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Five Horticulture pros show off their favorite garden tool

Written by Doug Oster on .

 

Oster tools phil pruner
 
 
Phil Gruszka digs through a yellow 5-gallon container, looking for the one tool he can't live without. He pulls a distressed orange hand pruner from the depths of the bucket.

"This is the baby," he says with a smile. "It's been in the family since 1963."

He has a sentimental attachment to the weathered Sandvik bypass pruner he inherited from his father, Stanley.

"He never had a lot of money in his life, so for him to spend more money for this than the cheaper tools, he certainly saw the value in having a quality tool."

Mr. Gruzska started working with plants and trees as a teenager in the street department of his hometown of Downer's Grove, Ill. He worked for the U.S. Forest Service and Longwood Gardens, then eventually landed here as director of parks management and maintenance for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

"I'm a tree pruner. I love pruning trees," he says with the worn tool in his hand.

But that's not all this pruner does for him. In the field and sometimes in a bind, he uses it as a knife, screwdriver, trowel and bottle opener. "I hate to admit that I've cut wire with it, too, but if you're out on a job site and you don't have a wire cutter with you, this tool will work."

It's comforting to hear a professional uses his tools the same way we all do.

The pruner still has the original high carbon blade, and it is constructed with case-hardened bolts and locking nuts, which have never slipped in half a century. "The beauty of a bypass pruner is you can sharpen, sharpen, sharpen and you continue to have an effective cutting surface."

Besides keeping an edge on the blade and oiling it, he's done nothing but use it daily in his job.

Mr. Gruszka advises gardeners to buy quality tools; they have a good chance to last for decades or longer. "I believe this hand pruner is going to go to one of my sons and I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up going to one of my grandchildren," he says.

Curt Pesanka's shovel

Oster tools curt steel shovel

In the Fruit and Spice Room at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Curt Pesanka lifts a bright silver shovel above his head and plunges it into the ground, sinking the blade deep into the soil.

This all-metal shovel has hung on a tool rack at the Oakland conservatory for as long as anyone can remember. While holding the shovel, he says: "You cannot break the handle. You cannot break the shovel."

Mr. Pesanka, who is the indoor display foreman at Phipps, often uses it to pry out huge plants that must be moved from one room to another. He originally thought this shovel was fabricated by hand because its welds are visible. Only one of its shoulders has a rubber foot pad, which he thought was odd and led him to believe one was missing. Then several years ago, Mr. Pesanka discovered the same exact tool in catalogs, sold as either a left- or right-footed model. An extra rubber pad can be ordered for an additional cost. This shovel even has a name.

"When we are in another room and I send someone to get this shovel, [I say] 'Go get Ironsides,' and they know exactly which shovel to bring me."

Mr. Pesanka sharpens the blade often with a file. "You put a nice edge on this shovel and it will go through roots like butter."

Because it's so heavy, it's easier on his muscles; the shovel does the work. With a smile, he warns: "When you throw this shovel, keep your feet out of the way."

There's only one like it in the conservatory, but he's thinking it might be time to buy another. It will need a different name.

"This is Ironsides. Maybe we'll name the other one Thor."

Claire Dusak's knife

Oster tools claire knife

Sitting on a brick wall in the Serpentine Room at Phipps Conservatory, outdoor display foreman Claire Dusak holds a scary-looking soil knife.

"It's not sharp enough to hurt you, but you could pull up a perennial and divide it right there with one swoop," she says.

The tool, also called a Hori Hori, has a 6-inch-long blade that is serrated on one side. "It does 1,000 things," including digging, scooping, cutting, weeding "and it also scares anyone who wants to mess with you," she says, laughing.

The cracks in sidewalks are no match for this formidable tool, Ms. Dusak says, and because it doubles as a measuring device, it can help determine how deep to plant bulbs.

For seven years, it's been her favorite tool. Ms. Dusak first tried one that was slightly larger with a wooden handle. As the rivets holding the wood loosened, her hands would be pinched between the two pieces of wood. When she noticed ones in catalogs with one-piece plastic handles, she ordered a few for the staff.

"It's an all-purpose tool, and the nice bright orange handle makes it easy to find when dropped in the grass."

Ann Talarek's digger

Oster tools ann fallingwater

At the overlook, one of the best spots to view Fallingwater, Ann Talarek holds a strange-looking hand tool with a swan like head called a Korean hand plow or Ho-Mi digger.

Ms. Talarek, horticulture specialist for the historic house in Bear Run, Fayette County, discovered her favorite tool seven years ago. "I gave it a try, and it's been in my tool bucket ever since."

