Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: October 14, 2018

I had scheduled six work parties to be held in our Greenbelt Restoration site between September 30 and November 15. The October 14th work party was the third of that series. On that day, 12 students from the UW Introduction to Environmental Science class and four staff participated in the event.

During the first part of the work party, we focused on creating a path that goes from one of the lower parts of the Hanford Stairs to the far side of the site. We had placed cut-up debris (dried blackberry canes, ivy and small branches) along the path during the October 6th work party. At the end of that event, the volunteers had filled 20 buckets with wood chips so we could start spreading chips at the beginning of this work party.

Once we emptied those buckets, everyone walked to the wood chip pile to refill their bucket. And so the bucket brigade began. We spread wood chips three inches high and three feet wide along 285 feet of pathways. These wood chip paths are so much easier to walk on than the uneven paths that were there before and the wood chips will (hopefully) keep the paths from getting muddy and slippery during the winter rains.

(Click on any gallery to enlarge the photos.)

The new paths are beautiful. We even made a roundabout around a large fern!

Once we finished working on the paths for the day, we took a short snack break. Afterwards, we divided into four groups. All of the groups continued projects that volunteers had begun during the previous two work parties.

Group 1 cut up debris (dried blackberry canes, ivy and branches) into 4-8 inch pieces.

Every week this debris pile gets smaller. When we started on September 30, the pile was 4-5 feet high and you couldn’t see the planting area on the other side of it. Now the western part of the pile has branches that are too big to be cut with hand clippers. The rest of the pile is about 2 feet high and you can easily see what is on the other side of it.

Group 2 continued the process of taking apart the compost pile. They separated small and large branches, placing the big branches on a pile and cutting up the smaller ones. One of the students started spreading the composted dirt.

On the morning of September 30, the area where the compost pile was looked like this:

Before September 30

This is what it looks like at the end of the October 14 work party:

The trees and shrubs that are planted in this area next month will certainly benefit from the rich soil.

During a site visit in May, the Green Seattle Partnership and Seattle Parks Department representatives told us that we had planted one tree too close to power lines. Group 3 transplanted that tree, moving it to a more appropriate area.

Group 4 removed bindweed and blackberries from the area where we will be making paths next weekend.

When the volunteers in the first two groups finished cutting up debris, they brought it to this area. Once there, it was spread on the paths-to-be.

While the student groups were working, my neighbor John, cleared many blackberry shoots from one of the planting areas and then moved a pile of big branches and logs to a new location. He also removed ivy that was scattered throughout that area.

Before we knew it, the work party was over. Week by week, we are getting closer to having the site ready for the winter rains and for planting new trees, shrubs and ground covers.

The students at this work party were a delight to work with. I thank them for their work and also want to thank Shirley, Claire and Dave for being team leaders during this event. I so appreciate them and all of the other volunteers who are helping to turn this land back into a healthy forest.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: Oct 6, 2018

Nineteen enthusiastic students from the UW’s Introduction to Environmental Science class participated in our October 6th forest restoration work party. Our staff consisted of two GreenFriends members and a volunteer who had helped at the September 30th work party.

As always, the work party began with an orientation. Afterwards, we formed a bucket brigade to spread wood chips along the paths throughout our Greenbelt site. Last year, the paths got muddy and slippery during the winter rains. We hope by covering them with a thick layer of wood chips, we will prevent that from happening again.

The first photo below shows what the wood chip pile looked like at the beginning of this work party. The second shows its size at the end of the event. It is even flatter than it looks! There is no doubt in my mind that the pile will be gone by the end of our next work party.

(Click on the galleries to enlarge the photos.)

For the second week in a row, I got so immersed in the work that I forgot to take photos of the bucket brigade. But I can show you the results of our work!

Halfway through the work party, we took a 15 minute snack break and then divided into three work groups.

Work group 1 

Last year, when we cleared the land in the southern part of our site, we piled the blackberry vines and blackberry root balls that we removed on nearby drying racks. We ended up with four large piles of debris that is taking up room that could better be used for planting.

We decided to eliminate the piles by cutting the debris into 3-8 inch pieces and then spreading it on the paths that we will be covering with wood chips during our next work party.

I had spent a considerable amount of time cutting up the debris in one of these piles prior to this work party. I don’t have a photo of what the pile looked like when I started, but the photos below will give you an idea of what it was like when this group started working on it and what it looked like at the end of the work party. The size of the pile has decreased at least 50% since the beginning of October. I hope we can finish that task soon.

For now we are placing the branches that are too thick to cut up at one end of the pile. We will decide what to do with those later.

Work group 2

The second group worked on a compost pile that had been created on the site many years before this forest restoration project began. Volunteers in the last work party had started removing trash and branches from the pile. The photos below show this area before and after the September 30th work party.

