The smoke from the Pole Creek fire is finally clearing out now that it’s 75 percent contained, skies are sunny and even the overnight lows are still in the summer range. But Indian summer could vanish at any moment in the high desert. The chimney’s been swept, propane tank is full, firewood is ordered for delivery next month. We’re ready for winter.

Mount Bachelor ski area, Bend, OR

Mt. Bachelor runs beckoned in this photo taken with my iPhone on April 8, 2011. It was an awesome powder day!

The final step, if I take it, must be completed by Sept. 30: weekday season pass at Mt. Bachelor. To buy or not to buy?

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The International Environmentally Friendly Vehicle Conference starts Monday in Baltimore.

The Honda Hit EV

The Honda Fit EV is one of the vehicles featured in next week’s International Environmentally Friendly Vehicle show in Baltimore, MD. Credit: Honda

In this slideshow you can see the featured vehicles. To see the photo captions, select full screen mode and click on the “Show info” link in the top right corner of the screen. Many thanks to my friend Gay MacGregor of the EPA for alerting me to this.

Sustainable Travel section of traveloregon.com

Visit the Sustainable Travel section of traveloregon.com

I love living in Oregon, and love that our state tourism agency actually has a section of its web site devoted to green travel.

More evidence of Oregon’s green ways: The state Department of Transportation, Portland General Electric, and the Oregon State University Master Gardeners have collaborated on a solar highway project that features a huge solar array bordered by a community garden of waterwise plants.

The familiar mantra reduce, reuse, recycle also implies use up what you have, don’t buy more than you need, don’t waste resources. So I was horrified to learn of the extent of food waste in America.

Today we visited the Benziger winery in Glen Ellen, CA. We only had time to visit one Sonoma-area winery and chose Benziger because of their sustainable/organic methods. We’ve toured a lot of wineries in Napa and were familiar with crushing, the role of oak barrels, caves for cellars and all that.
What is interesting about Benziger is their biodynamic approach. Biodynamic horticulture seems to be essentially the same as permaculture.

Sheep contribute to the biodynamics at Benziger Winery.

Sheep contribute to the biodynamics at Benziger Winery. Photo by benziger.com.

At Benziger they are  cultivating grapes of several varietals, but they also have 60 head of sheep that they turn out in the vineyards at certain times of year. Sheep mow down weeds and their hooves cultivate between the rows as tilling would do. In addition to sheep, they also raise cattle. They use manure and compost to enrich the soil. One tip new to me: They grow, harvest and dry yarrow, which they say helps jump-start decomposition when added to the compost pile. I have lots of yarrow on our property, so I’m going to try this in my three compost piles.
They capture and recycle water and have reduced water consumption from 24 gallons per barrel of wine (conventional methods, which they started with) to five (current sustainable, biodynamic methods).
There are gardens within the vineyards devoted to attracting beneficial insects. Groves of olive trees as well.

Vineyard at Benziger Winery

The beautiful vineyards at Benziger Winery. Photo: benziger.com.

I have yet to see an ugly winery, but this one is quite beautiful in a simple, unpretentious kind of way.

My supersweet golden retriever Cody turned 15 this week. Love her to bits.

View the slideshow.

I’ve discovered a new labor-saving gardening tool. And it’s stored in the cloud, not in your garage.

garden plan on growveg.com

Here’s an example: A portion of my own garden plan on http://www.growveg.com.

Here’s a shot of a portion of my plan for this year for my expanded garden, now 32 by 84 feet. Although the price to buy this tool is only $25, you can also get a free trial for 30 days, plenty of time to create a garden plan. When you select a variety of vegetable to plant and draw it like a text box on your plan, the software automatically calculates for you how many plants will fit in the space. So your plan also does the spacing for you. It’s pretty slick.

It’s one of the hundreds of things I have learned about from the Oregon State University Extension Service and our fantastic horticulture professor in Central Oregon, Amy Jo Detweiler.

The dining room at Elevation restaurant

The dining room at Elevation restaurant in Bend, OR
on the campus of Central Oregon Community College.

I really appreciate that Elevation, the restaurant operated by the Central Oregon Community College Culinary Institute, is supporting local growers and hosting farm to table dinners. Even though I couldn’t go there for dinner on my birthday yesterday as I wanted to because they were closed for a special Meet the Farmer dinner. We’re going tonight instead. Can’t wait.

I’m excited about the new “food forest” the city of Seattle is developing with some community volunteers in Beacon Hill, a neighborhood not too far from where I used to live. The land is owned by the utility district and will be developed into a “forest” of fruit and nut trees, berries, and other food-producing perennials and annuals. Learn more about Seattle’s food forest.

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