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June 22nd, 2015

12:43 pm - June Work Party with Friends of North Beach Park

It’s coming up soon! Here are the details:

The June work party of Friends of North Beach Park will happen on Saturday, June 27, 2015. The location will be the South Plateau, at 88th St. and 27th Ave NW. The work party will run from 9 a.m. to noon. Your host will be Drexie Malone.

We’ll be providing after care to the native plants reintroduced to the South Plateau in the last couple years. This will include removing competing plants that can hinder their growth or completely choke them out.

We’ll provide tools, gloves, and guidance. Please wear weather appropriate layers than can get dirty. The temperature is currently forecast to be in the upper 80s, so please be sure to bring plenty of cold water and take frequent rest breaks. It would help to drink some extra water before heading to the park, as well as bringing extra with you. Because of the presence of stinging nettle, long-sleeved t-shirts and long pants are recommended. Having said all that, the South Plateau is very shady and the work planned is not very strenuous.

To get to the South Plateau: From the intersection of 24th Ave NW and NW 85th St., head west on 85th St (Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church will be on your right). At the intersection of 26th Ave and 85th St., turn right (North). Drive north on 26th Ave. for a long block until the intersection with 88th St., which will be on your left. Turn left onto 88th St. and look for parking. The entrance to the South Plateau is about half a block north on 27th Ave. The #48 bus line stops at 85th and 26th; the #40 bus line stops at 85th and 24th. Check http://metro.kingcounty.gov/#plan-a-trip for exact details.

If you have any questions about the work party or Friends of North Beach Park, feel free to write lukemcguff@yahoo.com for further information.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


June 7th, 2015

09:58 am - Books Read May
Two books read and one bounce, which is still two more than I thought I'd have. I got bogged down in a long book that I didn't finish until early June. Anyway, here are the May books:

Feral Cities: Adventures with Animals in the Urban Jungle
Tristan Donovan
Chicago Review Press, 2015
A fun, light read about the wild animals that live in cities with us -- from raccoons in Berlin to leopards in Mumbai, rattlesnakes in Phoenix and African land snails in Miami to foxes in London and subterranean crabs in Rome. Donovan looks at who the animals are, how they came to be in cities, how they fare in cities, and what problems they cause. In all cases, the answers are varied and surprising. He talks to people doing on the ground research and control of animal species, and examines the issues using references that range from scholarly articles and books to blog posts. In the final chapter, he looks at how we can use cities as conservation agents, improve them as homes for the animals that live with us. Full review at Nature Intrudes.

Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll
Peter Bebergal
Penguin, 2015
Decided this was not relevant to my interests before I finished the introduction. However, it was highly recommended, and it might be relevant to YOUR interests.

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife
Meg Ellison
Sybaritic Press, 2014
A very bleak post-apocalypse novel about a plague that wipes out 90% of males and 99% of females and children. Circumstances allowed me to read it basically in one go, which got me very wrapped up in it. Sections are written as if straight out of a diary, others are written in third person. For most of the book, I thought it was as bleak as "We Who Are About To..." by Joanna Russ, but it has a happy ending. Well, some form of culture starts to rebuild but the basic existential questions are still unanswered.

(4 comments | Leave a comment)

May 13th, 2015

09:00 am - Feral Cities

Tristan Donovan
Chicago Review Press, 2015.

An engaging read about the wild animals that live in cities with us — from raccoons in Berlin to leopards in Mumbai, rattlesnakes in Phoenix and African land snails in Miami, to foxes in London and subterranean crabs in Rome.

These animals have come to be in cities in many ways. Raccoons are not native to Berlin, but were escapees after the brief fad for raccoon coats in the early days of automobiles. Foxes in London had the city built up around them – it’s not that they were pushed out of the city and moved back, but they stuck around when new food sources presented themselves. African land snails were imported by accident.

Living in the city affects the animals in many ways, — good, bad, and neutral. Bird song has to change to adapt to city noise, such as getting louder, changing pitch, or both; birds colliding with skyscrapers is a problem for Chicago, which is on the Great Mississippi flyway. In many cases, such as coyotes and foxes, the animals live longer, healthier, and with much smaller ranges than in the wild. The smaller ranges happen because food is more abundant; this results in greater density, which can be a problem if there’s an infectious disease outbreak such as mange. Another change that happens across many species is animals becoming nocturnal in the city, as that helps them avoid humans.

Donovan talks to people doing on the ground research and control of animal species, and examines the issues using references that range from scholarly articles and to general interest books, news articles, and blog posts. In the final chapter (which provides a good, inspiring end to the book), he looks at how we can use cities as conservation agents and not only improve them as homes for the animals that live with us, but bring more animals into the city.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


May 5th, 2015

05:31 am - GiveBIG for North Beach Park — today!

When we began working on North Beach Park, there were numerous places where ivy formed a monoculture on the ground. Looking back, we think about 40% of the trees had ivy up into their crown.

Today, the only places with ivy monocultures are areas that are too steep for anyone but professional crews to work. And Less than 5% of the trees have ivy up into their crowns. In many places of the park, a new generation of trees and shrubs are establishing and in a few years they will become luxurious groves of saplings, shrubs, and groundcover. We’ve seen native plants spring back after invasive removal.

However, there is still plenty of work to be done to restore North Beach Park. There is ivy, blackberry, holly, laurel and bindweed to remove. The alder and big leaf maple trees are at the end of their normal lifespan, and falling at about the rate of three to five a year. This makes it imperative that we keep working to establish a healthy, mixed conifer-deciduous urban forest.

Your donation today, as part of Give BIG, will help us continue this important restoration work. Your generous donation would help us buy more plants and replace tools that are falling apart. Even if you’ve already contributed to another organization, $10 or $15 for Friends of North Beach Park will be a tremendous help for us.

Please donate at this link: The Seattle Foundation | Friends of North Beach Park today. The Seattle Foundation will stretch a portion of your donation. Your generosity will be greatly appreciated and put to good use.

I and all the Friends of North Beach Park thank you.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


April 30th, 2015

06:15 pm - Books Read April
Only three books this month.

