olympicsThis morning I went to Discovery Park for a volunteer service project. I make regular use of this HUGE water-front park (larger than some state parks I’ve been in) so it seemed like an excellent way to spend the morning giving back. REI sponsored the vent and provided copious snacks and drinks, so much so that I kind of regretted showing up fully fed and fully caffeinated. It was just above freezing at 10am with some frost on the ground, but the sky was clear and the sun was bright. With temperatures rising, the Olympic Mountains across the Puget Sound were gleaming down on us with crystal clarity. About 30ish other volunteers were on hand, from across the spectrum.

On the official agenda was removal of invasive species, mulching of previously planted natives, general site maintenance and planting of native species. I grabbed a shovel & work gloves and prepared to channel my inner Druid (Dagmar, Everquest I, still the greatest). Park employees and naturalists were on hand for a basic overview of the plants we’d be handling; Snowberries, Oregon Grape, and native Wild Roses and a couple other special guests (later).

snowberresApparently the Snowberries are favorites with the parents and kids and Wild Roses appealed to the traditional gardeners. The Oregon Grape, however, is the large, wild variety, not the small, modest, ground crawling one found in landscaping. This is the 5 meter monster which gardeners fear taking hold in their yards (as one informed me when I showed an interest in them). It has thorny leaves and also requires the largest hole of all the plants present today. Because of all of this, it was the “last kid” picked of the batch. Naturally, I knew it was the one for me.

Some folks worked in small teams or pairs, but I was fine alone. After the first 4-5 plantings, I no longer needed a jacket and found a long-sleeved sweat shirt to be plenty warm. I had a couple great chats with nearby folks and park naturalists about Pine Blight, American Chestnuts and so forth; some really great, knowledgeable folks.

After planting my first 8 Oregon Grapes, I was moved over to another spot for my final 4 Oregon Grapes (for a grand total of 12, probably close to half the ones in our location). I gained a younger helper of sorts, who was in charge of returning my empty planting buckets, making sure I did not chop any worms in half or uproot any mushrooms and also inspecting upturned rocks to make sure they weren’t artifacts (one actually was a old, letter-stamped brick from the area’s military days).

I switched to Wild Roses for a while, but honestly, “Team Rose” was very impressive and I only got 5 of these into the ground before we were finished with them.

I was about to hand in my shovel, when one of the Park employees pointed out some of the “special” plants that hadn’t been part of the intial planting effort.  I had no idea Hazel was native to the Pacific Northwest but apparently there is indeed a native species. Being a huge lifetime fan of Nutella, I was delighted and eagerly set to work putting 4 of these wonderful trees to ground.

Home, shower, more coffee and a hearty lunch. A good way to spend the morning.