Archive for ‘Day of Service’

November 30, 2012

Nature’s Waterway Project: Clearing The Creek With a Tractor

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Nature’s Waterway Project: Clearing The Creek With a Tractor

Feature Article: by Gabrien D. Rockwood

This Thanksgiving, I spent the week at my grandparents house in rural Northern California.  While we were there, I got the opportunity to help clear out the creek bed of my grandpa’s house.  It was pretty exciting.

First I had to learn how to operate a tractor safely, and drive it. I learned on my grandpa’s tractor. You have to put the key in, and plug in a red plug that is for safety measures. The next thing I learned was to always drive it in low gear. That is the safest gear for people under 18 to drive in, since I don’t have a lot of practice driving yet. Also, low gear is the strongest gear, and the gear that makes the most sense for pulling big stuff.

Next we looked at the project. There was a barbed wire fence and about 15 trees that needed to be cleared from the creek bottom to allow flood waters to flow this winter without getting clogged up.

To clear the fence, we had to dig around the base of each metal post, clip the barbed wire from it, and get it ready to pull with the tractor. After the post was ready, I tied the tow rope around the post and positioned the tractor scoop right above the post so the rope was tied to the tractor and the post. Then I could get in the tractor and lift the tractor scoop to pull out the post. If the post was loose from digging, it came right up, otherwise, we had to dig it out some more. We dug out about 15 fence posts. Some were old and just snapped off, but others were half buried with old floodwater debris.

After the fence was cleared, we could reach the trees that needed to be pulled. We backed the tractor up and hooked the tow rope to the back end of the tractor and also to the dead trees. This part was tricky because the ground near the creek bed was soft from previous rains, and the tractor kept slipping. I learned that if a tire was spinning, you would have to back the tractor up, and try a different angle. It was a lot of work. One time we got stuck in a hole because the tire spun and dug into the earth. I had my dad sit on the back end of the tractor to help us get traction. Then the tires could contact the earth, it balanced out and we could go back up the bank.

One of the things we had to be careful of was to make sure that the tractor didn’t get too close to the creek edge. My grandpa would not have been happy if the tractor fell into the creek. We did have my mom’s van to pull it out just in case, but we were careful, and I didn’t drive close to the edge.

Another of the dangers we had to watch out for was poison oak. Luckily, nobody ran into any during our project, but we were always on the lookout.

The biggest log was the hardest to pull up. We had to cut it into two pieces because the stump of the tree was digging into the earth while we were trying to pull it and the tractor didn’t have the strength to pull the tree, and the dirt. We didn’t have a chainsaw, so we had to saw it in half by hand. It was an oak tree, so it took a long time to saw through. After we sawed through the trunk though, it came out pretty easily. That was a big tree! It went from one side of the creek, all the way to the other side, and had been there for many years. My mother remembered it from when she was a little girl.

After we were done, I could see that the waterway was clear and my grandpa was happy because now his property wouldn’t flood. I learned how to cut a tree, drive a tractor, make a three point turn, tow stuff, and all kinds of good things about the creek behind my grandpa’s house.

April 29, 2012

How To Plant A Tree– MHH Day of Service

Planting a tree in Thousand Oaks

Today I learned how to plant a tree.  We helped plant over 120 oak trees in Thousand Oaks as part of Mormon Helping Hands’ Day of Service.  When we arrived at the place where we were supposed to plant trees, one of the city’s groundskeepers was there, teaching everyone how to plant the trees so that they’d live and thrive in this rocky soil.  Oak trees are native to this area, and are used to growing in rocky, tough dirt, but since these trees have been transplanted instead of grown in the spot they’ll stay forever, we have to take extra care.

The first thing we did was dig a hole that is about two feet deep and two feet wide.  That is no easy task in rocky soil.  I pulled rocks out with my shovel that were bigger than my fist!  Thankfully, the city’s groundskeepers had already drilled the holes with a machine, and back-filled them, so the soil and rocks were already loose, and not too difficult to dig out again.

After we dug the hole, we took the tree out of it’s pot and put it in the hole, filling in around the edges with rich, brown soil.   Next comes a very important part, maybe the most important part of all.  These trees are going to be on the city’s water drip system, so if there is a drought, we won’t lose all our hard work.  Nature can afford to lose a few trees here and there, but these trees don’t have established root systems yet.  They need all the water they can get!  So, when we were done filling in the hole, we took the extra dirt and made a “C” shape around the base of the tree so the water from the drip system would hit the little wall of earth around the tree and stay with the tree instead of running down the hill.

After we made a ring around our tree for the water system, we pounded in two stabilizing poles, one on each side of the tree.  Then we tied the tree to the posts.  The posts will ensure that the tree is not toppled over by high Santa Ana winds before the root system has a chance to take root.  We don’t want trees that grow sideways.  We want tall, beautiful oaks!  When the posts were all tied, we hammered nails through the rubber ties into the posts to keep them from slipping.

My little sister, Ava, had the job of hammering nails into the rubber strips.  She is very good with hammers and she hit the nail on the head most of the time.

It was really fun to do this activity with my sisters and friends, working together for a common cause.  I enjoyed it very much and I can’t wait until we do it again!

–Anna Celinda Rockwood (age 15)

April 29, 2012

Mormon Helping Hands– What I Like Best

Me! Planting a Tree!

My favorite part of Mormon Helping Hands is seeing everyone help each other.  Sometimes I hear on the news people fighting, or bad things happening, but on this day, there is no fighting, only helping, and that makes me happy.

I helped two boys take their tree up the hill.  When I asked them if they needed help, the younger one said “No.” but the younger one said, “Yes!” so I helped them get it up to the top of the hill.  We dug a hole and got the tree into the ground.  It was a lot of work, but we were able to do it, just us!  By ourselves!  That was pretty neat.

Later, I helped tie the trees to stakes so they will be steady in the wind until the roots get hold.  We tied each tree between two stakes, and nailed the ties in place, so they wouldn’t slide down and let the tree flounder in the wind.  The trees we planted are all up on a hillside, right in the path of the evening ocean winds.  Tying the stakes to the trees and nailing them in place was a big job, and there were lots of trees that needed to be tied, so I was pretty busy.

I also helped my dad hand out water bottles.  We were able to finish the project within two hours, but we worked hard!  I was very thirsty by the time we were done!  It was a fun day and I am really happy that I came.

–Ava Victoria Rockwood (age 13)

April 29, 2012

Mormon Helping Hands 2012 in Thousand Oaks– My Perspective

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This morning everyone met at the church for Mormon Helping Hands 2012.  Even though it was only 7:00 in the morning, lots of people were there to help.  Mormon Helping Hands is something we do every year in our area.  We get out of our normal routines and go do something for someone else, usually in a big way!

This year we had over 500 volunteers at three locations across the Conejo Valley.  I helped in the Thousand Oaks project.  We planted 120 trees, and it only took two hours!  I was surprised how fast it was.  My whole family went, and a lot of my friends too.  I worked on digging holes.  It was hard work.  I am grateful for the service we were able to give today.  I look forward to our next Mormon Helping Hands Day of Service!

–Lily Adeline Rockwood (age 11)