Saturday, September 30, 2017


This is a Huglekulture mound. Its a concept that we are experimenting with that involves digging a hole

Adding alternate layers of large decaying wood, leaves, compost, earth and wood chips.

The concept is to make a diverse soil environment that allows increased fungal activity and a sponge that absorbs water, stores nutrients, and attracts micro flora/fauna that plants need. All of these things are lacking in the soil composition of the mt. baker forest. We have a layer of heavy clay that has been striped of fallen trees, stumps and a deep mulch by human activity, erosion and poor tree canopy. The result is a 80% mortality rate in this particular part of the site.

By building these five mounds we hope to establish a foothold for evergreens to succeed the maples and alder that are loosing branches and even their crowns at a faster pace, indicating they are either maturing out or stressed by environmental changes.

The Buckthorn baggies of last Janruary appears to need another season of reapplication.

as seen here, the shoots of the holly have escaped the baggie and are attempting to photosynthesize .

some applications were more successful than others, but the regrowth inside the baggie is definitely still happening, and may need another season of clipping, bagging and mulching to finally kill the stubborn evergreens.   Proof that nature finds a way of filling niches left from the decaying deciduous forest that exists.

We are hoping on the fall rains to revive the drooping swordferns and brown patches on the larger Cedar trees, surprisingly the new conifers did pretty well over the summer.  Many of the newly planted swamp apple and cascara did not fare so well. We are waiting on the new plant order in november to fill the gaps and plant the Huglekulture.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Invasive tree removal


This is Privet, an evergreen tree that we are trying to control on the Mt. Baker slope with various methods, both mechanical and by a licensed contractor who applies an herbicide at a specific time of the year with a nail gun.

llex Aquafolium
This is English holly, another evergreen shrub that is multiplying at a shocking speed, it is also something we want to reduce in number to allow the new plantings of Cascara tree, Swamp Apple, Service Berry and Vine Maple to get established.

First I stump the shrub down to 6 inches above the ground, the bag in the background is the "Buckthorn Baggie" which I purchased from Matt Hamilton of Minnesota who has developed this technique of invasive shrub control on prairie restoration projects.

 zip tie the bag around the stump, flaring out the bottom to make a barrier around the root base.
dump some wood chips all around the area to hold the bag down and seal it in.

The idea is to get that plant to expend all its energy into the cut stem with new growth, which of course is trapped inside a bag where it cannot photosynthesize and stimulate new growth. We'll see what happens this summer when it warms up a bit, come back and pull the bags off a year from now and monitor the success of this idea.

I am getting used to the idea of using herbicides on certain plants that are hindering the restoration process, although as a gardener I am against the practice in general, I see where it can be useful,  I'm trying to understand the problem from a different level other than simply weeding.  Why are these plants so successful and their native counterparts are not? What kind of environmental conditions and human intervention are creating this ecology? What are the best practices to remedy this problem? 

Given that this forest is in an urban setting, some large herbivores such as deer and beaver have been eliminated, taking away a huge evolutionary partner that helped spread seeds and reduce under growth. Continual disruption of the hardscape through logging, road building and view clearing has also interrupted the natural succession process of an apex forest.  Even the micofauna and worms are different than were present here a hundred years ago.

I am reading Beyond the War on Invasive Species by Tao Orion. A biologist and permaculturalist by training, she has some ideas how habitat restoration and agriculture are linked by scientific training, and how sometimes these are two different practices altogether. We have used horticulture and agriculture to produce food surpluses unimaginable by even our grand parents, to do that we have altered the natural world immensely. While recognizing this loss of natural habitat we have often attempted to restore it using the same practices and logic, not necessarily the best way to accomplish something completely different.

For instance, I am skipping the succession forest of deciduous trees, planting conifers and plant guilds associated with them directly. Certainly a more efficient and faster way of establishing a cedar\hemlock target forest ecology as recommended by Green Seattle Partnership ecologists and Seattle Parks and Recreation policy.  But to do that I have to rip back the invasive undergrowth that has taken hold, replace it with mulch and nursery grown plants trucked in, planted by many hands and feet, weeded and maintained by many hours of labor. Is that sustainable? 

What is a natural area? What is the definition of an invasive plant? A native plant? A natural ecosystem in such a place as the Mt. Baker historical view clearing? More to come.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

winter 2016

 The summer has ended and we have a new group coming to help clearing the site for fall planting.  Thanks Fred Hutchenson immunology for taking a friday with us.

 The hill side that was cleared this spring needed a little weeding. We have had persistent problems with Morning Glory and Canadian thistle colonizing sites we have cleared of blackberry and hawthorn. The only control seems to be frequent weeding during the summer to prevent seed forming.

