This is What the Dream Looks Like

Sreejit is in the process of writing a new song called This is What the Dream Looks Like. It is about his experience of living and working on Amma’s most recent North India Tour. The video below was taken when he shared the lyrics with a group in Amritapuri.

Lyrics:

Straw mat and a concrete floor, food in the corner from two days before, laundry hanging from a rope through the center of the room – this is what the dream looks like.

Callus hands but they weren’t always rough, sharp words but we weren’t always tough, one thing this life teaches is that, together, we are enough.

This is what the dream looks like, more than a struggle it’s a fight to be kind when you’re hungry and tired, ‘cause you don’t have any right to be tired

when people are coming to forget their problems, and maybe a little of your time could help solve them, maybe a kind word from you would absolve them of the feeling that they’re all alone – though sometimes we all feel that we are all alone – yeah this is what the dream looks like.

Beaten down by the work no one sees, ‘cause it’s always full-on behind the scenes to magnify the glitz and the lights – yeah this is what the dream looks like.

Getting home to see family at most once a year, and never bringing home the glam and the cheer – just wanting to hide in your bed, to watch tv just to get out of your head – yeah this is what the dream looks like.

Feet full of cracks and can barely walk, always falling asleep and so can barely talk, all eyes on you confused why you can’t form a sentence, let alone a thought,

always irritated by the smallest things, ‘cause that’s just what happens when you forget to eat, and that’s just what happens when you’re consumed with the work that you love – yeah it truly is a gift from above.

Straw mat and a concrete floor, kind of looks like the city before, but that place had water and this one you have to go next door,

but next door they have a kitchen and some home cooked food, and a friendly ear to pry out the blues if you choose to forget for a moment that you are not alone in the struggle – yeah this is what the dream looks like.

Tour photos:

We Freed the Shrub!

Last week, I heard that a Greenbelt tree had fallen onto the Hanford Stairs. When I walked through the snow to that area, I could see that branches had fallen, but they didn’t cover the stairs. I didn’t feel safe walking any closer to the stairs than I was; the snow was too deep and slippery.

On Friday, February 15, the sidewalks were clear, for the most part, so I headed back to that area to take a closer look at the fallen branches.

The tree was one that had been cut away from power lines numerous times in the past. I soon discovered it wasn’t just a few small branches that had broken off, it was a BIG one.

I also noticed that the branch had fallen on top of a Pacific Ninebark shrub; one that had been planted by a neighborhood work group many years ago.

I called John, the neighbor who has helped with our reforestation project from the beginning, and asked him to come take a look.

Before long, he was sawing part of the big branch and I was using a lopper to remove smaller branches

Once John had sawed through the branch, we discovered it was too heavy for him to move alone and I couldn’t be of much help. At that moment, another neighbor walked up to us and offered to help. She and John were able to remove the branch, free the shrub, and carry the branch to the other side of the stairs. They put it on top of a pile I had created for the smaller branches.

There was still much more of the fallen tree branch to deal with but that could wait until another day. At least the shrub was free and safe!

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: Martin Luther King Day of Service

On January 21, twenty-two eager volunteers met to do forest restoration work in our North Beacon Hill Greenbelt site. Four of the volunteers were veterans of this project and served as team leaders. Most of the other volunteers found out about the work party from Green Seattle Partnership listings; two found out about it from one of the local or regional Amma newsletters. Three children between 6 and 8, a pre-teen (12 years) and a teenager (13 years) participated.

This work party was held on the Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service. When that holiday was being created his wife, Coretta Scott King, said it should be substantive as well as symbolic. Since his was a life of service, the holiday became a National Day of Service.

While I knew of Martin Luther King’s role in civil rights, I didn’t know that he inspired the environmental justice movement, a movement that believes everyone has the right to clean air, water, and soil, as well as a right to live in safe and healthy communities.

After receiving an initial orientation, the volunteers divided into four groups.

Group 1

One of the team leaders and three of the other volunteers started the process of taking down the racks in The Rack Zone. When we clear land of blackberry, ivy and bindweed vines, all of the cuttings and root balls are put onto racks so that they don’t touch the ground before they dry out. If the vines touch the ground, they may re-root. I refer to the invasive plants we have cut down or dug out as “debris”.

The racks are made from logs and branches. This is a photo of one of the racks we built early on.

In most parks, racks are scattered throughout a site, but since we had a house foundation on the property, we decided to put most of the racks there. The concrete slab that was under the foundation would also prevent re-rooting. We named that area The Rack Zone.

