Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

We use organic, raw apple cider vinegar in the majority of our Honey Tonic formulas. Our apple cider vinegar is made domestically in Northern California, from Oregon, Washington, and Northern California-grown apples. I love using apple cider vinegar as a solvent in herbal tincture making, for a lot of different reasons. It allows you to create an alcohol-free tincture, and has many virtuous health benefits in itself.

Why is Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) a good solvent?

Acetic acid is the chief ingredient in vinegar that makes it both a preservative and a solvent, which is produced through the fermentation and subsequent oxidation of ethanol. Winemaker August Sebastiani observed that “God is trying to make vinegar”, probably because all wine can become vinegar without careful storage. Vinegar is created from a fermentation process of undistilled alcohol, which will occur in the presence of oxygen. Once an undistilled alcohol becomes vinegar, it is in a stable state and does not change much and can last for years. Vinegar is acidic, so it slows the growth of harmful bacteria. Vinegar’s acidic nature works to dissolve minerals, which is not as effectively achieved using solvents such as water or alcohol.

Herbal vinegars are a bit more delicate than an alcohol-based tincture, but vinegar can extract many beneficial properties from plants. Vitamins, minerals, essential oils, alkaloid salts, sugars, tannins, glycosides, saponins, and bitter compounds can all be extracted, although they may not be as strongly concentrated as they would be in alcohol. Vinegar is wonderful for making tonic formulas, ideal for building up and supporting the body over time.

How is apple cider vinegar made?

The roots of the word vinegar come from the french Vin (wine) and Aigre (sour). Vinegars are made from the fermentation of an undistilled alcohol, such as wine in wine vinegars, or hard cider, in the case of apple cider vinegar.

The process of making vinegar begins with fermentation of the juice of various fruits, berries, honey, molasses, or even cereal grains in malt vinegars. In the case of apple cider vinegar, the starting material is juice from apples. Fermentation depends on yeast, which transforms sugars in the starting material into alcohol and carbonic gas. The gas then evaporates, leaving only the alcohol and the flavors (or esters).

Homemade hard cider undergoing the fermentation process. Image source http://www.thepauperedchef.com/2009/10/how-to-make-hard-apple-cider.html

Homemade hard cider undergoing the fermentation process. Each jug is sealed with an airlock, to allow the gas produced by the yeast to escape. Image source http://www.thepauperedchef.com/2009/10/how-to-make-hard-apple-cider.html

In the final phase oxidation occurs – oxygen in the air combines with the alcohol. This is why vinegar forms only when a bottle of wine is uncorked and exposed to air. This fermentation process involves a combination of alcohol, oxygen, and microscopic organisms called acetobacters and aerobic yeasts. These microscopic organisms form a gelatinous mass known as mother of vinegar. The mother of vinegar is edible and nutritious, and nothing to be afraid of.

Mother of vinegar - image source www.gangofpour.com

Mother of vinegar – image source www.gangofpour.com

To make vinegar you need some type of ethyl alcohol that is less than 18% alcohol; vinegar bacteria; a temperature of 59 deg. F to 86 deg. F; and a non-reactive container (glass, wood, ceramic, plastic, or enamel-coated metal – never aluminum).  The time it takes wine to turn into vinegar depends on temperature, air circulation, and alcohol content.

Why does vinegar make a good menstruum for herbal tinctures?

Vinegar extracts are gentler than alcohol extracts. Vinegar extracts are suitable for children. Vinegar also has health benefits that alcohol lacks – it retains all the nutritional goodness of the apples from which it was made, and it is rich with potassium and enzymes produced during fermentation.

Raw apple cider vinegar is excellent for tonic tinctures – those taken every day to maintain overall health and build up the system. Vinegar draws out many plant constituents, especially alkaloids, vitamins, and minerals. Since it is acidic, it is not a good extractor of plant acids. Vinegar also extracts flavors and phytochemicals.

Vinegar based tinctures have a shorter shelf life than alcohol tinctures, 1-2 years is generally recommended instead of 5 years. However some vinegar tinctures stored properly (in a cool dark place with proper acidity) may last up to 5 years.

Here is a list of my favorite plants to use in making apple-cider vinegar based tinctures:

Nettles: For it’s high vitamin and mineral content.

