Another Adventure

Al and I bought a house on Beacon Hill in Seattle in November of 1973. Soon thereafter, we bought the lot behind our house. The properties on both sides of our new lot were completely overrun with blackberry vines; but our lot, thanks to the people who had lived there since sometime in the 1930’s, was well maintained. It was terraced and had several fruit trees. We added vegetable gardens and did our best to keep the property free of blackberry vines and weeds.

After we divorced in the 80’s, I sold the lot; there was no way for me to keep it up and I needed the income. At that point, the blackberry and ivy vines began to invade the property. The person I sold it to, sold it to someone else and that person sold it to the city when they were buying property to create the Seattle Greenbelt.

In 2014 and 2015, I attempted to remove some of the blackberry and ivy vines, particularly around big cedar tree and a big alder tree. Sometimes I enlisted a friend to help, but we barely made a dent in the invasive vines.

In March of 2015, I saw some yellow down by the alder tree and was intrigued; I wanted to see what it was. I picked up my shears and made my way through the dried blackberry vines. It was not easy to get to the yellow, which turned out to be daffodils, but I eventually made it.

The daffodils were beautiful and when I looked inside one of them, I was surprised to see a spider.

If you would like to read more about that 2015 adventure go to: Keep Your Eyes on the Prize)

In fall of 2016, GreenFriends members joined with Green Seattle Partnership in restoring this section of the Greenbelt. Our site not only included the lot I had once owned but three other lots as well.

A few days ago, I was looking out my kitchen window and saw yellow in the distance. I knew immediately what it was. I took a photo from the kitchen. Look at the photo below and see if you can see any hint of yellow.

Then I took a closeup photo, still from the kitchen window. Can you see the yellow in the distance now? Don’t worry if you can’t; you will be able to see it soon!

The next day, I decided to get as close as I could to the flowers. This time my journey would not be hampered by blackberry vines but it might be halted by my physical mobility issues (poor balance and dizziness). I decided the safest way for me to get to them was to walk down the Hanford Stairs, because those stairs have a handrail. I would also bring my cane.

Once I arrived at the entrance to the lower path, I left the stairs and entered the Greenbelt. There was so much new growth on the site. This unfolding fern was one of the first things that caught my eye.

Next, I noticed that several of the wild ginger plants we had planted in 2017 were now dwarfed by fringecup volunteers (volunteers in this case are plants that sprout on their own, i.e. we hadn’t planted them). In the photo below the wild ginger is peeking out from under the fringecup. Both are native plants.

As I came close to the main part of the site, I saw a flowering tree in the distance. What in the world was that?

Before I turned the corner into the clearing, I passed a planting area and saw that horsetails were coming up en force! I knew from experience, that before long we won’t be able to see anything other than horsetails in the lower areas of the site!

When I entered the clearing, the flowering tree mystery was solved; the blooms were on the top part of the big tree that had fallen during the first week in March.

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

From this area, I was able to get a view of the fallen tree from a different perspective than I had before. There was still no way to capture all of the tree in one photograph.

Soon, I continued my journey to the daffodils. They were on a slope, so I didn’t feel safe to get close to them but I did take some closeup photos from the path.

Then I looked at the nearby planting areas.

I decided to return to my house using the stairs behind my house since I am much more stable going up stairs than down them. On the way back, I saw how much the pearly everlasting shoots have grown. And there are so many of them. If you would like to read my previous update about those plants go to: Pearly Everlasting Shrubs pp. 24-27.

The next day, I decided to see if I could get a little closer to the daffodils. I noticed that if I walked towards them from the south side, the ground was almost flat. I knew I still couldn’t take ground level photos like I did in 2015 but I was very happy to get a closer shot…

… and to have completed another adventure!

Greenbelt Restoration Work Parties: February 26 and March 4, 2020

When we held the February 26 and March 4 work parties none of us knew that they would be the last work parties of the quarter. The remaining ones would be canceled due to the pandemic.

February 26

When I went outside to make last minute preparations for the work party, I got a big surprise. A big tree had fallen not far from our toolbox. I hadn’t been to that part of the site for several days, so I didn’t know when it fell but guessed it was during or soon after the big wind and rain storm that had occurred the previous weekend.

The tree had fallen from the top path, over the old house foundation that is on the property, and partially over the planting area that is below the foundation. I hadn’t realized how big the tree was until it fell; it must have been at least 80 feet tall. The photos in this post are primarily from the tree’s bottom and top so in no way do they show its magnitude. 

(To enlarge the photos click on any of the galleries.)

The side-lying rootball is about 8 feet long and 12 feet high! 

The tree fell between two drying racks. It touched both of the racks but didn’t damage either of them. Even though it had fallen over numerous planting areas, none of our native plants were significantly harmed; in fact only one branch on a bald hip rose shrub and one on a pacific ninebark shrub was damaged. Once again, against incredible odds, Mother Nature had protected the plants.

The tree had fallen from the top path, over the old house foundation that is on the property, and partially over the planting area that is below the foundation. We hadn’t realized how big the tree was until it fell; it must have been at least 80 feet tall. The photos in this post are primarily from the tree’s bottom and top so in no way do they show its full magnitude. 

Soon after I discovered the fallen tree, I called my supervisor at the Seattle Parks Department to inform him that the tree had fallen. He told me it would probably be left on the ground to provide habitat for birds and insects. 

