Embrace your weirdness and Adopt-A-Lot

I am an artist, and my medium is nature.  I see vacant city lots as empty canvases for expression. Recently, I signed an Adopt-A-Lot lease with the City of Pittsburgh to take care of a vacant lot in the Hazelwood neighborhood. Hazelwood appeals to me because it’s urban yet woodsy, not far from my home, and at one time was the epicenter of Hungarian culture for immigrants like me in Pittsburgh.

When I share my dreams and aspirations for this lot with others, I either get encouragement from those who get it, or puzzled looks of “why?”  Sometimes my plans are even met with well-intended, unsolicited advice such as, “Do me a favor and don’t get shot.”

Embrace your weirdness is my motto. When you learn to do that, you learn to put aside the doubters, and instead feed your soul through mindful and meaningful explorations that meet your definition of “normal” and not of someone else’s. Those who get it, or are engaged in a similar journey of their own, will believe in you, encourage you and will be encouraged by your journey.

The Adopt-a-lot application process, including the negotiation and signing of the insurance contract, has taken just under a year. The first hurdle was insurance; most insurance companies were hesitant to sign on to covering a city-owned lot that is managed by an individual or non-profit group. While the City of Pittsburgh and the insurance agent I finally found have been great to work with, the insurers themselves were at times were doubters, but were eventually willing to go along with my vision. The old adage “persistence pays off” rings true to me: since I began this quest, the initial offer to insure the lot went from $860 to $150 a year and it is now available to others as well.  When more people sign up, the plan gets cheaper.  I believe as more people embark on this journey to adopt lots, the easier the process will become.

Having gone through this process as a private resident, I am very honored to have been asked to join a panel of presenters at an upcoming GTech Blight Bootcamp on October 9, 2016.

Stay tuned for developments…

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Beady Mushroom Eyes

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Shortly after removing the toilet paper rolls from the refrigerator, the little beady eyes begun growing in every side possible, even from under the plate.

Unfortunately, having assumed that all mushrooms loved shade, I kept these guys in the darkest spot of the kitchen I could find. As the weeks went on, the the oyster mushroom’s neck kept getting longer and longer, their cap never getting too much bigger then what you see in the photo. Eventually I reached out to the kind owners of FieldForest.net who explained that unlike many other mushrooms, oysters prefer lots of sunlight and their neck will grow long and skinny when searching for light. While these mushrooms never fully recovered after moving them to a sunnier spot, the experiment was sure fun and will definitely be repeated at some point.

 

Mycelium Tee Pee

 

As soon as I got the oyster mushroom spawn filled toilet papers home, I put them in dark closet in my kitchen as instructed in step 5, Place this bag in a dark closet at 70 degrees where it will become covered in mycelium.

Three weeks have passed and here are the results.IMG_1794

So far so good, the toilet paper is still recognizable, but things are progressing.

IMG_1796Step 7. Place the bag in the refrigerator for 3 days.
Following their 3 week stint in the dark, the result of which you can see above, it was time to move the rolls the refrigerator for a three day cold treatment.

Next up, moving on to step 8 – Remove bag from refrigerator and open the top of bag to breathe.

The Beginning

Having just completed the Penn State Master Gardener Program during the summer of 2015, I wanted to find a plot of land where I could engage in and deep dive into the experimental design of nature in an urban setting.

On the one hand, I wanted expand beyond my current 4’ x 8’ vegetable garden at my home and on the other, I became highly engaged in learning about rain gardens and designing gardens with a focus on native pollinator friendly plants. I wanted to find a lot, an empty canvas so to speak with which I could connect and grow together.

The search for a plot of land begins.

Grounded Life, Grounded World

Being grounded means something different to everyone. To me its being aware of what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and what draws you in. And doing it; rather than making it wait for retirement. It is letting it emerge and thrive as part of you, as a fully valid part of your daily life. Like all things in life, this too requires planning, persistence and support from those who get you and love you. This is the site for my grounded world. Passions, hobbies and tinkering.