Adventures in the Snow

While the amount of snow that has been occurring in Seattle will seem small compared to what most of the country is experiencing, it is not small to us. When I moved here in 1966, Seattle occasionally had big snow storms, but there have been many years when we had no snow, or almost no snow.

The last ten days have been quite an adventure. I have loved the beauty of the snow and the challenges, but I’m quite ready for the snow to go away, at least for now.

I have enjoyed writing this followup to my last two snow posts (It Snowed! and It’s Going to Snow Again).

Friday, February 8

I learned a new word! I had written a friend that lives in Bellevue and asked if it was snowing there. She wrote back that it was graupeling. I didn’t have any idea what that word meant so looked it up. Google kept changing the word to grueling. I was persistent and eventually tried graupel. That worked! Graupel is defined as soft hail or soft snow pellets.

Later that day, I walked outside and saw many graupels in my yard .

(Click on any photo gallery to enlarge the photos.)

I saw something else that made me curious. At first I didn’t know what it was, but soon realized it must be a thick icicle. It was more than an inch in diameter. There were many fallen icicles on the ground nearby.

Later that day, it began snowing in earnest.

Saturday, February 9

During our first big snow, I stayed inside for days because I was afraid to walk down the front steps. The steps were slippery and they don’t have a railing. This time I realized I could just walk out the basement door. Duhhh. Why didn’t I think of that before? I ventured outside much sooner and more often on these snowy days.

I knew that the little Greenbelt trees that were bent over from the weight of the snow would be bent over again so I walked into the Greenbelt from the Hanford Stairs. The weight of the snow on one of the shrubs created a canopied entrance to the site, I felt like I was entering a magical land.

I removed the snow from the tree I had freed before. I did the same with five other trees on that outing. In the process, I wondered if I was hurting them by freeing them when I knew they were just going to get buried again.

When I got back to my house, I wrote my supervisor at Green Seattle Partnership and asked her what she thought. She told me it would be best to leave them alone.

After leaving the Greenbelt, I saw a neighbor who was about to walk down the hill to the store. As we talked, we noticed that people were try drive down 25th Ave S where a tree had fallen across the road the night before. When they turned their cars around, they almost all discovered that they couldn’t get up the S. Hanford hill. Most couldn’t even make the jog in the road at 25th Ave. S and S. Hanford. We guided the motorists to a place where they could park their cars until the roads were drivable for a while.

When we stopped doing that, I walked down 25th Ave S and took a photo of the fallen tree.

Then I returned home and cleared the snow off of one side of the front steps and off of my car. I tried to clear the front sidewalk too but didn’t get very far with that endeavor; there was ice under the snow that I couldn’t break or get under.

At least I started the job. I was impressed that I accomplished as much as I did. And it felt so good to be out of the house.

Sunday, February 10

It was beautiful on Sunday morning. At 10 a.m. the sky was blue.

From my back deck

Sometime before 2 pm, the sky started to darken. Soon thereafter, it began to snow again.

Monday, February 11

The snow kept falling… and falling.

After the snow storm that started on February 3, I didn’t clean the snow off of the car until it had stopped snowing. That was probably on February 6. My car had been parked in the driveway. It took me much longer to be able to drive than the neighbors who had parked on the street.

When I did eventually try to get into my car, the front door was frozen shut. During the second series of snowstorms, I decided to park the car on the street and to remove the snow at least once a day.

One day, I noticed that brushing the snow off of the car had resulted in a pile of snow around the car that was at times had a height of two-feet. Being hemmed in by snow would would certainly make it difficult to drive. A day later, I noticed that snow was piled tight against the side of the front tire. I sure didn’t want it to freeze there so on Monday, I removed that snow.

Soon after finishing that process, I was surprised to see a woman ski down S. Hanford St. Moments later, her husband pulling a child carrier, or whatever that structure is called, turned the corner onto 25th Ave. S. There were two small children in the “vehicle”.

While I was talking to the family, I noticed a fire truck had gotten stuck going around the roundabout at the south end of the block. When looked that direction a few minutes later, it was gone.


When I checked my email later in the day, I discovered that neighbors had posted photos of “snow art” that they had seen on North Beacon Hill. I was impressed.

Seeing those objects made me think of the snow angels I used to make when I was a kid. I kept thinking of them throughout the day. Eventually, I decided I was going to do it! It was a lot easier to lie down than it was to get up. I thought it interesting that the size of the right wing reflects the trouble I am having with my shoulder.

