The Woot Of All Weevil

I’ve had my hands full with spotted knapweed on the sand prairie, so I was curious when The Buckthorn Man said that his old hunting buddy, Elmer Fudd, might have a solution.

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I was pretty skeptical, as you can image: Elmer knows a thing or two about “wabbits”, and ducks, it’s true, but knapweed?

Sometimes I can barely understanding Elmer, so when he described Cyphocleonus achates as “The Woot of all Weevil”, I had to scratch my head.  Then, he challenged me to: “wook it up on the intewnet!”  I brought up startpage, found Weed Busters BioControl, and before you could say “What’s Up Doc?”, I had my weevils.

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Dick Jenks joined me as we wet weevil wun wild on the sand pwaiwie.

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These little guys have a grip!

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I’ve had a three day run at The Springs – beginning this past Sunday morning — every day spraying clopyralid on the black locust seedlings and resprouts that have emerged in the areas where Steve Tabat and his crew did major league black locust harvesting this past spring.

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Ben Johnson joined me yesterday afternoon and helped me finish the area on the south end of the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve property.   When I told The Buckthorn Man, he said: “dude, I thought you were only going to spray stumps!”  “Yeah, I know”, I told him, but I thought these seriously degraded areas were far enough away from the river that it would be ok.

When I told Lindsay Knudsvig that my hands were sore and blistered from pulling and digging spotted knapweed, he suggested I focus on pulling off the flowering seed heads, and I think that is the way to go for the rest of the season.  The flower and root weevils we’ve released could take 3-4 years to increase and spread across the whole prairie, and I’m going to do the best I can stop the production of new knapweed seed in the meantime.  Sunday I worked on the northwest side of the sand prairie…

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… and on Monday, I worked on the northeast side (before and after pics below);  I’m leaving the knapweed on the far south end of the prairie to the weevils.

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Later, I got in some relaxing time at the marl pit bridge…

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… and met some new friends from my old stomp’in grounds up in Hartland, WI.

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The big bend.

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The view from the Scuppernong Spring

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The Indian Spring.

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The Sand Prairie.

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More views from the marl pit bridge.

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The Buckthorn Man and I will be taking a working vacation at My Shangri-La for a week beginning this Friday, so stop in and surprise us i.e., bring your own.

See you at The Springs!

Reasoning With Weeds

You can’t reason with weeds.  Although they are knowledgeable about their environment and, they do seem to understand why they exist, and how to accomplish their goals, they are not capable of reasoning, because, unlike you or me, they can’t change their minds.  Like cancer cells, all they can do is: proliferate, refuse to die, steal nutrients, and spread like crazy.

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Kneeling in the Church of the Creator on the sand prairie at the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail, digging and pulling spotted knapweed, hungry for someone to reason with, I called on the master, Thomas Paine.  The Age of Reason is a profoundly stimulating and liberating work, and the world would be a better place if every man, woman and child would read or listen to it at least once a year.

All the knowledge man has of science and of machinery, by the aid of which his existence is rendered comfortable upon earth, and without which he would be scarcely distinguishable in appearance and condition from a common animal, comes from the great machine and structure of the universe. The constant and unwearied observations of our ancestors upon the movements and revolutions of the heavenly bodies, in what are supposed to have been the early ages of the world, have brought this knowledge upon earth. It is not Moses and the prophets, nor Jesus Christ, nor his apostles, that have done it. The Almighty is the great mechanic of the creation; the first philosopher and original teacher of all science. Let us, then, learn to reverence our master, and let us not forget the labors of our ancestors.  The Age of Reason, by Thomas Paine

This is the first summer I ever focused on weeds and, I’m happy to say, it hasn’t caused an identity crisis for The Buckthorn Man.  Pulling weeds is a fine way to intimately connect with woodlands and prairies.

On Tuesday, August 12, I started the day with my brush cutter at the trailhead sprucing up the old buckthorn alley.  It’s not an alley anymore, and the sunlight hitting the buckthorn seedlings, and the stumps we didn’t poison last winter, is causing explosive growth.  I’m trying to decide whether to re-cut and poison these sprouts this fall, or, let them grow and wait for the DNR to burn the area again.

