DIY skill training in eugene and beyond


Resolved to improve your DIY skills this year?  Winter is the time!  Take advantage of rainy days in Eugene to attend one of many classes and workshops on gardening, keeping various helpful critters, or food preservation.

The Fun with Fermentation festival at the WOW Hall on January 12, 11:00-4:00, is now in its fourth year.  I’ll be holding a workshop on fermentation basics — making kim chi and sampling salsa and other goodies.  And that’s just the beginning! There will be plenty of fun, learnin’, and fermented food tasting for all.

The OSU Oregon Master Beekeepers program starts in Eugene on January 16, 2013. See their website for details about the apprentice program and class schedules.

The Lane County Extension Master Gardeners are beginning their annual certification training.  It starts Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 1685 W 13th (at Chambers) in Eugene. Here’s a taste of the schedule:

  • 8:30-11:30 a.m. is Tree ID with Steve Bowers;
  • 12:45-3:45 p.m. is Tree Fruits with Ross Penhallegon [in his last few months before retirement — congratulations, Ross!];
  • 3:45-4:15 p.m. is an informational meeting about the Pruning Specialist Program.

All MGs are welcome to sit in on classes, of course, but the public is welcome, too – $25 per class.

Another event:  Tuesday, January 15, 2013, 7 p.m. for the Master Gardener Seminar: Backyard Homesteading with Bill Bezuk. Note new location: EWEB North Building, 500 E 4th Avenue, Eugene. Free, bring a friend.

Lane/Douglas Counties Extension Master Food Preserver full certification class series will begin in April.  We’re taking applications now until March.  And don’t forget that Master Food Preserver winter workshops in Eugene are in full swing:

MFP Winter Saturday Special Classes:

Registration is now open for three 2013 Winter Saturday Specials workshops. Take one, two or all three of the classes. Cost per class is $25 if taken individually or take all three for $60. Print off the registration form and mail check made out to OSU Extension Service to 783 Grant Street, Eugene, OR 97402. Workshops are held at the Community of Christ Church, 1485 Gilham Road, Eugene from 10 a.m. -2 p.m.

  • January 12, 2013 – Soups & Stews: Learn to make Lamb Basque, Moroccan Chicken, and Irsh beef stews. Soups made will be Cambodian Sweet and Sour, Cuban Moros & Christianos, and Mexican Gazpacho. All served on rice. Credit card payment $25.
  • February 9, 2013 – Get a great introduction to the many varieties of beans and how to cook them even for dessert. Credit card payment $25.
  • March 9, 2013 – Discover many new whole grains and grain-like foods. Learn basic cooking techniques and ways to use grains in your meal-planning for health, economy and taste. Credit card payment $25.

MFP Spring Saturday Special Classes:

Registration is also open for three 2013 Spring Saturday Specials workshops. Take one, two or all three of the classes: Cheese Making, Fermentation, and Intro to Canning.

  • April 6, 2013 – Cheese Making: Learn the basics in this hands-on class. Make soft cheeses to taste and take home. Credit card payment $50.
  • May 18, 2013 – Fermentation: Learn tips on fermenting dairy, bread, pickles and other fermented delights. Hands-on class. Limited to 12 students. Credit card payment $50.
  • June 8, 2013 – Intro to Canning: Learn about equipment, tips for success, and what is safe to do at home and what is not. Credit card payment $20.

niblets: what shall i put in the hole that i dig edition

What shall I put in the hole that I dig is a question for the ages.  This 1963 children’s classic by Eleanor Thompson offers a series of questions about what things can be planted and turned into trees.  But forget the whole appleseed/apple tree nature learning crap.  Too many possibilities for a teasing big sister:  What shall I put in the hole that I dig? If I put my sister in, will it grow into a weirdo tree?  Etc.

So if I haven’t called you back or graded your paper yet, this is what’s been on my mind.  Yes, spring fever has hit!

Digging holes and putting things in them will be on the minds of all Eugenius gardeners this weekend.

