May 31 & Jun 1: Plant sales

Putting Down Roots plant sales:
Spring is still springy, and it looks like the weather will be lovely again this weekend! I'll be available here once again this weekend, set up for sales from 1 to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and 10-1:30 on Sunday. I have grown lots of tomatoes (over 40 varieties), brassicas, cucurbits, herbs, and flowers from seed this winter and spring, and will also have transplants of various perennials from ferns to sweet woodruff as well as black raspberries, strawberries, many members of the mint family, and a wonderfully productive native food-and-flower plant, the jerusalem artichoke. Also bagged worm castings (from local worm-whisperer Matt), floating row cover if you need a moderate quantity (I buy it by the roll), and CobraHead gardening tools, perfect for ground ivy and many other plants-in-the-wrong-place (often referred to as "weeds"). If you'd like to come over, it would be great if you can let me know (RSVP here, and/or email with "plants" in the Subject line and more info about your planned time). Than I can send you directions and other info. Other times are also possible; just contact me and we can set up a meet!  BTW, just as with Sustainability Salons, I need your email address to send some additional information (different from Salons)... so if you haven't received email from me recently, please send your address to me (maren dot cooke at gmail dot com).

May 31: Composting and Rain Barrel workshop

Free indoor/outdoor composting and rain barrel workshop with Zero Waste Pittsburgh!  Turn your kitchen waste into black gold and your roof into a water catchment system - Learn how to do smelliness-free worm farming in your kitchen, backyard composting and how to make a rainbarrel all in one workshop on Saturday May 31 at 1PM!
Join Nancy Martin from Zero Waste Pittsburgh to learn all you need to do to keep your garden organic and well-watered for next to nothing.
Come and get your garden on!   Learn more and register here.

May 24-26: Plant sales

Putting Down Roots plant sales:
Spring has sprung!   I'll be available here on Saturday May 24th, Sunday the 25th, and Monday the 26th from noon to 4 p.m.  I have grown lots of tomatoes (over 40 varieties!), brassicas (kales, collards, cauliflowers and the like), cucurbits (cukes, squash, and such), herbs, and flowers from seed this winter and spring, and will also have transplants of various perennials from ferns to sweet woodruff as well as black raspberries, strawberries, many members of the mint family, and a wonderfully productive native food-and-flower plant, the jerusalem artichoke.  Also CobraHead gardening tools, perfect for ground ivy and many other plants-in-the-wrong-place (often referred to as "weeds").  

If you'd like to come over, it would be great if you can let me know.  Other times are also possible;  just contact me and we can set up a time!

May 18 & 19: Plant sales

Plant sales:
Spring has sprung!  I'll be available here on Sunday May 18th and Monday May 19th, from noon to 4 p.m., and again next weekend.  I have grown lots of tomatoes, brassicas, cucurbits, herbs, and flowers from seed this winter and spring, and will also have transplants of various perennials from ferns to sweet woodruff as well as black raspberries, strawberries, many members of the mint family, and a wonderfully productive native food-and-flower plant, the jerusalem artichoke.  If you'd like to come over, it would be great if you can let me know (email with "plants" in the Subject line  maren dot cooke at gmail dot com).  Other times are also possible;  just contact me and we can set up a time!

May 17: Venture Outdoors Festival

Join Venture Outdoors for a free celebration of the outdoors for everyone, featuring climbing, kayaking, fishing, dragon boating, yoga, capoeira, biking, RiverQuest, KidZone actvities from nature crafts to giant bubbles,

11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Point State Park.  Lots more information here!

May 16: Food Revolution Day

85 organizations and 20 of Pittsburgh's top chefs will come together to celebrate our region's food culture and the people who work together to build it.  The goal is to feed 5,000 families, so please spread the word. 

Farm to Table Pittsburgh & American HealthCare Group will host a "Make your Own  Trail Mix" station.  Farm to Table Pittsburgh is the local food & healthy eating component of Pathways to SmartCare Wellness Program.  We provide Local Food Programs for schools, employers, senior residencies and community groups.  Our mission is to bridge the gap between consumers and local food producers. Eating locally grown food benefits both our physical health and also our local economic health.

