Print

Bring on the goats!

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

goats

A herd of goats came to the city today to munch on nuisance vegetation on a steep slope in Polish Hill. The practice known as “eco grazing” is starting to catch on in the eastern states, where invasive species are taking over most of Pittsburgh‘‍s hillsides.

Tree Pittsburgh contracted with Erik Schwalm, a goat owner in Saxonburg, to begin an 18-month eradication and reclamation process. The guy in the photo above is Brian Knox, who came in from Maryland as a consultant and goat tender. He operates Eco-Goats, a business in Maryland that got a jump on what was no competition six years ago. 

He still has little competition with about six other grazing businesses scattered among several states. There is so much unwanted vegetation in concentration that several goat grazing businesses could operate in western Pennsylvania without stepping on each other’‍s hooves.

Sorry.

From the information I have, there is nothing not to like about using goats to keep control of overgrowth. They have to eat anyway and they love almost everything we don‘‍t: poison ivy, thorny stuff, vines, knotweed. They do the job without chemicals and they aerate and fertilize the soil as they move over it without displacing it.

In addition, a farmer gets some extra money for taking a grazing gig and the public, especially the urban public who rarely get to see farm animals, gets to see how cute, goofy and fun goats are. The charm factor is not to be scoffed at.goat1

The city was completely amenable to the grazing event and workshop at West Penn Park today and contributed fencing and manpower to prepare for it, Danielle Crumrine, executive director of Tree Pittsburgh, told Walkabout.

But to ensure this isn’‍t a one-time thing, we would all benefit if the city would establish a friendly process for people to put their goats to work on solving a big nuisance in the city, whether in a park, a public right of way or a neighborhood.

Look for story in today‘‍s Pittsburgh Press and tomorrow’‍s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, with photos by Darrell Sapp and a video by Nate Guidry on this web site.

 

 

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.
Print

Lock-up a sobering bit of tourism

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

jail

Among the best advice anyone could give anyone is to avoid all situations that could land you in jail.

The thought of being in a place with almost no option for a change of scene and a loss of some dignity are great reasons to avoid hospitals and airports, but losing control of all physical choices and all your dignity is another dimension of purgatory, if not hell.

Still, I have been curious to see the old Allegheny County Jail. Each time I walk by the Bridge of Sighs on Ross Street, I think of the movie “Mrs. Soffel,” which was shot here in the 1980s featuring Diane Keaton as the wife of the jail warden who, in real life, helped Ed and Jack Biddle escape the jail on a cold January night in 1902. They had been sentenced to hang for the murders of a grocer on Mount Washington and a detective.

When a new jail was built along the Mon River, the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation campaigned for a jail museum in a portion of the old jail, and Landmarks provides a docent to give the occasional tour, free to the public. I went along on a tour today.

There were 10 of us, including four children. The tour is limited to a small portion of the former jail and our docent, Bob Loos, didn‘‍t know which cell held the Biddle brothers, but just to see the row of cells in the area that was known as the hanging courtyard feeds the imagination.

In five-by-eight foot cells, there was room for one single cot, a stool and a bucket. Of course I assumed that each cell was big enough for one poor soul but Mr. Loos said, “Oh noooo, there could be seven men in one cell.”

Seven people in the space of a broom closet. If you were awaiting the gallows, you could sooner die of claustrophobia.

In the late 1800s, the jail was five floors with 300 cells. By the time is closed in 1995, there were 620 cells. Back when life was a tough row even for free people, prisoners got one hot meal a day. Those who were there for summary convictions got bread and water every day and, twice a week, a bowl of soup.

The Jail Museum includes a lot of information about the early reform of how children were dealt with by the system which, presumably, is more humane today. I was more interested in thinking about being a prisoner. The bucket was your toilet. The stool was for sitting in case you got bored with sitting on your cot. There was nothing else and nothing to do.