The Good Rain: Across Time and Terrain in the Pacific Northwest
Timothy Egan
Vintage Departures, 1990
Egan compares the state of the Pacific Northwest in the late 80s (when the book was written) to a travelogue written in 1853. The region doesn't fare well, after 130 years of serving various extraction industries which only get more rapacious with time. Beautifully written, at times very hard to read because of the beauty of the writing and the degradation of our landscape. Full review at http://www.natureintrudes.net/2015/04/12/the-good-rain/

The Bone Clocks
David Mitchell
Random House, 2014
Bounced off of this one, 117 (of 624) pages into it. The opening section didn't feel real to me, and although I liked the parts of the second section I got to, they weren't that thrilling. One of the bad creatures in the book introduces himself to the first protagonist by making the kind of leading statements I find really annoying -- "What did you do with Sacred Clock of the Timekeepers? You must have known it would all come to folly when the Psychopomps intuited your plot." Or something -- that's not a direct quote, just an example. Neither the reader nor the protagonist knows what the bad creature is talking about; it's all supposed to be mysterious and portending of danger, but it just feels to me like the seams are showing too obviously. Sometimes when I'm in the middle of a book, I look up other reviews. The New Yorker review convinced me to move on.

The Angel of Losses
Stephanie Feldman
Harper Collins, 2014
I liked this book, but think I'd have liked it better if I'd understood the cultural references more deeply. It did make me wonder why I'm more receptive to Jewish mythology in fiction but Catholic or Christian mythology make my skin crawl. Maybe it's that Jewish mythology is distant enough to accept as mythological, but having been raised Roman Catholic, Christian mythology is too close to me. Like someone who quits smoking and can't be around smokers ever again.

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April 12th, 2015

07:02 pm - The Good Rain

Across Time and Terrain in the Pacific Northwest
Timothy Egan
Vintage Departures, 1991

This book, written in the late 1980s (and published in the early 1990s) chronicles a journey and all its reflections brought on by a chance thought: while distributing the ashes of his grandfather, Egan becomes curious about how the glacier he visits got its name.

I take Grandpa out of the pack and set him next to a rock. No wind. From below comes a marmot whistle, a high pierce. I think: Winthrop. What is an old Puritan’s name doing up here, on the frozen side of a mountain that wasn’t even spotted by white men until after the Revolutionary War? What cartographer’s trick, or cheap flatter, placed the name Winthrop here, a country of noble Indian names — Tacoma, the original word for this mountain; Sluiskin Falls, named for the native who first led whites to the demon-dwelling pit of fire at the summit; Ohanapecosh, where the rivers meet below. Most of the English names were coined by syphilitic prospectors and timber beasts — the Frying Pan Glacier, Old Scab Mountain, Anvil Rock, Panhandle Gap. Why Winthrop? It’s too genteel for this massive chunk of glacial anarchy….

This leads Egan to discover that Theodore Winthrop named the glacier in 1853, during a summer visit to the Pacific Northwest. He also wrote a book called The Canoe and the Saddle, which Egan buys from a rare books dealer. In 1853, Winthrop traveled from Vancouver Island through Puget Sound and then up the Columbia River. More than 130 years later, Egan makes the same journey, chronicling the differences.

The journey is at times harrowing, amusing, sublime, and tragic. Egan’s writing throughout is beautiful. This beauty makes it painful, at times, as when he’s talking about the extraction industries that have nearly destroyed the Pacific Northwest. Each chapter visits a locale that Winthrop visited in 1853, usually at about the same time of year as Winthrop did. Egan uses the location to focus on a particular aspect of the PNW, examining, for instance, Vancouver’s role in the British Empire, the development of the red delicious apple, or a nearly-forgotten court case that made the first cracks in the Communist with hunts (with tragic long-term aftereffects). Particularly hard for me to read was chapter 10, “Salmon,” which looked at the extent to which the rivers of the NW have been dammed, and what that has cost our our rivers. Hydropower is not “clean” at all. The rivers are shallower, slower, warmer, less alive. Salmon runs that used to number in the millions now number in the thousands, on a good year.

At times, I found his writing to be a little heavy-handed, and there were the occasional missteps such as referring to a woman ranger as a “rangerette.” But overall I found “The Good Rain” to be a fine, if saddening, read about the state of the Pacific Northwest in recent history.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


April 7th, 2015

11:26 am - Complete Plant List

Combined plant record

The attached PDF is an edit of a spreadsheet that lists every one of the plants in North Beach Park either (a) seen growing in the park; or (b) planted as part of the restoration efforts; or (c) listed in a target forest type but not yet planted (very few of those). The total is 160, of which 41 (a little over 25%) are invasive.

I’ve left in the columns that give the form (tree, shrub, etc), wetland status, and a few other things which are explained in the notes at the bottom of the file. For an explanation of target forest types, please see this post.

I’ve edited OUT the columns for each of the habitat management units (ie, “HWB”, “CV”, etc.) Those columns get a “G” (for Growing) or an “R” (for planted during Restoration).

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


April 5th, 2015

10:13 am - Books read March
13-17 for the year. I'm also going to include the sources (and links to sources) of how I heard of the book when I can, and some more information at the end of the post. All these books are available from the Seattle Public Library or your local independent bookstore.

Mat Johnson
Spiegel & Grau, 2011
For about the first half of this book, I laughed a few times every page. It was such delicious, bitter satire, and the style fit the subject matter and the send-up so well. "Pym" is about a professor of literature who becomes obsessed with The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, which only deepens when he's denied tenure (he's denied tenure because he refuses to join the diversity committee or write about exclusively African-American authors). This becomes an alternate word book, you could say, in which The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym is true. After the first half, the book takes a more serious turn that was less humorous but just as gripping. It has a happy ending. Well, I thought it did. (Source: recommended by Nisi Shawl at Potlatch.)

Love is the Drug
Alaya Dawn Johnson
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2014
For a while I thought this was a book Johnson had written before The Summer Prince, but hadn't been able to publish until that book's success. However, it was just as good as The Summer Prince so who knows. By the end of the book I was pretty involved with the characters and thought the resolution worked. As with The Summer Prince, I'd like somebody to make a YouTube playlist of the music referenced. (Source: ??)

