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.

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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”.

Ethopians Plant More Than 350 Million Trees in 12 hours!

A friend in New Mexico just sent me this link. Can you imagine the difference it would make if many countries in the world planted trees at this level.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/29/africa/ethiopia-plants-350-million-trees-intl-hnk/index.html

Light in the Darkness

My son, Sreejit, sent me this tweet today. It was nice to start my day with good news and a sense of hope.

Pearly Everlasting Update

Pearly Everlasting Flowers

I have been fascinated by Pearly Everlasting shrubs since I first saw them when I took a class at Seattle’s Discovery Park in November of 2017. They are the plants with white flowers in the background of the photo below.

I put 10 Pearly Everlasting shrubs on my 2018 Greenbelt plant order. When they arrived, in November 2018, they were in small containers. Each pot held one or two stalks. There was a small cluster of white flowers at the top of each stalk.

During the winter, the stalks withered away. I wondered if the plants had died. I was excited when I noticed new growth emerging from the ground on January 27, 2019.

This is what the plant looked like on March 26.

The plants grew fast. By May 14, they were this tall. I thought they were beautiful.

Imagine my surprise on June 10 when I found that all of the stalks on one of the plants had collapsed; they weren’t strong enough to support the weight at the top.

I thought it may have happened because the area where these four Pearly Everlasting plants were planted used to be a compost pile, so the dirt is very rich. Maybe the shrubs grew too fast. Overtime though, all of the Pearly Everlasting shrubs on our site collapsed in a similar fashion.

When it first happened, I wrote one of the Green Seattle Partnership Program Managers and asked if this was normal. She said she hadn’t heard of it occurring before but would check with other people. She was told it happened because there weren’t enough stalks; when there are more, the stalks will support each other. Hopefully there will be many more stalks emerging from the ground next year.

Even though the plants collapsed, they kept growing. In some ways, it was as if each stalk was a separate plant. On June 15, I saw a flower beginning to bloom at the end of one of them.

June 20

June 27

The photo I chose to use at the top of this post was taken on July 5.

And this is what one of the plants looked like yesterday, July 26.

It will be interesting to see if enough stalks grow next year so that they are able to support each other, and the weight of their flowers. I wonder if they will be thicker and more sturdy. I also wonder when the plants will look like the shrubs I saw in 2017. Meanwhile, I will enjoy the mystery.

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Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: July 7, 2019

On Sunday July 7, we held our second work party of the summer. Twenty-two students from the University of Washington’s Introduction to Environmental Science class participated in the event, as did a volunteer who found us on the Green Seattle Partnership Event Page and a neighbor. One of our team leaders was unable to come that day, so Claire and I led the work party by ourselves. That ended up working fine since most of the work we did that day was done together.

After the orientation, the first task for the day was to add or reinforce wood chip rings around many of the trees, shrubs and ground covers we have planted since fall of 2017. The rings help hold in moisture during the dry summer months. During the work party, volunteers would also be watering some of the plants. After a snack break, we planned to remove bindweed from a Greenbelt site across Cheasty Blvd.

The area where we would start building the wood chip rings was on the far side of the site, far away from the wood chip pile. First of all, everyone filled buckets with wood chips. Afterwards, some of the students stayed at the wood chip pile and refilled the empty buckets as they were returned to the pile.

Most of the students formed a long line between the wood chip pile and the area where the chips would be placed around the plants. Buckets full of wood chips were passed from one person to another down the “bucket brigade” line. After the buckets were emptied, they were returned to the wood chip pile in the same manner. (I’m aware that my photos of the line only show empty buckets. Be assured that MANY filled buckets were passed as well!)

At the far end of the line, other volunteers created or reinforced the wood chip rings. They completed the rings in the far planting area much faster than I expected and then moved on to other parts of the site. They ended up making functional wood chip rings on about half of the site.

When I surveyed the work the next day, I was amazed to discover that the volunteers had completed 123 wood chip rings!

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

About 45 minutes into the work party, a small group was pulled from the bucket brigade line to start the watering. I have been watering some of the Greenbelt plants since the cistern was installed on the site, but this was the first time we’ve done it at a work party. The cistern is located near the top of the Hanford Stairs. The water system operates solely by gravity, so if we are working in a high area, which we were, the water pressure can be very low.