Our plan was to let all of invasive plant cuttings dry out and decompose. In that way good dirt would build up and we could plant beautiful flowering shrubs in that area.

This was what The Rack Zone looked like in July of 2017, several months after we started using it. You can see that under the new cuttings there is a lot of debris that is becoming dry. There are at least two racks in the photo that have been used yet.

In January of 2018, we took most of the racks apart but didn’t spread the debris; we just built new racks on top it. During 2018, the new racks became filled and overflowing. We would start the process of taking them down completely at this work party.

I thought that would be a long process since what taking them apart the previous year had taken a long time. I thought that these volunteers would disassemble one to three racks during the first portion of the work party. That process would include separating the dried debris from the debris that was still living, taking out any logs or branches that were too big to readily decompose, and spread the debris that was dry.

When I checked on the group later, I was astounded by what they had already accomplished.

By the end of that segment of the work party, they had finished taking apart all but three of the racks!

We still have to figure out what to do with all the branches and logs that were too big to spread in this future planting area. Right now they are stacked on the north and south sides of The Rack Zone. In addition, there was a lot of broken concrete under the racks. Those are stacked on the ledge of the foundation and will also need to be moved to some yet unknown location.

Groups 2 and 3

Two groups worked in the planting areas, clearing out leaves and wood chips from around each plant. We refer that area as a donut hole. In addition, some members of those groups cleared branches that had fallen onto the paths during the winter winds and/or carried buckets of leaves to the newly cleared areas of The Rack Zone. Once there, they will decompose and become part of the composted soil.

The groups cleared the donut holes in most of the site. Each area looked so nice when they finished.

Group 4

Another team leader and a volunteer began to clear an area that was full of blackberry vines and ivy.

This is part of what that area looked like by the time the work party ended.

The work party had begun at 10 a.m. At 11:30 a.m. we took a short snack break. Before we went back to work, we gathered for a group photo. While we took some serious photos, the one that I loved most was a funny one.

The parents with young children planned to go home early, and did. Most of the remaining volunteers moved to the Greenbelt site that is on the north side of the Hanford Stairs; our main site is south of the stairs. I have been eager to start restoration work in that area.

This is what that that land looked like in December 2018.

January 21, 2019 work party photos:

This photo was taken after we finished that day.

The volunteers had removed a lot of trash and ivy.

It always amazes me how much can be accomplished during a three-hour work party. The land always looks substantially different when the volunteers leave, after having given freely of their time and their energy. Together we are helping this part of Seattle’s Greenbelt to once again become a healthy forest.

If you live in the Seattle area and would like to help with a future work party, write hanfordstairsgreenbelt@gmail.com.

Practice in Letting Go: November 2018

I have found that our GreenFriends Greenbelt Restoration Project has provided me with seemly endless opportunities to practice life lessons and spiritual practices such as persistence, flexibility, being in the moment, surrender, impermanence, non-attachment, equanimity and letting go.

When I think of letting go, I think of the title of a book that I purchased in the mid-80’s, Life is Goodbye, Life is Hello: Grieving Well Through All Kinds of Loss. The title reminds me that loss is inevitable and it often, if not usually, leads to grief. I know that grief includes anger and fear as well as sadness.

I believe that every ending brings with it a new beginning and that it becomes easier for us to let go as our faith grows; e.g. faith in God, faith in ourselves, faith in others. As I reflect on letting go, I also remember that I wrote 23 Affirmations for Letting Go in 1994 and shared them in this blog in March of 2014. To see those affirmations click here.

I knew early on that the reforestation work would give me many opportunities to practice letting go. In my initial Forest Steward training, the students were told that we should be prepared to lose 30% of the trees, shrubs and ground covers that we plant. The thought of so many plants dying was totally unacceptable to me, but I also realized that I have no control over the weather and very little control over disease.

A forest is not like a garden that you can keep well watered; the amount of water that the plants receive is determined by the weather. I did have some control over whether the plants were planted properly and stayed free of invasive blackberry, ivy and bindweed vines. And I could give them my attention and my love. My job would be to put in the effort and let go of the results.

Just before we did our first tree planting in November of 2017, our GreenFriends group performed rituals asking Mother Nature for permission to plant and requesting that she protect and nurture everything we planted. We didn’t lose anywhere near 30% of our initial planting. In fact, during this summer’s long drought, only one of the trees died and almost all of the shrubs and ground covers grew substantially.