Wondering about next steps?

Finish weeding.  I assume you already have your soil amended and most of your weeding under control, but if not, you’ll want to do this soon before the last of the rain goes away.  Once we get that last shower, the clay soil bakes the weed roots in, often in just a matter of a few days.  To help, consider Grandpa’s Weeder.  This standing weeder has been recommended to me by several people (0ver similar products, too).  They might have them back in stock at Down to Earth now, or will be shortly.

Get ghetto.  Those empty plastic bags from compost/soil/mulch are great to put on the ground so your knees don’t get wet and muddy.  I find them much better than the scrawny little pads, since there’s more room to move around on the bags, and they can accommodate, um, more generous knees.

Get some ideas about how to improve your chicken coop TODAY! May 21 is the annual Tour de Coop — buy your guides to the self-guided tour of local chicken coops at The Eugene Backyard Farmer.

Check out this link from NW Edible Life for creative pea and bean trellises in operation in Seattle.

Call in to the Master Gardeners of Lane County Extension.  The hotline is up and running, and the new office handles walk-ins.  Ask weed, bug, and disease questions, what to plant, and how to fix what’s gone wrong at 783 Grant Street, between Garfield and Chambers. Hours of operation: Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2-5 p.m.  Master Gardener Hotline: 541-344-0265.

Subscribe to our Extension Agent Ross Penhallegon’s “Garden Hints” group on Facebook for up-to-the-minute advice on what and when to plant in Lane County.  It’s almost like a telegraphic weather service, noting upcoming forecasts and how various South Valley crops are doing.  Get this man on Twitter!

Listen to Pat Patterson’s radio show, The Hatch Patch, on KPNW (1120 AM) from 9-noon on Saturdays.  Pat, the Master Gardener that the Master Gardeners turn to for advice, has encyclopedic knowledge about our area’s flora and fauna.  The radio program has a FAQ for PNW gardeners on their website, including info about moss on roofs and tomato blossom end rot.  (Note: this is the station that hosts Glenn Beck, so be sure to turn your radio off after Pat.)

Buy warm weather starts and start to transition them to your garden.  The most fabulous developments in Eugene gardening in 2011, as far as I’m concerned, are:

  • Log House Plants‘ grafted vegetables, selections of which are available at Jerry’s and that bookstore in Cottage Grove whose name I am forgetting.  Wonderful, fragile heirlooms grafted onto hearty stock for admittedly high prices, but it’s worth a try at least a plant or two in this miserable (so far) season.
  • Jeff’s Garden of Eaton‘s amazing selection of tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, and winter squash.  I went out to his place yesterday and picked up a dozen or so peppers, mostly Hungarian varieties that we can’t find anywhere else, but also some Sichuan ‘Facing Heaven’ pepper plants — peppers I’ve been searching for ALL OVER THE WORLD — and the peppers they use to make Ethiopian berebere spice and Turkish harissa.  The photo above is one Jeff sent me last week of my Facing Heavens as they were growing at his place.  It was like one of those adoption agencies where you get photos of the darling baby or puppy that will one day soon be yours.  Come home to mama!  Jeff’s plants are available at the The Hideaway Bakery Farmer’s Market (the Other Saturday Farmer’s Market), which is located behind Mazzi’s Restaurant on East Amazon in South Eugene from 9-2 p.m., and at his home in Santa Clara (2650 Summer Lane off River Road — look for the giant greenhouse in front!) most days from noon to 6 p.m. through June.
  • Lonesome Whistle beans, available at the downtown Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.  It’s perfectly fine to plant dried beans now.  Just sprout them under a wet paper towel for a couple of days first.

Or just say forget it and go down to Marché Provisions for a bottle of dry rosé, spring’s hottest drink, to drink on your weedy, unplanted patio.  Wine buyer Ryan Dawe-Stotz is a rosé fanatic, so he’s a great resource for consultation. I had my first glass yesterday, so take notice, winter, it’s all over for  you.

why i’m steamed: lane county extension, r.i.p.

