July 14, 2016

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Designing the Perfect Birdhouse

There are infinite models of birdhouses on the market these days, but very few are researched and designed with the birds’ needs in mind. We did the leg work! The development of our Cedar Songbird House began just like our other pollinator homes: by asking questions. What does this creature’s natural habitat look like? What size does this species become when it’s wings are extended? What behaviors does this species exhibit that we can accommodate? And finally, how do we design something this species will be attracted to while also adding beauty and charm to backyards and gardens?

By the end of our research and design we came up with an attractive, innovative bird house that will keep your songbirds singing. And of course, we used the highest quality materials available, including Western Red Cedar that is precision-milled right here in the Pacific Northwest.

Below are the top five aspects we considered while designing our bird house. Bird Thinking, anyone?

1. Keeping Birds Dry

In the Winter, birds can face some seriously cold and wet months, depending on where you live. Don’t let your bird house turn into a swimming pool! Our bird houses utilize sloped roofs to support water runoff, along with a recessed floor inside to wick water out of the nest.

2. Temperature Regulation

Our cedar walls that measure ¾” thick provide optimal insulation of the nest, especially accompanied by four ⅜” ventilation holes to assist with proper airflow.

3. Keeping Out Predators

Sure, perches have become a classic component of most birdhouses, but they actually tend to attract more predators by giving them a convenient landing spot! For this reason, our birdhouses are perch-less, and also have keyhole notches on the back for you to securely hang the house out of reach of ground predators.

4. Entrance Hole Size

Our Cedar Songbird Houses are built to specifically accommodate chickadees, wrens, nuthatches, and swallows. These birds thrive with an entrance hole ranging from 1 ⅛” to 1 ½” in diameter. Our bird house also comes with an optional, poplar fitted entrance reducer for adjusting the entrance hole size for the birds in your region.

5. Rough Interior Walls for Climbing

The inner wall below the entrance is sanded down and has shallow grooves in the wood to help fledglings climb out of the nest.

There you have it: Five species-first considerations we made when designing and building our beautiful and effective Cedar Songbird Houses. Be sure to check back soon so you don’t miss out on what comes out of our workshop next!
July 14, 2016


July 07, 2016


July 07, 2016


Small Business Spotlight: Bread and Badger

Here at Bee Thinking and Mead Market, we take pride in supporting fellow local small businesses. Both our Southeast Portland shop and online store are stocked with products made by local craftspeople, including gorgeous drinkware from Portland-based business Bread and Badger. We sat down with Amanda Siska, the creator of Bread and Badger, who does all her own designs and sandblasting. Stop into our shop or visit our website to pick up one of Amanda’s bee-adorned coffee mugs or wine glasses.

Can you talk about how Bread and Badger got its start, and where your name comes from?

I’d been selling shoes for a number of years before I decided I couldn’t take it anymore and I needed to draw full-time. I learned about glass etching in 2005 and I’ve been scratching surfaces ever since. Originally, I wanted to be a tattoo artist, but I found that glass engraving with a rotary tool was similar in technique, without the sterilization and possible regret.

In 2008, demand for my hand-carved designs became too high to fill, so my husband, Sean, quit his day job to help me transition to sandblasting. We now sandblast all our glassware and ceramics in our Portland studio, using top-notch professional equipment.

The name comes from the term "bread and butter," because this is our family's main source of income, but I chose the word "badger" because I was inspired by an article in National Geographic about honey badgers. Honey badgers are fearless creatures that will not back down from a fight, and are impervious to venom. They can kill animals many times their size and they eat bees and poisonous snakes. Quitting my job and starting my own business has been one of the hardest things I've ever done, and I am inspired by those tough little creatures every day, which can take on so much that other animals fear.

We carry your coffee mugs and wine glasses etched with bees in our shop. What other products do you make?

Anything that can be sandblasted, pretty much! We focus on drinking vessels, so we have an assortment of glass cups, barware, growlers, and ceramic mugs, which all feature my artwork. I like to draw happy things, so there are a lot of cute animals, and graphics that I think are symbolic of different interests (sugar skulls, knitting, constellations, trees, etc.).

Where do you find inspiration for your original designs?

