Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: August 4, 2018

The August 4th work party went faster than any work party I can remember. I was so surprised when I looked at my watch and saw how much time had passed. I suspect that time warp happened in part because the temperature that day was in the high 60’s. The previous three work parties had been in mid to high 80’s weather. It had felt oppressive to work in those conditions and we had moved from place to place to avoid the hot sun. We were relieved to be working when the temperature was in the 60’s once again.

Fifteen volunteers participated in the event. Five were GreenFriends members, seven were UW Environmental science students and three were neighbors.

Our primary goal for this event was to work in areas we had avoided when the sun was so hot.  We would do that work until break time and then, after the break, we would move to the Greenbelt site that is just north of ours.

Over the three-hour period, we worked in five different areas. This report is going to be pictorial, with photos showing what each area looked like before, during and after the work.

Area 1

After the initial orientation, all of the participants worked in the planting area that is in the southwestern part of the site. There, many blackberry sprouts had been growing among the native plants. Not only did the volunteers remove most of those blackberry plants, but they also partially or completely cleared blackberry vines and root balls from the area outside the southern and western borders of that space.

(Click on any of the photo galleries to enlarge the pictures.)

Before 

 

During

 

After

 

Area 2

An hour into the work party, a few of the volunteers moved to the second area. They spent a half-hour removing blackberry vines that were growing around and through piles of debris as well as bindweed that had invaded a nearby planting area. There is more to be done in this area in the future, but this group made a lot of headway.

Before

 

During

 

After

 

Break Time

An hour-and-a-half into the work party, we took a short break. Among the snacks we offered were ice cream and watermelon. The students decided to include the ice cream in the group photo!

After the break, we moved to the site that is north of the Hanford Stairs.  Once there, we divided into three groups. During the next 45 minutes we worked in areas three, four and five.

Area 3

The third area had a big leaf maple tree with lots of suckers growing from it. Blackberry plants and invasive ground covers grew around it. The students removed the suckers and some of the invasive plants. It will be interesting to see how the tree changes now that the suckers have been removed.

Before

 

During

 

After

 

Area 4

The fourth area was 20-30 feet into the Greenbelt. It was not visible from the road that borders the area. This group removed ivy and other weeds from under several 10-15 year-old evergreen trees; and cut down any blackberry vines that were growing through them. They also cut ivy from an old evergreen tree and removed a number of blackberry plants from the area

Before

 

During

After

 

Area 5

My neighbor John and I started working in an area that runs parallel to 25th Avenue South several months ago. Volunteers also worked on it during some of the July work parties. During one of those work parties, John removed enough blackberry vines that he broke into a space that he and I had cleared last Spring. I was so excited to see the two spaces connected.

On August 1 and 2, another volunteer worked seven hours in the same area. Once he cleared some of the ground, he and I built two drying racks to use at future work parties. (When we cut down blackberries, ivy and bindweed we put them on drying racks so they can’t reach the ground and re-root.)

The photo below shows what this area looked like at the beginning of the August 4th work party. During the work party, volunteers focused on cutting sections out of fallen trees that crossed the area we were clearing. Walking over them could be hazardous and we wanted to prevent accidents by creating a clear path. They also dug out blackberry root balls and raked up dried leaves and other debris. The last photo shows the transformation that occurred during the last forty-five minutes of the work party.

Before

 

During

 

After

Another work party was complete, and once again the changes in the land that occurred during the three hours of working together was remarkable. I love how every person that helps with this project makes a difference. That proverb, “many hands make light work,” is so true.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: July 29, 2018

In my last post, I shared how the lead up to the July 25th work party was full of challenges, ones that gave me the opportunity to practice behaviors such as flexibility, letting go, non-attachment, staying in the moment, equanimity, persistence and more. Thankfully, in my experience, times of challenge and learning are often followed by times that are relatively calm.

That was the case with the July 29th work party. By the morning of the event, we had three staff and fourteen participants registered. Most were students from a UW Environmental Science course.  I was elated when one of our other long-time team leaders showed up as well. Abundance was becoming the theme of this event!

As in the two previous work parties, the weather was hot, with temperatures in the high 80’s, so we still had to change the location of the work whenever the sun in a particular place got too hot. All of the areas were at least partially in the shade when we began.

