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Bob shares his thoughts on landscaping and the environment

GOP Legislators Trying to Kill Clean Energy in Pennsylvania

In this day and age, with all we’ve learned about climate change and the disastrous effects it’s already having on our Commonwealth, it’s hard to believe there can be this kind of stone age thinking ‘under the dome’ in Harrisburg, Pa, led by none other than Gene Yaw and his backward thinking Republican cronies. From…

First Drive on the Southern Beltway

Pittsburgh’s long awaited Southern Beltway toll road opened yesterday, easing the trip to and from the Pittsburgh International Airport for many travelers. For those living south of Pittsburgh, this route will eliminate battling the traffic snarls that have become far more common in the vicinity of the I-79 / 376 interchange near Carnegie, as well…

Tesla Energy Production Exceeds Needs (Again)

September brought more positive results, with our solar panels producing enough energy to power our home and charge our electric vehicle, while also “banking” an excess that will be carried forward through net metering. Solar energy production for September = 844.2 kWh Home usage (including all EV charging) = 660.5 kWh “Banked” for the future…

New Tesla Powerwall App

The latest update to my iPhone apps included an all new Tesla Powerwall app. Our Powerwall2 is a 14kWh lithium-ion battery mounted in the garage, entirely charged by solar energy from 21 solar panels on the roof. It serves as a backup for most home electricity needs if the grid goes down, minus heavy draws…

First Frost

After years of observing the weather in our Pittsburgh area, October 10th became the average date for our first frost, marking the end of the growing season for frost-sensitive plants. It also marks the date to bring houseplants indoors. Recently, when I mentioned this date to Stephen Cropper, Chief Meteorologist for WPXI, he shared the…

Don’t Expect Protection

Pennsylvania Senator Katie Muth hosted a hearing last week, CLOSING THE HAZARDOUS WASTE LOOPHOLE IN PA, where we learned once again why citizens jokingly say the initials D.E.P. (short for Department of Environmental Protection) stand for “Don’t Expect Protection.” Of course it’s no laughing matter! If you can’t sit through the entire 4 hour, 44…

National Solar Tour this weekend

The American Solar Energy Society (ASES) national tour, both in-person and virtual, takes place Saturday and Sunday. Learn more here. US map of locations Established in 1954, ASES is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that advocates for sustainable living and 100% renewable energy by sharing information, events and resources to cultivate community and power progress. ASES homepage…

PetroChem Pancakes with a dash of Nurdles

Apparently it wasn’t a 3-day pancake breakfast that had staff at a Beaver, Pa. childcare facility smelling pancake syrup last week. According to the September 28, 2021 story “DEP cites Shell for ‘malodors’ outside cracker plant construction site – ‘Strong’ smell ‘like pancake syrup’ reported for several days” by Reid Frazier in StateImpact Pennsylvania: “The…

Wildfire Worries for Ancient Trees

Photos of fire workers wrapping the ‘largest living tree on Earth’ in silver fire retardant foil got me thinking, and worrying, about the awe-inspiring trees we saw during our visit to the ‘Avenue of the Giants‘ in Humboldt Redwoods State Park in northern California, six years ago this month. The old-growth coast redwood forest is…

Earth to Nick

Oblivious to toxic waste pollution and the devastation from climate change, Pennsylvania politicians continue to put frackers first! Washington County commissioners have never been shy about their diehard, all-in support of the oil and gas industry, even in the face of an endless stream of spills, fish kills and environmental destruction. There is even an…

Public Parks as Cash Cows (no more)

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared earlier this year that “all proceeds from the sale of our public natural resources are part of the corpus of our environmental public trust” and that the environmental trustee obligations described in the state constitution apply to ALL levels and branches of government. I covered this same topic in my May…

Clean Energy Week

Looking at our regional electric grid, we have a lot of work to do if we are going to wean ourselves off fossil fuels by 2030, or even 2035! The PJM Interconnection grid, that delivers electricity to WV, PA, OH, NJ and parts of 5 more states, was showing these fuel mix statistics at 8:00pm…

1922 Tournament of Roses

Yesterday we celebrated the 100-year anniversary of Washington & Jefferson College’s undefeated season that propelled the team to the game now known as the Rose Bowl. Yesterday, a few of the surviving family members were honored before the kickoff of W&J’s home opener versus Bethany College. Years ago, author and W&J alum E. Lee North…