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In the afternoon, I pulled spotted knapweed on the northwest end of the sand prairie.  The ground was relatively wet and most of the plants came out root stem and all.

Before …

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… and after

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The sand prairie is looking better than it has in many years!

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Later, after a refreshing bath and a little yoga on the marl pit bridge…

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… I visited my favorite spots,

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… and watched the sun set from the boat dock at Ottawa Lake.

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Our deconstruction of the flumes just below the Scuppernong Spring was almost complete, save some old pipes and stakes that supported the structure.

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Thursday morning was perfect for playing in the river, and I soon had them all dug out.

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Here is the view of the spring just below the deck that Todd, Ben and I recently repaired.

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The sand prairie is amazingly beautiful and every minute I spend pulling and digging spotted knapweed there is totally satisfying.  I was ready for a cool dip after gardening in the sand all afternoon.

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Anyone recognize this woodland flower?

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Sunset at the marl pit bridge.

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Despite blisters and sore hands, I was back at it on Friday, mowing weeds around the marl pit bridge and pulling burnweed along the cut-off trail, near the old marl factory.

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I spent the afternoon on the sand prairie, in the church that is my mind, listening to Thomas Paine’s brilliant sermons, and digging spotted knapweed.

Later, I ran into my new friends Joe and Kellie, this time with their family, at the tail end their Ottawa Lake camping adventure.  Peace.

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See you at The Springs!

Sticking To My Weeding

It’s mid-summer at the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail and I’m sticking to my weeding.

The challenge of being an activist, and what caused me to take a break from that line of work and seek refuge at The Springs, lies in the fact that people make it their business not to know things, that would cause them to understand things, that would conflict with their strongly held beliefs.  Before I get to my weeding, let me give you one quick example: people don’t want to know how the Twin Towers were constructed and what the laws of gravity dictate.

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To do so would cause them to understand that, the only way the towers could destruct at the rate they did — free-fall acceleration — would be for something to remove the resistance of the steel frame structures.

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Hmmmm… what could have done that?  Who could have done it?  I don’t recall NIST mentioning anything about this in their report.  Come to think of it, neither did the 9/11 Commission.  Never mind, I’m going to stick to my weeding…

One weed success story at The Springs is that we have kept burnweed from spreading.  I spotted this aggressive invader last year and pulled all that I could find before it went to seed.  The only place I’m seeing it this year is right off the trailhead in an area where we cleared buckthorn last winter.

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I’ll get these pulled in the next few days.

We made significant impacts on: sow thistle, garlic mustard, Canadian fleabane, nodding thistle, bouncing bet, white campion, ragweed and others, with spotted knapweed being our biggest challenge.  This past Thursday and Saturday afternoons I pulled spotted knapweed on the sand prairie.  I’m not taking the time to dig the roots out now.  If the stems break off while I pull them, that’s ok, at least the flowers won’t go to seed.

Before…

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… and after.

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I’ll probably resort to mowing the remaining knapweed flowers soon: except for the area on the south end of the prairie where I released the flower weevils (root weevils should be arriving any day now.)

I replaced or repaired a few boardwalk planks near the hotel spring bridge where forked aster are blooming…

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… and over by the the no-name spring.

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I’ve been seeing a great blue heron hunting in the river lately.

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Thursday night was a bit sticky, and very buggy, so I sought out the wide open and relatively bug free shores of Ottawa Lake to watch the sunset.

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Saturday morning I patrolled the banks of the Scuppernong River between the Scuppernong Spring and the Hotel Spring pulling sow thistle.  Then I mowed the DNR 2-track access road on the south end of the property and cut pokeweed and fleabane that I missed last time.

These yellow composites on the cut-off trail are 12-15′ tall.

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It was a pretty busy day at The Springs and I got a chance to play host and talk to a lot of people.

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There is a lot of repetition in the scenes I shoot but I’m just trying to capture the changing seasons.

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Another marl pit bridge sunset.

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The perigee moon.

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I went over to the boat launch on Ottawa Lake to get a better look at that moon.

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Wish I’d been here as the sunset!

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See you at The Springs!