Food Revolution Day Pittsburgh 2014 is part of an on-going initiative through the Food Revolution Pittsburgh Cooking Club program at Obama to support students and enliven our community about food access and youth empowerment. The one-day event is designed to provide an opportunity for Pittsburgh to dine and enjoy good food as a community and a city while engaging in conversation, creativity and activities that reflect living well.

3-6 p.m. at Obama Academy.

The Food Revolution Pittsburgh Cooking Club was started by Bar Marco in October 2012, inspired by Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. They teach kids how to cook every Tuesday after school at Obama Academy!

Remember to tweet @FRPCC #democratizefood #FRD2014.

May 15: Inspire lecture with Mark Mykleby and Bill Peduto

Sustainability:  An American Grand Strategy for the 21st Century...  please join the Green Building Alliance and Phipps Conservatory for the Season Finale of the Inspire Speakers Series.  Come hear a very unique perspective of sustainability from retired U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Mark Mykleby.  A senior fellow of the New America Foundation, Puck (as he’s known) has developed a “National Strategic Narrative” which offers SUSTAINABILITY as the organizing logic for an American grand strategy.  After serving in the Marine Corps, Puck was asked to work on a grand strategy for the country and through his research, found that sustainability should be that strategy – both from a macro and a micro level. 

The reality is that we live in a resource-constrained environment, yet we act like we have unlimited resources,” Puck said in a 2013 interview with GreenBiz.  “We’re looking at about a 300-percent increase in resource consumption and we just don’t have the stuff in the world to support that.”  And so Puck is proposing both a top-down approach to sustainability as well as a citizen-led approach in which he engages communities across the country to achieve “full-spectrum sustainability.”  Come hear about this plan and how it could impact YOUR country and YOUR community!

How can a strategic narrative apply to our region?  Colonel Mykleby will be joined on stage by none other than Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto.  Mayor Peduto has served Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods for more than ten years, and he’s gained a reputation as a champion for sustainability and for enhancing Pittsburgh’s status as a leader in green innovation.  He also helped to create the city’s Climate Action Plan.  Come hear Mayor Peduto’s perspective on sustainability, community, and local government!

PLUS: The Founding Class of GBA’s Green & Healthy Schools Academy is graduating!  These educators, administrators, and facility managers from nearby school districts have been working to integrate sustainability into their school buildings, curriculum, and culture over the past two years.  Each school will share a brief story with the audience on how they have applied their knowledge and work.  Don’t miss learning about these imperative steps that are being taken to create healthier spaces for our children to learn.

5-8 p.m.  in the Special Events Hall at Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, 1 Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, PA 15213  (Join us at 5 p.m. to enjoy delicious appetizers, a cash bar, an excellent banjo band, and great networking! Lectures begin at 6 p.m.)  Ticket Prices: start at $15 (If the designated ticket prices do not fit your budget, there is an option to pay what you can!)   Learn more and register here.  Click here to find out how YOU could have dinner with our speakers after the lecture.

You can also view a highlight reel of the entire Inspire Speakers Series events to date. 

May 4: Sustainability Salon on Environmental Education

The 28th Putting Down Roots Sustainability Salon (see below if that's new to you) will take place on Sunday, May 4th (2-9 p.m).  And it's the first of another pair:  for May 4th and June 7th, our topic will be Environmental Education.  Please be sure to RSVP if you might come...  and read on for important information:

First, note that this month's event is on a Sunday.  More often we gather on Saturdays, but once in a while we shake it up -- and this time the trigger was the upcoming Pete Seeger tribute concert.  (I don't usually plug other events in my Salon emails, but then I don't often schedule Salons around them, either -- this is Pete we're talking about!  Maybe we'll see you there...)

Because it is a Sunday, and because some of our attendees may be particularly tired after the morning's marathon, we'll also move everything up by an hour -- door at 2pm, talks and discussion hopefully starting sometime around 3, and supper, music, and more conversation afterwards.  Feel free to let me know how you like this alternative timing!