Sage: For its incredible flavor and aroma, antiseptic and antimicrobial properties

Echinacea tops: for extracting Echinacea’s gentle tonic, immune-boosting properties

Lemon balm: for it’s incredible flavor and aroma, and it’s gentle nervine properties

Skullcap: for it’s gentle relaxing, nervine properties

Chamomile: for it’s relaxing properties

You can also make delicious culinary vinegars with a wide range of herbs. These work great as a base for salad dressings, in stir fries, dips, soups, or sauces. Some of my favorite culinary vinegars to make are with chive flowers, tarragon, garlic, onions, and horseradish.

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How Do Bees Make Honey?

So, how do bees make honey? I’m glad you asked. It’s really quite fascinating.

Honey is made of the sweet nectar from flowers. Nectar is a sugar-rich liquid made by flowering plants, which is produced in glands called nectaries. Nectar is designed to attract pollinating animals such as honeybees. It is a beautiful example of mutualism, in which two different species cooperate for mutual benefit – an abundant phenomenon in nature. The flower’s nectar encourages animals such as bees, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, and bats to visit them, and flowers are often designed to attract specific types of pollinators. As these animals visit different flowers of the same species, they spread pollen from flower to flower, ensuring that pollination will occur and the plant will be able to reproduce. In Michael Pollan’s book The Botany of Desire, he calls bees the “flying penises” of plants. If this is the case, nectar is the perfume and invitation from the flower. Flowers are the sexual organs of plants, which is perhaps why they are so typically associated with courting and romance.

When a particularly delicious or abundant source of nectar is located by a foraging honeybee, she communicates this to her sisters in a dance. The dance is complete with directions to the nectar source, using the sun for navigation. The bee with the most provocative dance will gain the most followers – Matt likes to compare the dance to a break-dancing competition, and the bee with the best “pop lock and drop” gets the sister bees to get on board and follow the dancer to the nectar source. Scientists call this behavior “The Waggle Dance.”

The foraging honeybee collects nectar by flying from blossom to blossom and sipping nectar into her honey stomach, using her long proboscis. She drinks nectar until her stomach is filled to the brim, and then travels back to the hive with her heavy load.

Upon arriving back at her hive, the foraging bee is greeted by “house” bees, whose work is restricted to inside the hive. The nectar is exchanged from the foraging bee to the house bee via proboscis, in a “nectar kiss”. House bees will first taste and analyze her nectar, and eventually the entire contents of the honey stomach will be exchanged to house bees, and often exchanged from house bee to house bee. The foraging bee, now with an empty stomach, will take flight again to locate more nectar.

The house bee will now begin the process of drying the nectar. She mixes in a drop of her saliva, and begins blowing tiny nectar bubbles with her mandibles and her proboscis. This exposes the drop to the dry, warm air in the colony, and some of the moisture dehydrates. After holding the drop for a few minutes, she will add another nectar drop and continue this process. Eventually the dehydrated nectar is deposited into cells, and moved from cell to cell to facilitate drying. When enough nectar has been collected to fill multiple cells, the bees band together and fan their wings to create the final evaporation and complete the process of nectar becoming honey. Honey may be placed in empty cells, cells with eggs, or even with larvae. Cells near to the brood nest or nursery will be filled first, where the honey is also combined with pollen to feed the young. When these cells are filled, honey is kept in the surplus honey storage area, and when the drying process is complete a wax cap is applied to the cell, similar to putting a lid on a jar.

Chemically, the process of honey creation is a conversion of pure sucrose, a sugar, into other sugars, fructose and glucose. Sucrose cannot be used in its whole form by honey bees. So in order to convert this sucrose into a more usable form, honey bees transform it. This is accomplished by enzymes in the bees’ saliva, which contains invertase and glucose oxidase. Glucose is less sweet than sucrose, and fructose is sweeter. Fructose is the most stable, so honeys that have a high fructose content will not crystallize. When a honey does crystallize, it’s the glucose that you see forming crystals, and the remaining liquid is fructose.

Although the basic building blocks of honey are sugar molecules, honey also contains the essences of the plants from which the bees gathered nectar, as well as minerals from the soils where those flowers grew. Honey is a complex and unique blend of aromas, enzymes, vitamins, proteins, minerals, salts, acids, lipids, pigments and flavor compounds. It also contains fragments of all of the different pollens the bees have gathered. Honey’s hydrogen peroxide content is often attributed to it’s strong antimicrobial properties.

