Brownsville man launches new biz after inventing smart meter

koseveckWhen most people have a leak in their water system they call a repairman; Mark Kovscek isn’t most people.

For Kovscek, who lives in Brownsville, a faulty boiler valve resulted in spending the summer at Amazon headquarters in Seattle working on perfecting and marketing a new smart home product to work with Alexa.

“It dates back to the summer of 2014. In August of that year my water bill was $50 higher. I kind of ignored it until September when it was $50 higher again,” Kovscek said. “The valve in my boiler was bad and it would fill up the overflow and put it down the drain without me knowing it.”

Kovscek said he researched systems that would detect leaks, but they were all more expensive than the money they would save in most cases. So he began designing his own smart water meter, resulting in the invention of H2know and Kovscek’s company, Conservation Labs.

“I found a way to measure sound waves and to convert them to water measurement,” Kovscek said.

Kovscek said each water-using device in a home has its own special sound frequency, letting H2know distinguish between a running toilet and a dripping faucet. H2know records all water usage in the house, not just the leaks, so homeowners can take steps to reduce their water usage if they would like.

“We can tell you not only that the water was running, but that the toilet was flushed seven times and the shower was run twice, and for how long,” Kovscek said.

Kovscek said H2know is designed to give homeowners information on how they are using water and can provide customized conservation measures, estimating that most homeowners could save as much as $250 a year through simple measures to prevent waste. The device, Kovscek said, also provides peace of mind by giving homeowners real-time information through a smartphone app and alerts.

“If it’s a catastrophic leak, we want you to know immediately, so you’ll receive either a call or a text,” Kovscek said. “We catch leaks within minutes, and not 30 days later like I did.”

Despite the technology, Kovscek said most homeowners could install the device themselves in a short period of time, clamping it to a pipe and connecting it to their wifi network.

Conservation Labs launched H2know at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year. Kovscek’s demonstration was seen by people from the Environmental Protection Agency and, unbeknownst to him at the time, by Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban.

Kovscek is currently participating in the second cohort of the Alexa Accelerator in Seattle, a 13-week program sponsored by Techstars Seattle and Amazon for startup companies. There are nine companies, including one from Tel Aviv and one from Cambridge, UK participating in the program. Each is working on its own products with voice-related technologies.

“Techstars has a lot of these programs around the country. The one here is with Amazon, Alexa Techstars Program,” Kovscek said.

Kovscek said the 13-week program has been extremely beneficial with workshops to support business growth and working on the technical design to work with Alexa.

“We met a lot of people. These people act as mentors and help us get the product to market. The real tangible benefit is that Amazon and Techstars are investors in Conservation Labs, so that brings money in,” Kovscek said.

Kovscek said that at present prototypes of H2know are in a few dozen homes, but he is now testing with companies that reach millions of homes.

“We expect the first pilot-ready devices in October or November. We’re expecting to have the final production run in the second quarter of 2019,” Kovscek said.

The H2know devices may also be pre-ordered through Conservation Lab’s Indiegogo account, https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/h2know-iot-water-meter-save-money-avoid-disaster-apps#/

Story by Christine Haines for Pennsylvania Bridges

Tips from TechBoxz: Setting alarms with Alexa

alexaIn past articles, we have talked quite extensively about the four major Home Assistant options: Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Home, Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri. By way of other publications, friends, and family you are more than likely knowledgeable in the most common commands they use, like turning on your TV or a lamp just by asking them, but did you know they can also create and share shopping lists, add appointments to your calendar, change television channels and remind you of tasks in need of attention? All four can perform each request with varying success, but Alexa still holds a slight edge. Add to this Microsoft’s recent collaboration with Amazon, and Cortana may not be around very long.

Full disclosure: I’m a bit biased towards Alexa. When I first became interested in home automation, Alexa was the only game in town. Siri was great, but her real strength was running an iPhone. She just hasn’t grown beyond dialing numbers and taking notes. As the years rolled by, Siri, Cortana, and Home added more features, but I already had an investment in Alexa. I will expand coverage and write a proper review once I’ve purchased the hardware for a break down of Home, Cortana, and Siri’s personal assistant abilities. For now, I focus on Alexa.

