canned plum sauce // Wayward Spark

Hey, local folks! You’re invited:

It’s harvest time. Let’s celebrate!

Marys River Food Swap August Meeting

7:00 pm Thursday, August 21, 2014

at the Marys River Grange Hall (24707 Grange Hall Rd. Philomath, OR)

Please RSVP to the Facebook Event Page or email

You bring:

up to 6 jars of food + an extra for sampling if you have one

a potluck dish or beverage to share

a pen or pencil (We’ll have extras.)

a couple bucks to donate to the Grange

About food swap items…

–Possibilities include but are not limited to jams, jellies, marmalades, chutneys, relishes, salsas, pickles, pestos, spreads, sauces, extracts, beverages, infused alcohols, dehydrated fruits and vegetables, preserved fruits and vegetables, flavored salts, spice blends, granolas, ice creams, or…

–Each item should be at least 3-5 servings. That means an offering of homemade mustard would be considerably smaller than a contribution of apple cider.

–It’s slightly easier logistically if you bring 6 of the same item, but if you want to or need to bring several different foods, that’s okay.

–Food safety is very important for an event like this, so please don’t cut corners. Unless you are an experienced canner, please follow a recipe from a reputable source, and boil canned goods for the full recommended time period. If you have any concerns about food safety, OSU Extension Service has great online resources about food preservation here. We reserve the right to disallow items that don’t appear to be properly preserved.


–Food items do not necessarily need to be shelf stable, so feel free to bring something that needs to be refrigerated or can sit out on the counter (especially if you’re unsure about your canning abilities).

–You probably won’t get your jars back (but you will probably bring home new ones), so plan accordingly.

How the swapping works…

Each person will set out their food items on a table with a description card (provided at the event). After surveying the goods, the group will form a circle around the table, and one at a time, everyone will choose one item until the last person picks. Then the last person will start a second round of selection in reverse order and so on until each person has chosen as many items as he or she brought.

There will be no bartering or bidding on items, and everyone has equal chances to get what he or she wants, even the person who brings the least popular items. (It’s inevitable. Don’t feel bad if it’s you.)

You do not need to bring food swap items to attend, but it will be more fun if you do.

Feel free to invite friends, but please RSVP. Attendance will be capped at 60 participants.

I hope to see you there!



Red Ranger chickens at Gathering Together Farm // Wayward Spark

My friend Lisa Hargest (you may have seen her in this post) came over for dinner a while back, and we got to talking about the state of things at Gathering Together Farm, the place where Henry and I worked for years and now the place where Lisa has worked for years. She told us about a project that she instigated to raise a bunch of meat chickens along with our friends Joelene Jebbia (seen here) and Paula House (seen here) to be cooked and eaten at the farm’s thrice weekly crew lunch.

I wrote about crew lunch and the farm owners’ ethic behind it here, but basically the farm cooks feed an insanely large amount of hot, nutritious food to an insanely hungry crowd (sometimes 50+) of farmworkers every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Lisa, Joelene, and Paula are not vegetarians, but like some of the other GTF employees, they try to adhere to certain high standards when it comes to the meat that they consume. In the context of a somewhat mass-produced meal, however, it’s not always easy to source affordable but humanely raised meats. This spring, they decided that one way to address this situation would be to raise chickens on the farm specifically for farm lunch. They already had a space to do it, the infrastructure needed to house and feed chickens (from an experiment in raising chickens to sell about 10 years ago), willing chicken stewards, and the full support of the farm’s owners.

The first batch broiler chickens they raised were ‘Cornish Cross’, the fast-growing, huge-breasted, delicious-but-dumb breed that is standard in the commercial poultry industry. The ‘Cornish Cross’ chicks cost $1.90 each, and out of the 100 they bought, 90 survived to butchering age of about seven weeks.

