The second phase of hedgerows at the Maples

The Maples
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | December 9, 2020

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Center for Land-Based Learning Headquarters at the Maples
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

Volunteers
Miles DaPrato
Sara Bernal
Joel Jorgensen
MJ Farruggia
Katie Wrightson
Ric Murphy
Chris Jadallah
Joel Jorgensen
Corey Shake
Kendra Just
Bri Grosskopf
Ric Murphy
Dominic Carrillo

Summary of the Day
For our first “double header” SLEWS day (two field days in one!), we were at Center for Land-Based Learning Headquarters at the Maples. As you may recall, Woodland High School students participated in a SLEWS project here last year, installing a native plant hedgerow and grasses in the stormwater basin (see the blog posts here: https://landbasedlearning.org/blog/category/slews-program/the-maples/). This year’s project would be somewhat of a continuation of that project, a hedgerow and native grassland perpendicular to that site and extending around an adjacent ag field.

We began the day by installing an irrigation system, working as a team to lay out the irrigation line and install emitters. We followed by planting 205 native plants in the very dry soil – we had to use pickaxes in order to loosen the ground enough to plant! Many of these plants were planted in metal baskets to protect the roots from pesky gophers. We also installed a protective tube around each plant to protect it from wind, herbicides, and pests. The morning volunteer crew got through about two thirds of the planting before the afternoon crew arrived to finish up. Then we began on the next task – mulching! Yolo County RCD had strategically placed native grass straw bales along the hedgerow, and we applied a thick layer of mulch around each plant to assist with moisture retention and prevent weed growth. Finally, to prepare for the native grass seeding to come in a few weeks, we cleared a bunch of cobblestones from an area they had been discarded. Looking forward to watching this hedgerow mature right outside our office doors!

A new kind of SLEWS Field Day

Patchwork Farms/Capay Valley Lavender
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | December 3, 2020

Partners/Landowners
Yolo County Resource Conservation District
Sherri Wood – Patchwork Farms/Capay Valley Lavender
Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

Volunteers
Bryn Levitan
Jen Metes
Joel Jorgensen
Anna Tolle
Joshua McCabe
Corey Shake
Gina M Radieve
Randy Wittorp
Beth DelReal

Summary of the Day
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last March, it seemed SLEWS had lucked out – with only 3 field days left, we had completed the majority of the 2019-2020 season. We had no idea, however, for just how long COVID-19 would impact our lives. Schools began the 2020-21 school year distance learning with no end in sight, so we had to figure out a new way to implement the SLEWS Program.

We’ve had a few former SLEWS mentors create videos to share with SLEWS classrooms (check them out here: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLipS9UPaDvdYj5GapCpy0XM1a55b5Dndk), but it seemed highly unlikely that students would be able to attend field days in-person anytime soon. Even though our field days are entirely outdoors, transportation from their school/home to the project site was impossible to pull off while adhering to state guidelines.

A new plan emerged: we will host community volunteer field days to keep our planned restoration projects moving forward until students are able to participate in person. We hosted our first field day on December 3, 2020, at Patchwork Farms, an organic lavender farm, in Capay.

A volunteer crew with Putah Creek Council had planted the first half of the native plant hedgerow, so our SLEWS volunteers’ goal was to finish the planting portion and install irrigation. Nine volunteers worked hard to first lay out an irrigation line and install emitters, and then put in 170 plants, affixing a protective tube around each with a bamboo stake. This was easier said than done – the ground was rock-hard and had to be loosed up with a pickaxe in order to dig an adequate hole! These plants are part of a pollinator kit from the Xerces Society, and aim to support the declining Western Monarch population, along with other native pollinators. Throughout the morning, teacher Jerry Delsol from Woodland High School walked around, giving his students at home in their “virtual classroom” a feel for the Field Day, interviewing mentors and explaining the project details. It was fun to finally interact with high school students after so many months! After a long morning of hard work, volunteers enjoyed a burrito lunch (classic SLEWS!) before heading home for the day. Next at this site will be mulching around the hedgerow!

Urban greening in Vallejo

Rodriguez High School at Lake Dalwigk
SLEWS Program | Sacramento Valley | March 12, 2020

Participating School
Rodriguez High School

Partners/Landowners
Solano Resource Conservation District

Mentors
Mary Badger, Technician, UC Davis Genomic Variation Laboratory
Natalie Kopec, UC Davis Undergraduate
Sarah Gaffney, UC Davis Graduate Student
Teska Hapig-Ward, UC Davis Undergraduate

Summary of the Day
By this time of year, most of our SLEWS projects are coming to an end – I’ve gotten accustomed to coordinating final field days with cupcakes and thank you notes and a shared sense of accomplishment. After finishing 5 of 7 SLEWS projects, it was quite an adjustment to get back in first field day mode, with introductions and name games! But that was just the case with our project with Rodriguez High School.

Our field day was at Lake Dalwigk in Vallejo, a public park in which Solano Resource Conservation District is implementing an urban greening project. The project involves planting native trees, shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers in the park, and our contribution would be helping with the tree planting.

During opening circle, Sarah McKibbin gave students an overview of the planning process for this project, and what had been done so far. Some of the trees had already been planted, but there were over 100 left to plant, which we all agreed would be impossible to complete in the time we had. We’d plant as many as we could and call it a day!

We played group juggle to learn each other’s names before dividing into mentor groups to learn to identify 5 of the trees we’d be planting: coastal live oak, valley oak, California buckeye, western sycamore, and black walnut. Once students could do this confidently, it was time to pit mentor group against mentor group for a game of “Steal the Native Plant” with students racing to correctly identify the trees.

After gathering shovels and gloves, Sarah led a planting demonstration, showing students how to dig a hole at the right depth, make a “pedestal” for the plant to rest on, cover the potting soil with native soil, install a tree tube, and secure it with a stake inside the tube.

Mentor groups set off tackling different sections of the irrigation line. Students really seemed to get in the flow of planting – one student who at first claimed he “didn’t dig” was later seen crushing it and planting 5 trees all by himself! This group was incredibly efficient and productive, FAR exceeding the RCD’s expectations – in fact, RCD staff were scrambling to set plants out in time for students to put them in the ground! By the end of the morning, our team had planted over 100 native trees, an incredible achievement!

After a well-deserved lunch, we learned how to use binoculars so we could look at some of the birds in and around Lake Dalwigk, including MANY Canada Geese, several species of ducks, gulls, coots, and sparrows. Students received and personalized field journals, then transitioned into mentor interviews. This gave them an opportunity to get to know the mentors they’d been working with all day, especially learning about their education and career paths.

To close the day, students summed up the day in just one word. Popular ones included: FUN, green, extravagant, interesting, productive, trees, collaborative, and rewarding. I couldn’t agree more!

With schools canceled for at least several weeks (if not the rest of the school year) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it remains unclear whether we will be able to complete the rest of our field days. It’s possible this was the final Field Day of the 2019-20 SLEWS season. If this is the case, I could not have picked a better field day to end on.