer.

Chittum (Rhamnus purshiana), also know as cascara or cascara buckthorn, is a large shrub or small tree that grows abundantly in our area. The name chittum comes from a Chinook jargon term derived from English for the laxative properties of the bark. Chittum has a sustained bloom from April until as late as June, and its small, inconspicuous, green flowers have easily accessible nectaries. It is a critical nectar flow for the bee colonies’ spring buildup in Western Oregon.

The blackberry and chittum nectar combination gives this honey an earthy, toasted malt flavor and darker color.

Sunset Valley Organics : Raspberry

Sunset Valley Organics is a farm owned by Bob and Diane Wilt just south of Corvallis, OR. They are known primarily for their large blueberry acreage, but in the last few years, they have expanded into cane berries (raspberries, blackberries, black raspberries, etc.), aronia, and strawberries. The farm is certified organic, and they sell wholesale berries, U-pick and direct-market berries, and processed berry products like jams and dried fruit. 

Raspberries (Rubus idaeus) flower prolifically in May and fruit later in the summer. Oregon’s climate is particularly well suited for raspberry cultivation. Raspberry jam made with honey is also quite good. 

This honey is fairly mild in flavor with earthy notes and a clean citrus finish. 

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Autumn Honey Sampler Box

Our autumn honey sampler boxes ship out today. The following is the information included along with the three honey varietals. Our autumn honey sampler boxes will be available here through September 28.

Cardwell Hill: Poison-Oak & Chittum

We have two apiaries in the Cardwell Hill area, but this honey comes from our home property. Henry keeps his queen mother breeder colonies just up the hill from our house, so they’re easily accessible. He uses larvae from these hives to graft new queens every week throughout the spring and summer.

The site is located at about 1,000 feet elevation in the foothills of the Oregon Coast Range. In the spring, there are ample nectar and pollen resources from a diverse understory, but lack of soil moisture limits summer nectar flow, so Henry moves bees farther west as the site dries up.  

Poison-oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) is one of the dominant understory species in the area and grows unsupported up to 12 feet tall or will vine up trees to at least 50 feet. Poison-oak has white, star-shaped flowers that hang in grape-like clusters. The species is so dense in this area that our hives generally produce surplus honey while the poison-oak is blooming in May if the weather permits foraging. The oils in the leaves and stems of the plant can cause dermatitis, but the bees are unaffected.

Chittum (Rhamnus purshiana), also know as cascara or cascara buckthorn, is a large shrub/small tree that grows abundantly in this area. The name chittum comes from Chinook jargon term derived from English for the laxative properties of the bark. Chittum has a sustained bloom from April until as late as June, and it’s small, inconspicuous, green flowers have easily accessible nectaries. It is a critical nectar flow for the bee colonies’ spring buildup in Western Oregon. 

This honey has a mellow, earthy, butterscotch flavor. It includes small amounts of poison-oak pollen.

Burnt Woods: Blackberry & Groundsel

Our Burnt Woods apiary is located along the Tum Tum River (also a Chinook jargon term for “heart”) near Burnt Woods, Oregon, roughly halfway between Corvallis and the Pacific coast. This spot is in the heart of the Oregon Coast Range, and most of the adjacent land is owned by small family-owned timer companies or the Oregon State Department of Forestry. The bees mostly forage on weeds regrowing in recently logged areas. In addition to blackberry and groundsel, this honey probably includes nectar from St. John’s wort and scotch broom.

Himalayan backberry (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 has a spiced fruit flavor with a buttery finish.

Peoria: Meadowfoam

Our Peoria apiary is on ground farmed by Lee Gilmour, another young farmer that Henry met through his volunteer work as a director of the Benton Soil and Water Conservation District. The site has well drained but moist soil, and this year, it grew a great meadowfoam crop with good yields.

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 June, 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 the blackberry bloom, so it can be more subdued and marshmallowy.  This honey was field extracted during the meadowfoam bloom and has an intense vanilla and root beer flavor. 

Thanks so much for your support!

Henry and Camille

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Honey Brunch in Portland, OR

Henry Storch beekeeper at Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

I’m pleased and excited to announce an upcoming collaboration with Cocotte RestaurantSeastar BakeryNectar Creek Mead, and Old Blue Raw Honey in the form of a honey-centric brunch on Sunday, April 19 in Portland, OR at Cocotte.

Here’s the menu:

1st course
Sweets: Honey drinking porridge, baked goodness, honey-roasted seasonal fruit

2nd course
Toast: Honey-baked beans on rosemary cornbread; a salad of spring herbs and vegetables on rye; 
square slice (crispy pan-fried pizza) with pecorino, hot pepper, and honey

3rd course
Salad: Spicy farm greens with honey mustard vinaigrette, honey-plumped mustard seeds, grilled Halloumi cheese, honeycomb candy

4th course
BLT: Honey-cured and roasted bacon, fried egg, last summer’s tomato jam, roasted Padron peppers, 
chili-infused honey drizzle on a Seastar bakery biscuit

Mead-infused brunch cocktails
Stumptown coffee

Tickets are $50/person, and they include food; one honey or mead cocktail or non-alcoholic beverage; presentations and discussions with the beekeeper, the bakers, and the mead maker; and gratuity. Tickets must be purchased ahead of time here. There will also be honey and mead tasting at the event with products available for purchase.