For the second batch, they’re trying ‘Red Rangers’, a somewhat slower growing heritage breed that exhibits much more bird-like behavior and makes for a great forager. The ‘Red Rangers’ cost $2.10 per chick, but so far, none have died. Unlike ‘Cornish Cross’, ‘Red Rangers’ take about 12 weeks to reach butchering size. During that time, however, they eat quite a bit less than ‘Cornish Cross’ per bird per day, so in the end, Lisa figures that the feed costs for the two batches of chickens will be roughly the same. The ‘Red Rangers’ also have more leg and thigh meat and less breast meat than the ‘Cornish Cross’, so culinarily the two breeds have somewhat different applications.

My friend Chris Hansen of Mosaic Farm (who for some dumb reason I haven’t yet profiled on this blog, but trust me, he’s a super interesting, stand up guy) caught wind of GTF’s chicken plans, and he proposed a trade. He would provide his specially blended non-GMO, locally sourced, freshly milled chicken scratch (more details about his feed blends and availability here) at cost in exchange for the opportunity to eat crew lunch whenever he wanted to at Gathering Together. Everyone agreed that this was a terrific idea, so the chickens have spent their whole lives eating nothing but Willamette Valley bugs, grass, wheat, peas, and a small quantity of nutritional supplements. Parts of Mosaic farm are literally adjacent to Gathering Together fields, so it’s pretty easy for Chris to stop in when the lunch bell rings, and he usually eats with the GTF crew once or twice a week.

When the chicken-rearing plan was concocted, Lisa just assumed that, come butcher time, the crew would do the deed themselves. There were quite a few folks on the farm with at least some experience killing, plucking, and gutting chickens, but as the birds grew and the summer workload of farm duties increased to exhausting levels, butchering in-house held less and less appeal. That’s when Lisa, Joelene, and Paula made the decision to pass the task on to professionals. Fortunately, they knew just the right people for the job, Rachel Prickett of Provenance Farm (profiled here, here, and here on Wayward Spark) and her team at Oregon Mobile Poultry Processing. Rachel’s fledgling business uses Provanance Farm’s existing mobile chicken butchering trailer to travel around Western Oregon, processing medium to large batches of birds on-farm at a competitive price per animal. (For more info on custom poultry processing call 541-250-0102). The GTF chicken stewards figured that paying Rachel and her gang to do the dirty work would save them a tremendous amount of hassle while yielding a more attractive, better packaged product faster and cheaper than if the paid-by-the-hour farm crew of amateur butchers did the work themselves. Lisa explained to me that making the decision to outsource the processing was like taking a weight off her chest, and she never regretted the decision.

If the farm chef is cooking a chicken-based lunch in the summer for the full crew, she would probably use up to 10 chickens per meal, so 190 birds will only last through 19 or 20 meals (more meals for a smaller winter crew). Considering the fact that the farm serves 156 crew lunches per year, these farm-raised chickens will make up a significant portion of the protein served but nowhere near a majority. That wasn’t really the goal for this project, though. Lisa, Joelene, and Paula just wanted to make an effort to start somewhere and do a little bit better than before.

For me, the story of these chickens and how they were raised embodies the collaborative spirit of some of the most ethically-minded farmer folks that I know. The birds will be cared for by compassionate people, fed the highest quality food available, allowed to run free-ish on healthy land, butchered quickly and humanely by knowledgeable professionals, cooked to perfection by a skilled chef, and eaten by hungry, hardworking folks who appreciated the sustenance. I don’t think it gets any better than that.

Red Ranger chickens at Gathering Together Farm // Wayward SparkRed Ranger chickens at Gathering Together Farm // Wayward Spark Red Ranger chickens at Gathering Together Farm // Wayward SparkRed Ranger chickens at Gathering Together Farm // Wayward SparkRed Ranger chickens at Gathering Together Farm // Wayward Spark


San Francisco // Wayward Spark

I got back from San Francisco last night. I was pretty stiff, exhausted, and happy to be home after the 11-hour drive (the longest solo drive I’ve ever done), but the city really did treat me well while I was there.