I was surprised at how heavy the snow was. It took more effort to move it than I thought it would.

On Monday, I cleared the snow off the car .

That afternoon, it snowed heavier than any other day. It was so beautiful.

But before long, my car was again covered with 4-6 inches of snow!

TT

Tuesday, February 12

A neighbor came over and let me know that she was going to clear my sidewalk for me. I was excited to have the help. I joined her so we worked on it together. The day before, another neighbor had told me he would help me get my car out of the snow when I was ready to drive. A third neighbor had picked up something for me at Lowe’s after the previous snow storm. My new roommate carried pellet bags into the house for me and one day, she cleaned the snow of of my car after cleaning it off of her own. I’m lucky to have neighbors who will help me when I need it. I need to remember these incidents when I’m feeling alone in the world.

Wednesday, February 13

I was supposed to teach a class about our forest restoration project to Environmental Science students from Seattle University on Tuesday and on Thursday the students were planning to work on our site. The university was closed on Tuesday so I will be teaching the class on Thursday. That meant I had to cancel the work party. I hope the students will come to a later one.

I have enjoyed the beauty of the snow and all of the adventures it has brought my way. I also appreciate that it has given me the opportunity to catch up on so many things on my “to do” list. But as I said at the beginning of this post, I’m ready for this to end; and it looks like it is going to. Hopefully by tomorrow I will be able to drive!

More Greenbelt Mysteries- this time of the Grrrrrr variety

Last week, I wrote a post about an intriguing mystery that happened after a recent Greenbelt work party. While I experienced a myriad of emotions at that time, it was primarily a positive experience.

There were several other mysteries in process at that time. They were different than the one I had written about in that I was very irritated by each of them.

Soon after I came home from India in mid-January, I found that someone had cut down a large tree somewhere and then dumped it in a part of the Greenbelt that we had cleared. I believed it was done by a “professional” company because all the debris had been sorted by size and much of it had been banded before it was dumped.

(Click on the gallery to enlarge the photos.)

A week later, I noticed that someone had pruned a cedar tree and dumped the branches in front of the first stack. The new debris was neither sorted nor banded, so I assumed that this illegal dump was done by a different person than the previous one.

Shortly before our January 21 work party, I noticed that all of our buckets were missing from the site. Most of them were 5 gallon buckets. Many were bright orange or bright blue. How in the world had someone taken 30 buckets without being noticed? And why? We had used the buckets to hold wood chips, trash, glass and weeds.

Some of the buckets in use at a previous work party

Seattle Parks Department removed most of the dump and replaced most of the buckets. The buckets are now chained to the job box that holds our tools. I also placed three Another Future Healthy Forest signs in hopes that it would prevent people from dumping in the reforestation space.

Instead of going out into the snow to take a new photo for this post, I decided to use one that was taken in February of 2017!

The roads were finally clear and dry yesterday so I drove for the first time since the snow began last Sunday. When I passed the area where I put the three signs, I noticed that one of them was gone.

Grrrr. I guess these are all opportunities to practice equanimity and “putting in the effort and letting go of the results”, but I’m not there.

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It’s Going to Snow Again

It started snowing during the Super Bowl last Sunday and by morning we had six inches of snow. The temperature has been in the 20’s and low 30’s ever since.

I live on the side of Beacon Hill so getting off the hill is a problem. The streets and sidewalks were so icy this week, I didn’t drive at all and I rarely left the house.

It warmed up to 37 degrees today. By noon, I was able to get my car door open. (I had tried to open it earlier in the day but discovered that it was frozen shut.) We are supposed to have way more snowfall tomorrow and Saturday than we did last weekend, so today was my day to run errands and get ready for the next storm. Thankfully the streets were free of ice and snow so I was able to do what I needed to do.

When I returned home, I also spent time walking in the Greenbelt. The snow was almost gone in one section.

As I walked in the other areas I saw the weight of the snow had pulled one of the little trees to the ground. The top of it was buried in the snow.

When I shook the snow off, the tree popped up. It wasn’t straight but hopefully it will straighten over time. It occurred to me that the same thing may happen tomorrow.

I noticed that the tops of two nearby trees were also buried in the snow.

I didn’t feel safe walking down the hill to free them, but later I walked up the hill and shook the snow off of them. They also straightened once they were free of the weight.

