Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: November 10, 2018

The November 10th work party was one of our biggest. Six team leaders, four of which were Green Friends members, four neighbors, and 29 students from the UW Introduction to Environmental Science class participated.

During the first part of the work party, we split the group in half and ran two bucket brigades at the same time. One spanned the distance from the wood chip piles located at the bottom of the Hanford Stairs and the Greenbelt. We had used wood chips from those piles at the previous work party, so the piles looked small. I had expected that we would finish moving those chips and need to move to piles at a different location but that wasn’t the case. Even now more wood chips are available there. The second bucket brigade started at the top of the Hanford Stairs. In that location there were two piles of wood chips that had been delivered the previous week.

These bucket brigades had two purposes. 1) We would create new piles of wood chips throughout the restoration site. The chips in those piles will be used during our November 15 planting work party, during which time two buckets of wood chips will be placed around each tree, shrub and ground cover that is put into the ground. In this instance, the wood chips serve as mulch, reducing weed growth and holding in moisture. 2) We would finish covering most of the paths that snake through the site.with three inches of wood chips. Our hope is that having a thick layer of wood chips on top of the paths will prevent them from getting muddy and slippery during the winter rains.

(Click on any of the galleries to enlarge the photos.)

During the second part of the work party, we formed four teams. These teams focused on getting areas ready for the upcoming planting event. One team moved dried branches and blackberry canes out of a new planting area. That group also spread dirt in an area where a compost pile had been taken apart during previous work parties.

The second team cleared the ground around two sides of a red twig dogwood patch.

The third team pulled out blackberry root balls and raked out a section of land north of the Hanford Stairs.

One of our neighbor volunteers cut down blackberry canes and dug out blackberry root balls and weeds from an area just across the stairs from the third team.

We make a plant order in May of each year. The Seattle Parks Department provides us with the plants towards the end of October or the beginning of November. This year we had ordered 250 plants of 23 varieties.

Prior to this work party, the shrubs and ground covers had been separated into ten groups, each number assigned to the planting area where the plants will be placed in the ground. The trees were grouped separately.

The fourth team carried those trees, shrubs and ground covers to the areas where they will be planted.

After the work party was over, three of the team leaders walked around the site placing every plant in the spot where it will be planted.

Thanks to the effort of these students, neighbors and team leaders, we are now ready to plant. I am so excited to see what the land will look like once the trees, shrubs and ground covers are settled into their new homes!

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: October 21, 2018

Twenty six volunteers participated in the October 21 work party. Twenty of them came from the UW Introduction to Environmental Science class, five were GreenFriends members who served as staff and one was a neighbor.

The first part of this work party focused on bringing wood chips from the street into the Greenbelt. Most of them were placed on the pathways we are making throughout the site. After finishing the paths we were working on that day, we created two piles of wood chips that will be used on November 15 when a corporate group comes to do the first planting for this season. (Note: Planting starts in November after the rains begin and continues through mid-March. Planting during these months gives the plants a chance to root before the dry summer months.)

During the second part of the work party, we focused on cutting up dried blackberry debris and spreading it on the paths we will be making next; clearing wood chips from around the plants that were planted last season, weeding and clearing a new planting space.

Wood chip bucket brigade

Filling the buckets (Click on any of the galleries to enlarge the photos.)

 

Carrying the filled buckets into the Greenbelt

 

The new paths and piles (Hold cursor over photos below to see the captions)

 

Cutting Up Debris

I was surprised to see that I forgot to take photos of the group who cut up dried blackberry vines, ivy  and branches, but I do have pictures of one of the paths-to-be we spread them on. We will more than likely cover this debris with wood chips during the next work party. (Note: We primarily use the debris in this way so we can eliminate the piles of debris that are scattered throughout the site. Over time, the debris will break down and enrich the soil.)

Cleaning Out the Donut Holes

When we plant a tree, shrub or ground cover, we pour a ring of wood chips around it, leaving the center clear. The outer ring looks like a donut and we refer to the center area as the donut hole. We try to keep the donut hole, the area closest to the plant, free of wood chips and weeds so the plant can get the full value of any rain that falls. One group of volunteers at this work party cleared the donut holes in almost every planting area on the site.

Today, when I walked outside to take photos of some of those areas, I found that a lot of leaves had fallen, so the donut holes didn’t look as empty as they did at the end of the work party.

 

Weeding

Two groups of students weeded four planting areas on the property. The first two pictures show volunteers working in an area that has wild ginger. After each planting area was weeded,  students cleared the wood chips from the donut holes. One group then used more wood chips to form new rings around the plants, keeping the center area clear. (Note: When wood chips are inside a planting areas, they serve as mulch.)

 

Clearing a new planting area

My neighbor, who is in the background of the first photo below, has become skilled in removing blackberry vines and root balls with a pick ax. During this work party, he cleared a new area; you can see it in the second photo. Two trees will be planted in that space on November 15.