Renegade SF

When I started my business over four years ago, I swore up and down that I would never do craft fairs. I’d worked the farmers’ market pretty much every weekend, three seasons out of the year for seven years, and I’d gotten my fill of the set-up, sell-stuff, take-down-the-booth events. Almost three years ago, I broke that promise and decided to do the local Corvallis Fall Festival. You can read about my experience in this archived post. Basically it was profitable and not terribly unpleasant, but it reaffirmed my decision not to do craft fairs. Fast forward to this spring when I got the hair-brained idea to not only do a craft fair but to do one 600 miles away from home, and really, I’m not sure what I was thinking.

From what I had heard, the Renegade Craft Fairs are well organized and well attended, and I found that to be absolutely true. All my interactions with Renegade staff were very pleasant. The booth fees are significant, but it’s an upfront cost, and they don’t take a cut from your sales.

I arrived at the Festival Pavillion of Fort Mason on Saturday morning with ample time to unload and set up, but when I got to the front door of that huge, long building and realized that my booth assignment was almost as far away from the entrance as possible, probably about a quarter of a mile from my car, my spirits fell a bit. I borrowed a dolly from the Renegade folks to unload, but it still took me I think seven trips down and back. After parking my car over a half mile away and returning to my booth, I had already walked 10,000 steps (about 5 miles) according to the pedometer app on my phone (Pacer, which I love, by the way).

My booth set up was pretty minimal. A couple tables and some wooden boxes topped with stacks of my boards. There were some really well designed and really elaborate booth arrangements at the show, but mine was definitely not one of them. I knew that would be the case, but I wasn’t too worried about it.

Things started off really well on Saturday and then tapered off into the evening. Sunday began much slower but picked up significantly in the early afternoon. Both days, I felt like people were in my booth looking at boards most of the time, so there weren’t too many long periods where I had nothing to do. In the down time, I had a couple of conversations with my nice vendor neighbors from Usagi Team.

When I turned in my Renegade SF application, there were a number of ways to state preferences for booth location, but I left everything blank because I didn’t have a good sense of the lay of the land in the venue. I would say that the space that I ended up with was not a particularly desirable location, and knowing what I know now, I would have preferred a spot much closer to the entrance both for ease of unloading and for more foot traffic.

In the end, I made a little over $3,100. (I know people aren’t supposed to talk about money, but I listened to a bunch of Death, Sex, & Money podcasts on the drive home, so I’m talking about it anyway.) I had close to $800 of expenses related to the show. I did cut down on travel costs by staying and eating quite a bit with my very generous aunt and uncle (Thanks, Linda and Bob!) and because of a last minute screw up on the part of Hertz, I ended up driving my own car down instead of using a rented mini van as I had planned, which turned out to be a true blessing in disguise. When I really think about it, though, I have to split that $2,300 profit between all my time (and materials) actually making cutting boards and the four full days of travel and sales (plus credit card fees and about a half day of prep time). When I sell online, I do have to spend time photographing, wrapping, and shipping each individual board, but I’m pretty sure the per-board expense and time investment has got to be less than the per-board expense/time for craft fair sales. That said, it takes me quite a while (months) to make $3,100 when I’m selling boards in onsies and twosies online, so it was nice to have the money in my figurative pocket and the boards out the figurative door.

Was it worth it? Well, I had a pretty good time, made a profit, and didn’t have any major mishaps, so yeah, it was worth it. Will I do it again? Probably not, but I guess I should never say never at this point.

San Francisco // Wayward Spark

The City

I spent my bits of free time on Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday eating my aunt’s delicious food, calling home to my family, chatting with my aunt and uncle, and then collapsing into bed, but I reserved the whole day on Monday for seeing the city. I started off with an early toast and coffee date with Heidi Swanson (of 101 Cookbooks fame) at The Mill. Heidi and I recognized each other at the craft fair on Saturday, and she invited me out for breakfast. I have to say that the fellowship of that meeting was more or less the highlight of my trip/summer/life. Heidi was as generous and kind and fun and funny and honest about vulnerable subjects as you might imagine by reading her blog. I was so pleased that she wanted to spend time with me.