I was filling the buckets near the bottom of the highest planting area. Even so, the water came through the hose slowly. We have been asked by the Seattle Parks Department staff to give two gallons of water to each plant that needs it. I had a hard time filling buckets fast enough keep up with the volunteers who were pouring the water on the plants. Eventually, we started filling the buckets even lower on the site. That meant the volunteers had to carry the buckets further, but moving to the lower area really increased the water flow.

I’m sorry I didn’t get more photos of the water team; I was too busy figuring out how to get them water. Due to our persistence, 33 plants received two gallons of water during the work party!

An hour-and-a-half into the event, we took a break. Since the snack that day was ice cream, and because we had so few team leaders, I decided to hold the break on the back deck of my house; my house is adjacent to the Greenbelt. When the snack was ready, I looked down into the site and saw Claire leading a long line of volunteers towards my house. It was an amazing sight. After enjoying the ice cream, we took a group photo.

After the break, we walked down the Hanford Stairs and crossed Cheasty Blvd. Once there, we started digging out bindweed. (Last week, I wrote about some experiences in that site. That post was called “Oh No’s”.)

This is what the area looked like when we stopped at the end of the work party. We had filled six or seven bags with bindweed.

Since the bindweed in this site has been growing back so fast, I am doubtful that the area we cleared will stay clear. I wrote my Green Seattle Partnership supervisors today and asked for direction.

We had a wonderful work party. I feel so grateful for all of the volunteers who participated in the July 7th 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”.

“Oh No”s

I’ve had a lot of “Oh No” experiences lately; ones that relate to the new Greenbelt site we’ve agreed to help with. Our main site is south of the stairs that begin at the intersection of 25th Avenue S and S Hanford Street in Seattle. About three years ago, the Department of Transportation built a second set of Hanford Stairs across Cheasty Boulevard. They are lower on the side of Beacon Hill than our main site. There is Greenbelt property on both sides of the lower stairs.

When those stairs were built, the Department of Transportation planted native shrubs on both sides of the stairs and then covered the area with wood chips. It was beautiful. However, no one maintained the property and over time the land, including the new plants, became covered with bindweed vines. There were some blackberry vines too, but in that area the bindweed ruled. In fact, the bindweed completely covered most of the shrubs. Sometimes, there was no way to know there was even a shrub there; they just looked like mounds of bindweed.

Below are some photos of bindweed vines I took on our site two years ago. They show how bindweed strangles shrubs and ground covers.

One day in April, a Green Seattle Partnership staff member asked us to remove the bindweed from that area, if possible, meaning if we had time. We worked on it for the first time, on April 29. The photos below show what it looked like at that time. Seeing it when preparing for the work party was probably my first “Oh No” experience in this series. We removed bucket after bucket of bindweed that afternoon.

Our main site has a lot of bindweed, but it looks small in comparison to what is in this area. I’ve read that bindweed can go 32 feet into the earth. It is very fragile so breaks off easily so I had had no illusion that we could completely get rid of it. But we had at least started the process of reducing it.

When I checked the site three weeks later, I could barely tell we had worked there before. “Oh No.” We cleared bindweed from that area again on May 20. Afterwards, we covered the area where we had “removed” the bindweed with wood chips. Even though we weren’t able to clear the whole area, the part we had “finished” looked beautiful.

On June 27, I went back to the site to take a look. The first thing I noticed was how much bindweed had returned. “Oh No.” The second thing I noticed was that two thirds of the way down the stairs someone had dumped a couch, chairs and other garbage. “Oh No.” How had the dumpers even gotten this stuff down there?

Seattle has a Find It, Fix It app that residents can use to report problems that they want the city workers to fix. I reported the dump. As I was filling out the report on my phone, I noticed that there was new graffiti on the area where I was standing. “Oh No.” Once I completed the illegal dump report, I filed a graffiti report.

On July 1, I walked down the stairs to take some photos of the bindweed. I felt discouraged to see that the shrub near the phone pole was completely covered again. In fact, bindweed was coming up everywhere. “Oh No.” I was, however, pleased to see that the furniture and other items that had been dumped were already gone. That was fast!