I mostly look to nature these days, since I don't ever get enough of it in my busy life. I've been inspired by outer space, plants, and unusual animals. I'm also trying to think about icons that people in specific locations relate to, like the desert or the ocean.

What techniques do you use to craft your products?

We sandblast all our own products now, though I sometimes enjoy hand-engraving a very special piece for fun. We also carry some laser-engraved wooden items (magnets and holiday ornaments), and acid-etched brass pendants, which feature my artwork.

Do you have any advice for someone thinking about starting their own small business?

Do your research, find out if your idea is viable, and then jump right in! I think a lot of people overthink things too much at the beginning and never really get started. Also, you won't really know if you'll enjoy your business until you get into the thick of it, so just go for it. Everything is a learning experience.

July 04, 2016

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The many benefits of the newly designed Langstroth Hive Roof

langstroth peaked roof

The Langstroth hive just got a facelift. We took the same expert design principles we used to design the Warre hive roof to craft a 3/4" thick, kiln-dried, Western Red Cedar peaked roof  available for either the 8-frame or 10-frame Langstroth hive. And bonus: the Langstroth peaked roof is 15% off today as part of our Independence day sale! While the telescoping lid has it's advantages, this newly designed peak roof may be a much better option for a lot of Langstroth users. Here's why: 


1. Rain Runoff & Wind Resistance 

Help your hive weather the storm in style! The attractive peaked design of the roof allows for rain to roll off and away from your hive, protecting it from moisture-related issues. Unlike other lids, this roof stays secure during gusts of high wind. Keeping your hive dry is a key aspect of overwintering and this roof is an essential tool for doing just that.  

2. Insulation

We've always used Western Red Cedar on our hives, largely because of its advanced insulation power. It's low density and high proportion of air space make it the number one insulator of all the soft wood species. Between all the different components of your hive, insulation is most important for the roof. Since heat rises, a well-insulated roof ensures that heat will stay trapped in the winter and out in the summer.

The roof works well on it's own, but pairing it with the Langstroth insulation box makes for an insulation power team! The Langstroth insulation (or quilt) box works by wicking away the moisture that rises within the hive. The cedar shavings that fill the insulation box absorb that moisture. Pairing it with the peaked roof ensures your hive stays at a stable temperature and humidity level. 

3. Aesthetics

Beekeeping is not only fun, but beautiful too! This roof gives your Langstroth hive a lovely, polished look and feel. Perfect for the beekeeper who aims to keep their backyard looking exquisite. 


To install:

Simply remove the inner cover of your hive and place atop your upper-most super. It was crafted to last many seasons to come. Simply treat with tung oil to protect it and give it a rich color with out any chemicals or additives. 

July 01, 2016


June 30, 2016


June 24, 2016


The Mead Journal- Tastings this weekend

Being the premiere mead retailer in Portland has its perks, our favorite being that we get to try a lot of different meads. Our ever-expanding mead library inspires a lot of adjectives. You may see a staff member take a sip and follow with, "light citrusy body, mild viscosity, and is that finish reminiscent of cotton candy?"

We decided to catalog these taste observations for some of our favorite meads whose meaderies will be pouring in our new space this weekend in celebration of Tour de Hives. Tour de Hives is a self-guided tour for bee-curious Portlandians of backyard apiaries and bee trees, a Portland tradition celebrating backyard pollinators.

Stop into our new, evolving SE Hawthorne space for a refreshing sip of mead between tour sites or to end your day. You'll be able to enter to win a Mead Market branded growler when you do! 


Friday, 6/24, 3-6pm


Why we love them:
Former lawyer Brooks Cooper wanted to bring a new take on mead to the people of Portland and beyond. We're grateful he did! Stung's meads are reminiscent of beer, but still showcase the honey base that distinguish them as mead.

Standard (red cap)

Yeasty and hoppy with a pilsner or pale ale aroma. Earthy flavor and high carbonation. Light viscosity. Pairs well with a lamb burger and truffle fries.


Saturday, 6/25, 1-4pm


Nectar Creek

Why we love them:

Nectar Creek is a leader in session style meads using Oregon honey. These refreshing session meads are perfect for a warm day’s picnic or a backyard barbeque. Nectar Creek also offers delicious single varietals once a year; each one a special testament to their commitment to craft.


