Old Blue Raw Honey hives on meadowfoam

Update: Thanks for all your support! The sale was a huge success and has come to an end. Stay tuned for more updates about our new honey house.

Old Blue Raw Honey is a small beekeeping enterprise and varietal honey company owned and operated by my beekeeper husband Henry and me. Henry manages about 500 honey-producing hives by himself, moving each hive 6-8 times per year to take advantage of different nectar flows. We extract honey together in the summer, and I do all the non-beekeeping business tasks like bottling honey, handwriting labels, shipping, events, website management, customer service, etc. We do not currently have any employees nor do we have any plans to have employees in the near future.

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

As I’ve mentioned before, we bought a house and property last year, and in October, we finally made the big move. That transition has been fantastic, and we couldn’t be happier with our new living arrangements. One of the primary reasons for the move, however, was actually more business-oriented. We simply needed a permanent space for honey processing and storage for our business Old Blue Raw Honey.

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 program? Use 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-oak, bigleaf maple, coriander, 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 grafting, freeze-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: @waywardspark (me) @oldbluerawhoney (Henry) 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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scones // Wayward Spark

There are a million scone recipes out there in the world. I can guarantee that you don’t need another one, but…I’m going to share this anyway. These are my mom’s, more bready than crumbly and barely sweet at all. They call for a good slathering of jam or honey for breakfast or dessert although you could probably omit the raisins and go all savory on them with an egg, a swipe of tomato jam, and a handful of arugula. The thing I like best about them, though, is that they’re hard to screw up because the dough’s not too delicate. I have never made a decent biscuit in my life (though lord knows I’ve tried), but somehow these scones rise in pseudo-laminated layers every time. I’ll confess that I even screwed up the batch in the photos by getting all the way to the shaping and cutting before I realized that I forgot to add the raisins. I smooshed up the triangles of dough and kneaded in the raisins, convinced that I’d end up with hockey pucks from overworking the dough, but low and behold, they still turned out great.

scones / Wayward Spark

I added a bunch of new podcasts to the list on the right for your (and my) listening pleasure. I want to specifically point out a new one, Local Mouthful, hosted by my friends Marisa McClellan of Food in Jars and Joy Manning, editor of Edible Philly. I really like these two women as people, but they’ve done a fantastic job right out of the gate delivering quality audio media. Give it a listen.

Also, the above photo shows an optimistic version of my kitchen table these days. I’ve jumped on the kombucha-brewing bandwagon, so my poor table is always a cluttered mess. We’re hoping to get moved to the new house in the next week or two where there is considerably more counter space. Hallelujah!

scones // Wayward Spark

Raisin Scones

The original recipe is from The Vegetarian Epicure, but this version has been tweaked significantly.
makes 8 medium-large scones

1/2 cup plain yogurt + 1/2 cup milk (or 1 cup buttermilk)
1 good egg
2 Tbs. sugar

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (optionally including up to 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour or other whole grain flour) + extra for dusting
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup cold salted butter

2/3 cup raisins (or dried cranberries)

In a measuring cup, thoroughly mix the yogurt, milk, egg, and sugar.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives until the biggest pieces are pea-size.

Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture. Use a wooden spoon to stir together the ingredients at first, but once mixed, turn it out on a lightly floured surface, and gently knead the dough with your hands. Add flour as necessary and continue to knead gently until all the ingredients form a cohesive lump. Don’t knead more than necessary, but also don’t be afraid to handle the dough enough to fully blend it. After the dough comes together, knead in the raisins (or cranberries).

Cut the dough into two equal sections. Pat each section into a disk about an inch thick. Cut each disk into quarters. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment, leaving at least an inch between scones. Let the scones rest while the barbecue (or oven) warms up.

Heat the barbecue and heat-insulating apparatus on medium. You can see photos and a description of my standard insulating apparatus here, but if you come up with your own system that works as well or better, I’d love to hear about it. (Alternately, heat oven to 350°.)

