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.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: May 12, 2018

Our May 12th work party was a collaborative effort between GreenFriends, Green Seattle Partnership, Bridge2Beach, and neighbors. Thirty-two volunteers participated in the event. The five team leaders were GreenFriends members and/or neighbors. Additional GreenFriends members and neighbors helped with the sign in process and photography.

Twenty-five additional volunteers had pre-registered through the Bridge2Beach and Green Seattle Partnership event calendars. Twenty-one of them were from the U.W.’s Introduction to Environmental Science course. The UW students who had worked at our May 9 event could also be considered part of this collaboration since they did so much to prepare the planting sites for the work that was done on the 12th.

The volunteers arrived by car, bus and light rail. Once they had signed in they each picked up a pair of gloves and listened to an orientation. The various work opportunities were presented and then the participants divided into three teams.

Sixteen of the volunteers and their team leaders formed a bucket brigade to carry wood chip mulch from the city street into the Greenbelt. Once on the site, the mulch was placed around approximately 300 plants which had been planted and mulched in October or November of last year. Since there is no water source on the site, the additional mulch will help hold in moisture during the dry summer months.

Click on any of the galleries to enlarge the photos.

The second team consisted of six volunteers and the team leader. They removed a dense cover of invasive ivy, blackberry vines, and holly from an area on the eastern border of the site. While there will be many other teams working in this area in the future, the transformation that occurred during this three hour work party was remarkable.

Before

After (These photos show only a small segment of the work this team did that day.)

The third team was comprised of the team leader and three other volunteers. They worked in an area that is north of the site we’ve been restoring. In three hours time, they cut survival rings around eleven trees!  In addition, they began to remove ivy and blackberry vines from the land in the vicinity of those trees. [Note: Ivy kills trees. We create a survival ring by removing ivy on a tree from ground level to shoulder height. That way the ivy that is higher up will die off without creating the risk of pulling dead or dying branches onto ourselves or other people.]

While I didn’t take a photo of this area prior to the work party, you can get a sense of what it was like by looking at the backgrounds of the photos below.

I had eagerly awaited this particular work party, and it was everything I had hoped for. We had finished mulching all of the planting areas and accomplished significant invasive plant removal in two new areas.

Next steps:

  1. Remove blackberries and other weeds from pathways all over the site.
  2. Remove weeds from all over the site as they pop up again.
  3. Take apart dried debris piles that are ready to be spread on the paths.
  4. Remove invasive plants from small areas on this site that have not been cleared before.
  5. Continue clearing the larger areas we worked on during this work party

No Forest Restoration vs Forest Restoration

These timelines profoundly affected me when I saw them at the Green Seattle Partnership Forest Steward training that Ananya and I attended last March.

 

I choose to do whatever I can do to make the second timeline the reality.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: May 13

Twenty of the 23 participants in last Saturday’s work party were students from a University of Washington Environmental Studies class. I loved the opportunity to share this project with young people and appreciated what enthusiastic workers they were.

I set up five different work stations, and assigned four students to each of them. One group finished their work early so they joined another group for the remainder of the time.

Most of the work party was spent cutting down blackberry and ivy vines, and digging out blackberry root balls. Once the root balls were removed, we cover the cleared land with burlap bags to reduce weed growth. Then dried blackberry canes and other debris were placed on top of the burlap. In time, the bags and debris will turn into mulch which will hold in moisture and enrich the soil.

Since we use the blackberry canes to cover the burlap bags, it can be difficult for photographs to show how much work has been done. As you look at the before and after photos below, keep in mind that so many blackberry root balls are now above ground, stacked on racks made from tree branches where they will dry out.

Before and after photos for each of the five stations:

#1

#2

#3

#4

#5

The amount of trash that we collected during the last two work parties shocks me. I wonder it will ever come to an end.

 

As always, I was amazed and delighted by how much we were able to accomplish during a three hour work party.

Bridge 2 Beach Earth Day: April 30

Since September of 2016, our local GreenFriends group has been working to restore a four-lot strip of Seattle’s Greenbelt to the healthy forest it was meant to be. In October of 2016, we linked our project to the Green Seattle Partnership, a collaborative group that includes the City of Seattle Parks Department, Forest Stewards, and many other nonprofit organizations, all of whom are dedicated to restoring Seattle’s 2,500 acres of forested parks.

This strip of Greenbelt has been covered by blackberry vines and ivy for 30-50 years. When the City of Seattle staff cut down the blackberry vines in March of 2017, they discovered the foundation of a house. We believe that house burned down in the 50’s. With blackberry vines that at times reached nine-feet in height growing over and around it, no one in the neighborhood even knew the foundation was there. We decided to focus on that area during the April 30 work party.

Our work party group standing behind some of the items we found in the dirt.

This particular work party was held in honor of Bridge 2 Beach Earth Day, an annual event focused on making “Mother Earth more beautiful and [Seattle] neighborhoods sparkle.” This year the Rainier Chamber of Commerce, the sponsor of the event, invited the Green Seattle Partnership to join in the effort.

Our work party began at 10 a.m. and lasted until 1 p.m. Seven GreenFriends, two Forest Stewards from the Green Seattle Partnership, a neighbor, and six students from a University of Washington Environmental Science class participated.

