My 2019 Garden

I never planted a garden this year, because I put my time and energy into working in the Greenbelt, but I had a garden just the same. Even though they aren’t supposed to be perennial flowers, the pansies continue to come up in the spring and every year there more of them. And I have other beautiful perennials.

I didn’t take photos of the pansies this year, but I did take some of the others. I hope to take some microscopic photos of the echinacea flowers soon.

There have been more bees in my garden than there have been for years; bumblebees, mason bees, honey bees. They have particularly loved the echinacea, lavender, and marjoram plants.

I don’t seem to have a copy of the bee balm flower I took earlier in the summer but I took one this week of a frequent visitor to that plant. I wish the photos were clearer but the hummingbird moves faster than I do.

I planted a few lettuce plants in the front yard in early spring but nothing else. Nature apparently decided that wasn’t enough. Five cherry tomato plants came up in the front yard and potato plants came up in my back yard raised beds. Both were seeded by last year’s plants.

I have really appreciated the work that Ramana and I did in the back yard in the spring and early summer. It is so beautiful.

So there is beauty around me, both in my yard and in the Greenbelt, even though I didn’t plant a garden this year. As I wrote this post, I remembered Pete Seeger’s song Turn, Turn, Turn. I will end the post with a 1966 video of Pete Seeger and Judy Collins singing that song.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: August 3, 2019

The August 3 work party was the biggest we’ve had in a long time. Volunteers included six team leaders, 19 students from the UW’s Introduction to Environmental Science class, a friend of one of the students, two people who found us on the Green Seattle Partnership Event Page, and a neighbor who comes to almost all of our work parties.

The event started with an orientation that included a welcome, staff introduction, information about project history, safety tips, schedule of the day and more. We planned to have two work sessions, with a snack break in the middle.

After the orientation we divided into six teams and started to work.

Team 1

Shirley’s team focused on watering the plants in the southern planting areas. Any plant that showed any sign of distress received two gallons of water. The team watered 90 plants! The photos below show this team at work. (In the background of the fourth and fifth photos below, you can also see neighbor John removing blackberry vines and blackberry root balls.)

Click on any of the photo galleries to enlarge the photos.

Team 2

Claire’s team worked in the Rack Zone, an area that used to be filled with drying racks. We put all of the invasive blackberry vines, ivy and other weeds on drying racks so that they don’t re-root. Earlier this year, we took down most of those racks and spread the dried debris around the Rack Zone. After the debris has had more time to break down and become soil, the Rack Zone will become another planting area.

During the August 3 work party, the volunteers removed weeds that were growing in the Rack Zone; spread dried debris that had been brought there from other racks on the site; and took apart the rest of the original Rack Zone racks.

On January 22, 2019, I had been surprised to see a shovel lying against the Rack Zone wall. On January 23, I was even more surprised to see an unpotted plant in the same place. The plant was tagged with blue and white checkered flagging tape which meant that it had been planted during the November 2017-March 2018 planting season… but I never found an empty hole on our site. Where had it come from?

I had no idea if the plant was dead or alive, but since I couldn’t think of a rational reason for these occurrences, I decided it was “supposed” to be the first shrub we planted in the Rack Zone even though I had planned to wait another year before planting that area. So I planted the mystery plant.

It took months before it became obvious the shrub was alive, and longer still before we determined it was an oceanspray shrub. That plant not only survived, it thrived. This is what the once possibly dead plant looks like now!

Team 3

My team completed jobs in three different parts of the site. They learned how to build a drying rack and then built one, cut dead branches from an old vine maple shrub, and removed two patches of invasive ivy. (The first photo is of the new rack; the photo under it is the group removing the dead branches of the shrub, the vertical photo and the fourth one are of the team removing ivy and the last photo shows one of areas after they cleared ivy from it.)

Team 4

Dave’s team worked in the southeast part of the site. That area had never been completely cleared and had been covered by tall weeds for some time. Recently, long blackberry vines had also invaded the area.

This is what that section of the site looked like at the beginning of the work party.

It was really hot in that section of the site, so at one point during the morning, we decided to move the group to a cooler area. Three of the five members of the group preferred to work in the sun so they stayed put.

The photo below is of Subgroup A working.

And this is what that area looked like at the end of the first work session.

Clearly there is much more clearing to do here but the group made tremendous progress.

Subgroup B removed blackberry root balls in an area where volunteers had cut down blackberry vines during the July 29 work party. Prior to that work party the blackberry vines had been so dense that you couldn’t walk through them. The next set of photos are of Subgroup B working.

