Reflecting on 2020: the year of the pivot

More like multiple pivots, really. Just like trees though, flexibility to bend and not break in the storm is how we modeled ourselves this year. Despite canceling, postponing and downsizing many volunteer planting events due to the pandemic, in 2020 we still planted 38,000 trees and native shrubs with the support of more than 5,000 volunteers. COVID-19, the racial justice uprisings, and signs of a changing climate caused us to look inward, and recommit to why we do what we do. These are our biggest takeaways from 2020, with some feedback from supporters sprinkled in:

It’s all about community and accomplishing something hard, together. To our volunteers and supporters: In the darkest times of this year, your patience, conviction, and generosity have buoyed us. Every time you reach out, get a tree, volunteer, or donate, you cast a vote for the future you want. This has been a year of unpredictability, but we know one thing with steadfast certainty: with people like you, we can move mountains.

What we’ve heard:

  • Keep holding events! Everyone in my pruning group was so thankful to be outside and get to interact with other people from a distance. We also had numerous residents come out and let us know how thankful they are that FOT provides this service.
  • I learned so much! About the plants, how to plant them, best species for flooded areas. It was really fun!
  • Got a great deal on five new trees for my back yard. Met some great people and laughed together. Made a new friend too!
  • Thank you for supporting our community and the environment one tree at a time. I’m so thankful for the work you do on a daily basis.

Moving toward being an anti-racist and inclusive organization and society takes continual work. The pandemic has illustrated racial disparities in this country. There are also divisions along race lines regarding who has access to nature and the outdoors, who benefits from jobs in the fields of urban forestry, and who receives the benefits of urban trees. We are tackling each of these challenges with steadfast resolve. Simultaneously, we’re seeking to rid ourselves and our programming of white supremacy.

Supporters’ feedback:

  • I found the section on Environmental Justice and information on Portland tree canopy distribution to be particularly interesting. Lessons I learned about interrupting problematic language is definitely transferable to my day-to-day life.
  • Thank you for the work you do and the voices you lift!
  • Although I have previously read about privilege it was useful to consider it in relation to tree planting.
  • You taught me my subconscious bias around using pronouns and I love you for it.

 

Going outside and engaging in community service are important for mental health. Studies show that both outdoor exposure and volunteering lowers stress, anxiety, and depression. We miss our big planting events. We’ll never take for granted ever again the beauty of being outside with a big group of people digging in the soil. When safer times are here, we want to make the next planting season our biggest yet!

  • Keep up the hard work and dedication to this environmental necessity. Thank you for finding a way to keep the needle moving forward.
  • The group I was with had great leaders, and an amazing group of people- we faced several obstacles throughout the day, and we tackled them all head-on, as a team. There was no conflict, arguments, nothing negative – it was entirely teamwork, lots of laughs and we all felt like we were productive! Plus I got a good workout! 
  • You are an awesome organization and I am happy to be a part of your family.

What else did we take away from 2020? More than one out of three of our staff say their easy-button pandemic food is frozen pizza. At 22% of our staff team, the most popular food for daily eating is chocolate. And we think we finally learned how to properly wash our hands.

In our volunteer surveys, we commonly ask folks, “Is there anything in particular that made your experience good or bad? One recent response: “It was over too quickly.” While we can’t say the same for 2020, we certainly had some fun times, and tried to make the best of a challenging situation.

Here’s to a tree-filled 2021!

This is a story from the December 2020 issue of Treemail, our monthly e-news! Read the entire edition here, and catch up on past issues here.

Simple ways to protect your tree on windy days

The Pacific Northwest is experiencing a historic windstorm event in September, 2020. These winds can cause serious damage to both young and established trees. When the winds pick up, you can take some simple steps to prevent damage to your tree friend.

What should I do to protect my trees from wind?

Watering your trees on windy days can help reduce or prevent damage to leaves.

1. Wind causes leaves to dry out more quickly. That’s why it’s important to make sure tree roots have access to water in the soil to replenish the water lost through their leaves. If trees don’t have enough access to water in the soil, the leaves can dry out, and potentially cause dieback.

  • Newly planted trees (1-5 years since planting): Make sure to give young trees a nice, deep soaking of the root zone with about 10-15 gallons of water. That’s three large buckets of water, slowly added to the soil. Make sure you soak all of the soil within two feet of the trunk, and imagine you are trying to reach the roots about a foot deep in the soil.
  • Established trees (5+ years): This is a great job for a soaker hose or sprinkler, slowly moistening the soil around the edge of the canopy of the tree. Some mature trees are already experiencing drought stress, so it’s extra important to give them an extra drink during windy periods.

2. You can try to protect the leaves with windbreak.

If it’s possible to establish a windbreak, or to attach a frost cloth securely to your tree’s canopy, this can protect your tree from harsh winds. Friends of Trees cautions against this simply because young trees don’t have established root systems, and a fabric covering might act as a wind sail. You may just end up sending your tree on an unintended journey across your yard. Use your best judgement.

 

Wind can cause water to exit leaves too quickly, causing damage to the leaves or canopy dieback on this Seven Son Flower tree.