The Monkey's Voyage: The Improbable Journeys that Shaped the History of Life
Alan de Queiroz
An examination of the history of the idea of how animal life dispersed around the world. At first, biogeographers thought that animals had dispersed across oceans, as improbable or impossible as that might seem. But with growing knowledge of plate tectonics, it became "obvious" that animals had spread across Gondwana, and then were separated from their cousins by the separation of the continents. This was so obvious, that fossil record disagreements with the theory were dismissed as being unreliable. Better understanding of the molecular clock, however, has lead to a reaffirmation the idea of oceanic dispersal. NOTE: I have a longer review at my restoration blog, Nature Intrudes. (Source: Found the author's website while looking for reviews of another book.)

The Emperor's Blades: Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne, Book 1
Brian Staveley
Another bounce, I got to page 42 or so. Just didn't care for the writing style or the world very much. Still felt like a bog-standard fantasy world, even though the author made sure to point out that the people in it were not just northern European-esque. This came from i09's Best of 2014, so I probably didn't give it enough of a chance.

The UnAmericans
Molly Antopol
This collection of stories has been called "novels in miniature in a couple reviews." These aren't the "nothing happens" stories so stereotypic of mainstream literature; they span decades, generations, wars, and social strata. The writing can seem very direct, but then a bit of description would leave me nearly breathless. These stories portray community and family in a way you don't see much in mainstream literature: as things to be valued. Many stories have a woman or girl trying to break free of family, but choosing to return. (Source: ??)

The demographics: Four were fiction, one nonfiction. Three were by men, two were by women. Three were by people of color. All five were by USAians.

The one linked source: http://io9.com/the-best-science-fiction-and-fantasy-books-of-2014-1676427116

So, in the Excel file were I log books read, I made another spreadsheet were I list the book, author, and the source for my interest in reading it. Most of my reading of the next several months will come from the io9 article above and the following lists:

19 Science-Fiction And Fantasy Novels By Women Of Color You Must Read

The 27th Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalists -- quite a few came from this list.

20 Female Harlem Renaissance Writers You Should Know


Another source for some of the books I'll read eventually is listed as "10 Books for the World," which I lost the URL for. It was an article listing books for YA readers that take place in different countries of the world.

My process for selecting books to read for the last while has been lists compiled for various reasons -- awards, suggestions, etc. Since K. Tempest Bradford proposed what has come to be called The Tempest Challenge, I've made special effort to seek out lists of works by people of color and women. There are several works by white men on the io9 best of 2014 list, so I'm not taking the Tempest challenge as such.

I also thought, for a while, that one thing preventing me from taking the Tempest Challenge is that I read so much natural history nonfiction, so much about restoration and ecology, and that's mostly written about by white men. But then I realized: That's exactly the mindset that Tempest is arguing against, the passive acceptance of whatever the stacked deck of publishing deals you. So I'm also going to make special effort to seek out nonfiction by women and people of color. Some of those reviews will be posted to Nature Intrudes (I hope).

Now I'm off to add the Tiptree honor list and Philip K. Dick shortlist to me every-burgeoning library hold list.

(2 comments | Leave a comment)

March 25th, 2015

01:20 pm - The Monkey’s Voyage

Alan de Queiroz
Basic Books, 2014

How do species disperse – how do they get from one place to another? This is the kind of question that appears to have a ready answer, but experts can spend a lifetime debating. It’s easy to see birds flying in their migrations, or mammals moving across continents. How did trees get across oceans? How did amphibians get to islands? How did monkeys get to South America? The answer to these questions not only has ramifications to evolution, but to the history of life on Earth. And scientists have been debating them since the beginning of the study of evolution.

Although perplexing and difficult to imagine, before we knew about plate tectonics, ocean crossings were the only possible choice. Darwin did some experiments in seed viability, and a lot of people talked about land bridges that no longer existed.

As we learned more about plate tectonics and the deep past of the Earth, it became obvious that most of the dispersal happened by species being isolated by Gondwana (the supercontinent) breaking up. No ocean crossings necessary. Soon enough, the idea of life as a relic of the Gondwanan break up was pervasive to the point of becoming a truism. Ocean crossings were dismissed as almost magical. The incompleteness of the fossil record was no help: the oldest fossil of a species only tells us how old a species might be; it could have been around for a long time before the unlikely set of events that create fossils happened.

Now, scientists studying the question of dispersal use DNA analysis and the molecular clock to provide new evidence that weighs more strongly in favor of ocean crossings. The molecular clock, despite its limitations, can provide more statistical evidence as to when speciation occurs than the fossil record or any other tool we’ve had to date. This statistical evidence can be combined with improved dating, greater knowledge of the continental positions in deep time, and other evidence to build convincing cases for oceanic dispersal. The hypothesis that monkeys rafted from Africa to South America may not ever be “falsifiable” in the way that mathematics or physics hypotheses are falsifiable, but enough evidence can be built in its favor to show that despite improbability, given enough time, it’s the most likely explanation.

This is the “plot synopsis” version of de Queiroz’s book, and like all plot synopses makes a tapestry into a threadbare towel. In examining the basic question of how life disperses, de Queiroz looks at aspects of the philosophy and history of science, how science is engaged by its practitioners – in the field, in academic journals, and in the realm of personal politics. It looks like there is finally enough agreed-on evidence to provide basis for further research.

This is the kind of science book that I like because it engages me in a subject I had little knowledge of, and thought I had little interest in.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


March 23rd, 2015

09:00 am - Conclusion

From late August through December, 2014, I was publishing roughly a chapter a week of my MEH project on Nature Intrudes. I got close to the end but hit a sticking point for some reason. Here, for what it’s worth, is the final chapter of the project, called… wait for it… Conclusion. In fact, this was newly revised this week.

Immediate Plans

This document was originally written in Summer, 2014. At that time, implementation of the WNPS stewardship grant, further monitoring and control of the south plateau street runoff, and monitoring of the 24th ave. wall conduit during a rain event were considered primary.

