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Currently I have an opening for a single person or a couple. Preference is for people who love to be outside in the woods. Additionally if you already live in Pittsburgh and would like to volunteer during the day, we have many projects. For volunteers who wish to live in my house, the expectation is that you have already been practicing physical distancing and that you will wear a mask in common spaces of the house the first two weeks of your stay, Thanks.
In the countryside-near-Pittsburgh, typical informal University of Pittsburgh associate professor also manages a large native plants (trees, shrubs and forbs) restoration project 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). Also if you give your cell phone number in your Workaway message to me, you are likely to get a faster response.
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.
Help with Eco Projects
DIY and building projects
200 eastern white pine, 400 spruce, 300 serviceberry, 125 graystem dogwood, 100 red twig dogwood, 50 buttonbush, 100 American plum, 100 crabapple, pagoda dogwood, swamp white oak, chestnut oak, black gum, Canadian hemlock, river birch, paw paw, hophornbeam, American hornbeam and numerous ninebark, monarda, coneflower, cardinal flower and other forbs have been planted in the last 60 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)
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:
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 work gloves, 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.
Chinese (Mandarin): Beginner
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. One needs to hold down the lever of the basement toilet for 9 seconds to flush. House has old carpets. Kitchen is small. House is from 1922 and needs some renovation (insulation etc.) which has yet to occur. House comes with two pianos and a guitar that guests are welcome to play.
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.
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
Can host families
I have decent wifi service which I use daily and share with volunteers.
There is sufficient space to park a recreational vehicle.
Maximum 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week
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