Why does my tree lose water through its leaves?

Water loss through leaves is due to a process called transpiration, which is essentially the process that occurs after your tree takes up water from the soil, uses it for photosynthesis, and then releases it back into the air. The US Geological Survey explains it this way:

“The typical plant, including any found in a landscape, absorbs water from the soil through its roots. That water is then used for metabolic and physiologic functions. The water eventually is released to the atmosphere as vapor via the plant’s stomata — tiny, closeable, pore-like structures on the surfaces of leaves.”

That water (H2O), of course, plays an important role in photosynthesis while inside the plant, reacting with carbon dioxide (CO2) to produce some delicious sugars for the plant to eat (C6H12O6) and some complimentary fresh oxygen (O2) for us!

So, why does the wind cause tree leaves to dry out more quickly?

Because water likes to distribute itself evenly, it will tend to move from a moist location to a drier location. If the inside of the leaf is moist, and the outside air is also moist, water won’t feel the need to jump ship.

But, as Wikipedia explains, “wind blows away much of this water vapor near the leaf surface…speeding up the diffusion of water molecules into the surrounding air.” The wind moves the moisture away from the leaf, encouraging more water to exit the leaf and re-moisten the surrounding air.

So, keep an eye out for dry/windy weather in the forecast, and make sure your trees and plants are prepared. And give special attention to evergreens in windy/dry periods during the winter, as these trees with year-round leaves and needles will transpire year-round as well.

You can help test a new way to plant & care trees

           
We have a new, unique volunteer opportunity Aug 20th & 21st in Tualatin at beautiful Brown’s Ferry Park.
Due to safety concerns with COVID-19, we’re trialing a style of community-powered event we’re calling a “Do-It-Yourself Event.” With our friends at the City of Tualatin, FOT is hosting a mulching party where volunteers sign up for a 1.5 hr shift.  Mulching is an important step to ensure the highest levels of survival for these recently planted trees and shrubs during tough summer conditions. Each shift will have only one volunteer (maybe more if any of your household members also want to attend). You (and your household members) will be the only ones on site during your shift time.  You’ll be sent detailed information before your shift starts so you’re prepared to have fun and make a difference!  This is the very first time we’ve tried this event model, and if successful FOT will host more of this sort of event.  Will you help us trial something new and green the community at the same time?
When:  Saturday, August 15th – Friday, August 21st — shifts available on the 20th & 21st
Where:  Brown’s Ferry Park, Tualatin (map) *exact meeting address sent upon registering
What to expect: Volunteer activities will involve filling 5-gallon buckets with mulch from a big mulch pile and carefully depositing the mulch around small native trees and shrubs.  Before your shift begins, you’ll be sent detailed instructions on site location and mulching how-tos.  Wear close-toed shoes or boots, clothes you’re comfortable getting dirty in, and a brimmed hat and sunscreen.  We’re also asking that you bring and wear a face mask as you volunteer.  Please plan to bring your own water and snacks, unfortunately due to COVID-19 FOT will not be providing refreshments.  Friends of Trees will provide all tools and sanitizing spray.  If you have your own work gloves, please bring them.  If you need to borrow a pair of gloves, please let us know and we’ll have some on site waiting for you.  FOT has our gloves professionally washed between each and every use.
How to sign-up: Use our Volunteer Page to sign-up for the shift of your choice.  Our system will only allow one person to sign-up per shift.  If you have two or more adults in your household and you would all like to volunteer together, please let us know and we can send you the appropriate online sign-up form.  Pre-registration is required in order to participate.  Youth (anyone under 18) are welcome to volunteer as well.  Youth 15 and under will need a parent/guardian present to volunteer. Youth age 16 and 17 may volunteer without an adult.
Your valued feedback + Zoom Party: This is a trial run for this “DIY” event model. Your feedback, should you have any, is invaluable. After your volunteer shift we’ll send you a survey to request your feedback. It’s okay if you don’t have any feedback too.  We’ll also be hosting a Zoom call after all volunteer shifts have ended on Fri, Aug 21st, 5pm to celebrate your successes!  Join this optional call to hear about the collective progress that was made and ask questions of our staff!
We’ll have more updates on these and other events when planting season arrives later in Fall 2020. Meanwhile, if you have any thoughts or questions, please don’t hesitate to be in touch with Jenny, Pablo, or Carey on our Volunteer & Outreach team: volunteer@friendsoftrees.org
Thank you!

Update on planting events and tree orders

Friends of Trees is taking our region’s COVID-related restrictions and guidelines very seriously. All public events from mid-March – July 2020 were cancelled, and measures are in place for current events to take place with the health and safety of our volunteers and staff at the forefront. You can find more information about our public volunteer events here.

Currently our office is closed to the general public. Staff are working remotely and on occasion have office hours; if you need to connect with a specific staff person you can find them in our staff directory.

If you ordered a street or yard tree and have questions about the tree, or if you are interested in ordering a street or yard tree to be planted during our October 2020 – April 2021 planting season, or if you have any other questions please email us at FOT@friendsoftrees.org

Thank you so much for your support and patience during these unprecedented times. We can’t wait to plant trees with you again!