Team 5 Antje

During the July 28 work party Antje led a group who removed weeds from both sides of the Hanford Stairs. Her August 3 team continued that work. In many places along the stairs, native fringe cup plants were covered by a layer of an invasive buttercup plants. The team’s challenge was to remove the buttercup plants without removing the fringe cup.

This is what one of those areas looked like on July 27.

And this is what some of the areas looked like when we took our break on August 3.

Team 6

Christine’s team worked in an area that is on the far side of the Hanford Stairs. At the beginning of the work party, there were many blackberry shoots, grass and other weeds in this section. By break time most of the invasive plants were gone and the native plants were much more visible.

The work party had begun at 10 am. At 11:30 we took a 20 minute snack break. We decided to use the second work session to spread wood chips on one of the paths in the site. We did that by creating a wood chip bucket brigade that went from a wood chip pile on Cheasty Boulevard, up the Hanford Stairs, into the Greenbelt and to the end of the lower path. Buckets were filled at the wood pile and then passed up the line until they reached the people who were pouring the wood chips onto the path. Once the buckets were empty, they were passed down the line until they again reached the wood chip pile. There, they were refilled and the whole process started once again.

Remember, you can click on the photo gallery to enlarge the photos.

In 45 minutes, we had created the bucket brigade and spread wood chips over a path that is about 250 feet long! When we finished that job, we put away the tools and supplies and gathered for a closing.

The August 3 event was another very successful work party. I’m always astounded by how much volunteers can accomplish in three hours time. The old adage, “many hands make light work” is true!

***

I feel so grateful for all of the volunteers who participated in this work party as well as for those who have worked here in the past or will work here in the future. Every volunteer leaves having made a significant contribution in creating “Another Future Healthy Forest”.

Walking Through the MA Center: Chicago Farmlands (July 2019)

This was the fourth year I attended Amma’s programs in Chicago. Once again, I spent time walking through the farmlands. This year my friend Gopika also came to Chicago; she explored the farm with me.

There were a lot of changes this year. The echinacea field is gone and new MA Center: Chicago plants are growing there. We were told part of the Center’s property is being leased out to a vegetable farmer. Another part is still being leased to a farmer who produces hay. The new focus for the MA Center: Chicago fields seems to be growing dye plants and tulasi.

Last year, there were tomato plants growing in the greenhouse. This year there were indigo, tulasi, and a few marigold plants.

The field that used to hold echinacea plants now consists of indigo and Hopi Black Dye Sunflower plants. The indigo plants will be used to make indigo colored dye and the Sunflower seeds will be used to make black dye. Yellow and orange dyes can be made from marigold flowers.

Beyond the indigo and sunflower field, there was a field of madder plants. The roots from those plants will produce a red dye.

I don’t remember what the field below contains. When I enlarge the photo, part of it looks like tulasi but there seems to be another kind of plant in the foreground. Tulasi is often called holy basil and is a sacred plant to Hindus. Tulasi is said to open the heart, cultivate devotion, boost immunity, and heal disease. 

On the far side of the above field, there was a field where both tulasi and marigold plants were growing.

Click on the photo galleries to enlarge the photos.

At the end of my visit to the fields that contained tulasi and dye plants, I walked to the orchard. There are many more fruit trees than there were the first year I attended Amma’s programs in Chicago. The trees have grown considerably since that time.

Early in our walk, Gopika and I were able to get help in plant identification from a volunteer who was working in the fields. I have many more questions though. Some year I will ask a resident to go with me!

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: July 28

Twelve volunteers participated in our July 28 work party. That total included three team leaders, four students from the UW’s Introduction to Environmental Science class, two family members of one of the students, someone who found us on the Green Seattle Partnership Event Page, a previous volunteer and a neighbor. Together we accomplished so much.

After a short orientation, we separated into three groups. One of the groups focused on watering the plants that needed it. The water flows from our 1100 gallon cistern into a rubber pipe that goes across the site. There are spigots installed every 50-100 feet along the pipe. We attach hoses to those spigots. The water flows by gravity so we have to use buckets when we are watering the higher areas. Using the buckets also helps us gauge how much water we give each plant. We aim to give two gallons of water to each plant that shows any evidence of being dry.

We were watering the higher planting areas during this work party, so we used the buckets.

The water in the cistern ran out just before we took our snack break. We have watered a lot of plants in the last six weeks or so, but I didn’t have any idea how close we were to needing a refill.

