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Archives for July 13, 2016

The Pittsburgh Chamber of Cooperatives is raising awareness about the benefits of coops.

It’s Co-opoly night at the Pittsburgh Chamber of Cooperatives, a kind of chamber of commerce founded this year to encourage worker-owned businesses. Tonight players of the Co-opoly board game are trying to achieve the opposite goal of Monopoly: They’re trying to win together.

It’s confusing for the 20-plus players, since there is only one piece, which they take turns moving around the board. The idea of Co-opoly is to create a business that everyone owns, where everyone has an equal share in the eventual profits, and everyone has a vote in how it runs.

“You can change the rules as a group, which is very real” for a co-op businesses, says Jeff Jaeger, who runs the group — whose motto is “Think outside the boss” — with Ron Gaydos. 

“Your objective is to protect yourself from the cruel world and make enough money to start another co-op,” Gaydos says.

As in Monopoly, players land on spaces and pick cards to see what changing circumstances they face. 

Player Jenna Maloney, of Squirrel Hill, is forced to put some money back in the bank, but it doesn’t feel as bad as if she were trying to save enough to buy Boardwalk and Park Place. “I mean, it’s all ours,” she says.

Will Cenk, of Shadyside, is forced to pay extra money for his mortgage. Then the other players,— David Matten, of Greenfield, and Parker Webb, of Squirrel Hill — give him a raise when it’s their turn, to make up for his loss.

Cenk came to the Co-opoly event, at Repair the World, in East Liberty, because he wanted to learn more about co-ops. They “seem like a more ethical form of a company,” he says. “I wonder why there are not more co-ops?”

The Chamber plans to be a resource for people with aspirations to start a worker-owned or member-owned business but don’t know where to start — or don’t know how to make their idea viable. They’ve held, and are planning, networking events, workshops and business-coaching sessions, offering technical assistance for people whose vision outstrips their knowledge.

“You mention cooperatives to people,” says Jaeger, “and immediately you can see people [think], ‘Oh yeah, that’s a hippie thing.’” 

But that’s only partially true: Not only have co-ops been around in Pittsburgh since the 1800s, in early Pittsburgh industry, but they remain a viable business model today, Jaeger and Gaydos say. 

Who wouldn’t want to work in a co-op? Jaeger asks. It might not be the path to vast wealth, but co-op workers “feel passionate about what they are doing and good about the people they are working with. The amount of time that is spent at work is equal to or more than the time we spend with our families and friends. So you better have a stake in it.”

“Many people don’t like working in hierarchical business settings,” Gaydos says. If they could experience working in a co-op, he believes, they would appreciate how co-ops are democratically run, more responsive to the communities in which they are founded, and, yes, let people make a good living. 

Co-op workers “feel a sense of ownership,” which is a big value in American society, Jaeger adds. Isn’t it better to come into a job and know what you want to do that day, instead of being told what to do by a person in authority — someone who might not even know as much about your day-to-day duties as you do?

There are millions of people involved in co-ops around the country, says Gaydos, but those co-ops just aren’t very visible. That’s especially true locally. Some may even be informal, such as the after-school childcare co-op Gaydos and his wife once organized with four other families here.

“Food co-ops are usually the most visible in town,” says Gaydos, a former board member of the one co-op Pittsburghers might know: the East End Food Co-op. They’re one of the most popular co-op ideas as well, along with utility co-ops and manufacturing and retail co-ops. 

Some local groups — from construction companies to solar-energy promoters and neighborhood composting ventures — function as co-ops, even if they haven’t, or haven’t yet, incorporated officially as one. 

The Chamber is working with several local groups, and one in nearby Indiana, Pa., on everything from their business models to their decision-making structures. “People are used to the command-control model,” Gaydos says. Co-ops are, well, cooperative, but they still need to figure out ways to manage simple decisions, “so they don’t have to have company-wide votes all the time — so they can figure out how to reach consensus.”

