The top of the tall parking structure is this harsh environment. It’s hot up there with all the concrete, and the wind makes in inhospitable. It’s hard to grow anything there. I think the spinklers were turned off over a decade ago during the last drought. I had heard about the empty planters there, but at some point during my wanderings around the HMO clinic building trying to figure out life and getting exercise, I wandered up there.
It’s easy to throw out the idea that trees should be planted there. Likely if there was money and labor, I could have done in quicker. But when I started, I didn’t know what I was doing and getting permission would have taken an act of congress. So I just would exercise and cleaned out some of the lingering plastic and coffee cups and litter folks had tossed into those containers over the years. Instead I brought leftover food scraps, hay and yes bunny poop. We have two bunnies and I always knew that the ubiquitous bunny poop is good for soil. That is before we started composting at home. After the Aerobin400 has been doing it’s magic, I brought the actual compost to the planters too. It’s a good hike from my desk to the parking garage and up the steps. But I’m greeted by a beautiful view of our area, and I go visit the plants. I make it a game to myself and can also mostly use repurposed things. So when there is wilted salad in the fridge or lunchtime orange peels, I bring that up. I did that about a year ago. Now I bring proper compost because I want the entire regenerative process to go faster. I’m getting a little impatient.
I created a little seating area on the 2nd floor balcony off the game room. It’s a balcony that overlooks our backyard and I can see the amazing container garden and outside living area we’ve created on the concrete parking pad that used to house the Honda Odyssey Minivan. Selling the minivan was overall positive for our financial bottom line because it was an extra car we did not need and helped avert some carbon emissions, but it ended up having a cascading effect in our lives that we never imagined.
It’s been a world-wind two years, especially the last year. While everyone was holed up and quarantining at home, our department went to the office every single day. We worked the entire time. With more time at home though because the kids were home and the rest of the world shut down, I further dived into climate advocacy work. I am proud of that work. Wrote a paper, spoke at what seemed like a gazillion virtual conferences, picked up almost 500 bags of trash, and kept up the blogging and climate advocacy recruiting, But the world is opening up and I’m resting right now. I still have projects coming up. Next weekend we have a PHAC dinner and need to socialize with the beautiful people in the slide. I’m actually looking forward to it. Going to make Mr. Plastic Picker come as well. It will be good for him. Our fearless leader Dr. Bruce Bekkar gave us a big shout out at the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health Conference, which I attended virtually with an HMO colleage. One of the UCSD medical students and the the two pharmacy student leaders from VCU Sustainable Pharmacay Project also attended. I didn’t check up on the three students, but I did nudge UCSD to pay for one’s registration and the other two students I paid for them to register. Technically we still have a day of meetings tonight. But I’ve lobbied already and there are enough people. At some point, you need to know as a climate advocate when you’ve done enough and let others help. Another pediatrician and the other premed student are going to help, as they’ve essentially planned and done everthing for the journal club on Clean Air that is upcoming. The social media ad that our premed intern made is really beautiful. I’m excited about that. Then there is the Eco-America training early June.
I got through the day yesterday. I was definitely dragging during morning clinic. My sleep schedule was off due to blogging at 2am rather than at 4am, and then after finishing a blogpost – I went to sleep on the couch. Obviously I was not able to finish an entire sleep cycle. Therefore I woke up groggy and not in my best form. But I dragged by eco-avatar middle aged body through the morning routine and was able to make it into work. I forgot my phone at home which ended up being a blessing in disguise. An entire day of phone detox is a good thing. I sent an email out to the department to let them know I had no phone, and just to call if there were issues. There were no issues that I was aware of. There are many of us in leadership that were available via instant text, so my being in my office just an actual email away – was okay.
I’m just having random fun. I told Dr. MM in clinic yesterday, that sometimes that dream you had of something you always wanted to do – it can be easy to get. The trip to Paris was just sitting there and staring her in the face. I said, “GO!!!” Just buy the flight and go with Dr. AF. He’s going anyway. $450 round trip for a flight and you guys split a hotel room, and go to Europe. Sometimes attaining your dreams doesn’t have to be hard, it can be easy. I told them I’d cover both their inboxes.