The second group worked in and near an area that had red twig dogwood shrubs. Those red twig dogwood plants had been growing for many years and the area was dense. In front of the red twig dogwood shrubs were many horsetail plants. Native horsetails have been around since before the dinosaurs. These horsetails were covered by invasive bindweed. Bindweed strangles shrubs and ground covers. (To see closeup photos of bindweed go to: “Oh No”s)

We try not to disturb the horsetails but they are fragile and are easily damaged. This group worked to remove the bindweed from the horsetails and other plants and to prune the mature red twig dogwood shrubs. We also removed bindweed from new red twig dogwood shoots that had started emerging from the ground.

The third group worked to clear invasive plants on both sides of the Hanford Stairs. The photos below show what part of that area looked like when they started.

And this is what some of this area looked like after the volunteers had removed the invasive plants.

Click on any of the photo galleries to enlarge the photos.

At 11:30, we stopped for a snack break. During the break, we also took a group photo.

During the break, a neighbor who has attended most of our work parties arrived. He started removing weeds and cutting dead limbs from trees in an area that is near the entrance to our site.

After the break, the group who had been removing bindweed from the horsetails continued their work. The other two groups worked in an area we had begun to clear earlier in the year but had not completed the job. The blackberry vines had taken over again. My “Before” photos of this area didn’t turn out, but imagine an area that had blackberry vines that were so long and dense that you couldn’t walk through it.

There were numerous Oregon grape plants that were totally covered by bindweed and other invasive plants.

There is still much to do in this section of the site, but I was amazed by how many blackberry vines the volunteers were able to cut back. When the ground is softer, we will remove the root balls.

This is what that area looked like at the end of this work party.

Another way to gauge work done during this work party is to look at the two new drying racks where we placed the cut blackberry vines and other weeds. (Bindweed is so invasive that we have started putting it into plastic bags and then put the bags in the trash as an extra precaution against re-rooting.)

These two racks were empty at the beginning of the work party. They were large racks and by the end of the work party they were towering, overly full.

The work party began at 10:00 a.m. At 12:45 p.m. we started putting away the tools and other supplies and then met for a closing. We celebrated all that we had accomplished during this immensely successful work party.

***

I feel so grateful for all of the volunteers who participated in the July 28th work party as well as for those who have worked here in the past or will work here in the future. Every volunteer leaves having made a significant contribution in creating “Another Future Healthy Forest”.

Ethopians Plant More Than 350 Million Trees in 12 hours!

A friend in New Mexico just sent me this link. Can you imagine the difference it would make if many countries in the world planted trees at this level.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/29/africa/ethiopia-plants-350-million-trees-intl-hnk/index.html

Light in the Darkness

My son, Sreejit, sent me this tweet today. It was nice to start my day with good news and a sense of hope.

Pearly Everlasting Update

Pearly Everlasting Flowers

I have been fascinated by Pearly Everlasting shrubs since I first saw them when I took a class at Seattle’s Discovery Park in November of 2017. They are the plants with white flowers in the background of the photo below.

I put 10 Pearly Everlasting shrubs on my 2018 Greenbelt plant order. When they arrived, in November 2018, they were in small containers. Each pot held one or two stalks. There was a small cluster of white flowers at the top of each stalk.

During the winter, the stalks withered away. I wondered if the plants had died. I was excited when I noticed new growth emerging from the ground on January 27, 2019.

This is what the plant looked like on March 26.

The plants grew fast. By May 14, they were this tall. I thought they were beautiful.

Imagine my surprise on June 10 when I found that all of the stalks on one of the plants had collapsed; they weren’t strong enough to support the weight at the top.

I thought it may have happened because the area where these four Pearly Everlasting plants were planted used to be a compost pile, so the dirt is very rich. Maybe the shrubs grew too fast. Overtime though, all of the Pearly Everlasting shrubs on our site collapsed in a similar fashion.

When it first happened, I wrote one of the Green Seattle Partnership Program Managers and asked if this was normal. She said she hadn’t heard of it occurring before but would check with other people. She was told it happened because there weren’t enough stalks; when there are more, the stalks will support each other. Hopefully there will be many more stalks emerging from the ground next year.

Even though the plants collapsed, they kept growing. In some ways, it was as if each stalk was a separate plant. On June 15, I saw a flower beginning to bloom at the end of one of them.

June 20

June 27

The photo I chose to use at the top of this post was taken on July 5.

And this is what one of the plants looked like yesterday, July 26.

It will be interesting to see if enough stalks grow next year so that they are able to support each other, and the weight of their flowers. I wonder if they will be thicker and more sturdy. I also wonder when the plants will look like the shrubs I saw in 2017. Meanwhile, I will enjoy the mystery.

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