Beauty in the Greenbelt: Pacific Ninebark

In April of 2017, I took a live stake workshop. The participants cut branches from a variety of shrubs, took them home and planted them in containers. The stakes rooted throughout the summer and early fall. In November of 2017, I planted the ones that had in our forest restoration site.

Three of the Pacific Ninebark stakes not only survived, they thrived. When I was walking through the restoration site today, I noticed that there were many buds on the shrub. One of the flowers had partially bloomed. I think it is SO beautiful.

There are many flowers like this one on the shrub. The photo below shows about a third of the plant’s flowers-to-be.

This shrub will be so beautiful when all of these buds open. At this point, it is still a fairly small plant. I can only imagine what it will look like years from now when it is fully grown.

Cee’s Flower of the Day Photography Challenge

An Afternoon Surprise

When I walked out of my house onto the back deck yesterday, this sight caught my eye:

I couldn’t believe it. When were these built? The nest on the right was biggest and they descended in size for seven rafters.

I’ve had bird nests in the rafters before, but only one at a time. And why did the bird not finish any of them? I looked on the other side of the beam and saw this:

The wasp nest was very small, but it is more than likely the answer to my question. I wouldn’t want to raise babies there!

Service Learning Work Parties: April 22, 29 and May 6, 2019

We’ve had three more service-learning work parties since I wrote about the first two. Since the group is small, Shirley and I usually work alongside the students so I often forget about taking photos. Luckily, Shirley took a few during the April 22 work party and I remembered during the May 6 one.

April 22 was the first work party this year where it was wet and muddy. We spent most of the time digging out bindweed and blackberry vines in of the eastern planting areas and then moved on to weeding the north side of the Hanford Stairs.

On April 29, the students spent the first part of the work party building a ring of wood chips around some the plants. The wood chips act as mulch, reducing weed growth and keeping the soil near the plants moist during the summer. Once the rings (often referred to as a donut) are built, the donut hole is cleaned out. That way rain water will get to the plant easier.

During the second part of thae work party, two of the students removed invasive plants along the north side of the stairs again and spread wood chips in areas that they cleared.

Shirley (team leader) and the other two students worked in an area near the second set of Hanford Stairs; across Cheasty Boulevard. It was the first time we have worked on that site, but it won’t be the last.

The Seattle Transportation Department had planted native plants in that area at the time they built the stairs. Since then, bindweed had taken over; most of those plants and the nearby land was covered with bindweed at the time of the work party.

After a break, all of us worked in that area. We freed a snowberry shrub, a bald hip rose shrub and two salal plants.

We dug up a lot of bindweed and other invasive vines, but there is plenty more to be done in that area.

On May 6, the students came for their fifth service-learning experience. This time they weeded four planting areas and put wood chip rings around 90 trees, shrubs and ground covers!

There are only two service-learning work parties left in this series. It has been fun to have the same students each week for seven weeks.

Next week we will be putting the wood chip rings around plants in three or four more planting areas, and during the last week we plan to go back to the bindweed area across Cheasty Boulevard.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Parties: March 20-April 16, 2019

Greenbelt Entrance

From Spring of 2017 through Autumn of 2018, students from the University of Washington’s Introduction to Environmental Science class worked in our restoration site. The students were required to do three hours of volunteer work during the quarter, so their needs and ours matched very well. In November of 2018, I was dismayed to learn that the instructor was retiring at the end of the quarter and the future of the course was uncertain. That class had been our primary source of volunteers.

Losing those volunteers has been a good chance to practice taking the attitude “What you need will be provided.” I also kept in mind a line adapted from the movie, Field of Dreams– “If you build it, he (they) will come.”

In mid November 2018, DocuSign, a corporate group did our fall planting. On Martin Luther King Day, we had a sizable work party. In February, my neighbor John and I worked together to rescue a shrub that a massive pine tree branch had fallen on. We also had two winter work parties where the participants consisted primarily, or exclusively of team leaders.

As Spring came, I began to get worried. Blackberry shoots, bindweed and other invasives were emerging from the ground. I started working in the site on my own and thoroughly enjoyed the work, but I knew I couldn’t do everything that needed to be done by myself. In addition to trusting that what I needed would be provided, it was an opportunity to practice staying focused on what I was doing in the moment rather than being distracted and/or brought down by obsessing about the enormity of the whole task.

One day in mid-March, Lillie, a woman whom I had seen on the Hanford Stairs numerous times, stopped and talked with me. I invited her to help with the restoration work and she was interested. The first time she came, we cut up debris from the fallen pine tree branch and scattered it on an area where I had removed a drying rack.

The second time we worked together, we cut up debris on another drying rack and took it to The Rack Zone, a place we are beginning to prepare as a planting area.

Lillie cutting dried debris

A week or so after Lillie started working with me, a young man walked up to me as I was working near the stairs. His name is Mycole and he wanted to work with me once or twice a week. The first time he came, we removed wood chips from around the plants in two planting areas. The next time, we started taking apart a large drying rack, cutting up the debris and taking it to the Rack Zone. The last time we finished clearing an area I will describe later in this post.

The debris pile in the photos below is the one that Mycole, Lillie and I worked to dismantle. I don’t have a photo of what it looked like when we started, but my guess is that it was about 14 ft (L) x 10 ft (W) by 5 feet (H). The first photo shows what it looked like after Mycole and I worked on it. A that point it was around 8 x 8 x 2.5. The second photo shows what it looks like now. It is only 12-18 inches high. We will eliminate it fully in the near future.

I had also applied to be a community partner in the Carlson Center’s (University of Washington) service-learning. They help match students who need volunteer opportunities as part of their course work with community partners who need help. This program is very different than the Introduction to Environmental Science students we had worked with between Spring Quarter of 2017 and Autumn Quarter of 2018. As I mentioned earlier, those students had a three-hour volunteer requirement to meet. The service-learning students would work in our Greenbelt site for three-hours a week for seven weeks.

Our application was accepted. This quarter we have four service-learning students. They are part of an English Composition course that is focusing on the Environment. It is fun to work with them and nice to have the continuity from week to week. Shirley, one of our most active team leaders, and I lead their weekly work parties.

During their first two service-learning experiences, the students focused on clearing weeds and grass from an area that is near the entrance to the restoration site. They also moved a big pile of tree and ivy branches from that area to a different part of the site. As each patch of ground was cleared, it was covered with wood chips. The students also cut up a big branch that had fallen on top of a large shrub during a wind or snow storm.

Click on the gallery to enlarge the photos.

When we started the project, the area looked like this:

Before:

The transformation in the land after the students worked on it for the two sessions was remarkable. Mycole and I finished that section two days after the second service-learning work party.

What a difference it makes to be greeted by this sight when walking towards the entrance to our Greenbelt site:

After:

I’m thoroughly enjoying working with our new volunteers and with the volunteers who have been committed to this project for a long time. What we need is definitely being provided.

If you live in the Seattle area and are interested in attending one of our events, our next public work party is Saturday, May 4 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. You can get more information and/or sign up at
https://seattle.greencitypartnerships.org/event/16055/ .

Friendly Friday Photo Challenge: Mood

I’m excited. I’ve been watching two ferns beginning to awaken since one of our teams took all of the blackberry vines off of them in early March. They are so close together you can’t really tell that there are two of them. This is what they looked like today!

April 19

The following photos show their awakening:

March 11
March 28
April 5
April 12
April 19

Before long there will be two big ferns!