Pat Witkowski Walks The Wauk

When I was in high school, you issued a challenge with: “if you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk!”  I don’t know if Pat Witkowski ever threw down a challenge like that to anyone but, I strongly suspect it was a conversation she had with herself that lead her to hike the 1,000 mile, Ice Age National Scenic Trail back in 2004-2005.

Pat told me that after she became a Thousand Miler she just “fell into” the role of trail coordinator for the Waukesha/Milwaukee Chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance.  But, you don’t get the kind of results Pat has achieved by just talking the talk.  Pat became a Mobile Skills Crew leader, and with that foundation, she has lead dozens and dozens of chapter workdays in addition to coordinating the trail mowing.  She is an innovator as well: raising the standard for trail signage across the whole state with her Blazing Babes program.

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To see Pat’s Ice Age Trail work first hand you are simply going to have to Walk The Wauk. It was Nancy Frank who came up with the idea for each chapter to design a program to encourage people to walk their sections of the IAT.  Kris Jensen, the current Waukesha/Milwaukee IAT Chapter Coordinator, came up with Walk The Wauk, and it has been a tremendous success, with over 550 people registering and around 175 completing the entire 44.7 miles of IAT in Waukesha County.  Parents, challenge your children to Walk The Wauk with you!

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In addition to her work on the trail, Pat is an excellent spokesperson for the Ice Age Trail Alliance and the Waukesha/Milwaukee chapter in particular.  Discover Wisconsin featured Pat in the conclusion to their four-year journey on the Ice Age Trail.  Once people find out that you have a skill, you get called on for all sorts of projects and Pat, and her husband Gary, generously helped complete a boardwalk on Mud Lake.

Last month, while hiking at The Springs on a Saturday night, I realized that the traffic on Hwy 67 was killing my buzz.  “I’ve got to get away!”  After my next workday, I decided to hike the IAT from Hwy ZZ south to Piper Road for a change.  I knew Pat and the chapter trail crew had been working on this stretch for 3 years and I was eager to see it.  It was a cold, full moon, November night when I walked a bit of the wauk.

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The white pine canopy towered overhead as I began the climb up into the moraine.  This old pine plantation just keeps getting better looking with age: taking on a much more natural look after a succession of skillful harvests.  The transition to Oak and Hickory occurs as you get up into the gracefully undulating kettles and ridges.  “Where am I?”  The last time I walked this trail was behind a Billy Goat mower and I couldn’t believe how different, beautiful and quiet it was.  At the halfway point, I had to call Pat.  This was amazing!

We setup a date to walk the segment together and met at the IAT parking area on Hwy ZZ, a ¼ mile east of Hwy 67.

We hopped in Pat’s car and drove down to the IAT crossing at Piper Rd and began walking north on the 1.5 mile segment (see map above) until we arrived at the trail reroute project shown below.  We are looking at the old trail’s path; right down a “fall line”.

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Pat talks the talk.

Pat taught elementary school for 34 years, most recently at Summit Elementary, and she insisted that I give a quiz after each trail reroute video.  So please, sharpen your pencils and get rid of your gum — somewhere.

In what order is the 4-step bench building technique executed?

  • measure, dig, push, cuss
  • dig, measure, cuss, push
  • backline, bench, back slope, critical edge
  • cuss, measure, cuss, dig

We soon arrived at the next rerouted section: a 280 yard doozy.

The section above ties right into the last, and prettiest, reroutes planned for this segment.  The new, 250 yard trail, is flagged, raked, easily followed and scheduled to be opened next spring.

Here is a testimonial to Pat from my spiritual father, Mike Fort:

In my Ice Age Trail experiences with Pat, she is always well-organized and clearly communicates what the goals of the various projects happen to be. In addition to all her responsibilities with the Ice Age Trail she has also really helped with our restoration efforts at Lapham Peak. She works and leads with an upbeat cheerful attitude that is infectious no matter what the challenge. I’ve really enjoyed working with her.

