Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: October 14, 2018

I had scheduled six work parties to be held in our Greenbelt Restoration site between September 30 and November 15. The October 14th work party was the third of that series. On that day, 12 students from the UW Introduction to Environmental Science class and four staff participated in the event.

During the first part of the work party, we focused on creating a path that goes from one of the lower parts of the Hanford Stairs to the far side of the site. We had placed cut-up debris (dried blackberry canes, ivy and small branches) along the path during the October 6th work party. At the end of that event, the volunteers had filled 20 buckets with wood chips so we could start spreading chips at the beginning of this work party.

Once we emptied those buckets, everyone walked to the wood chip pile to refill their bucket. And so the bucket brigade began. We spread wood chips three inches high and three feet wide along 285 feet of pathways. These wood chip paths are so much easier to walk on than the uneven paths that were there before and the wood chips will (hopefully) keep the paths from getting muddy and slippery during the winter rains.

(Click on any gallery to enlarge the photos.)

The new paths are beautiful. We even made a roundabout around a large fern!

Once we finished working on the paths for the day, we took a short snack break. Afterwards, we divided into four groups. All of the groups continued projects that volunteers had begun during the previous two work parties.

Group 1 cut up debris (dried blackberry canes, ivy and branches) into 4-8 inch pieces.

Every week this debris pile gets smaller. When we started on September 30, the pile was 4-5 feet high and you couldn’t see the planting area on the other side of it. Now the western part of the pile has branches that are too big to be cut with hand clippers. The rest of the pile is about 2 feet high and you can easily see what is on the other side of it.

Group 2 continued the process of taking apart the compost pile. They separated small and large branches, placing the big branches on a pile and cutting up the smaller ones. One of the students started spreading the composted dirt.

On the morning of September 30, the area where the compost pile was looked like this:

Before September 30

This is what it looks like at the end of the October 14 work party:

The trees and shrubs that are planted in this area next month will certainly benefit from the rich soil.

During a site visit in May, the Green Seattle Partnership and Seattle Parks Department representatives told us that we had planted one tree too close to power lines. Group 3 transplanted that tree, moving it to a more appropriate area.

Group 4 removed bindweed and blackberries from the area where we will be making paths next weekend.

When the volunteers in the first two groups finished cutting up debris, they brought it to this area. Once there, it was spread on the paths-to-be.

While the student groups were working, my neighbor John, cleared many blackberry shoots from one of the planting areas and then moved a pile of big branches and logs to a new location. He also removed ivy that was scattered throughout that area.

Before we knew it, the work party was over. Week by week, we are getting closer to having the site ready for the winter rains and for planting new trees, shrubs and ground covers.

The students at this work party were a delight to work with. I thank them for their work and also want to thank Shirley, Claire and Dave for being team leaders during this event. I so appreciate them and all of the other volunteers who are helping to turn this land back into a healthy forest.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: Oct 6, 2018

Nineteen enthusiastic students from the UW’s Introduction to Environmental Science class participated in our October 6th forest restoration work party. Our staff consisted of two GreenFriends members and a volunteer who had helped at the September 30th work party.

As always, the work party began with an orientation. Afterwards, we formed a bucket brigade to spread wood chips along the paths throughout our Greenbelt site. Last year, the paths got muddy and slippery during the winter rains. We hope by covering them with a thick layer of wood chips, we will prevent that from happening again.

The first photo below shows what the wood chip pile looked like at the beginning of this work party. The second shows its size at the end of the event. It is even flatter than it looks! There is no doubt in my mind that the pile will be gone by the end of our next work party.

(Click on the galleries to enlarge the photos.)

For the second week in a row, I got so immersed in the work that I forgot to take photos of the bucket brigade. But I can show you the results of our work!

Halfway through the work party, we took a 15 minute snack break and then divided into three work groups.

Work group 1 

Last year, when we cleared the land in the southern part of our site, we piled the blackberry vines and blackberry root balls that we removed on nearby drying racks. We ended up with four large piles of debris that is taking up room that could better be used for planting.

We decided to eliminate the piles by cutting the debris into 3-8 inch pieces and then spreading it on the paths that we will be covering with wood chips during our next work party.

I had spent a considerable amount of time cutting up the debris in one of these piles prior to this work party. I don’t have a photo of what the pile looked like when I started, but the photos below will give you an idea of what it was like when this group started working on it and what it looked like at the end of the work party. The size of the pile has decreased at least 50% since the beginning of October. I hope we can finish that task soon.

For now we are placing the branches that are too thick to cut up at one end of the pile. We will decide what to do with those later.

Work group 2

The second group worked on a compost pile that had been created on the site many years before this forest restoration project began. Volunteers in the last work party had started removing trash and branches from the pile. The photos below show this area before and after the September 30th work party.

On October 6th, two of the students dug out a plastic garbage can that was buried near the compost pile and then began to remove bluebell bulbs that had been multiplying in the pile for years. They also separated more trash and branches from the rich soil.

