Convergent Series

learning, using & teaching metal clay, and other aspects of life

Posts Tagged ‘master gardeners’

This time, it’s more Intermingling than Interlude!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/10/18

In just one week, I plan to go all out on a combination of two of my major interests: metals and gardens.

“In 2014 the Penn State Master Gardener Program of Allegheny County partnered with the Rivers of Steel Heritage Corporation to develop a comprehensive plant survey of the lands in and around the Carrie Furnaces in Rankin, PA. Eight Master Gardeners set out to learn more about the succession of native, aggressive and/or invasive plant species that are surviving, and even thriving, in these disturbed soils.

“As part of this research, the group was charged with developing an interpretive component to educate the public on best practices in environmental stewardship. For previous projects, this interpretation often materialized in the form of a booklet, poster or on-line resource, but given the nature of the Carrie Furnaces (pun intended) and its history and connection to iron, a multidisciplinary team in science, art, history and industry was created to develop a unique approach.

“Their decision was to create ten interpretive plaques, cast at a live iron pour event and designed to lead participants through the fields and structures of the site, providing a narrative of the wild gardens taking over the former industrial landscape of the Carrie Furnaces. Designed to allow the visitor to take rubbings, these plaques will include botanical illustrations of the local plant community. The illustrations, provided by the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, will highlight features such as bark, fruit and leaf form for easy identification. The images are paired with narratives written by Penn State Master Gardeners on plant succession inclusive of soil conditions, environmental factors and the potential for future plant communities.

Rivers of Steel is hosting the iron pour event on Saturday, October 25th from 2PM to 7PM at the Carrie Furnaces site. Under the direction of Joshua Reiman, Visiting Professor of Art at Carnegie Mellon University, Casey Westbrook of Carbon Arts, and local iron-caster and fabricator Ed Parrish, Master Gardener volunteers and CMU students will pour over 1600 lbs of iron. This collaborative iron pour will provide a first-hand look at the process and skills of casting molten iron into pattern molds. This same process produced the iron that built our nation and many of the world’s largest structures during Pittsburgh’s legacy era as “Workshop of the World.”

“Historical/garden tours of the site and other activities are planned for this unique event.”

(The above description was taken directly from the Master Gardeners announcement. Tickets ($10) are available in advance or at the site that day.)

Though I was not directly involved in the development of this project (I was busy with the Edible Teaching Garden instead), I am delighted to be able to volunteer at the Casting the Iron Garden event itself! No clue what I’ll be doing: besides taking photos on behalf of the Master Gardeners, I’ll probably just be taking tickets or escorting visitors to the various presentations that will be offered (starting at 2 pm) before the furnace is tapped and the pour begins (scheduled for 4 pm). To find me just know that, along with all the other volunteers, I should be wearing a t-shirt with the same logo as is on the poster. One major difference is that I may be the only one also wearing one of my own “Rivers of Steel” pendants. (That particular piece, Our Three Rivers Weave Us Together, is probably not the best, style-wise, to go with that shirt, but I think I have to wear that one for the sentiment of the day! I may just have to remember to use a bit of chain as an extender, to get it to land in a good location….)

Do let me know if I should be on the look-out for you that afternoon! It’d be great to see some familiar faces: garden-friends, metal-friends, and more!

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One More Garden Interlude: Field Day at the Edible Teaching Garden. Plus Fall Open House Dates.

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/09/12

Yes, I do have art + jewelry topics in the queue to write about, but my spare-moments-brain is still focused on garden events. Our “Field Day” Celebration at the Edible Teaching Garden is scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, September 13, from 12 Noon to 2 pm. It’s free, open to the public, and we’re hoping we’ll have a great turn-out. If you’re in the area and able, please do stop by.

The Edible Teaching Garden, maintained by the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County, is located in the Point Breeze neighborhood of Pittsburgh, at the corner of Thomas and Lexington. Folks around here seem to go by landmarks a lot, so the other way to describe it is this: just one long-block down and around the corner from the East End Food Co-op, sort of across the street from Construction Junction and the Pittsburgh Center for Creative ReUse. (It’s directly across from the Allegheny County Police Headquarters: on our volunteer “work nights” we often see the local TV news folks shooting their “live” reports on “our” sidewalk, with that building behind them. But Construction Junction and PCCR are “more art-related” ways to describe where it is: see, I really am trying here!) The first photo, above / right, just taken on Wednesday, shows our branching sunflowers (they were a donation, and we don’t know the exact variety), our amaranth (that one is called Love Lies Bleeding), and hints of more, along with a few of our volunteers who were finishing up a discussion about some plans for Saturday.

We’ll be working in the garden for a month or two more (the timing will depend, in part, on the weather), but I’ll be shifting back to spending a lot more time on my Art Jewelry and Other Small Adornments, in preparation for the upcoming holiday-sales season. In fact, I just finished the first steps in making a few more dohgu oki (tool rests), my variation on hashi oki (chopstick rests) that I use as holders for small tools (though they would also work for chopsticks if you wanted). I tried a new approach for shaping them that worked really well, so I’m happy about that! I hope to get those finished and fired this weekend too! This particular batch, mostly Friendly Bronze, has a butterfly theme, in honor of the “parsley worm” (the caterpillar form of a Swallowtail Butterfly) that Eric found in our parsley bed. I’m really glad he rushed over to get me so I could capture a quick photograph:

Last fall, I sold a number of dohgu oki in the Open House I held in my studio the day that Indie Knit and Spin was happening in the same building. I’ll be holding another open house to coincide with that again this year (the date is November 15). Even before that, I’ll be having an open house to coincide with Eco Fest (that date is October 11), so I figured I should get a head start in stocking up on those. Lots of good dates in this post: I hope many of you will be able to join me for any or all of those!

