When it seems like the rain is never going to stop, don’t despair! Whether your tastes run more towards Portland puppets or Troutdale trains, Multnomah County has no shortage of fascinating and quirky museums that won’t cost you anything. (Check the links for updated hours and contact information.)

Whimsy. Revisit the toys of your (or your grandparents') childhood at Kidd's Toy Museum. And if your pipsqueaks are pleading to ponder a plethora of puppets, perhaps Ping Pong's Pint Size Puppet Museum is your pleasure.

Safety. Witness the evolution of fire fighting at The Safety Learning Center & Fire Museum. You also might find the Portland Police Museum rather arresting.

History. We love that the Gresham Historical Society museum is housed in an original Carnegie library! Not to be outdone, the Troutdale Historical Society has three museums: The Barn Museum, The Harlow House, and The Rail Depot. And don’t forget, the expansive and amazing Oregon Historical Society is free to all Multnomah County residents; just be sure to bring a proof of residency that includes photo identification.

Miscellany. Check up on medical history with the fascinating exhibits in the Main Library of Oregon Health & Science University. If you're interested in "the art and industry of the cast letterform," then the Museum of Metal Typography is definitely your type. Then float on over to the Lincoln Street Kayak and Canoe Museum to learn more about indigenous small watercraft and suck up some cleaning history at the Vacuum Museum at Stark's Vacuums.

Free Museum Day Portland and Portland on the Cheap both have information about when paid admission museums might cut you a break. And for more on free and not-free-but-still-great museums definitely check out the Hidden Portland website, which was an invaluable resource for this blog post!

P.S. More in the mood for an art gallery ? Check out Rainy Days, Part 1: Free Art.

When it seems like the rain is never (ever) going to stop, don’t despair! Multnomah County has a lot of hidden art to see that will get you out of the house and won’t cost you anything.

The area’s colleges and universities are a treasure trove of free art galleries! Here are links to some all over town:

Government buildings are a great place to see rotating exhibits, usually by local artists. Experience interactive and experimental media installations in the Portland Building Installation Space; visit the art gallery in the Gresham City Council Chamber Foyer; and check out the current exhibition at Central Library’s Collins Gallery.

The Regional Arts & Culture Council has a searchable database of public art around the county. (Tip: Click on Advanced Options to search by Collection and Discipline.)

View work by local photographers at Blue Sky Gallery, originally founded as the Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts.

Learn more about contemporary art in the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s Resource Room. It is both an archive and library, housing over 3,500 artist publications, magazines, and audio and video recordings, as well as a video archive of performances and lectures presented by PICA over the span of the organization's history.

But wait, there's more! Check out Rainy Days, Part 2: Free Museums!

The open enrollment period for for 2015 health insurance coverage is from November 15, 2014 to February 15, 2015. If you want coverage that starts January 1, 2015, you will need to enroll by December 15, 2014. Do you have questions, or are you overwhelmed by the process? Here are some ways to get help:

Enrollment open houses all around the state. Whether you already have private insurance or want to enroll for Cover Oregon, these open houses will give you the chance to consult and ask questions of insurance agents and certified application assisters. Pre-registration is encouraged for these events. Check 211info.org or the Cover Oregon website for locations and details.

Make an appointment at your library. The Midland, Gresham, North Portland and Kenton libraries are partnering with the Multnomah County Health Department to answer your questions about the application and enrollment process. Interpreters are available upon request. Check out the dates and registration info.

Find help in your neighborhood. Type in your zip code and the Cover Oregon website will direct you to assistance close by.

Find answers online or by phone. Healthcare.gov has a one page guide to the Health Insurance Marketplace and a Get Answers page with a lot of information. You can contact Cover Oregon directly at 1-855-CoverOR or info@coveroregon.com; contact the Healthcare.gov Service Center 24 hours a day at 1-800-318-2596.

If you need more resources, you can always contact a librarian!

Smiley Goat photo by Martin Cathrae on Flickr, license CC BY 2.0.Whether you are excited about having fresh eggs and milk and honey, or looking for a new pet that will also mow your lawn, backyard animals can be a wonderful addition to your home.

It can be tricky to figure out what is allowed in your neighborhood: How many ducks are too many? Can I have a pygmy goat and a peacock? Do my neighbors need to know about my hive? Is that a llama peering over my fence?

If you live in the city of Portland, the rules and regulations for keeping animals are enforced by Multnomah County Vector Control. The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability maintains a site that lets you know which animals you can keep, when you need to apply for a permit, and what the requirements are to keep various animals. If you have questions, you can contact Vector Control at 503-988-3464.

If you live in Gresham, you'll need a permit for keeping chickens; the rules for other poultry and livestock vary. Questions should be directed to the Code Compliance Division at 503-618-2463.

The city of Wood Village has fairly clear rules for keeping chickens; for questions regarding other animals, contact the city at 503-667-6211 or City@ci.Wood-Village.or.us.

Live in Fairview or Troutdale? Both Fairview and Troutdale enforce Multnomah County's Animal Codes;  if you have questions, you can contact the Fairview Department of Planning Services at 503-674-6206 or the Troutdale Planning Division at 503-674-7228.

For Maywood Park, call 503-255-9805 or email cityofmaywoodpark@integra.net.

chicken.jpg by Tom Woodward on Flickr, license CC BY 2.0.The rules for unincorporated Multnomah County are enforced by Multnomah County Vector Control. They can be contacted at 503-988-3464.

Once you know the rules and you’re ready to start planning, the library has a lot of resources available for you! Below is a list of books that can help you prepare for your new additions. You can also search the catalog for “domestic animals,” “urban agriculture,” “bee culture,” or the particular animal you are considering. And you can always contact us for help; librarians are standing by!

P.S. If your chickens seem destined for more than just pecking and laying, perhaps it’s time they learn more advanced skills.

Winter in Portland brings short days, long nights, holiday celebrations, extra expenses, and So. Much. Rain. Here are some ways to take care of yourself, your family, and your neighbors near and far.

Keep warm. Find out the latest information on cold weather shelters all over the Portland Metro area. If you need help paying your heating or electricity bills, check out this list of agencies currently offering energy assistance, maintained and updated by 211 Info, a nonprofit organization that connects people with resources.

Get holiday meals, food boxes, toys, and other support around the holidays. Holiday Assistance Programs from 211 Info can direct you to resources all over the Portland Metro area.

Help out your community. Many local organizations are in need of supplies, food and gifts this season. Bring blankets, socks and other cold weather essentials to one or more of these winter donation locations from 211 Info; Hands On Greater Portland has a holiday guide that includes a list of local organizations in immediate need of food, toys, warm clothes, housewares, and other in-kind donations.

The holidays are an excellent time to teach your children about giving back.  PBS Parents has some great tips for teaching your kids about charity. Hands On Greater Portland can connect you with local volunteer projects that are perfect for families with kids of all ages (or grownups of all ages).

Donate money. There is no shortage of organizations that could put your charity to good use, so how do you choose where to give? If you’re looking to give locally, Willamette Week puts together an annual Give Guide featuring more than a hundred Portland nonprofits. Consumer Reports has some tips for making sure your donation counts. Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance rate charities based on spending, transparency, and more.

If you have questions, ask a librarian and we will be happy to help!

Do you have other resources to suggest? Share them in the comments!

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