Alexa can be voice activated from your phone, Fire TV or an Alexa enabled device like the Echo or other third party devices such as Sonos’s One. Alexa can be accessed using the Alexa App to delete old recordings, see expanded options and skill settings or change account information. Here is a brief rundown of one of those areas.

Open the Alexa App and follow the selections: HOME > REMINDERS & ALARMS>

From here, we can add and review the currently set Reminders, Alarms and Timers. Though they sound very similar each has their own unique function. Alarms are the most fully featured of the three. Once set, Alarms go off at a specific time, can be snoozed, can be set to re-occurring and will continue to sound until turned off. Reminders are very similar to your phone’s notification function. A Reminder will go off at a specific time, but unlike an alarm there isn’t a snooze option and the alert only sounds once before turning itself off. Personally, I don’t see a need for the notification feature as it’s just a limited version of an Alarm. Timers are also limited alarms but serve a purpose I now can’t live without, the ability to easily set multiple alerts at specific times that delete themselves after I’ve turned them off. For those who spend a lot of time in the kitchen, imagine the ability to set five different timers, one for each item being prepared. I haven’t burned or overcooked anything since finding this option and my trusty LavaTools instant-read thermometer. Spouse Approval Factor = Ten plus.

When I started this article my goal was to impart some of the specific steps to find and use some of Alexa’s lesser-known features. I’ve underestimated the size and scope of that task. I now look at this as the introduction to a multi-part tutorial. If you have any questions or suggestions email eric@pabridges.com. See you next month.

Story by Eric J. Worton for Pennsylvania Bridges

Art drop brings scavenger hunt fun to promotion

ArtDropInvitePic-(1)Advertising for an annual big event typically involves shouting from social media rooftops and taking out ad space in local magazines or papers. But, for the second year in a row, Charleroi’s own Valley Art Club will employ an “art drop” as a fun way to lead art lovers to its annual juried exhibition. Hosted again this year by the Monessen Public Library, Valley Art Club’s 76th annual show kicks off with a public reception on Sunday, September 30, 2018 from 1 – 4 p.m., with exhibits on display until October 11.

During the exhibition, a Valley Art Club member will usually be present to answer questions and show visitors around said Francine Miceli, six year board member of the club. Most of the works on display will be for sale, while some artists offer prints as a more economical way to get art into the hands of a fan.

For the art drop, Valley Art Club members hailing from Belle Vernon, Charleroi, Coal Center, Grindstone, Monessen, Monongahela, Stockton, and West Newton will prepare original, one-of-a-kind works on a 5” x 7” medium using pencil, pen, or pastel.

“Most members are participating, and at least 25 original pieces will be dropped during the first week of September. They will be dropped in an envelope with the Valley Art Club logo at churches, doctor’s offices, libraries” and other places, Miceli said. Members will distribute works in their own town, increasing the drop’s coverage area.

The lucky finders will get to be keepers of the artist’s original, one-of-a-kind work. Though they’re sure to be pleasantly surprised by the quality of artwork that can fit on a 5” x 7” medium, the club asks one small favor, as Miceli explains, “We hope they do contact us in some way to let us know how they liked it…some artists have their card or an e-mail on the back and would like to be contacted to let us know what their reaction is to it.”

Also inside the art drop envelope is a postcard with information about the reception, including times and location. Additionally, Miceli’s own artwork fronts the postcard, giving art lovers a two-for-one find.

In addition to the art drop and art show, Valley Art Club continues its efforts throughout the year to get the message out that art is alive and well in the Mon Valley. “There’s still a lot of people who say ‘I didn’t know there are any artists around here.’ We try to do the best we can, and we’re trying to reach out more every year,’” Miceli said. “We do paint-outs (outdoor painting) at parks or different places people suggest we go. Sometimes we just go to the park and sketch so people know we exist.”

Valley Art Club’s visibility in the valley is set to increase through the talents of fellow artist and new “publicity person,” Dawn McKechnie, who Miceli says “wants to do a lot for the club. I’ve liked all her ideas so far.” Stay tuned for more.

Artists interested in joining the club’s roster may reach them at 724-872-4642 or directly on facebook.com/ValleyArtClub/. Miceli outlines a few requirements for membership, including a minimum age of 18, paying $20 for an annual membership, and attendance at three meetings per year along with the annual exhibition. Additionally, “We ask them to bring a couple of pieces in, and we vote whether to bring them in or not. I don’t know that anyone has been turned away.”

