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

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: May 9, 2018

Many of the volunteers who help us with our GreenFriends Greenbelt restoration project are students from the University of Washington’s Introduction to Environmental Science course. We are having a big work party this coming Saturday, May 12th, but I decided to offer one mid-week as well. Susan Zeman, a Green Seattle Partnership Forest Steward in a park just south of ours agreed to help me lead the work party. Seventeen students participated. They were a delight to work with.

Susan led a work group in an area that is packed with invasive holly, blackberries and bamboo. It is also an area that has many red twig dogwood plants and a red flower from a rhododendron bush can be seen in the distance. Susan’s group was tasked with starting the process of removing the invasive plants so that the native plants can thrive.

While it will take many work parties to free the area from invasive plants, the group made a lot of progress during this three hour work party.

They were even able to dig out a huge clump of bamboo.

Towards the end of the work party, the students carried all of the invasive plants they had removed to the “Rack Zone”, a place on the site where the debris dries out on racks. By being kept off the ground, the vines and other invasives will not be able to re-root.

The second group of students removed blackberry vines, bindweed and other weeds that had started to sprout in all of the planting areas.

They also removed any wood chip mulch that was too close to the base of the plants. (When we spread wood chip mulch we take care to create a “donut hole” around each plant, keeping the wood chips from actually touching the plants. When it rains, the  chips tend to slide into that empty space.) These students cleaned weeds and chips from the donut holes around approximately 500 plants!

When they finished cleaning up the planting areas, they pulled out ivy, blackberry and bindweed vines that were in the paths and/or mixed in the ferns that are scattered throughout the site.

Every work party adds to the miracle that is occurring on this site. As I was writing this post, I came across a photo that was taken on March 15. It shows what one area looked like two weeks after trees, shrubs and ground covers were planted in it.

This is what that same area looks like today.

 

 

Next steps: On Saturday May 12 we will create a big bucket brigade for the purpose of spreading more wood chips around plants that were planted back in October and November of 2017. The work that the students did in this (May 9th) work party will make that process much easier. We will also be clearing ivy and other invasive plants from parts of the property that we have not worked on before.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: The DocuSign Employees Come Back!

On November 15, 2017, a corporate group from DocuSign came to work at our restoration site. The event was held on their Global IMPACT Day. At that time, I looked up the philosophy behind Impact Day and found this statement:

We believe character is defined through action. With DocuSign IMPACT, we are committed to putting this character into action by harnessing the power of DocuSign’s people, products, and profits to make a difference in the global communities in which our employees and customers live and work.

During that work party, the 42 DocuSign volunteers planted 330 shrubs and ground covers.

Last Friday (April 27), DocuSign held another IMPACT day, and once again they chose our site to be one of the options. This time we had 20 volunteers from DocuSign and a student from the University of Washington’s Introduction to Environmental Science class.

Our staff consisted of  Claire (GreenFriends), Jeb (Forterra) and me (GreenFriends and Green Seattle Partnership.)

I had been working with Andrew and Maksim from DocuSign to plan the event. Maksim attended the work party as well. His help that day was invaluable.

The group signed in, picked up gloves, listened to a short orientation…

 

… divided into three teams and began to work.

Team 1 gathered the remaining wood chips from our mulch pile and placed them around each plant in 2 1/2 planting areas. The mulch will hold in moisture and make it more likely that the plants will survive the summer if there is little to no rain. (In March there was 15 cu. yd. of mulch in that pile. At that time, it was 6-8 feet high!)

 

Team 2 removed weeds. While all of this land had been cleared during the year, shoots of blackberry, ivy and bindweed vines were popping up throughout the site. After the work party, I discovered that the group had weeded more than 13,500 sq.ft. of land. The ground looked so clean and open.

 

(Note: Two of our planting areas contain lots of horsetails. Horsetails are native plants; ones that were here before there were dinosaurs. We leave most of the horesetails alone, removing them only when they are crowding out other native plants.)

Team 3 worked on a part of the site that we hadn’t worked on before. It is located on the west side of Cheasty Boulevard. We chose to start in a place where there are some gigantic trees. They are located near the bottom of a steep slope. The team cleared blackberry vines and ivy from the ground and made survival rings around four big cottonwood trees. (Note: A survival ring is created by removing ivy from all sides of a tree starting at ground level and going to shoulder height. Cut off from their roots, the rest of the ivy in the tree will die off.)

The group created two drying racks behind the trees. All of the debris was placed on these racks in order to prevent the vines from reaching the ground and regrowing.

