Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: June 14

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!

Mystery, Adventure and Reward

Yesterday I took on  the challenge of removing bindweed (morning glory) and blackberry vines from a thimbleberry shrub.

The bindweed wraps itself around each stem, weighing it down and eventually killing it.

The thimbleberry leaves are beautiful. They have three to seven lobes and are soft and hairy.


I tried to unwind the bindweed from each thimbleberry stem carefully, but the leaves and stems are so fragile that I lost many of them  in the process of trying to free them.  The stems are now free from blackberry and bindweed vines but I’m going to have to get under the shrub and dig out the blackberry roots to keep it that way. We will probably have to deal with the bindweed every year.

It was fun to watch the stems straighten once they were relieved of the weight of the bindweed. The shrub still looks scraggly but it will fill in and return to the beauty it is meant to be.

The density of the bindweed made it hard to tell where the shrub began and ended. The area towards the back had a much thicker layer of bindweed.

As I started to cut it away, I realized that it wasn’t thumbleberry that was under it, it was a gigantic fern. With renewed energy, I started cutting away the bindweed. Before long, the fern was free!

I love doing this work. It is full of mystery and adventure and is so rewarding.

 

Volume

Order

 

Found in the Greenbelt: Dinosaur

On May 13th, we had a work party that included 20 University of Washington students needing volunteer hours for an Introduction to Environmental Science class. A few days later, I discovered that one of them had left me a surprise.  The student had placed this toy dinosaur near, but not in, a pile of Greenbelt trash. I’m not going to throw it away either.

At the time I found it, I washed it and waited for the pile of trash to be picked up. Today, I put it back where the student had left it. I hope it enjoys its new home. I’m imagining it experiencing a sense of freedom and triumph after having survived 30-40 years buried in the dirt.

Triumph

Shocking Revelation

I am still reeling from some information I received today. It just occurred to me to look and see if today’s Daily Prompt would fit for this situation.  Revelation is perfect!

For the last month, I’ve been looking forward to taking a Plant Identification course that was offered to Forest Stewards and other volunteers who work in Seattle’s reforestation projects. When I arrived at the class today, I discovered most of the students had been Forest Stewards for a long time and the others had at least some experience in plant identification. I, on the other hand, only know a few of these native plants.

Last month, Ananya and I had to choose the trees, shrubs and ground covers that we will be planting in our group’s Greenbelt site the end of October. We ordered nearly 400 plants. In the course of today’s class, I learned that those plants will be delivered to us unmarked. Not only that, most will be in their winter state so we may have only a twig to use for identification.

WWWWWWHHHHHHAAAAAAATTTTTTTT?

The need for me to learn to identify our plants has certainly taken on a new intensity. As I sat down to write this post, though, a couple of other thoughts came to my mind. When we ordered the plants, we had to order in quantities of 10. We ordered 10 for some varieties and 20 for others. So even though we will have to identify 400 plants, there will only be 26 different types. That seems doable.  Also, sometime prior to October we will have the opportunity to take a Winter Twig class. I will make taking that class a priority.

I am sure glad that I learned this information today, rather than discovering it when the plants are delivered. I can do it. I can do it. I can do it. I can do it. I can do it. Yes I can. Yes I can. Yes I can. Yes I can. And I don’t have to do it alone! Ananya and I will do it together and if we need help we will get it.

The Wonder of Nature

After making my way to the rhododendron flower last week (Keeping My Eye on the Goal), I turned around and came face to face with what became my next Greenbelt restoration task.

So many trees this Greenbelt site have been killed by ivy. One of the first trees I focused on freeing from blackberries and ivy last September was the one in the photo to the left. It had a split trunk at the bottom and both trunks split again further up. The trunks/branches on the west side were dead; the east side of the tree had leaves.

It was this tree that I saw when I turned away from the rhododendron bush. I noticed ivy was growing on it again so I started cutting. Since the time I originally worked on the tree, I have learned that our job is to cut the ivy at the bottom and at shoulder height. That is called a “survival ring.” We don’t pull down the ivy above the survival ring because dead tree limbs could fall on us. The City Parks Department usually leaves dead trees standing because they are a habitat for many bugs and other insects, as well as smaller organisms.

Some of the ivy vine roots are thin and others are thick. It usually takes a saw to cut through the larger ones. The second two photos below show a root that I’ve already cut at the bottom and pulled it away from the tree. Sometimes we have to use a crow bar to separate the root from the tree.

[Aside: Here are photos of an ivy ring that was pulled off of another tree in March. It is so dense… and hard. Looking at it helps me understand how it can kill a tree.]

Back to the story at hand: When I removed the ivy from around the bottom of the tree, I noticed that it looked as if the ivy had separated the bark from what seemed like the core of the tree.

It amazed me that the tree was still standing with a core this small. The separation of bark from core gave me the impression that there was a deep hole under the tree, but I don’t think that was the case.

I enjoyed looking at the inside portion of the bark.