Our tools were provided by the Green Seattle Partnership

Our primary task for the day was to remove blackberry root balls and put them on racks made from fallen tree branches. That way, the roots cannot touch the ground and will dry out. The photo below shows one of the three root ball piles that we created that day. [Some of the root balls you see in the photo were touching the ground, so were moved to the top of the pile at a later time.]

In the process of clearing the root balls, we found many objects in the dirt. This was probably the first time these items had been exposed to the light of day since sometime in the 60’s

We even found a foot-long worm!

We have discovered many interesting things since we began the project. This may be my favorite one. I wonder how old it is.

Once the root balls are removed, we cover the cleared land with burlap bags to reduce weed growth. Then dried blackberry canes and other debris are placed on top of the burlap. In time, the bags and debris will turn into mulch which will hold in moisture and enrich the soil.

Below are some “before and after” photos from our three-hour work party.

It was such a fun, productive and rewarding day. We accomplished more than I ever thought possible. When I reported the students’ hours to their professor, he told me he was sure there would be plenty of interest if I wanted to schedule another work party. I decided to offer one on Saturday May 13. The professor sent a notice to the students at 7:30 p.m. and when I checked the next morning, the event was full! I look forward to whatever we experience and discover that day.

 

Exposed

Greenbelt Restoration Project Update

So much has happened since I woke up one morning in late August 2016 realizing that I wasn’t willing to watch another tree die in the Greenbelt lot behind my house. That lot was filled with blackberries which had been growing for decades. I gathered my trusty hedge shears and lopper and started chopping them down.

Soon, a friend started working with me. A month or two after that, three other friends,  members of our GreenFriends group, joined me in clearing the land of invasive plants. We decided we would make restoring this lot a GreenFriends project.

In October, we linked our project to the Green Seattle Partnership, a collaborative group that includes the City of Seattle, Forest Stewards and many other non profit groups, all of whom are dedicated to restoring Seattle’s 2500 acres of forested parks. One of the city botanists came to see the work we had already done, answer our questions and give direction.

We were told that it was necessary for least one member of our group to take the Forest Steward training. That training would teach us what needed to be done on the lot and how to lead restoration work parties. Ananya and I decided to become Forest Stewards. The training wouldn’t be held in March and April of 2017 but we would be able to continue to remove the invasive plants in the meantime. We wouldn’t hold big work parties until we took the training.

Each restoration project has four phases: 1) Remove invasive plants, 2) Plant trees, shrubs and ground covers, 3) Plant establishment- watering, weeding, mulching and 4) Long term maintenance. Our project is in Phase 1. Once the invasive plants are gone, Seattle Parks Department will provide all of the trees, shrubs and ground covers for volunteers to plant.

We decided we would not only restore the one lot, we would restore the whole four lot strip of Greenbelt that it is a part of. The lot behind my house is Lot 3 and  has been covered by invasive plants for around 30 years; Lot 2 and 4  have been covered for fifty or more years. There has been quite a bit of restoration work done in Lot 1 during the last three or four years. It needs maintenance work, but when we look at the many new trees, shrubs and ferns that run through it, we are able to visualize what the whole strip will become.

As we continued to remove the invasive plants, we found so much trash. In addition to the big garbage, there were tiny pieces of plastic everywhere. I found a bird’s nest that was full of plastic.

On Saturday, February 25, six children and their leader came from Redmond Satsang’s Bala Kendra program to pick up litter. This was their haul after an hour of work.

We have been cutting down invasive bamboo since the project began. Last month, Yashas and I cut off the leaves and branches from the stalks. Those stalks which were suitable for stakes were given away. [Note: When the project began, we were told we could give the bamboo to the zoo for the elephants to eat. That person, and the rest of us, had forgotten that the Seattle zoo no longer has elephants!]

We continued to remove the invasive hemlock plants, blackberries and ivy.

Yashas and I took a one day course to learn how to make live stakes. Live stakes are cuttings from shrubs that are used to make new shrubs. I brought 75 of them home (Twin Berry, 9 Bark and Indian Plum) and planted them in pots. In the fall, we will see how many of them rooted, and will plant the ones that did in the Greenbelt.

Volunteer groups are not allowed to use power tools, so when they are needed, city workers come to do the work. In March, eight workers from the Seattle Park Department cut down most of the invasive vines and bamboo on this four lot strip of Greenbelt. That will make it much easier for volunteers to dig out the blackberry root balls and ivy. It also opened up a view of the whole property that no one has seen for 50 years or more.

When they cut down the blackberries in the second lot, the workers found something that surprised all of us. There was a foundation of a house! I have lived here since 1973 and didn’t know there used to be a house there, and neither did my neighbors. Interesting objects were found in or near the “house.”

In the weeks after the city workers came, I spent a lot of time pulling out building racks we will put the blackberry vines and ivy on so they can dry out, digging out blackberry rootballs and covering the cleared land with burlap.

On March 4, Ananya and I took the first half of the Green Seattle Partnership Forest Steward training. We took the second part on April 1. We will attend ongoing training courses but are now qualified to lead bigger work parties.

On April 8, we held the first “official” work party. Nine volunteers met to build racks for the debris, rake debris, dig out ivy and blackberry root balls and find and mark ferns. We accomplished so much in our three hour work party. (You can click on any of the galleries in this post to see a bigger version of the photos.)

My update is now complete. This project has become my passion so you will definitely read more about it in the future!

 

(Previous posts about my experiences in the Greenbelt: Is My Path Taking a Turn?, The Will to Live, and Another Greenbelt Adventure.)