Sports & Outdoors

The Brush Hog: Thoughts on a Fall Field Cutting

Twice a year, in June and October, I cut the long grass and other species of plants, named derisively as weeds, in my fields. It’s a bit like cutting grass with a huge lawnmower. I use a Kubota tractor with a twin-bladed brush hog attached. The cutter is about eight feet wide. For most, no …

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Ageless Wisdom: Dick Groat, 87

Dick Groat, 87, shares his path to becoming a professional athlete, golf course operator and broadcaster. My family made me whatever I might be. I had great parents and two sisters that were school teachers and two brothers who were athletes at Pitt. I was a very fortunate person to have grown up, as the …

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Saving Bats and Great Fishing Along Spruce Creek

The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has recently acquired a unique property in northern Huntingdon County that does two unusual things—provides public access for world-class trout fishing on Spruce Creek and helps save struggling bats with desperately needed habitat. In addition to the exceptional fishing, this 13-acre property includes a major limestone cave network that may provide …

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Know when to hold ’em: Le’Veon Bell stares down the Steelers

In poker, a player holding cards that he or she knows cannot be beaten is deemed to have “the nuts.” It’s the best possible position—without question, you cannot lose. You can, however, not win—an opponent may be holding equivalent cards to yours. Both the Steelers’ front office and their star running back Le’Veon Bell find …

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The Mysteries of Feral Bees

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, One clover, and a bee, And revery, The revery alone will do, If bees are few. —Emily Dickinson I am a failed beekeeper. I had two hives. One died the first year and the other lasted about five, from which I got beautiful honey, …

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Hits and Hugs: The Evolution of Roller Derby

Cheswick, May 12, 2018: It happens about 10 minutes into the first half of the game between the Steel Hurtin’—the A-team of the Steel City Roller Derby—and the Chattanooga Roller Girls. Three big Chattanooga blockers, arms locked firmly together, are just about to smack Zorra, the tall jammer for the Steel Hurtin’, when she makes …

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Tryon-Weber Woods Natural Area

There are many forests to enjoy in Penn’s Woods, but one of the best examples of a mature beech-maple forest can be found in Tryon-Weber Woods, in western Crawford County about 90 miles north of Pittsburgh. This 100-acre property was originally protected by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in 1976, and was just expanded last year. …

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Steelers Start Your Engines

As summer moves along, the big NFL machine quietly starts its engine. Training camps kick off across the league this week, with the Steelers setting up shop for their 53rd season at St. Vincent College in Latrobe. Most starting positions on the offense are set, but there are a few intriguing competitions worth monitoring. Planning …

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Getaway to the Pennsylvania Wilds

Sometimes a person just needs to get away—from work, from people, from everything in the city. For me that means heading up to the hills and waters of upstate Pennsylvania. On one particular occasion, however, not even my hunting/fishing cabin would do. So I packed a one-man tent and planned to sleep out under the …

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Play Ball! Faster Please

Major League Baseball’s department of Faster Play, fearing that people will think the game has become sluggish and dull and will quit watching, has devised yet another new rule to perk things up, as Pirates fans might note this season. This one’s about mound visits. Like when the catcher goes out to the pitcher and …

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The Secret to Finding Morels

“I can’t seem to give ’em up I just like morels too much I like other ’shrooms and such But I just like morels too much Oyster mushrooms mighty fine Seafood and some nice white wine Chanterelles’re tasty too In a wild mushroom ragout Storebought shrooms can be a crutch but I just like morels …

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The Elusive and Beautiful Green Heron

The green heron lay cradled in the crook of Bob Mulvihill’s arm like a baby, or at least that’s how I remember it. He blew on the bird’s belly and a cloud of powder down swirled forth, an adaptation that in all likelihood adds some moisture-shedding resistance to the wing feathers of this water-loving species. …

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Fleeting Blossoms of the ’Burgh

April showers bring May flowers, but May showers can quickly destroy the delicate blossoms on flowering trees. Sometimes the blooms only last a few days before a sudden downpour—of which Pittsburgh has been experiencing often these days—washes them away. In this collection of images, Pittsburgh photographer David Aschkenas captures the fleeting beauty by lighting the …

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Steelers Add Key Players Who Should See Playing Time

The 2018 NFL draft is in the books. The league again elected to feature a number of former NFL players to make team selections, perhaps to quell the booing of Commissioner Roger Goodell. It didn’t make a difference. It did, however, produce a very emotional draft moment. To a roaring crowd, linebacker Ryan Shazier walked …

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The Allegheny River

In many ways, the Allegheny River is the centerpiece of our region. It traverses landscapes from wilderness to urban and provides recreational opportunities in many different places along its course. One of the most spectacular parts of the river is the free-flowing 125 miles of the middle Allegheny from the Kinzua Dam in Warren County …

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Our Changing Pastime

On a snowy night, I’m tossing winter batting practice in a gym to nine-year-old boys who play for Steel City Select, an elite Pittsburgh travel baseball club. We’re getting ready for the 2018 season, another chapter in the history of a game invented by Americans almost two centuries ago, and which has deep roots in …

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Making Maple Syrup

What is this?—syrup, maple syrup in a quart jar, syrup my grandfather made twenty-five years ago for the last time. I remember coming to the farm in March in sugaring time, as a small boy. He carried the pails of sap, sixteen-quart buckets, dangling from each end of a wooden yoke that lay across his …

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The Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbills are birds worth traveling for. Sometimes they even travel to us. Typically found on the Gulf Coast, the first time I spotted one was on a marathon birding adventure I took to south Texas in 2005. To bird far from Pittsburgh meant I’d see unfamiliar species in new habitats. The spoonbills didn’t disappoint. …

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A Mountain in the Winter

People often hike through landscapes without having a real sense of the place. In the Laurel Highlands, there is an opportunity to get a “sense of place” before or after your trek, by taking advantage of a sweeping bird’s-eye view of the east flank of Laurel Hill and the Laurel Hill Creek valley, at the …

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The Cedar Waxwing

Pittsburgh has produced some renowned birders and ornithologists. Our hills and rivers attract a wide variety of birds, and they, in turn, inspire generation after generation to look to the skies—from John James Audubon, who painted the long-extinct Passenger Pigeon while passing through the Gateway to the West (an old moniker for our fair city), …

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Winter Patterns

“Where, twisted round the barren oak, The summer vine in beauty clung, And summer winds the stillness broke, The crystal icicle is hung.” —From “Woods in Winter,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Walking our woods in winter, I see the natural world differently than in the warmer months. Distracted by neither color nor blossom, I instead …

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Becoming a Deer Farmer

Deer may be the taxidermy industry’s essential resource, but living deer are making a much bigger economic impact now, thanks to the growing business of deer farming. Deer farming is growing faster than any other industry in rural America, according to a study by Texas A&M University. The business provides jobs to tens of thousands …

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