We are fortunate that nearby Eugene has three home shows each year. The spring show focuses on gardens, the fall show on homes, and the winter show on green living. This past weekend we visited the winter Good Earth show, attended one of their free seminars, and browsed the vendors. I thought it might be interesting to report on some of the highlights for us.
- Passivhaus Seminar – Peter Reppe, a local Passivhaus certified engineer gave a presentation on the goals and basic technology behind Passivhaus. I was interested in this seminar for two reasons. I wanted to see if the free classes were going to be really commercially oriented (this one was not), and I was curious what was going on with Passivhaus in Oregon. In short, Passivhaus is a German standard for building extremely air-tight energy efficient homes. There are perhaps 15,000 such homes in Germany, and only 1 in Oregon. Our own plans for a superinsulated remodel are partly based on Passivhaus. Robin was reassured to see that there are other crazy people working on this sort of thing, and I got a chance to talk with the presenter after the seminar about his own remodel. He pointed me toward WUFI, which is a free program for modeling the moisture performance of a wall system. I’m running it right now on our wall design.
- Lane County Beekeepers Association — The LCBA had a booth at the show and we stopped in to talk about pollination. Robin and I are convinced that some of our garden productivity problems last year were due to poor pollination, so we wanted to see if there was an “easy” solution without diving head first into honey production. The short answer is no. If we just wanted fruit tree pollination (Cherry trees for example), then mason bees are a great low-maintenance solution. However, their life cycle wraps up in June. For a vegetable garden, you need honey bees. The person we talked to raised wild swarms of honey bees and believed in minimal intervention. This seems to indicate that the local association supports a variety of opinions — if we are going to raise bees, I don’t want to be dousing them in medications. Robin and I have put the next LCBA meeting on our calendar. I’m usually a “I’ll read the book” sort of guy, but why not learn from people who are already successful beekeepers in our climate?
- Columbia Gorge Winery — Who passes up free wine samples? We bought a bottle of wine from this small batch winery which makes organically processed sulfite-free wine. Sulfites are a relatively new addition to wine making used to kill the yeast and stabilize the product, but with questionable health effects. Columbia Gorge isn’t unique in their sulfite-free production, but it was nice to be able to ask them some questions. Here’s one I’ve wondered a long time: can you make sulfite-free sweet wine? Answer: No. To stop fermentation when there are still residual sugars in the wine requires using sulfites to kill the yeast.
- Oakshire Brewing — Beer samples? Is this a great home show or what? Oakshire is the small local brewery responsible for my current favorite beer: Overcast Espresso Stout. It’s made with organic espresso, if you’re wondering about the “green” connection. Oakshire will be at the upcoming KLCC Brew Fest (an NPR charity event), and will be one of 11 local breweries creating their own collaboration rendition of a Belgian Style Cascadian Dark Rye Ale. I’m still not sure what that will taste like, but living in the northwest is great!
- Rags to Rugs & Stuff — This small booth caught our attention. An older couple from Lincoln City, Oregon make wool rugs woven out of the scrap end cuttings from Pendleton blankets. The rugs are heavy, well made, and very reasonably priced for solid wool fiber. Robin wanted to buy one on the spot, but couldn’t select a color. When we get a room sufficiently complete, we’ll definitely be tracking down one of these rugs.