Simplifying Life at The Springs

Thank you, dear reader, for following my exploits here at The Springs.  Long-time readers know that I’m an activist at heart; frustrated in my attempts to change the world.  Why is that?  I’ll let the over-quoted icons, George Orwell and Winston Churchill, explain:

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“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

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“History is written by the victors.”

“The great game” is being played constantly by the titans of finance and their minions in government.  It’s one thing to become conscious of it and quite another to do something about it.  I know, I’ve tried.  And now, I’m taking refuge at The Springs.  I’ll give it 7 years; I started in May, 2011.  Yup, then I’m going to move on and change the world, but for now, I’m living the simple life at The Springs.

Indeed, things have gotten much simpler at The Springs: I don’t fret about the possible side effects to me and the environment from foliar spraying toxic poisons anymore, I gave up on the phragmites and narrow-leaved cattails that dominate the river valley (last year, I cut the tops off with a hedge cutter, which was a waste of time), and I let the life cycles of the many invasive plants dictate what I work on e.g., my highest priority now is pulling spotted knapweed before it goes to seed.

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Last weekend I continued to clean up the area just downstream from the Scuppernong Spring, where we pulled up the flumes and support beams, and Ben Johnson and I kept it really simple pulling spotted knapweed on the sand prairie.

On Sunday, I got out the brush cutter and whacked many huge American Pokeweed plants that were flourishing on the south end of the trail. Although they are native, DNR trail boss, Don Dane, advised me to keep them out of The Springs.  I cut a lot of Canadian Fleabane and tidied up the trail a bit on the south end.  I pulled knapweed in the afternoon, which, I think, along with the frequent rains and the hand of the creator of course, is helping the sand prairie burst with blooms.

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Yesterday, I called out the big guns i.e. the mighty arms of Rich Csavoy, to help me rebuild the sloping deck at the Indian Springs.

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Rich picked the northwest corner of the deck to anchor and level the new foundation.

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He moved like a cat.

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We soon had a new foundation, set on pillars buried in the front and 6″x6″, 4′ beams recovered from the river, nestled in the hillside.  Then we relaid the deck on top and replaced a few missing deck boards.

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It makes a really nice place to sit and enjoy the Indian Springs.  I wasn’t through with Rich yet, and I asked him to take a look at the cantilevers in the deck pedestals we recently build; there were some gaps between the supports and their loads.

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After a few minutes of study, Rich selected a few choice shims from the nearby pile of flume scraps, and neatly toenailed the beams together.  Thanks Rich, you taught me a lot!  And, before I forget, thanks again to Big Jim Davee for kick-starting our boardwalk and deck rebuilding efforts.

We had a 4′ section of boardwalk left over from the deck rebuilding effort at the Scuppernong Spring and Ben suggested we place it on the riverbank near the decks we recently moved to the place I call, for now, the no-name springs.

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It’s a nice pedestal for river viewing.

Celebrations are in order!  After two failed seasons in a row, our resident Sandhill Cranes have successfully raised 2 chicks to robust young adults.

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Ahhh, the simple life.

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See you at The Springs!

Friendberry Jam

I don’t remember the words, but I’ll never forget the way I felt when Todd sang his song “Friendberry Jam” to me.  Just imagine how sweet and delicious it was.  We’ve been friends — going on 35 years — since we roomed together in that basement closet on Humboldt Avenue, just a bit north of Brady Street, in Milwaukee’s hip “East Side”.

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We lived for music, and it seemed so simple and obvious at the time that, if you did what you loved, you would be forever satisfied.  It’s true.  I know it, and feel it every time I come to The Springs.

My old friend Todd Nelson, who works as a finish carpenter in San Francisco, was passing through town and I jumped at the chance to enlist him to help me rebuild a deck near the Scuppernong Spring.  He was willing and able and, after I picked him up from the airport and he got settled at our place, we headed out to The SpringsBen Johnson promised to join us after work and I was feeling pretty confident that we could get the job done.

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Over the years the end of this deck has slouched into the springs and it’s pretty slippery when wet.

