Posts filed under ‘Current Events’

Emergency Preparedness Part 1: Seriously? Yes.

Flooded Oregon highway

Floods are a hazard of Oregon living. Photo: OregonDOT/Flickr

Say hello to Jennifer, a newcomer to Oregon, who will be sharing her experiences in getting ready for emergencies. Here’s Part 1:

Until 15 months ago, my husband and I lived in the Midwest. We were used to dealing with inclement weather, and we made minimal preparations for dealing with severe storms. We had a weather radio; we put boots, blankets, and food in the car for winter travel; and we knew where to take shelter from tornadoes. If I suggested additional measures (“Maybe we should stock up on canned goods?”), my husband gave me that look. “Seriously?” he said. “We’ll be fine.”

We never had to deal with anything serious, so we didn’t seriously prepare for anything.

Then we moved to Oregon—land of forest fires, floods, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Unlike Midwest storms, these natural disasters can occur without warning and cause long-term disruption. So can other disasters, such as flu pandemics and acts of terrorism. And thanks to prominent media coverage of a likely major subduction zone earthquake in the Pacific Northwest, my husband now agrees that our current “emergency supplies” aren’t sufficient.


12/05/2011 at 12:00 pm 2 comments

Slow Progress and Time is a Gettin’ Short

Partially framed coop“You can expect pullets (young females) to begin laying eggs at 18 to 20 weeks of age, with a production rate of up to nine eggs each in 10 days.”

I will finish this thing before the chicks start laying. The floor is in, and the front wall is partially framed. I put the window in temporarily so I could better imagine the finished product. I’ll pull it back out tomorrow to finish framing.

For the roof, I’m rethinking my green idea and am instead considering putting in a couple skylights. The extra light might help extend their laying in the winter and fall, and I if  my birds escape, freeze, or become prey for the local wildlife, I’ll just convert the coop to a writing studio and call it rock and roll.

Coming soon: finished coop pictures and a discussion of the pros and cons of the booming backyard chicken movement.

06/17/2011 at 9:15 am Leave a comment

Guest Post: Tiny invader a cause for big concern

Today’s guest post from the Zetetic deals with one of the most pressing ecological issues facing the Pacific Northwest today: The introduction of invasive species.  For more information about invasive species globally visit the USDA National Invasive Species Information Center. Here’s Z.


Tiny striped shells attached to a boat motor. Is it really a Trojan horse?

I’m listening to the radio as I load up my kayak for the first float of the summer. The reporter describes the first zebra mussels found in Oregon, stuck to a boat that is latched to a trailer being hauled behind a truck heading west from Michigan. This little clutch of shellfish is a very long way from home.

Yes, it’s a Trojan horse.

Sam Chan’s shoes explain why. Chan, a watershed health specialist with Oregon Sea Grant Extension, displays his sneakers whenever he needs to make a point about aquatic invasive species.

He had anchored the shoes (unattached to his feet) for a couple of months in California’s Lake Mead. When he retrieved them from the lake, the sneakers were completely encrusted with several generations of tiny, bead-like zebra mussels, one of the most invasive of freshwater alien species in the United States.

Zebra mussels form dense colonies that can encrust surfaces, clog pipes, and really mess with irrigation, hydropower, municipal drinking water, and the life in and around fresh water. Except for these very dead ones decorating Chan’s sneakers, zebra mussels had not yet sneaked into Oregon. Until now.

Native to the Caspian Sea in Eurasia, zebra mussels immigrated Michigan in ship ballast water in the late 1980s. Within less than 3 years, they had colonized all the Great Lakes. They moved steadily east and west, and now are busy clogging the California-Arizona aqueduct system. Oregon’s sharp-eyed invasive species inspection team caught these zebra mussels at the Ashland Port of Entry on I-5 during a voluntary inspection.

People are often inadvertently to blame for introducing these invaders, Chan told me.  Zebra mussels can survive up to week out of water. Attached to boats, they can be easily towed a long way and launched into unifested waters. “That boater who volunteered for inspection deserves a medal,” Chan said.

So, now I’ve got my Oregon Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention permit attached to the bow of my kayak. The program is helping to fund aquatic invasive species prevention, including the sharp-eyed inspectors in Ashland.  We all need to keep an eye out for this Trojan horse.

05/31/2011 at 9:35 am 1 comment

What it Means to be Hungry: Getting by on $1.50/day

This month the Global Poverty Project is coordinating a campaign to bring awareness to individuals living in extreme poverty around the globe. According to the Live Below the Line campaign website: 1.4 BILLION people are forced to live every day on $1.50. Food, drink, health expenses, housing, transportation, education – all living costs must be covered by this amount. It’s a feat impossible to imagine – but it’s the reality for nearly one quarter of the world’s population.

