CORVALLIS — Since its launch in late March, the Oregon State University Extension Service’s online help center has answered more than 2,600 questions about everything from how to sanitize birdhouses to how to make compost with manure.
The online service, called Ask an Expert, allows people to electronically submit questions and photos relating to any of OSU Extension’s subject areas. These include gardening, food, agriculture, forestry, coastal and watershed issues, parenting, nutrition, community development and 4-H youth programs. The service can be accessed at http://bit.ly/OSUaae.
The questions, in general, have reflected seasonal concerns, said Jeff Hino, the coordinator for Ask an Expert. Food safety questions were frequent during the summer and early fall as home cooks asked about recipes, pressure canners and pH levels. As winter closes in, more people have been asking about lawn care and pruning.
The system works like this: Nine people sort the queries by topic and forward them to the appropriate expert. These experts, 130 of them, come from a pool of people comprised of OSU faculty and a few Extension-trained Master Gardener volunteers.
They respond via email, usually within two business days.
The following are some of the questions Ask an Expert has answered:
• I have black moths flying all over my house. What are they?
• We are in farm forest area near Mount Hood and would like to remove some trees on our property. How do we find a reputable logger to help us?
• I am looking for information on aging after 65.
• I made too much pumpkin pie filling with raw eggs. Can I freeze it to use later?
• How can I get rid of moles in my backyard?
• I am looking for a 4-H program for my daughter and her dog. Do you have a show dog group around Beaverton?
One of the more urgent questions concerned a person who was feeling ill after eating unidentified wild berries from a yard. The person had not called a poison control center, which was the expert’s first piece of advice. The expert also provided a guide to common poisonous berries, to not only help identify what plant was to blame but to help avoid other bad berries in the future.