On October 6th, two of the students dug out a plastic garbage can that was buried near the compost pile and then began to remove bluebell bulbs that had been multiplying in the pile for years. They also separated more trash and branches from the rich soil.

While the two students were working on those tasks, three others removed big branches and tree stumps that were scattered around an area where we will be planting trees, shrubs and ground covers in November. Once the big items were moved to a different part of the site, the students raked a pile of dried bamboo branches away from that area as well.

When they finished those tasks, the students joined the two who were working on the compost pile. They sorted the branches that had been removed from the pile of dirt. The small branches and dried blackberry canes were cut up so that we can spread them on the paths; the bigger branches were stacked. The photos below show what the area looked like at the end of this work party.

Work group 3

The third group dug up blackberry shoots and blackberry root balls from the area where we will be creating paths next weekend.

At one point, I started hearing shouts of celebration coming from that direction. I wondered if the students had dug out some huge root balls. That is always cause for excitement. When the sounds continued, I got curious. Eventually, I walked to that part of the property and asked the staff member what was happening.

I learned that some of the students were having a competition to see who could cut down the longest blackberry vine. By then, they were working in an area that we have not cleared before, so they were finding some LONG vines! Some of the cut vines were put on a small drying rack while others were taken to an area we call The Rack Zone. (The Rack Zone is located in the foundation of a house that burned in the 50’s. It is filled with large piles of dried or drying blackberry vines, blackberry root balls, ivy and bindweed.)

Look at the length of the vine in the last photo. I don’t know who won the competition, but that vine was certainly a contender. (Remember, you can click on the gallery to enlarge the photos.)

All of the debris that had been cut up by the first and second work groups was spread on the areas where we will be constructing paths next weekend. The photos below show what those future paths look like now. (The paths will be 3 feet wide except in the occasional places where several paths merge.) The last photo is of the section where I believe the students found the long vines.

Fifteen minutes before the work party ended, we began to clean and put away the tools and supplies. As they finished that work, the volunteers began to gather for the closing. These photos were taken while we waited for the last few students to join us. Once everyone was present, we celebrated all that we had accomplished during the three-hour work party.

Afterwards, everyone brushed their shoes to remove any remnants of invasive plants that might be spread to other properties, said goodbye and went on their individual ways. Several participants told me they hoped to attend one of our next work parties!

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: September 30, 2018

I returned from India around noon on September 24th. I brought my luggage into the house and soon thereafter was checking out our Greenbelt site, eager to begin the forest restoration work again. I was pleased to see that most of the plants had survived the drought.

The University of Washington classes began on September 26th. This was to be the ninth quarter that students from their Introduction to Environmental Science course would help us. Most of our volunteers come from there, but we also get people from many other sources, such as neighbors and the Green Seattle Partnership Event Calendar. Most of our staff are part of GreenFriends, the environmental arm of Embracing the World.

Our first fall quarter work party was held on Sunday, September 30.  Including the staff, we had eight volunteers. (There are only six people in the photo because I’m taking the picture and a neighbor didn’t arrive until the second half of the work party.)

I was so immersed in the work that I forgot to take photos throughout the work party. Luckily, I can show you some before and after pictures.

The Seattle Parks Department staff had delivered a pile of wood chips that looked similar to this one. Our main task for the day was to start the process of spreading wood chips along the paths in the Greenbelt. I knew from last year’s experience that during winter the paths get muddy and slippery and wanted to prevent that situation from reoccurring. After the work party orientation, we filled the buckets with wood chips.

(Click on any gallery to enlarge the photos.)

Then, we carried the filled buckets and spread the wood chips along the path, 3 inches thick and 3 feet wide. Some of the volunteers stayed at the wood pile to fill the empty buckets as they were returned. Together, we spread wood chips on 620 sq. ft. of land. I was amazed by how much a small group was able to accomplish in a little over an hour.

After a fifteen minute break, we divided into three teams. One team dug out invasive blackberries near the south-east part of the site. They also spread dried blackberry canes over burlap; this strip will become part of a path during an upcoming work party.

Before:

After:

The second team moved some stumps and thick branches from a future planting area, took wire and other trash to the trash pile, and then dug out blackberry vines and root balls from two areas that had been planted in March. The planting areas looked so nice after most of the blackberry shoots that had been coming up in them were removed.

The third group worked on a compost pile that was here long before our restoration project began. They dug out  weeds that were growing through it and pulled out any trash, branches or lumber that they found.

Before:

After:

I was so happy with the results of our work and feel very grateful to the volunteers who participated in this work party.

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.

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!

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: July 5, 2018

The July 5 work party was very small, probably because I scheduled it for the morning after the 4th of July holiday! Two GreenFriends members and four student volunteers from a UW Environmental Science class participated. The GreenFriends members served as team leaders, teaching the students what they needed to know, doing organizational work, and at times working alongside them.

