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!

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: April 8, 2018

April 8 was our first work party of Spring Quarter. I so love this forest restoration work and I love working with the University of Washington Introduction to Environmental Science students and, of course, anyone else who joins us. It had only been three weeks since our last work party but it felt a lot longer than that to me. I was eager and ready.

There was a lot of rain the week leading up to the event. The weather forecast for that day was breezy weather and rain but we lucked out. It rained as I was setting up, but there was none during the work party. Twenty-three students braved the forecast and came ready to work. Three GreenFriends members served as team leaders.

We split into two teams for the first part of the event. The larger group moved 1250 sq. ft. of burlap from the street into different sections of the restoration site. The burlap is used to cover areas we have cleared of invasive plants such as blackberry and ivy vines. The burlap helps to reduce weed growth and prevent erosion. Having it located onsite gives us easier access to it.

(Click on the galleries to enlarge the photos.)

 

After all the burlap had been moved, the same group starting filling buckets with wood chips. Wood chips are spread around each plant and also throughout the planting areas. The wood chips serve as mulch, thereby holding in water, making it more likely the plants will survive during the dry summer months. Both the wood chips and the burlap will eventually decompose and enrich the soil.

 

The second group focused on weeding; in this case searching for and removing ivy and blackberry vines. These vines have smothered and killed most of the trees and shrubs in this section of the Greenbelt and we need to prevent them from regrowing so that they don’t destroy all of the native trees, shrubs and ground covers we’ve planted since October.

 

Midway through the work party we took a snack break…..

and then everyone participated in a bucket brigade. We sent the buckets we had previously filled with wood chips down the line and then started filling more. Once each bucket reached the end of the line the wood chips were poured around newly planted shrubs, and then throughout the planting area.

 

We were able to spread the mulch through three different planting areas. Below are photos of two of them.

 

Once again, we had accomplished so much during the three hour work party and I think everyone had enjoyed working together. I know I did!

The Beauty of Nature

Today I was walking near a pile of debris…

as I was walking up and down a slope to place burlap on areas that we are going to cover with wood chip mulch on Sunday. There is a shrub planted every place you see the blue and white checkered tape. Some of the plants haven’t been marked yet.

On one trip up the slope, a log caught my eye. I took a closer look at it when I walked back down.

How wondrous and beautiful nature is.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Story

Last week’s Weekly Photo Challenge was to tell a story with photos. What a perfect way for me to share photos of one of our Greenbelt Restoration Site’s Oregon Grape plants.

February 3

 

February 10

 

March 20

 

March 26

Clearly this is a story that will have future developments!

 

(The first picture was taken by a neighbor, Marine Kleven, who sometimes take photos during our work parties.)

Surviving Adversity

I had attempted to clear parts of the Greenbelt lot behind my house numerous times over the years, long before our current GreenFriends Greenbelt restoration project began. One day in March 2015, when Ramana and I were doing some clearing, we saw a glimpse of yellow among all of the invasive blackberry and ivy vines.

It seemed likely that the flowers were daffodils and I was determined to free them from their prison. I picked up my shears and headed towards them. Because of the uneven, sloped ground, and the invasive plants, I needed to create a path of twists and turns.

Once I arrived at my destination, I was gifted with some beautiful sights.

We  started the GreenFriends Greenbelt Restoration project in September of 2016. When I saw the daffodils coming up in March 2017, I put some bright blue ribbon around them to decrease the likelihood of them being trampled. (The pile to the right of the daffodils is cut bamboo stacked on a drying rack.)

It may be my imagination, but when I saw the daffodils this year (March 2018) it seemed to me that they were more beautiful than ever before and had a sense of lightness and freedom.

By the time the daffodils emerge in March 2019, their surroundings will be clear of debris. I believe I will always view these flowers with a sense of respect and honor. Like ferns, they have survived being covered with blackberry and ivy vines for thirty or more years and are a striking example of living through adversity and thriving.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: March 17, 2018

On March 17, thirteen hardy volunteers gathered to spread wood chips in areas that had been planted during the February 26 work party. The wood chip mulch will hold in moisture, reduce weed growth and enrich the soil.

Two neighborhood parents brought their children for part of the event. I felt moved when I realized that this forest may become important to these children as they grow up.

Most of the group had worked on this restoration project before, but for some it was their first time on the property. There was also a nice mix of GreenFriends members, neighbors and friends.

We didn’t have enough participants to do the traditional type of bucket brigade; i.e., handing buckets from person to person down a long line of people. Instead, everyone filled buckets for a short period of time and then most volunteers began to carry them to their destination on the other end of the site. Later on, the system changed again. At that point, part of the group carried the buckets the first half of the way, and then left them for others to carry to the planting areas. Once the buckets of wood chips reached a planting area, someone poured the chips onto the burlap.

My neighbor Christine was in two of my favorite photos from this work party. I took the first one during a time when she and I were filling buckets. At one point, she climbed to the top of the eight or nine-foot pile of wood chips and filled her bucket from there!

If you look closely you may be able to see steam rising from the wood chips. It reminded me of the steam I’ve seen coming from decomposing compost piles whenever I visit the compost center at Amma’s ashram in Amritapuri, India.

Marine took the other photo when Christine was talking with one of our young visitors.

We accomplished more than I thought was possible; spreading wood chips throughout three large planting areas and several small ones. The transformation in the look of the land was remarkable.

At the beginning of February 2018, the property looked like this:

During the first three weeks in February, work party participants removed blackberry root balls and ivy from the land. On February 26, another group planted trees, shrubs and ground covers, and placed burlap and two buckets of wood chips around each plant. By the end of that work party, this is what the land looked like:

And this was the beautiful sight that greeted my eyes at the end of the March 17th work party:

We have many more wood chips to spread. It is gratifying to know that the work we are doing now will give the plants a better chance of surviving the summer, a season when rainfall may be minimal.