After my brush with celebrity, I walked over to a very crowded Tartine Bakery and bought a couple of amazing pastries, one of which I sat and ate in Dolores Park while a layer of fog-rain soaked into my hair and sweater.

I met up with Halley Roberts, a friend from Portland who recently moved to San Francisco, at Soulva, a two-week old but jam-packed greek restaurant in Hayes Valley, for a late lunch where I had the biggest, most delicious salad ever.

After that, I took a long walk through Golden Gate Park. The dahlia garden was in full bloom, and the Segway tourists were out in full force.

I ended the day having dinner at acclaimed Tony’s Pizza in North Beach with Bayle Doetch, a friend of a friend that I’d met on Sunday at Renegade. Bayle is a food photographer, but she may have missed her calling as a San Francisco food tour guide. She knew every restaurant in the city and was super helpful offering suggestion and pointing out SF highlights (like the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill). I may have also packed in a small serving of cardamom gelato from the place across the street from Tony’s.

All in all, it was a good, solid day in the city, and though I didn’t get to see and eat EVERYTHING, I certainly got a bit of many different things. (According to the pedometer app on my phone, I walked almost 15 miles that day!)

Golden Gate Park // Wayward Spark

Anyone who’s going to be in San Francisco anytime soon should definitely scroll through the comments on my SF-related Instagram photos because people offered up a million great suggestions for places to eat and things to see in the city. Thanks so much for everyone who made my business trip and mini vacation such a success! Sorry that I only have these iPhone pics to offer. There’s something about being in a city where everyone is constantly taking photos of everything that makes me want to leave my “real” camera behind and just enjoy actually seeing things instead of seeing things through a camera or phone lens.


Red Onion Woodworks cutting and serving boards // Wayward Spark

I just wanted to pop in and announce that I’ll be at the Renegade Craft Fair in San Francisco at Fort Mason this weekend from 11-6 both Saturday and Sunday with a whole lot of freshly finished Red Onion Woodworks cutting and serving boards. I’d love to see and chat with any of my Bay Area peeps, so please stop by if you get a chance.

To be honest, I’ve been kind of hoarding new boards for this event, so my in-person SF customers are going to get first pick from a pretty robust inventory. The rest of you can rest assured that my online shop should start to fill up again in the coming weeks.

Today and tomorrow, I’m kind of running around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to get everything together. I haven’t done a “real” craft fair in almost two years (photos and commentary from the last one here), so I’m feeling a little underprepared, but I think things will go off without a hitch. I’ll be driving south on Friday and staying for four nights with my aunt and uncle who live in the city. I’m going to be pretty busy/exhausted for most of my time in SF, but I’ve blocked out the whole day on Monday to sightsee and eat everything. The only thing I definitely for sure want to do is eat at least one meal at Tartine Bakery (because of my love for the Tartine cookbooks). On Instagram, folks have offered me about a million other great suggestions for places to eat in the city, but if you’ve got a favorite, I’d love to hear it. Thanks!


honey sweetened currant syrup // Wayward Spark

As promised (better late than never), I’m going to talk a little about what I did with all those beautiful Ribes specimens from the Germplasm Repository.

Last year, I cooked up a heckuva lot of jam and jelly, and though I have so far made a pretty impressive effort to eat and give away a fair amount of my 2013 stash, I still have quite a bit left. When faced with a big ol’ bowl of weird and wonderful fruits a couple weeks ago, I decided that I didn’t really want to make it into jam. Instead, I turned toward beverages and then pie, like you do.

(If you are interested in making currant jam, my go-to preserver, David Lebovitz, has recipes for red currant jam and black currant jam.)

black currants

I did up the black currants first using this method:

Black Currant Liquid Concentrate

Rinse the fruit.