This revision of the original document is being written in March, 2015. We will look at the plans for 2014 as originally outlined and how they have been carried out. For 2015, we will look at the efforts to date, and project for the rest of the year.

We then look at possible scenarios for 2021 and 2061, ten and fifty years after restoration began, respectively.

The rest of 2014


The August work party returned to the areas cleared in January and February to prepare them for planting in November. August work parties are generally the lowest-attended of the year, and there were only three volunteers.


The September work party was held in the South Plateau, and included almost twenty students from Seattle Pacific University participating in their “CityQuest” program. We did extensive weeding, mulched some bare areas, and built a couple composting platforms.


The October work party featured the first phase of planting for the WNPS stewardship grant. Please see “Stewardship Grant” for details. Working with students from North Seattle College’s iCare program, we planted 450 plugs of obligate wetland, which were 50 each of Carex amplifolia, Deschampsia Caespitosa, and Juncus ensifolius; and 100 each of Carex stipata, Glyceria striata, and Scirpus microcarpus.


In November, we executed the first phase of installing the plant provided by Green Seattle Partnership. The work was carried out in the Central Valley, Headwaters Bowl, and the North Slope. We were joined by students from North Seattle College’s iCare program and Circle K International, from the UW.


In early December, a large Acer macrophyllum (Big leaf maple) at the base of the North Slope fell across the trail to the Central Valley, landing in areas A and B (see figure below). It blocked access to an area that had been cleared in 2011 and had received heavy planting in the meantime. Luckily, a lot of plants survived the collapse. Enough of the main stem remained standing to create a new snag, and the fallen wood and brush added a lot of woody debris to both the stream and the wetlands.

The tree fell from the North Slope side of the trail across area A (blue) and into area B (red) in this image.

The tree fell from the North Slope side of the trail across area A (blue) and into area B (red) in this image.

The tree fall created a large gap on the North Slope. Forest stewards removed many holly suckers and shoots from the ground and logged the holly trees for removal. This gap will receive some attention from Natural Area Crews in 2015, focusing on invasive removal, erosion control, and upland planting.



The January work party featured the installation of some upland plants into open areas of the South Plateau. We were joined by members of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity from the UW. One forest steward worked on the water channel, creating a meander to help spread the flow across the surface of the plateau.


The February work party featured the implementation of the second half of the WNPS stewardship grant. In this case, we were planting facultative wetland trees and shrubs. Doug Gresham (a wetland scientist) helped immensely by sorting the trees and shrubs by where they fell in the gradient from wetland to upland. Although this planting was late in the season, the plants are likely to do well because they are in fairly wet areas of the park.


March will have a site review with Parks Department staff and forest stewards to prioritize Natural Area Crew work in the park for 2015. March will also feature Friends of North Beach Park tabling at and participating in Groundswell Northwest’s “Civic Social.” The March work party will feature clearing new areas for the fall planting.


In April, Friends of North Beach Park will table at the “Natural Area and Greenbelt Mini Summit Open House,” sponsored by the Parks Department. Some plans to open parks designated as Natural Areas to more active recreation are very controversial. The April work party will again feature clearing new areas for fall planting.


We have not previously had a work party in May for a couple reasons: First, it’s the height of nesting season, which is a good reason to stay out of the forest if at all possible. Second, the 4th Saturday schedule puts in in Memorial Day weekend, when many people want to get out of town if at all possible. However, an opportunity presented itself to have a largish group work in the park. We will work in the South Plateau with middle school youth from the “Bureau of Fearless Ideas.” The work will be weeding of quick-seeding annual weeds such as wall lettuce and nipplewort. This will be part one of a two-part writing workshop for the youth, coordinated by Green Seattle Partnership.

June through November

The work done in these months has started to follow a regular pattern: In June and July, we use the stream to water plants located at the rim of the park and other dry areas. August might feature more watering or a return to invasive removal. In September, we again hope to host students from Seattle Pacific University at the South Plateau. October and/or November will feature planting from GSP supplied plants.


The Seattle Metropolitan Parks District comes into being in 2016. Many groups are already meeting to make sure the new funding has a positive impact. Exactly how this will affect forest stewards and Green Seattle Partnership is unclear, although it is likely to increase funding for Natural Area Crews and forest steward resources.


2021 is ten years after the start of restoration. If FoNBP is able to keep working with the same energy and quality of work, it’s likely that all of the volunteer and forest steward-accessible areas of the park will be in at least Phase 1 of restoration, and that all the slopes requiring crew time will have received at least an initial invasive removal.

The existing monocultures will have been eradicated, and forest stewards will work on restoration using methods that avoid disrupting the soil and shrub layer as much as possible. During the early stages of Phase 1 of new restoration, we will introduce a new conifer generation. During the Phase 2 and 3 restoration, we will increase shrub and groundlayer diversity and introduce a new deciduous generation.

Some well-established areas of restoration, such as the South Plateau and the Headwaters Bowl, will be approaching Phase 4. When a restoration site enters Phase 4 restoration, we will introduce a new conifer generation. Please see “Success Metrics” for a discussion of the restoration phases.

On the other hand, NBP loses one to three deciduous trees a year to age and failure. This means that by 2021 we will have lost between 10 and 30 mature deciduous trees, with a consequent enlargement of canopy gaps. These gaps can provide beneficial edge effects, and the greater light levels on the forest floor will stimulate conifer and shrub growth. But the increased light will also make the park more susceptible to sun-loving weeds and grasses. Each fall must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. The rate of fall means that removing ivy from trees has to continue to be a priority. A tree with ivy on the trunk and into the canopy that fell into a cleared area would recontaminate it.


This is much more difficult to predict, not least because of the possible effects of climate change. But 50 years is also much longer than the lifespan of a typical “Friends of” group. It would be unrealistically optimistic to suggest that the “Friends of North Beach Park” will have continued in a recognizable form for so long. However, continuing restoration, whether through FoNBP or another agency, is the only prediction I can make.

It’s likely that by 2061 North Beach Park will have a well-established young conifer forest. Surviving conifers that had been planted at the start of restoration will be at the mid-canopy, halfway between the shrub layer and mature trees. The mature canopy is likely to be made up of the few current mature conifers, with some regenerating deciduous trees that are currently at the mid-canopy level. This layer will be much patchier than currently.