Cluster (cran-straw)


A berry nose, sweet-tart candy flavor, mild cranberry tartness up front and a lingering strawberry finish. Pairs well with roasted turkey, pesto pasta and goat cheese.


Saturday, 6/25, 1-4pm



Why we love them:

Ethereal’s meads come from a deep love of what the Pacific Northwest has to offer. Drawing on inspiration from the land, Gary Gross, Ethereal’s founder and meadmaker, uses local honey and fruits to make meads that remind him, and us, of what it’s like to stroll in the woods of this beautiful part of the world.


Sunset (honey-strawberry)


The nose is reminiscent of overripe berries, freezer jam or berry syrup. Carries through to palate with slight acidity and faint honey finish.


Sunday, 6/26, 2-5pm



Why we love them:

Holding a Masters in Vinology from UC Davis, Nathan comes from many years of experience making wine, transferring his fermentation skills to mead to create complex varietal meads with a dry finish, alongside well-crafted, non-traditional session varieties. 


Orange Blossom


Tart, limey, and oaky undertones on the nose that carry through to the palate. Lots of acidity and very, very dry.

Fringe Meadery







June 24, 2016


June 21, 2016


Keeping a Mason Bee House

We're fascinated by all pollinators and this week we are focusing on the mighty, mighty mason bee! Read on for what it is, what it does, and how to keep them.

mason bee house

About our Mason Bee House

We designed our mason bee house similarly to our beehives: with the species in mind. The house is constructed of Western Red Cedar and features a shingled roof. The house includes tubes that are the optimal size for nesting. They are made of a breathable cardboard which can be replaced each season. This is much more conducive to bee health than plastic tubes which contain chemicals, cause mold and can cause disease to spread more easily. The clean lines of the house and rich cedar texture make the house a visually pleasing ornament to any garden. Shop it here


What is a mason bee?

Mason bees (and leaf cutter bees) are solitary, tunnel nesting bees. Similarly to honey bees, the female does all of the nesting and foraging to care for the young.  Although they are considered solitary because they are not part of a superorganism, mason bees are gregarious! Multiple mason bee "families" will often inhabit the same home without working together. 


What does the mason bee lifecycle look like?

Male mason bees emerge from their cells first, only after there have been three consecutive days above 55 degrees. They leave the home to forage for nectar and then return to wait for the females. When the females emerge, mating occurs immediately and the males die. Females then forage for nectar and pollen and bring it back to their tube to groom the pollen off their bodies and into a sticky ball with nectar. She then lays an egg on the food ball, and seals that cavity of the tube off with mud. She does this about 6 times in a tube that is 6 inches long, and a minimum of 5/16" in diameter. After she caps the tube with mud and finishes laying her 6 eggs, she dies.The eggs hatch and larvae eat the food left by mom, and pupate (form cocoons) inside the tube, where they will hibernate until the next spring when the cycle repeats itself. 


How do mason bees find these tubes to nest in?

Mason bees do not have drilling mouth parts to make their own holes, so in the nature, they inhabit holes made by carpenter bees, or woodpeckers. Humans can also make their lives easier by providing an already-made home. Many people simply drill holes in a block as mason bee houses. This is less than ideal because they get re-used and spread disease. The better idea is to use paper tubes, or reeds because they can be replaced by fresh ones. The cocoons can be removed from the tube, cleaned, and stored in the refrigerator for the winter.


Why keep a mason bee house?

Keeping a mason bee house in the garden is ideal for those who aren't ready for the commitment of colony beekeeping. Although keeping mason bees is a low maintenance hobby, there is a huge pollination payoff! Since mason bees are native pollinators, they are experts at pollinating native plants. While honeybees have a 5% efficiency rate when it comes to pollination, mason bees are 95% effective at pollination! They are dynamic at pollinating the immediate area surrounding their nests, which make them perfect for your backyard garden and fruit trees. Lastly, they don't sting and they're cute! 


Tips for keeping a mason bee house

    • Mason bees only have a 100 yard foraging radius from their nest, so they will need to have staggered bloom flowers within that radius all season.
    • House should be sheltered from rain
    • House should get direct morning sunlight. 
    • House should be at least 6 feet off the ground to protect from pests.