The club “could use some young blood in there” along with new artists, including more men, Miceli said, adding that the “only thing is, everything has to be two dimensional,” meaning no sculptures, textiles, photography, or the like.

Anyone finding a Valley Art Club art drop envelope is encouraged to post their find on facebook at: facebook.com/pg/ValleyArtClub/, while the public is invited to the September 30 juried exhibition and reception.

Painting top right by Francine Miceli.

Story by Keren Lee Dreyer for Pennsylvania Bridges

Pennsylvania Bridges – August 2018 – Ada’s Blessings

august-2018-cover_9xThe August 2018 edition of Pennsylvania BridgesAda’s Blessings – is now available online and in print.

Thoughts from Our Editor: August 2018 Edition

b6_heart_of_flowers_2912I love my job. I’ve said it before in this space, and I’ll likely say it again. Perhaps my favorite part of the job falls on the first weekend of the month, when we distribute the publication throughout the region.

To reduce costs –  and frankly – to get the heck out of my office for a change, I often go out on deliveries myself, and there’s no greater feeling in the world than getting to witness how eager people are to read each new edition. I’ve always been a multitasker, and even as we’re distributing the current issue, I’m always on the lookout for future stories. About a month ago, I encountered a story idea in our travels, a heartrending account of tragedy, perseverance, and hope I just knew we had to share with you.

Maybe you’ve seen the film A League of Their Own, in which Tom Hanks famously tells Bitty Schram “There’s no crying in baseball.” I love the film and that classic line perhaps even more, and it’s a saying I’ve adapted for the offices of Pennsylvania Bridges.

“There’s no crying in Journalism,” I often say, and up until we began putting together this edition, it was a saying that rang true.

Then one of our contributors, who often accompanies me on deliveries, spotted a flier at one of the area restaurants where we drop off copies each month.

A quick search on Facebook revealed more details, and I was soon introduced to Roxanne Sweany, one of the subjects of our lead story, which you can find on page 3.

Roxanne and her husband Jordan are remarkable people who’ve triumphed in the face of unspeakable loss, and it was inspiring to learn more about them.

It was also heartbreaking. The writer who penned the piece cried writing it, and I cried reading it. Then I shed some more tears when I was laying out the article and looking at the photos that accompanied it. Finally, I’m getting a little misty eyed just thinking about it now. Needless to say, my supply of tissues has been seriously depleted in the last couple of weeks.

Speaking of tissues, before you read Roxanne and Jordan’s story, I highly suggest stocking up on your own box of Kleenex™. You’ll need them, because you’re going to shed hot tears of sadness, too. You’re going to cry, and then you’re going to take some action based on what you read. My hope is that action is going to be to reach out to this inspirational couple and contribute to the cause close to their heart, Ada’s Blessings. Again, you can find their story and details on how to support the important work this organization is doing on page 3.

On a final note, I would be remiss if I didn’t also encourage you to keep reading past page 3, and enjoy all the fascinating stories we’ve highlighted in this month’s edition.

Thanks for reading!

Until next month,

Carla E. Anderton

Students in Action program continues to earn accolades

Students in Action members Jakob Sabatula (left), Jayda Smith, and Andrew Haven, along with sponsor Kellie Polvinale, gather outside the Brownsville Free Public Library, where the team is creating a teen space.

Students in Action members Jakob Sabatula (left), Jayda Smith, and Andrew Haven, along with sponsor Kellie Polvinale, gather outside the Brownsville Free Public Library, where the team is creating a teen space.

According to Newton’s first law of motion, an object at rest will stay at rest and a body in motion will remain in motion, unless acted on by an external force; in Brownsville that force is Students in Action.

The high school program started seven years ago continues to influence the direction of growth in the downtown area. In the 2011-12 school year, a group of six students approached Brownsville Borough Council with a proposal to put a stage next to the library. The idea evolved until it became a park with a concert gazebo adjacent to the Market Street parking lot along Dunlap Creek. A private developer has constructed senior apartments across the street.

“From people not being able to get things moving, six kids were able to make it happen,” said Kellie Polvinale, one of the current teacher sponsors of SIA.