Even optimistic scenarios say that the average temperature will be noticeably warmer mid-century than it is now. It is likely the increasing warmth will disrupt existing plant communities. There will be new invasive plants, both from the introduction of new exotic species and plants from southern areas moving north.

If we can maintain enough canopy, the shade and cooling will help mitigate the effects of climate change. The wet, nutrient rich soils will also greatly aid the establishment and survival of the plants installed there, mitigating to some degree the stress of increased temperatures.

I have two optimistic hopes for the future, in regards to North Beach Park. Neither can be considered a “prediction.”

One is that this ravine, and other riparian ravines in Seattle and the lower Puget Trough, will be restored with an eye to becoming refugia, habitats for plants and trees at all forest layers that would otherwise be threatened or endangered by climate change. They might be completely novel ecologies compared to plant communities today, incorporating plants from different ranges.

The other is that socially, I hope that stewardship is seen not as something done for five or even ten years, but is something that one does for one’s entire life, and that it affects all phases of life choices. The forest doesn’t end, why should stewardship?

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


March 22nd, 2015

11:58 am - March Work party Announcement!

Whew — the planting is all done! We’d like to give a big shout-out once again to the Washington Native Plant Society for the Stewardship Grant that made all this planting possible, to Doug Gresham for all his technical advice, and to ALL the people who helped on site with the planting. Friends of North Beach Park thanks you, the birds thank you, and future generations, if we’re lucky, will think everything looks untouched by human hands.

Now it’s time to move on… to preparing for next fall’s planting!

On Saturday, March 28th, we’ll start the invasive removal that’s an important part of restoration. Maybe not as much fun as planting, but you have to make room, right?

We will meet at 9 a.m. at the main entrance to the park at 24th Ave. NW and NW 90th St. The work party will last until noon. We will likely need to transport some mulch into the park.

Please sign up in advance so we know you’re coming.

Remember to wear weather-appropriate layers that can get dirty and to bring water or a snack if you need them. We provide tools, gloves, and guidance. All ages are welcome; volunteers under 18 must sign and bring a waiver (link next to the sign-up form). The #48 bus stops a few blocks south of the park; check Metro for details. Parking is available on 90th St. east of 24th Ave.

If you can’t join us in March, save the date for April 25th. Sign up here.

As always, you can support Friends of North Beach Park by making a directed donation to the Seattle Parks Foundation. All money donated will be used to fund the restoration efforts of North Beach Park.

And if you’re interested in sustainable cities, and some of the transportation issues facing Seattle, please take a few minutes to take this SDOT survey. It relates to the Move Seattle levy coming up this fall, and has some questions relating to the urban forest.

If you have any questions about the work party or Friends of North Beach Park, feel free to write lukemcguff@yahoo.com for further information.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


March 18th, 2015

09:00 am - The Conscientious Gardener

The Conscientious Gardener: Cultivating a Garden Ethic
Sarah Hayden Reichard
University of California Press, 2011

An important aspect of ecological restoration is the private garden. By adding native plants, decreasing the use of pesticides, more carefully recycling and reusing materials, the home gardener can, in aggregate, have a tremendous impact on the landscape as a whole.

In “The Conscientious Gardener: Cultivating a Garden Ethic,” Sarah Reichard (Director of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens) lays out the principles of the garden ethic as inspired by Aldo Leopold’s “land ethic” – that is, being aware of not just the plants in your garden, but the web of interactions with the soil, the sun, the water, and the other plants and life forms. She describes the problems of the home gardener, such as over watering or over use of fertilizers and pesticides, citing both general and technical literature. She also describes many solutions that can work in all areas of the country.

She is a strong advocate for native plants, of course, but does NOT advocate ripping out your entire garden. Natives can be integrated with general horticultural plants to great effect. Using the same horticultural plants can makes gardens look alike the whole world around, but if everyone were to rip out all exotic plants, we’d be left with PNW filled with the few horticultural workhorses. We’d be left with LESS diversity in our gardens, not more. Integrating the gardens with native and exotic horticultural plants is the way to go.

Being aware of the interconnectedness of all gardens, of how they connect to local watersheds, the wildlife that might come from a nearby park or greenbelt, or even the garden next door, can help guide one’s choices. Maybe use a less water hungry plant, or decrease the VERY resource-hungry lawn. Widen the bloom time of your garden to increase food for pollinators. Add plants that will go to seed and provide food for birds. Leave the seed heads for the birds.

Reichard’s book is valuable because it describes things people can do in their home gardens that will have a definite impact on the environment. It’s an important part of a growing body of literature on how to increase the ecological value of the home garden.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


March 13th, 2015

09:00 am - Novel Ecologies

Between human disturbance and climate change, every environment on the planet is being affected by humanity. Will we ever get out from under all the weeds we’ve introduced? As the scope of our effect on the planet becomes larger, biologists and ecologists have begun to talk about “novel ecologies.” a concept that would accept some level of disturbance in order to bring successful restoration within reach.

Ecological restoration is the act of taking a degraded landscape and restoring it to a fully-functioning ecosystem. Examples of degraded landscapes would be a mine site, an estuary that was used as farmland, or decommissioned alpine trails and camping sites. In North Beach Park, we’re working on a patch of degraded urban forest and wetlands. It’s considered “degraded” because, when we started restoration, there was a lot of trash from the ravine being used as a dump, the canopy cover was mostly short-lived alders and big leaf maples, and the groundcover was becoming increasingly dominated by English ivy and blackberry.

Restoration in this urban park is largely being done by removing invasive plants and introducing native plants, hopefully resembling a pre-disturbance plant community well enough that it will restore the functions that it lost. North Beach Park lost diversity and functions in at least four areas: (1) root structure which holds the soil and filters water for the stream and wetlands in the park; (2) bloom times to provide food for birds, bees, and insects and those who eat them; and (3) canopy structure which provides habitat for different birds; (4) carbon sequestration provided by long-lived conifers.