I’ve been worried that the snow will hurt the shrubs that are already leafing. I was relieved to see that this one looks fine.

I enjoyed walking through the rest of the site. The trees we planted in November of 2017 grew so much this year. I thought they looked very stately in the snow. I wish I had taken photos of more of them.

I’m supposed to teach a class about this restoration project at Seattle University next Tuesday. Then on Thursday, the students from that class are supposed to have an hour long work party at our site. I walked down the stairs to the area where I plan to have them work so I could see what it looks like.

The weather forecasts say that it is going to snow on and off all week. I’m preparing as if these two Seattle University events are going to take place but I wonder if that will happen. I am excited about both of them so I hope the weather forecasters are wrong.

***

Anyone is welcome to help with this forest restoration project. For more information write: hanfordstairsgreenbelt@gmail.com.

It Snowed!

While the rest of the country was suffering through devastating winter storms, Seattle’s temperatures were in the high 40’s and low 50’s. It felt like spring. Many of the plants were beginning to bud; some of the leaf buds had even opened.

Last night I was watching the Super Bowl at Al’s. Soon after I arrived, it began to snow. I stayed for the first three quarters but was very distracted. During the 4th quarter, I decided it was time for me to go home.

I don’t like to drive in the snow, plus I live on the side of a hill. It doesn’t take much to make my car slide and I hate that feeling. I have avoided driving in the snow since the year I slid down a steep hill near my house sideways, with a station wagon right behind me. That incident was probably in the late 70’s or early 80’s.

Last night, I made it home without incident. It was not snowing when I went to bed, but it snowed more during the night. This was the scene from inside my warm house this morning.

from the dining room
from the bathroom

Later in the day, I decided to walk to the end of my property and take some photos of the Greenbelt.

The snow is really beautiful but I hope it goes away soon… and doesn’t damage all the new buds.

Mystery in the Greenbelt

The day after our January 21 work party, I was taking photos of our work and was shocked to see a shovel propped up against the foundation of an old house that is in the middle of the site. I was particularly surprised to see the shovel there because all of the team leaders had been standing close-by that area at the end of the work party. If the shovel was present at that time, one of us would certainly have seen it and put it in the job box where our tools are stored.

The fact that the team leader who had gone through the site looking for tools later hadn’t seen it either added to the mystery. Where did it come from? Who had put it there?

On January 23, I was shocked to see an un-potted plant sitting on the ledge not far from where the shovel had been. I hadn’t seen it the day before. Had it been sitting there when I found the shovel? I didn’t think so but I will never know.

I assumed someone had removed a plant from one of the planting areas. The mystery deepened when I couldn’t find any holes that had missing plants. Inside that foundation is the area we call The Rack Zone. Until the January 21 work party, it had contained drying racks for most of the invasive plants we had cut down or dug out since the project began. During the work party, some of the volunteers had taken apart the drying racks and spread the dried debris. We have planned to plant beautiful shrubs and ground covers in that area at some point in the future.

Had this shrub been in one of the racks that had been taken apart? That seemed unlikely, but I called the team leader who had been working on that project. He said, “NO” and that if he had seen it, he would have shown it to me.

It occurred to me that since there was no rational explanation for how the shovel and the plant got there, I should look for a non-rational explanation. The thought that came to my mind was that this was to be the first shrub to be planted in The Rack Zone.

I walked into The Rack Zone and looked for an area where the new “ground” looked higher than the rest of it. Once I found a suitable place, I pulled back the surface debris that hadn’t fully decomposed to see whether there was composted dirt under it. There was, and it was deep enough to plant the shrub. I made the hole bigger and then inserted the shrub. I also made sure that there were no inter-twined ivy vines that would strangle it as it grew.

I needed more dirt to fill in the hole. After thinking about it for a moment, I remembered that I had seen mole mounds nearby. I also remembered a friend once helping me re-frame how I saw the moles in my own yard. She told me that the moles were providing me with free aeration for my soil. I decided to use the dirt from mole mounds for completing the planting process.

Another memory resurfaced when I was thinking about moles. Soon after we started this Greenbelt project, the person who was co-leading the project with me at the time, was sitting on the ledge of the foundation. A mole came out of the ground and looked up at her. While the photo below comes from pixabay.com, seeing it reminds me of that incident.

