Beauty in the Greenbelt: Pacific Ninebark

In April of 2017, I took a live stake workshop. The participants cut branches from a variety of shrubs, took them home and planted them in containers. The stakes rooted throughout the summer and early fall. In November of 2017, I planted the ones that had in our forest restoration site.

Three of the Pacific Ninebark stakes not only survived, they thrived. When I was walking through the restoration site today, I noticed that there were many buds on the shrub. One of the flowers had partially bloomed. I think it is SO beautiful.

There are many flowers like this one on the shrub. The photo below shows about a third of the plant’s flowers-to-be.

This shrub will be so beautiful when all of these buds open. At this point, it is still a fairly small plant. I can only imagine what it will look like years from now when it is fully grown.

Cee’s Flower of the Day Photography Challenge

Greenbelt Restoration Work Parties: March 20-April 16, 2019

Greenbelt Entrance

From Spring of 2017 through Autumn of 2018, students from the University of Washington’s Introduction to Environmental Science class worked in our restoration site. The students were required to do three hours of volunteer work during the quarter, so their needs and ours matched very well. In November of 2018, I was dismayed to learn that the instructor was retiring at the end of the quarter and the future of the course was uncertain. That class had been our primary source of volunteers.

Losing those volunteers has been a good chance to practice taking the attitude “What you need will be provided.” I also kept in mind a line adapted from the movie, Field of Dreams– “If you build it, he (they) will come.”

In mid November 2018, DocuSign, a corporate group did our fall planting. On Martin Luther King Day, we had a sizable work party. In February, my neighbor John and I worked together to rescue a shrub that a massive pine tree branch had fallen on. We also had two winter work parties where the participants consisted primarily, or exclusively of team leaders.

As Spring came, I began to get worried. Blackberry shoots, bindweed and other invasives were emerging from the ground. I started working in the site on my own and thoroughly enjoyed the work, but I knew I couldn’t do everything that needed to be done by myself. In addition to trusting that what I needed would be provided, it was an opportunity to practice staying focused on what I was doing in the moment rather than being distracted and/or brought down by obsessing about the enormity of the whole task.

One day in mid-March, Lillie, a woman whom I had seen on the Hanford Stairs numerous times, stopped and talked with me. I invited her to help with the restoration work and she was interested. The first time she came, we cut up debris from the fallen pine tree branch and scattered it on an area where I had removed a drying rack.

The second time we worked together, we cut up debris on another drying rack and took it to The Rack Zone, a place we are beginning to prepare as a planting area.

Lillie cutting dried debris

A week or so after Lillie started working with me, a young man walked up to me as I was working near the stairs. His name is Mycole and he wanted to work with me once or twice a week. The first time he came, we removed wood chips from around the plants in two planting areas. The next time, we started taking apart a large drying rack, cutting up the debris and taking it to the Rack Zone. The last time we finished clearing an area I will describe later in this post.

The debris pile in the photos below is the one that Mycole, Lillie and I worked to dismantle. I don’t have a photo of what it looked like when we started, but my guess is that it was about 14 ft (L) x 10 ft (W) by 5 feet (H). The first photo shows what it looked like after Mycole and I worked on it. A that point it was around 8 x 8 x 2.5. The second photo shows what it looks like now. It is only 12-18 inches high. We will eliminate it fully in the near future.

I had also applied to be a community partner in the Carlson Center’s (University of Washington) service-learning. They help match students who need volunteer opportunities as part of their course work with community partners who need help. This program is very different than the Introduction to Environmental Science students we had worked with between Spring Quarter of 2017 and Autumn Quarter of 2018. As I mentioned earlier, those students had a three-hour volunteer requirement to meet. The service-learning students would work in our Greenbelt site for three-hours a week for seven weeks.

Our application was accepted. This quarter we have four service-learning students. They are part of an English Composition course that is focusing on the Environment. It is fun to work with them and nice to have the continuity from week to week. Shirley, one of our most active team leaders, and I lead their weekly work parties.

During their first two service-learning experiences, the students focused on clearing weeds and grass from an area that is near the entrance to the restoration site. They also moved a big pile of tree and ivy branches from that area to a different part of the site. As each patch of ground was cleared, it was covered with wood chips. The students also cut up a big branch that had fallen on top of a large shrub during a wind or snow storm.

Click on the gallery to enlarge the photos.

When we started the project, the area looked like this:

Before:

The transformation in the land after the students worked on it for the two sessions was remarkable. Mycole and I finished that section two days after the second service-learning work party.

What a difference it makes to be greeted by this sight when walking towards the entrance to our Greenbelt site:

After:

I’m thoroughly enjoying working with our new volunteers and with the volunteers who have been committed to this project for a long time. What we need is definitely being provided.

