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.

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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”.

Roots, Roots and More Roots

I laughed when I read that the April 26 Daily Post prompt was Roots. My life is filled with roots. I even dream about roots.

Our local GreenFriends group has taken on the responsibility of restoring four lots in Seattle’s Greenbelt. That land has been overrun by blackberries and ivy for decades. Part of our job in phase one of the project is to remove the blackberry vines and their root-balls.

The City of Seattle Parks Department staff cut down most of the blackberry vines in March. There are now thousands of canes sticking up from the ground. They lead us to the root-balls.

Raking up the debris makes it easier for us to see the canes and to dig out the root-balls.

Once we dig them out we put them on racks so they can dry out.

I suspect that blackberry root-balls will be in my life for years-to-come.

To read more about this project go to Greenbelt Restoration Project Update

Weekly Photo Challenge: Quest

Throughout Seattle, there are groups of people working to remove blackberry vines, morning glories and ivy from parks and Greenbelts. The empty lot that is behind my house is in of one of the Greenbelts. During the last three decades, the invasive plants have completely taken over the once beautiful land. So many trees have died.

There have been times in the past where I cleared parts of the lot, but since I can’t take out all of the roots, they, of course, always come back. Lately removing the blackberry vines and other invasives from the lot has become a passion for me. A friend and I have worked many hours cutting them down.

This is my favorite tree on that property. (It is actually two different trees, and each one of them split into two trunks so there are actually four trunks, but I still see them all as one tree.)

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One of my first priorities was to remove the blackberry vines and ivy from that tree. I have done that enough times over the years that was a fairly easy goal for me to accomplish. For the first time, however, I noticed that there was a branch on the north side of the tree that was so long that it disappeared into the blackberries. I resolved to free the branch.

But how would I even get to it? There was no easy course.

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I planned my route to the buried branch and committed to free it the next day.

Early Sunday morning, I set out to accomplish my goal. First, I went to the storage shed to pick up the tools I needed.

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As I started to open the shed door, I walked face first into a big spider web. Yuck. I backed up to see where the spider was. What I saw was a yard spider that was bigger than any I’ve ever seen before.

I had been looking for a subject for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Quest. The moment I came face to face with that spider was the moment that I knew I had my subject for the photo story. Freeing this tree branch was indeed going to be a Quest.

I picked up my tools and then headed towards the stairs that go to the lower lot.

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Shortly thereafter, I again walked into an unseen spider.

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Okay, it is time for me to get conscious.

  • Pay attention to what I’m doing.
  • Carry the hedge shears downward.
  • Watch where I’m walking so I don’t slide on the uneven ground as I walk down the hill.
  • Don’t step in a hole.
  • Make sure I have my phone safely stored in case I need help.

I inched my way down the hill, drawing ever closer to the tree. As I descended, I appreciated how much clearing we have already done.

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Cutting a path through the blackberry vines, I drew closer and closer to my destination. It wasn’t just a matter of cutting down the upper layer of blackberries. If I opened a hole in the mass, I could see that many of the old ones were in layers three feet deep. I had to be careful not to accidentally put my foot into a drop off.

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Finally, I got close enough to the branch that I could begin cutting the vines that were holding it down.

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I worked diligently, oblivious of the time.

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I was excited to see that there were many signs of life on the smaller branches that were offshoots of the larger one.

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When I thought I had freed it, I discovered that there was still one part was still trapped. I couldn’t even see where it ended. It occurred to me that none of the other branches on the tree were anywhere near that long, so I decided to cut it just under the areas of growth.

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When I made the cut, the branch rose ten to twelve feet into the air.

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Free, free at last!

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Mission accomplished. As I started to leave the area, I saw so many other trees that need to be liberated from the blackberries. I recommitted to come back and do more of that work, but this quest was enough for one day.

Time to go home.

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Before I knew it, I was nearing my back deck.

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My quest was complete and it was time for me to have a well deserved rest.