The Live Below the Line five-day challenge runs May 16-20. For those days, participants will do their best to spend only $1.50/day on food. That’s not much. It’s less than what I spend on black coffee at my local java joint daily. And only 40% more than my organic apple afternoon snack. It’s an interesting challenge, and a scary thought. I’m not sure if I can hack it. Can you? Would you be willing to try?

The Extension plug: Extension has an entire online community dedicated to Food and Nutrition education. Topics include eating on a budget, national dietary recommendations, recipes, and information about food policy.

05/10/2011 at 1:44 pm Leave a comment

Guest Post: Lighting the path toward a more sustainable world

I’m still fighting ant invasions (they’ve moved from the ceiling to the floor), frost, old plumbing, and high water tables. I’ll be back in a few days with an update and some thoughts on what we use and what we throw away. In the meantime, a guest post from our writer, the Zetetic, on how we learn and what we can do with our earned knowledge.

Lighting the path toward a more sustainable world

I was recently at an international conference where I learned a few new words: al-ershad in Arabic; song-suem in Thai; gostaresh in Persian. All these words refer to promoting knowledge through extension, perhaps most eloquently described by the Dutch as voorlichting  or “lighting the path.”

 As we celebrate 100 years of OSU Extension in Oregon, I had begun to think that the whole idea of extension started here, with clever Oregonians eager for knowledge. But after a few days spent with extension agents from around the world, I realized that the global community of learning is much, much bigger.

According to the FAO, Chinese officials were providing advice and training to farmers almost 2,000 years ago, offering practical methods of fish farming and crop rotation. Today, 90 percent of extension workers in the world are located in developing countries, over 70 percent in Asia alone.

During the 19th century, when so much of Indochina was under colonial rule, extension in Asia grew to include agricultural experiment stations with a focus on export crops such as rubber and tea. In the mid 20th century, after independence, such technical advice continued for valuable commodities. But few programs met the needs of small farmers until the 1970s when the World Bank introduced the Training and Visit system, promoting the adoption of Green Revolution technologies. All of this was one-way education, with experts (often foreigners) promoting particular technologies to increase local productivity.

Things have changed in Asia and in extension worldwide. The extension agents I met from around the world are talking about local participation rather than global promotion. The buzzwords have changed from “technology transfer” to “experiential learning.” But what does that mean?

Experiential learning means learning by doing. It requires no teacher, but it does require purpose, information, and communication. In the Philippines, for example, extension agents are helping fish farmers to test different combinations of fish, seaweed, and mollusks that work together to keep pond water clean and diversify farm incomes. Research stations are testing combinations, too, and extension agents report those research findings. The farmers add their experiences to the mix of information and make their own choices.

Extension is entering its second century in Oregon and its third millennium in Asia, and everybody’s at the table, learning together. Research is no longer expected to provide universal truth, and common sense is no longer asked to wait outside while decisions are made.  At a fish farm in the Philippines, I saw people using research and experience to plan their own futures and light the path toward a more sustainable world. — The Zetetic

05/02/2011 at 4:20 pm Leave a comment

A Swarming Black Carpet: Carpenter ant invasion

One ant inside? No problem.

Carpenter ants are swarming across the ceiling and down the eaves like a throbbing, growing, living black carpet. One falls making a soft thud as it hits the kitchen counter top. Then five more: thud, thud, thud, thud, thud.

That fifth thud. That’s about when I lost it.

Hundreds of ants inside? Big problem.

Carpenter ants are a common spring-time pest in the Pacific Northwest. They come out of the literal woodwork when the weather warms. I’ve seen them before, 3/4-inch long ants with wings—but never like this.  Never a full infestation.

Carpenter ants don’t eat wood, they just tunnel through it. A friend said she once knew she had a nest because she could hear the ants chewing inside the walls. Photo: OSU

I haven’t slept at home in two days. I’d like to say I’m researching a non-lethal control method, but in truth I’m waiting for the fumes of my initial attack on the colony to clear. We all have our limits. This might be mine.

04/20/2011 at 4:22 pm 2 comments

Where There is Risk

I live in Oregon’s Coast Range way up on top of a hill. Last week a neighbor and I got to talking about natural and human catastrophes that could reach us at home. We came up with wildfire, volcanoes, drought, and flood induced landslides. Of those we are likely most at risk of wildfire and drought. Our soils pretty stable, and I’m not sure it’s worth worrying about volcanic eruptions.

Recent news, however, has me wondering if I have a faulty sense of safety. This article from The Oregonian addresses the issue of perceived and actual risk as it relates to tsunami off the Oregon coast. Give it a read, then check out OSU Extension’s page on preparing for natural disasters.

I’m curious how many Oregonians have the recommended three-day supply of food and water in the pantry?

04/06/2011 at 11:24 am Leave a comment

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