Throw it in a pot with a splash of water, and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook the fruit until the skins burst, about 10 minutes.

Run the mixture through a basic food mill to remove the stems, skins, and some of the seeds.

Let the liquid cool down a bit, and then add honey to taste. (Cooling off the liquid before adding the sweetener preserves the raw-ness of the honey.)

honey sweetened black currant syrup // Wayward Spark

I’ve never tasted Ribena, a black currant-based beverage popular in the UK, Canada, and other countries, but Henry and I  have been really enjoying our homemade black currant drink. It’s just black currant concentrate mixed with water, but somehow the tartness of the black currants makes it a thirst-quenching powerhouse.

Simply add 1/2 to 1 cup of black currant liquid concentrate to a half-gallon jar and fill the rest with cold water. Top with a water-tight lid and give the mixture a good shake. Strain into glasses with or without ice, and enjoy immediately.

red currants // Wayward Spark

I did up the red currants and white/pink currants the same way as the black currants, but the end syrup wasn’t nearly as thick nor quite so seedy as the black currant concentrate.

honey sweetened red currant syrup // Wayward Sparkwhite currants // Wayward Sparkhoney sweetened white currant syrup // Wayward Sparkred currant switchel recipe // Wayward Spark

Our new favorite way to consume the red and white currant syrup is in a spin on the American traditional beverage called switchel. Switchel is a drink with wide variability, but it usually contains some kind of vinegar (usually cider vinegar), some kind of sweetener (usually molasses or honey), and ginger (either fresh or ground).

This summer, we’ve been trying keep a jar of switchel mixture in the fridge at all times for easy refreshment. The Kitchn has a basic switchl recipe here, but here’s our take:

Red Currant Switchel

fresh ginger
cider vinegar
red currant concentrate (optional)
lemon wedges for garnish (optional)

Use a microplane grater to grate a couple tablespoons of fresh ginger (no need to peel it first) into a bowl. Add the grated ginger, several tablespoons of honey, and 1/2 to 1 cup of cider vinegar to a glass jar. Top the jar with a water-tight lid, and give it a good shake. Let this mixture sit in the refrigerator for at least two hours or up to two weeks.

To mix a switchel drink, spoon a few tablespoons of the switchel mixture and a few tablespoons of red currant concentrate (if desired) into a quart jar and fill it the rest of the way up with water. Top it with a water-tight lid, and give it a good shake. Taste it to see if it needs more switchel mixture, red currant concentrate, vinegar, honey, or water. Strain the liquid into ice-filled glasses. Garnish with lemon wedges if desired. Serve and enjoy.

gooseberries // Wayward Spark

black caps // Wayward Spark

Shortly after my visit to the Germplasm Repository, I made another trip out to Red Barn Berry Farm to pick boysenberries and other blackberry crosses to freeze for winter pies, jams, and such. At the U-pick farm, there was a short row of black cap canes that was loaded with fruit. It took a good long while to pick a whole bowl full because they’re so small, but the reward was pretty sweet.

black caps // Wayward Sparkgooseberry-blackcap pie // Wayward Spark

I decided that the perfect way to use up the rest of the gooseberries from the Germplasm Repository and the über-special black caps was to make a colossal deep-dish, lattice-topped, barbecue-baked skillet pie. The result was a sweet-tart mess of fruity, buttery-crusted goodness.

Gooseberry-Black Cap Skillet Pie Baked in a Barbecue

a batch of double-crust pie dough (I will forever and always use Heidi Swanson/Chez Pim’s Flakey Rye Crust.)
gooseberries, de-stemmed and rinsed
black caps, rinsed
brown sugar
white flour
runny apricot jam (optional)

Preheat the barbecue with several fire brick on the grill and preferably this Lodge cast iron pizza pan or other insulating device on top. (Photo of this arrangement here.)

Roll out the bottom crust of pie dough and line a cast iron skillet with it.