Winter Weather Forecast

A woolly bear caterpillar crossed our path Sunday… The caterpillar was our annual reminder of folklore surrounding winter weather forecasting. Pennsylvania PrognosticatorsThe Woolly Bear is nearly as famous for its winter forecast, as Punxsutawney Phil is for his spring forecast. It’s also known as the “fuzzy bear” or “woolly worm” or even the “hedgehog caterpillar”…

Saving Vegetable Seeds for Next Year

Save money by storing this year’s vegetable and tomato seeds. Proper storage conditions will keep seeds viable for future vegetable gardens. By Sandy Feather ©2009 Penn State Extension Store your vegetable seed in airtight jars or containers in the refrigerator. Those silica gel packs that are shipped with shoes and electronic equipment can be placed in…

Old Growth Forest Destruction

Imagine going into an art museum full of old masterpieces and laying waste to them with a chainsaw. Unthinkable, right? Now imagine those same masterpieces are living, breathing things, the last stalwarts standing tall against climate change. Yesterday’s story in the Seattle Times, B.C. Government Continues Logging of Old Growth as Two Year Protest in…

Mike Tomlin Quotes

Being the great wordsmith that he is, I’ve been posting some of Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin’s most famous quotes for the past dozen years or more. Probably my favorite quote and nugget of wisdom is: “Be where you are.” MIKE TOMLIN You’ll find hundreds more of Coach Tomlin’s quotes here. Bob

I’ll Always Remember

My photos of the 2016 Remembrance events at the Flight 93 Memorial near Shanksville, Pa. with “I’ll Always Remember” soundtrack by singer/songwriter JoAnn Biviano. Why the passengers of Flight 93 had time to act Flight 93 was 41 minutes late leaving Newark Airport for its planned flight to San Francisco. This delay allowed time for…

Natural Gas Widowmaker

With an increasing dependence on natural gas for electricity generation, one has to ask what this will mean to future consumer prices. Simon Casey of Bloomberg posted a story and chart yesterday, ‘Widowmaker’ Natural Gas Spread Doubles as Traders Eye Winter – “Natural gas traders see tight winter supplies. Widowmaker spread hits record high.” “The…

O Deer!

One important job in the home landscape should never wait. Over the years, I’ve seen whitetail deer cause severe, life threatening damage to young trees. Damage to the main trunk of a tree occurs during deer mating season, which is commonly known as “the rut.” I’ve dedicated part of my DEER DAMAGE webpage to this…

Flooding

“A storm like this would have been exceptionally rare 20 or 50 years ago, but we have to start thinking about it becoming the norm as the climate warms.” Tripti Bhattacharya, Syracuse University Hurricane Ida put a new emphasis on climate change, and why it was another harbinger to those who never expected their homes…

Love Your Lawn… Now!

My web page title says it best, “SEPTEMBER IS LAWN MONTH” See all the reasons why: https://bobscaping.com/september-is-lawn-month/ There are two seasons of the year in the midwest and northeastern United States (and similar climate zones) when your odds of lawn seeding success greatly improve: Spring and Fall. Spring is second best. Fall is also the…

One Step Forward

In a hard-fought bid to make Pennsylvania the first major fossil fuel state to adopt a carbon pricing policy, Governor Tom Wolf’s plan to fight climate change passed its last regulatory hurdle yesterday with the IRRC (Independent Regulatory Review Commission). The 3-2 party-line vote allows Pennsylvania to join a multistate consortium, the Regional Greenhouse Gas…

Smart Choice In Ohio

Good news out of Columbus, Ohio on Monday, concerning the decision to quit using radioactive de-icer on state roads The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is finally acting, following lab tests that were done by the ODNR just over 4 years ago, that included one test result where there were 9,602 picocuries per liter of combined…

Five Dollar Electric Bill

While that sounds good, especially with heavy air conditioning use during humid 90-degree weather, it’s even better than that! We were finally able to do a full 12-month “look back” at our cost savings with solar energy, since upping our game to 29 solar panels. Our recent $5.77 electric bill only tells part of the…

Lungs Of The Globe

“While most of the climate crisis attention is focused on land, many of the best fixes are offshore.” A new post by Ian Urbina, “Saving the Planet While Ignoring Two Thirds of It” puts an interesting twist on what our planet Earth faces as it relates to our oceans… “…companies on land have been allowed…

Barium, Chloride and Strontium, Oh My!