When the barbecue is hot, place the baking sheet on the heat-insulating apparatus and close the lid. Check the scones after 15 minutes, rotating the scones if they appear to be baking unevenly. Bake another 10 minutes or so until some of the edges have turned golden brown, checking and rotating as necessary.

These scones are best served warm from the barbecue or reheated within 36 hours of baking. Serve with lots of butter, honey, and/or jam.

scones // Wayward Spark

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We bought a house.

August 14, 2015 · 10 comments

hiking at Sweet Creek Falls // Wayward Spark

We bought a house. It’s (sort of) a REAL house with power and closets and counter space and indoor bathrooms and neighbors, and I am (mostly) thrilled. I’m assuming some of you are surprised by this development. Before all the recent radio silence, I used this blog often to brag/blather about this little cabin that’s been our home for a decade now, but as much as I do still love this place, circumstances have changed and even in our most optimistic periods, we never thought we’d stay here forever. Maybe you’re disappointed that we’re not better advocates for “tiny house” off-grid living, but I would like to think that I’ve always been honest about what lifestyles we are and aren’t endorsing.

In the beginning, Henry bought this place and built the original section of the cabin as something of a temporary bachelor shack. The two of us lived in under 200 square feet for two years before adding on shortly before our first kid was born. We made further improvements, but back then, we decided to plan on building our “real” house on the same property when Levi turned five and Henry turned 30. Those milestones came andwent in 2012, and over the course of several discussions, we decided that we were still genuinely happy in the cabin, and we weren’t ready to undertake a major construction project. Right around that time, too, Henry was shooting the breeze with one of our crotchety older neighbors who lived in a cute house on about 15 acres of well tended land, and the neighbor turned to Henry and said, “Someday, I should sell you the ranch!” Henry came home that night and relayed the not-particularly-serious proposition. My jaw literally dropped, and though we’d never ever talked about living anywhere aside from the property we already owned, I told Henry to say yes. “Call him right now, and tell him we say yes, and we’re super serious.”

It turned out the the neighbor was pretty content at home–he remains there still–and there’s probably no way we could ever wrangle the funds to pay fair market value for the property, but once that seed of an idea was planted, we basically quit thinking we’d stay here on the hill forever. After we opened up to the possibility of eventually living somewhere else, it seemed absurd to consider building our “real” house at the end of these awful, steep gravel roads, without electricity, and in one of the most fire-prone areas of Benton County, and so the hunt was on for a new place.

For a year or more, our search for a new home was casual. We were still very comfortable in the cabin and weren’t feeling any pressure to change our situation. Last July, we looked semi-seriously at the first piece of property (in Burnt Woods), and then around October, we started actively looking for a new home and new home for our business. We made a list of our most essential criteria for a new place: a small, livable house (1,200-1,800 square feet), at least half an acre of flattish, unforested land, on or near a paved road, and within a specific geographic area (Philomath area, “downtown” Wren, or Blodgett). While at first we didn’t think those criteria were particularly limiting, we soon realized that in an extremely low-inventory real estate market in a smallish geographic area, we were basically chasing a unicorn. In about seven months, we only looked +/- 15 places, not all of which actually fit our criteria.

The process of house hunting was frustrating and depressing on all levels, but now that we’ve found a place, I’m just really excited to be moving forward, making plans for landscaping and gardens and business space and bike storage and all the rest. We now have two acres of blank slate-ish land and lots of dreams to fulfill.

I have a million other things to say about the house and the state of things, but I’m just going to leave you with a few photos of a day trip to Sweet Creek Falls (west of Eugene) and the dunes in Florence that the kids and I took with my brother’s family and a couple friends.

