Category: green

energy efficiency

We all want an efficient home so that our bills will be lower, our homes more valuable, while also doing something good for the planet! But how to do it?

Here are some steps you can take to make your house more energy efficient!

  1. Get an energy audit from a local, professional company. They will do an inspection of your home and give you a game plan for how to up your efficiency. Here are some local companies to try: Green Savers PDX, Revival Energy Group, and Bull Mountain Heating.
  2. Fix leaks! This is a pretty low-cost way to make a big impact. Lots of doors and windows have spaces around them that let cold air in. Also, take extra care when checking out your basement and attic. More air than you think exchanges between these spaces and your main living areas.
  3. Insulate! Do you know what is in your walls? Sheetrock didn’t come into use until the 1950’s, so if your home is older than that you probably have lath and plaster. (This isn’t all bad, it lessens noise and helps suppress the spread of fire.) However, traditionally lath and plaster doesn’t involve insulation, but you can hire a professional to inject insulation into the walls. With drywall, just cut holes, fill up the spaces, and replace and seal.
  4. Upgrade your windows. Many old homes have single pane glass. These are somewhat like holes in your walls! High efficiency windows make a huge difference. If you can afford it, try wood frames instead of the old aluminum. If you can’t afford all new windows, try for storm windows in the winter.
  5. Upgrade doors. Especially if you have an hollow doors, replace them with new energy efficient ones.
  6. Upgrade appliances. Most appliances today come in models that take energy efficiency into account. Tankless waterheaters heat water only when it is requested, saving energy and giving you an endless supply or warm water.
  7. Solar! There are even companies who will lease your panels to you. This is a low cost way to harvest energy directly from the sun.

If you get through this whole list, your house will be very efficient! Let me know how it goes.

Tree School 2016 registration

It’s time to register for 2016’s OSU Extension Tree School!

If you haven’t attended in the past, let me tell you about it. This is an annual one day event chock full of classes. Topics include: business management, forestry, fruit trees, pest management, marketing, water resources, dealing with weeds, wildlife, etc!

The first year I went to mostly honeybee classes. Last year I did quite a number of truffle classes, plus one about plant propagation. This year I’m gravitating toward native plants and forest management. I can’t wait! Hope to see you there!

For more information and to register, please check out the web site.

So many trees!

Do you ever catch yourself referring to a tree with needles generally as a “pine tree?” If so, substitute that with, “evergreen.” Unlike “pine,” which refers to a specific family of trees, “evergreen” is safe to use since it covers all trees that do not lose their foliage over winter.

For more great tips and info on identifying evergreens in the Northwest, check out this website!

Oregon Mushroom Show

I went by the Oregon Mushroom Show today. This is a yearly event organized by the Oregon Mycological Society. It was a great source of information for mushroom classification, propagation, and much more.

Did you know that you can dye fabric using mushrooms? Or use mycology inoculations as a way to remediate a brownscape? (Brownscapes are abandoned or underutilized sites, often associated with industry, that contain some degree of real or perceived contamination.)

I got to smell and touch some local mushroom varieties that had been found just today. It was great to see them first hand and get to ask questions of the volunteers, all of whom seemed quite well informed. Comparing edible mushrooms with lookalikes that are poisonous was quite instructive. They were also demonstrating how to do a spore print, which is an excellent technique for identification.

If you want to find out more information about mushrooms in the area, try joining the Facebook groups: Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest and Pacific Northwest Mushroom Identification and Information Forum.

Here are some images from the show today!

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Know Thy Food co-op and Azure Standard

I attended an event this morning at Know Thy Food (KTF) co-op in SE Portland. I’d never been to the space before; it was small, cute, and welcoming.

You don’t have to be a member of KTF to enjoy shopping in the physical store space, but joining gives you access to their extensive online catalog. You can make orders ahead of time and pick them up once a week at the store. It takes a little more planning, perhaps, but in return you can shop from your own home and just stop by to pick things up that already gathered for you.

I was there today to learn more about Azure Standard, a food distribution company that has monthly drops at the co-op. They heavily focus on organic and health food. I’ve been curious about this sort of shopping for quite a while. Buying food in bulk from suppliers has cost benefits and more directly supports local economy and farmers.

I signed up to join both the KTF co-op and Azure Standard. I’m excited to start on this new adventure!

Example of product listings inside Azure Standard’s huge catalog:

catalog

 

Fruit extravaganza!

