Transformation of the Greenbelt

In September 2016, when GreenFriends members started their forest restoration work in this Greenbelt site on Beacon Hill in Seattle, most of the land looked like the two photos below.

We have now planted trees, shrubs and ground covers in at least 20 areas on the site. The next four photos show the transformation that has occurred between the time two of those areas were planted and August 2019.

Example 1:

Example 2:

Many of the elderberry shrubs have become very big. We have one that is around 17 feet tall. The photo below is of the second biggest elderberry shrub.

Three of the Douglas Firs and several of the Alders are more than 5’ tall. The Cedars are smaller, but they are so beautiful.

If you click on the photo gallery you will see an enlarged view of the photos.

The transformation that has occurred on the site is remarkable and is thanks to Amma’s encouragement to serve Nature, the support of the Green Seattle Partnership staff, the effort of hundreds of volunteers, and the blessings of Mother Nature.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: Expedia Day of Caring

Friday, September 6 was Expedia’s Day of Caring. Twenty of their employees chose to work in our Greenbelt site on that special day. It was wonderful to have them. Many of the volunteers had previous experience doing forest restoration work; their experience was an added bonus.

After an initial orientation, the group divided into four teams. One or two of our team leaders guided the work of each team.

Team 1: Shirley’s team removed weeds and other invasive plants in an area we had begun to clear during a previous work party. While it will take numerous groups to completely clear this section of the Greenbelt, the Expedia team made tremendous progress.

Team 2: Susan’s team started clearing an area along Cheasty Boulevard, which borders the eastern portion of the site.

There were some native shrubs in this area, but when we started it was hard to see them since they were mixed with weeds and invasive plants. The next two photos are before and after photos of a section like that.

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

Laurels, hawthorne, and holly are invasive shrubs. The first photo below shows one of the patches of hawthorne and holly prior to the work party. The second photo shows what the area looked like after the weeds were cleared and the lower limbs of the shrubs were removed so that the Parks Department staff can easily find them when they come to treat invasive shrubs/trees.

This team also disassembled a pile of dried debris that had been created from invasive plant cuttings during earlier work parties. After they took the pile apart, they spread the dried debris along the ground. Next they made a new drying rack to hold the blackberry and ivy vines, as well as other weeds, they removed on that day.

Team 3: Haley’s team removed invasive bindweed that had invaded two planting areas. In many cases, the bindweed traveled through and over horsetails. (Horsetails are native plants that were around before the dinosaurs so we leave them alone.) This team also removed the blackberry vines that were entering planting areas from the other side of the border. The border of that planting area is on a very steep slope so removing the blackberry root balls is not an option; the best we can do is to continue to cut them back when they enter the planting area.

The first photo below shows the bindweed in this area before the July 24 work party. I’m using this photo even though there wasn’t this much bindweed on September 6th because it shows the bindweed clearer than photos I took before this work party. I say no visible bindweed in the second photo because the roots can go 32 feet down!

The next photos are of the area where the blackberry vines were cut back. Seattle Parks Department cut up a tree that had fallen into our planting areas earlier in the year and used the pieces to create a border for us.

Team 4: John and I led a team that weeded a part of the site where many blackberry, ivy and periwinkle vines were emerging from the ground. We had planted the area in March of this year and had pulled out weeds and invasive vines many times since then. This time we focused on digging out the blackberry root balls as well as removing grass and other weeds.

This work party lasted 4 1/2 hours rather than the normal 3 hours. After a lunch break, we created a bucket brigade to bring wood chips from our wood chip pile on 25th Avenue S into the Greenbelt site. The first thing we did with the wood chip was to spread them along a 125 foot path.

Once the path was completed, we focused on creating piles of wood chips on the site. These wood chip piles will make it easier for volunteers to construct 4-inch-high wood chip rings around each new tree, shrub and ground-cover we plant in mid-November.

By the end of this segment of the work party, we had moved nearly 8 cubic yards of wood chips into the site! Afterwards, we picked up and put away the tools and supplies and then met for a closing to celebrate all that we had accomplished that day.