Hope your summer has been grand!

hiking at Sweet Creek Falls // Wayward Sparkhiking at Sweet Creek Falls // Wayward Sparkhiking at Sweet Creek Falls // Wayward Sparkhiking at Sweet Creek Falls // Wayward Sparkbeach time // Wayward SparkFlorence dunes // Wayward Spark

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Leek Scapes

April 30, 2015 · 8 comments

leek scapes // Wayward SparkMaybe you’ve heard of garlic scapes, those curlicue green things that show up at farmers’ markets around this time of year. They taste faintly of garlic and are often (for reasons I don’t totally understand) blended into an alternative pesto. But have you heard of leek scapes? Like garlic scapes, leek scapes are the shoots and flower buds of leek plants that emerge in the spring as the leeks attempt to go to seed.

About this time last year, I was walking by the far-past-prime overwintered leeks in my parents’ garden when I saw a few scapes waving in the wind. I honestly had never heard of people eating them at the time, but I thought I’d give it a go. After a million meals of eggs and kale raab during the springtime garden dearth, it seemed like a good idea. I chopped them into easy-to-manage lengths, tossed them in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and threw them on a hot grill. I burned my fingers and my tongue grabbing hot spears off the barbecue and stuffing them into my mouth, but the flavor made it all worthwhile.

I took these photos yesterday and then promptly ate about 2/3 of that whole pan of grilled leek scapes. Juicy and mildly allium-y, grilled leek scapes are the best thing EVER (or at least this week). I’m sure you could do them up a million different ways, but I can’t seem to find the motivation to try anything more complicated than minimal seasoning and simple grilling. To fancy them up a bit, I just pulled a jar of homemade romesco out of the freezer to pair with my next batch of grilled scapes, inspired by news of this event.

I have found the easiest way to harvest leek scapes is to gently tug on the exposed shoot until it pops out of the layered casing. The scapes are often straight, but occasionally they go wonky or grow super tall. Unlike hardneck garlic that will continue to ripen a bulb even after the scapes are harvested, what’s left of these leeks are pretty much toast at this point.

Since my first experiments with leek scapes, I have actually seen them at farmers’ markets, but they’re not too common, and they don’t have a very long season. Most leek-growing farmers, my parents’ included, are anxious to tear out sad overwintered produce to make room for ground prep and early summer crops. If you grow your own leeks, you might want to let some go so that you’ll get of this sweet spring surprise.

leek scape // Wayward Spark leek scape // Wayward Spark leek scapes // Wayward Spark leek scapes // Wayward Sparkleek scapes // Wayward Spark leek scapes // Wayward Spark leek scapes // Wayward Spark grilled leek scapes // Wayward Spark grilled leek scapes // Wayward Spark grilled leek scapes // Wayward Spark

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Robin and Laura Sage of Red Bird Acres // Wayward SparkLaura and Robin Sage, owners of Red Bird Acres, are nice people and good farmers working to provide high-quality meat and eggs to Corvallis-area customers without compromising on ethics or farming practices. They raise broiler chickens, laying hens, hogs, sheep, and a few dairy goats all on green green Willamette Valley pasture.

Recently I visited the Red Bird Acres farm and talked to Laura and Robin in depth about their farming methods and the ethics of raising animals for food. A few different parts of their program stood out to me as being somewhat exemplary even in this local-food-obsessed community.

The “red birds” at Red Bird Acres are ‘Freedom Rangers’, a French breed of chicken know for excellent foraging abilities and good meat flavor. They are much slower growing than the industry standard ‘Cornish Cross’ broiler chickens, but they thrive on pasture and experience fewer health problems than ‘Cornish Cross’. (I wrote a little more about this here.) Laura and Robin also raise ‘Idaho Pasture Pigs”, another breed that does well with the extra room to roam and grass of the Red Bird Acres farm.

All the animals at Red Bird Acres are fed non-soy, non-GMO feed custom milled by Union Point Custom Feeds in Brownsville, Oregon. They are NOT fattened up with GMO corn and soy-based feed shipped in from Iowa.

Laura and Robin do all of the animal butchering themselves without the help of volunteers or low-wage laborers. They personally ensure the quality of all their products and are with their animals all the way from field to market.

