One of my favorite Greenbelt flowers is the bleeding heart flower; they are so small and delicate. On June 9, I took what I think is an amazing photo of one of those plants.
To me it looks like a bleeding heart flower birthing a seed pod. I look forward to learning how and when to harvest and spread the seeds. Even more, I look forward to seeing a lot more bleeding heart flowers in our Greenbelt restoration site next spring!
This spring has been very exciting for me. We planted our first trees, shrubs and ground covers in November of 2017. This year most of those plants had a tremendous growth spurt. Several species bloomed for the first time. One of those was this bald hip rose shrub.
The beginning of the path between the Mt. Baker light rail station and the Hanford Stairs is lined with bald hip rose shrubs.
One day in late May, this is what I saw as I was walking home from the Mt. Baker station.
I realized I was getting a glimpse of what our Greenbelt site is going to look like in a few years. WOW!
On Sunday May 5, five children from the Seattle Amma Satsang’s Amrita Bala Kendra group, along with six of their adult family members held their second work party in our forest restoration site. (The group’s first visit to the site was a litter pick-up work party in February 2017.)
All of the small trees, shrubs and ground covers on the site have a ring
of wood chips around them. The wood chips help the ground to retain water
during the summer months. The area close to each of the plants is supposed to
stay free of wood chips so that the plant will be able to take advantage of any
rainfall. During this work party, the kids and their family members cleared
away any wood chips that had fallen into the center of the rings.
They also poured wood chips around a new structure that had been built by the DocuSign team during the April 24 work party. It will be used as a “stage” for orientation, a place to sit during breaks and for group photos such as the one at the top of this post. The wood chips around the stage will become part of the system of paths on the property.
The group was blessed with a beautiful
day, made a significant contribution to this future forest, and had a fun time
I expected our May 4 work party would be the biggest event we would hold in May. It might even be our biggest work party of the spring. After all, it was one of the Rainier Chamber of Commerce’s Bridge to Beach cleanup weekend events. In addition, shortly before the event, we were notified that the work party would be advertised in the Green Seattle Partnership Facebook Page and on their blog.
We had a group of five team leaders, which included me, ready to lead the flood of volunteers who might decide to participate. A neighbor who has worked on this project from the beginning would also be coming. Much to my surprise, the time before and during the work party, ended up being an opportunity for me to practice trusting that the volunteers we’d need would be provided. All of the team leaders also had the opportunity to practice flexibility, persistence, letting go, accepting what is, doing whatever it takes, equanimity and Amma’s teaching that we should be like a bird perched on a dry twig, ready to fly at a moment’s notice.
For example, a week before the event only two volunteers had pre-registered. Around that time, I received a phone call from a man who had seen our event on the Bridge to Beach listing. He wanted me to know that he and his wife were going to attend our work party. But two days before the event, he called back to say they had found an event closer to their home, so they would not be coming to ours. On the same day they canceled, a young man from a University of Washington fraternity asked if he could bring a group from his fraternity. He believed he could bring 10 volunteers. I, of course, responded with an enthusiastic “Yes.” By then one of the two people who had pre-registered early on canceled.
On the day of the event, the team leaders were assembled and ready. The first person to arrive was a high school student who had worked with us before. She hadn’t pre-registered, but I was delighted to see her. The other person who had originally signed up didn’t show up, nor did any of the fraternity brothers who had pre-registered the day before.
The team leaders “rolled up their sleeves” and started the first task of the day: carrying wood chips from the wood chip pile on 25th Avenue South to the southern planting areas 300+ feet away. Once we reached the planting area, we poured the wood chips in a ring around each of the plants. We then removed chips that had fallen around the stem of the plants, creating an inner circle that was 6-12 inches in diameter. The chips were to help keep the ground moist during the summer months, and the open space was to allow any raindrops direct access to the ground.
Forty-five minutes into the work party, a welcome surprise arrived in the form of six members of the fraternity. I was excited to see them. I had the young men sign up and join the rest of our group in carrying the wood chips and building the rings.
Shortly after the students’ arrival, we broke into three small groups; each led by a team leader. One group removed the weeds in an area we had planted on March 17. We had cleared the invasive weeds from that area prior to the planting work party, but they were returning with a vengeance; the periwinkle vines were especially persistent.
