Each year, the Green Seattle Partnership sponsors a Green Seattle Day. On that day, work parties are held in parklands all over Seattle. Sarva and I decided to volunteer as team leaders at Cheasty Mt. View Park. Several other GreenFriends members and their friends joined us.
The number of people who registered for the work party amazed me. There were seven in our GreenFriends contingent, but 126 volunteers in the whole group.
One of the leaders encouraged the participants to plant from a place of gratitude. She suggested that the volunteers name their trees … and that they talk to the trees as they put them into the earth. As I wandered through our section, helping people with the planting, I heard many participants doing that.
After some of our GreenFriends group planted this tree, they decided to give it a kiss.
The 126 volunteers planted 800 trees, shrubs and ground covers during the first hour of the work party.
We spent the rest of the work party removing invasive blackberry and ivy vines. Again, it was phenomenal to witness how much can be accomplished in a short period of time.
We put vines we cut onto drying racks so that they don’t touch the ground and re-root. There were several drying racks in the area where we were working but they were soon full. Before long there were big piles of cuttings around the site.
Some of the volunteers built a new drying rack and then we moved the piles of cuttings to the new rack.
drying rack for invasive cuttings
loading the drying rack
Before long, the three-hour work party was over and we prepared to leave.
What a wonderful morning it had been. The work party was such a good example of the adage “Many hands make light work.”
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)
prior to work party
after work party
after work party
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.
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.
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.
cutting up debris
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:
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.
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.
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.
I was so happy with the results of our work and feel very grateful to the volunteers who participated in this work party.
The August 4th work party went faster than any work party I can remember. I was so surprised when I looked at my watch and saw how much time had passed. I suspect that time warp happened in part because the temperature that day was in the high 60’s. The previous three work parties had been in mid to high 80’s weather. It had felt oppressive to work in those conditions and we had moved from place to place to avoid the hot sun. We were relieved to be working when the temperature was in the 60’s once again.
Fifteen volunteers participated in the event. Five were GreenFriends members, seven were UW Environmental science students and three were neighbors.
Our primary goal for this event was to work in areas we had avoided when the sun was so hot. We would do that work until break time and then, after the break, we would move to the Greenbelt site that is just north of ours.
Over the three-hour period, we worked in five different areas. This report is going to be pictorial, with photos showing what each area looked like before, during and after the work.
After the initial orientation, all of the participants worked in the planting area that is in the southwestern part of the site. There, many blackberry sprouts had been growing among the native plants. Not only did the volunteers remove most of those blackberry plants, but they also partially or completely cleared blackberry vines and root balls from the area outside the southern and western borders of that space.
(Click on any of the photo galleries to enlarge the pictures.)
Part of the planting area
An hour into the work party, a few of the volunteers moved to the second area. They spent a half-hour removing blackberry vines that were growing around and through piles of debris as well as bindweed that had invaded a nearby planting area. There is more to be done in this area in the future, but this group made a lot of headway.
An hour-and-a-half into the work party, we took a short break. Among the snacks we offered were ice cream and watermelon. The students decided to include the ice cream in the group photo!
After the break, we moved to the site that is north of the Hanford Stairs. Once there, we divided into three groups. During the next 45 minutes we worked in areas three, four and five.
The third area had a big leaf maple tree with lots of suckers growing from it. Blackberry plants and invasive ground covers grew around it. The students removed the suckers and some of the invasive plants. It will be interesting to see how the tree changes now that the suckers have been removed.
The fourth area was 20-30 feet into the Greenbelt. It was not visible from the road that borders the area. This group removed ivy and other weeds from under several 10-15 year-old evergreen trees; and cut down any blackberry vines that were growing through them. They also cut ivy from an old evergreen tree and removed a number of blackberry plants from the area
My neighbor John and I started working in an area that runs parallel to 25th Avenue South several months ago. Volunteers also worked on it during some of the July work parties. During one of those work parties, John removed enough blackberry vines that he broke into a space that he and I had cleared last Spring. I was so excited to see the two spaces connected.
On August 1 and 2, another volunteer worked seven hours in the same area. Once he cleared some of the ground, he and I built two drying racks to use at future work parties. (When we cut down blackberries, ivy and bindweed we put them on drying racks so they can’t reach the ground and re-root.)
The photo below shows what this area looked like at the beginning of the August 4th work party. During the work party, volunteers focused on cutting sections out of fallen trees that crossed the area we were clearing. Walking over them could be hazardous and we wanted to prevent accidents by creating a clear path. They also dug out blackberry root balls and raked up dried leaves and other debris. The last photo shows the transformation that occurred during the last forty-five minutes of the work party.