She says it's great for weeding, loosening soil, cultivating, seed sowing, transplanting, dividing plants and more.

"The fact that I can do many things with this tool instead of having to switch out for something else is my favorite thing about it."

Ms. Talarek has never had to sharpen the forged steel blade. There's a version with a longer handle, too.

"I've lost more of these in the woods than anything else. I found one I had dropped in the spring, and other than a little rust, everything was intact. I had another Ho-Mi digger."

Dave Will's scuffle

Oster tools dave hoe

Soergel Orchards garden center manager Dave Will is an organic specialist who won't use chemical sprays to get rid of weeds. Instead, he uses a long-handled tool called a scuffle or hula hoe. It differs from a conventional hoe in that its business end resembles an open rectangle and it is used in a back-and-forth motion.

He first saw one in catalog and thought it was too good to be true. Two decades later, it's still his favorite tool. "It makes weeding so much easier and I'm all for easy," he says.

"You slide it back and forth; it works in both directions. It really reduces the time and drudgery of weeding."

Its smooth motion and long handle is easier on his back and joints, Mr. Will says. And because it cuts just below the surface, it barely disturbs the soil. "You're cutting the roots right underneath the soil, so you're not exposing weed seeds to sunlight."

Leaving the soil intact also cuts down on evaporation, he says.

Mr. Will says he has never had to sharpen the tool, which he uses only in his home garden.

Laughing, he says: "We use the high school kids here to weed."

Note: A.M. Leonard: www.amleo.com, 1-800-543-8955 carries soil knife, Korean hand plow, stirrup hoe and all-metal shovel.

Doug Oster: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 412-779-5861. Visit his garden blog at www.post-gazette.com/gardeningwithdoug. Twitter: @dougoster1.



 

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Empty Netter Assists - 01-18-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-"I'm starting to feel a little more comfortable with our system, what we're doing out there." - Taylor Pyatt.

-Brandon Sutter has had quite a few linemates this season.

-Via The Pensblog, the NHL has some pretty specific (and complicated) rules involving players such as Simon Despres (right) being assigned to the AHL near the Olympic break.

-Jeff-Drouin-Deslauriers made 22 saves for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in a 5- loss to the Providence Bruins.

-Max MacKay scored two goals for the Wheeling Nailers in a 5-2 win against the Greenville Road Warriors. Chaz Johnson netted a goal and an assist for Wheeling while teammate Mike Condon made 37 saves.

-Happy 35th birthday to former Penguins forward Ruslan Fedotenko. A free agent signing in the 2008 offseason, Fedotenko spent two seasons with the Penguins. In his first season with the Penguins in 2008-09, Fedotenko appeared in 65 games and scored 39 points. During the postseason, he saw action in 24 games and scored 14 points, fourth-best on the team, while helping the franchise win its third Stanley Cup title. He followed that up in 2009-10 by playing in 80 games and scoring 30 points. He was limited to six games in the 2010 postseason and failed to record a point. During the 2010 postseason, he joined the Rangers as a free agent. In 145 regular season games with the Penguins, he scored 69 points. In 30 postseason games, he scored 14 points. He currently plays for Donbass Donetsk of Russia's KHL.

-Happy 57th birthday to former Penguins forward Jim Hamilton. A second-round pick in 1977, Hamilton spent his entire eight-year NHL career with the Penguins. As a rookie in 1977-78, he appeared in 25 games and scored six points. After being limited to two points and and no points in 1978-79, he played in five postseason games that spring and scored three goals. Hamilton played in 10 games in 1979-80 and scored two goals. During 1980-81, he appeared in 20 games and scored seven points. In one postseason game that season, he failed to record a point. The 1981-82 season saw Hamilton play in 11 games and score eight points. He followed that up in 1982-83 by playing in five games and recording two points. In 1983-84, he played in 11 games while netting four points. His final NHL season was 1984-85. After 11 games and three points, he was released midway through the season. In 95 regular season games, Hamilton scored 32 points. In six postseason games, he scored three goals.

-Happy 49th birthday to former Penguins forward Andrew McBain. Acqurired in the 1989 offseason along with Jim Kyte and Randy Gilhen in a deal which sent Randy Cunneyworth, Rick Tabaracci and Dave McLlwain to the Winnipeg Jets, McBain's Penguins career amounted to 41 games and 14 points in 1989-90. Midway through that season, he was traded to the Canucks along with Dave Capuano and Dan Quinn in exchange for Rod Buskas, Barry Pederson and Tony Tanti.