If you live in the Seattle area and are interested in attending one of our events, our next public work party is Saturday, May 4 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. You can get more information and/or sign up at
https://seattle.greencitypartnerships.org/event/16055/ .

Progress Report: Pearly Everlasting

When we received the new plants for our forest restoration project towards the end of October, the Pearly Everlasting shrubs looked like this:

The Pearly Everlasting plants are the ones with the white flowers.

And here they are in their new home:

November 15, 2018

In the last post I wrote about them, they were beginning to emerge from the ground. I was surprised as I had no idea this was how they would grow.

January 27, 2019

And now they look like this!

March 26, 2019

I look forward to seeing how they evolve from this stage to the way they looked when I first saw the shrub during a November 2017 workshop.

The Pearly Everlasting shrubs are the ones in the background that have white flowers.

FOTD

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: Be Like a Bird Perched on a Dry Twig

european-bee-eater-852588__480

Amma teaches us to be like a bird perched on a dry twig, ready to fly at a moment’s notice. We certainly had an opportunity to practice that teaching during our March 17 work party.

At the beginning of the work party, there were five team leaders present and ready for action. The plan for the day took an unexpected turn when no one from the group who was going to do the March planting showed up.

The native shrubs and ground covers we were planting that day were bare root plants or plugs, so we didn’t have the luxury of planting them over time; they had to be planted that day. When it became clear that the group wasn’t going to come, the team leaders “rolled up their sleeves” and started planting the 65 plants themselves.

I called John (neighbor) and asked if he would carry the wood chips we use for mulch to the various planting areas. Thankfully, he was available and came right away. With his help, we were able to finish the project by 2:00 pm!

I was too busy planting and carrying wood chips to take any photos during this work party, but took pictures of some of the plants and planting areas later.

(You can enlarge the photos by clicking on any picture in the gallery below.)

If we were being “tested” on flexibility, persistence, letting go, accepting what is, doing whatever it takes, equanimity and/or being like a bird perched on a dry twig, I’d say we passed the test!

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: March 10, 2019

We will be planting 75 shrubs and ground covers in our GreenFriends forest restoration site on March 17. The March 10 work party focused on getting new areas prepared for planting. Almost all of our team leaders attended that work party as did seven members of the Franklin National Honor Society. In addition, friends of two of the team leaders worked with us. In all, 16 volunteers took part in the March 10 work party.

During the last two years, when we cut or pulled out vines such as blackberry, ivy and bindweed, and when we dug out blackberry root balls, we usually took the waste to the foundation of a house that exists on our Greenbelt site. Once there, we placed the waste on drying racks that we had built inside the foundation. We call that area “The Rack Zone” and we generally refer to the dried vines, branches and root balls as “debris.”

In January, we had taken apart the majority of the racks in The Rack Zone and spread the debris throughout the Zone. The debris will continue to decompose and in time The Rack Zone will become another planting area.

Not all of the debris is located in The Rack Zone however; some of it has been placed on racks that are scattered throughout the site. During the first part of the March 10 work party, we began the process of putting the dried debris in those piles on tarps… and then dumped the contents in The Rack Zone. Removing the piles of debris was the first step in getting those areas ready for planting.

We started by dismantling the racks on the south end of the site. The photo below shows what one area looked like at the beginning of the work party. Last Fall, that pile of debris had been four to five feet high but other work party participants had removed a lot of it. Our goal during this work party was to move the remainder of the debris to The Rack Zone.

We would also be taking down a big pile of debris just east of it. You can see part of that pile in the middle left section of the photo above. That pile was much bigger than what you can see in the photo.

These two piles were located at the southwest part of the site. We also removed a pile of debris in the southeast section of the site and one north of the Hanford Stairs.

(You can enlarge the photos in any of the galleries by
clicking on one of the photos.)

The southwest area looked like this once the piles had been removed. The debris that is still scattered on the ground will become mulch.

While most of the volunteers were clearing the section on the southwest part of the site, a smaller group worked in the southeast area. The photo below was taken of this space the end of September 2018.

The volunteers in this group moved the pile of dried debris to The Rack Zone.

In the photo below, a team leader is teaching the students how to dig out blackberry root balls. If you look up the hill from where they are standing, you will also see some of the larger group working in the southwest area. By the time this photo was taken, both groups had removed most of the debris in their areas.

This is what the space in the southeast area looked like once the pile of debris and the blackberry root balls had been removed. The land is ready for planting and the remaining debris will be used for mulch.

An hour-and-a-half into the March 10 work party, we took a snack break. Afterwards, we divided into three groups.

Group 1

Before I tell you about Group 1’s work, I will share some back story.