Amen Mike.

Much of the Southern Kettle Moraine forest is thick with buckthorn, and one of the most exciting things about the IAT trail work that Pat is leading is the creation of view sheds, or stewardship zones, where the brush is cleared away so you can see the lay of the land.

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This stewardship zone is just north of the third rerouted stretch shown above.

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I think The Buckthorn Man should join the Monday Mudders!  This next view shed is just a bit north up the trail.

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The last stewardship zone is at the junction with the spur trail that leads to the parking lot on Hwy ZZ where we met.

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Pat, I know I speak for The Buckthorn Man, and everyone who enjoys the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Waukesha County, when I say emphatically: THANK YOU! 

See you at The Springs!

The Bluff Creek Springs

The Wisconsin DNR’s State Natural Areas Volunteer Program is a great way to become intimately familiar with some of Wisconsin’s most beautiful places. That is how I was introduced to the Bluff Creek SNA, which features one of the largest spring complexes in the Southern Kettle Moraine, and the scenic Lone Tree Bluff Nature Trail.

Apuleius, the Roman philosopher, rhetorician, & satirist said: “Familiarity breeds contempt, while rarity wins admiration.”, and paradoxically, that has been my experience with the few of Wisconsin’s 673 SNAs that I have visited.  You might be thinking: ‘Hang on there Buckthorn Man; contempt is a strong word, how can you apply it the State Natural Areas?’  The answer is deeply philosophical, so, please, remember what Aristotle said: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

I will cut to the chase:  I am an anarchist seeking a voluntary society.  I don’t think the powers assumed by the “State” are legitimately based, especially the use of coercion to tax us.  Under Natural Law, 1, 2, 10, 1,000 or 1,000,000 people do not have the right to delegate powers — that none of them possess individually — to an association they call government.  Do I have the right to demand that you give me 20% of your earnings?

That is the perspective I bring when I become intimately familiar with any of our State owned lands; focusing here on the SNAs.  What I find “contemptible” is the idea that “we the people” rely on government to take care of our most precious natural resources rather than voluntarily assuming that responsibility for ourselves.  Here is the DNR’s SNA management philosophy:

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Land stewardship is guided by principles of ecosystem management. For some SNAs, the best management prescription is to “let nature take its course” and allow natural processes and their subsequent effects, to proceed without constraint. However, some processes, such as the encroachment of woody vegetation and the spread of invasive and exotic plant species, threaten the biological integrity of many SNAs. These sites require hands-on management and, in some cases, the reintroduction of natural functions — such as prairie fire — that are essentially absent from the landscape.

Wisconsin has desginated 673 SNA’s, encompassing over 373,000 acres.  Please don’t assume the DNR has a comprehensive management plan for these sites including: goals, objectives, budget, staffing, timelines etc… they do not have the funds to accomplish this, and don’t assume that it is OK to “let nature take its course”.  Since I don’t accept the legitimacy of government authority, it would be contradictory for me to advocate that we divert even a tiny percent of the money our federal government spends on wars of aggression and the security, industrial, military complex, to nurture and care for our treasured state lands.  Nope, I’m suggesting that each one of us volunteer our time and attention to care for the land.  Visit an SNA near you and become intimately familiar with it; let the rarity of these beautiful places win your admiration (and active involvement!)

The headwaters of Bluff Creek is one of the few Class I trout streams in southeast Wisconsin.

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Pati and I visited the Bluff Creek Springs complex after the November SNA workday and I gave her a tour.

I mentioned in the video how excited I was to return for the SNA workday in December and I was not disappointed (visit the Southern Kettle Moraine SNA Volunteers on Facebook).  We gathered yesterday morning on the ice covered parking lot at the Lone Tree Bluff trailhead on Esterly Road.

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Zach Kastern introduced us to the day’s project.