So, after all of us spent some time looking at the exposed tree roots, we began the planned activities for the day. Most of the students started removing weeds, wood chips and leaves from around all of the trees, shrubs and ground covers we had planted on the site since 2017. Having bare ground around each plant helps water reach the plant roots when it rains. The UW Capstone interns were team leaders for the UW service-learning students during this work party.

An intern found some snail or slug eggs as she was working.

A student that loves to dig out invasive blue bell bulbs did that instead of clearing the areas around the plants. The photo of her shovel shows how wet the soil was that day.

While all of this activity was occurring, Antje, one of our regular team leaders, cut back bamboo shoots.

Later, one of the student teams removed some of the smaller fallen tree branches that were near the native plants.

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While those students removed branches, the other team finished clearing the areas around the plants on the site and then picked up litter. Sorry, no photos of that work!

March 4

During what turned out to be our last work party, the interns took the service-learning students back to the area along Cheasty Boulevard that they had started to clear several weeks before. Weeds were already growing through the wood chip mulch they had spread at that time. On March 4th, they dug out those weeds and cleared more of the area, and then spread more wood chips over all of the cleared area. I don’t have photos of the work but I do have photos of the results!

The fallen tree covered all but one of our Greenbelt paths. While the students worked, Antje identified and marked new ways to get around the lower part of the site without walking through the planted areas.

I feel so grateful to all of the students who chose to work on our site for their service-learning or internship this quarter. I also feel grateful 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 Parties: February 7- 21, 2020

This quarter, we have two UW Capstone interns and three UW service-learning students working on the site. All five of the students work for 2 1/2 hours on Wednesday afternoons and the interns come back most Fridays.

There were five work parties between the 7th and 21st of February. I attended all of the work parties; Antje, who has been helping on the site for more than a year was at two of them; and Shirley, who is one of our long term team leaders, participated in one.

February 7

The interns are responsible for clearing one section of the site. They had worked on “their” section on January 17th and 29th. On February 7th, they put wood chip mulch on areas that they had cleared the previous week… because there had been so much rain that the ground had become muddy. They also removed more invasive vines and weeds and put a wood chip ring around a mock orange shrub we had planted in March of 2019.

February 12

Only one intern and one service-learning student attended the February 12th work party. They spent most of the session scouring the site looking at the flagging tape that had been put on when we planted trees, shrubs and ground covers between November 2017 and March 2019.

The color and design of the tape allows us to know when the plant was planted. As the plant grows, the flagging tape may get too tight and need to be loosened; or cut off and replaced. The shrub in the photo below was one where the tape was so tight that they had to cut it off and put on looser tape. This shrub was planted in November 2017.

While they were doing that, Antje and I were weeding.

Towards the end of the work party, the intern noticed that someone had dumped trash down the Hanford stairs and on one of our planting areas . We spent the last part of the work party picking up the trash.

February 14

As is usually the case, the Capstone interns came to work on their section of the site on Friday. This week was different in that a service-learning student came to do a makeup session.

The interns started clearing the area on the western side of their section. They also pruned some shrubs that had been planted sometime before we started working here in 2016.

Later in the work party, they planted two snowberry shrubs. It may be difficult to see the shrubs in the photos below because they were still in winter twig form.

While the interns were working in their section, the service learning student, Antje and I “cleaned up” the drying racks where we place the invasive vines and weeds we have removed. We did this clean-up by removing big branches from the pile, cutting long branches into smaller pieces and making sure none of the invasive vines were touching the ground. Making these changes allows the debris to compost faster and not re-root.

At one point, the service-learning student noticed a hole in the ground not far from the drying rack where she was working. When she looked into the hole, she found item after item of trash that had been thrown into the Greenbelt and over decades had been covered by soil. The most remarkable litter she found was a BIG teddy bear.

After she had removed the trash, and filled the hole, she returned to working on the racks. Towards the end of the work party Antje and she replaced flagging tape on plants that had been tagged incorrectly. (We had run out of this year’s flagging tape and had to use something else to mark some of the plants when we did the November 2019 planting.)

February 19

One of the interns had wanted to experience leading teams during the quarter. She had been assigned a team several times but since there weren’t many students this quarter her “team” at times consisted of only one other person.

On February 19, all of the student-learners and interns were present so she had the opportunity to be team leader for all of the students. They cleared an area along Cheasty Blvd. After the land was cleared, they covered it with wood chip mulch to help retard weed growth and reduce erosion.

Shirley, one of our regular team leaders, and I watched over the process giving guidance as necessary. Shirley also put wood chips on some of the areas we had cleared in a previous work party

I didn’t take photos during February 19th work party, but I took some the next day. The first two photos below show uncleared areas that border the section the students worked on that day. If I had taken “before” photos, they would have looked very much like these. Ivy, buttercup, grasses and blackberry vines were the most common invasive plants.

And this is what that section looked like at the end of the work party.

We spent the last part of the session doing a task that was less strenuous, clearing leaves and wood chips from around previously planted trees, shrubs and ground covers in two of the planting areas on the north west part of the site.

February 21

There was another interns work party on February 21. On that day, they continued clearing the western part of their section, snapped off suckers coming from a large tree, put wood chip rings around the snowberry shrubs they had planted the previous week … as well as around a rhododendron shrub we had planted in March of 2019… and spread wood chips on cleared areas that were muddy.

The shrubs in this section will be able to thrive now that they are free of the invasive vines.

I am always amazed by what a small group of enthusiastic volunteers can accomplish during a 2 1/2 hour work party. By the end of each session, there is always a tangible difference in the site.