 

These “Before” and “After” photos show the dramatic changes the team made in this area.

Before

After

Once again, the DocuSign volunteers (and the UW student) did incredible work. I look forward to the possibility that they will return here in November for their next Global Impact Day!

My First….

I have owned a car since 1969. At that time I borrowed money from my parents in order to purchase a little white Datsun. I needed the car so I could make home visits during my public health nursing course.

The cars I have had since then have usually lasted seven years. In 2001, I bought the Toyota Corolla I still drive. It has been a great car and I expect, or at least hope, it will be the car I drive until the end of my driving years.

In my 49 years of owning cars, I have never put a bumper sticker on my car. Earlier this year, I was at a Green Seattle Partnership event where there were many displays. On one table there was a stack of bumper stickers. I picked up one even though I didn’t expect to use it, at least not as a bumper sticker.

I have looked at it many times since then. The message on it reflects my values and I believe it will continue to reflect my values throughout the rest of my life. One day last week, I decided to put the sticker on the car.

After I applied it, I realized I had put it in the middle of the back of the car, not on the bumper! That makes sense though. The high visibility placement reflects the value I place on the message.

Greenbelt Restoration Project: Our First Planting Season is Over

The planting season in Seattle’s parklands starts when the autumn rains begin and ends in mid-March. The reason for planting during those months is that it gives the plants time to root before they have to deal with the dry summer months. During our first planting season, we have planted 55 trees and 530 shrubs and ground covers.

All of the new plants are native to the Pacific Northwest. This chart lists the types of plants we planted during our first season.

I love watching the plants grow. Some have doubled or tripled in size since we planted them. Almost all of them have leaves now and some even have flowers.

There are plants emerging from the ground that are a complete surprise. One day, I noticed long stalks scattered around one area.

Later, I was told they are Bracken ferns. I found some photos of Bracken ferns on Pixabay.

We are going to have a LOT of Bracken ferns in that area. I hope they get along with the new plants.

When I was outside taking photos today, a tiny hummingbird came within two feet of me. It is going to be an exciting spring and summer. I hope I see some butterflies too!

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: March 17, 2018

On March 17, thirteen hardy volunteers gathered to spread wood chips in areas that had been planted during the February 26 work party. The wood chip mulch will hold in moisture, reduce weed growth and enrich the soil.

Two neighborhood parents brought their children for part of the event. I felt moved when I realized that this forest may become important to these children as they grow up.

Most of the group had worked on this restoration project before, but for some it was their first time on the property. There was also a nice mix of GreenFriends members, neighbors and friends.

We didn’t have enough participants to do the traditional type of bucket brigade; i.e., handing buckets from person to person down a long line of people. Instead, everyone filled buckets for a short period of time and then most volunteers began to carry them to their destination on the other end of the site. Later on, the system changed again. At that point, part of the group carried the buckets the first half of the way, and then left them for others to carry to the planting areas. Once the buckets of wood chips reached a planting area, someone poured the chips onto the burlap.

My neighbor Christine was in two of my favorite photos from this work party. I took the first one during a time when she and I were filling buckets. At one point, she climbed to the top of the eight or nine-foot pile of wood chips and filled her bucket from there!

If you look closely you may be able to see steam rising from the wood chips. It reminded me of the steam I’ve seen coming from decomposing compost piles whenever I visit the compost center at Amma’s ashram in Amritapuri, India.

Marine took the other photo when Christine was talking with one of our young visitors.

We accomplished more than I thought was possible; spreading wood chips throughout three large planting areas and several small ones. The transformation in the look of the land was remarkable.

At the beginning of February 2018, the property looked like this:

During the first three weeks in February, work party participants removed blackberry root balls and ivy from the land. On February 26, another group planted trees, shrubs and ground covers, and placed burlap and two buckets of wood chips around each plant. By the end of that work party, this is what the land looked like:

And this was the beautiful sight that greeted my eyes at the end of the March 17th work party:

We have many more wood chips to spread. It is gratifying to know that the work we are doing now will give the plants a better chance of surviving the summer, a season when rainfall may be minimal.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: February 26, 2018 Planting Day

Monday, February 26 was an exciting day. On that day, 31 enthusiastic employees from Silver Creek Capital Management came to plant trees, shrubs and ground covers in our Greenbelt site. Our staff consisted of Nicole from Forterra, Claire a master gardener, and two Green Seattle Partnership Forest Stewards- Peter from Mt. Baker Park and me. Claire and I also belong to GreenFriends, the environmental arm of Embracing the World.