There is an area along 25th Ave S. that is part of an adjacent Greenbelt site. When we started to clear that area during the February 24 work party, blackberry, ivy and periwinkle vines formed a tight web over much of the ground. There was also a lot of downed trees, branches and other debris.

While we had accomplished a great deal on February 24, I felt overwhelmed by what it would take to have it ready for planting on March 17.

A few days later, I worked on my own and cleared enough space to feel some hope that we could have it ready by the 17th. My neighbor John worked alongside me the two following days. Since he uses a pick ax, we progressed much faster. The land suitable for planting was growing!

During this work party on March 10, Group 1 removed a debris pile from the 25th Ave. S area and expanded the planting area. They also moved a lot of the branches and logs that were scattered in that area and dug out blackberry root balls.

Group 2

John and Jason, who are both neighbors and team leaders, worked in an area where blackberry vines had pulled two trees to the ground. They freed those trees and cut down blackberry vines in the surrounding area. I wish I had been present when the trees lost their shackles. I love to see how the they snap up and reach for the sky in that moment .

This area will take a lot more work to clear. Here is what it looks like now.

Group 3

Prior to this work party, I marked the places where new plants will be planted. In each space, I placed a pink flag, a white sign that indicates the name of the plant and a stick with red and black flagging tape. The red and black tape indicates that the item was planted during the 2018-19 planting season.

On March 17, participants will look for the pink flags. They will then plant the specified shrub or ground covers putting the white sign and the stick with the red and black flagging tape into the ground next to the plant.

The third group of volunteers worked in the lower planting area that is on the north side of the Hanford Stairs and near Cheasty Blvd. Their task was to see that all three markers had been left for each future plant .

When that task was finished, those volunteers moved to a different part of the site and cleaned out leaves and wood chips from the “donut holes” around the trees, shrubs and ground covers that had been planted in previous years. (When we plant, we put a four inch layer of wood chips around each plant to hold in moisture. We keep the area close to the plant free of those wood chips. That area is referred to as the donut hole.)

The group also removed the leaves from one entire planting area. All of the leaves were taken to The Rack Zone. The areas looked so beautiful when the group finished their work.

Group 4

The group who had worked in the southeast section during the first part of the work party, continued working there after the snack break. They finished digging out the root balls and then cut back the blackberry vines that are on the south edge of the property. (We have to leave a buffer zone between the neighbor’s house and the Greenbelt so we will need to continue to cut back those vines throughout the year and for years to come.)

In the third photo below you will see both the buffer zone and that there is a mound of dried debris that goes across the planting area. That area of the site is hilly. Numerous strips like that one were placed there last year in an attempt to prevent or reduce erosion.

I encouraged everyone to walk in The Rack Zone as much as possible throughout the work party, hoping all the traffic would break down the debris faster. I was delighted to see a group of volunteers gathering there towards the end of the event.

As always, I was amazed by how much we had accomplished during the three-hour work party. I believe everyone had a good time and I appreciated that the new planting areas were all ready to receive the new plants.

An added bonus is that the Franklin National Honor Society students want to come back! I look forward to working with them again in the future.

GreenFriends PNW Litter Project: Kick Butts Day 2019

February was the coldest month in Seattle since 1940. The weather was unstable with the forecast changing day to day and sometimes hour to hour. March started off cold too. I was delighted when the prediction for full sun on March 4 stayed steady.

This was the 8th year that the GreenFriends PNW Litter Project held a cigarette butt pick-up work party in support of Kick Butts Day, a day of activism sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. Their vision:

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is a leading force in the fight to reduce tobacco use and its deadly toll in the United States and around the world. Our vision: A future free of the death and disease caused by tobacco. We work to save lives by advocating for public policies that prevent kids from smoking, help smokers quit and protect everyone from secondhand smoke.

The actual Kick Butts Day is on Wednesday March 20 but we had picked Sunday March 4 as our day to support their vision. Fifteen eager volunteers gathered in the International District at 10 a.m.

After signing in, the participants picked up gloves, bags to put their cigarette butts in, and litter grabbers if they wanted one. Once the volunteers were ready, they spread throughout the area.

Sign in

Cigarette filters are NOT made of cotton, they are made of cellulose acetate tow, which is a form of plastic, and they can take decades to degrade. Investigators in a past San Diego State University study discovered that if you put fathead minnows and a single cigarette butt in a liter of water, half of the fish will die.

We take the attitude that every cigarette we pick up is one less that could end up being swallowed by a fish, bird or other form of wildlife. By sending them to TerraCycle to be recycled into plastic pallets, we also keep them out of the landfill.

Some years there are more butts on the ground than others. This year, in some areas, there were more butts than I have ever seen. The photos below were taken in front of a building that was a block from where we we had gathered.