In a large bowl, stir together gooseberries, black caps, a healthy dose of brown sugar, and a few tablespoons of flour. Dump the mixture into the bottom crust. There should be enough filling so that it’s mounded up over the edge of the skillet in the middle.

Roll out and arrange the top crust in a lattice (optional). (Yossy has a good latttice-crust tutorial here.) Brush the top crust with runny apricot jam for extra browning if desired.

Load the skillet into the preheated barbecue. Bake on medium for about an hour until the pie juices start to run over. If you basted the crust with apricot jam, it will darken up fairly quickly, but that’s just the sugars caramelizing not the crust burning, so don’t worry unless things start to smell bad.

Cool, serve, and enjoy.

gooseberry-black cap pie // Wayward Spark



red currants // Wayward Spark

The USDA National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, Oregon maintains, among other things, the world collection of Ribes cultivars as well as their wild counterparts. The genus Ribes includes currants, gooseberries, and jostaberries (a black currant-gooseberry cross). Ribes species are native to the Northern Hemisphere, and in cooler, shorter-growing-season climates such as Canada, the United Kingdom, Northern Europe, and Russia, black currants have been especially prevalent in cuisine and culture through the ages. While the collection in Corvallis may not contain every Ribes variety known to humanity, it comes pretty darn close with rows and rows filled with hundreds of bushes.

Nine germplasm repositories in the US are publicly-funded operations with a mandate to preserve and protect clonal plant materials for the benefit of farmers and citizens around the world. The folks working at the repository farms in Corvallis spend most of their time doing routine orchard work (planting, irrigating, pruning, weeding, grafting, etc.), but they also dedicate a portion of their time to documenting yeild, vigor, disease resistance, cold hardiness, and other characteristics of the different varieties, and they work to educate researchers, farmers, and the general public in small and large groups.

The living plant material stored in these collections is available worldwide in the event of a disease outbreak or harsh-weather die off that leaves farmers in need of stock to replant economically and culturally significant food crops. It’s also a great resource for folks that want to revive heirloom varieties of crops. In fact a couple weeks ago, an organic farmer spent a few hours touring and tasting the Ribes collection in an effort to identify varieties that might be viable for the local market.

red currant bush // Wayward Spark

I’ve visited the Corvallis repository twice before in the fall to admire and pick quince (see archived posts here and here), but I hadn’t ever see the Ribes collection in it’s full, fruiting glory. Last week was probably the height of the season for most of the plants, so I called up my friend and neighbor, Joseph Postman, who’s a plant pathologist at the facility, and he graciously met me at the gate and gave me a quick tour of the collection.

The rows were organized by type: ornamentals, jostaberries, gooseberries, red currants, white currants, black currants, and wild species (that I didn’t get a chance to photograph because the bushes were being irrigated). There were usually three bushes of each cultivar with a marker that provides the variety name, geographic origin, and other information. The diversity even among bushes in the same broad categories was staggering.

world collection of currants and gooseberries at the USDA National Clonal Germplasm Repository // Wayward Sparkthe world collection of gooseberries and currants at the USDA National Clonal Germplasm Repository // Wayward Sparkred currants // Wayward Sparkred currants // Wayward Spark

My parents have a couple of red currant bushes in their yard that have never really amounted to much, so when I saw plants in the Ribes collection with huge, dangly, pearly strands of fruit, my eyes about popped out of my head. Obviously, these varieties must have been bred over the years to enhance the currant clusters for easier, more efficient harvest.