At the trailhead, you take the left-hand, unmarked path towards the springs rather than follow the steps straight up to Lone Tree Bluff.  This is not an official trail, but it will definitely become more obvious as we continue working there.  When we got to the work site, Zach gave more specific instructions and we all introduced ourselves.  It was a great crew to be with!

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I was in heaven and thoroughly enjoyed the day.  I grabbed these images while taking a break to gas up the saw.

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Jared Urban coordinates volunteers at the SNA’s in the southern part of the state.  The next 5 action shots are courtesy of Jared.

Ginny rips it up.

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Kyungmann in the thick of it.

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Scott, Tom and Zach.

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Tom stoking the fire.

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Group shot minus Dale and Gary. (Back row left to right: The Buckthorn Man, Jared B., Tom, Scott and Kyungmann and Ginny and Zach in the front row)

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The official workday ended at noon but a few of us hung out to talk and share lunch by the fire.  I cut buckthorn all afternoon and Zach and Scott fed the brush piles.  Here is how it looked at the end of the day.

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Back on Wednesday, December 10th, I was joined by Chris Mann, Austin Avellone and Andy Buchta as we continued our brush clearing and piling efforts on the north side of the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA.

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Here are a couple views of the site before we got started.

Looking north from the channel of the spring that flows into the fen.

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Looking down the trail towards where we left off last time.  The buckthorn on the left is doomed.

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Below looking right and left from where Chris Mann left off the previous Monday.IMG_4576 IMG_4577

I was soon joined by Chris, Austin and, much to my delight, Andy Buchta and we got after it.

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We had an excellent day and finished the fen-side of the trail all the way north to the tamarack grove; and even got a few licks in on the south side of the spring channel that flows into the fen, working along the trail that leads to the Ottawa Lake campground.

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When we finished I took a walk from the point where we stopped, shown above, heading back across the channel to where Chris and Austin were still piling brush.

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I had a mellow day last Thursday brush cutting and poisoning the scrub red oak, cherry and buckthorn on the sand prairie.  I think it’s time to start burning brush piles.

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See you at The Springs!

SEWTU — Conserving, Protecting, and Restoring the Scuppernong River Watershed

I don’t fish.  My rights under natural law do not extend to harming any sentient creature, except in the case of self defense.  I’m still troubled by the memory of the beautiful adult river otter I ran over with my truck and trailer, while passing a slow driver on the way to Lake Owen this past summer.  I was the unconscious one.

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I know, I’m in the minority, and you might wonder why I would introduce an article about the great work the Southeast Wisconsin Trout Unlimited organization has been doing for almost 50 years by reflecting on the nature of fishing.  I’m just being honest.  I love fish, especially brook trout, and recognize that the Scuppernong River is potentially an ideal place for “brookies” to live long and happy lives; that is why I am putting my energy into rehabilitating the headwaters of the Scuppernong River at The Springs.

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The art of fly fishing is a classic solitary pursuit.

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But fishermen/women have long recognized that they need to work together to effectively conserve, protect and restore our fisheries; hence the formation of organizations like Trout Unlimited.

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TU’s guiding principles are:

From the beginning, TU was guided by the principle that if we “take care of the fish, then the fishing will take care of itself.” And that principle was grounded in science. “One of our most important objectives is to develop programs and recommendations based on the very best information and thinking available,” said TU’s first president, Dr. Casey E. Westell Jr. “In all matters of trout management, we want to know that we are substantially correct, both morally and biologically.”

The Southeast Wisconsin Chapter of TU (SEWTU) was formed in the late 1960s and, after working with them this past Saturday on the Scuppernong River, I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment expressed on their website:

You’ll be hard pressed to find a better bunch of individuals than those who comprise the rank and file of SEWTU.  Friendly faces, kind words, and good fishing stories — some are even occasionally true — welcome all comers.

