River Work: Hammering Willow Stakes, Planting With a View & Flagging.

The kids absolutely loved swinging heavy metal mallets to drive steel stakes into the river mud.  They pounded and pounded to create shaft-holes for the live willow stakes that will grow rapidly to fill in the Duwamish with much-needed shrub cover- if the beavers don't mow them down first.  Fortunately we 'planted' a good batch with the Puget Sound Stewards from EarthCorps, to make up for it.

Also fun was flagging the hillside of natives we planted in the sparkling rain, particularly gorgeous covered in drops was the noxious but furry Verbascum thapsus / mullein, which is very satisfying to pop out and chuck on the compost pile.  Codiga Park was bequeathed as a restoration site by the former owners of a dairy farmstead whom still live adjacent.  We had a wide view of the riverbed from the top of the hill and the kids felt like they owned the park, running along secret back trails, discovering views, a scurrying mouse & bird's nest fungus.  Across the river, we could see a native planting we worked on previously, very satisfying indeed.

Noxious   Verbascum thapsus  / mullein  where it belongs.

Noxious Verbascum thapsus / mullein where it belongs.

Noxious but furry   Verbascum thapsus  / mullein .   

Noxious but furry Verbascum thapsus / mullein.


Native  Cornus sericea  / red osier dogwood.

Native Cornus sericea / red osier dogwood.

More Wetland Planting on Longfellow Creek with KCD.

This time along the Longfellow Creek Trail (Brandon Street Natural Area), we planted wetland grasses in a low, soggy area- Carex obnupta / slough sedge.  A common task at King Conservation Disctrict's wetland plant nursery is to divide such fast-growing species as these, indeed some were so root-bound that stomping, punching and pulling failed to dislodge them from their pots and Adam had to slice the pot (and plant) through with his shovel.  Upon finally freeing them, it was a significant task to loosen up the vigorous root system before planting.

Other species planted under the frosty, sunny alder forest were Symphoricarpos albus / snowberry & Thuja plicata / western red cedar.

Field-Planting the Wetland Species We've Tended in the Nursery.

After working at King Conservation Disctrict's wetland plant nursery for three years, it was thoroughly satisfying to plant some of the species we've tended out in the field along the Longfellow Creek Trail in the Brandon Street Natural Area of West Seattle.  The weather has been amazing this fall, with many sunny days and warm temperatures.  After a bit of downpour, the urban woodland sparkled and the kids enjoyed all its features from climbing cedar and trails to boardwalk and tall saplings to plant.  They alders were much taller than the kids when we potted them up at KCD's nursery in the spring and after growing over the summer, they were larger still- requiring a team of three to get them in the ground.  It was tricky at times to dig holes underneath the roots of mature trees, but it was enjoyable to see the nitrogen-fixing bacteria nodules in the alder roots (photo below).

Alnus rubra  / red alder  roots showing the nodules of nitrogen-fixing bacteria that transform it from a gaseous state into a form usable to the tree, enabling incredibly fast growth and the ability to colonize disturbed areas as a pioneer species.

Alnus rubra / red alder roots showing the nodules of nitrogen-fixing bacteria that transform it from a gaseous state into a form usable to the tree, enabling incredibly fast growth and the ability to colonize disturbed areas as a pioneer species.

They we excited to field-plant the tall alder sapling they had potted-up in the nursery the previous spring.

They we excited to field-plant the tall alder sapling they had potted-up in the nursery the previous spring.

.....choreographed display of exhaustion.

.....choreographed display of exhaustion.

Rock Work on a Bridge Approach, Bear Claws and Ferns Ferns Ferns.

The children worked hard hauling rocks in formation for a bridge approach on a trail at Evans Creek Preserve with the WA Trails Association.  It is enjoyable to return to the site of our original Stewardship Squad event as we approach the Homeschool Stewardship Squad's third year in service!   The number of ferns that we have transplanted measure in the hundreds by now.  Krista, our long-time WTA crew leader, aroused the children's rapt attention when she pointed to a tree showing the scratches of a bear's claw, which to everyone's relief were not fresh.

The children's sense of pride and ownership of the wilderness is evident when their forest play includes racing along trails, climbing trees and also commenting on areas in need of stewardship.  Witnessing their sense of responsibility blossom alongside a carefree, satiating pleasure in nature is a lovely thing.