On May 4th, we'll hear from Naturalist Educator Mike Cornell (pictured below, with his fiddle) about the Frick Environmental Center's school programs, adult programs, and summer camps.  He'll discuss the Center's educational model, and challenges they face.  And he'll bring us an update on the plans for the new Frick Environmental Center, and what it will mean in terms of access -- and timetables for the next few years.

Creek Connections, a watershed education outreach program of Allegheny College, gets kids into creeks!  Pittsburgh Field Educator and Creek Camp Director Laura Branby can usually be found in or near local creeks and rivers with students and their teachers, delivering loaner materials to teachers, presenting creek "bug" days to students, or directing residential environmental science Creek Camps at Allegheny College.  Laura will join us at Sunday's Sustainability Salon to talk about the magic of kids in creeks.

Knowledge of a region's wild creatures can immeasurably strengthen our attachment to the landscape. Since the mid-1980’s Pat McShea has worked as an educator at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History to provide local teachers, librarians, naturalists, and artists with materials to build student interest in and knowledge of local wildlife and the seasons.  Plus, passenger pigeons!  (a missing element in our landscape.)

Speaking of seasonality, spring is in full swing!  That means that my seedling nursery and greenhouse have been humming along -- and once again I will have seedlings and transplants (vegetables, herbs, and perennials) available for sale.  Feel free to let me know if you are interested (email with Plants in the Subject line), and I'll keep you posted!  Also, let me know if you would like to join me in the garden sometime, individually or as part of a group...  there's always lots doing here, lots to learn, and good things to eat.  In fact, if there's anyone who has a pickup truck that could be used to transport soil, it would be wonderful!  We're still a few loads away from having the rooftop beds filled.  Just let me know (email with Garden in the subject line), and I can get in touch when opportunities/needs arise!  Thanks very much;  among other things, you’ll be helping the Sustainability Salon effort, as when I am organizing speakers and doing list-maintenance and making food and cleaning house before and after each event, I am not out gardening!  

On June 7th, we'll have another trio of amazing environmental educators:

Molly Steinwald will talk about using the visual arts for environmental education and science communication.  Molly is faculty at Project Dragonfly at Miami University, teaching graduate courses in ecology, community-based conservation, and inquiry learning, a Visiting Scholar at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Learning in Out-of-School-Environments, an Affiliate of the International League of Conservation Photographers, and an internationally-recognized photographer.  An ecologist, her doctoral and other work incorporates imagery to increase people's connection with nearby nature. 

Joylette Portlock uses new media to approach the serious topic of climate education with a serious sense of humor.  She produces (and stars in) a series of web videos targeting a general audience with climate science, climate news, and both personal actions and advocacy suggestions that can help. "Don't Just Sit There, Do Something!" is a project of Communitopia, her new nonprofit.

Phipps Conservatory Education Specialist Melissa Harding is also the Southwestern PA Regional Director of the Pennsylvania Association of Environmental Educators.
If you haven't been here before, you may enjoy checking out our roof garden and solar installation (and now apiary!) as well as the many other interesting things around our place.  That'll mainly be happening between 2 & 3 p.m. (and perhaps after the talks, since evenings brighten as we move toward the summer solstice).

2-9 p.m. at Maren's house in Squirrel Hill.  Please don't arrive before 2pm.  We'll aim to introduce speakers beginning around 3pm after folks have had a chance to meet, mingle, and tour around an interesting and productive urban permaculture site.   Please email me with salon in the Subject line to RSVP (yes or maybe), or click on the link in your EventBrite invitation (if you're not already on my list, please email me to be added!).  Please RSVP each time -- it helps greatly in several ways.  Among other things, attendance varies widely, and these events have been so successful that we need to begin limiting attendance.  So RSVP early if you can, to ensure your participation!  The free virtual "tickets" on Eventbrite may run out (you don't need to print any tickets, by the way, just be on the list).  Also, weather and such can be unpredictable and it's good to know who to contact if there's a change -- and I'll send directions and/or a trail map if you need 'em on Friday or Saturday.  Be sure to include salon in the Subject line, as I receive a ridiculous amount of email every day.  And if you're new, please let me know how you heard about the Salons!

