Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: DocuSign Planting Day- November 15, 2018

The November 15th planting day work party was the sixth forest restoration event we had held in six weeks. The first five work parties focused on preparing the site for the 33 native trees and 220 native shrubs and ground covers we would be planting. This was our fall 2018 plant list:

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.

Employees from DocuSign returned for another IMPACT day on April 27, 2018  and they would also be doing our Fall 2018 planting. I love working with them and was eager for their arrival.

The big day finally arrived. This time, 22 employees participated. Our staff consisted of Maya from Forterra; Susan, a Forest Steward from another Cheasty Greenspace site; Claire and Shirley from GreenFriends and me.

After a brief orientation, we got to work. I think the photographs below say it all!

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

 

 

Once again, the DocuSign employees did amazing work and I think everyone had a good time. Rumor has it that they may come back again in April. I sure hope that is the case!

I offer my heartfelt thanks to everyone who participated in our planting day and to everyone who helped prepare for it. Each person made a significant and important contribution to returning this stretch of Seattle’s Greenbelt to a healthy forest.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: November 10, 2018

The November 10th work party was one of our biggest. Six team leaders, four of which were Green Friends members, four neighbors, and 29 students from the UW Introduction to Environmental Science class participated.

During the first part of the work party, we split the group in half and ran two bucket brigades at the same time. One spanned the distance from the wood chip piles located at the bottom of the Hanford Stairs and the Greenbelt. We had used wood chips from those piles at the previous work party, so the piles looked small. I had expected that we would finish moving those chips and need to move to piles at a different location but that wasn’t the case. Even now more wood chips are available there. The second bucket brigade started at the top of the Hanford Stairs. In that location there were two piles of wood chips that had been delivered the previous week.

These bucket brigades had two purposes. 1) We would create new piles of wood chips throughout the restoration site. The chips in those piles will be used during our November 15 planting work party, during which time two buckets of wood chips will be placed around each tree, shrub and ground cover that is put into the ground. In this instance, the wood chips serve as mulch, reducing weed growth and holding in moisture. 2) We would finish covering most of the paths that snake through the site.with three inches of wood chips. Our hope is that having a thick layer of wood chips on top of the paths will prevent them from getting muddy and slippery during the winter rains.

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

During the second part of the work party, we formed four teams. These teams focused on getting areas ready for the upcoming planting event. One team moved dried branches and blackberry canes out of a new planting area. That group also spread dirt in an area where a compost pile had been taken apart during previous work parties.

The second team cleared the ground around two sides of a red twig dogwood patch.

The third team pulled out blackberry root balls and raked out a section of land north of the Hanford Stairs.

One of our neighbor volunteers cut down blackberry canes and dug out blackberry root balls and weeds from an area just across the stairs from the third team.

We make a plant order in May of each year. The Seattle Parks Department provides us with the plants towards the end of October or the beginning of November. This year we had ordered 250 plants of 23 varieties.

Prior to this work party, the shrubs and ground covers had been separated into ten groups, each number assigned to the planting area where the plants will be placed in the ground. The trees were grouped separately.

The fourth team carried those trees, shrubs and ground covers to the areas where they will be planted.

After the work party was over, three of the team leaders walked around the site placing every plant in the spot where it will be planted.

Thanks to the effort of these students, neighbors and team leaders, we are now ready to plant. I am so excited to see what the land will look like once the trees, shrubs and ground covers are settled into their new homes!

Greenbelt Restoration Site: We Are Almost Ready!

We’ve been preparing for our first 2018-19 season planting day for months. We’ve done that by 1) putting a three inch layer of wood chips on the paths that run throughout the site, 2)clearing new planting areas, and 3) weeding the existing planting areas.

In mid October, I started making “plant signs” by writing the name of each plant we had ordered from the Seattle Parks Department on a Popsicle stick. The “signs” would be put into each of the pots once we received the plants. After each tree, shrub or ground cover has been planted, the volunteer who does the planting will push the sign into the ground next to the plant.

Each year, flagging tape is used to tag the plants so we know what year each of them was planted. Blue and white checkered tape was used throughout the 2017-18 planting season. During the 2018-19 season, the tape will be red with black polka dots. This year’s flagging tape was chosen by a group of children!

The normal practice is to tag each plant after it is planted. This year, we are going to put the tape on the plants before the planting day. That will ensure that each plant is tagged and will allow the us to tag the plants in a more leisurely manner.

Small plants are often not able to be tagged in the same way as the larger ones, since they may have fragile or tiny stems. In the past, we have picked up a dried branch from the ground and put the flagging tape on one end and then pushed the branch into the ground near the newly planted plant. This year, I decided to prepare the flagging sticks ahead of time too. It occurred to me this was also a way to put the small but sturdy branches that are in our debris piles to good use.

I gathered several branches from the site and brought them into my house where I could prepare the sticks in comfort. From these few branches, I was able to make 65 flagging sticks! I needed to make more, but this was a good start. (Click on any of the galleries to enlarge the photos.)

A fellow student in my Tai Chi class gave our restoration site three cedar trees he had raised. Those were the first trees I tagged.

Our plants arrived on October 30. When they were delivered, they had no labels and were not sorted.

It was a lot easier for me to sort the plants this year than last, since I was more familiar with the plants. I sent photos of the varieties that I wasn’t sure about to Jayanand, a plant ecologist friend who lives in Pt. Angeles. Soon, all of the plants were sorted and ready to be tagged.

