Water Street Commons, drenched in rain, begins to show signs of life

    It’s the first real rain since we seeded our acre of Water Street a few weeks ago, and I’m incredibly happy. I’d intended to go out this evening, with my friend Jeff, to dig up some spotted knapweed and put a few more transplants in the ground, but, seeing as how it’s raining, I thought that I’d spend my evening giving you a brief update instead.

    A couple of us have been dropping by the plot, which we’ve taken to calling the Water Street Commons, every few days, with big watering cans, and doing our best to keep the transplants alive. As we’ve been unwilling to crack open the fire hydrant at the back of the site, though, or organize a bucket brigade from the river, we haven’t had the ability to really soak the seeds that were sown on the site at the beginning of the month. (As you’ll recall, the seed mix we purchased from Native Connections, much of which was delivered to the site by way of seed bomb, contained 8 species of native grasses, and 27 species of flowering plants.) So, while the transplants have been doing alright, we haven’t seen any real signs of new growth from our seeds.

    Hopefully, with the rain we’ve seen these past few days, we’ll start to see a few signs of life, at long last.

    As for transplants, we’ve been trying our best to keep bringing new things over. A few weeks ago, Jeff and I went to the annual Wild Ones native plant sale, buying yarrow, chokecherry and hairy beardtongue. And, over the recent holiday, Jeff drove out to Wildtype, and came back with flats of showy goldenrod, black-eyed susan and coreopsis, all of which have already gone into the ground. There’s still a great deal to be done, but we’re slowly making progress.

    If you should happen to have native Michigan plants that you’d like to contribute to the cause, just let me know. It’s an incredibly large lot, and, as it will take quite a while for the seeds that we planted to come into their own, we’d love to make a bigger push with transplants. All we ask is that you coordinate with us, so we know what’s being planted on the site, and where. We’d hate to pull a cool plant out by its roots, thinking that it’s just another of the many invasives.

    Speaking of invasives, we could also use help in our spotted knapweed eradication campaign. The stuff is virulent, and spreads like crazy, and we could really use a few more hands, especially toward the back of the parcel, where the pesky invasives are thick. Ultimately we’d like to have a formal stewardship group, coordinated by way of a shared online calendar, but, for now, just doing it ad hoc is probably fine… So, throw a shovel or a pickaxe in your trunk, and feel free to stop by after work sometime, and take your aggression out on some knapweed. (If you’d like to join the “To Hell with Knapweed” task force, but worry that you might kill good plants by mistake, just let me know and I’ll arranged to have you trained in knapweed identification and remediation.)

    And, if killing weeds and planting native grass plugs isn’t your thing, we may have another opportunity for you to help out soon. Thanks to the efforts of City Planner Teresa Gillotti, sometime soon the folks from DTE will be dropping off a few truckloads of ground-up tree limbs, so that we can build wood-chip trails across the property. (The idea is to have two short trails that intersect in the middle.) And, toward that end, we’re going to need folks who can help swing shovels and push wheelbarrows.

    One last thing… If you’ve been by the property this past week, you might have noticed a post with a QR code. Well, if you have a smartphone app that allows you to do such things, I’m told you can scan the code and hear the following sound poetry piece by local artists Victoria Emanuela Pozyczka and Eben Mannes.

    I don’t know how far we’ll get with the idea, but we’re also thinking that it would be cool to have a few other audio tracks available for download on the site, like one done by a native plant specialist on the kinds of plants that one might encounter while walking across the Water Street Commons, or maybe one on the subject of the site’s history (perhaps narrated by former Ypsilantian Iggy Pop). We’ve even thought about asking our friend Billy Bragg to record a special message for us.

    Eventually we’ll start a new Facebook group, but, for the time being, feel free to keep track of meadow-related activities through the Seed Bomb Water Street group. (Apparently Facebook won’t allow you to change the name of a group once it has more than 200 members, and we’ve got about 275. So, it looks like we’re going to have to start a new group for the Commons.)

    One last thing… I haven’t done a detailed accounting of the funds raised and how we’ve spent them since my last update. I believe, however, that we have about $100 left, and I expect that we’ll spend that relatively soon on berry bushes. The next time I post on this, I’ll include all of the numbers. Until then, please join me in praying for more rain.

    [note: The two photos immediately above come courtesy of the great Doug Coombe.]

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      12 Comments

      1. Edward
        Posted May 30, 2013 at 6:26 am | Permalink

        You may already be planning this, but I’d like to suggest that, in addition to the crossing paths, you also leave some space in the middle plant-free, so that the property can actually function as a commons.

      2. anonymous
        Posted May 30, 2013 at 9:06 am | Permalink

        I heard someone say about this piece of property, “The city already has a park, right across the street.” I don’t think they get it. This isn’t just a park. This isn’t just a place to have a sandwich, or throw a frisbee. This is a manifestation of community. This is about everyone coming together to contribute toward making something meaningful, today.

      3. Anne
        Posted May 30, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

        Any discussion on trying to use insects to control the spotted knapweed? I’m not sure how many insects we would need to make a real impact on the site, but there are several places online that you can purchase knapweed munching weevils from. For example, http://www.weedbustersbiocontrol.com/knapweedinsects.html. Would at least be a fun ecological experiment.

      4. Knox
        Posted May 30, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        The irony is this little acre, if allowed to flourish, will lead to more economic development than a dozen dollar stores. These are the kinds of things that lure people to an area.

      5. Elliott
        Posted May 30, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

        I wish it was a lush as it looks in the photo. The photo is so saturated it makes Water Street look like the Everglades.

      6. Mr. X
        Posted May 30, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

        I love the QR codes. How about local musicians contributing songs to a record that can be downloaded for free on the site….. all songs inspired by the project?

      7. jud
        Posted May 30, 2013 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

        your spotted knapweed link goes to coreopsis … I know it can be invasive, but it’s a nice looking invasive.

      8. Posted May 30, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

        I love the name, Water Street Commons.

      9. Posted May 30, 2013 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

        I love the name, too. Going to my singing group in an hour or so. I am going to suggest that we go there and sing. Maybe not tonight, but soon. We do simple songs with an earth-loving, tree-hugging, community-building vibe. I think it would encourage the plants. Will the fire pit stay?

      10. JC
        Posted May 30, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

        I’d love to sing along.

      11. Posted May 30, 2013 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

        Lisele, that would be great. My hope has always been that more people would come to the project and apply their talents, and I think the inclusion of live music would be incredible. Just let me know how I can help.

        And, thanks, Jud. I changed the link.

      12. Bill
        Posted May 30, 2013 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

        Does anyone know the story of the QR code/sound art on the site? Whose inspiration was it?

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