‘Great new sustainable landscape plants’

Steve Foltz, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden’s horticulture director, will present “Great New Sustainable Plants for the Landscape” Friday (2/25) at Ohio State. Foltz oversees one of southern Ohio’s largest plant collections — 3,000 varieties of trees, shrubs, tropical plants, grasses, bulbs, perennials and annuals. His talk is part of a free winter seminar series by the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science, which is part of our college.

OSU organic farming leader receives top honor

Deb Stinner, head of Ohio State’s nationally known Organic Food and Farming Education and Research program, has received one of two Stewardship Awards presented by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA). It’s the group’s highest honor. She’s the first recipient of the award from Ohio State. Also honored was Ed Snavely, a Knox County farmer with whom Stinner has collaborated on a number of studies. “Both Deb and Ed care deeply about creating a sustainable food system,” said OEFFA Executive Director Carol Goland. “We should all be sincerely grateful for what they have done to advance sustainable agriculture in our community.”

New ways to clean up Grand Lake St. Marys

A workshop next month in western Ohio aims to clean up Grand Lake St. Marys — and in doing it, give farmers a new source of income. “Turning Manure into Ca$h” features new technologies for turning livestock waste into sellable fuel, fertilizers, and bioresins. It’s on March 8 in Maria Stein, about 10 miles south of the lake. OSU Extension is one of the sponsors. “We have new manure rules in place for Grand Lake, but we still have the same amount of manure, so we need to look at ways of reducing our nutrient loads,” said Jim Hoorman, one of the speakers and an OSU Extension educator in Mercer County. “Farmers can adopt these technologies, sell their manure for a profit, and reduce their nutrients.”

How to know, grow, and manage a woods better

Purdue, Kentucky and Ohio State universities are teaming for a workshop for enthusiastic woodland owners — people who want to know, grow, and manage their woods better. The Ohio River Valley Woodland and Wildlife Workshop takes place March 26 at General Butler State Park in Carrollton, Ky., between Cincinnati and Louisville. “It’s for landowners interested in learning more about the resource they own,” said Kathy Smith, OSU Extension’s forestry program director. She’s one of the planners and speakers. “The unique aspect of this workshop,” she said, “is that the knowledge base comes from three different land-grant universities. This allows the participants to get different perspectives than they may get elsewhere.”

Home energy audit well worth it

I first heard about home energy audits last summer when I attended an energy efficiency presentation by ATI professor Allen Zimmerman. (His talk was really thought-provoking — and he’s willing to speak to groups small and large. Contact him at zimmerman.7@osu.edu to see about his availability).

Among all the pieces of great advice Allen gave, item No. 1 was to get a home energy audit. It might cost $250 or so, but Zimmerman said in most cases it’s well worthwhile. I procrastinated… but the seed was planted.

Today, I had an extensive home energy audit conducted for just $50, thanks to Columbia Gas of Ohio. Was it worth time and nominal expense? You bet. Here’s what auditor-extraordinaire Jacque (pronounced Jackie) Chaney found:

  • We have a minor gas leak in the basement. (Is any gas leak “minor”?) Unbelievably, she said it’s not unusual. She said her 90-year-old house had nine leaks when she checked it. I asked her why we couldn’t smell any gas, and she said it’s likely because the pipe is very close to the floor joist where there’s some air flow, and the gas is probably being swept outdoors. Lucky us. The plumber is on his way to fix that thing. Minor or not, I don’t like the idea of any gas leak in my house.
  • Our attached garage has no insulation in the ceiling. Ah, that’s why our den, sitting innocently above the garage, is so drafty. Insulation will cost about $250, but if we get it done within six months, Columbia Gas will foot some of that bill — even more if we get it done within three months.
  • There doesn’t appear to be insulation in the 12-inch overhang at the front and back of the house. It will cost about $40 to get that fixed, for an annual energy savings amounting to about $9 a year. Not a bad payback period. Columbia Gas will pay a good portion of our cost, too, cutting the payback period even further. This is a great program.
  • We have some air leaks. Every house does, but some easy fixes will reduce our energy use and make the homestead (can you call a house built in 1994 a “homestead”?) more comfortable. We’ll seal up the air leaks in the basement (where the floor joists meet the foundation, and where a water pipe goes outdoors for the garden faucet); underneath the window sills (Jacque said these should be re-caulked every 10 years or so); and at switchplates and outlets on our outside walls (ready-made foam insulators are available at hardware, home and discount stores). Note: One way to spot an air leak around insulation (such as what you might see in the basement) is to look for gray discoloration on the fiberglass. That means air is being filtered through the insulation. Who knew? I thought it was dust.
  • We have about 12 inches of blown wool insulation in the attic, giving an insulating factor of about R-30. While it’s not the R-42 recommended, getting there would cost about $400 and only would save $11 a year. Still, it might make the upstairs a bit more comfortable. And it would save some wasted energy.