During the three-hour work party, we planted 17 trees, 75 shrubs and 77 ground covers! Every new plant is native to the Pacific Northwest. We spread two buckets of wood chip mulch around each plant to reduce weed growth and retain water. (The burlap we place on the ground after removing blackberries and ivy from the land also helps with weed reduction and water retention). At future work parties we will be covering any exposed burlap in the planting areas with wood chips.

(Click on the gallery above to enlarge the photos.)

Towards the end of the event, part of Nicole’s team cleared more land. They dug up some huge blackberry root balls.

A few days later I weighed the biggest one. It weighed almost 10 pounds!

When the work party was over, we cleaned and put away the tools and celebrated all we had done. I think everyone had enjoyed their experience.

Later, I took another look at what we had accomplished. Once again, I was awed by how much the land had been transformed by a single work party.

Photos by Laurel Webb, Nicole Marcotte and Karuna Poole

 

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.

Greenbelt Restoration Project: February 3, 2018

After every work party, I tell anyone who will listen that it was an amazing work party. And it always is. The transformation in the land that occurs during each three hour work party is mind-boggling, at least to my mind.

Four GreenFriends members, 3 neighbors and 21 students from the University of Washington’s Introduction to Environmental Science class participated in the February 3rd event. Towards the beginning, we divided into 4 teams. The GreenFriends members, who were serving as team leaders, wore orange vests so that they could be spotted easily.

Team 1

During our last work party, volunteers had focused on removing ivy from an evergreen tree and from the ground in an area on the northwest part of the site. At this work party, Team 1 continued that work, this time clearing ivy and blackberry root balls from an ever widening area. All of the debris was taken to an area we call The Rack Zone where it is put on racks that keep it from re-rooting. Having the vines and rootballs on the racks also enhances air flow and the debris will decompose faster than if it was left on the ground.

At the beginning of the work party the area looked like this:

The volunteers worked diligently and had a good time in the process. Even though I don’t have a “before” photo, know that the shed and stone wall shown in the last photo in this section was completely covered with ivy. Until recently, I didn’t even know there was a shed there.

(You can enlarge the photos in a photo gallery by clicking on any of the photos.)

At the end of the work party, the space looked like this. There is still work to do in this area but so  much was accomplished during those three hours.

Team 2

The area where Team 2 worked is adjacent to Team 1’s section of the property. When English ivy grows unchecked and begins to flower, the leaves may change shape and become waxy. It may become a gigantic mass, developing thick stalks that may look more like a tree trunk than an ivy vine. One of the neighbors who has worked on this project from the beginning discovered such a mass in early January. Since then, he has been working to cut it down.

The first set of pictures below show what the area looked like at the beginning of the February 3rd work party. Notice the ivy mass in the background of the first photo. It is not nearly as big as it was originally but it is still huge. The second two photos show some of the piles we would be dealing with at this work party.

Here is a close up of different parts of that mass. It is SO dense.

The volunteers worked on the piles of debris, cutting the leaves and small branches of ivy away from the bigger branches. The leaves and small branches were moved to the rack zone to dry and the bigger branches either stayed in the area or were stacked near the rack zone.

The Rack Zone

By the end of this work party, the rack zone was almost completely full of ivy.


I wonder how long it will take for us to completely remove the mass. I suspect there will be many more work parties and many more piles before this task will be finished. But, at least, when the work party was over, the piles of debris that were there at the beginning were almost gone.

Team 3

On February 26, Silver Capital Management employees are coming to plant trees, shrubs and ground covers in this Greenbelt site. Team 3 helped prepare the ground for that planting work party.

In the days prior to the February 3rd work party, pink flags were placed around the site, marking where each plant will go. Written on each flag was the type of plant that will be planted there.

We’ve found that planting proceeds smoother and faster if the areas where things will be planted are prepared ahead of time.  Prior to the work party, I made two demonstration areas so that the volunteers could see what they would be doing. In one area, I used burlap that had been placed on the ground when we first cleared the land, and in the other I used new burlap.

Team 3 cleared weeds, if there were any, from around the flags and then placed burlap bags around them, leaving a place for the people who will be planting to dig a hole. Once the planting is finished the burlap will be adjusted, if necessary, and then covered with wood chips. Both the burlap and the wood chips will decompose and enrich the soil.

