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I am an Elephant Eater by Cedar River landowner Dan Stegman

We will be holding a free workshop titled: What is Knotweed and How Can I Get Rid of It? at the Cedar Grange in Maple Valley on June 16th from 11-1.  Learn more about this and future knotweed workshops held by King County Noxious Weed Control Program.

I am an elephant eater.  Along with the daily tasks that are routinely devoured, life of late has a penchant for placing the periodic pachyderm on my plate.   We all get them once in a while; the seemingly insurmountable project that can consume weeks, months, or even years in the blink of an eye; endeavors which root deep in our psyches and overwhelm our waking hours.  One of my elephants is 350 ft of medium-bank waterfront on the Cedar River.

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Landslide

I bought the property with a plan.  I envisioned the backyard as a park-like haven, a tiny slice of solitude beside the lazy flow of the river, with flowers, fruit trees, and a few extravagant touches. Yet in the 9 years I have lived here, the backyard transformation has yet to begin.  Two major issues, a significant sinkhole in front and a landside in back, have diverted those initial plans.   It was quickly apparent that the sinkhole issue was getting worse and was far too large for me to handle alone.  After more than a year of letter writing and phone calls, King County provided the solution with a complete fill-in and reconstruction of the failed channel. It was during this project that I met Paul Adler, an ecologist that coordinated the replanting of the project area.    Paul and his volunteers returned about a year later to reconstruct and replant a small area of the new channel that gave way after a 29-day deluge of record rains.  A few years later during the record high river levels in January of 2009, a large chunk of my medium-high bank backyard collapsed and became low-bank riverfront.   Fearing a total washout, I reached out to Paul.  He was able to create a partnership effort involving King County and Cedar Grove Composting to create a terrace of living berms, installed again by a crew of priceless volunteers.  Still, after successfully digesting these two major bites, the elephant in the backyard looms as large as ever.

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Berm Construction

Eating this particular elephant will take hundreds, if not thousands, of small bites.  I was recently married and my wife Becky has jumped in with both feet, diligently working to start eradicating the blackberry, ivy, and other noxious weeds.   We’ve cultivated a few bountiful patches of willow that can be harvested yearly for stakes.  Karma has blessed us recently by bringing Judy Blanco of Cedar River Stewardship in Action (SIA) into our lives.  Introductions were made while she was coordinating a major knotweed removal project and she has quickly become our major source of inspiration, excitement and renewed energy.   With the design and implementation of one planting project she has rekindled my interest in native plants, both in their benefits and simple beauty.   Again with the help of those priceless volunteers, Judy created a beautiful berm full of natives on one corner of the property and infused more natives throughout the slope.  We were all particularly excited with the successful transplanting of two O. horridus in the project!  Words cannot express how thankful we are for Judy’s energy, knowledge and involvement.

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Native Plants Begin to Take Hold

It would be overwhelming if we contemplated the entire elephant.  We know that the focus needs to remain on continuing to take smaller, more manageable bites and to savor it as we progress.  We are forever grateful to King County, Paul and to Judy for the provision of free plants, labor, and support through Stewardship in Action and to SIA’s Rebecca Sayre for providing the venue to tell my story. Of course I should add a thank you to all the volunteers that have taken a portion off our plates and to the U.S. EPA for funding work like Stewardship in Action, thereby recognizing that landowners often want to do the right thing, they just need some resources to do it.  This may be one elephant that is never completely devoured, but we will relish every nibble along the way.

To learn more about how you can benefit from Cedar River Stewardship In Action contact rebecca@cedarriver.org

We will be holding a free workshop titled: What is Knotweed and How Can I Get Rid of It? at the Cedar Grange in Maple Valley on June 16th from 11-1.  Learn more about this and future knotweed workshops held by King County Noxious Weed Control Program.

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