A study published in SCIENCE (PDF) last week is said to be the first linking surface water contamination to fracking, the layman’s term for hydraulic fracturing, which is used to produce oil and gas from shale, like the Marcellus Shale which underlies a large portion of western and northeastern Pennsylvania. In yesterday’s blog “America’s Radioactive…

America’s Radioactive Secret

Justin Nobel, Science Journalist for ROLLING STONE, DeSmog, and other US magazines and investigative sites, presents his findings on the radioactivity found in oil and gas development during a Delaware Riverkeeper webinar. Begins at the 11:20 mark of video: More: TENORM: Stories on Fracking’s Radioactive Waste by Joshua Boaz Pribanic and the newsCOUP team at…

Are Green Lawns Really Green?

Sometime in the late-70’s we saw the widespread emergence and acceptance of home lawn care featuring “blanket spray” treatments for home lawns, using a steady dose of fertilizer and insecticides. Keeping up with the Joneses next door became the standard. A lush green lawn, without a single weed or brown spot, became the goal. So…

Vietnam War Deja Vu

The events unfolding in Afghanistan take Vietnam War veterans back to 1975, when that country fell quickly, in just 55-days. The fall of this country, in which we invested so much blood and gold over the past 20-years, has fallen even faster. 11-days! One Vietnam veteran I emailed said it had reignited his PTSD (post…

Finches Return

The “all clear” was sounded at the end of last week for putting birdfeeders back up, so the first to go up was the thistle seed feeder that Finches favor so much, as well as the occasional Chickadee. Last update I read indicated that while wildlife authorities weren’t certain what was ailing songbirds, they did…

Skunk Assist

In my battle against a yellowjacket nest that was dangerously close to our front sidewalk, a skunk (or raccoon) intervened to help clean-out the nest. I waited until well after dark the first night to spray the area under this ‘Little Gem’ Spruce with Wasp & Hornet Spray. The aerosol had a long range spray…

Death by a Thousand Spills

Reading the weekly news of the oil and gas fracking industry in the United States reminds one of an old expression, “Death by a thousand cuts,” with the similarity being the cumulative effect of multiple smaller events. With the oil and gas industry, another applicable quote would be: “If they’re drilling, they’re spilling.” The images…

BEWARE: Ground Bees!

By this time in August every year, underground yellowjacket nests have developed into large colonies, ready to swarm and sting the unsuspecting multiple times. Many people inadvertently find them while mowing the lawn, since running a lawnmower over their inconspicuous holes in the ground, will stir-up the entire nest. Their common name comes from the…

Fungicide Fish Kill

This headline appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on July 17, 2021: Fish and Boat officials investigate ‘significant fish kill’ in Chartiers Creek “Waterways conservation officers were dispatched and were on scene that evening and Friday. They found dead fish on banks and floating in the creek. The officers pinpointed the fish kill to a roughly 7-mile long…

Steelers HALL OF FAME Enshrinements

Six years ago, I made the drive to Canton Ohio for the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement of Jerome ‘The Bus’ Bettis #36 It was my first trip to see one of the Steelers greats enshrined, and this video will give you an idea of what a visit to the H.O.F. Enshrinement was like…

Maple Tar Spot

Seeing spots? On your Maple trees?? My friend Sandy Feather at Penn State Extension – Allegheny County helped me confirm that our three ‘Jefferred’ Autumn Blaze® maples have Maple Tar Spot disease, as well as some small spots that are likely caused by Leafhopper feeding. Regardless of their insect and disease issues, these three trees…

County Fair Season

While we’re already two-thirds of the way through summer, we’re only part way into County Fair season! In order to keep track of all the dates and times of Pittsburgh tri-state events, I created the popular COUNTY FAIR webpage. After a one-year hiatus, it was great to see the return of these popular summer events!…

Steelers Training Camp

Heinz Field is the venue for Steelers training camp in 2021, with free tickets available for 12 more dates through Ticketmaster. These photos were taken on the first day of training camp that was open to the public, Wednesday July 28th. Reserved seats are in the lower levels, on the east side of Heinz Field….