Polivinale and Rebecca Harvey, both kindergarten teachers, were asked to take over the program at the start of last school year after the first sponsor, Kelli Dellarose took a new position. Polvinale said they were tapped as the sponsors because Harvey’s son was a senior in the program last year and Polvinale’s younger sister had been one of the founding members of the group. Polvinale said the new superintendent, Dr. Keith Hartbauer, has been very supportive of SIA.

“He was very proud of what this team had accomplished and wanted to keep it going,” Polvinale said.

The SIA team is made up of two students from the sophomore, junior and senior classes, with two new sophomores selected through applications and interviews each fall, giving the team continuity and experience from year to year. This year’s SIA team included seniors Jaden Harvey and Andrew Havens, juniors Jayda Jones and Salanieta Waqanivalu and sophomores Sainiana Waqanivalu and Jakob Sabatula.

“At first I wondered why we kept it so small. I looked at other schools that had 30, 40, 50 students involved,” Polvinale said.

Polvinale said she has come to realize that the small team is actually able to accomplish more than a large group.

“Since there are only six of us, if people don’t do their job, you can tell,” Jones said.

SIA is a national student leadership program started by the Jefferson Awards Foundation, designed for students to pursue public service including their entire school and the wider community for maximum impact.

Jones said she was very active at Brownsville Area High School her freshman year, serving as class president and joining other activities.

“But it was all school oriented. I noticed our community wasn’t doing so well,” Jones said.

When the opportunity came up to apply for SIA, she jumped at it, seeing it as a chance to impact the town.

Sabatula said he was influenced by the work of the teams that had gone before him.

“My freshman year, seeing the past SIA members, it was very inspiring. When the stage project was first announced and the sign was put up with the amount they needed to reach, it really motivated me. The stage being completed has spurred other projects in town,” Sabatula said.

Jones said the current team at first thought about ways to bring more businesses to town, even to the point of considering what type of business they would like to start, but realized that running their own business would be impractical.

Smith said the team realized it would be easier to get people from outside of Brownsville to invest in the town if the people who live in the community are already utilizing the resources that are there.

The current SIA team is working to develop a teen space at Brownsville Free Library. The project started with the idea of developing a basement room of the library into a place where teens could collaborate on projects, learn new skills and just have a place to call their own. The library board has asked the students to consider an addition to the library, which would provide even more opportunities. The team has visited other community libraries over the past year to see how teen spaces have been developed and have settled on a model which provides the tools students need, such as sewing machines or guitars, but generally doesn’t have formal programs.

“We’re in the very beginning stages,” Polvinale said. “They want a place where they can get together and share resources and help one another.”

Although the teen space is just a concept at the moment, the project was strong enough to garner first place in the national Jefferson Awards competition this year. Sitting through the awards ceremony was difficult, the students said.

“It was nerve-wracking. Had we done enough to win? These other schools had done amazing things,” Jones said.

The students said that when the bronze and silver winners were announced and only gold was left, they assumed they hadn’t won, but were ready to get back to work on their project.

“When I realized we had won, I didn’t hear anything else that was said,” Haven said.

Polvinale said the Jefferson Awards committee realizes that big projects take time and start with big ideas.

“The original team won on just an idea,” Polvinale said. “What they see with these students is they want to make impacts that will last years and years. When Jakob goes off to college, that stage will still be there.”

Sabatula said it took determination to complete the stage project.

“Just one step at a time, and it carries on by itself. We had the help and support, it was unbelievable,” Sabatula said. “Once we came across a problem, we worked on it as a team and found a solution and kept moving forward.”

Story by Christine Haines for Pennsylvania Bridges

The Entertainment Chuckwagon: A Tribute to Joe DeNardo, Pt. I

Joe-Denardo-Cal-4Back in 1969, the Monroeville Mall opened, which allowed Pittsburghers to shop at 125 retailers and ice skate in a tropical setting in the “Ice Palace.” They could watch Marshall Matt Dillion (James Arness) keep the peace in Dodge City on their new color television sets with new episodes of the hit western “Gunsmoke” during prime time on KDKA, and they could satisfy their appetites by purchasing a dinner box for only 60 cents at any one of 16 Pittsburgh Kentucky Fried Chicken locations.