Since 2006, SEWTU has done many projects in the Scuppernong River Watershed, mostly on Paradise Springs Creek and the headwaters of the Scuppernong River.  For example, on a cold winter day in 2008 they installed bio-logs just upstream from the Emerald Springs overlook deck and closed off the marl pit canal from the river.  They did two projects on the river in 2013, installing bio-logs in the stretch between the old barn site and gaging station bridge (scroll down in these posts to view the work they did in December 2013.)

I really regretted not being on-site for the 2013 SEWTU Scuppernong River workdays.  My excuse is the reference in their email notifications to the Scuppernong Creek (you may notice this on their website(s) as well), that confused me.  Thanks to Ben Heussner for giving me a heads up this time.  It was a pleasure to work with SEWTU members on December 6th installing bio-logs just upstream from the gaging station bridge.  It was a very successful workday that completed the channel remediation efforts from the old barn site downstream to the gaging station bridge (with one caveat that we’ll get to below when we interview Larry Wirth.)

The day started when Pati and I met the Wisconsin DNR Fisheries Technicians, Joshua Krall and Ryen Kleiser, at the DNR parking area above the Hotel Spring.

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We got some drinking water at the Hotel Spring and then watched Josh delivering the first load of bio-logs to the site.

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Of course, The Buckthorn Man had to put in his 2-cents.

We then headed over to the main parking lot on Hwy ZZ to meet-up with the SEWTU work crew.

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Here is a survey of the work area before we got started.

After reviewing the plan with Josh, I turned and got these pictures.

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The workday progressed flawlessly as more SEWTU volunteers streamed in.

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We soon had all of the bio-logs in place and focused on filling in brush behind them.

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We accomplished an amazing amount of work before noon!

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Back at the parking lot, Ray, Chris and the other chefs laid out the traditional SEWTU brat fry.

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James Flagg above, talking with Mike Kuhr and with his son, Jim, below (sorry, I didn’t get in a little closer for this shot!)

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During the morning Pati struck up a conversation with Larry Wirth, a long-time SEWTU member, about his role in the DNR’s decision to drain THE PONDS OF THE SCUPPERNONG (scroll down in the post linked above for some great, vintage shots of the ponds taken by Pete Nielsen).  I had to talk to Larry.

At the end of the interview, Larry expressed his concern and uncertainty about the suitability of coconut hull bio-logs to macro invertebrate life, which is essential for good trout habitat.  We talked to Josh Krall about the “sterility” of bio-log channels.  Josh explained that channel remediation was the first, and necessary, step in the restoration and that we could/should follow up and introduce organic material on the inside of the bio-logs to provide food and habitat for macro invertebrates like caddisfly.  Larry asked if there had been any studies done regarding the transition of bio-logs to a more natural stream bank and their suitability to supporting macro invertebrates.

I found this Como Lake Macroinvertebrate Survey online which states:

The two sites with biologs were not as productive as other sites and there did not appear to be other shoreline features associated with macroinvertebrate abundance or diversity.

The bio-logs upstream of the Emerald Spring were installed by SEWTU in 2008, and we can refer to them to gauge their transition to natural riverbank and the presence of macro invertebrates in their vicinity.  I plan to investigate this further next spring.  In general, I think it would be a good idea to line the insides of the bio-logs with some brush, logs or rocks to provide habitat for macro invertebrates.  Perhaps we can do another workday with SEWTU in 2015 to focus on this next important step.

The goal of our effort is to raise as much of the Scuppernong River Watershed to the level of Class I Trout Stream as is reasonably possible. Below you can see the Scuppernong River Watershed Trout Classifications (note that no portion of the Scuppernong River in Jefferson County, where it joins the Bark River, is rated Class III or better.

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As if working with SEWTU wasn’t exciting enough, Chris Mann and Austin Avellone, from the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards, joined me for a very productive workday on Wednesday, December 3, at the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA.  I began clearing the buckthorn from the tamarack grove there on Monday, December 1.  I was very happy to see that Andy Buchta had been busy piling the brush that Lindsay and I cut back in October.  Since then, Andy has finished piling all the brush we cut there.