Laura and Robin are at the tail end of a Barnraiser campaign to raise funds for purchasing new chicken processing equipment. They’re not asking for a lot, but a small lump sum of donations would be invaluable for furthering sustainable meat production in this area. I would encourage you to learn more about their farm and then send a few dollars their way. They are so close to reaching their goal with just a few days left, and I know that I will be personally super bummed if they miss out on this opportunity because they came up just a little bit short. (If you’re like me, you may be kind of annoyed by so many Kickstarter-type campaigns, but this one is legit, especially at a time when  more traditional forms of capital are simply not available to farmers of this scale, and supporting small farmers has never been more important.)

You can also find Red Bird Acres at the Corvallis Saturday Farmers’ Market every week.

Red Bird Acres // Wayward SparkRed Bird Acres // Wayward SparkRed Bird Acres // Wayward SparkRed Bird Acres // Wayward SparkRed Bird Acres // Wayward SparkRed Bird Acres // Wayward Spark Red Bird Acres // Wayward Spark

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

I’m pleased and excited to announce an upcoming collaboration with Cocotte Restaurant, Seastar Bakery, Nectar 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 queens, this series would be a good place to start.

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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.

honeybee removal // Wayward Spark

He started by smoking them a little and then pulling/cutting out chunks of empty comb and honeycomb.

wild honeycomb // Wayward Sparkhoneycomb // Wayward Spark honeybee removal // Wayward Spark honeybee removal // Wayward Spark

He quickly and carefully removed wax sheets that contained brood.

a frame of wild brood comb // Wayward Spark

He cut out sections of brood comb and used rubber bands to secure them in wooden fames. He placed the frames in an empty hive box.

honeybee removal // Wayward Spark honeybees on comb // Wayward Spark honey hand // Wayward Spark honeybee removal // Wayward Spark

He set honeycomb aside in a bucket, took empty comb home to melt down, and secured all the brood-filled comb in a hive box.

honeybee removal // Wayward Spark

He installed a stand as close as possible to the former colony location and placed the hive box filled with a feeder, frames of honey, and frames of brood on top of the stand.

honeybee removal // Wayward Spark

At this point, he started literally using his hand to scoop up clusters of bees and deposit them in the new box.

honeybee removal // Wayward Spark

He spotted the queen, and nabbed her in a queen catcher. The queen is often shuttled to the back of the hive during a disturbance, so in this instance, she was more or less where he expected her to be. He moved the queen into the new hive box.

smoking honeybees during a removal // Wayward Spark

Then he smoked the heck out of the whole area in order to drive bees from the old colony location into the air where they would reorient to the new hive box with its enticing brood and queen pheromone. Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Henry got stung a few times, pooped on a few times (the orange bits by his temple and behind his ear), and generally had lots of bees crawling all over him.

Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

There’s the H. Storch Pollination ad photo right here.

wild honeycomb // Wayward Spark

He divvied up the bucket of honeycomb collected from he colony between the owners of the barn and some friends.

A couple days later, Henry picked up the box where the bees were happily established and relocated it to a better location.

If you would like to purchase Old Blue Raw Honey (from our hives not a funky barn wall), we have 10 different varietals available on our website.

 

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Oh, man. I’ve never been away from the blog for so long, and it feels pretty strange. I’m not making any long-term promises, but rest assured that this blog isn’t going away any time soon. And, hey, I’ve even added a handy new blog feature in the form of an ever-evolving list of podcasts that I partake in. It’s over there in the sidebar. FYI there’s some potentially offensive stuff in several of them, so listen at your own risk.