-Today would have been the 64th birthday of former Penguins forward Pete Laframboise (right). Acquired midway through 1974-75 in a deal which sent Ron Jones to the Capitals. His Penguins career amounted to 35 games and 18 games that season. During the 1975 postseason, he appeared in nine games and scored one goal. In the 1975 offseason, he joined the WHA's Edmonton Oilers as a free agent. Laframboise passed away March 19, 2011 at the age of 61.

-Happy 53rd birthday to former Penguins forward Mike Blaisdell. Claimed off waivers prior to the 1985-86 season, Blaisdell spent parts of two seasons with the Penguins. During 1985-86, he appeared in 66 games and scored 29 points. In 1986-87, he was limited to 10 games and scored two points. In the 1987 offseason, he joined the Maple Leafs as a free agent.

-After the Jump: Welcome back Alexander Steen from a concussion.

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Jim Ferry previews Duquesne's first trip to VCU's Siegel Center

Written by Stephen J. Nesbitt on .

Duquesne is on the road again to square off against VCU (13-4, 1-1 Atlantic 10) in Richmond, Va., tonight. The Dukes (8-7, 1-2) closed the gap after a 32-halftime deficit against Saint Joseph's Wednesday, finishing on a 30-2 run yet still losing by 9 points.

I caught up with Duquesne coach Jim Ferry Saturday to preview the VCU trip.

You've basically put together one good half and one completely forgettable half in each of the last two games. What's it going to take to get a 40-minute performance here in the Atlantic 10?

"It's about that word 'consistency.' We’re playing all these young guys, and that’s not an excuse anymore because guys have been playing, but what might have been good enough to win some games in the non-league schedule is not good enough in the Atlantic 10. The league is just good. 

"It’s one of the most non-forgiving leagues in the country. It’s about matchups, and it’s about limiting mistakes. You could have a stretch where you don’t play well for five minutes, and that could be the game; you could just get blown out."

I imagine you haven't seen to many halves like that first half against Saint Joseph's?

"I don't recall seeing a half like that many times in my career. [laughs] I think it just snowballed. We got stops on four of the first five possessions of the game, but we went like 0-10 to start the game. And then it snowballed because they got comfortable and made shot after shot after shot. It was amazing how well they shot, and we just couldn't get the ball in the basket. Didn't get to the foul line, and I thought that really hurt us. Then we got in catch-up mode and were really scrambling, and they kept making shots. Have to give them credit, too, because I thought they defended well and just made shots.

"In the second half, some people think we played great. I don't think we played great; we just didn't give up. We kept fighting, which was very important for our young team to do. We've just got to put two halves together both offensively and defensively."

VCU is 8-0 at home and sells out every home game. How do you prepare to go in there and try to upset the Rams?

"You've got to go in with confidence, and you've got to go in with aggressiveness, but you've got to go in with composure and poise. They don't let you settle in and get comfortable. They try to speed you up. One of the positives is we've got multiple ball-handlers on our team, and we can attack. We've got to play with that mindset to go out there and make plays. It's just hard simulating what they are in practice. We practiced today at our arena and had the music blaring at maximum sound today in our arena so our guys could get used to, hey, you're not going to be able to hear anything. You've got to do a great job of communicating with each other. It's going to be a crazy environment. We've got to go in there with great poise and great focus and play with great composure. And, listen, it's not going to be a perfect game. You can't play a perfect game. We're a pretty good team when we don't turn the ball over very often; we have to carry that over. We have to really take care of the basketball.

"VCU is one of the best programs in the country. We have to minimize our mistakes, but yet you still have to be aggressive and do the things you do. We've got to tighten things up, no question about it." 

A-10 opponents have been able to shoot the 3-pointer on you and make it with overwhelming consistency. At this point it is it a scheme issue or simply them making their shots (just about every single one)?

"We still have to stay true to not allowing people to get to the basket, so we've really got to over-help. We've just got to continue to close out harder and run these really good 3-point shooters off the line. We've got to do a better job of that and pressure the ball a little bit harder. With the size differential and length once you get to the A-10, guys are a little bit taller and can see the rim a little bit better. We've got to try to work to take that away."

Duquesne averaged 29.4 free-throw attempts per game in its first 13 games but only 27 in the last two games combined. Does that pretty much illustrate how critical it is for your teams to get to the foul line?

"Oh yeah. We've got to continue to play aggressively and get to the foul line. One thing I noticed is the calls that were being called earlier in the season, they seem to be backing off those now. I don't know if it's just me or if everybody's seeing it.