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Here is how the tamarack grove looked on Monday morning. IMG_4500 IMG_4502 IMG_4503 IMG_4505

I had a fine day cutting, but it was too dark by the time I quit to take any “after” photos.

Wednesday morning was absolutely beautiful.  You can see below what I accomplished on Monday and what lay ahead for the day.

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Chris worked the chainsaw and Austin swung the brush cutter and we got after it!

Afterwards…

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Last winter both Andy Buchta and I got horrible, blistering rashes (which I spread to Pati!), after working with the brush we cut in the buckthorn alley.  I was suspicious about this tree (the one in front below) and stopped Chris to ask what it was.

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He explained that it was poison sumac and advised against cutting or even touching it.  That reminded me of the time that DNR Trail Boss, Don Dane, made a point of taking Lindsay and I over to an area near the boat doc at Ottawa Lake to emphatically show us what poison sumac looked like, and warn us to steer clear of it.  Well, you tried Don, and it took a nasty bout with poison sumac last year to teach me a lesson.  I cut a couple of poison sumacs on the north side of the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA, but no more.

Chris and Austin at work.

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There is a very nice trail along the east shore of Ottawa Lake that passes beneath the campgrounds and the walk-in sites #335 and #334 and continues to the north side of the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA.  The views from this trail are going to get prettier as we continue clearing the buckthorn from the trail.  My dream is to eventually create a trail around the west side of the fen to connect to the boat landing on the southwest side of Ottawa Lake.  I think that would be awesome!

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See you at The Springs!

Pete Nielsen Remembers The Springs

I met Pete Nielsen, the “Master of Nagawaukee”, famous for the Pete Nielsen Laser Relays, at The Springs back in July of 2013.  When he told me that he grew up in the old stone house a mile or so south on Hwy 67, I practically begged him to share some of his scuppernong stories and pictures with us here.  I’m guessing he earned the nickname “laser” for his speed running track and cross country, but as the days passed, and I didn’t hear from him, I wondered if he forgot about it.  So, you can imagine my surprise and delight when I got his email tonight.  But first, and I don’t mean to keep you waiting…, a couple of updates.

The Southeast Wisconsin Chapter of Trout Unlimited is having a workday at the Scuppernong River this Saturday, December 6th.  We’ll need plenty of help making brush bundles to use to fill in behind the bio-logs, so please come and join us if you can.

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Pati and I spent the week of Thanksgiving visiting our friend, Chris Belleau, in Providence, Rhode Island.  The first snowstorm of the year was “major” for us, coinciding with the departure of our plane, and we missed our connection in Detroit.  Upon our arrival in Providence, the next day, we immediately drove to New York City for a little adventure and caught this sunset over the Hudson River.

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Pati cleverly negotiated both free airline flights and a free night at the Doubletree Hotel in the Big Apple using accumulated Delta and Hilton points.  After a hair-raising drive through Times Square, we finally arrived safe, and barely sane.

We visited “ground zero”, the Empire State Building and the Museum of Natural History before heading north to our ultimate destination in Providence.  Rumor on the street is that this mammoth used to roam the shores of glacial lake scuppernong.

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Chris has been creating works of art for almost 40 years, focusing on glass for the last 30 or so.  It was my first visit to his studio, and the first time I got to see him in action: breathing life into a ball of molten glass and turning it into a beautiful fish.

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Stretching, blowing and shaping…

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Chris and Grant fuse the eyes, tail and fins to the body.IMG_1575_2 IMG_1580_2 IMG_1582_2

The soft, hot, glass can be squeezed, stretched and twisted.IMG_1584_2 IMG_1590

Better make sure this fish can stand on it’s own.IMG_1598_2 IMG_1602_2

Parting the lips.

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Chris’ able assistant, Grant, creating a White Christmas tree.

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It was a lot of fun, but I’m glad to be back home at The Springs.