This is a really fun project for me personally because of the good folks involved. Annie Moss (whom I wrote about here), one of the co-owners of soon-to-be Seastar Bakery is someone I’ve know since elementary school; Mischa, the chef at Cocotte use to live across the street from me growing up (and I once, only kind of intentionally, gave her a bloody nose, much to my horror); Nick Lorenz, one of the co-owners of Nectar Creek lives up the road from my parents in a funky, off-grid cabin not dissimilar to ours; and Nick’s brother Phillip Lorenz, the other co-owner of Nectar Creek, used to work on the same farm that I did and is also a former beekeeper. I trust that these people are going to make this event extraordinarily delicious. I would love for you to come.

In other news…

I recently wrote and photographed a five-part series for the online food site The Kitchn all about Henry’s beekeeping practices and our honey. You can find it here. I’m quite proud of this bit of writing, and I’m pretty sure that if you read it, you’ll learn something. Doing this series forced me to distill the main plot points of our business into a short amount of space, so if you would rather an overview than a detailed description of how to graft honeybee queensthis series would be a good place to start.

- See more at: http://waywardspark.com/honey-brunch-in-portland-or/#sthash.6k7AxpDe.dpuf
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Honeybee Removal from a Barn Wall

wild honeybee hive in a barn wall // Wayward Spark

I have about a million photos to share from our recent trip to check on bees in the almond orchards of Northern California, but before I do that, I wanted to pop in quickly with a few shots from a recent honeybee colony removal that Henry did here locally. I’ve written about bee removals a bunch of times on the blog, and this one was pretty straightforward. Actually, it was even in the exact same barn as the one featured in this post.

The colony was settled in a section of barn wall right under the roof about 8 feet off the ground, so most of the removal activities were performed a few steps up a ladder. I was taking photos over Henry’s shoulder from the ground. Henry had already removed the siding in the area of the colony before I arrived on the scene, and you can see (above) the hive was pretty well established between studs. Henry thinks they probably swarmed in last summer.

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Honey Varietal Tasting at the OSU Food Science Lab

Old Blue Raw Honey tasting at the OSU Food Science lab // Waysard Spark

We’ve had our honey up for sale online for six weeks now, and so far, everything has been going extraordinarily well. Our customers are emailing/Instagramming rave reviews, and I haven’t yet made any major mistakes in the packing and shipping process (Whew!).

When I originally wrote the product descriptions for each varietal, I intentionally did not include any flavor descriptors because I simply don’t have a very discerning palate, and Henry didn’t feel comfortable describing the tastes on his own. If you look around, many honeys you might find online or at a grocery store are described with words like “luscious”, “robust”, and “intoxicating”, which are words that don’t really have much meaning, and we didn’t want to go that route. We also didn’t just want to come up with a bunch of pretentious sounding adjectives that weren’t relevant or helpful. The reality is, however, that people shopping for food online really need the retailer to guide them in choosing an appealing product by providing accurate flavor descriptions.

To remedy our lack of flavor vocabulary, Henry scheduled a honey tasting event at the Oregon State University Food Science lab with his friend Brian Yorgey and five of Brian’s flavor-nerd coworkers. In the Food Science Department, the professors, research assistants, and students regularly do to organized tastings of all sorts of foods from the latest cane berry varieties to fat-free cream cheese. Honey tastes a lot better than fat-free cream cheese, so the folks we met with were quite happy to help us out.

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Clary Sage Pollination and Honey Extraction

clary sage // Wayward Spark

Henry has contracted with growers to do a handful of local crop pollinations this year (blueberries for Radke’s Blueberries and Gibson Farms plus raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries for Sunset Valley Organics), but the one crop pollination that he’s been most excited about is clary sage. Clary sage is known for its medicinal properties and for its usefulness in cosmetics, and the purple or white blooms can be seen in fields around the Willamette Valley.

Mike Hathaway is a young grass seed and filbert farmer in Corvallis, Oregon (more about Mike in this article in the local newspaper), and he’s growing a small field of clary sage for the first time this year. Henry knows Mike from their college days when they were both studying agriculture. They’ve crossed paths a few times over the years and have chatted about beekeeping, so when Mike needed bees for pollination for the first time (grass seed and filberts are both wind pollinated), he gave Henry a call.

Henry moved several pallets of bees to the edge of the field around Memorial Day just as the sage started to bloom. The photos in this post were taken on June 22 when the bloom was on the decline. In the month prior, the bees worked the clary sage pretty hard, but they also probably brought in nectar and pollen from nearby hairy vetch and blackberries.

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Early Honey Extraction

open nectar // Wayward Spark

Henry and I extracted nearly 40 gallons of honey on Sunday. The early honey varietals that the bees produced are quite different from main season flows in many ways. First off, they taste different. As you can see in the photo above, early season honey contains a significant amount of pollen that we don’t filter out of the final product. The bees have been nectaring on species such as maple, chittum, native trailing blackberry, and poison-oak plus the hives that have been out on farms for pollination purposes serviced blueberries and raspberries. The flavors and colors of our five varietals from different seasonal apiaries vary quite a bit because of the nectar resources available in each of the locations, but they are all intense and distinct. As we were working away in the extraction room, the air became thick with an earthy, herbal smell that made me feel like I was getting some kind of health benefits just by huffing the aroma. If you’re looking for real, raw honey made from the nectar (and pollen) of Pacific Northwest native plants, this is the stuff you want.

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Grafting Honeybee Queens

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

For the last four years, Henry has been adding to and selecting from his pool of honeybee genetics all originating from feral, Pacific Northwest-adapted colonies. In order to propagate those genetics as well as maintain and increase his hive numbers, he started grafting his own queens last year. Grafting queens takes a lot of time, effort, skill, and bees, so it’s not really an activity for hobby beekeepers.  There are many other methods of creating new hives that work well on a smaller scale.

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