Mother Nature Blesses Us….. Twice

My neighbor John and I had plans to pull ivy, blackberries and other weeds in the Greenbelt for a couple hours today. Problem was, the weather forecast was for rain, and neither of us were interested in working in the rain.

We planned to start weeding at 11:30. When it began to rain at 11:00, I felt doubtful that we would be able to work. At 11:30, the rain stopped as abruptly as it had begun. The sun came out and we got busy. Before long it was so warm that I took off my coat. The weather change was remarkable.

After two hours, we decided we had done enough for that session. As soon as John left, I noticed that it was getting dark. It seemed like dusk, even though it was only 2:45 in the afternoon. By the time I finished picking up my tools and putting the weeds I had pulled on the racks to dry, it started to rain.

I felt as if Mother Nature had blessed us twice- when we were given sun and warmth while we worked and when the rain started as soon as we finished, showering the plants we love with much needed water.

Thank you Mother for taking care of all of your children, whether they be insects, animals, plants or people.

A Surprise Guest

I just spent an hour working in the Greenbelt. Soon after I came back in the house I heard something drop onto the vinyl floor next to me. I looked down and this is what I saw.

The snail must have attached itself to my blue jeans. I snapped a photo of it, appreciated its beauty and took it back outside!

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!

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: April 14, 2018

During the week leading up to the April 14 party, there were plenty of opportunities to practice Amma‘s teaching to “Be like a bird on a dry twig, ready to fly at a moment’s notice”. The weather forecast looked pretty good a week out but then it got worse and worse. The night before the event, it seemed like there was a chance that it might not rain during the work party, but when I checked the next morning it had shifted back to 90% chance of rain during the last two hours.

We don’t cancel work parties for rain, we only cancel for high winds, so I also got practice in maintaining equanimity. There was no use in worrying about what might or might not happen; that would only result in me creating an emotional roller coaster for myself. Instead, I  needed to come up with a variety of plans and decide what we would do in the moment.

Twenty-five students from the University of Washington’s Introduction to Environmental Science class participated in the event. I felt so grateful that they were willing to work knowing that it might rain. Three GreenFriends members served as team leaders.

After an orientation, we started the day with a bucket brigade that everyone could participate in, moving wood chip mulch from an area on the street that is north of our Greenbelt site to a planting area in the southern part of the site.

When the mulch arrived at its destination, a few students spread it four to five inches thick throughout the area. Trees and shrubs had been planted there on February 26th. Being heavily mulched will keep the ground moist making it make it more likely that the plants will survive the dry summer months. The mulch also deters weed growth and prevents erosion.

The 600 sq. ft. of land we covered that day is on a continual slope. There are several swale-like structures towards the bottom of the strip that will also help reduce erosion.

The mulch we were getting the wood chips from had been delivered on March 5. At that time, there were 15 cu. ft. of them and the pile was 6-8 feet tall. (Susan was standing on a slope so the pile was actually taller than it looks in the second photo.)

We have had three bucket brigade work parties since that time. I have enjoyed watching the pile decrease in size.  I have no idea how many hundreds of buckets filled with wood chips have been passed down the line during those work parties.

After the March 17 work party the pile looked like this:

After the April 8 work party:

And after the April 14 work party:

The bucket brigade continued until it was time for a snack break. By that point, it had started to rain; luckily, it was a light rain. After the break, we broke into three groups for the last 45 minutes of work time. During that time, the groups would focus on removing non-native invasive plants- blackberry and ivy vines, bindweed, laurel, holly and bamboo. 

There is a Douglas Fir tree on the northwest corner of the property that had been partially topped in the past because it was too close to power lines. On the day of the work party, the tree was surrounded by a patch of laurel so thick that the bottom part of the Douglas Fir trunk was barely visible.

The students cut off the laurel plants lower branches. As the lower branches were removed, we could see that the laurel was covering and/or displacing Pacific ninebark, Oregon grape and other shrubs. I also saw new laurel shoots nearby. Finding the native plants being crowded out by the laurel made it obvious to me why laurel is considered an invasive plant. I know that the part of the Greenbelt that is north of the site we are working on has big areas of laurel.

I appreciated being able to see more of the Douglas Fir tree truck and look forward to the day when I will be able to see all of it. I feel sad that the treetop had needed to be cut away from power lines. Seeing the deformity, though, will serve as a constant reminder that we need to be careful where we plant trees as we restore this piece of forest.

Now that it is spring, all of the trees, shrubs and ground covers we have planted since October are growing rapidly. Simultaneously, new shoots of blackberries and bindweed are emerging from the ground. There are also several areas on the site that still have ivy.

A second group of students scoured a section of the land that is full of old maple trees, sword ferns, and other older shrubs. Their purpose: locate and remove invasive plants. Everything was wet and it was still raining. The students worked diligently even in these less than desirable conditions.

The third group worked in an area that was new to us. Our plan had been to clear a path, dig out holly and cut bamboo. The group cleared a path that led to the holly and bamboo, but after a week or more of rain, the ground was too muddy to work with the holly. (We didn’t want to make the area any muddier than it already was.)

Instead the group focused on cutting and stripping the bamboo. Last year, we used the bamboo branches from another bamboo field in building the racks we create to dry out the invasive plants. We gave the stripped stalks to gardeners to use as stakes.

When the last forty-five minute work period was up, the students from all three groups took the invasive plants they had removed to the racks to dry and then gathered, cleaned and put away all of the tools. Afterwards, we celebrated our accomplishments. Then everyone brushed the mud from their shoes and headed home.

Soon after the work party was over, the rain became very heavy. April 14, 2018 turned out to have the largest rainfall that has ever been recorded in Seattle in April. Mother Nature had certainly blessed our work party. Two hours of the three hour work party had been rain-free and even though it rained during the last hour, the rain was comparatively light.

Next on our to do list:

  • Finish mulching some small areas on the property that have not been mulched yet
  • Weeding, weeding and more weeding
  • Remulch areas that were planted in October and November of 2017
  • Finish cutting down the bamboo
  • Dig out the holly and bamboo

The list could go on and on but that is enough to think about today!

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!