It was this year when Joe DeNardo began his run as meteorologist on WTAE where, for the next 35 years until his retirement in 2005, he was known as a reliable source of an accurate weather forecast. He was more than a meteorologist, though. He was a trusted friend Pittsburghers invited into their homes via their television sets.

There were three channels—11, 2, and 4. No weather channel, no internet, no apps on cell phones—no cell phones. If you had a golf game planned and you didn’t want to be swinging at hail stones instead of golf balls, if you had a romantic picnic planned for you and your sweetie and you didn’t want to be drenched with rain, if you were facing a commute in wintery conditions or didn’t want to be up to your bellbottoms shoveling snow, your local television weatherman was the one to count on. Starting in 1969, for many Pittsburghers, that man was Joe DeNardo.

DeNardo’s Pittsburgh weather forecasting career actually began back in in 1957 at KDKA. But in 1968, he decided to leave.

In a November 22, 1968 interview with Press TV and Radio editor Vince Leonard, DeNardo explained (1) why he and KDKA were parting ways: “Well, there are so many forecasters associated with KDKA that I have no control over disassociating them with my weather service.”

But another career opportunity was just around the corner, thanks to Paul Long, a friend and colleague from the KDKA days, where they first met in 1960. Long was hired by WTAE just a few months before DeNardo in 1969.

After hiring Long, WTAE General Manager John Conomikes sought his advice. Long recalled this discussion in an archival interview:

Conomikes asked me what ideas I had, and I said ‘I’d like to see your weatherman be Joe DeNardo. I think he could be had now,’ or words to that effect. And he said, ‘We’ve been talking to him, and he’s playing hard to get.’ And I gave him some more tips on how to tie the rope around DeNardo and drag him in here feet first.

Of course, Conomikes eventually did sign DeNardo.

“DeNardo’s the name. Weather is his game!” touted a February 24, 1970 ad in The Pittsburgh Press, featuring a smiling DeNardo in a suit holding both an umbrella and a tennis racket. “And DeNardo makes it a pretty accurate game. Oh, once in a while he carries an umbrella to his tennis match, but most of the time he’s right on the button with the most accurate forecasts in town.”

The duo of Paul Long and Joe DeNardo became a hit. Both were familiar and beloved faces in local Pittsburgh television news. Long stayed with WTAE until his retirement in 1994 and passed away in 2002 at the age of 86.

DeNardo and Long also liked to play practical jokes on each other. As DeNardo recalled in an archival WTAE interview, one involved Long’s habit of leaving his keys in his car after he parked.

One night, (2) DeNardo hid Long’s car by moving it from WTAE’s lower lot, where Long had parked it, to the upper lot. Later after the 11pm newscast was done, DeNardo found Long in the lower parking lot, looking for his car. DeNardo said to Long, “You leave the keys in it all the time. It had to happen sooner or later.” DeNardo suggested Long look in the lower lot. While he did, DeNardo quickly drove and parked the car where Long had originally parked it. Long returned, saw the car, said “I’ll be a son-of-a-. . .,” got in, and drove home.

TO BE CONTINUED…

For more of our Joe DeNardo tribute please check out September’s issue of Pennsylvania Bridges.

Sources consulted for this piece:

(1) news.google.com/newspapers?id=nYE0AAAAIBAJ&sjid=CJYEAAAAIBAJ&pg=7288%2C3570870

(2) old.post-gazette.com/obituaries/20020713longobit0713p2.asp

Story by Chuck Brutz for Pennsylvania Bridges

Ghost of club animates Mon Valley Academy for the Arts

JoeCampusThe Twin Coaches Supper Club, formerly on Route 51 in Rostraver Township, was a swinging big band joint with a history spanning from the early 1930s through its fiery demise in October of 1977.

The club was purchased in 1944 by Rose and Tony Calderone, who brought major acts to their newly enlarged hotspot – a must-stop venue for touring performers. Legends such as Tony Bennett, Charleroi native Shirley Jones, Canonsburg’s own Perry Como, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sammy Davis, Jr., graced the club’s stage through the years. Backed by the Frankie Barr Orchestra, whose top-notch professional musicians made easy work of even the most intricate of scores, the sound and scene were the best around.