Bring food and/or drink to share if you can, along with musical instruments if you play.  Check back on MarensList (where you can find information on all sorts of environmental and social justice events) for updates.  And if you aren't yet on my list, if you're interested in Sustainability Salons (and our occasional house concert, simply contact me and I'll put you on my email list.  

Note once again that I'll be sending out directions and such, and any late-breaking info, to all the RSVP'd folks by the morning of the salon if not before.  So if you don't have it yet, please be patient! One of these days I'll streamline this process a bit, but for now it takes a while to to dot all my i's and cross all my t's.  (All the extraneous requests for the address don't help;  I have lots of other stuff I send out with it, but don't like to let them go unanswered so it adds hours to my prep time.  If you RSVP properly (see above), you should get the info by the morning of the salon!)
For the uninitiated, a Sustainability Salon is an educational forum;  a venue for discussion and debate about important environmental issues;  a house party with an environmental theme.  We usually have featured speakers on various aspects of a topic, interspersed with stimulating conversation, lively debate, delectable potluck food and drink, and music-making through the evening.
Past topics have included community mapping projectsenvironmental journalismgrassroots actioncommunity solar powerMarcellus shale development and community rightsgreen buildingair qualityhealth care, solar powertrees and park stewardshipalternative energy and climate policy, regional watershed issues, fantastic film screenings and discussions (led by filmmakers) over the winter with Living DownstreamBidder 70YERTGas Rush Stories, and foodfoodfoodfood, and more food.

Quite a few people have asked me what sorts of food to bring -- and my answer, as always, is whatever inspires you;  I believe in the "luck" part of potlucks.  Tasty noshings for the afternoon, hearty main dishes or scrumptious salads and sides for dinner, baked goods from biscuits and breads to brownies or baklava -- and/or beverages of any kind:  wine, beer, hard or sweet cider (the latter we can mull if you like), juice, tea, whatever (I've got the kombucha covered, though it's always fun to compare).  The more the merrier!  Local fare is always particularly welcome, whether homegrown or boughten.  Dishes containing meat or dairy are fine, though if it isn't really obvious please make a note of it.  

And if you like to make music or listen to homemade music, don't forget the evening sing -- we typically run the gamut from Irish fiddle tunes to protest songs to the Beatles, and a fun time is had by all.  Bring instruments if you play, and/or pick up one of ours.  Conversations will continue through the evening, as well. 

May 4: Antibiotic-free Fundraiser for FWW at Legume

Healthy Farms, Healthy Families -- Legume Bistro will host chefs Steven Beachy from Marty’s Market and Kevin Costa from Crested Duck for a fundraising dinner in support of Food and Water Watch’s “Healthy Farms, Healthy Families” campaign.  A social hour featuring Crested Duck charcuterie and bubbly beverages (probably Arsenal cider) will be followed by a four-course meal featuring antibiotic-free meats from Western PA.  The cost is $90, which includes tax, gratuity and beverage pairings for each course. For more information and tickets, please click here.

5-8 p.m. at Legume Bistro, 214 N. Craig St in North Oakland (15213).  

Back in 2009, Legume’s Sarah and Trevett Hooper decided that they should stop serving meat from factory farms that used antibiotics and artificial growth hormones. They didn't want Legume’s money to go to factory farms and also didn’t want to serve the community food that they didn’t think was healthy. They were happy to discover that the antibiotic-free meats actually tasted better, because they were produced on smaller operations that focused on quality.  The lesson learned over and over throughout the past seven years is that whenever one makes food purchasing decisions based on health and well being, it almost always leads to better tasting, more pleasurable experiences.

