Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: August 3, 2019

The August 3 work party was the biggest we’ve had in a long time. Volunteers included six team leaders, 19 students from the UW’s Introduction to Environmental Science class, a friend of one of the students, two people who found us on the Green Seattle Partnership Event Page, and a neighbor who comes to almost all of our work parties.

The event started with an orientation that included a welcome, staff introduction, information about project history, safety tips, schedule of the day and more. We planned to have two work sessions, with a snack break in the middle.

After the orientation we divided into six teams and started to work.

Team 1

Shirley’s team focused on watering the plants in the southern planting areas. Any plant that showed any sign of distress received two gallons of water. The team watered 90 plants! The photos below show this team at work. (In the background of the fourth and fifth photos below, you can also see neighbor John removing blackberry vines and blackberry root balls.)

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

Team 2

Claire’s team worked in the Rack Zone, an area that used to be filled with drying racks. We put all of the invasive blackberry vines, ivy and other weeds on drying racks so that they don’t re-root. Earlier this year, we took down most of those racks and spread the dried debris around the Rack Zone. After the debris has had more time to break down and become soil, the Rack Zone will become another planting area.

During the August 3 work party, the volunteers removed weeds that were growing in the Rack Zone; spread dried debris that had been brought there from other racks on the site; and took apart the rest of the original Rack Zone racks.

On January 22, 2019, I had been surprised to see a shovel lying against the Rack Zone wall. On January 23, I was even more surprised to see an unpotted plant in the same place. The plant was tagged with blue and white checkered flagging tape which meant that it had been planted during the November 2017-March 2018 planting season… but I never found an empty hole on our site. Where had it come from?

I had no idea if the plant was dead or alive, but since I couldn’t think of a rational reason for these occurrences, I decided it was “supposed” to be the first shrub we planted in the Rack Zone even though I had planned to wait another year before planting that area. So I planted the mystery plant.

It took months before it became obvious the shrub was alive, and longer still before we determined it was an oceanspray shrub. That plant not only survived, it thrived. This is what the once possibly dead plant looks like now!

Team 3

My team completed jobs in three different parts of the site. They learned how to build a drying rack and then built one, cut dead branches from an old vine maple shrub, and removed two patches of invasive ivy. (The first photo is of the new rack; the photo under it is the group removing the dead branches of the shrub, the vertical photo and the fourth one are of the team removing ivy and the last photo shows one of areas after they cleared ivy from it.)

Team 4

Dave’s team worked in the southeast part of the site. That area had never been completely cleared and had been covered by tall weeds for some time. Recently, long blackberry vines had also invaded the area.

This is what that section of the site looked like at the beginning of the work party.

It was really hot in that section of the site, so at one point during the morning, we decided to move the group to a cooler area. Three of the five members of the group preferred to work in the sun so they stayed put.

The photo below is of Subgroup A working.

And this is what that area looked like at the end of the first work session.

Clearly there is much more clearing to do here but the group made tremendous progress.

Subgroup B removed blackberry root balls in an area where volunteers had cut down blackberry vines during the July 29 work party. Prior to that work party the blackberry vines had been so dense that you couldn’t walk through them. The next set of photos are of Subgroup B working.

Team 5 Antje

During the July 28 work party Antje led a group who removed weeds from both sides of the Hanford Stairs. Her August 3 team continued that work. In many places along the stairs, native fringe cup plants were covered by a layer of an invasive buttercup plants. The team’s challenge was to remove the buttercup plants without removing the fringe cup.

This is what one of those areas looked like on July 27.

And this is what some of the areas looked like when we took our break on August 3.

Team 6

Christine’s team worked in an area that is on the far side of the Hanford Stairs. At the beginning of the work party, there were many blackberry shoots, grass and other weeds in this section. By break time most of the invasive plants were gone and the native plants were much more visible.

The work party had begun at 10 am. At 11:30 we took a 20 minute snack break. We decided to use the second work session to spread wood chips on one of the paths in the site. We did that by creating a wood chip bucket brigade that went from a wood chip pile on Cheasty Boulevard, up the Hanford Stairs, into the Greenbelt and to the end of the lower path. Buckets were filled at the wood pile and then passed up the line until they reached the people who were pouring the wood chips onto the path. Once the buckets were empty, they were passed down the line until they again reached the wood chip pile. There, they were refilled and the whole process started once again.

Remember, you can click on the photo gallery to enlarge the photos.

In 45 minutes, we had created the bucket brigade and spread wood chips over a path that is about 250 feet long! When we finished that job, we put away the tools and supplies and gathered for a closing.

The August 3 event was another very successful work party. I’m always astounded by how much volunteers can accomplish in three hours time. The old adage, “many hands make light work” is true!

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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”.