The Wonders of Nature

I love photographing decaying trees. This tree hasn’t fallen yet, but I suspect that will happen sometime this year.

Many years ago, I snapped a picture of a crow in this tree. I still remember how delighted I was when I saw how it turned out. I was even more fascinated, when I realized that I could see it as a photo of a crow, or as a photo of a person reaching for the sky, a person who has a crow perched on one hand.

Crow

The tree will continue to serve nature after it falls.  My friend Jayanand once told me:

Downed trees play an important role in maintaining the health and regeneration of forests. Not only do they provide nutrient pools for other plants during stand regeneration, they often even serve as “nurse logs” which support the germination and growth of other trees by providing substrate, moisture and nutrients to the seedlings and young saplings.  They also can act as carbon sinks by locking up carbon in the forest floor – instead of being released into the atmosphere by burning. Decaying wood provides habitat for a variety of plants and animals, adding to the diversity of life found in forested areas. Finally, downed woody material can also help prevent runoff and soil erosion.

I look forward to having this tree in my life for years to come.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: February 26, 2018 Planting Day

Monday, February 26 was an exciting day. On that day, 31 enthusiastic employees from Silver Creek Capital Management came to plant trees, shrubs and ground covers in our Greenbelt site. Our staff consisted of Nicole from Forterra, Claire a master gardener, and two Green Seattle Partnership Forest Stewards- Peter from Mt. Baker Park and me. Claire and I also belong to GreenFriends, the environmental arm of Embracing the World.

During the three-hour work party, we planted 17 trees, 75 shrubs and 77 ground covers! Every new plant is native to the Pacific Northwest. We spread two buckets of wood chip mulch around each plant to reduce weed growth and retain water. (The burlap we place on the ground after removing blackberries and ivy from the land also helps with weed reduction and water retention). At future work parties we will be covering any exposed burlap in the planting areas with wood chips.

(Click on the gallery above to enlarge the photos.)

Towards the end of the event, part of Nicole’s team cleared more land. They dug up some huge blackberry root balls.

A few days later I weighed the biggest one. It weighed almost 10 pounds!

When the work party was over, we cleaned and put away the tools and celebrated all we had done. I think everyone had enjoyed their experience.

Later, I took another look at what we had accomplished. Once again, I was awed by how much the land had been transformed by a single work party.

Photos by Laurel Webb, Nicole Marcotte and Karuna Poole

 

One Piece at a Time

Nature on its own is indeed beautiful and clean. The hills and rivers do not need us to clean them. In fact, it is nature’s water which cleans us; it is trees which purify air for us. Because we have littered, we have spoilt its pristine beauty.                                                                                                               

~Amma

 I once read that every piece of plastic that ever existed still exists. While that statement has been challenged (politifact.com), there is no disputing the fact that plastics decompose very slowly and some may never decompose.

We have certainly seen evidence of the long life of plastic in the GreenFriends Greenbelt Restoration Project that Seattle Satsang members are leading. The areas we are restoring have been covered by blackberry, ivy and bindweed vines for 30-60 years. With the aid of Green Seattle Partnership, the City of Seattle Parks Department, and volunteer groups such as students from the University of Washington’s Introduction to Environmental Science course, we are helping to return this stretch of Greenbelt to the beautiful forest it once was.

When the Seattle Parks Department staff initially cut down the blackberry vines for us, they discovered the foundation of a house that had burned down in the 1950’s. We found many plastic items in or near that foundation. It appears that a lot of plastic trash was also thrown into the Greenbelt by nearby residents and passersby.

My house borders this Greenbelt property. When I cleaned out my bird houses last winter, I found a sizable bird nest. I was shocked by the amount of plastic a bird had used in constructing it (Photo 1). Photo 2 shows the pile of plastic I removed when I took the nest apart.

My experience with the bird nest opened my eyes to all the plastic that was in our Greenbelt site. After than, anytime I walked through the property, I saw that the ground was littered with flecks of plastic. I worried about the toxicity of the plastic and also remembered a photo that I once had seen of the contents of the stomach of dead albatross at Midway Island. (See Photo 3.) I felt an urgency for us to remove as much plastic from the site as possible, before the birds could start using it for nesting material.

512px-albatross_at_midway_atoll_refuge_8080507529
Photo 3 – Photo Credit:Wikimedia

We invited Seattle Satsang’s Bala Kendra group (our spiritual community’s children’s group) to come pick up litter. Photos 4 and 5 show the litter they picked up in one hour’s time. In addition to this diverse pile of garbage, they removed many small flecks of plastic from the ground.

Much of the trash our volunteers have removed from the site during the past year has been plastic. While the items might be dirty, as you can see in Photos 6-13, many of them look basically the same as they did decades ago.

Yesterday, I picked up the remains of a pile of burlap bags that we use to cover the ground after we clear it. Under the pile I saw this:

Photo 14

I went back later and pulled out some of that trash so that I could photograph it. Photo 15 shows those items. There was rope, candy wrappers, a garden stake, line string for a trimmer/edger, a plant sign, carpet pad and assorted other kinds of plastic.

Photo 15

Today I remembered another piece of plastic I had recently seen. I went back to that place and began to pull the plastic bag out of the ground. Photo 16 and Photo 17 show what I uncovered. Often, when I pull out plastic, what emerges is even bigger than this!

I wonder if we will ever come to the end of the plastic trash on this site! Maybe not, but every piece someone removes helps reduce the negative impact that humans have had on nature in this space and gives nature a chance to restore itself to its pristine beauty.