The Chamber’s chief focus in these early months is in connecting aspiring co-ops to legal resources and to other people who have already trod this business path. They’re working with an herbalist co-op, a sex-toy co-op, a food co-op and the Black Urban Farmers and Gardeners Cooperative, which is formulating big plans from a tiny cubicle in an incubator space in the Hill District’s Energy Innovation Center.

Urban agriculturalists Raquueb Bey and Ayanna Jones, the co-directors and founders of BUGs, already have 25 members who contribute sweat equity to each other’s gardens. 

Growing up locally, they noticed the need for fresh, healthy, affordable food in black neighborhoods, and also noticed that most of the urban agriculture there was being done by young white people.

Jones grew up farming her grandfather’s place on a Hill District street that has disappeared since her 1950s childhood. They had a mule and chickens, and grew and canned vegetables. 

“It was a long time till I realized you went to the grocery store,” she says. “Then I began looking at my community and realized it was important to organize …” She pursued urban agriculture as her vocation and in her education as well.

She and Bey founded what they affectionately call BUGs because, Jones says, while the importance of Africa-centric art and culture is understood today in the black community, the importance of farming, and what their ancestral homeland can teach about food culture, is not well known.

Bey has also been active in urban gardening for years. In April 2011, she and friends began a community garden in Uptown, forming a youth program called Mama Africa’s Green Scouts. It soon expanded from their own children to the neighborhood kids and finally opened to everyone, offering lessons in community gardening, green sustainability and African culture.

BUGs has a similar social-justice component, working with local nonprofits and senior centers on their own urban gardens. Its founders chose to be a co-op, Jones says, because “we wanted not to be exclusive. …  We wanted to make sure every black gardener who wanted to be involved could be involved.” Some might need only BUGs’ labor, for instance, but not its expertise. 

BUGs members promote the group at farmers’ markets in city neighborhoods, and Bey hopes to add cooking demonstrations and social-justice speakers to that mix. Jones says the group could even open its own grocery store in Homewood, run by African Americans, with a café and classes on cooking and canning. 

And she hopes BUGs can eventually offer living-wage landscaping jobs, and training in running a greenhouse, to city youth. 

She and Bey have been consulting with the Chamber of Cooperatives on how to turn their idea, eventually, into a paying venture. Gaydos has connected them with a lawyer and consulted with them about other necessary co-op moves. 

“We’re looking at longevity,” Jones says.

So is the Chamber. 

Gaydos and Jaeger have partnered with several local business schools to connect Chamber members to business-education opportunities from the University of Pittsburgh and elsewhere. “We’re trying to be [a conduit] for this idea,” says Jaeger. “You want to know what this is, we’ll help you figure this out because we want to see it happen.

“At this point we are lending an ear to figure out what people want.”

The next event from the Pittsburgh Chamber of Cooperatives is an evening workshop about cooperatives, 6-8 p.m. Wed., June 8, at the Braddock Library. It includes a meet-and-greet with local cooperative owners — and games of Co-opoly.

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Garden club’s efforts bring color to light – Post

Visit our other local news sites: — Kankakee, IL — Moline, IL — Ottawa, IL

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IN THE YARD: Enrolment opens Thursday for Master Gardener program





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Mountain garden walks include private landscapes and vistas

LONDONDERRY GT;GT; On Saturday, July 23, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the public is invited to tour six gardens and two homes in the Londonderry/Landgrove/Peru communities. Optional lunch at the Landrgove Inn is also available. The tour will begin at the Custer Sharp House, 2461 Middletown Road, Londonderry. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Lunch is $15. Due to uneven terrain, the tour is not handicap accessible. No pets are permitted.

Tickets may be purchased in advance online at, at Glebe Mountain Gardens Landscaping in Londonderry, or at R K Miles Inc, Paint Decorating. Tickets may be purchased the day of the tour at the Custer Sharp House.

Mountain Garden Walks is sponsored by Green Mountain Gardeners, a garden club serving the communities of Londonderry, South Londonderry, Weston, Landgrove and Peru.