Though I haven’t been writing here lately, I have been writing. You see, this year I’ve committed to taking on the sales, shipping, and marketing duties at Old Blue Raw Honey, and though I don’t plan on using this space to push our products all the time, I will be posting (hopefully) frequently about what’s going on in our apiaries and our business ventures. I’ve also been spending a lot of time pitching all sorts of ideas around to other blogs and publications. To be honest, I’ve thought about launching a part-time freelance writing career of sorts for a couple years now, but with the exception of a few fruitless pitches, I’ve never really had the motivation or the nerve to really go for it. Now, however, promoting our honey is my job, and I’ve found it’s a whole lot easier to ask for things of influential people when I’m doing it in service of a entity that’s not just me myself. I really believe in Henry and Old Blue, and so far, that passion has resulted in a few enthusiastic responses. I’m pretty stoked about that, and I’ll be sure to let you know if/when my work is featured somewhere off this site. (For starters, Henry has a pretty good interview up on the Portland Apothecary blog that I didn’t write, but I did edit and influence quite a bit.)

I should also note that though I’m not here much, you can always keep up with me on Instagram @waywardspark, and Henry’s there, too, @oldbluerawhoney.

Wayward Spark Oswald West State Park // Wayward Spark

Instead of a real blog post today, I’m just going to offer you a long list of recipes that I turn to again and again for tried and true deliciousness. These are favorites in our house that are particularly well suited to the dark days of winter. The photos included here are from our trip with Henry’s extended family to Manzanita on the Oregon Coast.

The Best Granola” from David Lebovitz–This is my go-to granola recipe. I always use chopped hazelnuts instead of almonds and all honey instead of a honey-rice syrup blend for sweetener.

Yeasted Buckwheat Pancakes from Not Without Salt–You gotta plan ahead a little, but these pancakes are worth it.

Dark Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread (homemade Nutella) from Megan Gordon‘s cookbook Whole Grain Mornings–We have a ton of hazelnuts kicking around our house, and this is a good way to use them up. It doesn’t contain any dairy products, so it lasts for quite a while.

Turmeric Tea from 101 Cookbooks–I’ve gotten really into turmeric + honey + lemon. In the beginning, I found it a little overwhelming, but now I can’t get enough.

Fire Cider from cider and rye–I chopped and grated everything up for this fire cider a while back, but it’s not quite ready, so I won’t get to taste it for another couple weeks. I don’t have any experience brewing or even consuming fire cider, but I’m super excited to try it out.

Smothered Cabbage from Orangette–This method often leads to my eating a vast amount of greenery in one sitting. I usually just make the smothered cabbage and don’t do the whole soup thing that the post suggests. Sometimes I eat it over rice with a bunch of parmesan cheese. I would imagine that one could also substitute in brussels sprouts for some or all of the cabbage, and I may well do that soon.

Lacinato Kale and Pecorino Salad from 101 Cookbooks–I made a giant (and I mean truly giant) bowl of this salad and ate the whole thing myself in the course of an afternoon. I just couldn’t stop. I used garlic and homemade hazelnut butter in the dressing in place of shallot and tahini, and I subbed in a regular onion, toasted hazelnuts, and some other kind of hard cheese in place of green onion, pecans, and pecorino. Honestly, I think you could do this salad a hundred ways with good results. So good!

Winter Squash Soup with Curry and Coconut Milk from Coffee in the Woodshed (or this variation from Orangette)–if you still have squash kicking around your pantry.

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread from The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book–This is from an old standard, but it makes a great basic loaf bread.

South Indian Dal that my friend Leela of Tea Cup Tea posted on Cup of Jo–This is a great dinner-is-in-half-an-hour-and-I-don’t-have-a-clue-what-to-make recipe. It’s easy, healthy, and totally satisfying. The options for garnishes and condiments with this dish are pretty endless: plain yogurt, cilantro, hot sauce, toasted nuts…

Bloody Marys from Anne Parker–I don’t normally drink cocktails. (To be honest, I swore off hard alcohol twice, once after my 20th birthday party and a second time after my 21st birthday, and since then, I’ve mostly stayed away.) But when we were planning for our trip to Manzanita, Henry’s cousin’s boyfriend and I started scheming about bloody marys, and the first person I thought of was my friend Anne Parker who is something of a bloody mary aficionado. Anne’s recipe is great, and I definitely partook in the bloody mary bar to it’s fullest extent. We used dill aquavit (Broder Nord-style), but this horseradish vodka sounds like it would be a good addition.