Thank you to Squad-regular Becky Johnston for her reporting & photography, as the Watters Family was forced to spend the morning at the Tukwila Costco Tire Shop.  (We did explore the store's backyard and found quantities of ivy that could really use some stewardship!)

Magnuson Park wetland weeding & blackberry digging. Then, swimming!

Squad worked with the Green Seattle Partnership in maintaing a wetland & buffer area at historic Magnuson Park.  Our Forest Steward, Thomas, shared with us that his neighborhood stewardship group has been tending the park for 18ys.  That was back when the City got serious about redeveloping the former naval base, their group advocated for environmental interests and backed up their opinions with time and labor.  We now can all benefit from a wide trail network and revitalized native habitats, amid the military relics.

We have removed blackberry countless times, but this was our first pulling out noxious reed canary grass / Phalaris arundinacea from a wetland.  We also enjoyed a large paper-wasp nest and of course swimming in the lake!

New parkland on Squak Mtn. Creating & destroying a trail. Plus hardhat watering!

King County acquired an interesting piece of property on Squak Mountain recently.  The 226 acres are adjacent to Squak Mountain State Park and Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park (King County Parks) is being converted from a privately held trails and RV campground- it even features a lodge, which will be interesting to follow the development of.  The terrific Trust for Public Land is temporarily purchasing the property to halt the logging planned, so that the County can arranged the funds to purchase it.

Stewardship Squad transplanted native sword ferns / Polystichum munitum alongside new trails created by the Washington Trails Association and in the middle of old trails being decommissioned due to poor design (drainage, grade, etc.).  It was a lovely end of summer day, just after a heavy downpour, so the plants and soil were hydrated enough to transplant- a bit risky until fall rain is steady.  We helped them along by filling our hardhats with water, hauling them up the hill and watering them in.  Great fun!

More weeding & swimming in the Mountains to Sound Greenway.

Lake Washington was at its finest during the height of a hot summer.  Fortunately the large Oregon ash / Fraxinus latifolia trees in the wetland buffer shaded us as we pulled noxious weeds from native plantings.  After working at a leisurely pace in the sultry weather we were joined by even more homeschooling friends for a fun afternoon in the refreshing lake.    

Conspicuous across our work site were thick mats of dead (for the summer) noxious stickyweed / Galium aparine that had clearly been smothering the small native plants back in spring when their growth is rampant.  The dry mats of stringy, grasping stems made clear why it is also known by the name bedstraw and also cleavers, as evident by the grasping round seedballs left all over our clothes and gloves.  Surely you know them.  Indeed it was such small hooks on burrs that inspired the creation of velcro.  Our less-seen native species of Galium include small bedstraw / Galium trifidum & boreal bedstraw / Galium boreale.  They are in the family Rubiaceae, which includes coffee, and supposedly the seeds of G. aparine can be used as a substitute as well as having edible foliage with medicinal properties.

Falling down a rabbit hole at Discovery Park.

Many a homeschooler are lovers of literature.  So, you can imagine the delight at having an opportunity to fall down actual rabbit holes at Discovery Park.  

And frankly, who doesn't love a good hole in the ground?  Filling them in was a first for Squad and quite popular, as was watering.  Matt, our forest steward from the Green Seattle Partnership hauled his own personal hoses in a backpack so we could hook up >50' away to water the native plantings.  Other work included digging out blackberry and mulching.   There is much to see in this 500+ acre historic park, we are looking forward to coming back.

UPDATE: Matt discussed the holes further with Park staff who think they may evidence of mountain beaver activity rather than rabbits.  Perhaps this is the beginning of a new piece of literature....

Mats of native trailing blackberry /  Rubus ursinus .

Mats of native trailing blackberry / Rubus ursinus.

Lovely Puget Sound.  Not so lovely Himalayan blackberry /  Rubus armeniacus .

Lovely Puget Sound.  Not so lovely Himalayan blackberry / Rubus armeniacus.

A perfect post-weeding swim in Lake WA on Mercer Island.

