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Stewardship Sisters Grow Roots in the Gorge

Stewardship Sisters Grow Roots in the Gorge
Sisters Jeannie Janes and Judy Yakymi at Doetsch Ranch stewardship site on National Public Lands Day, Sept. 29, 2019. (photographer: Heather Pugh)
By Natasha Stone
Community Engagement Specialist

February 26, 2020

Sisters Jeannie Janes and Judy Yakymi have been volunteering on Friends’ stewardship work parties for nearly seven years. Whether planting native trees or pulling invasive weeds, they’re the type of people you want to work outside and build callused hands with because they’re full of laughter and appreciate hard work.

I sat down with Jeannie and Judy to talk about a recent stewardship work party where they got to mulch trees they had planted themselves last year.

Checking on their trees

In March 2019, Jeannie and Judy planted a handful of native trees including Oregon white oak, salmonberry, Pacific ninebark and Geyer’s willow. Jeannie recalls of that day, “They didn’t look so hot when we planted them.”

Months went by and both sisters worried they wouldn’t make it. Anxious but hopeful, Judy needed an excuse to check on the trees so she took her grandson on a hike to that same planting site near McCord Creek.

“They were alive!” Judy excitedly reported while looking at her sister with the biggest grin on her face. “They hadn’t grown much, but they were alive!”

In November 2019, the sisters returned to the planting site with other Friends stewardship volunteers along the Gorge #400 trail to mulch. Mulching provides the soil surrounding the plant with rich nutrients and helps plants retain water. After creating tall donuts around each small trunk, the volunteers wrapped up the year by saying farewell to these saplings and tucking them to bed for a long, cold winter.

I asked the sisters if they had gone out to see the trees since they mulched. Judy admitted, “If I go hiking, it’s to go check up on them”.

"You're leaving a legacy for generations" by volunteering

Both sisters agree the best part about planting something is watching it grow.

"It’s physical; you’re doing something concrete that’s going to go into the future,” Jeannie said. “You’re leaving a legacy for generations," Judy added.

It’s not hard to believe that when we invest our own hard work and sweat into something, we’re going to do what we can to ensure its roots grow strong and tall.
Climate change and ever-growing invasive species continue to threaten the Gorge we know today but with community collaboration and responsible stewardship, we can preserve and protect the Gorge so others after us can be as fortunate to experience it as we have.

If you're interested in stewarding Gorge lands, contact Stewardship Volunteer Coordinator Mika Barrett, (public lands stewardship), and Sara Woods, (stewardship at Friends Land Trust preserves).