Honey is the food of all the adult bees, and it is also mixed with pollen and propolis to create “bee bread”, a fermented product that the bees feed to their larvae. Honeybees depend on honey, and a strong colony will store as much honey as they have the space for. A judicious beekeeper can take advantage of this hoarding instinct of the hive, and enjoy and share the excess of the bee’s painstaking labor.

Sources consulted for this blog:

Sacred and Healing Herbal Beers by Stephen Harrod Buhner.

The Backyard Beekeeper’s Honey Handbook by Kim Flottum.

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Western Red Cedar

Western Red Cedar Oil is one of my favorite plants to work with. Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) smells amazing, and is abundant throughout the Pacific Northwest. It was called the “tree of life” by coastal Pacific Northwest Native American tribes, renowned for it’s strength, healing, and spiritual power. Tribes in this region used cedar to build homes, make rain hats, and construct a wide variety of useful things. Cedar is considered to be very cleansing, and boughs can be used as body brushes, or in the bath. You can bundle cedar in your bathroom, and inhale the wonderful vapors that are created when cedar is combined with steam. Cedar is both anti-fungal and antiseptic.

cedar close-up

Cedars grow all around my home, and in large stands along the creek. Western Red Cedar likes the rainy temperate climate of Cascadia, the wet soil conditions of a wetland, and company- trees often grow in groups with other cedars. We have a stand of 9 Western Red Cedar trees in our garden that we planted about 6 years ago. We have regularly and generously amended the soil around them with chipped wood and leaves, which has improved the soil tremendously by increasing fungal mychorrhizae and overall biological activity. Our trees are very healthy, and have grown many feet since we planted.

When harvesting cedar, I first approach the tree, stand near it, and breathe deeply, taking the aroma of the trees. Burning something, like a sage smudge or a little bit of homegrown tobacco is useful, as smoke is useful in communicating with plants on a spirit level. With smoke in the air, I let cedar know my intentions to harvest medicine for myself and to share with others. I offer gratitude for its gifts, and an intention to do everything I can to help Cedar continue thriving in my garden.

Western Red Cedar

Western Red Cedar

Now, time to harvest. Cedar tips can be harvested any time of year, but I especially like to harvest in the springtime, because this is when bright green new growth begins. I have a feeling that the energy in this new growth makes the best medicine.

When harvesting, I select the tips carefully. I don’t take an excessive amount from any one tree, I don’t take entire branches, and I do not select the primary growth tips of the cedar’s branches. It’s a partnership between cedar and I, and by watching it over the years I can be sure that my efforts are not creating a negative impact. Even though it’s abundant, this mindful and careful harvesting is a meditation.

cedar harvesting

After harvest, the fresh cedar leaves are dried. They can dry loosely in a paper bag, or be more rapidly and evenly dried on screens out of direct sunlight with ventilation. A food dehydrator is the perfect place.

cedar drying

Fresh cedar spread across screens to dry

I use Cedar as one powerful ingredient in Mickelberry Gardens Soothing Salve. This salve is handcrafted with intention, and is healing for a wide range of skin ailments.

Mickelberry Gardens Soothing Salve


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What Are Honey Tonics? And What Is A Tonic, Anyway?

 What are Honey Tonics?

Honey Tonics are sweet, tart, and healthful treats. They can be enjoyed by the spoonful as often as desired.

Honey Tonics are made with raw honey and raw apple cider vinegar.  These two ingredients have wonderful health benefits. The combination of honey and vinegar creates a healthful oxymel. Our Honey Tonics are a delicious way to consume a trifecta of beneficial things: honey, apple cider vinegar, and blends of herbs.

Raw apple cider vinegar comes from organic apples, and contains the beneficial enzymes produced during the fermentation process. It is useful for promoting good digestion, pH balance, and aiding the body in removing toxins.

Honey contains a delicate and complex array of vitamins, minerals, proteins and essences that come from the kaleidoscope of plants and soil conditions from where the honeybee gathered nectar and pollen, as well as enzymes from the honeybee’s own body. These qualities make raw honey a profound local medicine. Raw honey is gently relaxing, antimicrobial, and soothing to the stomach and throat. Honey is ready to use and most nutritious with minimal processing and treatment.