Sometime in 1997, Charleroi resident and professional drummer, Mark Smith, purchased a 1938 vintage Slingerland Radio King drum kit. Further research revealed it was owned and played by original Frankie Barr Orchestra drummer Glenn Brady. And sometime in 2015, when Smith came across two suitcases full of 68 handwritten music charts from the Coaches, he decided it was time to breathe new interest into the Valley’s music scene.

Smith met with Susan Sparks, an artist with experience in non-profit arts management, and California area representative Pete Daley, to discuss the possibility of forming a charter music school or performance center with the idea “to take art to different venues.” But without sufficient funds or additional personnel, a clear pathway for their idea was not evident. However, Smith, with big band charts in hand and keen interest from original members of the Frankie Barr Orchestra, created an event to turn the ghost of Twin Coaches Supper Club into a living, breathing phenomenon.

On November 16, 2016 “A Night at The Coaches” gala music event took place. “We had a reunion concert at Belle Vernon High School, geared on the Coaches show, including nine members of the Coaches band,” Smith enthused, “It was our first big venue. We had 350 people for a two hour show dedicated to memory of the Coaches, a dance troupe, and five featured vocalists.”

Though the show was a great success, it also revealed a somber truth about arts in the Mon Valley. “We said ‘there is a void here,’” Smith explained, continuing “I made a living in the Valley playing. And in the Valley, the arts have fallen apart…for the last 15 – 20 years work has become difficult. In the Valley’s heyday you could make a living as a musician and raise a family. (In more recent years) it has dwindled, and all my colleagues have trouble, too.”

Still, “Memory of the Coaches sparked this renewed effort for live entertainment” in the Valley, Smith said. So, to fill the void, Smith and company “decided to create and incorporate Mon Valley Academy for the Arts (MVAA, a 501(c)(3), with Smith as president). Our mission is to create cultural events and incubate younger players with older players.”

To find those players, Joe Campus, 83, a trumpet player, conductor, and arranger from the Coaches “came up with the idea of the Twin Coaches Junior Stage Band,” Smith said. “We went to local middle and high schools and recruited 17 student musicians. Each had to be interviewed, auditioned, and rehearsed, just like the Coaches band.”

Students from areas traversing Woodland Hills to Waynesburg passed muster and became part of the junior stage band. With mentoring and teaching help from Duquesne University graduates, along with Joe Campus, those students are learning the ins and outs of both music performance and the music business.

Smith said of the mentoring process “We talk to them about the economy of the business – how to be on time, how to dress, how to spend your money, how to practice. We talk about the whole rounded business of being a professional musician.”

MVAA_JazzTrioFunding for charts, advertising, and more is provided in part by the Frick Tri-County Credit Union, which sponsored the junior stage band and provided an additional perk for each student who completed their 2017 concert: A $200 cash scholarship. An additional perk for the student musicians was playing with Joe Campus’s former Twin Coaches Supper Club band. “We did this as a tribute to Joe. We want to keep the junior stage band intact so it’s a working band with its own jobs” Smith said.

Word of the junior orchestra is out and having positive effects for live music in the Valley. In addition to Chess Park concerts by jazz and big band acts, along with The Twin Coaches Junior Jazz Trio, Smith received a “great call from a local dance studio that wants to do a dance recital with the Twin Coaches Junior Orchestra. Over the years, dance recitals went to records and CDs, but we’re talking about live music with dancers on the stage.”

The Mon Valley Academy for the Arts has also grown into its own permanent office at the newly renovated Mon Valley Chamber of Commerce Building, along with enjoying an expanded volunteer board, advisory board, and staff. Additional funding to keep the programs running is an ongoing need, and the MVAA continues working on grants to help cover expenses.

To find out more about the Mon Valley Academy for the Arts and its upcoming events, including its November, 2018 gala, art shows, and more, friend them at facebook.com/pg/monvalleyacademyforthearts.org/ and for the Twin Coaches Orchestra Project, facebook.com/groups/1694687720747275/about/ Contact MVAA via e-mail at info@monvalleyacademyforthearts.org

Story by Keren Lee Dreyer for Pennsylvania Bridges

Pastor Hargraves: On the Need for Self Care

There is going to be a painting project soon. Not sure exactly when but it is likely to happen before the school year begins. For the painting to occur, the paint color had to be chosen. The color choice – grey or gray. Light grey/gray.  And so began the process of selecting the color.