Dill Pickled Carrots from Marisa McClellan’s Preserving by the Pint–I’ve talked about Preserving by the Pint and Marisa’s outstanding blog Food in Jars before (here and here), but even I am surprised by how often I’m reaching toward the book for inspiration. It seems like once or twice per season, I’ll be in dire need of a condiment or a pickle or a preserve to shake things up a bit, and Preserving by the Pint never fails to provide just what I desire but never would have been able to come up with on my own. These dill pickled carrots are great in bloody marys or on their own. I didn’t can mine because they didn’t last long in the fridge before we had eaten them up.

Celery Salt from 101 Cookbooks–Great for bloody marys, eggs, egg salad, or really on anything.

Za’atar from 101 Cookbooks–Gotta use up all that homemade sumac spice, and this is awfully tasty.

Salted Chocolate Rye Cookies from Apt. 2B Baking Co. via Tartine No. 3 (which I really should buy sooner rather than later)–I’ve made these a few times, and they’re always a huge huge hit.

Biscotti from Alice Medrich’s cookbook Chewey Gooey Crispy Crunchy–Buy this book ASAP. There are a bunch of wonderful recipes, but being a big fan of biscotti, I’ve made several different biscotti variations, and I can rationalize excessive cookie baking because biscotti is kinda supposed to be stale, so they can hang around my kitchen for weeks.

Nibby Buckwheat Butter Cookies from Apt. 2b Baking Co.–If you’re into buckwheat like I am, these are right up your alley.

Buckwheat Cocoa Cake from Smoke Signals Bakery–I’ve been meaning to bake this since the second Tara posted the recipe. Tara’s also a lot of fun to follow on Instagram @bakerhands.

…and a couple of my recipes:

Homemade Naan

Pickled Beets with Honey on Food in Jars

Honey-Vanilla Bean Quince Preserves on Food in Jars

Oregon Coast // Wayward Spark Oregon Coast // Wayward Spark

 

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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.

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

We didn’t set up a super official taste test, but we did set out our unmarked varietals in order with the strongest flavors at the end of the line. Tasters had water to drink between sampling and sniffing each varietal. Honeys were warmed to about 80° to best bring out the flavors and aromas. We brought along several of UC Davis’s recently published “Honey Flavor and Aroma” wheels that list and categorize different tastes that appear in varietal honeys. (If you have a hankering to do your own honey tasting, you can pick up a honey flavor wheel here.)

A bottle of each varietal was passed around the table, and our tasters took free-form notes as they sampled. We tried to keep the discussion to a minimum during the tasting, although there were several varietals that elicited strong facial expressions and gasps of “Oooh!” and “Whoa!” At the end, we talked through the character of each varietal and voted on favorites/least favorites.

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

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

The two clear favorites of the day were the Clary Sage & Hairy Vetch from our Kiger Island apiary and the Blackberry & Salal from our Fruitvale apiary. With the exception of one taster who really liked it, the Raspberry & Mint from our Sunset Valley Organics apiary was the least favorite. The Blackberry from our Depot Slough apiary and the Blackberry & Lotus from our Elk City apiary were declared the most mild and pleasant but unobtrusive, not anyone’s favorites but not their least favorites either. The Bigleaf Maple from our Blodgett apiary and the Blueberry & Chittum from our Greenberry apiary were the most flavorful and most controversial in a love ‘em or hate ‘em kind of way.

When you compare one taster’s notes to another’s, you’ll notice that some flavor profiles are all over the map, but a few are very clearly defined. Though the taste is pretty obvious, I was still impressed that all the tasters used the words “eucalyptus” and “menthol” or “mint”, and five out of six used “root beer” or “birch beer” for the Bigleaf Maple honey. Words like “sweaty”, “rubber”, and “toast” were also used by more than one taster to describe one varietal or another.