Half Of What You See

You may have heard the old saying, “Believe none of what you hear, and half of what you see.” Great wisdom in that old saying! Case in point is this Ram pickup truck spotted at a traffic light yesterday… must be a really heavy box, eh? Well, as it turns out, I spoke with the…

Wildfires And Box Fans

As shocking as the evening television news videos have been of the wildfires across the western United States and Canada, yesterday’s story in the Seattle Times, by Christine Clarridge, used a Mordor comparison in her title: “Like Mordor: A Central Washington town had the worst air quality in the U.S.” This topic really “hits home.”…

Brown Foam

When the frackers began to ramp- up their fracking activities in our county, just over a decade ago, my greatest pollution concerns were for our streams, rivers and lakes. It made perfect sense then, and even more sense now, as we have seen repeated spills, leaks and documented environmental violations around fracking. Enough so, that…

Poisoning Pennsylvania

We had yet another ‘Stuck on Stupid’ moment this week when news emerged about the use of ‘Forever Chemicals’ in hydraulic fracturing of shale oil and gas wells. Approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency! This comes on the heels of past revelations about the ‘Wild West’ fracking activities we have witnessed firsthand here in…

Household Battery Backup

When we added the first eleven solar panels to our roof three years ago, we also added a Tesla Powerwall 2 (lithium- ion) backup battery (rated at 14 kWh) to the mix. The greatest advantage to me, is the ability of our house to ‘keep the lights on’ during a grid outage, provided: a) the…

Its the Beetles!

Along with Independence Day, Lightning Bugs, and the heat and humidity in western Pennsylvania, July brings back the Beetles! Not the singing type, more the chewing type. These buggers are primarily known for the lawn damage they cause, which seems especially noticeable on lawns with a thick thatch layer. Lawn sod with chewed- off roots,…

More Frac Fluid Fears

While the oil and gas industry is attempting to rebrand some of its fracked gas as being more ‘green,’ and to spin ‘unnatural gas’ in a more positive light, yesterday’s newspaper stories reminded those of us who follow fracking of their long- running, and well substantiated fears about secret frac chemicals, while delivering a ‘gut…

Solar Energy In The Rain

It’s hard to believe that you can get a sunburn on a cloudy day, even though it’s true. Even harder to believe, is that you can produce solar energy on a rainy morning, but that’s also true! That’s right, even though it rained all of yesterday morning, our solar panels still produced 3.3 kWh (3,300…

Going Solar With Large Trees

When we first landscaped our house, nearly 40 years ago, we made sure to plant a large growing Maple on the west side. That planting location came very close to the concept of planting a large deciduous tree on the southwest side of a house, since it will shade and cool the house in summer,…

Lightning Bugs Are Back

While some call them Fireflies or Glowworms, we’ve always called them Lightning Bugs. Here in southwestern Pennsylvania they seem synonymous with the 4th of July, for the timing of their annual nocturnal appearance. True to form, it was nice to see their blinking yellow lights dotting our backyard last night for the first time this…

Motown to Morrison

I was talking about music with a good friend, who is a few years younger, and was a disc jockey back in the day. We both recalled how much we were into Motown recording artists during our high school years. For me and many others, that Motown music is ageless, and still as great as…

Hardening Off

When we schedule outdoor plant maintenance activities, using certain annual holidays as reminders really helps. For the 4th of July, Independence Day holiday, two things come to mind. The first regards daffodils and narcissus Following the Spring blossoms of these hardy bulbs, gardeners are always anxious to remove the remaining foliage. However, those bulbs need…

Birdbath Down

About three weeks ago, we added a new birdbath to our backyard landscape, to help complement the three birdfeeders we added in late winter, when it seemed like the birds deserved some additional food sources, on the tail end of a nasty winter. The birdbath was just beginning to get some use in the midst…

Extreme Heat

The dark red colors on yesterday’s weather map of the Pacific Northwest exemplified the harrowing tale of climate change, with several states and part of Canada, setting new records for extreme heat under what is called a ‘heat dome.’ One recent tweet included this comment: “The normal late June high in Vancouver BC is 21°C…

Adverse Possession

It was 45 years ago, when I first learned of a law in Pennsylvania, known as “adverse possession.” There was property we owned back then, where neighbors had ‘cut a corner’ so to speak, by running their driveway over the corner of our building lot. It got to the point where we had to consult…

4th of July Fireworks

Most people love a great fireworks display, and Pittsburgh just announced there will be fireworks at The Point on Independence Day! Other fireworks events begin as early as tonight in Bethel Park, with others on Saturday July 3rd and Sunday July 4th, 2021. The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania celebration will be centered around Point State Park, with…

Death To Lawns?

The perfect home lawn has been the illusive goal of many, and rarely achieved for any length of time by most. You see, new lawns have what is known as a “honeymoon period,” which could be compared to the “7 year itch,” since that’s about how long it takes for most new lawns to begin…

Motocross Is Back!

