Good Earth Home, Garden, and Living Show

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.
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5 Responses to Good Earth Home, Garden, and Living Show

  1. Leigh says:

    Interesting post on all points.

    I’ve not heard of Passivhaus, and Dan will be especially interested in this as heating / cooling are big on our list. I will be curious about how well your remodel works toward this goal. We’ve discovered a lot of energy leaks this winter in our old house and at the moment it seems impossible to be able to address them all. Of course finances are always a factor!

    You answered my question about homebrewed sweet wines too, though I’m not surprised at the answer.

  2. lee says:

    I hope to get up a post in the next couple weeks with a more detailed breakdown of what we plan to do to the house to address heat and air loss. The result won’t be as air tight as a brand new Passivhaus, but should be pretty darn good for a remodel. The other weak point in our thermal performance is the windows. On the one hand, our old house doesn’t have that many windows, but our architecturally accurate double-hung windows are only rated for R3.2. Very good for American-made windows. Not so good for German-made ones. Triple paned casement windows available in Germany can achieve between R7 and R10. If our windows really are the weak link in the house performance, I might consider building some inside storms for the winter season.

    Actually, if you’re trying to go the very thrifty route, it’s much more cost effective (based on today’s energy prices at least) to restore old wood windows and add outside storms. Most payback calculators not created by a window manufacturer show that new windows don’t really pay for themselves. A single pane wood window can achieve R1 if it is properly caulked and has updated gaskets. Adding an outside storm window brings that up to R2.

  3. Rachael says:

    Bees are so interesting! We rented a Nova documentary about bees and I learned a lot.

  4. Lynn says:

    Very interesting blog! Sorry I’m late on posting, I’ve been beyond busy since Randy’s been in Eugene OR for the past few weeks. He’s taking care of family issues out there – his family is in Roseburg and Sutherlin & Eugene. I read that the home show was in Eugene, so that must be near where you live. It’s a small world.

    Anyway, I agree with Lee’s comment about how just replacing windows doesn’t always fix the heat and air loss problems. We replaced all our windows last year, but we have such bad heat loss through the window panes and just through the walls, that it made no difference whatsoever in our heating bills. But physically the new windows look so much better, and it’s nice to be able to open the windows. We got our windows at cost because we knew the contractor, otherwise it would have cost a bundle. And the old windows had wasps living inside them & some were just falling apart, most were unopenable due to age. We still have alot to do to get our home airtight and warm in the winter.

    I am seriously considering honey bees this year. My step-father had honey bees when I was young, and it was relatively easy. Of course, I was a kid and probably didn’t pay attention very well, but I loved assisting him harvest the honey, and we always had fresh honey. I remember our little garden always did very well. I just have to talk Randy into bees, he has never been around honey bees nor has he ever thought much about them. We will have to do our homework on them.

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