But what is invasive, what is native? Whenever humans arrive in a new place, we begin introducing new species and making things less hospitable for plants and animals that lived there before us. Do we want to restore an urban park to a status it had before any human disturbance? In the Pacific Northwest, the Salish people were living here as soon as the glaciers retreated – following the glaciers north, in fact. Later, Europeans brought a whole slew of disturbances.

The Washington Native Plant Society defines a native plant as:

“…those species that occur or historically occurred within the state boundaries before European contact based upon the best available scientific and historical documentation.”

The scientific and historical documentation happened in the early and middle 19th century, but there had already been two disruptions: Beaver trapping had already greatly reduced the beaver population, disrupting river cycles; and smallpox had already reduced the human population, disrupting such cultural practices as burning to maintain open prairies. However, neither of these disruptions had nearly the impacts that occurred with settlement, agricultural development, and logging, which started around 1850.

The 19th century botanical documentation was done with an eye toward finding new plants for the British horticulture industry, not towards understanding plant interactions and communities. We get that understanding from late 20th and early 21st century practices of looking back through the historical records or studying relict patches that, as best we can determine, exist in nearly untouched conditions.

Noteworthy examinations of relict patches in the Pacific Northwest were done by Christopher Chapell (forest plants) and Linda Kunze (low-lying freshwater wetlands). Examination of the historical record was done by Ray Larson in his MS thesis, which examined the botanical records of the federal land surveyors.

Establishing nativeness for plants is difficult. Sometimes, introduced plants that “play well with others,” or are useful or attractive to humans, are considered “native.” Sometimes a species that was growing in an area prior to human disturbance is released from competitive pressure, expands its range, and we decide it’s “invasive.” You’ll never see stinging nettle or western dock on a planting list, for instance.

The documentation of historic conditions in Washington was more recent and the disruption less drastic than in other areas. In many other places in the United States, the disruption by European immigrants happened quickly and with no records at all of pre-existing conditions.

The difficulty of knowing pre-disruption conditions and uncertainty of the nativeness of plants and wildlife, and the difficulty of eradicating all the invasive species (honeybees and earthworms would be impossible to eradicate in the Pacific NW, let alone ivy and blackberry), has led some biologists to propose the concept of “novel ecologies”. That concept has since been a point of contention among invasion biologists for about 20-30 years. The idea is that some areas are so disrupted or degraded from their original conditions that they could never be restored to pre-disturbance states. Novel ecologies would allow restorationists to set some reasonable level of acceptable disturbance that would bring successful restoration within reach.

But, in my opinion, the idea of novel ecologies is too broad and too facile.

Too broad because, wherever humans are, we create a novel ecology compared to pre-settlement conditions. Too facile, because it can too easily serve short-term human purposes. Does the government want to widen river buffers from 50 to 100 yards, which would take away acres of your Christmas tree farm? You, the tree farmer, would then show that your farm is a “novel ecology” and thus protected from change.

However, we can use the idea of novel ecologies to examine our restoration efforts. If all cities are novel ecologies, should we accept them as they are or engage in restoration? What can we do to restore, rehabilitate, or reintegrate some of the functions that we’ve disrupted? Cities were built in forests; we turned the forests into areas of dense buildings interspersed with islands of parks and gardens with pretty but non-native plants. Do we want more of a forest here in the city? What can we do to allow the city to have viable forests within its perimeter?


Two books that talk about novel ecologies from a general perspective:

Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World, Emma Marris. (My review here.)

Where Do Camels Belong?: Why Invasive Species Aren’t All Bad, Ken Thompson.

Two articles that look at the concept as well:

‘New normal’ approach to conservation comes under fire by Jose Hong. This article discusses a peer-reviewed critique of the idea of novel ecologies.

Thoughts on the “New Nature”: Are Collared-Doves dangerous invaders or just birds? by Alan de Queiroz. Another article that looks at the idea of novel ecologies, discussing “Where Do Camels Belong?”, “The Urban Bestiary” (Haupt) and other books.


This article was edited by Jean Davis. All mistakes and infelicities remain with the author, me.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


March 2nd, 2015

09:15 pm - Books read February
Only three... must have been slacking.

The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle: The Dark of Deep Below
Patrick Rothfuss (words) and Nate Taylor (art)
Subterranean Press, 2013
Just as with the first "Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle", this is note a children's book. It IS a lot mellower than the original. Also longer. This one has a genuinely happy ending, with only a little gore and fewer creepy moments than the first. Having said all that... I don't think I liked it as much as the first book. It lacked the oomph.

The Antelope Wife
Louise Erdrich
HarperFlamingo, 1998
I think this is one of a series of connected novels involving a couple Native American families living in Minnesota. I've read "The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse" and really liked it. This is the second of her novels that I've read. It read like magic realism for North America. I should read more of her work.

Mat Johnson (story) and Warren Pleece (art)
Vertigo, 2008
"Incognegro" refers to a light-skinned black-identified person passing as white. One example is Walter Francis White, who passed as white to investigate lynchings in the 30s. This is the fictional story of Zane Pinchback, a reporter for a New York newspaper whose articles investigating lynchings are beginning to be syndicated even to white papers. He's sent to investigate his own brother who is about to be lynched. The double crosses pile up and the deep secrets are revealed until everything is finally straightened out. This book reveals a lot about this period of American history. It's only by facing this history that we can transcend it.

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February 28th, 2015

10:06 pm - February Work Party Report!

Another great work party today at North Beach Park! We were able to plant 150 wetland trees and shrubs with time to spare. The plants we installed were:

Scientific Name Common Name
Fraxinus latifolia Oregon ash
Malus fusca Pacific crab apple
Physocarpus capitatus Pacific ninebark
Salix lucida Pacific willow
Salix sitchensis Sitka willow

Five buckets of fun!
Five buckets of fun!

These are all “facultative wetland” plants, which means that 2/3ds of the time they are found growing in wetlands, and about 1/3 or so in slightly dryer areas. They were purchased from 4th Corner Nuseries as partial fulfillment of the Washington Native Plant Society Stewardship Grant that Friends of North Beach Park received last June. It’s been a very successful grant for us, and we look forward to seeing the results in the summer and the coming years.