 

This was the biggest work party we’ve had in a long time. The next one will be held on November 10. There are already 31 students registered for that event and we still have two weeks to go!

Many thanks to everyone who participated in the September 21 work party. You each made a significant contribution to the goal of turning this Greenbelt site back into a healthy forest.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: September 30, 2018

I returned from India around noon on September 24th. I brought my luggage into the house and soon thereafter was checking out our Greenbelt site, eager to begin the forest restoration work again. I was pleased to see that most of the plants had survived the drought.

The University of Washington classes began on September 26th. This was to be the ninth quarter that students from their Introduction to Environmental Science course would help us. Most of our volunteers come from there, but we also get people from many other sources, such as neighbors and the Green Seattle Partnership Event Calendar. Most of our staff are part of GreenFriends, the environmental arm of Embracing the World.

Our first fall quarter work party was held on Sunday, September 30.  Including the staff, we had eight volunteers. (There are only six people in the photo because I’m taking the picture and a neighbor didn’t arrive until the second half of the work party.)

I was so immersed in the work that I forgot to take photos throughout the work party. Luckily, I can show you some before and after pictures.

The Seattle Parks Department staff had delivered a pile of wood chips that looked similar to this one. Our main task for the day was to start the process of spreading wood chips along the paths in the Greenbelt. I knew from last year’s experience that during winter the paths get muddy and slippery and wanted to prevent that situation from reoccurring. After the work party orientation, we filled the buckets with wood chips.

(Click on any gallery to enlarge the photos.)

Then, we carried the filled buckets and spread the wood chips along the path, 3 inches thick and 3 feet wide. Some of the volunteers stayed at the wood pile to fill the empty buckets as they were returned. Together, we spread wood chips on 620 sq. ft. of land. I was amazed by how much a small group was able to accomplish in a little over an hour.

After a fifteen minute break, we divided into three teams. One team dug out invasive blackberries near the south-east part of the site. They also spread dried blackberry canes over burlap; this strip will become part of a path during an upcoming work party.

Before:

After:

The second team moved some stumps and thick branches from a future planting area, took wire and other trash to the trash pile, and then dug out blackberry vines and root balls from two areas that had been planted in March. The planting areas looked so nice after most of the blackberry shoots that had been coming up in them were removed.

The third group worked on a compost pile that was here long before our restoration project began. They dug out  weeds that were growing through it and pulled out any trash, branches or lumber that they found.

Before:

After:

I was so happy with the results of our work and feel very grateful to the volunteers who participated in this work party.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: April 8, 2018

April 8 was our first work party of Spring Quarter. I so love this forest restoration work and I love working with the University of Washington Introduction to Environmental Science students and, of course, anyone else who joins us. It had only been three weeks since our last work party but it felt a lot longer than that to me. I was eager and ready.

There was a lot of rain the week leading up to the event. The weather forecast for that day was breezy weather and rain but we lucked out. It rained as I was setting up, but there was none during the work party. Twenty-three students braved the forecast and came ready to work. Three GreenFriends members served as team leaders.

We split into two teams for the first part of the event. The larger group moved 1250 sq. ft. of burlap from the street into different sections of the restoration site. The burlap is used to cover areas we have cleared of invasive plants such as blackberry and ivy vines. The burlap helps to reduce weed growth and prevent erosion. Having it located onsite gives us easier access to it.

(Click on the galleries to enlarge the photos.)

 

After all the burlap had been moved, the same group starting filling buckets with wood chips. Wood chips are spread around each plant and also throughout the planting areas. The wood chips serve as mulch, thereby holding in water, making it more likely the plants will survive during the dry summer months. Both the wood chips and the burlap will eventually decompose and enrich the soil.

 

The second group focused on weeding; in this case searching for and removing ivy and blackberry vines. These vines have smothered and killed most of the trees and shrubs in this section of the Greenbelt and we need to prevent them from regrowing so that they don’t destroy all of the native trees, shrubs and ground covers we’ve planted since October.

 

Midway through the work party we took a snack break…..

and then everyone participated in a bucket brigade. We sent the buckets we had previously filled with wood chips down the line and then started filling more. Once each bucket reached the end of the line the wood chips were poured around newly planted shrubs, and then throughout the planting area.

 

We were able to spread the mulch through three different planting areas. Below are photos of two of them.

 

Once again, we had accomplished so much during the three hour work party and I think everyone had enjoyed working together. I know I did!

Greenbelt Restoration Work Parties: February 21, 22, and 23, 2018

Amma teaches us to “Be like a bird perched on a dry twig, ready to fly at a moment’s notice.” She also teaches us that “What we need will be provided” and to “Put in the effort and let go of the results.” Taking those attitudes can help us to stay in the moment which in turn can decrease the tendency to worry about the future. The Greenbelt restoration work parties we held during the last half of February provided me with many opportunities to practice each of those attitudes.