Lane County Extension closes its doors today after 96 years of service.  We’re seeing this kind of thing happen all over the country because of the deterioration of the funding structure that requires financial commitments at the local, state, and federal levels.  It’s also happening because of deep, continuing budget cuts to personnel and programming at the land grant universities (often the “State” university system, like Oregon State U.) that were created specifically to disseminate agricultural research into rural areas.

As someone who grew up in a semi-rural area and spent most of her life in school, the loss of this educational structure is devastating.  The particular loss of our little Extension service outpost in Lane County is deeply shameful.  I haven’t said much about it here, mainly because I’m so angry that we lacked the leadership at the university level to pull off the stopgap bond measure, and I’m angry that we lack the leadership at the university level to protect the remaining programs we have.

Volunteers and faculty should NOT be doing the work of university administrators in trying to find ways to move around money, write grants, negotiate the Byzantine system that universities always have.  And quite frankly, they don’t have the time, resources, or training to do this kind of work.

These programs can’t be saved by volunteers, even the wonderful volunteers we have at Lane County Extension — some of the finest people with whom I’ve ever had the pleasure to serve. We’re happy to continue to give our time to teach the community necessary skills, even with barely functioning equipment in a crumbling building.  And to do so, we need dedicated, trained university faculty to do horticulture and food safety education, not fundraising.  Full faculty, not 0.2 FTE bodies that have to run themselves ragged among several offices.   I’ve never seen tenured faculty work as hard, for so little money, in such fractured, displaced, and exiled positions, to keep teaching (and I’m speaking as a former English composition instructor — we know from miserable teaching conditions).  They simply can’t do another job, too.

From my vantage point, no one in OSU administration — and I am shocked to discover there is a whole team of people working on our Extension programs in higher administration — got their hands dirty in trying to save the flagship county office in Eugene.  The only communications that moved quickly were the ones that said we couldn’t do this or that, and that the end was near.  This sent a clear message that the University wasn’t interested in keeping Extension alive in Lane County.

Is this reality, or just my impression?  Is it just the current leadership, or a systemic failure?  I’m not sure — all I know is that as of today, Lane County loses its ability to train generations of regular people in gardening, animal care, and food safety.  It’s a dire loss.

So that’s why I’m steamed.  Good thing I’ve learned how to vent.

(ETA:  I’ve received many private replies to this post, and I deeply appreciate the response.  Some point out that there are adminstrators who have worked hard to secure the tentative Master Gardener partnership with LCC.  This is a good point, and I stand corrected.  Many, many thanks to them!  I wish others had been willing to be as creative and diplomatic and forward-looking.)

save lane extension — vote!

Dear Local Readers,

You’ve heard me go on at considerable length about my volunteer work with Lane County Extension, a branch of the Oregon State University Extension system.

Without the passage of the bond measure on the Lane County ballot that was mailed out today, Extension’s future is jeopardy.

In the past few decades, the service has weathered fiscal crises on the local, state, and federal levels.  It has managed to stay alive and continue to offer a hotline and walk-in service for local farmers and gardeners; year-round garden and food preservation classes; a food safety and preservation hotline each summer and fall, 4-H services for children; and a host of activities educating and sharing with local farmers, foresters, neighborhoods, businesses, and non-profit organizations.

And these services are necessary at a time of growing self-sufficiency and interest in local cooking and gardening.  Folks that you rely on for your organic vegetables at our weekly farmer’s market and horticultural knowledge at places like Down to Earth and Coastal Farm & Ranch are often educated by Extension programs — and rely on the service continuing for questions and referrals.  It serves low-income people in programs like the food pantry education demos.  It serves seniors in homemaker training groups.  It serves middle-class people who grow food and raise chickens in their backyard.  It serves suburban mothers, rural kids, academics, truck drivers, lawyers, bakers, and homeless people.