My favorite of the red currants was ‘Tatran’ because of it’s long, fruity dangles and beautiful, large, almost purplish leaves.

red currants // Wayward Spark

There were also plenty of bushes that only had a few currants hanging on each little thread of a stem, the kind that would take a good long while to accumulate a decent amount.

red currants // Wayward Sparkpink currants // Wayward Sparkwhite currants // Wayward Sparkblack currants // Wayward Spark

Black currants were new to me. As Joseph and I wandered through the many rows full of these dark beauties, we sampled quite a few. I really wish I had a finer palette and/or a better flavor vocabulary because try as I might, I couldn’t find the words to describe that black currant taste. (Some of you have probably tried the black currant-based beverage called Ribena that’s apparently popular in northern parts of North America and Europe.) Texture-wise, black currants are much meatier and less moist than their red and white cousins.

black currants // Wayward Sparkgiant black currants // Wayward Spark

I didn’t document which variety this bush was, but the fruits were huge!

gooseberries // Wayward Spark

The gooseberries in the collection came in many different colors (wine, blush, pale green, and overripe yellowish), shapes (perfectly round to elongated watermelons), and sizes (smaller than a dime to bigger than a quarter). Some of the fruits were spiked with visible little “hairs”, and others appeared to be totally smooth.  Some of the bushes were adorned with really gnarly thorns.

gooseberries // Wayward Sparkgooseberries // Wayward Sparkgooseberries // Wayward Sparkgooseberries // Wayward Sparkgooseberries and currants // Wayward Spark

Joseph let me pick more or less whatever I wanted, so I spent about an hour gathering a little of this and a little of that. In the end, my big bowl was nothing if not colorful. I’ll be posting more about what I cooked up with this bounty soon.

gooseberries and currants // Wayward Spark

The USDA Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis is having an open house on Thursday, July 17, 2014 from 1-4 pm during which time anyone can tour and sample their way through the world collection (!) of blueberry cultivars. Sounds pretty great, right? I would love to be there, but I’ll be embarking on a road trip the next day, so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to swing it. For more information about the open house or anything else, feel free to call the front desk 541-738-4200.


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.

clary sage field // Wayward Sparkclary sage honeybee pollination // Wayward Sparkpulling frames of clary sage honey with Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

As the clary sage bloom died down, Henry wanted to pull frames of honey in order to keep this varietal batch separate from the later season valley nectar flows. Unlike the frames containing our earlier varietals, these frames of honey were mostly capped already, and because he knew the end result would only be four or five buckets of honey, he decided to extract on-site.pulling frames of clary sage honey with Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Sparkpulling frames of clary sage honey with Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Full frames of honey are too heavy to shake to remove the bees, so Henry used a special beekeeping brush to sweep them off the frames he wanted to extract.

pulling frames of clary sage honey with Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Sparkclary sage honeybee pollination with Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Mike the grower, came out to help and stayed the whole time. He was very curious to learn more about both honeybee pollination and honey extraction. Mike and his wife are big honey fans, and he actually traded 100 pounds of filberts in-shell with us for honey last fall. We’re still working our way through the filberts, but Mike and his wife had eaten all their honey and were ready for more.

clary sage honeybee pollination // Wayward Sparkpulling frames of clary sage honey with Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Henry pulled any frames from the top box of each hive that had capped honey.

clary sage // Wayward Sparkextracting clary sage honey on-site with Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

We have a four-frame, hand-crank extractor that can be set up on the back of Henry’s flatbed truck. It’s not ideal, but it’s pretty efficient for small-batch extractions, and we had a hand washing station there as well to keep things as clean as possible. With farm-direct laws in Oregon, honey sold direct to consumers does not necessarily need to be extracted in a licensed facility. We do, however, hold ourselves to a high standard of sanitation when working on this messy task.

extracting honey with Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Sparkhoney extraction // Wayward Spark

Extracting on-site works pretty well when there’s still a lot of nectar resources available for bees. We hardly noticed the few bees buzzing around the truck. Later in the season when food is scarce, bees will actively rob any honey they can find and are significantly more aggressive. An operation like this would be a honeybee mob scene in another month.

One of the biggest benefits of extracting on-site is that the wets (empty or nearly empty frames of extracted comb) can go immediately back into the hives to be refilled with incoming nectar. Because he’s been focusing on increasing his number of hives for the past couple years, Henry doesn’t have a surplus of frames of drawn comb. Swapping full frames of honey out for frames with only foundation can slow honey production because the bees have to draw comb before they can fill it.

extracting clary sage honey on-site with Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

We also got a little help from the kids.