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I was an eager apprentice as Todd taught me the tricks of the trade and how to think about solutions to problems like this.  After an hour of musing and discussing, we agreed on the plan and, while I cut the 18′ oak beams we recently harvested from the river into quarters, Todd performed the deconstruction.

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Ben arrived as Todd made the finishing touches refitting the top section of the boardwalk, and he sparked us into high gear.  A coworker just gave Ben a laser level, but watching him excavate and build the support platforms was enough to convince me that he can do pretty well without one.  I was amazed that none of the 4 platforms he constructed needed any tweaking after it was laid.

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We may have to put some railings on this deck!

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Thanks Todd and Ben for your extraordinary efforts and thanks especially to Todd, for spreading us with Friendberry Jam.

We relocated our vehicles at the main parking lot on Hwy ZZ, preparatory to bathing at the marl pit bridge, and I saw our good friend, Andy Buchta, piling the last of the buckthorn I recently cut.

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Thanks Andy!

We had a refreshing, and relatively bug-free, time watching the sun go down.IMG_3573

I’ve been busy this past week, and on Monday I spent the morning cleaning up the debris from our recent excavation of the oak beams from the riverbed.  Below you can make out the edge of the one beam we left in the river, creating a nice bend where the dead straight flume had run.

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The edge of the flume was built over a substantial stone base and I dug out an opening to allow the water to carve its thalweg around the bend.

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I pulled spotted knapweed all afternoon and that darn stuff is causing me to break out in nasty red blotches or bumps that make me scratch like a hound dog.  The bugs were driving me crazy as well, so I escaped to the shores of Ottawa Lake to watch the sun go down.

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On Wednesday my spotted knapweed weevils arrived!  Because of the super fast response I got from the DNR, my permit was ready in time for Kandace, at  Weedbusters, to send me the flower weevils (the root weevils will be available in a few weeks).  Look at those hungry critters!

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Dinner is served!

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Yes, yes, be fruitful and multiply!

Long-time followers of this blog know that I’m a big fan of audiobooks and I can’t recommend this superbly rendered version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin highly enough.  Here, take a listen as George and Eliza contemplate the meaning of freedom and liberty as the Canadian shore looms ahead.

Peace.

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See you at The Springs!

Big Jim Steps Up and Out

Even the Buckthorn Man looks like a shrimp next to Big Jim Davee.

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Jim is a thoughtful, compassionate, gentle giant, with a visionary streak and the energy and motivation to make his dreams come true.  Like most people who hike the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail, Jim noticed that the boardwalk at the Hatching House Spring (just around the corner from the Hotel Spring) was falling apart and potentially hazardous.

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So he contacted Paul Sandgren and Anne Korman, the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent respectively, of the Southern Unit — Kettle Moraine State Forest, describing the situation, and they promptly delivered materials to the site we needed to repair the boardwalk.  Jim contacted The Buckthorn Man and Ben Johnson, and we setup a workday for Saturday July 26.

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Big Jim drives it home.

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We recycled all of the deck boards!

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As we evaluated how to integrate our newly constructed boardwalk with the existing boardwalks on either side, we all concluded that these boardwalks were serving no purpose.  They were sitting on hard packed, bone dry, trail with no evidence of spring water moving under them from the hillside above.  I gave Anne Korman a call, and she took a break from helping out at the triathlon taking place next store at Ottawa Lake, to come over and confirm our conclusion.  She agreed, and we re-purposed the two boardwalks at the unnamed springs, located between the Hatching House and Emerald Springs, replacing one of the decks that was completely dilapidated and adding another boardwalk over a previously uncovered wet area leading to the springs.

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Thanks for being our leader on this project Jim!  Not only did Jim step up but he is also stepping out on the biggest adventure of his life!

On Sunday July 27, 2014 I’m going to begin an ” adventure of a lifetime.” I’m going to backpack solo from Madison to St. Croix, Wisconsin along The Ice Age National Scenic Trail. My goal is to reach St. Croix by the middle of August and to join a Mobile Skills Crew with the IANST. Afterwards I’ll hike up to Duluth Minnesota and hike the Superior Trail. During the winter I will continue my adventures preferable in the South. Next year March 2015 I’m planning on hiking solo North on The Appalachian National Scenic Trail. I will cover over 2,000 miles in about 6 months. My long term goals are to obtain the title The Triple Crown, hence my email mytriplecrown.2017. The four digits represent the year I want to finish them. The triple crown is made up of The Appalachian Trail, The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, and The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. Please follow me right here on Facebook for all the latest news and updates about my journey.