As I was finishing the work, I noticed that fungi is growing on the portions of the tree that are dead or dying.

In closing, I will share words that my brother Bill wrote shortly before he died in 1992 at 39 years-of-age.

I can’t walk outside without seeing the beauty of our created world, from the rainbow in a line of earthworm slime, to another visible ring on Jupiter. We have been given this magnificent world to study and enjoy in limitless detail at any level, microscopic to cosmic. (The Truth I Live By)

I’m becoming more like my brother. I can now see that there is so much wonder even in this one tree.

[Note: It just occurred to me that what I call the core is under the dead part of this tree. Now I am really confused, especially since I didn’t see anything similar under the other side of the tree. I do see wood shavings, but I would have expected the empty space to be under the east side of the tree and the rotten wood to be on the west. I will have to investigate this more and will add an addendum to the post … or write a new one… if I get answers! If anyone who reads this post notices mistakes in my interpretations, please let me know. I’m a novice.]

Keeping My Eye on the Goal

When I was showing a friend around our Greenbelt restoration project on May 25, she saw a red flower in the distance. It was too far away, and too covered by invasive plants, to know what it was. We guessed it was a rhododendron flower. (Mystery in the Making).

At the time, I was in the midst of preparing for Amma’s programs so wasn’t able to make my way to the flower. Last Saturday, I decided to do whatever it took to get close. I gathered my tools and headed for the thicket. I took the photo above just before I began to cut my way through the dead branches, blackberry vines, laurel, ivy, and downed trees.

As I worked, I realized how much I missed the excitement of freeing the trees in the Greenbelt and discovering what was under the mass of invasive plants. Most of our recent work has been to dig out blackberry root balls from areas where blackberry vines have been cut down.

Every so often I looked up to see how close I was to the red flowers.

I progressed much faster than I expected. At one point, I realized that a branch I cut was not laurel, it was a rhododendron branch. Soon I saw more rhododendron branches.

There is a steep slope along the eastern border of the property. For liability reasons, the City of Seattle does not allow us to work on slopes that steep. I noticed that the rhododendron was on the last piece of flat land before the slope began. I continued on my way, getting ever closer to my goal.

Closer and closer.

And then I was there. I knew there was no way I was going to free the whole bush, at least not on that day, but I was able to touch one of the flowers. I wish the photo was clearer but I’m glad that I have it. I realized if I had waited much longer to solve this mystery, all of the petals would have fallen off.

I looked up and saw this sight.

I also enjoyed seeing the rest of the bush.

There were so many branches, going every direction. They reminded me of a pretzel.

When I looked through the thicket, I thought I saw more rhododendron bushes. I wonder what other discoveries await me. I look forward to the time when we focus on clearing that part of the Greenbelt. For now, though, I will go back to digging out blackberry root balls!

Mystery in the Making

On Thursday, when I was showing a friend the restoration work we are doing in the Greenbelt, she asked me about the red she was seeing through the trees. It was deep into an uncleared and presently unreachable part of the project and I had never seen it before. We walked as close to it as we could get, but still couldn’t identify it. Our guess was that it is a rhododendron bush. If so, it is a first on that property.

The next day, I walked back to that area to see if I could get closer. I could still barely see the blossoms. In taking an enlarged view, this is what I saw.

I walked a different direction to see if I could get a better view. From that vantage point, I could spot a bit of red, but it was very tiny. See if you can see it.

So much of the property has already been cleared of blackberry and ivy vines and other invasive plants. I am enjoying the thought of making new discoveries when we begin working on the remaining areas of “uncharted territory”!

No Forest Restoration vs Forest Restoration

These timelines profoundly affected me when I saw them at the Green Seattle Partnership Forest Steward training that Ananya and I attended last March.

 

I choose to do whatever I can do to make the second timeline the reality.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: May 13

Twenty of the 23 participants in last Saturday’s work party were students from a University of Washington Environmental Studies class. I loved the opportunity to share this project with young people and appreciated what enthusiastic workers they were.

I set up five different work stations, and assigned four students to each of them. One group finished their work early so they joined another group for the remainder of the time.

Most of the work party was spent cutting down blackberry and ivy vines, and digging out blackberry root balls. Once the root balls were removed, we cover the cleared land with burlap bags to reduce weed growth. Then dried blackberry canes and other debris were placed on top of the burlap. In time, the bags and debris will turn into mulch which will hold in moisture and enrich the soil.

Since we use the blackberry canes to cover the burlap bags, it can be difficult for photographs to show how much work has been done. As you look at the before and after photos below, keep in mind that so many blackberry root balls are now above ground, stacked on racks made from tree branches where they will dry out.

Before and after photos for each of the five stations:

#1

#2

#3

#4

#5

The amount of trash that we collected during the last two work parties shocks me. I wonder it will ever come to an end.

 

As always, I was amazed and delighted by how much we were able to accomplish during a three hour work party.