While I have experienced lessons in letting go throughout the project, November 2018 seemed to bring more of them than ever before. Before I tell you about some of those events, I will share a bit of back story. In April of 2018, I decided we would clear some of the invasive vines on Cheasty Boulevard, the street on the east side of our site. As I walked down the road looking for a place to start, my eyes fell on some gigantic cottonwoods hidden among dense blackberry and ivy vines. I thought that was a perfect area for us to begin the new endeavor.

On April 27, a corporate group from DocuSign came to work on our site. We divided the participants into several groups with each group having a team leader. One group worked on freeing those cottonwood trees from the invasive vines.

In the months after the work party, I enjoyed walking down Cheasty Blvd. to visit the trees. They were so big and majestic. The photos above don’t accurately reflect their height or their width. Then, on November 5th, I received a notice from one of the Green Seattle Partnership staff saying that a number of cottonwood trees on Cheasty Blvd. were going to be cut down. Tests had been done that showed the trees were hollow and had significant decay in the lower part of the trees and roots. If they fell, they would be dangerous.

I had a sense that some of the trees that were to be removed were “my trees” so I walked down the Hanford stairs to look. Two of those trees had big R’s written in white chalk on the trunks which confirmed my fear. I was not surprised though. The trees were very old and one had a big fungus (Ganoderma) on it, which is also a sign of decay.

My lack of surprise was also because in July, a smaller cottonwood tree had fallen across the road. I say smaller but it was still very tall; tall enough that when it fell, it took down the power lines on the far side of the street. When I looked at at the remains of that tree later, I had seen that it was hollow. So even though I was sad that the big cottonwoods were going to be cut down, I understood the importance of the act. Safety was of primary importance. It was much easier for me to accept this situation and let go than it might have been in a different circumstance.

The trees that were to be removed were so big that the city had to hire a crane company to cut down the top part of the trees. I didn’t go anywhere near the work that day, but I did look at and take pictures of it from my back yard, which borders the site. I was shocked when I saw the size of the crane through the trees. My uneducated guess was that it was 250 feet high. (There is a steep drop off between the main part of our site and Cheasty Blvd. so the bottom quarter of the crane and tree trunks can not be seen in the photos below.)

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

The person in the basket not only cut off the top portion of the tree, he/she also cut off most or all of the branches . At one point during the day, my whole house shook. I thought that must have been caused by one of the tops falling to the earth, or was it a whole tree?

I thought it was curious that several of the largest trees were left standing. I later found out that Seattle Parks Department will be finishing the job.

The next day, I walked into the Greenbelt, as I do most days. When I arrived at our eastern planting areas, I was horrified to see that the top of one of the trees was covering all of one planting area and part of another. I had never considered that as a possibility. There didn’t seem any chance that our plants could have survived such an event. I knew it was another letting go opportunity, but this one wasn’t going to be easy, I was way too attached.

 

 

When I looked closely, I could see one of the trees through the branches. I walked back to my house to get a pair of hand clippers and cut away some of the branches. I could tell that the tree was going to be okay.

We had a work party scheduled for the next day. It was obvious that we would need to let go of at least part of our plans for the work party. I didn’t know how we would manage to move the big branches but that wasn’t the task for the present, dealing with the smaller branches would be the first step.

I called Andrea, one of my Green Seattle Partnership supervisors. We talked about what had happened and she agreed we could remove some of the small branches but said we would need to be sure none of the ones that were holding the tree off the ground were cut. We didn’t want to chance anyone getting hurt.

Andrea mentioned that some Parks Department staff would be coming later that day and would take a look at the situation. When I walked down to that part of the site that evening, I was astounded by what I saw.

The Parks Department staff had indeed come. They had cut up all of the branches and had stacked them neatly out of the way. I soon discovered that not a single plant had been injured by the falling tree or by the staff’s work. In fact, the planting areas were neater than they had been before the event. The branches, and the trunk that had fallen outside of the planting area, would decrease the chance of erosion and would become a home for insects and other wildlife.

 

 

What an experience this had been. I felt like I had been on a roller coaster. I had been willing to let go, but not until I put in the effort to do what I could do to save the plants. I had also been willing to let go of the plans for the work party so we could do things that were more important.

In the end, the plants were fine and we were able to return to the original work party plan. My faith in the support that is available from Green Seattle Partnership and the Seattle Parks Department had grown.