Another work party was complete, and once again the changes in the land that occurred during the three hours of working together was remarkable. I love how every person that helps with this project makes a difference. That proverb, “many hands make light work,” is so true.
In my last post, I shared how the lead up to the July 25th work party was full of challenges, ones that gave me the opportunity to practice behaviors such as flexibility, letting go, non-attachment, staying in the moment, equanimity, persistence and more. Thankfully, in my experience, times of challenge and learning are often followed by times that are relatively calm.
That was the case with the July 29th work party. By the morning of the event, we had three staff and fourteen participants registered. Most were students from a UW Environmental Science course. I was elated when one of our other long-time team leaders showed up as well. Abundance was becoming the theme of this event!
As in the two previous work parties, the weather was hot, with temperatures in the high 80’s, so we still had to change the location of the work whenever the sun in a particular place got too hot. All of the areas were at least partially in the shade when we began.
After the orientation, we divided into four teams. One team finished clearing an area we had worked on in previous work parties, and then held a scavenger hunt, looking for bindweed, ivy and blackberry shoots. The members of that team dug out the invasive plants whenever and wherever they spotted them.
(Click on any of the galleries to enlarge the photos.)
The second team worked in an area where there was bindweed wrapping around most of the horsetails. Horsetails are delicate so it is close to impossible to remove the bindweed without damaging them. Many of the horsetails were already beginning to wither from being strangled by bindweed, the lack of rain, or perhaps it was just the end of the season for them… so we ended up removing most of them. That species has been around since before there were dinosaurs, so I have no doubt that they will return next year. This team also cleared blackberry plants, bindwood and horsetails from the border of the planting area, as long as that border wasn’t on a steep drop-off.
These photos were taken of this planting area on June 30 …
… and this is what the area looked like by the end of the July 29th work party.
The third team focused on two tasks. In 2016, the ground under two big cedar trees on the site was covered by a thick carpet of ivy vines. A volunteer had removed those vines in October of 2016 and stacked them in a pile. The vines had dried out long before the July 29, 2018 work party.
When we disassemble the drying racks that are scattered throughout the site, we usually put the contents on paths that we have lined with burlap bags. The debris usually consists of dried blackberry canes and small branches. When we walk on that type of debris, it crumbles. When we tried walking through the dried vines after scattering them at the previous work party, we found that our feet would get tangled in the vines. That clearly created a hazardous situation, so at the time we just put the vines back into a pile.
During the July 29th work party, two students used hand clippers to cut the vines into small pieces and then scattered the pieces on 120 square feet of burlap paths. These students didn’t make it to the bottom of the pile, but there isn’t much of it left. It will either be moved to the rack zone, which is an old house foundation that is full of invasive plants that are drying out, or will be cut up during a future work party.
Just prior to our break time these same students cut the bottom limbs of a bush in an area that has a lot of laurel. Laurel is not a native plant and is invasive. In time, it will be removed from the site. Normally, we cut the bottom branches so that the Parks Department staff can easily see the trunks but since this bush had no central trunk and instead was a series of thin branches going up, we cut back the branches that were on the outside of the bush. (Perhaps there is a trunk somewhere in the bush, but I couldn’t find it.)
The fourth team worked in an area where we will be planting native trees, shrubs and ground covers in the fall. It had been cleared in the past, but there were many blackberry shoots that needed to be removed. The team also removed blackberry shoots and other weeds from nearby planting areas.
While the teams were working in our main site, my neighbor John cut back blackberry vines from a part of the Greenbelt that is north of the Hanford Stairs… and north of our primary site.
John and I had worked on several sections of that site in the spring. During this work party, he broke through the area he was clearing, into the section we had worked on before. I was so excited to see the two areas become one.
We took a snack break an hour-and-a-half into the three-hour work party. We provided special treats, watermelon and ice cream, since it was such a hot day!
After the break, all of the volunteers moved to the site north of the Hanford Stairs. There, everyone continued the process of clearing the land of the invasive blackberry vines and root balls, ivy, bindweed and other weeds.
We split into two groups. Three volunteers worked in a dense portion of the site that was 20-30 feet from the street. That section contains numerous evergreen trees were planted 10-15 years ago. Now, blackberry vines and ivy cover most of the trees and much of the ground.
The first photo below shows what one tree looked like before the July 25th work party and the other two show what the area looked like after the July 29th work party.
The majority of the volunteers worked on a section of the Greenbelt that is near the street.
On June 18 that area looked like this:
And here is a glimpse of what that same part looked like by the end of the July 29th work party:
The remaining time sped by. There is still much that needs to be done, but every area we had worked on looked dramatically different by the time we finished the work party. Step-by-step these sections of Seattle’s Greenbelt are once again becoming a healthy forest.