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Everyone loves peanuts, especially the birds

Written by Doug Oster on .

 Blog Red Bellied with PeanutA red-bellied woodpecker grabs a peanut from the bird feeder and heads to a neighboring pine tree to enjoy the treat. Photos by Doug Oster

The shrill call of the red-bellied woodpecker is heard from the forest. A second later and the bird lands of the feeder, grabs a peanut and then flies to a nearby pine tree to crack open the treat, a few minutes later a nuthatch lands and grabs one too.

It's a good thing for gardeners to feed the birds. It keeps them around to feast on insects during the gardening season.

I mostly feed them black oil sunflower seeds, but love to watch them being drawn to the feeder by peanuts.

Best Feeds is where I get them in bulk, you can find them at many different places.

But it's not just the birds who crave peanuts. My daughter has a wild squirrel, which has become slightly domesticated though a love of peanuts. She calls him Braveheart.

We don't don't get close tot he animal, just throw a few under the bird feeder and watch him get fatter.

During a long winter like this one, it's nice to help the wildlife out a bit with some treats. The birds will repay you by keeping the pest population down.

 Blog titmice copyOne titmouse waits while the other flies off.

 Blog redbellied again copyThe red-belly came back for more.

 blog nuthatch with peanut copyI love to listen for the nuthatch before they coem to the feeder.

 blog nuthatch with peanut take  copySometimes the peanut can be a little much to handle.

Blog squirrel looking at feeder copyOur friendly squirrel would like in on the action too.

 blog squirrel smelling peanut copyEnjoy!

 

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#SEENPATF: Pre-Party for Pittsburgh Aids Task Force Annual Benefit

Written by Natalie Bencivenga on .

At Mansions on Fifth last night I had the pleasure of meeting Tim McVay and David Bush, the co-chairs of this year's Pittsburgh Aids Task Force (PATF) 28th Annual Benefit. It was a pre-party event to kick off the PATF big benefit tonight at the historic Twentieth Century Club in Oakland.

(A relevant aside: Mansions on Fifth is one of the newest boutique hotels here in the city. It used to be a fantastic old mansion that had been damaged in a fire, now restored to its former glory.)

"We are so thrilled to be a part of PATF's benefit. This is such a great cause," Tim said.

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(#SEENbestselfieever) David Bush and Tim McVay with me in the middle

It was a great evening, and I met several people who have been involved with the PATF since its conception in 1985. Chuck Christen, executive director of PATF, explained that he is still surprised that there are so many people with so many misconceptions about HIV, AIDS, and treatment options. "I want people to know that if they have contracted HIV, come and see us. We can offer help and support in a variety of ways."

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Chuck Christen with Johnny Rodgers

The Johnny Rodgers Band will be performing at PATF's benefit tonight at the Twentieth Century Club. They will get people dancing for sure!

Two people I hope to see in their dancing shoes are Nachum Golan and Steve Hough, newlyweds who have been together for many years, and involved with PATF (longer than I'm allowed to say). Their secret to a happy, long-term relationship? Never stop dancing, of course!


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#SEENHappyCouple: Nachum Golan and Steve Hough

For more information on PATF, check out their website: http://www.patf.org/

Follow PATF on Twitter: @PghAids

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Video: Seed starting 101

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog seedling emerges cu aSeeing a little seed sprout and then reach fruition is one of the wonderful things about gardening. Photo by Doug Oster

Here's a video demonstrating how I start seeds indoors. We had a little help from the performers of Varekai Cirque du Soleil. Planting tomato seeds with my friend Kristine Sorensen.

 

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Timeless beauty of amaryllis not only for the holidays

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog amarillis long 032514'Minerva' is an amaryllis bulb offered by Longfield Gardens. Photos by Doug Oster

blog amarillis long 0325There's another bud coming!The giant blooms of amaryllis help me get though the last days of winter. I grow about 25 different bulbs, some bloom in December, some in February and I've got a nice in bloom right now.

This is 'Minerva' from Longfield Gardens, shipped to me in January in a cool looking zinc pot. I've grown a few different varieties from the company and as you can see, these flowers are just the first flush, there's more to come.

The bulbs seem to have a mind of their own after the first bloom, the next season they will bloom again when treated right, but often won't be at the same exact time.

Once they are done flowering, I remove the flower stalk and let the foliage stand. Once there's no chance of frost, the plants go outside in the shade. I fertilize them every few weeks to help the bulb build energy for next year's blossoms.

In August, they come inside and are put into dormancy by withholding water and fertilizer. The big, strapping leaves will die back and I keep the bulb down int he basement for six to eight weeks, then bring it back up to the windowsill.

Once the bulb is lightly watered, it should send up a flower stalk and start the cycle again.

I have about a 50-50 success rate on re-blooming annually. The bulbs always re bloom eventually, once they have stored the energy they need for flowering.

Don't think of amaryllis as just a holiday flower, they are beautiful whenever they bloom.

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Mark Your Calendars! The Hat Luncheon Is Almost Here!

Written by Natalie Bencivenga on .

Very few things get me more excited than the opportunity to wear a cute hat. Ever since Kate Middleton started rocking them to every event across the pond, I have been waiting for a moment to buy a ridiculous, over the top, fabulous hat.

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My time has come.

Last week I sat down with Scott Roller who works at the Parks Conservancy here in the city. His enthusiasm (not only for hats) but for restoring and reviving our city parks inspired me to learn more about the history of the green spaces right here in Pittsburgh.

This is where the hats come in. See exhibit A: Kiya Tomlin, who is co-chairing the event this year, with a true masterpiece perched upon her head at last year’s annual Spring Hat Luncheon.

This year, the event will be held in Highland Park, one of the prettiest spots in the city. But the Conservancy’s reach goes far beyond the upkeep of our city parks, Scott told me: it has a grand vision to revive the Frick Environmental Center following the fire that occurred , which will be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified.

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“We believe that a vibrant economy and green spaces bring people to Pittsburgh,” Scott said. He also told about Mellon Square’s upcoming facelift. It was the first urban park built on top of a parking lot, and now it is time to shine once more.

With all of the green spaces being re-conceived, revived and reinvigorated, it should prove to be an extremely fun summer with lots of places to have picnics, ride your bike, or just catch some rays on your lunch break (hats optional).

Pittsburgh...greener than expected!

 

Check out the Parks Conservancy on Twitter: @pittsburghparks

                                                                                                                                                                 Exhibit A: Kiya Tomlin's hat

 

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