Proceeds from the garden tour will benefit the Club’s Lib Thieme scholarship fund. The Green Mountain Gardeners awards a $1,000 scholarship annually to a graduating senior planning to further his or her education with either college or vocational study. The field of study could be environmental sciences, landscape design, agriculture or others related to the mission of the Green Mountain Gardeners. Eligible students will be a graduate from one of the designated local schools. Selection is based on financial need and potential school and community impact.

This scholarship is made possible through the generosity of Mrs. Elizabeth Thieme who was a founding member of the Green Mountain Gardeners. “Lib” was an innovative and “hands-on” gardener who loved life and especially the company of young people.

For more information contact Elsie Smith at or 824-4406.

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Master Gardeners release summer gardening tips

Posted Jul. 13, 2016 at 2:01 AM

Wayne, N.Y.

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How to create the perfect Mediterranean Garden

Mediterranean-style gardens are the best type for entertaining, in my opinion. There are few things I enjoy more than relaxing with a glass of wine in the garden at our friend’s place in Gozo, off Malta in the Med

But can you re-create Gozo in this country? I would say yes – although I would advise that you aim to replicate the spirit of the Mediterranean garden rather than re-creating exactly what you see on holiday plant by plant.

I have been influenced by James Basson, a France-based garden designer and gold-medal winner at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, who takes his inspiration from the landscape around him with excellent results.

Landscaping for a laid-back look

Plants are often secondary to the hard landscaping in a Mediterranean garden, but you do not have to ship in stone from abroad.

There is plenty to choose from in the UK to help you achieve that laid-back Mediterranean feel; I recommend Cotswold and Purbeck stone for dry-stone walling and riven stone slabs for paving, any level changes, and retaining walls and terraces.

Mediterranean-style borders

Grasses make a great backbone for your Mediterranean-style border – not just for their structure, but also the sound and movement you get when the breeze blows through.

To go with them, I suggest you choose plants from a muted palette to imbue your garden with a sense of calm. Soft, purply lavenders are an obvious choice but you might like to think about nepeta as an alternative; there are lots of varieties in an array of mauve and lilac hues.

Then, if you really want to bring in some colour, go right to the other end of the scale with some bright, bold wallflowers.

Don’t forget cacti and succulents

Cacti and succulents are often a feature of Mediterranean gardens. They are great because they do not require a lot of headroom and are easy to grow, which is true of succulents in particular.

Plant them in all the little cracks in your stone and rockwork and they will run riot. A strip of them placed in the gravel gap between your paving and house will soften lines and, though some will die when there is a frost, they always seem to come back.

There are loads to choose from, but sempervivum is a particular favourite that I use a lot at home.

Create a sensory seating area

Seating tends to be informal in Mediterranean gardens. Sometimes even rocks and boulders work in the larger spaces. Metal is a no-no because it gets far too hot.

So, for the UK, where our gardens are generally smaller, I would choose simple timber benches and just let them weather without any kind of treatment or staining, as the older the wood gets the more Mediterranean the look and feel.

I would also suggest growing herbs near the seating area, such as thyme and oregano. On hot days, the aroma will evoke the Mediterranean maquis, and they are also handy to have for the barbecue and alfresco dining. Jasmine and scented roses have a similarly atmospheric smell and can soften the edges of any structures.

Lengthen your days with light and shade

Lighting plays a large part in the Mediterranean garden because people like to stay outside and eat later. I recommend a simple lighting scheme – or even just lanterns.They add atmosphere and mean your days become longer.

If you are lucky enough to have a mature tree, consider building a terrace around it where you can sit out of the midday sun; it is all about enjoying your garden for as long and as much as possible.

Use Mediterranean water-saving ideas

People in the Mediterranean tend to be a lot more conscious about water harvesting than we are in the UK. The climate there means water is precious to them, and they know they need it for their plants to survive.

I think we should all try to consider it here too. It is so simple. If you have got a shed, stick a water butt on it or think about other tricks, such as running water off your paving on to a lawn or your flowerbeds. It helps save water and has the added advantage of making garden maintenance a lot easier too.

Products to give a Mediterranean feel

Sofia Bistro Set (pictured above), was £173, now £137
Mediterranean-inspired, hand-finished mosaic top made with ceramic and marble – making each piece unique.