After the orientation, we divided into four teams. One team finished clearing an area we had worked on in previous work parties, and then held a scavenger hunt, looking for bindweed, ivy and blackberry shoots. The members of that team dug out the invasive plants whenever and wherever they spotted them.

(Click on any of the galleries to enlarge the photos.)

The second team worked in an area where there was bindweed wrapping around most of the horsetails. Horsetails are delicate so it is close to impossible to remove the bindweed without damaging them. Many of the horsetails were already beginning to wither from being strangled by bindweed, the lack of rain, or perhaps it was just the end of the season for them… so we ended up removing most of them. That species has been around since before there were dinosaurs, so I have no doubt that they will return next year. This team also cleared blackberry plants, bindwood and horsetails from the border of the planting area, as long as that border wasn’t on a steep drop-off.

These photos were taken of this planting area on June 30 …

… and this is what the area looked like by the end of the July 29th work party.

The third team focused on two tasks. In 2016, the ground under two big cedar trees on the site was covered by a thick carpet of ivy vines. A volunteer had removed those vines in October of 2016 and stacked them in a pile. The vines had dried out long before the July 29, 2018 work party.

“Carpet” of ivy in 2016

When we disassemble the drying racks that are scattered throughout the site, we usually put the contents on paths that we have lined with burlap bags. The debris usually consists of dried blackberry canes and small branches. When we walk on that type of debris, it crumbles. When we tried walking through the dried vines after scattering them at the previous work party, we found that our feet would get tangled in the vines. That clearly created a hazardous situation, so at the time we just put the vines back into a pile.

During the July 29th work party, two students used hand clippers to cut the vines into small pieces and then scattered the pieces on 120 square feet of burlap paths. These students didn’t make it to the bottom of the pile, but there isn’t much of it left. It will either be moved to the rack zone, which is an old house foundation that is full of invasive plants that are drying out, or will be cut up during a future work party.

Just prior to our break time these same students cut the bottom limbs of a bush in an area that has a lot of laurel. Laurel is not a native plant and is invasive.  In time, it will be removed from the site. Normally, we cut the bottom branches so that the Parks Department staff can easily see the trunks but since this bush had no central trunk and instead was a series of thin branches going up, we cut back the branches that were on the outside of the bush. (Perhaps there is a trunk somewhere in the bush, but I couldn’t find it.)

The fourth team worked in an area where we will be planting native trees, shrubs and ground covers in the fall. It had been cleared in the past, but there were many blackberry shoots that needed to be removed. The team also removed blackberry shoots and other weeds from nearby planting areas.

While the teams were working in our main site, my neighbor John cut back blackberry vines from a part of the Greenbelt that is north of the Hanford Stairs… and north of our primary site.

John and I had worked on several sections of that site in the spring. During this work party, he broke through the area he was clearing, into the section we had worked on before. I was so excited to see the two areas become one.

We took a snack break an hour-and-a-half into the three-hour work party. We provided special treats, watermelon and ice cream, since it was such a hot day!

After the break, all of the volunteers moved to the site north of the Hanford Stairs. There, everyone continued the process of clearing the land of the invasive blackberry vines and root balls, ivy, bindweed and other weeds.

We split into two groups. Three volunteers worked in a dense portion of the site that was 20-30 feet from the street. That section contains numerous evergreen trees were planted 10-15 years ago. Now, blackberry vines and ivy cover most of the trees and much of the ground.

The first photo below shows what one tree looked like before the July 25th work party and the other two show what the area looked like after the July 29th work party.

The majority of the volunteers worked on a section of the Greenbelt that is near the street.

On June 18 that area looked like this:

And here is a glimpse of what that same part looked like by the end of the July 29th work party:

The remaining time sped by. There is still much that needs to be done, but every area we had worked on looked dramatically different by the time we finished the work party. Step-by-step these sections of Seattle’s Greenbelt are once again becoming a healthy forest.

Videos: Awe-Inspiring, Fun, and/or Beautiful

I’ve watched more videos than normal lately- ones that weren’t political for a change. I decided to share three of them with you.

Awe-Inspiring– wish I had seen this one 40+ years ago!

Fun- This video was Seattle Police Department’s response to a lip sync challenge from officers in Virginia.