This event was organized in a way that was different from our other work parties in that we identified a longer series of tasks that needed to be done. We would move from one job to the next, stopping when the task was finished or when the sun got too hot in a particular area. The process reminded me of an exercise circuit where you use one exercise machine for a period of time and then move on to something else. The students were as incredible, as they always are, and we accomplished so much during the three-hour work party.

The first task on our circuit was to cut back the blackberry vines that were pouring into the southern planting area. [Planting areas are places in our Greenbelt site where we have already removed the blackberry vines and root balls, bindweed, ivy and other invasive plants. After we clear an area, we planted native trees, shrubs and ground covers in it.]  Since the blackberry vines that were coming into the planting area were from property that is not part of the Greenbelt, we could not dig out their root balls. Clearly, this is a task that we will have to repeat regularly since the vines will continue to grow. Even though it was only 10:30 in the morning, the sun was so hot, we moved on to the next task sooner than we would have if the weather had been cooler.

We headed to a place in the north end of the site, picking up loppers as we walked by the tool box. Our destination was a big maple tree that is very old and very tall. A part of the tree had fallen at some point in the past and tree suckers had grown from it. The initial suckers had been cut down but more had grown. Those suckers were getting very tall and it was clear that in time they would reach the power lines that were over them. The students removed the remaining suckers. One of the photos below is of the big maple tree. Luckily, it is far enough from the power lines that it hasn’t needed to be cut back. The second photo shows the part of the tree where suckers have been removed either in the past or during this work party.

Next, the students subdivided into two groups of two. One pair started cutting down blackberry vines that were coming into the planting area on the eastern side of the site. We couldn’t dig those root balls out either, this time because they was a very steep drop off on the border of the planting area. For safety, and liability reasons, volunteer groups are not allowed to work on slopes that are steep.

While these two students cut back blackberry stalks and carried them to the area we call “The Rack Zone”, the other two students picked up piles of bindweed that had been removed during the prior week. Those vines were also placed on the racks. [The Rack Zone is filled with racks that hold the invasive vines that have been cut so that they can dry out without re-rooting.]

Claire, who co-lead the work party with me, removed blackberry shoots that were growing inside of the planting areas whenever the students didn’t need her help.

Even though it was not possible to remove the blackberry vines that were on the slope completely, we wanted to do our best to keep them from invading the planting area, or at least slow them down so when the second pair of students finished picking up the bindweed piles, they carried logs to the place where the first pair of students were working. Once there, they created a row of logs in-between the planting area and the blackberry bushes. When completed, the row of logs spanned 35-40 feet. Next, that pair of students gathered piles of big branches that were scattered throughout the property. They carried those branches to the row of logs  and threw the branches directly onto the blackberry bushes, which pushed the bushes away from the planting area. They also used the maple tree suckers they had cut down earlier as part of the barrier. While this barrier will not remove the problem of blackberry vines growing into the planting area, it will hopefully slow them down and make it easier for us to manage future growth.

As soon as the first pair of students completed cutting back the blackberry vines, they  started to take apart an old drying rack that was nearby. The debris had been on that rack for about a year and was completely dry. That meant it was ready to spread on the burlap bags that line many of the paths throughout the site. The bags reduce weed growth. The debris we place on them will crumble as we walk on it. The decomposing burlap and debris will also hold in moisture and enrich the soil. Having the paths covered by the blackberry cane debris also makes it easier to differentiate the paths from the planting areas since those areas are covered with a wood chip mulch.

At one point, one of the students in the photo above spotted a small bug. It was so close in color to the debris that we had difficulty finding it after it moved.

When we spotted the bug again, I took a photo of it. Later, I showed the photo to the other volunteers. One of them said it was a cricket. I was a bit surprised. There are a lot of crickets near my house, which is adjacent to the Greenbelt, but they are all black.

When the pair of students who had been creating the barrier near the drop off finished that work, they began to put dried debris on a burlap bag path in another part of the site. Much of the debris they used was scattered on the ground rather than on old racks. One of the students found some remnants of a carpet pad embedded in the dirt and debris. Seeing the pad in recognizable form reminded me that so much of what has been discarded in the Greenbelt takes decades to biodegrade. In fact, some of it may never decompose.

All too soon, the work party was over. I loved working with this group of volunteers. I also liked how we had structured the event. I believe the other participants did too. I look forward to the possibility of leading another “circuit” work party someday.

In the Greenbelt: Nodding Onion

It has been fun to see what the native plants we picked to put in our Greenbelt site become. I have loved watching the Nodding Onion grow. This week I noticed that some of the plants had flowered.

I wonder how big they will get.

I looked up nodding onion (allium cernuum) on wnps.org (Washington Native Plant Society) and learned that they are clumping plants that may grow 16-20 inches tall. WNPS says the plant normally flowers in May or June; Wikipedia says July or August. They will develop black seed heads that will last all winter. For more information about nodding onion click here and here.