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.
Twelve days ago, I fell doing Greenbelt restoration work. I fell hard. The result: bruised ribs. When I first read today’s Daily Prompt: Grit, I took grit to mean the quality of doing whatever it takes to accomplish a goal, not letting any roadblock stand in the way. When I looked up the word in Wikipedia, I found this definition:
Grit in psychology is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal or end state, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective. This perseverance of effort promotes the overcoming of obstacles or challenges that lie within a gritty individual’s path to accomplishment, and serves as a driving force in achievement realization.
Since I fell, the amount of time I work in the Greenbelt has reduced dramatically, and what I do there has shifted. I may slowly place a few burlap bags over a cleared area; spend time laying out a design for a cluster of trees, shrubs and ground covers that will be planted the end of October; or I may wander around looking at the squirrels, birds and the occasional butterfly. Thankfully, I can still use my organizational abilities to lead work parties so the work is advancing; it just isn’t me holding the shovel.
Yesterday, I read that it takes bruised ribs 4-12 weeks to heal, and that the older you are, the longer it may take. I can tell that I am getting better. There is evidence of that daily. Healing just isn’t occurring on my preferred time table.
While I am frustrated by not being able to do what I want to do, when I want to do it, I know that I am being given lessons in patience and accepting what is. It doesn’t mean I have to stop advancing towards my goal, but it does mean that I can’t do the level of physical labor that I want to be doing. It is important for me to realize that developing patience and learning to accept what is are also lessons in my life’s curriculum and that those qualities are as important as grit in achieving my life goals.
I have grit, and I am learning behaviors that will support that grit.
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.
The Seattle Parks Department gave our Greenbelt Restoration Project a job box that contains the tools we need to clear the land in our Greenbelt restoration site. That box is chained to one of the large cedar trees on the property.
Several weeks ago, I noticed that an animal was defecating near the base of that tree. Over the week, the pile grew. I wondered if a cat was using that spot for its personal litter box. I thought about cleaning it up but didn’t.
One day, another forest steward noticed the pile and commented. She thought it had been left by something bigger than a cat and wondered if it was droppings from a deer. Earlier in the week, someone had asked me if we had ever seen deer on the site. I said “No.” I loved the idea but wonder if deer could live in the inner city and stay safe.
After this interaction, it occurred to me that not only was the poop pile unsightly, it was also disrespectful to the tree. I cleaned it up and buried the feces. The next morning, there were two more piles. One had an unusual consistency and I wondered if the animal had diarrhea. (The two photos below were taken a day later so the feces were no longer fresh.)
Aside from being irritated that my effort to clean the area hadn’t done any good, I was curious. I wanted to find out what animal was leaving these droppings. It was time to investigate.
I found a Scat ID section on the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management (ICWDM) website. ICWDM is “a non-profit, grant-funded site that provides research-based information on how to handle wildlife damage problems responsibly.” (The next series of photos were used with ICWDM’s permission.)
The description offered by the ICWDM said:
Raccoon (Procyon lotor): Droppings are 2 to 3 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. You often can identify what a raccoon recently has been eating. Corn kernels or fruit may be visible, for example. Droppings frequently are found in piles, called latrines, on roofs, in attics, in sandboxes, or open areas. Raccoons defecate in the same location.
Ah ha….. I hadn’t noticed anything peculiar about the first droppings but the last set were full of seeds/pits. Since there are big cherry trees on the property, and the cherry’s are ripe and falling, the animal had more than likely been eating cherries. My conclusion was that the pile was probably left by a raccoon, possibly a raccoon with diarrhea from eating too many cherries!
Realizing that the animal may have been a raccoon brought back memories; memories of standing on the land that is now Greenbelt, holding Sreejit as an infant, with a raccoon chasing our dog around and around me; memories of coming out to the tree-house that I had slept in April to October for five years only to find two big raccoons standing on their hind legs between me and it (that was the end of my sleeping in the tree house); memories of four raccoons, which are usually nocturnal, crossing my yard in broad daylight.
I haven’t seen a raccoon in this area for a decade. I like the idea of them, along with other wildlife, returning to the Greenbelt, but I hope that their activity is at night. And I’m glad that this land has mostly been cleared so it is likely they would choose a less visible site to sleep. Regardless, I am clearly being presented with the opportunity to work on my past fear.
Back to the story at hand…. scat, feces, poop, defecation, droppings…
Who would have thought that I would ever be investigating and blogging about “poop.” My life has taken an interesting turn… and I love it!
My neighbor Christine gave me these photographs a day or two ago. She took them in March after Seattle Parks Department staff cut down most of the blackberry vines on the Greenbelt lots we are restoring. I look forward to using it as a “Before” photo in November after we’ve cleared the land and planted new trees, shrubs and ground covers. And I also look forward to comparing them with the photos we will take every spring, summer, fall and winter from now on.
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!
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.]
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!