We utilize the ancient quality of herbal vinegars in our tonic formulas, extracting minerals and other beneficial qualities from certified organic herbs into vinegar. The herbs we have selected to use in our tonics are gentle, and have been chosen for their accessibility. They are plants that I have a personal experience with, through growing, observing, and building a relationship over time.

We make an alcohol extract of American Ginseng in our Ginseng Honey Tonic, and use a few alcohol extracts in our Throat and Lung Honey Tonic to deliver an extra punch. We also use alcohol extracts for incorporating propolis into our preparations.

What is a Tonic, anyway?

A tonic is something meant to aid in staying well and healthy, and to help achieve balance in mind and body.  Health exists in the context of a person’s lifestyle, and should be built around a foundation of a diet rich in nutritious, unprocessed foods and clean water. Other elements of balanced health include rest; regular, enjoyable and appropriate exercise; some type of work that makes you feel useful and productive; time for leisure and doing things you enjoy; and healthy relationships. Achieving good health and fulfilling your full potential is possible when there is balance in more of these areas.

Herbal remedies, and tonics in particular, fit inside this framework of a healthy lifestyle. A tonic can be useful when you’re sick, but use over time also aids your body to be in its optimum condition over the long term.

People interested in improving their health are wise to seek out gentle herbs and remedies to support well-being. The most benefit will be reaped, however, when this also accompanies improvements in diet and bringing attention to aspects in one’s lifestyle that may not be balanced. Improving your diet can be a process of slowly introducing more nutritious foods rather than cutting things out, and keeping in mind that enjoying your food is also really important! Lifestyle changes are the same way, easier to achieve when approached through manageable steps over time.

It is my utmost goal for Mickelberry Gardens Honey Tonics to support your good health! Check all of them out here: http://www.mickelberrygardens.com/products-page/honey-tonics/

In Health,


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Herb Companion Blog

We wrote a blog about ourselves as “Herbal Artists”, to promote our online Poppyswap Shop. which was featured in an online Natural Living column for the Herb Companion Magazine.

Poppyswap is an online resource for hand-crafted herbal products.

Read the blog post below, and it is also posted here.

6/14/2012 12:24:01 PM

Poppy Swap Headshot Madelyn Morris is the owner of Mickelberry Gardens in Portland, Oregon. Visit her Poppy Swap online shop .

Honey, beeswax and propolis are the honeybee’s gifts and are precious medicines that work in symphony with plant-based remedies. Bee products can enhance the effectiveness, flavor, consistency and longevity of many herbal preparations.

Herbalists can benefit greatly from tending a backyard beehive in their garden. Every herbalist should consider backyard beekeeping!

Working In The Beehive 6-25-2012

Here are the products from the beehive that belong in every herbalist’s toolkit:

+ Raw honey. It is made from the nectar of millions of flowers. Raw honey benefits include astounding healing properties for many conditions, from internal GI conditions to topical burns and wounds.
+ Beeswax. This is the bee’s structural masterpiece, and it lends an incomparable quality to preparations for the skin.
+ Propolis. It is the bee’s own herbal remedy, assembled from plant resins. It is uniquely designed to keep fungal and bacterial outbreaks at bay.

Here are the other benefits that come with keeping bees:

+ Pollination. A beehive placed in the herbalist’s garden will improve the pollination for many plants.
+ Enjoyment. The bee’s dance of interconnection with the plants and the sun are ripe sources for inspiration and information. Herbalists can enhance their craft by looking deeply into the relationship between bees, flowers, and themselves.
+ Wellness. With a beehive, the luxury of tasting a bit of raw local honey on your tongue every day is possible and may create a feeling of deeper connection to your surroundings—while also soothing your digestive and respiratory tracts.