La Hacienda Alexis Steel Firebowl, £98
Perfect for keeping warm after the sun goes down.

Find more great ideas at

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Gardening Tips: Summer flowering shrubs

I have had a chance to finally spend some time in my own garden. The heavy rain a few days ago knocked down the flowers on my Red Prince Weigela and Golden Mockorange.

They are early summer bloomers that add quite a bit of pizzazz to my side garden. I do love the wonderful fragrance of the mockorange. It gets its common name from the fact that the flowers smell like orange blossoms.

I have a fragrant shrub rose called Theresa Bugnet blooming in my front garden. It perfumes the air as I sit out on the deck. I also have a Minuet lilac right in front of the deck that smells wonderful when in bloom.

I am quiet partial to fragrant flowers and will only plant a rose that has a strong scent. I know some of the hybrid varieties have stunning flowers, but so many have had the fragrance bred out of them.

I also stick to the hardy shrub roses because they don’t need winter protection. The winter conditions in my front gardens are quite severe.

My Diablo Ninebark just finished flowering and is now developing seed heads. The seeds will turn quite red, adding another season of interest for this shrub.

I’m now looking to see if I have the space somewhere to plant the new compact hybrid, Tiny Wine. Both have dark burgundy foliage that adds a nice contrast to the garden.

Summer flowering varieties of Spirea are blooming now. They are a very hardy group of shrubs that can add both leaf colour and flowers to the garden.

Spireas come in a wide variety of sizes and have leaf colour ranging from green to gold. Some have white flowers, some pink and Shirobana has both white and pink flowers on the same plant. Magic Carpet and Goldmound are two compact varieties.

All Spirea can be pruned after flowering to tidy them up. This will often encourage plants to produce a second, lighter crop of flowers.

When someone asks for a shrub that blooms all summer, the only solution is Potentilla. This group of compact flowering shrubs starts to bloom in late June and continues right through to fall. Several types have bright to light yellow flowers.

Other varieties have soft pink, orange or white flowers. They all require lots of sun and well drained soil.

Hydrangeas are large family of shrubs that are summer blooming. The Annabelle types are the first to flower. The original Annabelle has large globe shaped white flowers that eventually change to green and fade to brown.

There are several newer additions to this group: Incrediball has huge white flowers and Invincible Spirit II has pink blooms.

All Summer Beauty, Twist ‘n Shout, Tiny Tuff Stuff and Endless Summer Hydrangeas all have flowers that can either be pink or blue depending on the soil pH. If you acidify the soil, blue flowers are produced.

I know a lot of gardeners are frustrated because it’s often hard to get these types to bloom. They are not as hardy as Annabelle and need a long hot summer to produce flowers.

After many discussions with several growers, the key to getting them to bloom seems to be to grow them lean and mean. Don’t fertilze or water them too much. A bit of stress seems to trigger bud formation.

Pee Gee Hydrangeas bloom later and their flowers last longer, right into fall. Most types have blooms that change from white to pink and then fade to brown. Limelight starts off lime green before flowers change to white, then pink.

Vanilla Strawberry, Zinfin Doll and Pinky Winky all have a very bright pink stage to the flower colour change.

Two varieties, Little Lamb and Little Lime, are more compact and perfect for smaller gardens. Other types, such as Phantom, have been bred for their huge flower heads!

Some hydrangeas have very tight flower clusters and others are loose and open. You can choose the style that appeals to you most or plant several different ones if you have the space.

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Horticulturist offers July garden tips

Cherries in the sun

As cherries ripen in July, pick fruit as soon as fully red before birds and insects discover the sweetness.

Posted: Tuesday, July 12, 2016 10:30 am

Horticulturist offers July garden tips

Cassie Baldauf, Special to The Mail


With more than 40 years of gardening experience, Denver horticulturist John Cretti has published hundreds of resources on Rocky Mountain gardening. One of his latest books, “Month by Month Gardening: Rocky Mountain,” gives great tips for the high-altitude gardeners each month of the year.

Cretti offers the following tips for this month.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016 10:30 am.

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