Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: Expedia Day of Caring

Friday, September 6 was Expedia’s Day of Caring. Twenty of their employees chose to work in our Greenbelt site on that special day. It was wonderful to have them. Many of the volunteers had previous experience doing forest restoration work; their experience was an added bonus.

After an initial orientation, the group divided into four teams. One or two of our team leaders guided the work of each team.

Team 1: Shirley’s team removed weeds and other invasive plants in an area we had begun to clear during a previous work party. While it will take numerous groups to completely clear this section of the Greenbelt, the Expedia team made tremendous progress.

Team 2: Susan’s team started clearing an area along Cheasty Boulevard, which borders the eastern portion of the site.

There were some native shrubs in this area, but when we started it was hard to see them since they were mixed with weeds and invasive plants. The next two photos are before and after photos of a section like that.

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

Laurels, hawthorne, and holly are invasive shrubs. The first photo below shows one of the patches of hawthorne and holly prior to the work party. The second photo shows what the area looked like after the weeds were cleared and the lower limbs of the shrubs were removed so that the Parks Department staff can easily find them when they come to treat invasive shrubs/trees.

This team also disassembled a pile of dried debris that had been created from invasive plant cuttings during earlier work parties. After they took the pile apart, they spread the dried debris along the ground. Next they made a new drying rack to hold the blackberry and ivy vines, as well as other weeds, they removed on that day.

Team 3: Haley’s team removed invasive bindweed that had invaded two planting areas. In many cases, the bindweed traveled through and over horsetails. (Horsetails are native plants that were around before the dinosaurs so we leave them alone.) This team also removed the blackberry vines that were entering planting areas from the other side of the border. The border of that planting area is on a very steep slope so removing the blackberry root balls is not an option; the best we can do is to continue to cut them back when they enter the planting area.

The first photo below shows the bindweed in this area before the July 24 work party. I’m using this photo even though there wasn’t this much bindweed on September 6th because it shows the bindweed clearer than photos I took before this work party. I say no visible bindweed in the second photo because the roots can go 32 feet down!

The next photos are of the area where the blackberry vines were cut back. Seattle Parks Department cut up a tree that had fallen into our planting areas earlier in the year and used the pieces to create a border for us.

Team 4: John and I led a team that weeded a part of the site where many blackberry, ivy and periwinkle vines were emerging from the ground. We had planted the area in March of this year and had pulled out weeds and invasive vines many times since then. This time we focused on digging out the blackberry root balls as well as removing grass and other weeds.

This work party lasted 4 1/2 hours rather than the normal 3 hours. After a lunch break, we created a bucket brigade to bring wood chips from our wood chip pile on 25th Avenue S into the Greenbelt site. The first thing we did with the wood chip was to spread them along a 125 foot path.

Once the path was completed, we focused on creating piles of wood chips on the site. These wood chip piles will make it easier for volunteers to construct 4-inch-high wood chip rings around each new tree, shrub and ground-cover we plant in mid-November.

By the end of this segment of the work party, we had moved nearly 8 cubic yards of wood chips into the site! Afterwards, we picked up and put away the tools and supplies and then met for a closing to celebrate all that we had accomplished that day.

I feel so grateful for all of the Expedia 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: January 21, 2018

I returned from India on the afternoon of Saturday January 13 excited to get back to my work in the Greenbelt. I had scheduled a work party for the first day that I thought I would be reasonably fit after such a long trip. That day was Sunday January 21.

Sixteen people participated in the work party: 2 GreenFriends members, 9 students from UW’s Introduction to Environmental Science course, 3 neighbors, a high school student and her mother.

The group was enthusiastic and accomplished so much. One team worked to remove ivy and blackberry rootballs from a section of the property we haven’t tackled before.

(You can enlarge the photos by clicking on the galleries.)

Another team worked in the “rack zone”. When the blackberry vines that had been growing on this property for 30-50 years were initially cut down, we discovered an old house foundation.  A volunteer suggested that we use the foundation to store all of the racks that hold the blackberry rootballs, ivy and bindweed that we dig out. [Note: We put the debris on racks so it stays off the ground. That way the plants won’t re-root, and by having air flow coming up from the bottom of the rack, the debris will decompose faster. Also keeping the racks in one area, rather than scattered throughout the site, gives us more planting space.]

When the debris decomposes, it becomes new soil. Our plan is to spread the partially decomposed materials throughout the foundation and build new racks on top of them. Eventually there will be a thick layer of dirt in the foundation and we will be able plant beautiful shrubs and ground covers in it.

During this work party, we started taking the racks apart for the first time.

As each one was disassembled, a new rack was built on top of the partially decomposed debris, and then the ivy and blackberry rootballs the other team had just removed from their work area were placed on top of the new racks. It will take several work parties to redo all of the racks but we got a good start. (Click on the photos below to see the full captions.)