Extension serves as a sturdy hub in the network that makes up the Willamette Valley food shed. We respond to questions that are local to our area.  This is a service that is not available anywhere else: not online, not in books, not in magazines.  I say this as someone who is very internet-savvy and specializes in culinary literature and history.  When I discovered Extension in Lane County a few years ago, I realized that we had an unbelievably rare resource right here in Eugene: a place where knowledge about local food and horticulture is centralized.  It offers the community a place to exchange information and organize programming.

If Extension in Lane County were to disappear, a vast store of irreplaceable local knowledge and organized outreach would go with it.  It would be foolhardy in good times to squander this resource.  In challenging economic times, however, when people are growing their own food and cooking locally now more than ever, allowing Extension to dissolve without allowing the public to voice its support would be irresponsible.

Lane County Extension has been serving the community since 1914, and now serves about 65,000 residents.  It is so interwoven into the fabric of our local systems that service the food and horticulture needs of our community, it would be nearly impossible for any new organization to fill these shoes. It’s much more cost-efficient to keep the organization alive at a reduced level than to realize, a couple of years down the road, that we really did need and value the services it provided.

Nonsense about these services being better provided elsewhere  has been circulating by a group described in this week’s Eugene Weekly article on Extension.  I’m frankly disappointed that the writer didn’t investigate the issues at stake more deeply, but perhaps it is indicative that no alternative plan is reported.  I have been unable to find any information on viable “better solutions” than Extension, other than vague gestures about how non-profit organizations could be models for private fundraising.  Um, no.  I heard two Extension staff members discussing the 15-hour days they’ve been working because of personnel and other funding reductions.  Who would build and maintain the fundraising infrastructure?  Even though there is a big volunteer base (650 committed souls), an organization can’t depend on volunteers to conduct sophisticated capital and operations campaigns.  (Oregon State University responds to more of the claims and misinformation being spread by the opposition here.)

Please join me in saving Lane Extension. The Register-Guard has endorsed the bond measure, and we hope the Eugene Weekly will, as well, in its voter guide next week.

For those of you who have never used an Extension service, I challenge you to see for yourself if it’s worthwhile.

Next week, call the Master Gardener hotline (541-682-4247) during opening hours for free, research-based, local advice about a plant you bought at the market.  Sign up for a $5 Kitchen Quickies class on savory pies, nuts, pasta-making, summer sausage, or sauerkraut.  Drop by the office during opening hours (M-Th 10-5:00 with 1-2:00 closed for lunch) to have a weed identified.  Check out the evolving local garden calendar or events at Lane County Extension on Facebook and learn when to plant and what pests to look out for in Lane County.

For those of you who have benefitted from the services, please consider donating to the Save Lane Extension political action committee.  You are invited to attend the second Taste of the Vine wine tasting party at a great winery, Pfeiffer Vineyards.

Pfeiffer has delicious, unusual wines, including a spry viognier and a fantastic pinot gris.  The two pinot noirs are wonderful, and the merlot has the faintest hint of smoky bacon.  If it’s like the event I attended a few weeks ago, you’ll come away from the event with a complementary Riedel Oregon pinot noir glass, too.  I won’t go so far as saying you’ll be able to ‘evaluate wine like the pros,’ as the poster says, but you will have a great time with warm, charming people who will teach you the basics in tasting red and white wine.

If you are unable to attend the event and would like to donate, the Save Lane Extension political action committee is looking for any donations for advertisements and other campaign-related costs.  Now is the time to donate to let others know about Extension.  Please see more information about donating here.

Thank you for your support.

A proud Lane County Extension volunteer,

Jennifer Levin, Sole Proprietor and Editorial Muscle, Culinaria Eugenius

osu extension master gardener annual plant sale

The Master Gardener Plant Sale will be held TODAY at the OSU Extension Service, Lane County, 950 W 13th Avenue, Eugene (in front of the fairgrounds).  Yes, today: Saturday, April 24, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Come early for best selection.