Beautiful: A friend sent me this one earlier today.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: July 25, 2018- Practice in Flexibility, Persistence, Letting Go and More

Preparing for and leading the July 25 work party was a perfect opportunity to practice flexibility, letting go, non-attachment, staying in the moment, equanimity, persistence and a host of other values that I haven’t yet identified. At times, the challenges seemed endless.

Perhaps the first challenge occurred two weeks before the event when I fell while working in the Greenbelt. I found myself dealing with bruised ribs… again. I’ve done my best to stay conscious of my feet while walking on the sloped, uneven land but clearly I wasn’t staying conscious enough. As the work party approached, I purchased a walking stick, something I’d considered doing for a long time, and bought a good pair of hiking shoes. I also threw away the very old tennis shoes that I had been wearing the day I fell. I had known they didn’t give my feet enough support but they were so comfortable and easy to slip on. It felt good to take care of myself by discarding them.

Based on past experience, I expected we would have around 15 students from the UW Introduction to Environmental Science class. I felt very grateful when two of our regular volunteers agreed to be team leaders. Then, I was told that someone I had met in the past had moved to Washington. I discovered that he has lots of experience doing this kind of work. When I told him about the event, he was very interested in helping. So, counting me, we had four staff. Hooray!

That changed when one team leader got sick and it became obvious he wasn’t going to be able to come and another let me know she couldn’t participate. Then the third had a conflict and would only be able to come for part of the time. That left me as the only leader that would be present the whole time.

The day before the work party, we only had two students registered. Another registered that evening. I was surprised that we were going to have such a small work party, but with such a limited number of staff I knew it was for the better. Besides it is fun to have a tiny group from time to time.

Another challenge that we would have to deal with was hot weather. I’m used to having work parties planned out in great detail. When I discovered it would be in the high 80’s or low 90’s that day, I realized I would have to be prepared to let go of my “plans” and instead to practice flexibility and letting go. We would have to work wherever there was shade as it would be too hot to work in the sun. (Most of the work I had planned would have been in direct sunlight.)

Since this work party would be from 1 to 4 pm, I waited until the morning of the event to buy food for snack time. When I got into my car, I used the handle to shut the door and it broke off. I went back in the house to ponder the situation. When I returned to the car, I discovered that in addition to the broken handle, the driver’s door was locked and wouldn’t open. Because of my injured ribs, I couldn’t move into the driver’s seat from the back seat or from the passenger seat. I couldn’t believe it. I decided snack time would have to consist of what I already had in the house, uninteresting as it might be.

Several hours before the beginning of the work party, I set out directional signs on 25th Avenue South, on the Hanford Stairs and on Cheasty Boulevard. As I walked down the stairs going towards Cheasty, I noticed there was a police car parked nearby. And to the north of it, there was yellow tape blocking the road.

Since that was the way the students who took the light rail would be arriving, I walked down the stairs to get a closer look. Once there, I learned that a big tree had fallen during the night and it had knocked down power lines. I told the policewoman that people would be coming to a work party in a few hours and would be walking along that road. She told me that the repair work would take most of the day but assured me that the students would be allowed to walk through. I was still concerned. What if the students saw the tape stretched across the road and didn’t know what to do. Would they turn around and go home? I walked back to my house and sent out notices by voicemail and email.

Shortly before the work party was to begin, I walked towards the stairs again. I could hear, and soon could see, that there were  students sitting on the stairs. I thought they might be the UW students I was expecting. As I got closer to them, I could see that they were smoking. When they saw me, they ran away. I realized they were not here for the work party and that they were probably students from a nearby high school who were on their lunch break . They probably ran away because they were caught smoking, but I also laughed to myself when I thought how weird it must have seemed to have an older woman who was wearing a sun hat and an orange safety vest and holding a long walking stick come out of the forest.

Finally, it was almost time for the work party to begin. One of the  students came early, so he helped me bring the rest of the supplies into the site. Then the other team leader and the rest of the students arrived… and then a surprise… a fourth person, who had seen the work party on an event calendar joined us. I had wondered if there would be participants who would decide not to come because of the heat. Not only did everyone who had signed up show up but we had an additional person!