My neighbor John, who has diligently worked on this project from the beginning, cleared an area of blackberry canes and rootballs.

For the last part of the work party, John and Jason worked in an area where ivy had killed two trees by wrapping itself around the tree trunks.

While they were doing that, the rest of us moved 1000 square feet of burlap bags from the street into the Greenbelt. I had no idea we would be able to move all of it in an hour, but we did!

Having the bags in the Greenbelt will give us easier access to the burlap when we are ready to spread it over newly cleared land. [Note: Spreading burlap bags over the cleared land helps prevent weed growth. Over time they will decompose and enrich the soil.]

In the past, we have dumped the burlap into mounds.

At a work party last fall, one group of students laid the burlap bags flat. Those bags were so much easier to spread than the wrinkled ones, so we decided to place all of burlap we were moving into flat piles!

Mother Nature really blessed this work party. The weather forecast app said the chance of rain at the beginning of the event was 90% and that the rain would continue throughout. The reality was that it sprinkled as I was setting up ahead of time and we had NO rain during the three hour work party. About an hour after the work party was over, it poured. Grace prevailed.

Even though I was still dealing with jet lag from my India trip, I was in bliss throughout this event. I love this work!

I give special thanks to everyone who helped by leading or being part of a team as well as to the neighbor who was willing to come early and help everyone sign in as they arrived.

Our next work party will be Saturday, February 3. If you live close enough to Seattle to participate and want to join us, you would be more than welcome! If you are interested in attending, leave a comment below.

An Unexpected Visitor

When I was working in our Greenbelt restoration site a few days ago, I was startled to see this bird staring at me. I walked closer to it so I could take its picture.

We looked at each other for a while. Then the bird walked over to a broken bowl and started drinking rain water.

At first, I thought the bird was a duck. Then, I decided it was too big to be a duck, that it must be a goose. I was concerned that it might start eating our newly planted shrubs.

As I pondered the situation, I wondered how a goose managed to get to Beacon Hill; we aren’t that close to Lake Washington.

Eventually, I started working again and just ignored it. At one point, when I looked towards the ledge, the bird was gone.

A few days later, people started posting notices on NextDoor, commenting on a duck that had been spotted in a variety of places in my neighborhood. One person said that it had even stopped traffic.Another person included a photograph. It sure looked like the bird that had visited me. Future posts revealed that it was a pet.

I felt embarrassed that I didn’t know the difference between a duck and goose, until I googled it. There are so many similarities between the two birds. One of the main differences is that a goose is usually bigger.

Someone wrote on NextDoor that the bird was a Muscovy duck. Wikipedia says this about Muscovy ducks:

The Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata) is a large duck native to MexicoCentral, and South America. Small wild and feral breeding populations have established themselves in the United States, particularly in Florida and the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas as well as in many other parts of North America, including southern Canada. Feral Muscovy ducks are found in New Zealand, Australia, and in parts of Europe. They are large ducks, with the males about 76 cm (30 in) long, and weighing up to 7 kg (15 lb). Females are considerably smaller, and only grow to 3 kg (6.6 lb), roughly half the males’ size.

This photo from Wikimedia was included in the Wikipedia article:

CC BY-SA 3.0,

I didn’t get very close to the duck but this description and photo sure looks right to me. I have no trouble believing that the bird I saw was 30 inches long and weighed 15 pounds. It sure is a long way from Mexico, Central and South America, Florida and Texas though!

I appreciate that it visited me that day, but still hope it stays away from the trees, shrubs and ground covers that we have planted.

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!

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: May 13

Twenty of the 23 participants in last Saturday’s work party were students from a University of Washington Environmental Studies class. I loved the opportunity to share this project with young people and appreciated what enthusiastic workers they were.

I set up five different work stations, and assigned four students to each of them. One group finished their work early so they joined another group for the remainder of the time.

Most of the work party was spent cutting down blackberry and ivy vines, and digging out blackberry root balls. Once the root balls were removed, we cover the cleared land with burlap bags to reduce weed growth. Then dried blackberry canes and other debris were placed on top of the burlap. In time, the bags and debris will turn into mulch which will hold in moisture and enrich the soil.

Since we use the blackberry canes to cover the burlap bags, it can be difficult for photographs to show how much work has been done. As you look at the before and after photos below, keep in mind that so many blackberry root balls are now above ground, stacked on racks made from tree branches where they will dry out.

Before and after photos for each of the five stations:






The amount of trash that we collected during the last two work parties shocks me. I wonder it will ever come to an end.


As always, I was amazed and delighted by how much we were able to accomplish during a three hour work party.