The numerous choices within the light grey palette is unreal to my minimalistic mind. I just wanted to have three maybe four shades to choose from and pick one. But no, there had to be eighty plus that would all be to my consideration “light gray”. The more time spent looking at gray/grey colors and thinking I was ready for the choice, the more I had thoughts of doubt.

What if it does not look nice? What if no one likes it? What if we do not get enough paint? What if? Good grief Charlie Brown, it is not reattaching a limb. It is paint; light grey paint. Just make a choice, I thought, with teeth clenched.

And then, the voice of reason. “I will pick up a few samples and paint them on the wall. We can pick after they dry.” I am still thanking God she picked up one color sample and it looks very good in every light and shadowed area. Only one sample because there was no help in the store’s paint department. (Thank God for no help at the store either.) One choice, it works well. One choice, even better than three or four! Bring on the paint project with this paint color; light grey. Well, more specifically sea glass grey or is it sea glass gray?

It is clear now that the selection of the pain color that seemed a bit overwhelming really was not the root of the problem. It was the proverbial mess caused when there is too much going on and not enough self-care happening. I think of the paper plate commercial that has the spoonful of whatever plopped on the paper plate and the paper plate collapses. Well, honestly, nothing collapsed but geez did I get caught up in the grays and the greys for too long because my plate was full. The fullness of the plate not the problem; I had the “right” paper plate brand to hold up all that was on it, rather my self-care was lacking. Perhaps like one that forgets to take the anti-reflux medication before bed. Oops, that’ll wake you up, for sure.

Sometimes the little things remind us of bigger things. Today, paint color reminded me that self-care is important and needs to be our priority. Self-care goes at the top of the list. It does not have to take a long time or a lot of money. It does go a long way. It makes us kinder, more focused, and more self-aware. It promotes healthiness of body, mind, and spirit. It promotes independence in others, relaxation in oneself, and good stewardship of one another. Maybe your self-care means saying “no” or giving yourself a break to have breakfast for dinner tonight. Maybe your selfcare means, fifteen minutes of exercise no more excuses. Maybe your selfcare means, jamming out to a favorite song – two minutes of ME time.

Whatever your self-care is, give yourself a little time for your health, so that you aren’t bothered between gray and grey.  I’m going for a walk around the block now; it is good for my soul and the next choice I will need to make. And I think I will call my sister-in-law, she tends to choose soda and snowcaps for lunch. She might need a self-care chat.

Peace, Pastor Dawn

Bedner’s Farm and Greenhouse: More than Flowers & Veggies

bednars3I’m not sure that Stephen and Elizabeth Bedner could have foreseen the generational farming heritage their family would spawn in the years following their beginning acreage in Upper St. Clair in 1917. For decades their family would grow exponentially as would their farming community. It would even reach as far south as Palm Beach County in 1960. In 1985, the effort expanded to 42 acres in McDonald, Pennsylvania delivering fresh vegetables and hanging flower baskets to their retail shop in Upper St. Clair. In 2000, four more greenhouses were built to grow more container gardens and perennials. In 2006, a nexus garden was built to be used as a larger retail space in McDonald, Pennsylvania to include an expanded perennial section and a nursery area. Nexus gardens are greenhouses using heating and cooling for food and floriculture production. Finally, Passiflora Springs debuts as their newest venture into wine making.

Currently, Bedner’s Farm and Greenhouse is a member of six associations including Washington County Farm Bureau and American Nursery and Landscape Association. Additionally, the farm has strong community support from fourteen organizations including Pittsburgh Botanic Garden and Cecil Township Parks and Recreation.

In keeping with its commitment to community, Bedner’s has added many social events to their retail offering of plants, vegetables and flowers. All the following take place at their location at 315 Coleman Road, McDonald, PA 15057. You can contact them at (724) 926-2541. Their hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Weekend hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They have a Facebook page at BednarGreenhouse.

August 2, 5, 9, 12, 16, 19, 23, 26 and 30 – 11 am – 2 p.m., U-Pick Veggies

Pick your own vegetables at their Family Farm. Stop by anytime between the hours of 11 a.m.- 2 p.m.  They provide the picking containers. $15 per chip basket.