We started working in areas that had already been planted, removing wood chips that were touching the stems of the plants as well as digging out invasive blackberries, ivy and bindweed that was sprouting. (We put wood chips throughout the planting areas to hold in moisture and reduce weed growth. The wood chips are not supposed to touch the plant however, so we attempt to keep the space around the plant cleaned out. We refer to that empty space as a “donut hole”. ) As we finished one area, we moved to another, following the shade as much as possible. Every planting area looked so much better after we finished taking out the invasive blackberries and bindweed, and cleaning out the donut holes.

I didn’t remember to take photos during the first part of the work party, but this is what some of the planting areas looked like after we worked on them.

 

And these photos were taken later.

 

After the break, we all moved to the Greenbelt site that is north of our main site. We started by moving a drying rack that had accidentally been constructed in the place where future wood chip piles would go. I was amazed to see that the blackberry canes and other invasive plant cuttings that had been placed on it were already dry. We used that dried debris in constructing the new rack.

[Note: We place the blackberry canes, blackberry root balls, ivy and bindweed on drying racks so that they don’t touch the ground and re-root. The increased airflow that results from having them off of the ground also speeds up the drying process.]

We will be removing a lot more blackberry vines and root balls from this area. It is good to have a new rack ready to receive them.

There was a truck parked in the area I had planned to clear next, but the sun was also there, so we moved further  into the Greenbelt instead. It was still hot there, but there was a lot of shade, and a slight breeze.

We cleared an area of blackberries so that we could build another rack there. Once that rack was complete, the students continued digging out blackberries. We also started pulling out ivy. All of the cuttings were placed on the new rack.

 

Ten to fifteen years ago, many evergreen trees were planted in this part of the Greenbelt. I have been very eager to start freeing them from the invasive vines that had grown over them since then. We began working on one of those trees at this work party. There is much more to do before the tree is fully free, but we made considerable progress. (If you click the gallery to enlarge the photos…. and look closely…. you may be able to see that there is less ivy under and going up the tree!)

 

Even though the area was shady, we were all tired from working in the heat so stopped a bit sooner than we would have under normal conditions. After putting the tools and other supplies away, we gathered on the stairs to celebrate our achievements and to take a group photo.

Once again, we had accomplished so much in a short period of time. It was another big step in returning this land to the healthy forest it once was.

Not only did I enjoy leading another work party, but I had also survived a myriad of challenges and had had an abundance of opportunity to practice flexibility, letting go, non-attachment, staying in the moment, equanimity, persistence and more. While I know that these experiences will help me grow, I hope the frequency of the challenges will slow down for a while!

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Week 2 Photo

My life has been so focused on the Greenbelt restoration project that I rarely write posts about other topics. Today one of Cee’s Fun Foto Challenges caught my eye and I decided to participate. Each week of this challenge, she will post a photo and our job is to submit one or more photos that fit the challenge. This week’s photo is:

Her suggested topics are: truck, mural, octopus, whale, animal, painting, orange, black, water, lighthouse, ocean, vivid, vintage, blue, etc. I decided to use the following topics: ocean, red-orange and mural.

Ocean

I snapped this ocean photo on the beach in Amritapuri, India in 2015. The 2004 tsunami had washed the beach away. At some point after that, big rocks were placed along the coastline in an attempt to prevent further beach erosion. I took the photo in the early morning when villagers could be seen fishing in canoes and boats.

Red-Orange

The first red-orange photo is of a poppy soon after it began to open. The second is a microscopic shot of the center of an echinacea flower from my garden. The third is a picture of a flower I saw in Amritapuri, India.

Mural

Artists are painting stairways around Seattle as part of the Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School project. The stairs in these photos are near the part of the Beacon Hill Greenbelt we are restoring. If you look down the stairs you don’t see anything but plain concrete. But if you look from the bottom up, this is what you see!

A few days ago, a friend sent me an article about two of the artists who are doing this work. To read it click here.

Found at a Toronto Bus Stop

I saw this sign in Toronto earlier this week. I was walking by a bus stop that was enclosed on three sides. The sign filled one side of the structure. I wonder if there are similar acknowledgements anywhere in the U.S. I don’t remember ever seeing one.

I didn’t notice the message in the hand until I enlarged it when I was writing this post. I wish I had done it!