Hey everyone! I took a break from blogging this summer, but now I’m back!

Let’s kick off with this great event called the “All About Fruit Show.” It happened today at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds.

If you ever wondered what a particular variety of apple tastes like, this show is your place to find out. They had over 600 different types to sample! It was overwhelming, but I did come away with a list of 10 that I loved.

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Beyond apples, I also got to try my first pawpaw. Did you know they are native to North America? There was also seaberry juice, a whole table of hardy kiwi varieties, quince, pears, and more!

I highly recommend attending! Keep an eye out around this time of year in 2016 for your chance.

Here’s the hardy kiwi table.

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And the grapes! I loved a dark purple variety called “Jupiter.” It tasted like a Concord, but it was seedless!

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Bees and monoculture

Yesterday there were many news stories about a semi-truck of honeybees that overturned in Washington State.

There are so many things to say about this catastrophe, but the underlying cause is monoculture. It used to be that farms kept bees on hand, or that there were enough native and feral honeybees to pollinate our food. No longer. Now huge semis of bees are trucked around the country. They are not properly taken care of, filled with anti-biotics and miticide, and kept just barely above the level of dying.

For more background information on this, I’d recommend watching the film Queen of the Sun.

Free bee flower seeds!

As a beekeeper and environmental advocate, I created a project for myself — giving out free bee flower seeds! One of the most important things you can do to help bees is to plant safe flowers they can visit for pollen and nectar.

Please let me know what varieties you would like and how to get them to you. Keep in mind that they are all very different. For example, borage is a super easy self-seeding annual that will spread. (Which is a good thing for my garden, but might not be for yours?) Whereas with Purple cone flowers (echinacea) the same plant will come back every year in the same place. Here’s some information about each of them.

Borage – wikipedia, growing and using, ideas on Pinterest

Lady bird poppy – wikipediacare, Pinterest

Purple cone flower (echinacea) – wikipedia, care, uses, Pinterest

Milkweed – wikipediaseed campaign with lots of info,  care, Pinterest

If you plant some of these seeds, I would love to see photos of your flowers! Please keep in touch so I can share them.

2015 Community Summit

This past weekend I attended Portland’s 2015 Community Summit. This was a free event, and the first time it was held for 10 years. If you missed it — make sure to write to our city council to tell them to bring it back every year!

I attended panels called Effective Advocacy, Living Cully: an Eco-District, a conversation with Mayor Hales, and Volunteer-Based Grant Writing.

It was quite inspirational, in terms of learning how to become more civically involved. I also really enjoyed witnessing the Mayor speak about his vision for the future of Portland. I also met some really great fellow citizens. It’s awesome to talk with people who are so tuned in and engaged.

I’d like to share the resources for volunteer-based grants:

East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District

Environmental Protection Agency

Gray Family Foundation Enviornmental Education Program

Metro

Myer Memorial Trust

Neighbors West-Northwest

Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Studies

Portland’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement

Oregon Community Foundation

Oregon Humanities

Regional Arts and Culture Council

Social Justice Fund

SOLVE

West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District

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Master Gardener training day 1

I am very excited to be embarking on this program! If you aren’t already aware, Master Gardener is half training and half volunteer hours, organized and supported by Oregon State University extension. On every Saturday for the next three months I will be in training. Volunteer hours start during this time and extend after for months.

Today we mostly had orientation, but we also had three hours of instruction about soil and fertilizer. I learned so much!

I’d love to share the resources we were given, most of which are Portland or Northwest specific.

XRAY.fm has a weekly radio show called Grow PDX. The website explains that it focuses on “horticulture, urban gardening, community food systems and agriculture.”

OSU has compiled a list of recommended varieties that do the best in our climate.

The Natural Resources Conservation Survey has web soil survey information available online. You can find out the composition of soil in different places throughout the nation.

A gardening blog with an emphasis on scientific research, Garden Professors.

And possibly the coolest information? Portland residents can get exotic “Zoo doo” from the Portland Zoo for free! (i.e. manure — which begs the question: why haven’t I seen this on Portlandia?)

Books…

Elements of the Nature and Properties of Soil — large, pricey, but worth the read.

Maritime Northwest Gardening Guide — comes highly recommended since it specifically relates to our area.

For information about using gravel mixed in with your soil, check out the book Gravel Garden.

Soil Biology Primer from Soil and Water Conservation Society.