"We still have to stay aggressive and stay focused on playing the way we play. Hopefully we'll be the aggressor and get to the foul line a little bit more. We definitely have to do so. Teams are doing a good job on Ovie [Soko], but Ovie's got to continue to play his game and not settle for jump shots. I think we started to do that more against St. Joe's, settling for jump shots instead of continuing to play until the drive opens up."

VCU is led by Treveon Graham (15.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg) -- he dropped 20 on you last year.

"We've got to continue to stay in his face and not allow him to get anything easy. You've got to guard him with different people, too, and not let him get comfortable. With the tempo they play at, they don't play anybody more than 28 minutes per game. They play 10 to 12 guys like that. It's a breakneck pace, and they play very aggressively and very balanced. It's not just Treveon Graham. You've got to be really locked in and over-help to the lane, contest and compete on the glass."


Stephen J. Nesbitt: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.

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Superman-Batman film moves from 2015 to May 2016

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .

 

Some news for everyone waiting for Ben Affleck’s debut as Batman. They will have to wait a little longer. Here is the press release from Warner Bros.

ZACK SNYDER’S SUPERMAN/BATMAN FILM MOVES TO MAY 6, 2016

WARNER BROS. PICTURES’ NEW PETER PAN ADVENTURE JULY 17, 2015

manofsteelposterBURBANK, CA – January 17, 2014 – Warner Bros. Pictures announced today that the release of Zack Snyder’s untitled Superman/Batman film has been moved to May 6, 2016, allowing the filmmakers time to realize fully their vision, given the complex visual nature of the story.

The decision was made following the shift of the start of production to second quarter of this year.

The studio has also set a July 17, 2015, worldwide release date for its as-yet-untitled all-new Peter Pan adventure.

Joe Wright will direct the epic live-action film about the boy who would never grow up, created by J.M. Barrie. The dual date announcement was made by Dan Fellman, president, domestic distribution, and Veronika Kwan Vandenberg, president, international distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures.

In making the announcement, Fellman stated, “We are happy to take advantage of these coveted summer dates, which are perfect for two of our biggest tentpole releases.

"We share the fans’ excitement to see DC Comics’ most popular figures, Superman and Batman, together on the big screen for the first time, which will now be arriving in theatres in May 2016. Peter Pan has delighted people of every generation for more than a century, so we are thrilled to bring him back to the screen next summer for today’s moviegoers.”

Kwan Vandenberg added, “We know that there is already great anticipation building for the next superhero film from Zack Snyder, and we are equally eager to see what he has in store for Superman and Batman as they share the big screen for the first time ever. The summer release corridor is also perfect for Joe Wright’s ambitious new Peter Pan adventure, reimagining the ageless story of the beloved and forever-young hero for audiences worldwide.”

Zack Snyder’s Superman/Batman film stars Henry Cavill, reprising his role as Superman/Clark Kent, and Ben Affleck as Batman/Bruce Wayne. The film will also reunite “Man of Steel” stars Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne and Diane Lane, and also stars Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince.

Snyder will direct the film from a screenplay written by David S. Goyer, from a story co-created by Goyer and Snyder. Charles Roven and Deborah Snyder are producing, with Benjamin Melniker, Michael E. Uslan and Wesley Coller serving as executive producers.

The film is based on Superman characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Batman characters created by Bob Kane, and Wonder Woman created by William Moulton Marston, published by DC Entertainment.

The new Peter Pan adventure will be directed by Joe Wright from a screenplay by Jason Fuchs, incorporating J.M. Barrie’s classic characters. The film is being produced by Greg Berlanti and Paul Webster.

 

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Out of the Furnace gets DVD and Blu-ray date

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .

 

bale.jpg

“Out of the Furnace” will be available on DVD and Blu-ray on March 11.

The gritty drama, rated R and filmed in Braddock, North Braddock and other Pittsburgh area communities, stars Christian Bale and Casey Affleck as brothers whose lives take very different paths. Bale followed their now-ailing dad (Bingo O’Malley) into the mills while Affleck’s character ends up in the military and then as a bare-fisted brawler.

Blu-ray.com reports the Blu-ray featurettes will be about: Inspiration, director Scott Cooper, crafting the fight scenes and the movie’s music. No word on whether there will be deleted scenes.

Among the sites offering the chance to preorder is moviesunlimited.com.

The cast also includes Woody Harrelson, Zoe Saldana, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe and Sam Shepard along with local actors such as Jack Erdie and Stoney Richards.

casey

 

forestfurnace Kerry Hayes photos/Relativity Media

 

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