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Another Garden Interlude: North Park Demonstration Garden

Posted by C Scheftic on 2014/08/29

North Park Demonstration Garden I spent this afternoon up at the North Park (Allegheny County, PA) Demonstration Garden, another of the wonderful teaching-gardens maintained by the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County.

I took a couple panoramic series of photos of the garden and, later on, explored a couple of options for “stitching” the various images together. I still have not figured out how to get WordPress and GigaPan to talk nicely to each other, however, so I’m not embedding the full panorama here. Instead, I include a tiny “snapshot” from it: just click on the image to the right here and you’ll be taken to a different site so you can see one of them. (Alternatively, here are links to: a full 360 image, from near the war memorial cannon, and a little less than a half-circle, facing the other direction.) At the GigaPan site, be sure to play with some of the options for zooming in and exploring the images! I wish I had more time to “play around” with more of that kind of photography. (And, of course, money for a much better camera…)

I’m still hoping to get down to South Park Demonstration Garden, to GigaPan that one. I’m just not sure if/when I’ll manage that though, at least not this season. If I think I’m only going to get one shot at a garden in a season, I do like to wait until it’s in full glory, and that seems to be when my schedule starts getting crunched again.

Among other things, I’ve got the Public Reception at The Confluence in New Castle next Friday, September 5 (5-7 pm), and the Public Field Day at the Edible Teaching Garden on Saturday, September 13 (12N – 2 pm). It sure would be great to see some local readers of this blog at one or both of those events!

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It seems I’ve been rather quiet lately….

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/09/29

… online, at least. I’ve done some metal clay work, but haven’t had extra time to write about it. Sigh! But, fyi, here’s but one of the many other things I have been doing, helping to turn an empty city lot into an Urban Edible Teaching Garden. Click on the links to access panoramas of the garden before and now, respectively … which I’d like to simply embed here but I’ve still have not figured out how to make GigaPans appear in WordPress. Another sigh.

One of Tony Tye's images for the P-G from the UETG Celebration.

Although there’s lots more to do in the garden—we are extending the season with cool-weather crops and exploring others that we can over-winter there—we are breathing a big sigh of relief now that we made it though our big fall “Celebration”! The weather for it, yesterday, was perfect!

It was open to the public, but we specifically invited the various groups whose support has helped fund the project, so it was a big deal for us. It was even reported in several local papers! I hope this link to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s article will work!

(Third sigh. My concern about the link’s working is because the P-G has just begun limiting online access unless you have a subscription, but they say they are allowing links from “social media” so I add the link with hope! If the photo of two women in the asparagus bed (which accompanies the article) shows up here, I’m guessing the link to the story will work too. O the joys of technology! The good news is that the photo was taken by Tony Tye, and it was both a surprise and a real treat to run into him in person again.)

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Daylilies are Edible!

Posted by C Scheftic on 2013/07/22

Day Lilies and Water Lilies at Tomahawk CampThe mid-July pause in my blog has happened, once again, because 13th annual Edible Flowers Food Fest was offered last Thursday and I helped to make that happen. As ever, I thought it was great, and I’ll report on it shortly: I still need to find time to plow through my photos from that and pick one or two to use here (along with some interesting details about the menu and more), and I’m just too far behind on other tasks to do that. Since my thoughts are still filled with edible flowers, however, my mind keeps going back to something I did a week before that, for which I do have a delightful image. (Both events involved the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County.)

The thing is (and maybe I simply missed this in my rushing around) I just don’t see a way to make WordPress and GigaPan talk to each other directly… You are just going to have to click on the tiny, blurry image of water- and day-lilies to open a new window with the image I really want you to see, a 360° panorama of a National Historic Registry property owned by Nancy Marshall. (Oh, and use the navigation buttons on that page to zoom in and move around and really explore the entire image!) We did not impose on Nancy’s hospitality (two weeks ago) to beg her for flowers to use during the Edible Flowers Food Fest (this past week), but one of my thoughts while setting up the equipment to take this 360° panorama was that, while most lilies are NOT edible, daylily buds sure are…. Yum!

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Garden Picnic

Posted by C Scheftic on 2012/10/02

Which do you think is yummier: the look of that garden or the fact that it’s a cake?!

I’ve mentioned before that I’m also a member of the Penn State Master Gardeners of Allegheny County.

One of our many projects is to maintain several Demonstration Gardens. These showcase flowering plants and herbs that perform well in our climate and soils with minimal maintenance. The gardens include display beds of over 125 varieties of annuals. At the end of each season, the plants are evaluated based on their performance in the garden: the best ones are brought back in subsequent years, while poor performers go on a watch list and will be discontinued if they continue that pattern over several cycles. A separate evaluation is performed regarding the number of pollinators that are periodically recorded in certain specific beds.

For people interested in joining the program, there is an initial interview to ensure that candidates understand their role in utilizing research-based information to educate the public on best practices in consumer horticulture and environmental stewardship, followed by a terrific (and intense!) year-long training program. Since this is sponsored by Penn State, our calendar follows their academic year: interviews happen in August, the training starts in September, and the training year concludes the following August. Then, in September each year we have a harvest-time picnic in or near one of our demo gardens (we rotate around the different sites) to acknowledge our newly graduated members as well as the ongoing efforts of all our long-time participants.

This year the picnic was held at the South Park Demo Garden. The cake shown above is not a replica of the garden itself, but I thought I’d share it because I think it represents the delight of the gardens! And that delight is why floral themes so often appear in my artwork, one way or another….

I wonder if/how that may change next year: we just got approval to open up a new demo garden — on an urban lot! — that will feature edible plants and flowers? I’m really looking forward to working on that project, since those are the kinds of things I most love to grow myself. And I am definitely an urban gardener these days!

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