Contractors hired by GSP treated holly, privit and hawthorn with herbicide (some for the second time) to reduce the "seed rain" that these plants produce in the form of nuts, berries and seeds that are spread by the foraging birds and squirrels.  It's estimated that the volume of Holly doubles every 6 years from this growth activity in the Puget Sound trough.
This hill is steep, water rolls right off it, that's why we have to mulch it periodically, and attempted to make a swale from the debris piles that were left from the last blackberry and clematis removal.  Here you can see our unrelenting rose bush removal team going for round three in their attempt to control a particularly viscous specimen that has escaped somebody's garden and hybridized itself  to the site.

                                                                                       Whatever happens, we take a break at noon to recharge and finish strong, more photos to come of the plant's when they arrive.

Friday, March 25, 2016

March 24th 2016

some new additions
After receiving over 40" of rain this planting season, we have had a wet time installing the new plants this winter. Anticipating another series of heat events like we experienced last summer, we ordered 40 yards of arbor chips to retain moisture and protect the new plants. The result? Mushrooms!

new planting area
clearing the last section of the 'community view clearing' we planted it out, logging about 300 volunteer hours, put in over 200 various trees, shrubs and ground cover.
loading mulch
several groups came through, we had a good turnout from United Way day of service volunteers, several follow up events culminating with a Martin Luther King day final effort.

 moving chips by hand up the slope

The slopes were a bit too steep to push a wheelbarrow, so a bucket brigade was created to bring up the essential element of  woodchips, and coarse woody debris.
High Bush Cranberry
Several species have begun to push through without any planting as we have pulled back the ivy and blackberry from this site: fringe cup, thimbleberry, trillium, even a few tiny conifer seedlings. The above Vibrunum Adule has been growing on the slope, we have successfully live staked a few more of them along the ridge.

Steep slopes present a special challenge to foresters as they are difficult to work on, new plantings require more care as water will run away from where it's needed, mulch will slide off, erosion is constantly a problem.

To that end we have had the help from Earthcorps, a private contractor hired by the Green Seattle Partnership and the South 34th Ave Homeowners Association. A crew of Americorp volunteers lead by seasoned forest professionals cleared much of the area beside the Dose Walkway, treated invasive shrubs in the bluff areas along the upper border of the Historic Community View Clearing.

To accommodate the concern over view obstruction in the upper area, we have planted Malus Fusca, a native crabapple, and Cascara trees to provide a tree canopy that will shade out the invasive plants that have recolonized the areas we have cleared.  We hope to have more serviceberry trees available next fall to fill in the areas where hawthorn and Laurel have been killed. We have also planted Coltsfoot, a medicinal herb, as a ground cover in the many 'seeps', places where surface water has emerged between strata of earth forming a seasonal wetland environment.

It must be acknowledged there are other issues to urban forestry besides good ecology, and native plant conservation. These include surface water and view management. The name of this parcel of land is called the 'community view clearing' because it has been traditionally managed by the adjacent homeowners to see the lake, mountains and environs surrounding this place. To that end several 'agreements' have been made with Parks and Recreation to manage vegetation, evidence of those efforts have been noted by volunteer stewards as the heavy growth of Beaked Hazelnut, Indian Plum, Vine Maple substory undergrowth and the cutting of mature Broadleaf Maple and Oregon Ash.

When this site was placed under active stewardship in 2013 a target forest of Hemlock\Cedar was designated by GSP ecologists, changing the priorities away from view management to current understanding of a healthy urban forest as defined by SMC 18.30 resolution 29475.

  Cass Turnbull   founder of Plant Amnesty, has a few things to say about this subject;

"Trees and Views-- one of my specialties. Every tree on a hillside is in the way of somebody's water view and most likely more than one person's. So where and when do you stop accommodating folks? Removing trees  devalues public property to increase the value of private property. It's a kind of gold fever that possesses people  and it is often accompanied by a sense of entitlement. 
           That's because there is a flaw in the language itself. People say 'my view'. But they do not own 'their' views or potential views. They own 'their' windows which may or may not have a view of water. What they see from their windows is reflected in the value of 'their' property. But that does not mean it belongs to them. Whether or not your neighborhood has a good school district or a low crime rate is reflected in the value of your house and you have no control over that. So the term 'my view'  implies ownership and moral rights they do not possess . Maybe if they paid their neighbor for rights to the air above them they could call it 'their view'.
      When the neighbor has a garage that is located between your window and Mount Rainier,  you don't expect him to take it down.  People dont regard trees as having value and being deserving of respect. Why? They are too common and they are free, you know like air and water. Trees mostly just happen  in the Pacific Northwest  and they grow for free .       The benefits of trees are ongoing, cumulative and they accrue to the public-- like sequestering carbon  making oxygen, cooling the hot City,  breaking heavy rainfall which causes our waterways to become polluted, cleaning the air,  preventing mudslides and providing habitat.  But  removing a tree or trees benefits an individual by giving them a nice view and raising their property value. A view does not benefit the public, a tree benefits everybody.
     Views change. A tree may grow up and become the view, where once there was a view of water. Or a tree may die or be cut down by a neighbor who owns it or a storm. Then you have a new view which you may like better, or in many other cases, worse.  In any case looking at a tree is not the hardship that looking directly into a neighbor's window is. Last I heard there was a right to privacy, not a right to a view.
   The govt folks get endless calls and complaints about trees growing up and blocking views. But those bureaucrats never have to deal with upset people who demand to know where the trees they want to see are gone. 

