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.

We Had a Great Month Thanks to You

Last night, Sreejit posted the summary of his Rage Against the Machine event. He did it in a new way in that for each post he included a quote and one of the comments that a reader made. I think that is a valuable way to help new readers choose which posts to look at, so I’m passing his summary on to those of you who read my blog.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: Tree Planting Day!

For many years, Amma has been encouraging us to plant trees as a way of healing the Earth. This year, devotees in the Pacific Northwest decided to honor Amma’s 64th birthday by planting trees. We asked everyone to let us know how many trees they would plant and to complete the planting by November 5th. We were hoping at least 64 trees would be pledged. At the time I am writing this post, the pledge count is up to 211!

Seattle Parks Department gave us 37 trees to plant in our Greenbelt site. That work party was held last Sunday, October 22nd. Thirty-two GreenFriends members participated. Many of them had never seen the site before and others hadn’t been there for a long time. I enjoyed seeing and hearing their reactions to the work we’ve done over the last year.

The work party began with an orientation to the site…

and then Pujarini Meera conducted a series of rituals asking Mother Earth for permission to plant the trees and to nurture and protect them after they are planted. I thought it was a beautiful ceremony. (Click on any of the galleries to enlarge the photos.)

After the rituals were over, Ananya and I gave planting instructions…

and then came the fun of planting the trees.

Amma’s birthday project will be over on November 5, but our work in the restoring this Greenbelt site will, of course, continue. We will finish preparing nine planting areas at a work party on November 11 and then will plant 360 shrubs in those areas on November 15!

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.

Inspiring and Thought Provoking Videos

Friends have sent me two powerful and mesmerizing videos recently.  I thought both were excellent and hope you find them to be as valuable as I did.

The first is a talk by Dr. Vadana Shiva.  She has been described as an author, activist, pioneer, scientific advisor and mother.

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crP5EVZdvLE)

The second is a September 12, 1962 speech by President John F. Kennedy.  As you listen to it, consider how we can apply his words to solving the problems we are facing in the world today.

 

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZyRbnpGyzQ)

A Time of Change

This is an amazing time in which to live.  Since June 18, the Pope took powerful stands on environmental and weapons issues and the U.S. Supreme Court voted to preserve the Affordable Care Act and to uphold the rights of gays and lesbians to marry.

Due to a horrific shooting in South Carolina, Confederate flags are coming down across the South and there is a movement to have it removed from the South Carolina statehouse.  Businesses such as Walmart, eBay, Target, Sears, Etsy, and Amazon have banned sales of the flag.

A friend just sent me a video that talks about the history of the Confederate flag.  I learned much from watching it and thought some of you might also be interested in viewing it.

 

 

We Need the Bees!

Two years ago a friend gave me a bee balm plant.  Last year had quite a few blooms.  This year it has taken off.  At this point it is 64 inches tall and is full of blooms!

Bee balm is known to attract butterflies, hummingbirds and bees.  It is also considered edible and medicinal.

While I have been delighted by the number of blooms on my plant, I have also felt distressed by how few bees there are both in the bee balm and in my garden as a whole.  I’m also concerned that essentially all the bees are bumblebees. There are almost no honey bees despite the fact that I have neighbors three houses down who have honey bee hives.  It has never been this bad before.

As you probably know the bees are disappearing all over the world.  They are getting sick and dying. Continue reading “We Need the Bees!”

The Story Behind the Spiral Garden

In March of 2013, I attended an “Introduction to Permaculture” class taught by Netsah Zelinsky, a certified Permaculture Instructor. As part of the class, we built a spiral herb garden in the front yard of one of the participants. I was interested, but had no plans to make one anytime soon, if ever.

I woke up during the night, however, with a drive to build one, right away. I must have done so much planning in my sleep, because when I woke up in the morning, I knew exactly how I would build it. It was important to me that it was an inexpensive project, so I had decided I would use pieces of broken concrete. Continue reading “The Story Behind the Spiral Garden”

April PNW GreenFriends Newsletter

One of my favorite projects is to put together a monthly Pacific Northwest GreenFriends Newsletter. (GreenFriends is an environmental international initiative of Embracing the World,)

While I no doubt will write about our PNW Litter Project and other GreenFriends projects in future posts, I thought I would share the April 2014 Newsletter with you now. At this point it is my favorite. Continue reading “April PNW GreenFriends Newsletter”