Making Beauty Products 6-25-2012

Our Experience

For my husband and I, building a sustainable livelihood in partnership with our honeybees stemmed from keeping bees in our backyard and making medicines from our harvest. We learned to keep bees organically on our urban permaculture farm, influenced by biodynamic beekeeping techniques and the mentorship of an experienced beekeeper. My interest in plants, gardening and self-care inspired me to develop folk herbal remedies, so we began to carefully collect raw honey, beeswax and propolis and incorporate them into hand-crafted, raw, honey-based herbal syrups, beeswax salves, raw honey skin treatments, and propolis tinctures. We now offer honeybee-infused plant-based remedies at our community farmer’s markets, retail shops, naturopathic clinics, and online.
At Mickelberry Gardens, building a more balanced partnership between humans, honeybees, and ecosystems is a core company value. Because we keep untreated beehives exclusively on organic farmland, our hive products are very pure. Mickelberry Gardens now collaborates with small organic Oregon growers to provide honeybee crop pollination, and improve bee habitat. Additionally, we teach classes about natural beekeeping methods, gardening for pollinators, the health benefits of honeybee products, and making and using folk remedies. We are also developing pollinator curriculum for school garden programs.

Mickelberry Gardens 6-25-2012

Getting Started

Finding a beekeeper that is willing to teach you how they tend the bees is a valuable initiation into beekeeping. Deepening your relationship with the bees is an awesome learning process. Ask yourself these questions and see if you are interested in keeping a hive of bees!

Do you want to know what nectars the honeybees drink in your region or what crops they pollinate? Do you love raw honey and appreciate the beauty of the honeycomb and its mysterious development? Is there a beekeeper near your home that will let you visit the hives and share his or her skills?

Well, what are you waiting for? Make friends with the bees and their keepers.  And be sure to visit us online to discover our wonderful honeybee herbal creations!

Check out Madelyn’s Poppy Swap online shop, Mickelberry Gardens, and get 15 PERCENT OFF your first order! Use coupon code “BEES” to take advantage of this discount.

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First Graders Save The Bees!

This spring, I worked with my dear friend Dezire Clarke and her class of first graders at ACCESS Academy on pollinator curriculum. I have been slowly working on writing a children’s book about pollinators, and collaborating with Dezire and these creative young people was an excellent opportunity to add fuel to my writing endeavor. The classroom pollinator project Dezire and I worked on together could easily be replicated by other teachers.

On my first visit to the school, I introduced myself to the class as an “apiculturalist” or beekeeper, and did a short power point presentation to illustrate some concepts about the importance of pollinators. You can download and view my powerpoint here:

Pollinator PowerPoint by Madelyn Morris, M.S.

The students then had time to reflect on what they had learned in their journals. They also had a significant stack of books about pollinators in the classroom to peruse.

On my next visit, we discussed what makes good habitat for pollinators. We also talked about how we share space with pollinators and other important insects right there on the school grounds, in the Sabin School Garden. These wonderful garden spaces they share with other students at school is also valuable pollinator habitat! We then visited the gardens as entomologists – moving slowly and mindfully, making observations and notes in our journals about the insects we came across.


Observing insects in the Sabin Edible Garden

Observing insects in the Sabin Edible Garden

Young Entomologists

Young Entomologists

Mindful observations in the schoolyard garden

Mindful observations in the schoolyard garden

On my third visit, we talked more about some of the challenges facing pollinators, highlighting components of the excellent research and publications put out by the Xerces Society: Overuse of pesticides, lack of habitat, and lack of flower diversity.

After sharing the realities of the problems currently facing pollinators, we wanted to give these young students a sense of purpose and power. We introduced the concept of being an activist – sharing knowledge with others to try to make a change and make things better.

Taking on the role of an activist, students got busy creating informational posters about how others can help the bees. They also put together seed packets with pollinator-friendly seeds provided by the Xerces Society to pass out to people and empower them to help pollinators in their own gardens.

Colorful pollinator seed packets created by students

My friend Jen Davis is a passionate pollinator activist, whom I met teaching classes about pollinators for the Portland Fruit Tree Project. She is working on a campaign targeting the systemic pesticides marketed by Bayer Corporation, which increasing scientific evidence shows direct implications with honeybee deaths and Colony Collapse Disorder (You can read more about this issue here). I shared with the ACCESS Academy students some of the posters Jen designed to spread the word about this issue, to give them some inspiration.

Poster created by Jen Davis to raise awareness about Bayer pesticides’ implication in honeybee die-offs


Poster created by Jen Davis – back side

After working diligently on their posters and seed packets, our first graders were ready to spread the word! Dezire organized an activist march to Whole Foods Market, where the students carried their signs and passed out their seed packets to shoppers and people passing by.


