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Straw bale gardening, part deux

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog straw againThese three straw bales are planted with arugula. I hope the fall planting is more successful than the spring. Photo by Doug Oster

In the spring I gave straw bale gardening a try after reading all sorts of things on the Interweb.

I love the idea of using the bales as a container, but I had mixed success. Cucumbers were a dismal failure, greens did OK, dianthus and nasturtiums thrived I even got a few 'Heart of Italy' tomatoes from my plantings.

As the season has progressed the bales have started to break down and compost and I think this is a good thing, so I'm going to try and plant some fall crops in them.

I've added the organic granular fertilizer ReVita from Ohio Earth Food and then compost on top. The first three bales are planted with tiny arugula seedlings. Since they are so tough, I think they will thrive through fall and into winter.

I've got some other bales which I'll do the same things to and plant more cool weather crops.

I'm determined to learn how to make the straw bales work for me. In theory it makes sense to me and I can use the extra room to plant my favorites.

 

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10 reasons for gardeners to love chickens

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog eggs IIChicken eggs still warm from the coop are amazing. Photos by Doug Oster

10 reasons for gardeners to love chickens-

Their fresh eggs are amazing and chickens lay more than you can use. Once you taste these, store bought eggs are always disappointing.

Chickens are easy to care for. Give them food, water, shelter and a place to run and they will be happy.

Raising chickens is a great activity for children. Like the garden, a chicken coop can teach lots of life lessons.

blog chickens 25Chickens are pretty.City chickens have names. They are pets in our garden, but would be good eating if you were so inclined. As they age, the amount of eggs they lay decreases, but that's OK.

They don't smell...much. Keep the coop clean, add pine shavings as needed and there's no odor problem. Although maybe it's like the guy who works at a gas station. He can't smell the gas anymore.

Chickens make a great soil additive and plenty of it. The manure needs to be composted for a year and will make plants happy.

The birds are great at controlling lots of bugs. Some gardeners have a portable coop called a chicken tractor which is placed in the garden and moved every day or so. The chickens eat pests and leave some fertilizer.

They will eat just about anything left over from the kitchen. It's another way to recycle.

Chickens are beautiful. From the simplest breeds to the wildest looking feathers, they look amazing.

Maybe most importantly, the birds are stress relievers. They are quiet and make calming noises which is relaxing. There's nothing like sitting with a handful of scratch (a type of feed which is a treat) and letting chickens eat out of your hand as they talk to each other.

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Pittsburgh Fashion Week Day 2: Fill up on fashion for lunch in Market Square

Written by Sara Bauknecht on .

Pittsburgh Fashion Week has teamed up with the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership to present today's Project Pop Up: Fashion from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Market Square.

The event is "the perfect way to highlight the outstanding range of fashion purveyors in Downtown Pittsburgh," said Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership president and CEO Jeremy Waldrup.

Some of the retailers slated to showcase looks are:

  • Macy's
  • Larrimor's
  • Serendipity
  • Boutique 208
  • Boutique La Passarelle
  • All Flavorz

Some of the city's mobile boutiques also will be on site. Learn more at www.pittsburghfashionweek.com.

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Fabulous fashions kick off Pittsburgh Fashion Week Opening Night Extravaganza

Written by Sara Bauknecht on .

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Fashion fans from across the Steel City congregated at Highmark Stadium Monday for the kick off to the fourth annual Pittsburgh Fashion Week.

The day began with a fashion vendor fair, followed by runway shows featuring homegrown talents. Post-Gazette photographer Michael Henninger provided these shots from the runway.

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Models wear outerwear by Alicia Akrie.

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A model in a Debbie Weiss look is splashed with a strobe light on the runway.


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A model entertains the crowd.

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The faces of Pittsburgh Fashion Week: Meet designer Alicia Akrie

Written by Sara Bauknecht on .

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Pittsburgh Fashion Week has evolved into a showcase of some of the city's fashion talents, three of whom will be featured tonight at Highmark Stadium.

One who is new to Pittsburgh Fashion Week is Alicia Akrie, 23, of Chartiers City. Inspired by her grandmother to pursue her passion for the arts, Ms. Akrie earned a fine arts degree in fashion design at Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta, Ga. She graduated in June and will present her senior collection at Pittsburgh Fashion Week's opening extravaganza.

How long have you been designing? I think I started designing when it came time for prom season when I was in high school. I wanted something unique and thought this could be my first stab at designing a garment. It went pretty well!

I get inspirations for my collections from ... literally anything that captures my attention, from my Bible scriptures ... to "Beauty and the Beast."

I would describe my design aesthetic as ... sharply confident. It's angular but smooth. I love menswear, and it has significant influence on my work. Overall, I want my clothes to bring out a possibly inward confidence forward. Every woman is masterfully created. I want her to feel confident in that.

Alicia 200At Pittsburgh Fashion Week, the collection I have in store for audiences is ... inspired by ancient samurai armor and intricate paper sculptures by Yun Woo Choi. I like to blend totally different concepts to have more to draw from. It allows the collection to take on its own life.

My proudest moment as a designer was when ... [having someone consider me] a "designer," graduating from a prestigious school, having my parents proudly support me, seeing each garment come together from a daydream of a sketch to walking down the runway. I'm thankful for it all, even the mistakes that turn into design decisions. Just seeing how God has moved and is moving me is a blessing to me. I want to take nothing for granted.

In 10 years, I'd like to be ... what Karl Lagerfeld is to Chanel, a highly respected creative director for a flourishing brand that is leading the way. Whether it be my own personal brand or one I take over, I plan to be great.

One of the greatest challenges of being an aspiring designer is ... the possibility of "being discovered." No one knows if or when the time will come, and it's a frightening thought but one I pray over. And then I throw myself into my collections.

If I could tell myself when I was starting out in fashion something I know now, it would be ... expect to work hard. Every day at every moment work hard, and stand behind every decision you make.

If I could collaborate with anyone in the fashion or beauty industry it would be ... without a doubt Alexander Wang. I am a huge fan of his work and hope that someday I really can collaborate with him. As a young designer, I think he makes ambitious decisions with his collections, and I aim to do the same.

A go-to spot for shopping in Pittsburgh for me is ... local thrift stores! I love thrifting and repurposing clothing, and there's always the hunt! I also love traditional shopping stores, as well.

One of the greatest misconceptions of the Pittsburgh fashion scene is ... that we aren't "real" designers and that we all "distress and rework" clothing that's already made. I have every original pattern for every garment you'll see. This is a real career for me. ... Nothing is wrong with reworking clothing; I have friends who do it (and do it well). But as a designer I create from nothing.

In the next five years, I think the Pittsburgh fashion scene will be ... even bigger and better than it is now. The fashion scene here is growing, and more people are recognizing the talent that is here.

My advice for other aspiring designers is ... to work hard and settle for nothing but the best. God has blessed you with a specific skill set that no one else has. Walk in that, and know that anything worth having is worth the struggle.

Photos: Above, one of Alicia Akrie designs. At right, Alicia Akrie.

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