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A grandmother's inspired song revealed at garden visit

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog marjIt's wonderful to meet people like Marjorie Greenberger. She's full of life and told me the most beautiful story though her music. Photo by Doug Oster

Marjorie Greenberger sits amongst magnolia blossoms which have fallen onto her backyard in Squirrel Hill.

She called me to take a look at her garden and although I'm way too busy to make house calls, I had an hour after Pittsburgh Today Live to swing by and take a look. I just couldn't say no to that voice over the telephone.

I would call the meeting both cordial and contentious. She wanted to know what I would plant in her garden, I wanted to know what she loved to plant in her garden. I gave her plenty of suggestions and she offered up some plants she enjoyed and we put a quick plan together as she dutifully took notes.

She offered me money, which I could never accept, but she had a beautiful flowered door mat which she insisted I take as a gift.

As the hour wound down and I was anxious to get on to the next job of the day she sat down at the piano and told a story.

Her granddaughter Emma needed a medical miracle at birth to survive. Luckily between the five doctors who treated her, she not only survived but has thrived and is now an active teenager.

Marjorie has played the piano since she was seven, and although she was reluctant to give her age, lets just say she's been a musician for a long time.

For all those years of playing though, she never wrote a song until she thought of Emma and her struggles.

As I sat there recording what she played on my iPhone, I could hear the love come across in each note.

Marjorie Greenberger is a dancer, musician, active in the community but on this day she was simply a proud grandmother letting her fingers express her feelings.

Here's 'Emma's Theme'-

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Rare heirloom Italian tomato plant giveaway Saturday with Doug

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog a Grandma Aiellos Tomato'Grandma Aiello's' tomato was brought from Calabria, Italy by Maria Mazzie Aiello in 1929. Photo courtesy J.L. Hudson

For months, Dean Sylvester, horticulturist at Old Economy Village, has been growing 'Grandma Aiello's' tomato plants. I'll be giving them away this Saturday, May 16th, 2015 at Old Economy.

The rare seeds come from J.L. Hudson Seedsman, here's the description from the catalog- "Medium-sized pink-red heart-shaped fruit with tender skin, juicy and delicious. This rare variety was brought from Calabria Italy by Maria Mazzie Aiello in 1929, and has been grown and saved by her family for three generations. Sent to us by Maria's granddaughter Nicala Aiello. Large indeterminate plants, give support."

I'm presenting "Secrets from the Gardens of Italy, How to Make Them Work in Your Garden", at 10 a.m. during the Old Economy Garden Mart and Spring Garden Workshop. The event is fun, informative and the gardens at Old Economy are spectacular. Best of all, the Garden Mart and Workshop benefit one of our area's historic treasures. People travel from all over the world to see this preserved village used by the Harmonists.

There plants will be given away on a first come, first serve basis and are exclusive to this event.

Hope to see you there.

 

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Shadyside Worms offers innovative curbside compost exchange

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog 20150510dohomesworms1aTravis Leivo, owner of Shadyside Worms gets a new bucket ready for one of his compost exchange customers. Photos by Doug Oster

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The low morning sun flashes between brick buildings as Travis Leivo drives through the streets of Pittsburgh. He takes another sip of coffee while driving his white pick-up truck on an unusual mission, to collect food scraps.
He owns Shadyside Worms, a company which collects those scraps from homeowners and uses worms to turn the material into compost. In just a few months, the homeowner is rewarded with a bucket of finished compost. It’s called a compost exchange.
The 32-year-old entrepreneur has space at Shadyside Nursery where his worms convert the scraps.
“There are plenty of people who want to compost. They just don’t have the time to do it,” he says.
That’s where he comes in. His route continues through Friendship, Bloomfield and other East End neighborhoods. At each stop, he jumps out of the truck, picks up filled 3 1/2-gallon buckets on clients’ porch or back stoop and replaces them with clean buckets with wood shavings in the bottom. Swapping out buckets for his 30 subscribers once a week can take most of the day.
The compost he provides every 3 1/2 months is technically called worm castings. They are filled with nutrients and help prevent plant diseases, too.
“Worm castings have a very rich microbial content, mostly beneficial bacteria. Those particular bacteria out compete other diseases,” he says.
Mr. Leivo’s business began as a dream on an online “fund me” site. He raised $1,000 from friends and relatives to get started.
“There was just something about wanting control over my income. But on top of that, I want to do something good. I want to have a business that’s doing something proactive.”

 blog running 20150510dohomesworms3aTravis hustles between stops.
He partners with non-profits and community gardens, offering his gardening and composting expertise and even a strong back when the compost needs to be turned. Subscribers who don’t have a use for their compost can donate it to one of the groups he works with or just give it to friends.
One of the other most fulfilling parts of his job is doing workshops with kids, he says. Mr. Leivo teaches that bugs and worms are great for the garden and enjoys when children see his co-workers in the best light.
“It’s getting one kid to finally hold a worm and figure out it’s the coolest thing ever,” he says with a laugh.
He also spreads the word about the power of compost in the garden.
“People always say they don’t have a green thumb, but you’re human. You invented agriculture. If you have healthy compost, you’re going to do fine. Nothing tastes better than your own produce you grew in your backyard.”
There are two ways to be part of the compost exchange: A three-month subscription to try out the service costs $50, or a one-year subscription is $180. That breaks down to $15 a month.
“Most of my customers just enjoy the fact that they are not throwing their food away,” he says. “Once you start composting, it kind of feels gross throwing your food stuff in the trash again.”
He doesn’t want Shadyside Worms to just be about worms or a compost exchange, “but a way to connect people to gardening, and a way to get people to stop and think creatively about how they are going to be sustainable.”
Click here for more information about Shadyside Worms, or call 412-532-6896.

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#SettingTheSEEN: Happy Mother's Day!

Written by Natalie Bencivenga on .

To all the moms and mother figures out there...this one's for you! Happy Mother's Day, and we hope you enjoy our picks for this Sunday's big brunch! (You made reservations, right?)

And until next time, we'll be seeing you!

Follow @NBSeen on Twitter and @NatalieBenci on Instagram to keep up with #wheresNataliePG

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Doug at May Market 12-3 Friday and Saturday

Written by Doug Oster on .

2014 - May Market -57 700 330 s c1May Market is a wonderful gardening tradition. Photo courtesy of Phipps Conservatory, by Paul g. Wiegman
I'll be appearing at May Market from 12 noon until 3 p.m. Friday May 8th and Saturday May 9th, 2015. May Market is held at Phipps Conservatory and Botanic Gardens and is a place to get just about anything you could possibly want for the garden.
I'll be in the tent near the outdoor garden answering garden questions and signing books.
May Market is an important tradition in Pittsburgh and one thing you must have when you go there are the strawberries dipped in fondant from Rockledge Garden Club.
Here are all the details on vendors and events, I can't wait!

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