After our October 21st work party, Sarva, Anavadya and I picked out locations for the 33 trees we will be planting. Sarva and I also met on November 4th to decide where most of the shrubs and ground covers will go.

The other thing that happened on November 4th was that Kavita performed a puja asking Mother Nature for her blessing, to protect and help the new plants to grow.

We already have 37 volunteers registered for our November 10th work party. On that day, we will finish preparing the site for planting. After that work party, Sarva and I will put the plants on the spots where they are to be planted; and on the 12th or 13th, Anavadya and I will distribute the 95 plants that don’t have a designated space yet.

Then, on November 15th, most or all of the trees, shrubs and ground covers will be planted by DocuSign employees, a corporate group. This is such an exciting time of the year.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: October 21, 2018

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)

 

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.

 

Weeding

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.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: October 14, 2018

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.

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:

Before September 30

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.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: Oct 6, 2018

Nineteen enthusiastic students from the UW’s Introduction to Environmental Science class participated in our October 6th forest restoration work party. Our staff consisted of two GreenFriends members and a volunteer who had helped at the September 30th work party.

As always, the work party began with an orientation. Afterwards, we formed a bucket brigade to spread wood chips along the paths throughout our Greenbelt site. Last year, the paths got muddy and slippery during the winter rains. We hope by covering them with a thick layer of wood chips, we will prevent that from happening again.

The first photo below shows what the wood chip pile looked like at the beginning of this work party. The second shows its size at the end of the event. It is even flatter than it looks! There is no doubt in my mind that the pile will be gone by the end of our next work party.

(Click on the galleries to enlarge the photos.)

For the second week in a row, I got so immersed in the work that I forgot to take photos of the bucket brigade. But I can show you the results of our work!

Halfway through the work party, we took a 15 minute snack break and then divided into three work groups.

Work group 1 

Last year, when we cleared the land in the southern part of our site, we piled the blackberry vines and blackberry root balls that we removed on nearby drying racks. We ended up with four large piles of debris that is taking up room that could better be used for planting.

We decided to eliminate the piles by cutting the debris into 3-8 inch pieces and then spreading it on the paths that we will be covering with wood chips during our next work party.

I had spent a considerable amount of time cutting up the debris in one of these piles prior to this work party. I don’t have a photo of what the pile looked like when I started, but the photos below will give you an idea of what it was like when this group started working on it and what it looked like at the end of the work party. The size of the pile has decreased at least 50% since the beginning of October. I hope we can finish that task soon.

For now we are placing the branches that are too thick to cut up at one end of the pile. We will decide what to do with those later.

Work group 2

The second group worked on a compost pile that had been created on the site many years before this forest restoration project began. Volunteers in the last work party had started removing trash and branches from the pile. The photos below show this area before and after the September 30th work party.

On October 6th, two of the students dug out a plastic garbage can that was buried near the compost pile and then began to remove bluebell bulbs that had been multiplying in the pile for years. They also separated more trash and branches from the rich soil.

While the two students were working on those tasks, three others removed big branches and tree stumps that were scattered around an area where we will be planting trees, shrubs and ground covers in November. Once the big items were moved to a different part of the site, the students raked a pile of dried bamboo branches away from that area as well.

When they finished those tasks, the students joined the two who were working on the compost pile. They sorted the branches that had been removed from the pile of dirt. The small branches and dried blackberry canes were cut up so that we can spread them on the paths; the bigger branches were stacked. The photos below show what the area looked like at the end of this work party.

Work group 3

The third group dug up blackberry shoots and blackberry root balls from the area where we will be creating paths next weekend.

At one point, I started hearing shouts of celebration coming from that direction. I wondered if the students had dug out some huge root balls. That is always cause for excitement. When the sounds continued, I got curious. Eventually, I walked to that part of the property and asked the staff member what was happening.

I learned that some of the students were having a competition to see who could cut down the longest blackberry vine. By then, they were working in an area that we have not cleared before, so they were finding some LONG vines! Some of the cut vines were put on a small drying rack while others were taken to an area we call The Rack Zone. (The Rack Zone is located in the foundation of a house that burned in the 50’s. It is filled with large piles of dried or drying blackberry vines, blackberry root balls, ivy and bindweed.)

Look at the length of the vine in the last photo. I don’t know who won the competition, but that vine was certainly a contender. (Remember, you can click on the gallery to enlarge the photos.)

All of the debris that had been cut up by the first and second work groups was spread on the areas where we will be constructing paths next weekend. The photos below show what those future paths look like now. (The paths will be 3 feet wide except in the occasional places where several paths merge.) The last photo is of the section where I believe the students found the long vines.

Fifteen minutes before the work party ended, we began to clean and put away the tools and supplies. As they finished that work, the volunteers began to gather for the closing. These photos were taken while we waited for the last few students to join us. Once everyone was present, we celebrated all that we had accomplished during the three-hour work party.

Afterwards, everyone brushed their shoes to remove any remnants of invasive plants that might be spread to other properties, said goodbye and went on their individual ways. Several participants told me they hoped to attend one of our next work parties!

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: September 30, 2018

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.

Before:

After:

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.

Before:

After:

I was so happy with the results of our work and feel very grateful to the volunteers who participated in this work party.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: August 4, 2018

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.

Area 1

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.)

Before 

 

During

 

After

 

Area 2

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.

Before

 

During

 

After

 

Break Time

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.

Area 3

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.

Before

 

During

 

After

 

Area 4

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

Before

 

During

After

 

Area 5

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.

Before

 

During

 

After

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.