Old Blue Raw Honey's clary sage honey // Wayward Spark

The resulting honey (unfiltered in the photo above) is light in color and bright in flavor. We STILL haven’t bottled any for sale yet, but we’ll be getting there soon.

Mike is planning on growing a much larger field of clary sage next summer, so hopefully, Henry and his bees will be back out here a year from now.


dandelion greens  // Wayward Spark

Boy, the Corvallis Saturday Farmers’ Market sure is getting pretty. After taking a bunch of photos, I was even tempted into buying a cabbage, some carrots, a couple onions, two packs of bratwurst (from Northwest Natural Beef because they’re super nice), and a few kohlrabis. I’m kind of a kohlrabi evangelist. On Saturday afternoon, I was trying to explain to some friends that kohlrabi should be everyone’s favorite vegetable because it’s so crisp, sweet, and delicious, but they weren’t too convinced. “It’s just like broccoli stem!” I insisted, but apparently, not everyone is as into broccoli stems as I am. Ugh. I can’t get enough of that stuff.

I know the posting around these parts has been a little light lately, but I’ve got a couple of bee/farm-y topics in the Wayward Spark pipeline that I’m really looking forward to sharing with you. Now I just have to find the time and motivation to write them up at the end of these long, full days.

cherries // Wayward Spark beets // Wayward Spark cherry tomatoes // Wayward Spark

Corvallis Farmers' Market // Wayward Spark

kohlrabi // Wayward Spark

Corvallis Farmers' Market // Wayward Spark

Corvallis Farmers' Market // Wayward Spark

basil // Wayward Spark

mushrooms // Wayward Spark

Corvallis Farmers' Market // Wayward Spark

berries at the Corvallis Farmers' Market // Wayward Spark

kale // Wayward Spark

Corvallis Farmers' Market // Wayward Spark

tomatoes // Wayward Spark

zucchini // Wayward Spark

berries at the farmers' market // Wayward Spark

padron peppers // Wayward Spark

blueberries // Wayward Spark

broccoli // Wayward Spark

garlic // Wayward Spark


{this moment}

June 27, 2014 · 1 comment

Wayward Spark

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, moment. ~ Amanda Soule

**inspired by Soule Mama’s (and Erin of Floret‘s) Friday reflections

{ 1 comment }

blueberries // Wayward Spark

Ahhh…It’s blueberry season again. I feel a little guilty, like I’m cheating on my beloved Radke’s Blueberries, but I was getting desperate for fresh fruit that the kids and I headed to Anderson’s Blues on Aboretum Road in North Corvallis. Anderson’s is a pretty huge U-pick place with many different varieties of berries from early to late, small to big. Yesterday, we worked on ‘Earliblue’ bushes that were positively loaded with fruit for super easy picking.

The thing that amazed and delighted me most about this foraging expedition was that my kids, ages 4 1/2 and 6 1/2, actually picked more berries into their buckets than into their mouths for the first time ever. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long, long time. I was talking to my mom yesterday, and we started rehashing all the U-pick trips we took together when my kids were little. We’d have to take turns doing stroller laps around the farms to keep crying babies appeased for just a little longer, and as they got a older, we’d pack bags full of toys and snacks to entertain them while we attempted to fill up our buckets. This new productive, non-whiney phase is such a welcome development. Between the two of them, they picked over five pounds in about an hour, and then they played nicely for another hour while I kept picking. We brought home about 25 pounds total, which should mostly tide us over until Radke’s opens in a couple weeks.

Even though my kids were being awesome, I had a moment of frustration when some random adult pickers failed to adhere to basic U-pick etiquette by deciding that the best place to start their harvest was five feet down the row from me when they had acres and acres of bushes to choose from. I guess some people are just never gonna get it. Otherwise, it was a great morning, so if you’re in the area, now’s the time. Happy picking!