A similar dream, a dream that I never thought I had, was staring me in the face. It was looking at me and kind of danced around and said, “why don’t you grab this opportunity?” As the blog readership well knows, Dr. Plastic Picker is always financially savvy so if the numbers don’t add up – I’ll take a pass. But the dream was looking at me in the face and said, “HELLLLOOOOO, it makes sense financially.” I’m literally looking at the dream and flabergasted that it could happen? If the numbers work out, than it makes sense.
So I’m having just random big dreams and taking steps that financially make sense. I’m selling a rental property that I was meaning to sell for a while. That particular rental property was never a really great buy, but it wasn’t a bad buy. I was going to sell it last year, but it was a blessing in disguise that I didn’t sell it last year. Right now the market is HOT HOT in our area, So I’m pretty sure it will sell for 50K more than the one offer we got last year. And then Mr. Plastic Picker and I since we have a 50% savings rate, have our cash cushion war chest ready. Between the equity on that rental property that I’m going to sell and our war chest, I’m going to buy some land somewhere on some big Island somewhere in the United States of America. This big land somewhere has foster cows, a lava rock bar, sauna, and two all done houses. Its just 25 minutes straight shot from an airport. It has avocado trees and citrus trees and solar panels. And I can buy it outright without a mortgage with a family member. Even if I keep just said land for fun, and just vacation on it – it will make financial sense.
But you know Dr. Plastic Picker! When there is land, there is opportunity. Thinking of earth and planetary and physician wellness. I’m pretty sure I can organize a physician wellness retreat on that land, and charge less and provide a better program than other people. I’m pretty sure I can use the profits to put back into my climate work. I’m pretty sure we can heal physicians and heal the earth at the same time. Because Dr. Plastic Picker just wants everyone to be happy. And my physician wellness institute will be better because I actually really care about my colleagues and I won’t be making money off them. I’ll charge a reasonable rate to cover the cost, and proceeds will go to paying the instructors who will be physicians themselves and everything going back to climate advocacy. But I’ll get to have the physician wellness proceeds pay for the land and I get to keep the land. But I will love the land and not hurt the land, and be a good steward of the land. That’s it. And below is more pictures of the virtual property viewing I had with a family member. It was so much fun and one of the most joyous moments I have had with this family member. Of course I blocked out his face because he is truly anonymous.
OMG I may by partial owner to 8 foster cows. If you come to this physician wellness institute, you will get to adopt a cow for your stay. LOL. Just thinking about crazy dreams and crazy things on the blog. Who knows, right? Shoot for the stars and you’ll hit the moon. I may just land on this Big Island. If I don’t show up at work one day (because I’ve shown up to work every day for over 12 years without fail), you’ll know where I am. I’ll send a postcard and maybe some avocados.
The coach belongs to my sister. The two cushions as well. When she moved out of state, she handed the coach to my mom who then handed the coach to me. It’s one of the most comfortable places to sleep on in the house. The hexagonal shelf, my big brother made for me. He says he may make me more out of solid wood. This one is out of ply wood. It’s beautiful. I’m going to hang it out, and wait for more. Whenever the others may come, tomorrow or in a decade – I will place them next together.
When we did the film screening of Gather, the New York Times profiled film on indigenous food rights and the connections between environmental destruction and our food systems, the best part was actually virtually meeting Chef Nephi Craig. The film makes a wonderful depiction of his life’s work, but actually hearing him relate his professional journey – one realizes how much more nuanced and profound it is. He has a blog as well that I’m perusing now http://apachesinthekitchen.blogspot.com/2014/05/rations-for-all.html. What resonated with me during the time he spent with us, was when he described coming back from Europe in 2009 and “crash landing on the reservation.” This is exactly the same time Mr. Plastic Picker and I left Boston and the Crimson University System with our two young children in our crisis moment, and came back to where I grew up, which is San Diego California.
For some reason this agave plant (I think it’s an agave plant?) fascinates me. It was given to me by my mother in a pot and was beautiful. It slowly was dying over the year at my house due to waves of neglect and then over-watering. I didn’t know how much sun it needed, nor did I care to look it up nor ask questions. I gave it to my mother-in-law, and she wasn’t able to revive it. It was dying on our roofdeck and I did not know why. I had started composting using the hashtag #guerillacomposting at an undisclosed work location. I started some plantings but mostly small succulent leaves that could be explained away as a chance appearance created by a gardening fairy or gnome. But this agave or aloe plant was my biggest planting in this particular location. I figured if it didn’t take, I could always remove it later. So I planted it in a planter that had compost around it. I visit it at least once a week and squirt some water there. I meant to save the plant, but also to regenerate the soil. I think it’s been 3 months, and the plant is happy.