We had eleven volunteers ranging in age from senior in high school on up to well retired. Here is a picture of two of them:

Spot the volunteers!
Spot the volunteers!

We installed the plants between the stream and the trail, in areas that were primarily salmonberry and red alder. They greatly increase the diversity of plant life in those areas; in a few years, they’ll be taller than the salmonberry and quite striking. Also, when they’re at their full height, they will increase the structural diversity (that’s good for birds as well visual aesthetics). We worked in two sections of the park, the Headwaters Bowl and the Central Valley.

I didn’t take very many pictures this time, but there are a few more on Flickr.

Our next two work parties are scheduled for March 28th and April 25th. We usually skip May, because of Memorial Day weekend, but we’re working on something special that should be a lot of fun. We’ll update with details as they become solidified.

Join us in the woods some time! It’s fun and a great way to meet your neighbors.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


February 20th, 2015

08:52 am - February Work Party!

February is the last planting work party of the 2014-2015 planting season in North Beach Park. This month we plant trees and shrubs purchased from Fourth Corner Nurseries as part of the Washington Native Plant Society stewardship grant. These are deciduous trees and shrubs that go well in wetlands and are under-represented or being reintroduced to North Beach Park. Specifically, we’ll be planting Pacific ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus), Oregon ash (Fraxinus latifolia), Pacific crab apple (Malus fusca), Pacific willow (Salix lucida), and Sitka willow (S. sitchensis)

On Saturday, February 28th we’ll be working in the main body of the park. We’ll be planting on the stream banks and just up the slopes from the bottom of the wetlands.

We will meet at the main entrance to the park at 24th Ave. NW and NW 90th St. and will head into the park shortly after 9. The work party will last until noon. Some areas will need some preparation before being planted. And we’ll mulch as much as we can.

Please sign up in advance so we know you’re coming.

Remember to wear weather-appropriate layers that can get dirty and to bring water or a snack if you need them. We provide tools, gloves, and guidance. All ages are welcome; volunteers under 18 must sign and bring a waiver (link next to the sign-up form). The #48 bus stops a few blocks south of the park; check Metro for details. Parking is available on 90th St. east of 24th Ave.

This is the second planting work party installing plants purchased with the WNPS grant. The first was in October, at which we planted wetland-obligate grasses.

As always, if you don’t have the time to join us for a work party, you can support Friends of North Beach Park by making a directed donation to the Seattle Parks Foundation.

All money donated will be used to fund the restoration efforts of North Beach Park.

If you have any questions, feel free to write lukemcguff@yahoo.com for further information.

Thanks! We look forward to seeing you there.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


February 1st, 2015

11:57 am - Books January
Not "books read" because I didn't finish one and bounced off two others (the difference being how far I got into the book).

Madeleine Ashby
Angry Robot, 2013
Second in a set of three books about von Neumann machines coming into human culture. At first I was annoyed by some character interaction at the start of the book, but something happened that was quite gripping and kept me intrigued throughout. I like the little jokes that refer to other robot movies and books (mostly movies, particularly Blade Runner).

Starbird Murphy and the World Outside
Karen Finneyfrock
Viking, 2014
Starbird Murphy has been raised on a farm (outside Bellingham) that started as a utopian commune in the early 70s. It's a bit decayed now: the charismatic leader left a couple years before the novel opens, supposedly to look for her older brother, who also disappeared unexpectedly. No one has heard from the leader for a while. Starbird leaves the farm for the World Outside, Seattle. I thought the details of Starbird encountering the world outside were well done, but they didn't go deep enough for me. Finneyfrock is a poet, so the descriptions were occasionally vivid and the writing overall is quite good. Finneyfrock also avoids the more lurid possibilities of utopian communes with charismatic leaders. At times it seems a little predictable (the complicated project is pulled off to great acclaim, but claims a personal price) but finally the choices Starbird has to make are deep and defining.

California BOUNCE
Edan Lepucki
Little, Brown, 2014
I bounced off of this one, didn't make it through the first chapter. Too much of it seemed completely unrealistic to me. For one thing (and not the least) I've never seen a glass turkey baster.

NB: I posted to Facebook asking if anyone had seen a glass turkey baster and found out, in fact, that such things do exist. There were other details about the division of labor in their supposed survivalist duo that really bugged me.

Liz Prince
Z'Est Books, 2014
This was a lot of fun, a graphic novel memoir of growing up as a tomboy in the 1980s and 90s. Prince tells the story without valorizing or over-dramatizing her situation. It's very warm and heartfelt, and the happy ending feels both earned and completely justified.

Maplecroft: The Borden Dispatches
Cherie Priest
Roc, 2014
Not much of a fan of horror, the genre just doesn't appeal to me. Maybe it's a squeamishness over being scared, or a prejudice that the genre only involves shock and gore. I did like this, and because I'm not emotionally connected to the genre I could see the bones of story better: the increasing tension; the red herrings about who was affected and who not; the accelerating pace to the next incident, then backing off a bit (but never quite as far back as before the previous incident). And so on. So this is a very well done book, and I read it pretty avidly, but don't think I'll follow up the series. I really disliked Boneshaker, for what that's worth.

Almanac of the Dead DIDN'T FINISH
Leslie Marmon Silko
Penguin, 1991
I feel like I didn't give this a fair shot, but I just wasn't getting involved in it. I could see how the wandering tense (shifting within a single paragraph and even single sentence) played into the dislocations felt while being as drugged up as the characters were. But it just wasn't going anywhere fast enough to suit me. I gave up somewhere in the 100s of a 700+ page novel.

The Dubious Hills BOUNCE
Pamela Dean
Tor, 1994
Not my type of fantasy at all. I bounced off this less than 50 pages in.

The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle: The Thing Beneath the Bed
Patrick Rothfuss, words; Nate Taylor, illustrations
Subterranean Press, 2010
Not a children's book, which I knew when I picked it up. It's actually very creepy, and begins distorting the reality of the characters and of children's books earlier than I noticed on the first reading. There's a sequel, which I have just put on hold at the library. I tried reading one of Patrick Rothfuss's novels before, but bounced off it within a few pages.