On July 3, I walked down the stairs on my way to pick up my car from an auto repair shop. I noticed that the bindweed had continued to grow in the last few days. I also took a closer look at areas we hadn’t cleared yet. “Oh No.” When I saw my photo I was sorry to see that my finger had gotten in the way and showed up in the photo. “Oh No.” Luckily the picture still showed what I wanted it to show.

Then, I saw that more items had been dumped not far from the bottom of the stairs . “Oh No”. I couldn’t even tell what the stuff was. I could only see that they were big. This time the dump was in an area we hadn’t worked on before; one that is filled with blackberry vines as well as bindweed. Once again, I reported the dump through the Find It, Fix It app.

In writing this post, I can see from the photos that even though there is still lots of bindweed coming up in the areas we have cleared before, there is far less of it than when we started on April 29. And we kept it from flowering. The flowers would have caused it to spread even more. We are making a difference, one step at a time.

Bindweed flower from Pixabay.com

Our plans are for the 30 people who have registered for the July 7 work party to work in that area for the last part of the event. In the past, we have only worked there with five or six people. I look forward to discovering how much we accomplish at that time.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: June 29, 2019

From Spring Quarter of 2017 through Autumn Quarter of 2018, students from the University of Washington’s Introduction to Environmental Science class helped with the forest restoration work on our site. In fact, they were our major source of volunteers!

I was very disappointed when the teacher retired at the end of 2018; disappointed for me, not for him. I had been told that he would probably teach the class again Summer Quarter of 2019. And he is! Students from the class attended our June 29 event, our first work party of the summer.

Shirley, Claire, Dave and I served as team leaders. Sixteen students from the Introduction to Environmental Science class, friends of two of the students, and John, a neighbor who has attended almost all of our work parties participated. Two other neighbors helped for a while; one signed in participants as they arrived and another took many of the photographs.

After an orientation, the participants were divided into four groups.

There were several places on the site where our native trees, shrubs and ground covers were being overtaken by blackberry and bindweed vines as well as other weeds. This was particularly a problem on the borders of the property. Shirley’s group cleared away the invasive plants on one of the planting areas that borders the east side of the site.

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

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Dave’s group worked on the upper south planting areas. There the blackberries had completely covered a debris pile that had been created when we first cleared blackberry and ivy vines from that portion of the land. Only a tiny bit of the dried debris was visible.

The group cut the blackberry vines away from the debris pile and in nearby areas and then took many loads of the dried debris to another part of the site. They carried the live cuttings to drying racks located elsewhere on the property.

John also worked in that area. With his trusty pickaxe, he cleared many blackberry vines and weeds from the southwest corner of the site.

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Generally, I focus on coordinating the event rather than leading a team. At this work party though, I lead a small team of three students. They worked on two projects. They did such a good job, even though I was only with them from time to time.

When there is a dead tree on the site, it is generally not cut down. As the tree decays, and even after it falls, it nourishes birds, animals and insects either by providing shelter or food. There was a dead shrub on this property that had grown as big as a small tree. Its branches were dropping into some of our new trees and shrubs. The first job this group did was to cut back those low hanging branches so they didn’t interfere with the growth of the new native plants.

When the students finished that project, they started clearing the blackberry vines that were growing into the planting areas along the lower part of the southern border of the site.

Claire’s group cleared bindweed and other invasive plants from an area that was also covered with native bracken ferns. Those ferns had surprised me when they emerged from the ground last year since I didn’t know they were there. They covered a lot of the native plants we had planted.

It was tricky to remove the invasive bindweed without hurting the bracken ferns or other native plants but the students did a good job of doing it. Towards the end of the work party they also removed the suckers that were coming out of two maple trees.

The work party had begun at 10:00 a.m. At 11:30 we stopped for a snack break and to take a group photo.

After the break, all of the groups continued their work. At 12:40 participants began the final tasks. They put the remainder of the invasive plants they had removed on drying racks, gathered the tools and took them to the tool box, put all the supplies away and joined together for a closing. During the closing, we celebrated all that they had accomplished during the three hour work party.

I think everyone had a good time. I sure did!