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

I’ve added a condensed version of the flavor notes from the tasting to each honey varietal that we have listed online, but the full, mostly unedited descriptions are included below. Each line was written by a different taster.

1. Blackberry from our Depot Slough apiary

floral, waxy, clover, fruity, vanilla
nutty, walnuts, confectionary: butter scotch, toffee, tree fruit: pear, dried fruit:figs, barnyard
waxy, floral, honeysuckle, fruit paste, slight almond, caramel, brown sugar, nutty aroma
beeswax, propolis, quince, floral, maple syrup
uncomplicated, honeysuckle, butterscotch
waxy, fig, cotton candy, nutty, pecans

2. Blackberry & Salal from our Fruitvale apiary

floral, jasmine, citrus, roasted, astringent, woody, cedar, nutty
bready, roasted, woody, pine, mint, tea, papery, toasty
roasted, toasted walnut aftertaste, orange
cinnamon, allspice, toast
toffee, pollen
floral, honeysuckle, clover, herbal, tea, veggie/grass/hay, pastoral

3. Blackberry & Thistle from our Feagles Creek apiary

fruity, dried apricots, jam, clove, dark fruit, viney
estery, fruity, citrus, orange zest, berry, cane fruit creme brûlée, orange blossom
citrus, lemon, geranium leaf, floral, slight citrus, Ricola cough drops
lime, cherry, cough drops, viney, plant, floral/violet, orange
herbal, mint, grassy
peach, apricot, toffee, salty, bready

4. Blackberry & Lotus from our Elk City apiary

caramel, vanilla, very sweet, oak tree, spicy
lavender, marshmallow, moldy, sweaty
caramel, cooked fruit, figs, lemon aftertaste, maple
cabbage, citrus, orange, earthy, earth spice
marshmallow
melon, spicey, pine, caramel, maple

5. Bigleaf Maple & Dewberry from our Logsden apiary

goaty, barnyard, hay, earthy, pungent, white pepper, licorice, burnt
peppermint, fennel, mushroom, cherry
rubber or ash, waxy, fishy smell,
rubber, almond, lime, butterscotch
very buttery, beeswax
anise, licorice, minty burnt wood

6. Poison-Oak & Chittum from our Cardwell Hill apiary

berry, currants, herbal, earthy, rose, cinnamon
orange, orange blossom, maple
waxy, almond, floral
plastic, candy, cotton candy, rose
sweet grass, light lemon
menthol, prune, rootbeer, tea, rubber

7. Clary Sage & Hairy Vetch from our Kiger Island apiary

floral, very sweet, perfumey, cotton candy, toffee, almond brittle
cocoa, toffee, floral
cinnamon, lemon, citronello
marshmallow, plant, clover hay, alfalfa, viney/plant
nutty, toasted, brickle, most unusual, unique, slight fig, flora, jasmine
vanilla, maple, butterscotch, orange blossom

8. Bigleaf Maple from our Blodgett apiary

medicinal, menthol, eucalyptus, cough drop, licorice, root beer
melon, anise/licorice/root beer, eucalyptus, banana
eucalyptus, menthol, minty, licorice, root beer
licorice, spearmint, eucalyptus, floral, birch beer
eucalyptus, menthol
minty, menthol, anise, eucalyptus, clove, root beer

9. Blueberry, Dewberry, & Vine Maple from our Siletz apiary

fruity, dried fruits, spicy, toast, yeast
maple, butterscotch, citrus, lemon/orange, soap
orange peel, lemon, baking spice, toast, maple
bread, toffee, cinnamon, plastic, toast
sweet cream
cinnamon, strawberry, ginger, molasses