The statistical/demographic breakdown: Eight books, seven were fiction. Seven women, one man. One person of color. Two bounces, one didn't finish.

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January 25th, 2015

08:29 pm - January Work Party Report

The weather forecast was for warm temperatures and “decreasing rain” — we had no rain at all and perfect temperatures.

We had a great crew of fifteen people, including forest stewards and students from the Delta Tau Delta fraternity at the UW.

We planted 75 plants, spread over the South Plateau.
The South Plateau
(This is looking into the South Plateau, which is the largest flat, dry area in the park.)

We planted four Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), more than eleven Ocean Spray (Holodiscus discolor), and about 15 each dwarf Oregon-grape (Mahonia nervosa), sword fern (Polystichum munitum), bald-hip rose (Rosa gymnocarpa), and Nootka rose (R. nutkana). All these plants are under-represented in the South Plateau and have been reintroduced by restoration planting (although not this time). They’ll help to stabilize and buttress slopes and add more visual texture to the currently open and bare area.

Here is an “after” picture of the hearty crew:
The hearty crew

All in all, this was a pretty easy-going work party. We had plenty of time for some ivy and herb robert removal and even some attempts to help slow the water flow down.

The next work party for the Friends of North Beach Park will be February 28, at 9 a.m. We’ll be planting shrubs in the main body of the park. Please sign up here if you’d like to join us.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


January 12th, 2015

03:36 pm - Mondays at the Park

One of the great things that has made the restoration of North Beach Park so successful is the fact that three forest stewards (myself, Tad, and Drexie) have gotten together most Mondays for a couple hours.

We started sometime in late 2011, probably during the research for our Master Forester project. And then we just kept going. It was never an obligation, it was always a choice. Sometimes things would come up for one or another of us, sometimes we’d decide it was too cold or rainy.

But four out of five Mondays for the last three+ years would find us in the park, 10 a.m. to noon. Sometimes there would be something I’d want to do, but as often as not we’d decide on the spot what to do. We’d explore the park, put survival rings around trees, check the progress of some plants, water if necessary, and just do whatever. We did a LOT of work party planning. That meant sometimes meeting at Carkeek to label and sort the GSP plant delivery. A couple times we had coffee meetings at Tad or Drexie’s house. Whatever we did, it was a bright point in the week for me.

You’d think that after exploring a little nine acre park just about once a week for a couple years, you’d know it pretty well. But there was always some new discovery to be made — whether something as drastic as a tree fall (this happens at the rate of three or four a year), a new plant we hadn’t seen before, or just a change in perspective from different seasons or being on a hillside and looking into the park from a new angle.

I’m feeling especially aware of this because in a couple days I start a temp assignment that will keep me from being in the park on Mondays for the next several weeks. And I hope by the time that’s over I have a full time job to step into.

I was going to sprinkle this with pictures from the various Mondays… but I don’t feel like wading through Flickr in the way it would take. Here, go browse around for yourself.

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


January 9th, 2015

07:53 pm - Save the dates!

We’ve set up the first batch of work parties at North Beach Park — come join us for invasive removal, planting, meeting people and sharing good work.

All events start at 9 a.m. and run until about noon, rain or shine. All events are on the fourth Saturday of the month, with specific dates below. Please sign up in advance so we know you’re coming!

We welcome all ages, but children must be accompanied by an adult. High-school aged people should have a Youth Waiver Form signed when they arrive. The form is on the sidebar of the event page.

Please wear weather-appropriate layers that can get dirty and closed-toe shoes that can stand up to a little mud. We provide tools, gloves, and guidance. Bring water and snacks as you need them, but there are no facilities at the park.

For events in the main body of the park, parking is available on 90th St. east of 24th Ave. Parking near the South Plateau is more limited, as the nearest public streets are residential. The #40 and #48 buses stop within a couple blocks of the park. Check Metro Trip Planner for details.

Alright! Now onto the event-specific information:

South Plateau Planting Work Party
January 24, 2015</p>

This is the third of four planting parties in North Beach Park during this planting season. We’ll be installing upland trees and shrubs in the South Plateau area of the park. The entrance is located at 27th Ave NW and NW 88th St. If we have time or enough people, we’ll also do some invasive removal.

Directions: From the intersection of 24th Ave. and 85th St., head west to 26th Ave. Turn right onto 26th Ave. and continue north to 87th St. Turn left onto 87th St. and look for parking. The entrance to the park is a half block or so up 27th Ave., which looks like an alleyway at that point. The South Plateau is below street grade, but the work party should be easily visible.

Wetland Trees and Shrubs
February 28, 2015

Join us for the final planting work party of the planting season! We’ll be planting trees and shrubs appropriate for wetlands and streambanks. They’ll add a nice mid-canopy layer to the wetland stretches of the park. These trees and shrubs were purchased as part of a stewardship grant from the Washington Native Plant Society.

Spring is Bustin’ out all over
March 28, 2015

March is the start of the really pretty days for North Beach Park. Several herbaceous plants and many shrubs are already in bloom and all the deciduous plants are leafing out. If you visit the park sometime when no one else is there, you might be surprised at the amount of bird song you can hear. (During a work party, it might be too noisy to hear much.)

April Work Party
April 25, 2015

This is the last work party of the winter and spring series. Just about everything that can be in bloom will be at this point, and everything is fully leafed out. If the weather is gorgeous, but you can’t quite clear your schedule to get out of the city, come join us in the woods.

That’s it! We take a break in May for a couple reasons. The first is that it’s too close to Memorial Day weekend, and everybody has more fun things to do (I mean, WE think pulling ivy in the park is fun…) The second, and more important, is that it’s the height of nesting season, and we don’t want to disturb the ground and shrub nesting birds that make North Beach Park their home.

And as ever, if you can’t attend a work party, your financial support is more than welcome. Just visit the Seattle Parks Foundation’s North Beach Park page and make a tax-deductible donation. All funds will be used for purchase of materials, supplies, and plants. Thank you in advance!

Mirrored from Nature Intrudes. Please comment over there.


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