Students who take the University of Washington’s Introduction to Environmental Science course are required to do three hours of volunteer work. I had scheduled a work party for February 17 because it was the weekend before their assignment was due. That is always our biggest work party of the quarter.

I was concerned about that work party though, because the people who usually lead teams at our events were going to be at a retreat in Oregon that weekend. I decided to “think outside the box” and started inviting neighbors and people in the Amma community who weren’t going to the retreat. None of them had worked on this project before, but I knew they would do a good job.  Pretty soon I had three volunteers. They all came to the site ahead of time for an orientation. We were ready!

I soon discovered more good news was in store. Someone who had planned to go to the retreat, decided not to go, and volunteered to help at the work party. She had lead teams many times so that was a real bonus. Then, the Forest Steward from Mt. Baker park wrote me and said he would help. Just before the work party, another neighbor volunteered to lead a team. I was excited. We had an abundance of staff. While all of this was coming together, 31 students registered for the work party. We were set. What a good example it had been of “What you need will be provided.”

Then “Be like a bird perched on a dry twig” took over. Days ahead of time, we heard that a big wind storm was coming on the same day as the work party. You can do forestry work in the rain, but you can’t do it in high winds; branches might break or trees might fall. On the 16th, it became obvious we couldn’t hold the work party. In fact, the Parks Department canceled work parties that day on a park by park basis. Ours was one that was canceled.

That left both me and the students in a dilemma. I needed to have the land prepared for a corporate group that was coming to plant trees, shrubs and ground covers on Monday, February 26. And the students needed their volunteer hours. I knew that most or all of the team leaders would be at work if I planned events during the week. I decided I would hold three small work parties on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and be prepared to lead them by myself.

The “Be like a bird” lesson continued as the weather forecasters talked about the possibility of breezy weather and snow. Would these work parties have to be canceled too? The first indication that what I needed would be provided was when I found out that two of the people who had been scheduled to lead teams on the 17th had the week off from work and would help with one of the work parties!

Wednesday, February 21

Wednesday arrived and all was well. In fact it was better than just “well.” A half hour before the work party began, Peter, the Forest Steward from Mt. Baker, emerged from the forest. Not only was he going to help with this work party, he was going to help with all three of them! What a surprise blessing he was. So we had two Forest Stewards and 7 students that day. We began to clear new areas of ivy and blackberries vines. We dug out some big blackberry roots!

(Click on the galleries to enlarge the photos.)

Thursday, February 22

Knowing that Peter would be helping made it possible for me to accept more students than I had originally planned.  The work party grew to 23 students.

Maintaining the “Be like a bird” attitude was still important as the forecast was for snow and by Wednesday evening it was snowing, and sticking to the ground. Would I have to cancel the work party? I would decide in the morning.

Thursday’s work party had been scheduled to go from 2:30-5:30 to accommodate the students’ class schedule. The snow was very wet and was beginning to melt when I woke up that morning. Around 10 a.m. I decided to walk to the light rail and around the Greenbelt to see how much snow there was and whether we could work in it. I discovered the streets and sidewalks were clear and most of the Greenbelt was free of snow. What snow remained was melting. Even though the temperature was in the 30’s, it felt warmer than the day before because it was sunny.

My neighbor John also worked with us that day so we had three staff. We continued clearing the land that we had worked on the previous day.

After a snack break, we formed a bucket brigade and carried wood chips from the street into the site. The chips would be used as mulch during the February 26  planting work party.

While we were moving the wood chips, it started to snow lightly. When we finished, we cleaned and put away the tools and quickly headed back to our respective homes.

Friday, February 23

During the week’s third work party, we two Forest Stewards and three GreenFriends members served as staff. Twenty-one students participated. I experienced such a sense of abundance…. an abundance of staff and an abundance of students. Once again, what I had needed was provided.

About half of the students worked in the area we had been clearing during the previous work parties. We had cleared land that I hadn’t expected to clear until later this year! Peter, the Mt. Baker Forest Steward, worked with the students to create swale-like structures that will help prevent erosion. I appreciated learning new skills from him.

Another team worked in an area that has a big ivy mass. That team moved the big piles of ivy to the place on the site that has racks where ivy and blackberries can dry out rather than re-root.

A different group of students placed burlap around flags that were scattered through the site. Those flags marked the places we will be planting on the 26th.

After the break we formed another bucket brigade and finished moving the wood chips into the site.

After the remainder of the wood chips were onsite, we cleaned up and put away the tools, celebrated our accomplishments and went on our way.

What a week it had been. I was consistently challenged to stay in the moment, to let go, to trust what I need would be provided and to put in the effort and let go of the results.  And I had certainly felt like a bird perched on a dry twig. We accomplished so much during these three work parties. Grace had flowed.