In 1892, the menu was as follows: Monday- meat and potatoes; Tuesday- meat and cabbage; Wednesday- vegetable soup; Thursday- meat hash; Friday- beans and hominy; Saturday- pea soup stew and Sunday- tea. On apparently regular occasions, the warden would admit women to come in and torment the prisoners, if not by their mere presence then by preaching morals and reading from the Bible. 

Superficially, there is something strangely attractive about the configuration of black iron cell doors at intervals in white brick walls along the courtyard. The larger part of the old jail, though is several floors of stacked cages and catwalks, industrial-style confinement that’‍s horrific in its implied efficiency.

The last hanging was in 1911. The lucky fellow had killed his wife with a baseball bat.

The Landmarks foundation‘ offers more than jail tours. You can find out more about the range of its projects and programs here.

 

Photo of Bob Loos giving a tour, with some young tourists testing out the feeling of being behind bars.

 

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.
Print

What would Reinhold say?

Written by Peter Smith on .

Granted, the Supreme Court didn't presume to say that corporations can have souls.

But in its ruling on Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, granting religious-liberty protections to family-controlled companies, it brought to mind what the late great theologian Reinhold Niebuhr said about individual versus group morality:

"As individuals, men believe they ought to love and serve each other and establish justice between each other. As racial, economic and national groups they take for themselves, whatever their power can command."

 

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.
Print

SocialMediaDay, Pittsburgh style

Written by Kim Lyons on .

I think I could do this blog post almost entirely with embedded tweets.

Last night at Smith Brothers' Agency in the Strip, Pittsburgh's social media movers and shakers met and moved and shook, drank beer, shared stories, and heard from Twitter bigwig Constantine James to mark Social Media Day.

The tweet above is of me, Bobby Cherry of the Trib, and Scott Harbaugh of WPXI. Despite what people may think, when journalists from competing media get together we don't (usually) engage in hand-to-hand combat. Especially not with witnesses who have smartphone/cameras present.

So, after people settled in, Constantine James gave a presentation, and spoke about, fittingly enough, The State of Twitter (spoiler: It's awesome and people love it).

He highlighted various Twitter uses, some by brands, and some unexpected, like the bromance of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen.

Then each presenter told a five-minute social media "story."


 Mayor Bill Peduto couldn't be there, but his spokeswoman presented a proclamation making June 30, 2014 Social Media Day in Pittsburgh

It was a nice event, with nice people, many of whom had never met IRL. Social media in Pittsburgh is a special thing, as I wrote about for our In the Lead section earlier this year.

If you were at #SmDayPGH and didn't say hi, please feel free to connect with me on Twitter. Some of the better friendships I have in Pittsburgh came to me via social media.

I would always welcome more.

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.
Print

Whitaker police to remain under search warrant procedure

Written by Molly Born on .

A jury on Tuesday acquitted suspended Whitaker police Officer William Davis on charges of attempted extortion, official oppression and related crimes in two separate incidents.

It made me wonder if the August 2013 rule requiring the department to get search warrant applications pre-approved by the Allegheny County district attorney's office would remain in effect.

At the time, DA Stephen A. Zappala cited four concerns that prompted that change: the accusations against Officer Davis; the position borough police Chief John Vargo had taken in the media about the case; the "horrendous" manner in which evidence was being handled in the department; and the number of arrests that did not move beyond a preliminary hearing.

DA's office spokesman Mike Manko on Wednesday said the requirement will stay in effect. He did not immediately say for how long, and Mr. Zappala did not give a time frame in the announcement Aug. 19, 2013.

Chief Vargo said Wednesday that his officers have sought only one or two search warrants since then.

It was not immediately clear if Officer Davis, 37, would return to the force. Asked that Tuesday after the trial, he said he had no comment. Chief Vargo on Wednesday also said he had no comment and that the decision would be "in the council's hands right now."

Borough council Vice President David Funk said he, too, had no comment on the matter. The borough council president and solicitor did not immediately return a message, but I'll update if/when they do.

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.