That shrub is now securely planted in its new home. It remains to be seen whether or not it is alive. There are no buds on it that look alive, but the branches are not brittle. Even though many of the Greenbelt plants are budding, it is only January. Maybe this is a plant that buds later. If it is living, our first shrub has been planted in The Rack Zone!

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: Martin Luther King Day of Service

On January 21, twenty-two eager volunteers met to do forest restoration work in our North Beacon Hill Greenbelt site. Four of the volunteers were veterans of this project and served as team leaders. Most of the other volunteers found out about the work party from Green Seattle Partnership listings; two found out about it from one of the local or regional Amma newsletters. Three children between 6 and 8, a pre-teen (12 years) and a teenager (13 years) participated.

This work party was held on the Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service. When that holiday was being created his wife, Coretta Scott King, said it should be substantive as well as symbolic. Since his was a life of service, the holiday became a National Day of Service.

While I knew of Martin Luther King’s role in civil rights, I didn’t know that he inspired the environmental justice movement, a movement that believes everyone has the right to clean air, water, and soil, as well as a right to live in safe and healthy communities.

After receiving an initial orientation, the volunteers divided into four groups.

Group 1

One of the team leaders and three of the other volunteers started the process of taking down the racks in The Rack Zone. When we clear land of blackberry, ivy and bindweed vines, all of the cuttings and root balls are put onto racks so that they don’t touch the ground before they dry out. If the vines touch the ground, they may re-root. I refer to the invasive plants we have cut down or dug out as “debris”.

The racks are made from logs and branches. This is a photo of one of the racks we built early on.

In most parks, racks are scattered throughout a site, but since we had a house foundation on the property, we decided to put most of the racks there. The concrete slab that was under the foundation would also prevent re-rooting. We named that area The Rack Zone.

Our plan was to let all of invasive plant cuttings dry out and decompose. In that way good dirt would build up and we could plant beautiful flowering shrubs in that area.

This was what The Rack Zone looked like in July of 2017, several months after we started using it. You can see that under the new cuttings there is a lot of debris that is becoming dry. There are at least two racks in the photo that have been used yet.

In January of 2018, we took most of the racks apart but didn’t spread the debris; we just built new racks on top it. During 2018, the new racks became filled and overflowing. We would start the process of taking them down completely at this work party.

I thought that would be a long process since what taking them apart the previous year had taken a long time. I thought that these volunteers would disassemble one to three racks during the first portion of the work party. That process would include separating the dried debris from the debris that was still living, taking out any logs or branches that were too big to readily decompose, and spread the debris that was dry.

When I checked on the group later, I was astounded by what they had already accomplished.

By the end of that segment of the work party, they had finished taking apart all but three of the racks!

We still have to figure out what to do with all the branches and logs that were too big to spread in this future planting area. Right now they are stacked on the north and south sides of The Rack Zone. In addition, there was a lot of broken concrete under the racks. Those are stacked on the ledge of the foundation and will also need to be moved to some yet unknown location.

Groups 2 and 3

Two groups worked in the planting areas, clearing out leaves and wood chips from around each plant. We refer that area as a donut hole. In addition, some members of those groups cleared branches that had fallen onto the paths during the winter winds and/or carried buckets of leaves to the newly cleared areas of The Rack Zone. Once there, they will decompose and become part of the composted soil.

The groups cleared the donut holes in most of the site. Each area looked so nice when they finished.

Group 4

Another team leader and a volunteer began to clear an area that was full of blackberry vines and ivy.

This is part of what that area looked like by the time the work party ended.

The work party had begun at 10 a.m. At 11:30 a.m. we took a short snack break. Before we went back to work, we gathered for a group photo. While we took some serious photos, the one that I loved most was a funny one.

The parents with young children planned to go home early, and did. Most of the remaining volunteers moved to the Greenbelt site that is on the north side of the Hanford Stairs; our main site is south of the stairs. I have been eager to start restoration work in that area.

This is what that that land looked like in December 2018.

January 21, 2019 work party photos:

This photo was taken after we finished that day.

The volunteers had removed a lot of trash and ivy.

It always amazes me how much can be accomplished during a three-hour work party. The land always looks substantially different when the volunteers leave, after having given freely of their time and their energy. Together we are helping this part of Seattle’s Greenbelt to once again become a healthy forest.

If you live in the Seattle area and would like to help with a future work party, write hanfordstairsgreenbelt@gmail.com.