I recently headed out to the much warmer environment of eastern Washington to pick up 600 pounds of raw, unfiltered Alfalfa honey from Lynn Haitt, of Lynn Haitt and Sons Honey Company.Lynn works 1000 miticide-free hives from his apiary in the Pasco area of Washington (in the south east, near the Columbia River). If you’ve never had alfalfa honey, you are missing a real taste treat. It’s sweet and light but with a lot of distinct flavor.
Lynn normally sells honey in 600 pound barrels, which are way too large and heavy for me to deal with at Brookfield Farm. So, he kindly gives me a call when he starts extracting Alfalfa Honey, and I put 10 5-gallon ropacks (sealable, food quality, buckets) in my aged, but dependable pickup truck and head over the North Cascades for Pasco. There Lynn pours honey straight from his tank, which is fed by his extractor, straight into my waiting buckets.
This year the buckets and I took the scenic route, over Route 20: the most northern east-west corridor in Washington state. You move from the deep green banks of the South Skagit River, up valley through rolling farmlands, then start climbing through firs, hemlocks and cedars to the pass. Where the tumultuous geology of our region spreads before you in tall crags that have been thrust up, then carved by wind, rain and snow. Your descent takes you down through lodge pole pines to the fruit farms that grace the Columbia River. Heading south, the drive brings you though open high desert where wineries and orchards cling to the river’s edge. Finally Pasco. Ok, it’s a town, I don’t like towns, but it was easy driving.
Lynn’s honey house has all the marks of a hard-working beekeeper. Boxes stacked to one side. The swinger forklift parked by the door. And inside a large warehouse of more boxes and barrels. All the extraction equipments and tanks are at the far end of the building. Next to it is a fully insulated room where the honey supers are stored at optimum temperature. They time spent there is short, for these supers are extracted and immediately prepared to go back into the next field. If the super’s aren’t working on beehives, they’re not making money. Time is critical in Lynn’s operation. When one harvest ends, there is another one about to begin.
He did take time to show me the essential oil patties that he uses in his hives. These are placed in the hives after the final harvest and again before the first honey supers are put on in the next year. They contain spearmint, lemongrass, thymol, and camphor. He places these between the two brood boxes, which makes the patties easily accessible to the entire cluster of bees. Lynn has had great success with them. He figures he lost around 10% of his hives last winter. That was in a year where the average loss was 33%. (Some loss always occurs: queens can die or superced at a time when there are no drones with which to mate.)
It is a pleasure to visit a successful beekeeping operation that is using essential oils as part of a bee health program. It’s doubly pleasant to leave with 600 pounds of excellent honey to share with my customers.
I did live behind a few buckets in hopes that Lynn’s hives produce ample Yellow Star Thistle Honey this summer and Buckwheat Honey in the fall. Both of these honeys are delicious, although it did take me time to appreciate the buckwheat honey. Lynn’s honey is always fabulous and it has that extra delight of being miticide-free. If you’re in Seattle, stop by the Georgetown Farmer’s Market (Saturdays) or the Fremont Market (Sundays) for a taste.