There will not only be great plants and book and bake sales, but also some deliciously whimsical garden art and a silent auction featuring gifts and services from local businesses.  Last year, I won a Friendly Street Market gift certificate, but I secretly coveted the sacro-cranial massage won by one of my friends.  Don’t miss it.

All proceeds will go to support the Master Gardener program in Lane County…and you know we need the funding!

saturday farmer’s market opens, foodies go wild!

Welcome back farmers, we love you!  I was the only tourist with a camera I saw walking around, but no one seemed to mind.  A wild spring day, smiling washed-out winter faces.  We’re all Vitamin D deprived and hungry for green.  The colors were almost unbearably bright, almost toy-like, in the bright spring vegetables pyramidded up under the new white awnings.

Rocking a locally-made Archival Clothing tote bag, I sent a strong message that no vegetable was a match for me. I snapped up a bag of new carrots, some purple flowering kale, and young green and red mustard green fronds from Lost Creek Farm (the farm that suffered the freak hailstorm in June last year — they must have been pretty anxious this week), Russian fingerling potatoes, a big bag of salad mix, dried Fellenberg (Italian) prunes from Raynblest, beer sausages and some maitake mushrooms to make my Easter soup.

Corey, the owner of Field to Table and The Nosh Pit (the innovative world street food cart on 8th and Olive that features a different cuisine each week), was serving up Jamaican-inspired chicken hash with egg and nettle pesto.  Even though I was mesmerized by the dark yellow farm-fresh egg yolk, I snapped a shot of Corey (r) and his cook in front of their sign.  Lookin’ good, guys!

I was also really happy to see my fellow OSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers at a booth, as well.  I had worked with Tim (l) on the hotline before, and we talked about the upcoming bond measure to Save Extension campaign for a few minutes.  It softened them up enough to allow me to take a picture.  Take one for the team, I said, and obligingly, they did.

Must have been the dazzle of my weird, lip-less smile.  (Hey, if I embarrassed them, I might as well embarrass myself.)

Some of the other delicious offerings included roasted vegetables and garlic from Canby Asparagus Farm, all manner of greens from Lost Creek Farm…

‘Easter Egg’ radishes and Russian kale from Hay Bales, Russian fingerling potatoes and leeks from Groundworks Organics (I think)…

and snow pea starts from the pepper lady.

I was so glad to see all of you, human and vegetable alike!

talking local


I’m preparing my presentation for the upcoming annual Gardeners Mini-College on local food and locavore eating.  It’s rather luxurious to be doing this at the peak of vegetable season, where all one has to do is lazily reach an arm out your window and grab a handful of beans or a cabbage or something, slap a few sprigs of summer savory on top, and call it a meal.

But of course, I’m going to make it harder and talk about lean months in the Willamette Valley, February through April, when locavore eating means munching on a raincloud with some rain sauce and a mud chaser.


If you can remember those dark days, and you try to eat local as much as possible, what did you do?  I’m happy to include the stories of others.

So as you write, I will be out in my neighborhood gleaning, living off the fat of the local land…


Nummy neighbor figs!  Desert King.  You know you want ’em.

meeting about future of lane county extension tonight

Extension’s Future: A Community Meeting
Thursday, July 16, 2009 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Oregon State University Extension Service officials are seeking local support to help keep educational programs such as 4-H Youth Development, Master Gardeners, Master Food Preservers and Compost Specialists in Lane County. Extension lost most of its county-based funding one year ago and is working to survive the current budget year.

A discussion of Extension’s future, including ways that people can help, is scheduled for Thursday, July 16 at 7 p.m., in the Lane County Fairgrounds Livestock Arena.

The above snippet is an announcement from the OSU Extension – Lane County calendar of events.  Extension provides many, many services to our community, including the education I received to be able to write posts on preservation and food safety for this blog, and the classes I and many others give at extremely discounted prices, often donating our own materials as well as time.