I just read some legal wording from the National Environmental Policy Act. NEPA.. "individually minor but collectively significant actions taking place over a period of time..."40CIR 1508.7.
That's what the removal of trees is.
     For literally decades people have been trying to get Seattle to adopt a meaningful tree ordinance managing trees on private property. You could do me a favor email the council and the mare suggesting it's time for a real Tree Preservation Ordinance. Of course it may have been one of them who said ok to the trees being cut down. My deepest sympathy."

As you can see, there are two sides to this story, This Blog being one, the Homeowners Association have their own, with historical precedent and real property values on the line. This issue is being discussed by Park and Rec staff to manage expectations of current stakeholders of this site. We will update as events unfold. Comment is encouraged.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

fall updates

Summer of our discontent

Die, Monster, Die
tools of the trade
 Mt. Baker Park is really a garden.  Like any man made structure it needs maintenance; weeding, mulching, planting.  Now is the season for weeding the large woody invasive species: Butterfly Bush, Himilayian Blackberry, Hawthorn, Cherry, Holly and Laurel.  We have pulled all the smaller stems with shovel and weed wrench, now we have to make the larger ones into a dead snag for wildlife habitat and to make room for the conifers we have planted.

Add Copper Wire

 The large invasive have their purpose; they provide canopy in the hot summer, and habitat until the conifers are able to make a canopy of their own. They have crowded out the native maples and cedars, the understory natives as well have suffered from the aggressive holly and laurel, and the blackberry has suffocated all the varieties of groundcover that a healthy forest has.  Now the time has come when the plants are at maximum photosyntheses production, when they are drawing water from the soil and pushing it out to the leaves, when the leaves send sugars down to the roots. A technique of poisoning the trees is to drive copper nails into the cambial layer, sending oxidizing metal into the leaves, in this case I am drilling through the tree, and putting copper wire into the hole, an experiment for the summer.

The planting is done and all we can do now is wait and hope we put enough mulch down to keep the roots wet until the fall rains come. The forest is filled with the sounds of children playing at the beach, motor boats on the lake, ice cream vendors and fireworks. Summer in the city is a beautiful and terrible thing to behold.

The trees are leafed out as full as they will become this year, a deep canopy of broadleaf maple and indian plum keeps the tender hemlock and cedar saplings cool and wet for now.  Parts of the seep are drying into hard concrete consistency, the open canopy in the middle of the site is cleared now and the sun is sapping the moisture from the soil, making it necessary to get a good layer of mulch over any bare ground exposed from removing ivy and blackberry. Pockets of oregon grape, thimble berry, cascara and hazlenut are scattered around the clearing.  The plants have been ordered for fall, now we weed and wait.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Feb 8th 2014

One of the driest winters in living memory puts a little stress on the planting that we have done lately

The multiple hard frosts have laid the sword ferns flat, conserving water until the rains come again. Tonight we have a unusually heavy snow for seattle, the first precipitation in two weeks, hopefully more to come in the next weeks.

A large group came from starbucks on the Martin Luther King day of sharing event January 20th, a new tradition of voluntarism that holiday has spurred.
About 50 people in all, moving 40 yards of wood chips up the hill into the deep woods, clearing english ivy on the clay lens area.
The physical work is accompanied by the shared memory of the site by our legacy forest steward Del, he has contributed the last 8 years of his retirement tirelessly advocating and working directly to reforest the Mt. Baker natural area.
Proof that you can't have a future if you don't have a past, Del is the inspiration for the next generation of forest stewards. Our lives as homo sapians are brief on this earth compared to arboreal life, the story of Mt. Baker park will be written in the trees and plant matrix that Del has planted here.

We had a visit from GSP biologist Gillian Weed to evaluate the site for the Natural Area Crew (NAC) to assist with special tools in cutting the Himalayan Blackberry  thicket in the middle of the site and removing large invasive trees like Holly and Hawthorn.  She also began her career in neighboring Coleman park as a crew leader and had several hard won lessens to tell us about making compost 'rafts' of weeds we pull and proper placement in planting.

The Next big work day is March 8th, with the NAC team assisting, and hopefully more mulch delivered.