Come and help us with a native plant restoration project near Pittsburgh, USA


United States


Favourited 197 times

  • rating

    Host rating

  • feedbacks



  • last activity

    Last activity


  • Last email replied

    Reply rate

    100.0 %

  • Last email replied

    Average reply time:

    within 1 day

  • Badges

    Super Host

 Min stay requested: 1 month or more

  • Description


    In the countryside-near-Pittsburgh, typical informal University of Pittsburgh associate professor also manages a large native plants (trees, shrubs and forbs) restoration on about 15 acres (about 6 hectares) of woods (1 acre woods and some 14 acres of adjoining woods of neighbors).

    Please note that as a host I need to check the WorkAway website for emails which I try to do each day. I am not notified in advance of emails to me, and there does not exist an app for hosts as there is for travellers. It typically takes me several hours to respond the first time to an enquiry as I am not checking every hour so please be patient. If I subsequently give you my gmail address, then please use that address if you wish quicker replies. Thanks. We have been able to pick up Workawayers arriving either at the Pittsburgh airport, bus station (Greyhound or Megabus) or train station (Amtrak).

    We prefer, if possible, volunteers who plan to stay a minimum of a month as then they will have enough time to actually learn something though we understand some last minute workawayers only have perhaps 2 weeks. We also prefer interactive volunteers rather than just retreating to their room most of the time. Share meals and conversations, help with cooking and household chores.

  • Type of help

    Type of help

    General Maintenance
    Help with Eco project

  • Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    50 eastern white pine, 400 spruce, 300 serviceberry, 125 graystem dogwood, 100 red twig dogwood, 50 buttonbush, 100 American plum, 100 crabapple, 10 pagoda dogwood, 7 swamp white oak, 5 chestnut oak, 50 black gum, Canadian hemlock, river birch and numerous ninebark, monarda, coneflower, cardinal flower and other forbs have been planted in the last 48 months. A workawayer could learn how to help prepare grounds for such mass plantings as well as learn how to remove invasive species such as tree of heaven, privet, Japanese stiltgrass, Oriental bittersweet, multiflora rose and garlic mustard.

    Possible skills to learn:
    Native plants identification and planting and growing
    Invasive plants identification and removal
    Wild bird identification by sight and by song (learn to record your observations on ebird)
    Habitat restoration landscaping
    Hand tool proficiency (hammer, pliers, clippers)
    Bicycle maintenance

  • Help


    Restoring our woods and woods of neighbors (altogether some 15 acres) with native trees, shrubs and flowers. Principal task is removing logs from cutdown invasive trees and removing non-native invasive shrubs, vines, flowers and grasses such as Japanese stiltgrass, Oriental bittersweet, multiflora rose and garlic mustard. Also building cages of chicken wire to protect new trees and shrubs from deer. Manual help such as hauling logs with a wheelbarrow would be great. Also digging holes (have gas-powered auger to make it easier) for planting. In the past 4 years, about 2000 trees and shrubs have been planted to help restore the habitat to attract songbirds and other wildlife. The plan is to continue planting at least 500 native perennial trees and shrubs and many forbs each year.

    There is a lot of potential work to do. This is a hobby native plant restoration project. At the moment, the main jobs are removal of non-native invasive plants and the planting of native plants on about 15 acres (about 6 hectares) of land. I highly recommend reading "Bringing Nature Home" by Douglas Tallamy to help get an idea of some of the things we are doing and the general rationale for this project.

    Here's an idea of what we are currently working on:

    Daily Activities:

    Short Term Projects:
    clearing maintenance of creek riparian zone

    Long Term Projects:
    Develop a prairie with native warm season grasses
    Develop a large fenced-in vegetable garden
    Interior house painting
    Build a one room well insulated elevated house in the woods

    Replacing acres of non-native invasive privet shrubs with native aspen seedlings to attract American woodcock nesting.
    Getting bird species that have been in 50 percent decline or more over the past 50 years to return and nest in the area (such as wood thrush; also hooded warbler, Louisiana waterthrush, northern bobwhite). If you have a smartphone, you can load the Merlin (Cornell Ornithology) for bird identification and bird songs, Song Sleuth (especially for bird songs) and eBird (for recording bird sightings as well as to see past data) apps.