A revved- up announcer at High Point Raceway in Mount Morris Pennsylvania declared, “Motocross is Back” to a full house of Pro Motocross spectators and fans, who lined the fences and filled the hillsides in southern Greene County Pennsylvania. Saturday 19 June 2021 was indeed, the largest crowd I’ve ever seen at High Point! For…

Storm Damage

Our area was rocked by stormy weather when a cold front came through earlier this week, and more stormy weather is in the forecast for tomorrow. The weather forecast even includes hail. Downed and damaged trees are often highlighted in subsequent TV news broadcasts, with big trees lying on top of damaged houses and automobiles….

Fracking With Fitz

Following a recent protest in front of the City County building in downtown Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, Allegheny County executive Rich Fitzgerald made a few erroneous statements to the Press, according to a recent story by Eric de Place, a research fellow at the Ohio River Valley Institute (ORVI) in his blog, “Fact-Checking Fitzgerald on Fracking –…

Compressor Stations

The progression of Marcellus Shale oil and gas development, processing, and export in western Pennsylvania has gone like this: 1. Seismic Surveys – Widespread exploration began with seismic surveys, that used “thumper trucks” and shot holes with explosive charges, to determine what the underground geology looked like for gas drilling and fracking. In our local…

Nonfunctional Grass

In all my many years of landscaping and lawn maintenance, I had never heard the term “nonfunctional grass” until yesterday. That’s the term being used to describe certain turfgrass areas, actually 31 percent of the turf in the Las Vegas area, which can no longer be irrigated, starting 6 years from now in 2027. It’s…

Fracking Setbacks

As more peer- reviewed health studies are completed around unconventional gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing across the United States, more mothers, doctors, and local citizens are calling for greater setbacks from these industrial- grade activities that are used to drill and frac Marcellus Shale oil and gas wells. In Pennsylvania, 500 feet (152 meters) is…

4 Million Reasons

Our Washington County, Pennsylvania has a long, disturbing history when it comes to football field sized impoundments, 15 to 20 feet deep, which are used by the oil and gas industry to ‘hold’ their liquid waste, or should we say, are supposed to hold those wastes, without leaking very much. These huge inground impoundments were…

Code Orange Doubleheader

The weather is playing a doubleheader in the Pittsburgh region this weekend, with Sunday being the second of back- to- back CODE ORANGE weather alerts. Code Orange days cause problems for young children, the elderly, and those with respiratory issues like asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis. According to Allegheny Health Network’s Dr. Brian Lamb, “It can…

Big Solar Denied

The banner on the Mount Joy Township website, describes the township as “A Community with Rural Character and a Rich History.” Rich history refers to the Battle of Gettysburg, a famous Pennsylvania battle, 158 years ago next month, in the ‘War between the States,’ and more commonly known to Americans as “The Civil War.” The…

Savings and Savings

A recent blog by Barry Kresch, of the EV Club of Connecticut, had this catchy headline: “Tesla Police Vehicle Saves Westport Tens of Thousands of Dollars.” Big Oil doesn’t want to read this story! According to a detailed analysis, the Tesla Model 3 not only saved “tens of thousands of dollars,” it also saved 23.5…

TENORM Mountains

You’ve probably heard of the Allegheny Mountains. Also known as the Appalachian Mountain Range, it extends 400 miles through Pennsylvania, and several other states. As famous as those mountains are, Pennsylvania is now becoming known more for the 30 new “mountains” that it’s creating, from municipal trash and radioactive fracking waste. “TENORM Mountains.” A new…

Long Gone

Paul Urquhart of McMurray, Pennsylvania, volunteered for a second tour of duty in Vietnam, and while he is believed to have perished in his Loach helicopter crash, 50 years ago this Memorial Day, his body has never been recovered, so he technically remains “Missing in Action” or M.I.A., until his remains are returned to U.S….

Honoring Tom

It was a local high school student, Brian Hottel, at Peters Township High School, who first raised my awareness of Tom Shipe. A newspaper story said that Brian wanted to create a memorial at the high school to honor Tom, who had never returned to his Peters Township home from Vietnam. After reading of Brian’s…

Canada’s Best

Andrew Nikiforuk’s headline says it best, “The Brutal Legal Odyssey of Jessica Ernst Comes to an End. The Alberta landowner fought an epic battle against fracking interests.” Jessica shares her amazing story on her blog: Ernst v. EnCana Corporation. Andrew Nikiforuk knows her story quite well, from the account of Jessica Ernst’s fight for justice…

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