Go for it Jim!

If that was all we got done yesterday, I would still categorize it as a great day, but Ben and I were determined to finish removing the huge oak beams that bisected the river just downstream from the Scuppernong Spring, and I wanted to promptly return the DNR Fisheries Team’s “jetter pump”.

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There were five beams remaining and get got after it with controlled fury.  Ben is, at least, twice as strong as The Buckthorn Man, and he single-handedly ripped a few of the beams from their moorings.  Thanks again to DNR Fisheries Technician, Steve Gospoderek, for suggesting the “jetter pump” as the right tool for the job, and to the DNR for loaning us the equipment.

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The new thalweg through this stretch of the river will become much more evident in the weeks to come.

I’m trying to catch up on the weeding at The Springs and spent last Thursday and Friday pulling Sow Thistle and Spotted Knapweed.

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Sow Thistle likes it wet and was prevalent in the areas around the Indian Spring and along the river from Scuppernong Spring down to the Hotel Spring.  The knapweed is dominant (not for long!) on the Sand Prairie.

I got my permit to move live biological control agents from the DNR and should be getting flower weevils delivered next week.  The root weevils will be arriving in August.

Thursday and Friday were mostly cloudy but yesterday Ben and I were treated to bright sunshine as we relaxed at the Marl Pit bridge after a grueling day’s effort.

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The view from the Gaging Station Bridge looking east.IMG_3490

We barely made it back to the marl pits after touring The Springs to catch the sunset.

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See you at The Springs!

Jon Bradley Discovers Cure For The Summertime Blues

Despite a veritable who’s who of pundits, ranging from rocker Eddie Cochran…

to mod philosopher Pete Townsend …

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… to legal scholar, former Attorney General, Janet Reno,

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vociferously claiming that “… there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues!”, JB “The Producer” has, indeed, found the cure at The Springs!  I’ll let JB explain….

On July 16th, I arrived at Ottawa Lake Campground. I didn’t have a lot of time but I hit parts of the trail. The first image was taken by the Marl Pit bridge.

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The second one was taken at the main springs. The sun was spotlighting the springs and it was a photo I couldn’t resist.

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The next morning, I got up bright and early and was able to walk the entire trail. When I got to the Sand Prairie and looked out, I noticed three deer down by the stream fed by the Indian Spring. They saw me before I saw them and ran into the woods before I could get a photo.

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When I arrived at the Emerald Springs, I saw a few Monarchs on the milkweed plants. One of them allowed me to photograph it before continuing on its journey.
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Later that day, I returned to “The Springs” for a short time. For years I had been tempted to get in the ice cold Scuppernong River and finally took advantage of it. The Marl Pit bridge has always been my favorite area, and I was thrilled to become one with the river for a moment. I then sat along the river while my feet dried and realized how lucky we are to have this beautiful spot in our part of the world.
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I visited the trail one more time the next morning before packing up and heading home. Back at the Marl Pit Bridge, I was enjoying the morning air when the call of a Sandhill Crane nearly made my jump. It came out from behind the bend for just a second when I snapped this photo.

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I then, of course, had to get a shot of the river facing west.

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Over at Ottawa Lake I had a good time canoeing. I love canoeing at Ottawa more than any other body of water I’ve visited.

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While canoeing, I saw Painted Turtles, Sandhill Cranes, a Great Blue Heron, a Northern Watersnake, and a state-threatened Blandings Turtle, but the highlight came shortly before packing up and heading home. I surprisingly found this Eastern Hognose Snake crossing the campground road. It put on a show by flattening its neck, hissing, bobbing its head, and curling up. Eventually it slithered back into the tall grass.

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(editor’s note.  JB, it was great to finally meet you at The Springs.  One question:  Do you think it will last?)

See you at The Springs!