Students gather outside school to begin the pollinator march

Students gather outside school to begin the pollinator march


"Help save the bees, stop using pesticides!"

“Help save the bees, stop using pesticides!”

how to save the beeshelp pollinators1st grade picket signs

Stop by Mickelberry Garden’s Farmer’s Market Booth this summer, and you may be able to score a student-created button or pollinator-friendly seed packet! 🙂

save the bees pinHere are a few student reflections:

Dezire and I worked together in the Sabin School Gardens a few years ago, while I was working as a garden coordinator. Our collaboration and Dezire’s achievements with her students was highlighted in the book entitled “Learning Gardens and Sustainability Education: Bringing Life to Schools and Schools to Life” by Dilafruz Williams and Jonathan Brown. View and purchase this wonderful book here:




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Spring Beekeeping

Our honeybees have finished up their gig pollinating the blueberries at Community By Design Farm. Once the blueberry fruit set, the Mickelberry Gardens team got up before sunrise to seal the bees inside the hives before they were awake. Then the hives were carefully packed into a pickup and trailer and taken back to the apiary in Troutdale. The amazing bees are filling up honey supers as I type this!

The Troutdale Apiary

The Troutdale Apiary

At the Troutdale Apiary, the phacelia cover crop we planted last fall is stunningly abloom. Phacelia is an early flowering, heavy nectar producing cover crop which the bees love. Unfortunately our germination rates were quite low, but we plan on improving our planting methods this fall to get greater coverage of this nectar-abundant crop!

Phacelia - such a beautiful flower, you can see why the bees love it! Photo by Kevin Anderson

Phacelia – such a beautiful flower, you can see why the bees love it! Photo by Kevin Anderson

Honeybee sipping sweet phacelia nectar - photo by Kevin Anderson

Honeybee sipping sweet phacelia nectar – photo by Kevin Anderson

In patches of warm, sunny weather this spring we’ve kept busy collecting swarms throughout the Portland area, as well as catching swarms from our own hives. Here’s some pictures and video footage of these experiences:

A swarm from our hives that moved into a tree holler before we could catch it!

A swarm from our hives that moved into a tree holler before we could catch it!

Bee swarm in a rhododendron bush

Bee swarm in a rhododendron bush


View of the apiary from catching a swarm up in a tree!

View of the apiary from catching a swarm up in a tree!

Sometimes beekeeping gets you high!

Sometimes beekeeping gets you high!

Some of our swarms have found a new home at Naked Acres Farm in Southeast Portland, and at neighbor’s houses. Our friends have also had fun helping out with the swarm wrangling!

kate with the bees

We have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of blackberry blooms, the most important nectar source for honeybees in Oregon summers. It seems like those flowers have just started to pop!

Blackberry flowers – photo from http://seamlesstiles1.blogspot.com/2009/11/blog-post.html


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Mickelberry Gardens is the vision of beekeeper Matt and herbalist Madelyn. We started our business in 2011 with a farmer’s market booth in Portland’s Montavilla neighborhood, selling herbal remedies inspired by the gifts of the honeybees.

Today we continue to craft a variety of different healing remedies using raw honey, propolis, beeswax, bee pollen, and medicinal plants. We raise bees in several yards and farms, and work with other beekeepers and farmers to source the finest Pacific Northwest ingredients available. We concoct our unique honey tonics and beeswax-based salves in small batches from our commercial kitchen production space in Gresham, Oregon.

We keep our bees organically, and source bee products from other local beekeepers with similar values. We offer high quality locally-sourced raw honey and beeswax to the community, in small quantities and in bulk.

Welcome to our website!


Visit us at our retail location!  You can find us at 645 SE 223rd in Gresham, Oregon.  We’re open Monday-Friday 9:30am-5:30.


Find our products at the following retailers:

alberta coop logo Whole Foods logo food front logo made in oregon logo lifesource logo natural grocers logo new seasons logo people's coop logo




marlenes logo logo-first-alternative-co-op bee thinking logo winterridgelogo chucks logo rosauerslogo skagit-food-coop-logo boise-coop huckleberrys logo Central-Co-op pcc_logo_125

Visit our retail locations page to see everywhere our line is sold.

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We’re In The News!