I feel so grateful for all of the Expedia 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”.

FOTD: September 4, 2019

I realize I have several flowers that I refer to as my favorite flower. When I reflected on that fact today, it occurred to me that my favorite flower changes with the season. In the spring, my favorite flowers are the blooms on my magnolia tree; in summer, I am intrigued by the echinacea flowers; and at this time of the year, my favorite flowers are the ones on my aster shrub. I think I have taken more beautiful shots of those flowers than any other.

This is the photo I just took.

I love it.

Flower of the day

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: August 10

During our August 10 work party, two team leaders, seven students from the UW’s Introduction to Environmental Science class, a mother and daughter from our neighborhood and a volunteer who found us on Green Seattle Partnership Event Page participated. Three of the students had also attended our August 3 event. The August 10 work party was unusual in that most of the volunteers had previous restoration experience.

In the days preceding the event, the weather forecast changed several times a day, so we had no idea what to expect. When I started setting up that morning it was raining, but the rain had stopped by the time the work party began. And by the end of the work party, it was sunny. It has been quite hot lately but on this day the temperature was in the 60’s. Mother Nature had blessed us with a perfect work day.

I had ordered eight cubic yards of wood chips to be delivered sometime after August 12, so wanted to use up as many of the wood chips in the wood chip pile that is located on 25th Ave S as possible. During the August 10 work party, we would begin to make smaller piles of wood chips inside the Greenbelt. The wood chips in those small piles will be used when we do the fall planting. (When we plant trees, shrubs and ground covers, we place a four inch thick ring of wood chips around each new plant to help with weed reduction and water retention.) During the August 10 work party, we would also reinforce the upper path on our site by placing a new layer of wood chips over the existing path.

Since we didn’t have a big group of volunteers, we didn’t create the type of bucket brigade we had used on August 3. Instead, each volunteer carried many buckets of wood chips, two at a time, and dumped them in the appropriate places. I didn’t take any photos of this segment of the work party; I was too busy filling buckets. I did take some photos of the results of the work at the end of the event.

The first photo below shows what the pile looked like on July 7, the last time we had used wood chips from that pile. The second photo shows what the “pile” looked like after this segment of the August 10 work party. There are still wood chips in the pile, but even though the picture doesn’t show it clearly, the pile is nearly flat. The space is ready for the new delivery of wood chips!

We had made three smaller wood chip piles inside the Greenbelt and covered about 250 feet of path with new wood chips.

After a break, the group split into two teams. One team focused on removing the bindweed, and suckers that were shooting up from stumps of maple trees, in areas that border the Hanford Stairs. The maple trees had been cut down at some time in the past because they were under power lines.

Click on any of the photo galleries to see an enlarged version of the photos.

It was difficult to get before and after photos of the areas where the bindweed was removed because there is a dense cover of braken ferns and horsetails. I decided the best way to show the results of the work these students did was through a photo of the three bags of bindweed that they removed during this 45 minute work session! (To give you a sense of the size of the bags, know that they each one once held 40 pounds of pellets for a pellet stove heater.)

I did take before and after photos of the two places where the maple leaf suckers were removed.

The second team removed blackberry shoots and weeds from an area on the southeastern section of the site. They were even able to remove blackberry vines from under the big elderberry plants. Some of the elderberry plants are now 12-16 feet tall.

They also dug out a tire, a gas can and a pot. Here are photos of the gas can and the tire!

I saw the first berries on our elderberry plants during this work party. They were from a red elderberry. We have planted red, blue and black elderberry shrubs. I wonder if any of the others will fruit this year.

During the work session big blackberry vines and little ones were removed. This is a photo of one area before we started the work.

And the next set of photos show what some of the areas that this team worked on looked like at the end of the work party.

You can even see the ground under this elderberry plant!

I find myself using the word “amazing” a lot when I describe our work parties. That is an accurate description of this work party as well. I think it is amazing that twelve volunteers were able to accomplish so much during a three-hour work party.

***

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”.

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”.