Every member of the group worked diligently.

Just before noon, everyone came back to the park. Once there, we each added the cigarette butts we had collected to the main bag.

We waited for everyone to return…..

… and then took the group photo that is at the top of this post.

It had been another fun and productive cigarette butt pick-up work party. We won’t know how many butts we removed until they get to TerraCycle but we knew each one that was in our bag was one that didn’t end up in the landfill, waterways, or stomach of birds, fish or other creatures.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: February 24, 2019

On a chilly but snow-free February morning, eleven volunteers gathered to work in our Greenbelt forest restoration site. Kelly, Antje and I served as team leaders. In addition, a neighbor, two students from Seattle University’s Environmental Perspectives class and five volunteers who had found us on the Green Seattle Partnership’s Event Page participated.

This was the first time we held a work party where the restoration work was exclusively in the Greenbelt site that is north of the Hanford Stairs. (Our main site is south of the stairs.)

After the initial orientation, we divided into three teams.

Teams One and Two

We have been having a problem with people dumping yard waste and trash into a section of the Greenbelt that we had begun to clear last fall. I wondered if we planted trees, shrubs and ground covers in that area if the dumping would stop.

Planting in that section would be no easy matter. Take a look at what the land looked like at the beginning of this work party.

(To get a better sense of the enormity of the task, click on the gallery)

Getting this land ready for planting will take many work parties. We decided to start in a section where the blackberry vines had been cut down but the root balls hadn’t been dug out (see the photo below).

Before

Our plan for this work party was to clear a small strip of land on the edge of the place where the Greenbelt becomes a steep slope. Once it was cleared, we would create a barrier along that strip. The barrier might be helpful in reducing dumping. Even if it wasn’t, it would make people more aware of the slope on the other side of it. [Note: barrier is probably the wrong word since the structure will only be 3-4 feet high, but I can’t think of a better one. Border is a possibility but that doesn’t seem right either.]

The barrier would be built from dried branches as well as materials that might slow down weed growth. All of the materials we will use to create it will decompose over time and enrich the soil. Once the barrier is built, we will plant the trees, shrubs and ground covers on the flat land that is east of it.

As the team began to work, they discovered that there were many layers of ivy and periwinkle vines both on top of the ground and under it. There was also a small holly plant.

The team worked diligently

While the first team was clearing the land in the strip, the second team did tasks that supported the first and third teams. For example, they filled buckets with wood chips and then took the buckets to the areas where the wood chips would be spread over cleared ground.

Once the buckets were empty, team two volunteers refilled them. They also filled several buckets with branches that would become part of the barrier. After some time, the second team joined the first team in clearing the strip.

These groups cleared a significant amount of land. This is what the strip looked like once the blackberry root balls, ivy and periwinkle vines had been removed.

After

During part of the clearing time, one of the volunteers cut cedar leaves off cedar branches that had been dumped in the Greenbelt. Sometimes the leaves were left on the thinner branches. Those leaves became the first layer of the barrier.

Next the team covered the cedar leaves with two layers of burlap bags.

Then a layer of wood chips was spread. The work party was almost over so we put a layer of branches on top of the wood chips. If there had been more time, we probably would have added a thicker layer of wood chips.

There will be many more layers in the barrier and in time the strip will be at least three times as long as it is now. I don’t know exactly what it will look like when we finish it. This project is definitely an experiment.

The first photo below shows the entire strip the team created that day and the second photo will give you a glimpse of the challenges we will face when we extend it.

Team 3

The third team started their day clearing an area near the Hanford stairs; an area that also had invasive blackberry, ivy and periwinkle vines.

As soon as a section was cleared, the volunteers covered the ground with wood chips. Here the wood chips serve primarily as mulch. I was excited to see the changes that were occurring before my eyes. When they finished the area along the stairs looked like this:

After
After

After a snack break, team three decided to clear invasive ivy, blackberry and periwinkle vines… and occasionally trash… in a part of the Greenbelt that was a bit further away from the stairs. One member of group two and I joined them.

I didn’t take before and after photos where this group worked except for the “after” photo below. It shows a section that is full of Dwarf Oregon Grape plants. The space between the plants used to be filled with ivy.

I give thanks to all of the volunteers who helped during this work party and during the work parties that proceeded it. It is due to the volunteers that this land is once again becoming a healthy forest.

***

I always enjoy writing these posts. Whenever I do that, I get to re-live the magic that occurs during each work party.

If you would like to participate in this restoration work, write me at hanfordstairsgreenbelt@gmail.com or you can find information about and/or sign up for our March 10 work party at: https://seattle.greencitypartnerships.org/event/15840/.