This team prepared spaces for about 70 plants. In the photos below, you can see the burlap that is now scattered throughout the site.

Team 4

The fourth team cleared an area that our volunteers had not tackled before. Seattle Parks Department staff had done an initial cutting of the blackberry vines in that area in March 2017 and then cut them back again during the summer. At the February 3rd work party, the volunteers dug out blackberry root balls and removed ivy.

This is how that land looked at the beginning of the work party. (I think this would be a particularly good gallery for you to click on!)

After instruction on how to clear the land, the team “rolled up their sleeves” and went to work.

The students dug up many blackberry root balls. These are photos of the biggest one they found!

The transformation that took place was remarkable. By the end, this section was clear of invasive plants and covered by burlap bags (the bags help prevent weed growth).

While the students were working, my neighbor John started removing blackberry vines in a nearby area, one where the blackberries are even denser. A team will work in that section during our next work party.

On February 26, these newly restored areas will become home to seven Douglas Fir trees as well as a variety of shrubs and ground covers.

By 12:50 p.m., the tools we used had been cleaned and put away. We then gathered on the Hanford Stairs, which are on the north border of this site, to take a group photo and celebrate the completion of a very successful work party.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: Shrub and Groundcover Planting Day 2017

Wednesday, November 15 was a big day, one I’ve been eagerly awaiting. On that day, a corporate group from DocuSign came to our restoration site to plant the 330 shrubs and ground covers Seattle Parks Department had given us. November 15 was DocuSign’s Global Impact Day. I looked up the philosophy behind Global Impact and found this:

We believe character is defined through action. With DocuSign IMPACT, we are committed to putting this character into action by harnessing the power of DocuSign’s people, products, and profits to make a difference in the global communities in which our employees and customers live and work.

On that day, buses picked up the employees at their corporate headquarters and traveled to projects all over the city. I felt so grateful to have 42 of their volunteers helping us; and they were wonderful people to work with.

(Note: You might be wondering why we plant at this time of year. In the forest, planting starts after the fall rains begin. That way the plants have a chance to root before the summer comes. We’ve had almost no rain during the summer for a few years and there is no water source on this property. The plants have the best chance of survival if they have developed a healthy root system before the dry period.)

Prior to the work party, we prepared eight planting areas. Any remaining blackberry vines and rootballs, ivy and bindweed were removed and the areas were marked off with green and white, or yellow and black, tape. The University of Washington students who helped during our November 11 work party moved the potted shrubs and groundcovers to the areas where they would be planted.

The photo below is of the Dogwood Area, so named because it is near a large area of red twig dogwood and because a small patch of red twig dogwood came up within this planting area during the summer.

Another way we prepared for the work party was to create and distribute photo galleries of the plants that would go in each area. That way the workers could see the beauty they were helping to create.

I already mentioned that the DocuSign group was wonderful to work with. We had a dream staff too, consisting of Joanna Nelson de Flores, the director of Forterra’s Green Cities program,  Nichole Marcotte, Forterra’s Stewardship Coordinator, Anavadya Oravec a Master Gardener and GreenFriends member and me! The staff arrived an hour and a half early so I had a chance to show them around the site. We spent part of our November 15th pre-work party time placing each plant on the spot where the DocuSign employees would plant it.

When the participants arrived, I talked about the history of the project and gave information about safety relating to this particular site. Then the group was divided in half and walked to the part of the property where they would soon be planting. Joanna and Nichole each led a group. They talked about tool safety and then showed participants how to plant the shrubs and ground covers. I really appreciated having the opportunity to hear the experts teach! During the work party, all four of us supervised the work and helped as needed. (Click on the gallery to enlarge the photos.)

After each plant was planted, a blue and white tape was tied loosely on one of its branches, or on a stick that was placed next to it. Every year, Seattle Parks Department uses a different color of tape to tag the plants. So from here on out, whenever we see a blue and white tape in any of Seattle’s parks, we will know that the item was planted in 2017!

Once a shrub or groundcover was planted, four burlap bags were placed around it. When all of the planting in an area was complete and the burlap was down, the entire area was covered with wood chips. (The burlap and wood chips reduce weed growth, retain moisture, and prevent erosion. Both the burlap and the chips will decompose and enrich the soil.)

Below are photos of the completed planting areas. You can see the blue and white tape I mentioned throughout them.

And this is a photo of the empty pots!

I am so excited for Spring to arrive so I can see every bud, every flower, and every berry! I hope most (or better yet, all) of the plants survive the winter.