Wow, 1499 things that I’ve salvaged from the landfill and redeployed into the human circulating economy of things that we use. #1499 single things that had use, that were going to be thrown away. You can always check out my Plastic Picking Totals Page that details it all https://drplasticpicker.com/plastic-picking-round-up/.
I spent most of the weekend puttering around the house and gardening this weekend. My friend Dr. Jill Gustafson https://drplasticpicker.com/dr-jill-gustafson-environmentally-minded-pediatrician-4/ referred to it as my urban farm, which I guess is a really cool way to think about it. I need to update the blogpost I wrote about her as the picture link does not work anymore. I might just use a picture of the cool hand-made soaps that she has been working on or the 3D Boston Puzzle she leant me! Sharing is caring folks, and Dr. Jill Gustafson cares about the world and everyone!
Back to gardening. I think it is when I read Project Drawdown and the emphasis on the emissions of the agricultural sector, reading about the power of plant-based eating on reducing climate change and looking at myself and my influence as pediatrician that takes care of kids who need to eat better food that made me realize what the gardeners around me had known all along. If we want to save the world, we have to do it by regenerating the soil and eating more locally and plant-based. And what is more local than your own urban garden?
I was updating our financial spreadsheets and remembered it kind of all started when we sold our “extra car” which was a Honda Odyssey Minivan. It actually went to an old high-school friend for a bit below market rate $4500. But not only did we get that money and avoided paying the yearly DMV fee which was about $150 or so, but we gained all this square footage of concrete pad in the back. As I began to transform that area into a container garden, I realized I had room for the Aerobin 400 composter that I had always wanted. And then the success in our backyard pad led to me venturing back up onto our roofdeck and now creating a green space up there. Between walking in the backyard and then up and down the spiral staircase, I’m getting a lot of steps in.
It’s been a beautiful process. I’ve planted beet greens, radishes, onions, and chia microgreens successfully. It might have been just a few plants, but given that I did it on my own with guidance from my mother and mother-in-law – it made those dinners especially meaningful. I’m also working on succulents and I was inspired by a friend’s house and her succulent container front-porch area. I bought hybrid aloe plants that are doing really well, and continuing to collect and propogate succulents gifted to me by people I love or that I’ve found in our own front yard or sometimes a stray succulent that has broken off itself and I will gather on my litter picking walks. I know it sounds silly but at those moments, I feel like a forager – although I’ve never foraged for food and I don’t think I’ll get to that point! Although I admire them whole heartedly.
And then there are my adventures in composting! We harvested our first compost this weekend and I’m so happy. I check on my compost everyday and either turn it, or water it. With the Aerobin 400 , you aren’t supposed to need to do anything – but I have fun with it. And the more I harvest our compost, the more the top level sinks and I can add more scraps. I actually don’t have enough scraps so I’ve asked my little brother to save vegetable scraps for me! He lives in a downtown condo so no yard space. I need to buy him a kitchen compost container for under his sink but I need to know how tall. I’ll call him today.
And in the end, my family will be eating even more nutritious food all powered by this regenerative process that is the composter, our own urban farm, and a sense of regeneration and wellness in our lives.
I gave my mom that huge funny looking radish that I posted on Instagram, and she was delighted and happy. She said the gardening is good for my mental health. It definitely is. Maybe I would not have gone through that dark period in my professional life when I was so stressed and sad and hypervigilant and irritable if I had been a gardener then? But going through burn out led me to the beach, which led me to declare I was going to save the world, which led me to gardening which led me back to my mom and mother-in-law and back to our own waste in our house now miraculously turned into soil. For each of us, we have our own journey and what I have most learned from all of this is to live in the present and not let worries of the future the “what ifs” destroy the joy of today. This is Dr. Plastic Picker, your pediatrician being present with you fully today and during your clinic visit.