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.
“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.
On November 15, 2017, a corporate group from DocuSign came to work at our restoration site. The event was held on their Global IMPACT Day. At that time, I looked up the philosophy behind Impact Day and found this statement:
We believe character is defined through action. With DocuSign IMPACT, we are committed to putting this character into action by harnessing the power of DocuSign’s people, products, and profits to make a difference in the global communities in which our employees and customers live and work.
During that work party, the 42 DocuSign volunteers planted 330 shrubs and ground covers.
Last Friday (April 27), DocuSign held another IMPACT day, and once again they chose our site to be one of the options. This time we had 20 volunteers from DocuSign and a student from the University of Washington’s Introduction to Environmental Science class.
Our staff consisted of Claire (GreenFriends), Jeb (Forterra) and me (GreenFriends and Green Seattle Partnership.)
I had been working with Andrew and Maksim from DocuSign to plan the event. Maksim attended the work party as well. His help that day was invaluable.
The group signed in, picked up gloves, listened to a short orientation…
… divided into three teams and began to work.
Team 1 gathered the remaining wood chips from our mulch pile and placed them around each plant in 2 1/2 planting areas. The mulch will hold in moisture and make it more likely that the plants will survive the summer if there is little to no rain. (In March there was 15 cu. yd. of mulch in that pile. At that time, it was 6-8 feet high!)
Team 2 removed weeds. While all of this land had been cleared during the year, shoots of blackberry, ivy and bindweed vines were popping up throughout the site. After the work party, I discovered that the group had weeded more than 13,500 sq.ft. of land. The ground looked so clean and open.
(Note: Two of our planting areas contain lots of horsetails. Horsetails are native plants; ones that were here before there were dinosaurs. We leave most of the horesetails alone, removing them only when they are crowding out other native plants.)
Team 3 worked on a part of the site that we hadn’t worked on before. It is located on the west side of Cheasty Boulevard. We chose to start in a place where there are some gigantic trees. They are located near the bottom of a steep slope. The team cleared blackberry vines and ivy from the ground and made survival rings around four big cottonwood trees. (Note: A survival ring is created by removing ivy from all sides of a tree starting at ground level and going to shoulder height. Cut off from their roots, the rest of the ivy in the tree will die off.)
The group created two drying racks behind the trees. All of the debris was placed on these racks in order to prevent the vines from reaching the ground and regrowing.
These “Before” and “After” photos show the dramatic changes the team made in this area.
Once again, the DocuSign volunteers (and the UW student) did incredible work. I look forward to the possibility that they will return here in November for their next Global Impact Day!
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.
Wood chip pile
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!
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.
Newly planted field
Photos by Laurel Webb, Nicole Marcotte and Karuna Poole
It seems like I think every work party we have is the best. That was true on this day too. Eight students from the University of Washington’s Introduction to Environmental Science class, one student from Garfield High School, one neighbor and three GreenFriends members came together to do restoration work in the Greenbelt.
We cut blackberry vines, dug out blackberry root balls and bindweed (morning glory vines)
(click on any of the galleries if you want to enlarge the photos)
…. picked up trash
…. freed ferns
…. carried wood chips from a pile near 25th Avenue S and S Hanford, down the Hanford stairs, into the Greenbelt and scattered them in an area that will be used for a 250 square foot cluster of trees, shrubs and ground covers when we start to plant in the fall. Having the wood chips there will facilitate decomposition of the burlap bags that are under it and help to build the soil by creating mulch.
…. and moved debris to the rack zone to dry.
Vandya, Ellen, John and I organized the work party and led work groups. Vandya and I also took photos. At one point, we snapped pictures of each other taking photos!
During the three hour work party we cleared a lot of land. The next step will be to spread burlap bags to prevent erosion and weed growth.
One group dug out the biggest root ball we’ve found!
Needless to say, our July 9 work party was a big success.
Seattle Parks Department cut down a new area of blackberries on our site mid-June. Since that time, my neighbor John has put in a tremendous amount of time raking up the debris and digging up the blackberry root balls. Last weekend, 9 volunteers picked up trash, laid burlap on the areas that had been cleared (to minimize new weed growth), and dug out root balls. It is amazing how much can be accomplished in a short period of time when we all work together.
This work party was particularly exciting because three members of our newly formed AYUDH chapter participated. Some of their parents came too.
AYUDH is an international youth movement established by Amma. Members are 15-30 years of age.The acronym stands for Amrita Yuva Dharma Dhara which means “….the youth which perpetuates the wheel of dharma (righteousness).” The organization “seeks to empower the youth to integrate universal values into their daily lives. Starting with themselves, AYUDH helps establish a future of hope, peace and social engagement while maintaining an awareness of spiritual principles.”
This month we are holding work parties on July 2, 9, 16 and 23. There are already 13 people signed up for the 9th! I believe that six of them are students from the University of Washington’s Introduction to Environmental Science class.
For three hours on June 14, eight volunteers worked diligently in our Greenbelt restoration site. A week before, Seattle Parks Department staff had cut down a large area of blackberry vines, leaving a lot of debris and uncovering an astonishing amount of trash.
We spent the first hour of the work party picking up trash. There is more garbage for us to pick up, but we got a good start on it.
When we began this project, there were two fields of invasive bamboo on this site. Seattle Parks Department cut the bamboo down last March. We placed the cut bamboo on drying racks so that they didn’t re-root. That bamboo is now dry.
On Wednesday, we stripped the branches from the dried bamboo canes. The canes were given away to gardeners and the branches are being used as part of our newest drying racks. (I will write a post about the drying racks soon.)
We also removed blackberry vines from plants and trees…
…. and rescued ferns and a fringe cup plant.
It was another productive and rewarding day in the Greenbelt!
This past Saturday, thirteen members of the Seattle area part of the PNW Litter Project made it possible to keep 20 pounds of cigarette butts out of landfills, waterways and stomachs of birds and other forms of wildlife.
Cigarette butts are way more toxic than you might think. They are NOT made of cotton, they are made of cellulose acetate tow and they can take decades to degrade. Investigators in a San Diego State University study once discovered that if you put fathead minnows and top smelt in a liter of water that also contains a single cigarette butt, half of the fish will die.
We have been picking up cigarette butts for the last three years. This particular work party was held in the International District of Seattle and was in honor of Kick Butts Day, an annual celebration of youth leadership and activism in the fight against tobacco use. The event is organized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and sponsored by the United Health Foundation.
The weather forecast for Saturday was dismal, one inch of rain was predicted. Nature graced us however. While it was cold and windy and everything was wet due to the rain that had fallen the previous night, there was no rainfall during the 1 ½ to 2 hours we worked.
I like to believe that Mother Nature was pleased with us because after we finished, the wind died down and it was sunny for a good part of the day!
Tomorrow I will be packing up the 20 pounds of cigarette butts and mailing them to TerraCycle where they will be turned into plastic pallets!