Quite frankly, the future doesn’t look so bright.  I don’t know what they’re going to say at the meeting, but it doesn’t look good.  They’re trying to put a brave face on it, but as a community member and dedicated volunteer at a place that has — hands down — the best community programming system I’ve ever seen, I feel obligated to share my sadness and helplessness over the whole thing, the end of an era.

The OSU, as a federal land grant university, is mandated in its charter to have an outreach “extension” program for education in agricultural-based fields (I’m simplifying, but you get the picture) in all Oregon counties.  The system was set up over a hundred years ago to ensure cooperative funds from the federal, state, and county level would keep the university and Extension operating.  Technically, Extension as an entity is one of the main missions of OSU and other land grant universities.  Over the years and budget problems, this mission has become blurred or forgotten, and funds have been diverted to other necessary (and perhaps not so necessary) areas.  Many Oregon counties have lost or drastically minimized their Extension programs.  In Lane County, we’ve managed to keep Extension alive even through budget crises in the past.

With the loss of county funding and the risk of losing state funding, however, Lane County Extension can’t survive as it is operating, even with its curtailed hours and decimated staff.  Worse yet, it risks losing its volunteers.  What you see on paper is only part of the true cost of losing or severely curtailing Extension programming.There is a huge corps of longstanding (10, 20 years or more) volunteers who lovingly give their time to help the community use its agricultural and horticultural resources, pumping thousands of hours into these programs.  I’m sure someone has figured out the true cost of radically altering Extension, assigning dollars to the hours committed by hundreds (thousands?) of people in Lane County who staff programs, hotlines, demos, classes, and events for free. It would be a major loss to dissipate all the volunteer energy that goes into that ramshackle little building north of the Fairgrounds, a place I’ve come to love.

If you’re as heartbroken as I am, come to the meeting and hear what’s been decided for the near future.  Perhaps they’ve come up with a workable plan.  I’m hoping, anyway.  But in any case, it would be very nice to have your support, both there and at our classes this year.

fresh local green beans meet their maker in a Thai stirfry

DSCF4965I’m workin’ on stuff, but I thought I’d just pop my head in here and sigh happily about the impromptu Thai stirfry I made with the season’s first local green beans.

I love, love, LOVE fresh, sunwarmed, slender green beans, their sweetness, their bouncy snap when you break off the little stems.

I had some leftover ground pork, so I browned it with some onion and new garlic.  Then, when it was crispy and rich brown, I added some Thai fish sauce and sugar, which carmelized beautifully, creating a sweet, salty, crusty, oniony pork confit.  Then I threw in big handfuls of green beans and cooked them for a few minutes.  Finally, I added a few leftover cashews and a handful of Thai basil.  I ate the whole mess over jasmine rice.  NOM.

In other news, have you registered yet for “Backyard Food Solutions,” this year’s Gardeners Mini College?  Tomorrow’s the deadline for registration.  More info if you click here and to the right.  Apparently, we’ve hit a record number of enrollees, but there’s still room for you!

vinegars and oils and gardens, oh my!

DSCF4404First, a reminder that today is the last day for early bird registration for the Gardeners Mini College.  See details on the right.

Second, stop by and see me at Down to Earth tomorrow!  I’ll be downtown at the store doing a free demo on safely preparing flavored vinegars and oils.  The demo runs from 1-3 p.m., as part of the summer series with the OSU Extension-Lane County Master Food Preservers.  We will have plenty of herb and garlic oils and delicious, fruity, flowery vinegars to taste (on home-baked bread!).

I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be joined by Pat Patterson, a veteran MFP and Master Gardener, who knows more about plants and preservation than anyone else in town.  You may have heard her on one of many gardening shows or local seminars.  We turn to Pat when someone has an obscure insect to identify or a rare plant issue or anything else about which no one has a clue.

This demo is appropriate for beginners, but even advanced preservers should take note.  With Pat, you can ask any question you like!  Plus, one of the handouts we’ll have at the demo is a list of edible local flowers, prepared by a friend of Pat’s.  It might be worth it to show up just to pick up one of these.  And to say hello, of course!

Your summer salads will thank you.