Mountains to Sound Greenway choose a shady spot for our weeding work beneath a large Oregon ash / Fraxinus latifolius at Luther Burbank Park.  The soil was completely dry, but the native plantings were hanging on well.  So were the weeds.  We kept busy pulling noxious species away from the rose, mahonia & red osier dogwood.  There were many invasive common hawthorn / Crataegus monogyna seedlings.  To our chagrin, we looked up at our lunchbreak tree on the park lawn and saw a lovely small tree of just this invasive variety.  The children were very confused as to why it was preserved by the park staff while we had worked all morning to eradicate its progeny.  Perhaps an interesting lesson on multi-agency/organization coordination.  This is certainly a tree that should be hit with the mower.

We swam at the quiet north end of the park, enjoying wide views across Lake Washington.  We even had the amazing opportunity to see a dragon/damsel fly nymph (larvae) emerge from its watery lifecycle and gradually unfurl its wings over 10m or so.  Stunning.  

Read about their amazing life cycle  here .

Read about their amazing life cycle here.

Terminal 107 on the Duwamish with EarthCorps.

We pulled weeds with EarthCorps in the restoration site along Puget Creek at T-107 Park across from the Duwamish Longhouse, and indeed the park lies on a former native village site.  It was a quiet morning pulling stinky Bob and marveling at the noxious beauty of teasel until the train came chugging up just ten feet away!  Very exciting.  We observed just how carefully one has to grip the crown of noxious stinky Bob / Geranium robertianum.  The stems snap easily and if the crown remains in the soil it happily re-grows.  Afterwards we roamed the enjoyable park, reading about the boat sculpture, native history, spying the woodland pond, visiting the riverfront and deciding to come back with the kids' bikes; the photo below shows the regional trail access as well.

Native   Crataegus Douglasii  / Douglas' hawthorn , not to be confused with the noxious  common hawthorn /  Crataegus monogyna .   They have much different leaves (see below) and unfortunately you almost always encounter the weedy one.

Native Crataegus Douglasii / Douglas' hawthorn, not to be confused with the noxious common hawthorn / Crataegus monogyna.  They have much different leaves (see below) and unfortunately you almost always encounter the weedy one.

The  noxious  common hawthorn /  Crataegus monogyna   showing it's more divided leaves. 

The  noxious common hawthorn / Crataegus monogyna showing it's more divided leaves. 

Stinky Bob must be pinched at the crown to be pulled out effectively, upon which it is easy to pluck.  When just the stems are tugged, they snap and the crown remains, happy to regrow.

Stinky Bob must be pinched at the crown to be pulled out effectively, upon which it is easy to pluck.  When just the stems are tugged, they snap and the crown remains, happy to regrow.

Native   Crataegus Douglasii  / Douglas' hawthorn  has some wicked thorns (as does the noxious sp.)

Native Crataegus Douglasii / Douglas' hawthorn has some wicked thorns (as does the noxious sp.)

Noxius  teasel /  Dipsacus fullonum .   An attractive nuisance.

Noxius teasel / Dipsacus fullonum.  An attractive nuisance.

Noxius  teasel /  Dipsacus fullonum   can be very tall.

Noxius teasel / Dipsacus fullonum can be very tall.

Female flowers and a maturing cone on a Douglas fir /  Pseudotsuga menziesii.   The female flowers will ripen into cones after being wind-pollinated by the little male flowers.

Female flowers and a maturing cone on a Douglas fir / Pseudotsuga menziesii.  The female flowers will ripen into cones after being wind-pollinated by the little male flowers.

Wetland buffer maintenance at Tukwila Pond Park.

Jessa hacks the noxious  common hawthorn /  Crataegus monogyna  .

Jessa hacks the noxious common hawthorn / Crataegus monogyna.

Hidden away behind the big box stores in Tukwila is a very large pond (a lake really) surrounded by willowy wetlands.  It was improved via the mitigation process, as required in exchange for development on (poor quality) wetlands nearby.  The site used to be agricultural, and indeed the old fence posts can still be seen poking out of the water.  Due to development, creek out-flow was restricted and the area became permanently flooded.  Now it is excellent bird habitat.

Our work with the City of Tukwila was to remove invasive noxious species from the native planting buffer.  I casually mentioned to a couple of passionate children, "This tree is actually an invasive hawthorn species.  It can be harder to removed trees since they're large, sometimes you can girdle them to kill them."  Before I knew it they formed a team to start scraping it away and after an hour's hard work them eventually removed the tree entirely!  Other species we removed were holly, ivy, blackberry & nightshade.