A second group started to clear an area that hadn’t been cleared before, one that bordered our southern planting area. Dense blackberry vines and other weeds were impinging on, or had actually begun to cover, some of our shrubs and ground covers. The third group removed weeds from the north side of the Hanford Stairs.
At 11:30 we stopped for a snack break and a group photo.
After the break, the first and second group went back to work in their respective areas and the third group joined the second group. During this time, Shirley and I helped the other team leaders as needed and also took a few photos.
Clearing the area south of the southern planting area:
Clearing the area on the north side of the Hanford Stairs:
Neither Shirley nor I had taken any photos of the group that had cleared weeds in the planting area near the wood chip pile earlier in the work party but I did get one of what the area looked like after it was cleared. Imagine the area in the photo below with 100+ invasive vines emerging from the ground and you will get a sense of what it looked like at the beginning of the work party.
While we hadn’t had the “flood” of volunteers I’d hoped for, using the experience to trust that what we needed would be provided and taking the reduced numbers as an opportunity to practice flexibility, persistence, letting go, accepting what is, doing whatever it takes, equanimity, and being like a bird perched on a dry twig, ready to fly at a moment’s notice, meant we’d avoided getting stressed out and had even ended up accomplishing most of the day’s goals. The Bonus: together, we were a mix of people who worked well together and contributed to a satisfying and productive day.
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.
We’ve had three more service-learning work parties since I wrote about the first two. Since the group is small, Shirley and I usually work alongside the students so I often forget about taking photos. Luckily, Shirley took a few during the April 22 work party and I remembered during the May 6 one.
April 22 was the first work party this year where it was wet and muddy. We spent most of the time digging out bindweed and blackberry vines in of the eastern planting areas and then moved on to weeding the north side of the Hanford Stairs.
On April 29, the students spent the first part of the work party building a ring of wood chips around some the plants. The wood chips act as mulch, reducing weed growth and keeping the soil near the plants moist during the summer. Once the rings (often referred to as a donut) are built, the donut hole is cleaned out. That way rain water will get to the plant easier.
During the second part of that work party, two of the students removed invasive plants along the north side of the stairs again and spread wood chips in areas that they cleared.
Shirley (team leader) and the other two students worked in an area near the second set of Hanford Stairs; across Cheasty Boulevard. It was the first time we have worked on that site, but it won’t be the last.
The Seattle Transportation Department had planted native plants in that area at the time they built the stairs. Since then, bindweed had taken over; most of those plants and the nearby land was covered with bindweed at the time of the work party.
After a break, all of us worked in that area. We freed a snowberry shrub, a bald hip rose shrub and two salal plants.
We dug up a lot of bindweed and other invasive vines, but there is plenty more to be done in that area.
On May 6, the students came for their fifth service-learning experience. This time they weeded four planting areas and put wood chip rings around 90 trees, shrubs and ground covers!
There are only two service-learning work parties left in this series. It has been fun to have the same students each week for seven weeks.
Next week we will be putting the wood chip rings around plants in three or four more planting areas, and during the last week we plan to go back to the bindweed area across Cheasty Boulevard.
Last year, we had no water on our Greenbelt restoration site. There was almost no die off during the dry summer, but some plants struggled. The bare root plants had the most difficulty.
I asked to have a cistern installed this year so we could water the plants that needed it. It will be a temporary situation; the cistern will be removed once the trees, shrubs and ground covers are thoroughly established.
Even though I wanted the cistern, I wondered how we were going to be able to water the plants. I was under the impression that we would have to carry water by buckets for any plant that was out of the range of a hose. The thought of doing that with only a few volunteers was overwhelming.
I was surprised, and pleased, to discover that will not be the case. I was also astounded by the size of the cistern.
Members of the Seattle Parks Department Natural Area Crew (NAC) managed to install the cistern in a relatively small space without disturbing the three live stakes I had planted in that area.
After the cistern was placed, NAC rolled about 250 feet of tubing across the site — in areas where volunteers won’t be walking. NAC then installed spigots along the tubing every 50 feet or so.
We will be able to attach hoses to the spigots when we are ready to water the plants. The only plants we will need to water with buckets will be those located in areas that are higher than the cistern.
It was a fascinating process to watch unfold. I look forward to watering some plants after the cistern is filled with water!
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.
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 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:
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:
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.