Our understanding of the issues surrounding antibiotics in our food system has changed over the years. In 2009, many people thought it was possible to protect oneself from the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms simply by avoiding meat from factory farms.  However, this isn’t the case.  The environmental impact of factory farming threatens everyone’s health, even those who don’t consume their products.  (For a good explanation as to why the misuse of antibiotics in factory farming is a public health issue, click here.)

Legume looks forward to hosting Steven and Kevin, as Trevett know of no other chefs in the region who make it a higher priority to work with healthy, antibiotic-free meats in their kitchens. In terms of sourcing meat, Steven and Kevin set a bar for integrity that is hard to match.  Their work is a reminder that a commitment to local, high-quality food in Pittsburgh can and should extend beyond local veggies, eggs, cheese and lamb.  That was a great place to start two decades ago, when the idea of a restaurant sourcing fresh, highest-quality foods was still a novel idea, but in 2014 it's time to start paying attention to what's at the center of the plate.  Crested Duck and Marty’s Market are leaders in this regard, which is why it made sense to invite them for this dinner.

Though the highlight of the evening will certainly be the dinner itself, there will also be a resource table available for anyone who wants to learn about farms and food businesses in the region that provide healthy, antibiotic-free meats and poultry.  

May 3: Pete Seeger tribute concert

Sing Out for Pete:  a free concert featuring local musicians including Anne Feeney, Mike Stout, Brad Yoder, Vanessa German, Miguel Sague, New Landers, Tracy Drach, Ginny Hildebrand and many more! 

Join us for a community tribute to the life, music and message of Pete Seeger on what would have been his 95th birthday. 

Musicians will perform and lead the audience in singing songs of freedom, peace, justice and love of Mother Earth written by or made popular by Pete Seeger. 

Spread the word, and then come for the joy and for the love of Pete!

7:30 pm at the First Unitarian Church, 605 Morewood Avenue, Pgh. 15213.  The event is free and open to the public. (There will be an opportunity to make a voluntary donation to cover costs.) Sponsored by a multitude of local organizations.  For information call the Thomas Merton Center 412-361-3022.

May 3: DumpBusters in Brookline

The hillside beneath Edgebrook Ave in Brookline was described in 1981 as the "Junk Yard Capital of the City" in a Pittsburgh Press Article.  Allegheny CleanWays DumpBusters faced that challenge and have been steadily chipping away at the hundreds of tires in this dump site since November 2013.  More than 2,500 tires have been removed from the beautiful wooded ravine!

This Saturday they need your help.  DumpBusters are switching gears and addressing the remaining trash. We need as many hands as we can get to eliminate the other debris in the ravine, to restore the area to its natural state.

10 a.m. - 1 p.m., starting from 1928 Edgebrook Ave, Brookline, Pittsburgh 15226.  Long pants and sturdy close-toed shoes are required. Long sleeved shirts are recommended.  Water, first aid kits, gloves, and tools will be provided.  A light pizza lunch will follow afterwards.  For location and parking details, and to register:

Thanks for doing your part to keep our green spaces beautiful!

Jun 2: Sustainable Monroeville with SOLAR and a garden tour

Join Sustainable Monroeville to learn from James Lease about switching the transmission part of your energy bills to renewables. 

If it's a nice day, folks can take a walk out the back door of the library to look at the amazing Monroeville Food Garden.  This will be the fourth season that the the Monroeville Food Garden will be supplying fresh produce to four local food banks.  The Monroeville Food Garden has supplied 500 pounds of fresh produce to four local food banks during the past three seasons!  Thanks so much to all of the volunteers that manifest this process!

7-8:30 at the Monroeville Public Library.  Go to for a few more details about Monday's program.

May 2: Farm to Community Conference

Women for a Healthy Environment will host the second annual Farm to Community Conference, featuring a track on Farm to School programs. National, regional and local speakers will address the subject of access to wholesome, fresh, local foods both in urban and rural settings.  We hope you will be able to join us for this dynamic day of learning!

8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Double Tree Hotel in Green Tree.  For more details and to register, click on this linkThere are many CEUs being offered, including Act 48 and SNAPa.