The service-learning students and our forest restoration team leaders, who are also volunteers, accomplished so much during the 4th service-learning session.
[For those of you who may not have read previous posts about the service-learners, they are students from the University of Washington who are working on our site as an adjunct to their course work. They come once a week for seven weeks.]
We worked in an area that was full of horsetails, bindweed, dried branches and other weeds. The horsetails had started to die down for the year, but there were years of dried stalks underneath the live ones. We left the live horsetails alone as much as possible because they are a native plant. However, it often wasn’t possible to remove the bindweed without removing the horsetail, because both break easily. The horsetails have been around since before the dinosaurs, though, so we know they will be back in the Spring!
This is what the area looked like when we started the session.
We hadn’t planned to create a path that day, but it soon became clear that one would be helpful. Here are before and after photos of the new path.
We worked on the path and on removing the invasive weeds throughout the three-hour work party. Most of the weeds were taken to drying racks.
[We’ve started bagging bindweed and putting it in the trash in case being on the drying racks isn’t enough to prevent the invasive vine from re-rooting.]
Click on the gallery to enlarge the photos.
The transformation in the land was remarkable. Compare the photos below to the first one in this post.
Thanks to the effort of all of the volunteers, it had been another productive work party. Step by step, and with the blessing of Mother Nature, we are creating another healthy forest in Seattle.
Yesterday, as we were walking down the stairs that separate my yard from the restoration site, one of our team leaders pointed out some mushrooms to me. I thought the fact that they were coming up through a coiled hose made them look like a piece of art.
This quarter, we have students from the University of Washington’s Service-Learning program (Carlson Center) helping on our site. The Carlson Center’s service opportunities are tied to academic courses. Two of the students are from an introductory level course in the College of the Environment and four are from an English composition course that is focusing on social issues.
The service-learning students will work in our forest restoration site every week for seven weeks. Each session will last three hours.
Session 1: October 8
Our forest restoration project gives everyone who participates the opportunity to practice flexibility, especially the leaders. That was certainly true of the day the students came to our site for their first session.
In the week that led up to the first session, the weather forecast changed many times; in fact, sometimes it changed several times a day. (We can work in the rain, but we have to cancel if it is windy since many of the trees on the site are old and it is not unusual for branches to fall during wind storms. And we didn’t like the idea of the students’ first experience being in heavy rain.) Often the weather during our work parties is better than the forecast, so we hoped Mother Nature would support us in that way again.
On the day of the event, the weather changed even more often. An hour or two before the work party there was some lightning. (We wouldn’t work in lightning either.) As I was doing the final setup for the work party, the rain was pouring.
Shirley, who co-leads these sessions with me, and I had decided to hold the orientation in my house and to make it much more comprehensive than normal. When the students arrived, it was still raining, but the rain wasn’t as heavy as it had been earlier. After the orientation, Shirley and I took them on a tour of the site. By then, the rain had changed to a light shower. And, by the time we were ready to do the restoration work, the sun was shining!
We had reviewed the plan for what work we would do during the first work party numerous times over the preceding week. As we took the tour of the site, we decided the five students and two leaders would break into two teams; we would cut back the blackberry vines that were shooting into the site from the blackberry barrier that goes along the southern border, separating our site from the neighbor’s land.
Click on any of the photo galleries below to enlarge the photos.
In the two photos above, you can see some of the many piles of blackberry vines that were removed during that first session. The cuttings were carried on tarps to drying racks in other parts of the site. In the photos below, you can see what two of the border areas looked like when we finished that day
Session 2: October 15
Six students attended the second service-learning session. Antje, one of our other team leaders, also participated. We worked together near the red twig dogwood area, an area that is very near wetlands. That land is full of horsetails, a native plant that is older than the dinosaurs. It also contained invasive bindwood, blackberry and ivy vines, as well as nightshade and other weeds. We removed the invasive vines and weeds, but left the horsetails alone.
You can see before and after pictures of the area the students worked in that day below. The invasive vines are gone and the native plants are more visible.
After a break, the students removed a big pile of dried cuttings from another area, and took them to a different part of the site where they will break down even further. We will be able to plant shrubs in the space where the large pile of debris the students moved that day once stood.
Session 3: October 22
During this session, five students and the three leaders tackled an area that had been worked on twice during summer work parties. There was still plenty of clearing that needed to be done.
Dried blackberry canes and branches covered the ground, as well as live ivy, blackberry vines and other invasive plants. Under the dried debris, we found layers and layers of ivy vines. They criss-crossed so much that they seemed woven. It is possible that these layers represented 50 years of ivy growth. The students carried many loads of invasive vines to drying racks that day.
This is what the space looked like at the end of the session. It is another area where native trees and shrubs will be planted in November.
This group has accomplished so much during their first three service-learning sessions. I am always amazed by how much the land transforms during each work party.
It is my understanding that the presence of mushrooms is an indication that soil is healthy. If that is the case, and I think it is, our restoration site has VERY healthy soil. There are so many mushrooms here now, and they come in many varieties. I will take pictures of more of them, but for now I will share two photos I took several days ago.
The Carlson Center at the University of Washington
coordinates the University’s service- learning programs. They describe
service-learning this way:
Service-learning combines service in the community with structured preparation and reflection opportunities. Service opportunities are tied to academic coursework and address concerns that are identified and articulated by the community.
We had our first group of service-learning students during Spring Quarter 2019. This quarter, we have another group. The first time we had four students; this quarter we have six. Two of the students are taking ENVIR 100 Introduction to Environmental Studies, and four are taking ENGL 121D Composition Social Issues (Environment). These students are working with us three hours a week for seven weeks. They are interested and enthusiastic and have already made a significant contribution to the project.
Amazing Tree Growth
When we planted alder trees in November 2018, they were about four feet tall. Most of the alder trees are now around 5 ½ feet. This month we discovered that there was one alder that is 10 feet 4 inches and another that is 6 feet 5 inches. Both are near the red twig dogwood area, a moist part of the site. I think it is astounding growth for one year. How big will they be by this time next year?
We are in the process of picking two senior students from UW’s
College of Environment to intern at our site. The Capstone’s Program is
described this way:
Students majoring in Environmental Studies gain valuable professional experience and explore potential career paths through a 3-quarter Capstone Course Series which includes a quarter-long internship, study abroad experience or research with a faculty member. Students produce a written deliverable and tie this professional and hands-on component with their academic study.
The Capstone is usually centered around an internship with a community site partner. Potential Capstone sites range from local non-profits and government agencies to faculty research projects and private sector initiatives and the Capstone instructor organizes a “Meet and Greet” small career fair with site partners who have pre-selected projects for students to work on.
The interns will start their formal internship program in January 2020, but they will have the opportunity to start gathering required hours with us this quarter. They will become valuable members of our team.