While the two students were working on those tasks, three others removed big branches and tree stumps that were scattered around an area where we will be planting trees, shrubs and ground covers in November. Once the big items were moved to a different part of the site, the students raked a pile of dried bamboo branches away from that area as well.

When they finished those tasks, the students joined the two who were working on the compost pile. They sorted the branches that had been removed from the pile of dirt. The small branches and dried blackberry canes were cut up so that we can spread them on the paths; the bigger branches were stacked. The photos below show what the area looked like at the end of this work party.

Work group 3

The third group dug up blackberry shoots and blackberry root balls from the area where we will be creating paths next weekend.

At one point, I started hearing shouts of celebration coming from that direction. I wondered if the students had dug out some huge root balls. That is always cause for excitement. When the sounds continued, I got curious. Eventually, I walked to that part of the property and asked the staff member what was happening.

I learned that some of the students were having a competition to see who could cut down the longest blackberry vine. By then, they were working in an area that we have not cleared before, so they were finding some LONG vines! Some of the cut vines were put on a small drying rack while others were taken to an area we call The Rack Zone. (The Rack Zone is located in the foundation of a house that burned in the 50’s. It is filled with large piles of dried or drying blackberry vines, blackberry root balls, ivy and bindweed.)

Look at the length of the vine in the last photo. I don’t know who won the competition, but that vine was certainly a contender. (Remember, you can click on the gallery to enlarge the photos.)

All of the debris that had been cut up by the first and second work groups was spread on the areas where we will be constructing paths next weekend. The photos below show what those future paths look like now. (The paths will be 3 feet wide except in the occasional places where several paths merge.) The last photo is of the section where I believe the students found the long vines.

Fifteen minutes before the work party ended, we began to clean and put away the tools and supplies. As they finished that work, the volunteers began to gather for the closing. These photos were taken while we waited for the last few students to join us. Once everyone was present, we celebrated all that we had accomplished during the three-hour work party.

Afterwards, everyone brushed their shoes to remove any remnants of invasive plants that might be spread to other properties, said goodbye and went on their individual ways. Several participants told me they hoped to attend one of our next work parties!

A Surprise Guest

I just spent an hour working in the Greenbelt. Soon after I came back in the house I heard something drop onto the vinyl floor next to me. I looked down and this is what I saw.

The snail must have attached itself to my blue jeans. I snapped a photo of it, appreciated its beauty and took it back outside!

The Wonders of Nature

I love photographing decaying trees. This tree hasn’t fallen yet, but I suspect that will happen sometime this year.

Many years ago, I snapped a picture of a crow in this tree. I still remember how delighted I was when I saw how it turned out. I was even more fascinated, when I realized that I could see it as a photo of a crow, or as a photo of a person reaching for the sky, a person who has a crow perched on one hand.

Crow

The tree will continue to serve nature after it falls.  My friend Jayanand once told me:

Downed trees play an important role in maintaining the health and regeneration of forests. Not only do they provide nutrient pools for other plants during stand regeneration, they often even serve as “nurse logs” which support the germination and growth of other trees by providing substrate, moisture and nutrients to the seedlings and young saplings.  They also can act as carbon sinks by locking up carbon in the forest floor – instead of being released into the atmosphere by burning. Decaying wood provides habitat for a variety of plants and animals, adding to the diversity of life found in forested areas. Finally, downed woody material can also help prevent runoff and soil erosion.

I look forward to having this tree in my life for years to come.

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!

Another Greenbelt Adventure

When I learned that today’s Word Press Daily Prompt was “Record,” nothing came to my mind. Hours later, it occurred to me that I am recording the work my friends and I are doing in Seattle’s Greenbelt, in part by taking photographs!

From time to time during the last few weeks, I have been digging out a carpet that has been buried in the Greenbelt for decades. I discovered the carpet on a day I was trying to remove blackberry root balls and couldn’t get a shovel to go into the ground.

At that time, I scraped away some dirt and saw this.

When I removed more of the dirt, I found what was keeping me from digging. It is hard to tell from this photo, but what you are seeing is a dirty carpet.

Earlier in the day I had noticed this:

I had uncovered a scrub brush in the Greenbelt the day before, so when I first saw this piece of plastic I thought it might be another brush. After finding the buried carpet though, I realized that what I had thought might turn out to be bristles was actually part of the unraveling carpet.

The carpet was big and heavy. In some places it was three layers thick, so I didn’t know if I would be able to move it enough to free it from the roots, blackberries and ivy but I kept at it.

Yesterday, I finally succeeded in freeing the carpet and rolling it up.

It is too heavy for me to move so that will have to wait until there is a group of people who can take it away. Hopefully that will be tomorrow when a city work team comes to cut down more of the blackberry vines.

Moments after rolling up the carpeting, this caught my eye.

That will have to be a project for a different day!

Daily Prompt: Scorched

Last February, I went to a retreat at Loon Lake in British Columbia. There was a big fire in the forest near the lake in 1868. Even though it has been 148 years since that event, it is still possible to find evidence of the scorching.

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Scorched