After working, we hiked past abandoned train tracks and through the thick willows to reach the open water.  If funds could be secured, the City would like to create greater public access.  Biologist Sandra Whiting pointed out wetland species along the way and shared the cultural & restoration history of the site.

QUIZ!  What leaves are these?  cocean spray /  Holodiscus discolor,  snowberry /  Symphoricarpos albus,  noxious common hawthorn /  Crataegus monogyna.   

QUIZ!  What leaves are these?

cocean spray / Holodiscus discolor, snowberry / Symphoricarpos albus, noxious common hawthorn / Crataegus monogyna.  

Sandra Whiting teaches us about noxious reed canary grass /  Phalaris arundinacea.

Sandra Whiting teaches us about noxious reed canary grass / Phalaris arundinacea.

Genetic variation - a variegated (noxious!) blackberry seedling.

Genetic variation - a variegated (noxious!) blackberry seedling.

4 noxious sp together!  Ivy, baby blackberry, baby holly & baby bittersweet nightshade /  Solanum dulcamara  (which not the same as deadly nightshade /  Atropa belladonna).

4 noxious sp together!  Ivy, baby blackberry, baby holly & baby bittersweet nightshade / Solanum dulcamara (which not the same as deadly nightshade / Atropa belladonna).

Black cottonwood / populus trichocarpa.

Black cottonwood / populus trichocarpa.

Black cottonwood / populus trichocarpa seed capsules.

Black cottonwood / populus trichocarpa seed capsules.

Frogs, tadpoles and many tasks in KCD's wetland plant nursery.

The frogs and tadpoles didn't disappoint at King Conservation District's wetland plant nursery.  The flooded beds holding potted wetland species were teeming with delightful creatures.  These are encouraged with plant-flats left in the pools to create habitat.  We had to be careful not to over-flow the beds when adding water, lest the tadpoles go overboard.

My notes on exactly which species of rush, bulrush, sedge, etc. that we worked with didn't survive the trip home.  However I did find this list of plants grown at the nursery.  Giant bur-reed / Sparganium eurycarpum was the most showy plant we deadheaded (see photo below) as it has fetching spiky orbs and globular white flowers with leaves over head-height.  I am excited to spot this plant out in nature!

Hard to believe, but in 2.5ys of Squad, this is the first time we watered as a work activity.  Other tasks included cutting-off seed heads to prevent species from seeding into other pots- because some wetland species are hard for even horticulturists to identify without the flowers, we left a few on for ID purposes.  Fast-growing alders and cottonwoods had to be potted up as well.  We look forward to using the plants we've tended out on a wetland restoration site in the future.

Cheasty Greenspace- bucket brigade mulching on Beacon Hill.

This bucket brigade was our most complicated yet and the kids performed excellently with stamina and rhythm.  The sun was hot on the way to the mulch pile at the top of the hill but the mulch-dump-site at the bottom was rewardingly shady.  We furthered sheet-mulching work on a planting site from wintertime in order to smother weeds and retain moisture during the dry summer ahead.  As usual, working in the Cheasty Greenspace was a real pleasure.  (read more about the neighborhoods efforts at Cheasty in another post here)

After-play is always good fun, on the paths, around the bend and up the trees.  The fringe-cups / Tellima grandiflora are blooming.  Another lovely spring day in Seattle, spent in service of nature and community under the leaves.

Fern planting with the WA Trails Association at Evans Creek Preserve.

These kids worked hard on an 80 degree day in May!  They hiked in a half mile through a meadow and hauled great big sword ferns to transplant alongside a new trail.  It was very satisfying to return to the first location that Stewardship Squad ever worked on with our old pal Krista Dooley at the WA Trails Association.  At just 2yo, Evans Creek Preserve is a unique new public park hosting a charming network of trails criss-crossing a large historic property of wetlands, forest and meadow, gifted to the City of Sammamish.

We reviewed what stinging nettles / Urtica dioica look like and wondered about all the fluff floating by.  I knew it was too early for cottonwood and at the end I found the source- a willow species.  My Salix ID isn't stellar, indeed a tricky genus with 50 sp in the PNW.....my best guess is Pacific willow / Salix lucida ssp. lasiandra.