10. Raspberry & Mint from our apiary at Sunset Valley Organics

tropical fruit, sulfur, orange blossom, clove
cotton candy, cat pee, sweaty, cherry, christmas, clove, cinnamon
rubber, burnt aroma, heavy waxy taste, slightly medicinal, eucalyptus, animal, leather, bitterness
sweaty, gamey, chestnut, plastic
off aroma, decomposition/socks, spices
sweaty, leather, waxy, nutmeg

11. Blueberry & Chittum from our Greenberry apiary

pungent, dried dark fruits, sour, spices, potpourri, strong
leather
orange, cloves, sharpness, acid, roasted
marshmallow, vanilla, astringent, oak, woody
rich, root beer, nutmeg
sour, astringent, marshmallow, tea, tobacco

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Barbecue Baked Squash-Honey "Pumpkin" Pie // Wayward Spark

We’re living out the tail end of an early raging ice storm in these parts. The kids went off to school yesterday, but only a couple hours later, the school called to say the power was out, and I should come pick them up. Driving through Blodgett on the way to get them was pretty freaky. The roads were surprisingly ice-free even though some sort of precipitation was pouring down, but all the trees on the sides of the road were covered in ice and drooping perilously. I had to veer around tree limbs down on the highway, and I witnessed several whole trees tipping over, thankfully not on my car or the road. Once we were safely back home, I scanned through multiple anecdotal reports on Facebook of nasty road conditions, power outages, and general natural havoc.

Today, school was canceled again because the power was still off. I had big plans for the day but switched gears and decided to bake a pie and roast a giant pan of lemon-parmesan brussels sprouts instead. The two dishes hit the spot on this nasty day though I’m probably going to have to hang out on the fart patio tomorrow.

squash-honey "pumpkin" pie // Wayward Spark

I have to confess that when I come across pumpkin pie at a Christmas party or buffet table, I usually skip it. Don’t get me wrong. I love pumpkin pie, but I kind of only love my mom’s pumpkin pie. Others just don’t live up. They’re too bland or too spicy or soggy or dry. My mom’s pumpkin pie is always just right, for me anyway. I called my mom up to get her recipe this morning, and then I tweaked it in a pretty major way by swapping in honey for sugar. I wasn’t sure if it would work flavor and/or texture-wise, but the end product turned out silky smooth, incredibly fragrant, and just right in terms of sweetness.

I used an ambercup squash (the orange ones in the photo below) in this recipe because I’ve never been too impressed with the taste of sugar pie pumpkins. I simply baked the halved, seeded squash in my barbecue until soft and then scraped out the cooked flesh to use in place of pumpkin puree.

This recipe falls on the less spicy side of the pumpkin pie spectrum. You could up the quantities of added spices if you prefer. Freshly ground/grated spices boost the flavor in a very good way.

If you’re in the market for more pie inspiration, I highly recommend following Tara Jensen @bakerhands on Instagram or checking out her blog. Her pies are always impressively beautiful but in a rustic, appealing kind of way.

winter squash // Wayward Spark

Squash-Honey “Pumpkin” Pie

1 pie crust (I’m partial to this rye crust from 101 Cookbooks, but be sure to halve it for a single bottom crust.)
 
2 large eggs
3/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups squash or pumpkin puree (You can used canned, but it will be better if you make your own. This method works well, although this time I didn’t feel the need to run it through a food processor, and it turned out fine.)
1 can (12 fl. oz.) evaporated milk

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, honey, spices, and salt. Add the squash puree, and whisk until combined. Add the evaporated milk, and whisk until combined.

Roll out the pie crust and line a pie pan with it. Pour in the filling.

To bake it in a propane barbecue, place several fire bricks on the grill and top them with a heat shielding device. (I use a Lodge cast iron pizza pan on top of four fire bricks as seen here.) Preheat everything on medium for about 20 minutes. Place the pie pan in the center of the heat shielding device.

To bake it in an oven, preheat the oven at 350° and place the pie on a rack in the middle.

Bake the pie for a hour or more until the center no longer jiggles when the pan is nudged. Cool thoroughly before slicing and eating.

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