In addition to the audit, Jacque installed two free high-pressure/low-flow showerheads (reducing water usage from 2.5 gallons per minute to 1.75 gpm). Plus, she would have installed a free programmable thermostat if we didn’t already have one.

The discounted home energy audit program is open to Columbia Gas of Ohio customers. There’s been quite a bit of publicity on this, and thus a long waiting list (I called in November to get a Feb. 10 audit).

If you’re not with Columbia Gas, other utilities have similar programs. For example, Dominion East Ohio gas company and American Electric Power offer similar programs. Electric co-ops also offer subsidized audits. Take a look online or call your utility to find out what’s available for you. Or, find your own certified energy auditors at www.resnet.us or www.bpi.org. It very well could be worth your dime — and save fossil fuels at the same time.

58+ ways to be more profitable, sustainable

Farmers who want new ways to grow, sell, and stay in business can find them at two coming events. The “Opening Doors to Success” Small Farm Conference and Trade Show (35 breakout sessions plus keynotes) runs March 11-12 in Wilmington. The “Living Your Small Farm Dream” Northeast Ohio Small Farm Conference and Trade Show (23 sessions, keynotes) takes place March 26 in Massillon. “‘Small’ is relative, almost a mindset,” said Mike Hogan, one of the organizers and an OSU Extension educator in eastern Ohio. “It’s hard to draw a line to say what’s small and what isn’t. The main focus either way is to help farm families identify ways to become more profitable and sustainable — economically, environmentally, and socially.” OSU Extension’s Small Farm Program is one of the co-sponsors of both conferences. More.

World Agroforestry head to talk tomorrow

Dennis Garrity, director general of the Nairobi, Kenya-based World Agroforestry Centre, will present “Creating an Evergreen Agriculture in the Tropics” from 3:30-4:30 p.m. tomorrow (2/10) at OSU. It’s part of the “Agriculture, Water Quality, and Nutrient Management” winter seminar series of the School of Environment and Natural Resources. The center, its website says, is “dedicated to generating and applying the best available knowledge to stimulate agricultural growth, raise farmers’ incomes, and protect the environment.” It’s a member of the global Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research and has regional offices in Kenya, Mali, Malawi, India, and Indonesia.

President Gee to speak April 19: ‘Green is good’

OSU President E. Gordon Gee will keynote the Wooster Campus Scarlet, Gray and Green Fair April 19. He’ll speak on “Sustaining a Stronger Ohio” during the fair’s 11-11:30 a.m. opening ceremony in Fisher Auditorium. “The creative power and technical expertise of The Ohio State University are being marshaled every day on behalf of Ohio farmers, Ohio businesses, and Ohio residents to help make all our lives cleaner and greener,” Gee said. “Green energy and green practices are an essential part of building sustainable prosperity in Ohio. To paraphrase an old movie line, ‘green is good.’ ”

It’s Recyclemania time

Ohio State is again participating in RecycleMania, an eight-week competition among 630 universities nationwide to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Universities are ranked each week by the volume of recyclables collected and by recyclables per capita, trash generated per capita, and by recycling rates.

Last year, Ohio State placed 50 out of 300 in the category of total recyclables, with a collection of nearly 300,000 pounds of recycling. Ohio State also placed in the top 50 in the waste minimization category with 34.6 pounds of waste generated per person.

Can we do even better this year?

Find out more at go.osu.edu/recymania and www.recyclemania.org.