Matt and Madelyn Morris harvest honey and herbal remedies at their organic apiary in Troutdale

Published: Friday, April 20, 2012, 12:32 PM     Updated: Friday, April 20, 2012, 3:03 PM

Special to The Oregonian By Special to The Oregonian

On a rare sunny morning in March, Matt Morris slogs through a muddy field to check on his honeybees.

Matt Morris has turned a beekeeping hobby into a thriving small business.

“They’re starting to wake up,” he says, pointing to several small insects flying in and out of the wooden hive.

That’s good news to Morris, who tends the bees on a 40-acre certified organic farm in Troutdale. He and his wife, Madelyn, harvest honey and other materials produced by the bees to create Mickelberry Gardens herbal remedies, which are sold at farmers markets in Portland and the surrounding area.

The Morrises, both active gardeners interested in permaculture and sustainability, started raising bees in their backyard in outer Southeast Portland several years ago. When they discovered that Madelyn Morris was allergic to bee stings, they started looking for a place to relocate their apiary.

Through an ad on a permaculture website, the couple found the Troutdale farm, turning a hobby into a livelihood.

“We had eight hives at our house, and out here we have 40. All of a sudden I went from being a guy with bees to a beekeeper,” said Matt Morris.

In the height of summer, about 2 million bees will feast on nectar-rich phacelia, alfalfa, buckwheat and clover planted just for them. In turn, they’ll produce for the Morrises about 100 gallons of honey. They also pollinate crops for the landowner.

Many bees die over the winter, but they build up their population by reproducing in the spring. Morris also adds to his hives by catching swarms in the spring and summer. (Swarms form when a queen bee and some of her workers leave a healthy hive to create a new one.)

Collecting swarms isn’t just a cheap way to add to their holdings, Morris said. It also adds genetic diversity to the hives, making them stronger and more resistant to disease, especially important because the Morrises use no miticides or other treatments, even organic ones, on their hives.

“When my bees die, I know why,” Morris said, referring to the mysterious colony collapses seen nationwide in recent years. “It’s because it was a bad nectar year or there was a terrible mite infestation.”

While Madelyn Morris keeps her distance from the hives, she stays busy making, bottling and labeling Mickelberry Garden’s value-added products in a former restaurant kitchen in Gresham, about 10 minutes from the apiary.

morris2.JPGView full sizeAnne Laufe/Special to The Oregonian

She earned a master’s degree in Leadership for Sustainability Education from Portland State University, with an emphasis on civic agriculture. She combines her field of study with a strong interest in folk remedies to create soothing and therapeutic salves, lip balm and syrups.

“Honey is really like a medicine,” she said.

Along with honey, the Morrises also harvest propolis, a sticky, resinous substance made from trees, leaves and other plant resins, and used by bees to seal and sterilize their hives, and to prevent viral, bacterial and fungal infections from spreading.

Madelyn Morris uses it to make a throat spray for people who frequently suffer from sore throats. Other Mickelberry Gardens products include their Happy Baby Salve, Love Your Lips Balm, Immunity Boosting Honey Therapy, and Raw Honey Sugar Body Scrub.

Gretchan Jackson, manager of the Montavilla Farmers Market, is a fan of Mickelberry Gardens.

“My family used the salve for cuts and scrapes and just dry skin. And the immune syrup is fabulous; that was just great in the winter,” she said.

The Morrises hope to have their products on store shelves in the coming months. Go to mickelberrygardens.com to find their farmers market schedule.

— Anne Laufe, Special to the Oregonian


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Blueberry Pollination 2012

We have moved several of our beehives this spring from their permanent home at our apiary in Troutdale to blueberry farm Berries To Bellies in Sherwood, Oregon. We are excited to be working with this interesting farm, a permaculture vision called Community by Design. The blueberries are transitioning to biodynamic growing methods. Our honeybees will pollinate this year’s blueberry crop, along with native pollinators that the farm is working to provide increased habitat for.

Relying on the honeybees for pollination has left Matt in close anticipation of bloom times and weather patterns this spring.

1st load of bees out to the blueberries, in the trailer

1st load of bees out to the blueberries, in the trailer

Second load of bees out to the farm

Second load of bees out to the farm

Frames of hungry honeybees

Frames of hungry honeybees

Bees and blueberries

Bees and blueberries



Our honeybees will feast on blueberry nectar until June.

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