    Style: We strive for a relaxed style. We promote problem solving, self-direction, and cooperative help. Our goal is to have concise direction followed by an engaged atmosphere in which we work towards a common goal. We are looking for help for all aspects of native plant restoration: gardening, digging, fencing, planting, bush clearing, irrigation, weeding, cooking, sleeping etc... If you are interested in being a jack or Jill of all trades and are interested in extended stay, this is the place for you. We strive for DIY as a way of self-empowerment and creative expression.

    What a volunteer day looks like: wake up and cook breakfast. Workawayers must be able to prepare breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner on their own. We provide the raw materials, e.g., rice, vegetables, beans, bread, eggs, cheese, PB, etc... We are omnivores, eating meat, mostly venison, in moderation. You are responsible for cleaning up after yourself. Volunteering starts around 8:30 and we work until we get hungry for lunch - 12:20 or so. After lunch we do a few more tasks or take a break during the hottest hours of the day. Workawayers do at least 4-5 hours of help a day. After that we have dinner and you are free to do as you like.

    We want to do what we can to provide a workable social space in which to learn and share knowledge about the restoration of native plants. If you have boots and work clothes (long pants and a shirt or coveralls) that you can bring with you for doing tasks in the woods, that would be great. We do have some in stock.

  • Languages spoken

    Languages spoken

    English, Spanish, limited Chinese

  • Accommodation


    Food and accommodation is available for up to 25 hours help a week (4-5 hours per day, 5 days a week). Accommodation is simple and informal. The house is 250 feet (76 meters) from the road. The property is 2.6 acres. There is an acre of woods in the back. We have multiple bird species and other wildlife. Small bedroom off kitchen is available for workaway guest. Bathroom with shower is in the basement, and is rustic. The house is fed by a well, and the water pressure is ok. House has old carpets. Kitchen is small. House is from 1922 and needs some renovation (new roof, insulation etc.) which has yet to occur. House comes with two pianos and a guitar that guests are welcome to play.

  • What else ...

    What else ...

    The house is close to the city of Pittsburgh which is a beautiful vibrant city. A bus stop for a city bus line is 20 to 30 minutes walk down a steep hill. Some things to do are going for jazz at Andy's Wine Bar (Fairmont Hotel), visiting parks such as Frick Park or Schenley Park and also playing tennis at Highland Park public tennis courts. We do not have dogs or cats due to health reasons. The house is next to a cemetery which is nice for walks or jogging or bicycling.

  • A little more information

    A little more information

    • Internet access

    • Limited internet access

      Limited internet access

    • We have pets

    • We are smokers

  • How many Workawayers can stay?

    How many Workawayers can stay?

    More than two

  • ...

    Hours expected

    Maximum 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week

The woods where much of the work is done.
Bedroom with single bed for a workaway volunteer.
Thabi from South Africa working on front porch nursery
WorkAway volunteer June from Brazil meeting candidate Lisa Middleman, Independent for District Attorney of Allegheny County
Eastern box turtle
Jens with wall of concrete blocks (from his shoulder and up) he and Daniel or with me constructed with mortar learned from watching youtube videos.
bird approaching birdhouse by Thilo and Mareike
Chipmunk with fat cheeks by Thilo and Mareike
Great spangled fritillary on coneflower by Thilo and Mareike
Eating dinner on front steps by Thilo and Mareike
Rear of house by Thilo and Mareike
Turkey hen with two chicks. Photo taken by Workawayer couple Mareike and Thilo during their stay July 2018
part of native plant nursery
Bluebird eggs before hatching

These are extra optional ratings when members leave feedback. The average rating left for each option is displayed.

Accuracy of profile: (4.8)

Cultural exchange: (5.0)

Communication: (5.0)

Host ref number: 876156639885