Sun! Music. Teaming with teens. Wetlands. Planting. And of course tree climbing, with the Nature Consortium

I will be hard-pressed to keep this post from running on and on….. we just had such a wonderful time with the Nature Consortium and the other volunteers that joined us at their public work party at Pigeon Point Park in the West Duwamish Greenbelt.  It was a delight to meet participants from the Service Board, a local non-profit that "mentors teens to conquer personal and cultural challenges through public service and outdoor adventure." (read: civics and snowboarding)  I overheard engrossing conversations between 7yo's and 17yo's, heads industriusly downward like the nodding onions being planted; they covered everything from their favorite authors to "What is the scientific name of plant this plant again?" (Allium cernuum).  Also planted in the meadow and forested wetland was thimbleberry / Rubus parviflorus to the cheery tunes of the Mighty Tiny Band.  Always a pleasure.

Duwamish River Restoration at T-105 with EarthCorps- Bucket Brigade II

The kids cheered loudly when they heard they were going to form a bucket brigade again at T-105 Park.  We reviewed the importance of the river for salmon, and discussed challenges the restoration faces, including noxious weeds.  Noxious Populus alba / white poplar re-sprouts in full force all over the site, including from downed and decaying trunks!  (photo below)  The kids leapt into place and the buckets started flying as we continued sheet mulching the native plantings with cardboard and wood chips.  They derived a good deal of satisfaction from executing an important role in a fast operation; though I'm sure the spilled buckets, giggles and ridiculous traffic-jams had something to do with it.   Enjoyable as well, was meeting a slough (pun intended) of new EarthCorps leaders.

Hiking & Hauling in the Cheasty Greenspace, Beacon Hill


The Cheasty Greenspace is a terrific place for the Homeschool Stewardship Squad- the central location is ideal, fun, and the coordinated community efforts to restore their forest are a pleasure to participate in.

The dedicated group of neighborhood volunteers has not only worked hard, but thought strategically about how to harness municipal and volunteer resources in support of their forest.  They are excited to announce that the City of Seattle has adopted the northern acreage on which to create a pilot-project mountain bike park.  They are taking notes on the popular Duthie Hill Park, Issaquah.  Much planning is underway to discuss a wide diversity of issues such as trail standards to prevent erosion and how to separate pedestrians from bikers.

We sheet-mulched native plantings and hauled many a bucket of wood chips.  It will be a treat to keep working at this site and watch it fulfill its potential as a healthy urban forest accessible for recreation.

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Trillium ovatum   / wake-robin.  Almost spring!

Trillium ovatum / wake-robin.  Almost spring!

The  Green Seattle Partnership  is a supporter of the Cheasty Greenspace.

The Green Seattle Partnership is a supporter of the Cheasty Greenspace.

Potting-Up Cedars at Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust's Native Plant Nursery

A climb-in pile of potting soil is pretty irrestible.  We were happy to help pot-up western red cedars/Thuja plicata  at the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust's native plant nursery at Lake Sammamish State Park.  The rain came down, but the kids made more than the best of it with song and smiles.  (Except for those who had itchy soil down their clothes!)


Wetland Plant Nursery Work with King Conservation District

The roof kept the rain off but the kids loved finding other ways to get filthy.  We potted up red osier dogwood / Cornus sericea for use in restoration and habitat-enhancement projects.  New potting soil was also mixed-up with a blend suitable for plants that like soggy feet and includes biosolids from the nearby water treatment plant.  As usual, there was hot competition for who got to push the full cart.  King Conservation District offers native plants in exchange for volunteering in their nursery.  Come back in the spring and summer to see the tadpoles and frogs that love the flooded beds.


Bucket Brigade Sheet Mulching at T-105 on the Duwamish.

Brrrr….!  This was a chilly Squad, the kids were one-upping each other on the most layers worn.  It was impressive to see ice all the way up the restored slough-channel, in which the tide was quite high so we hiked around it, rather than crossing it to the restoration site.  We began with a short explanation of a watershed, in this case the Green-Duwamish Watershed.  (See your King County watershed here)  I wasn't so sure the kinds would find the coordinated discipline involved in a bucket-brigade enjoyable, but they had a blast!  Great idea Dhira.  Much mulch was dumped onto the cardboard we spread out for weed control.  A great time with EarthCops on the Duwamish River in the heart of Seattle. 

Fur ID…..?

Fur ID…..?

mossy rose gall (click pic for link)

mossy rose gall (click pic for link)