August 4 – 2 p.m. – 3 p.m., Sandcast Leaf Birdbath

In this workshop, you’ll cast your very own garden-ready birdbath. $15 per person. Registration is required.

August 12 – 2 p.m. – 3 p.m., Rock Fairy Houses

Join local artist Jane Irwin as she guides you step by step to paint several of these adorable rock fairy houses. No prior art experience is necessary. Painting will be adapted to work with every level of artist. Fee: $20, includes instruction and all materials. Registration is required to hold your spot. Max class size of 15 people.

August 12 – 2 p.m. – 3 p.m., Monthly Weed Walk

Meet at the store entrance to go on an educational plant walk around our property with expert Jen Dalke.

August 18 – 10 am – 11 am, Yoga on the Farm

Take your yoga practice outdoors for an invigorating and peaceful yoga experience. Increase your strength and flexibility while soothing your mind, body and spirit. Classes will be led by Kristen Kolenda RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) and adapted for all age and experience levels. $10 per class.

August 18 – 2 p.m. – 3 p.m., Fairy Garden Workshop

Enjoy building your very own miniature garden in this all ages workshop.

Construct enchanting fairy hideaways with tools and supplies included in the class fee. Participants will take home one fairy garden with plants, accessories, and character for $35.

August 18 @ 6 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., Fields to Fork Wine Dinner

Enjoy a scenic hayride through their fields, live music and a multi-course dinner prepared with homegrown produce and other locally produced foods. Each dinner course will be paired with a wine selection from the debut of Bednars’ own winery, Passiflora Springs. Guest Restauranteur and Wine Connoisseur Debbie Curigliano, Piccolina’s Guest Chef Chelsey Rawson and Piccolina’s Winemaker Russ Bedner. $125 per person, tax and gratuity included. 21 and over. Tickets available online only at www.bednersgreenhouse.com and are nonrefundable. The menu is pre-set. Please indicate any food allergies at the time of ticket purchase. Flat footwear is recommended, as this is a true farm experience. In the case of inclement weather, this rain or shine, outdoor event will be held inside the greenhouse. Tickets will be on sale until August 8.

August 19 – 1 p.m. – 2 p.m., Canning Exhibit and Dial Gauge Testing

Home Food Preservation Canning & Freezing Basics An extension educator will be available to teach you all you need to know about canning fruits and veggies. Presented by Dori Owczarzak, Extension Educator. For more information, call: Penn State Extension 724-858-4208.

August 19 – 2 p.m. – 3 p.m., Succulent Centerpiece

Join local artist Jane Irwin as she guides you step by step to paint and plant an adorable centerpiece. Succulents will be planted at the bottom of the dish.  No prior art experience is necessary. Painting will be adapted to work with every level of artist. Fee: $40, includes instruction and all materials. Registration is required to hold your spot. Max class size of 15 people.

August 23 – 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., The Surprising Benefits of Goldenrod

Join expert Jen Dalke to learn all about goldenrod and make a tincture to take home. All supplies included. $15 per person.

August 25 – 12 p.m. – 2 p.m., Hypertufa Planter Workshop

Create one, or more, hypertufa containers to take home. They have recycled materials for you to use as molds but feel free to bring your own. Items like planters, dishpans, baskets, soda bottles, etc. will all work. Please bring your own rubber gloves, if desired! $25 per person.

August 25 – 2 p.m. – 3 p.m., Terrarium Workshop

Learn how to make your own terrarium and how to keep them healthy and thriving year-round. Then, you can make your own terrarium to take home. $15 per person includes instruction, planting soil, rocks, moss, twigs and stone selection and light refreshments.

August 26 – 2 p.m. – 3 p.m., “Bee Happy” Garden Sign

Join local artist Jane Irwin as she guides you step by step to paint a rustic garden sign. No prior art experience is necessary. Painting will be adapted to work with every level of artist. Fee: $20, includes all supplies and step-by-step painting instruction, Registration is required. Max class size of 15 people.

August 30 – 3 p.m. – 5 p.m., DIY: Crafting Wild Medicine 101

Master the art of making your own herbal remedies. Discuss how to make tinctures, syrups, salves and more. $20 per person.

For more information and events, visit Bedner’s Farm and Greenhouse at: www.bednersgreenhouse.com.

Story by Fred Terling for Pennsylvania Bridges