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”.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: April 14, 2018

During the week leading up to the April 14 party, there were plenty of opportunities to practice Amma‘s teaching to “Be like a bird on a dry twig, ready to fly at a moment’s notice”. The weather forecast looked pretty good a week out but then it got worse and worse. The night before the event, it seemed like there was a chance that it might not rain during the work party, but when I checked the next morning it had shifted back to 90% chance of rain during the last two hours.

We don’t cancel work parties for rain, we only cancel for high winds, so I also got practice in maintaining equanimity. There was no use in worrying about what might or might not happen; that would only result in me creating an emotional roller coaster for myself. Instead, I  needed to come up with a variety of plans and decide what we would do in the moment.

Twenty-five students from the University of Washington’s Introduction to Environmental Science class participated in the event. I felt so grateful that they were willing to work knowing that it might rain. Three GreenFriends members served as team leaders.

After an orientation, we started the day with a bucket brigade that everyone could participate in, moving wood chip mulch from an area on the street that is north of our Greenbelt site to a planting area in the southern part of the site.

When the mulch arrived at its destination, a few students spread it four to five inches thick throughout the area. Trees and shrubs had been planted there on February 26th. Being heavily mulched will keep the ground moist making it make it more likely that the plants will survive the dry summer months. The mulch also deters weed growth and prevents erosion.

The 600 sq. ft. of land we covered that day is on a continual slope. There are several swale-like structures towards the bottom of the strip that will also help reduce erosion.

The mulch we were getting the wood chips from had been delivered on March 5. At that time, there were 15 cu. ft. of them and the pile was 6-8 feet tall. (Susan was standing on a slope so the pile was actually taller than it looks in the second photo.)

We have had three bucket brigade work parties since that time. I have enjoyed watching the pile decrease in size.  I have no idea how many hundreds of buckets filled with wood chips have been passed down the line during those work parties.

After the March 17 work party the pile looked like this:

After the April 8 work party:

And after the April 14 work party:

The bucket brigade continued until it was time for a snack break. By that point, it had started to rain; luckily, it was a light rain. After the break, we broke into three groups for the last 45 minutes of work time. During that time, the groups would focus on removing non-native invasive plants- blackberry and ivy vines, bindweed, laurel, holly and bamboo. 

There is a Douglas Fir tree on the northwest corner of the property that had been partially topped in the past because it was too close to power lines. On the day of the work party, the tree was surrounded by a patch of laurel so thick that the bottom part of the Douglas Fir trunk was barely visible.

The students cut off the laurel plants lower branches. As the lower branches were removed, we could see that the laurel was covering and/or displacing Pacific ninebark, Oregon grape and other shrubs. I also saw new laurel shoots nearby. Finding the native plants being crowded out by the laurel made it obvious to me why laurel is considered an invasive plant. I know that the part of the Greenbelt that is north of the site we are working on has big areas of laurel.

I appreciated being able to see more of the Douglas Fir tree truck and look forward to the day when I will be able to see all of it. I feel sad that the treetop had needed to be cut away from power lines. Seeing the deformity, though, will serve as a constant reminder that we need to be careful where we plant trees as we restore this piece of forest.

Now that it is spring, all of the trees, shrubs and ground covers we have planted since October are growing rapidly. Simultaneously, new shoots of blackberries and bindweed are emerging from the ground. There are also several areas on the site that still have ivy.

A second group of students scoured a section of the land that is full of old maple trees, sword ferns, and other older shrubs. Their purpose: locate and remove invasive plants. Everything was wet and it was still raining. The students worked diligently even in these less than desirable conditions.

The third group worked in an area that was new to us. Our plan had been to clear a path, dig out holly and cut bamboo. The group cleared a path that led to the holly and bamboo, but after a week or more of rain, the ground was too muddy to work with the holly. (We didn’t want to make the area any muddier than it already was.)

Instead the group focused on cutting and stripping the bamboo. Last year, we used the bamboo branches from another bamboo field in building the racks we create to dry out the invasive plants. We gave the stripped stalks to gardeners to use as stakes.

When the last forty-five minute work period was up, the students from all three groups took the invasive plants they had removed to the racks to dry and then gathered, cleaned and put away all of the tools. Afterwards, we celebrated our accomplishments. Then everyone brushed the mud from their shoes and headed home.

Soon after the work party was over, the rain became very heavy. April 14, 2018 turned out to have the largest rainfall that has ever been recorded in Seattle in April. Mother Nature had certainly blessed our work party. Two hours of the three hour work party had been rain-free and even though it rained during the last hour, the rain was comparatively light.

Next on our to do list:

  • Finish mulching some small areas on the property that have not been mulched yet
  • Weeding, weeding and more weeding
  • Remulch areas that were planted in October and November of 2017
  • Finish cutting down the bamboo
  • Dig out the holly and bamboo

The list could go on and on but that is enough to think about today!