As I reflected on the incident during the next few days, I remembered the rituals we had done asking Mother Nature to protect the plants. My faith in that process also grew.

One morning during the next week or two, as I was waking up, I was pondering how I would write this post. When I got out of bed and checked my email, I received another shock, and another letting go opportunity. Again, the challenge was related to the Greenbelt reforestation work.

But that is a story for another post!

Guest Post: A Morning With The Greenbelt Crew by Lin Rose

Lin

“I’m looking for Karuna,” a tall young man said as he descended the first tier of the Hanford Stairs to the Greenbelt work party.

He was the last of 20 volunteers from the University of Washington’s Introduction to Environmental Science class that turned up on a cold, foggy morning in Seattle to volunteer their labor. Below us, the silver cars of the Light Rail Transit system rattled across the horizon, headed for SeaTac. Tall maples showing fall colors formed a canopy overhead, and ferns filled the understory.

“Just sign your name here on the roster,” I said, offering my clipboard. “Then follow the blue flags along the trail to find Karuna and the others and get some work gloves.”

He strode off enthusiastically into the greenery, leaving me free to walk around the work site and take pictures. I had been afraid the footing would be too uneven for me to handle, but the expertly built wood-chip trails were cushy and sturdy. I just followed the dozens of little blue flags marking the way.

Seeing what the crews have accomplished during this year’s and last year’s work seasons blew me away. The photographs over the months have simply not done the scene justice! For one thing, the drying piles of blackberry and ivy debris are bigger than they look, and areas that have been re-planted with native trees and plants have a more complex flagging and labeling system than can be captured in photos.

I could tell the layout has been carefully thought out and executed. The site will become a lovely forest as everything begins to take hold and mature.

Another way to tell what has been accomplished is to compare the left side of the Hanford Stairs to the right side.

To the right of the stairs (see the photo below—the north side of the site) is a solid wall of greenery—you can’t even make out individual trees among the tall tangle of blackberries, miscellaneous vines, and other invasive plants. It’s a telling indication of what the greenbelt volunteers had to deal with when they began the cleanup!

To the left of the stairs—the south side of the site—is an open slope dotted with ferns and tiny new plantings below the maples, cedars, cherry, and alder trees that now stand in the open, free of their former strangulation by ivy and blackberry vines.

 

My photos don’t do any better justice to the project than those before them—but I can’t resist trying to give a sense of the work that’s being done.

Watching the students’ bucket brigade reminded me of a line of ants as they carried wood chips from a giant pile at the foot of the stairs, across the road, up the stairs, and handed them off to other workers lined up along the trail. The trail ants ferried buckets to an area where they were being emptied around some new plantings to form a trail. Then the ants headed back down the stairs and started over. I was transfixed by all that youthful energy and willing teamwork.

 

Karuna unobtrusively walked a circular loop that went up and down the stairs and back and forth on the trail as she conferred with coordinators spotted around at strategic points to direct the volunteers. Clearly, she loves this place. If she stood still long enough, she might grow roots right in the middle of a cluster of ferns.

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.

Green Seattle Day: November 3, 2018

Each year, the Green Seattle Partnership sponsors a Green Seattle Day. On that day, work parties are held in parklands all over Seattle. Sarva and I decided to volunteer as team leaders at Cheasty Mt. View Park. Several other GreenFriends members and their friends joined us.

The number of people who registered for the work party amazed me. There were seven in our GreenFriends contingent, but 126 volunteers in the whole group.

One of the leaders encouraged the participants to plant from a place of gratitude. She suggested that the volunteers name their trees … and that they talk to the trees as they put them into the earth. As I wandered through our section, helping people with the planting, I heard many participants doing that.

After some of our GreenFriends group planted this tree, they decided to give it a kiss.

The 126 volunteers planted 800 trees, shrubs and ground covers during the first hour of the work party.

We spent the rest of the work party removing invasive blackberry and ivy vines. Again, it was phenomenal to witness how much can be accomplished in a short period of time.

We put vines we cut onto drying racks so that they don’t touch the ground and re-root. There were several drying racks in the area where we were working but they were soon full. Before long there were big piles of cuttings around the site.

Some of the volunteers built a new drying rack and then we moved the piles of cuttings to the new rack.

Before long, the three-hour work party was over and we prepared to leave.

What a wonderful morning it had been. The work party was such a good example of the adage “Many hands make light work.”

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!