Sorry for the delay… when Pete’s email arrived and I saw his pictures, I couldn’t wait to post them here.  This one made it to the cover of Robert Duerwachter’s wonderful history of the Scuppernong Springs: THE PONDS OF THE SCUPPERNONG.

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I’ll let Pete do the talking now:

I grew up about one mile south of the trout ponds on highway 67 beginning in 1950. We moved there when I was a first grader. The house we moved to was built in 1855 with limestone quarried on site and gave rise to a structure with walls 18 inches thick. To this day it stands as a landmark as you enter the Kettle Moraine State Forest. The huge marsh which we could see to our north and west encompassed the hiking trails and Leans’ Lake (now Ottawa Lake) on the far end. It was the site of an occasional peat bog fire but usually a black hole for human habitation giving a backdrop to the rare but colorful Northern Light display and a privacy to be envied.

When I was a seventh grader I was given a Brownie camera for my birthday. My friends and I went snooping based on a story about an abandoned house behind the hotel. It was located about 75 meters north of the famed “concrete wall” from which it was totally obscured by brush and trees. We couldn’t see it until we were about 40m away. It was locked and all the windows were intact but being a poured concrete basement the north wall had partially caved in. We slid down into standing water, walked across some boards in the dim light and entered the house scaling the only stringer and pushed up through the trap door. The rest is in pictures of some furniture, a mounted deer head, a display case of birds and a picture of a beautiful young woman whose coy smile always causes me to ask who is was.

We exited the house in reverse manner leaving everything untouched. We then trekked through the woods to the hotel where we were greeted by Laurel Markham and Mrs. Keltsch and treated to milk and cookies. You couldn’t ask for a better summer afternoon as a childhood memory.

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(Editor’s note:  I think the “concrete wall” Pete mentioned above is the remnant of the marl factory that still stands, and the foundation of the house he described is: “about 75 meters north”, just off the cut-off trail.)

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Back to Pete’s narrative:

The other set of pictures is witness to the famous trout ponds which were formed by man-made dams. These pictures were taken about 1991, showing the existing hiking trail around what was then the large southern pond. One can see the comparison after drainage and a year or two of growth of the reeds.

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These pictures are priceless!  And this one is sooo good, I have to post it again.

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Pete, thanks for taking the time and making the effort to digitize these gems you captured with your “old brownie”, and for sharing them, and your stories, with us!

See you at The Springs!

The Buckthorn Man Unocculted

Ask me anything.

I’ve got nothing to hide.

Ok Buckthorn Man.  Are you a misanthrope?

Hmmm, that’s a tough question; better define our terms first.  Per wikipedia:

Molière‘s character Alceste in Le Misanthrope (1666) states:

My hate is general, I detest all men;
Some because they are wicked and do evil,
Others because they tolerate the wicked,
Refusing them the active vigorous scorn
Which vice should stimulate in virtuous minds.

Ok, I confess: whether it be from honesty or hubris, I don’t know, it’s true, I do feel that way sometimes.  I barely saw a soul last week working at The Springs, and that was fine by me.

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To occult something is simply to hide it from view.  As Mark Passio explained in his Natural Law Seminar, people occult knowledge to create or preserve a power differential they use to their advantage.  Take the idea of satanism; what is the first thing it conjures up?  Mark was a priest in the church of satan, and when I heard him explain their 4 basic tenets, which he knew first-hand, it opened my eyes.

  1. Survival: self-preservation is the top priority
  2. Moral relativism: if it’s good for me, it’s good, if it’s bad for, me it’s bad
  3. Social Darwinism: it is right and desirable for an elite few to dominate the other 99.9999% of humanity
  4. Eugenics: who is allowed to procreate, and at what rate, must be controlled

That is satanism unocculted.

At the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail, it is U.S. Highway 67 that has been unocculted.   The removal of huge colonies of black locust trees from both the north and south ends of the preserve, along with the buckthorn cutting, have exposed the sights and sounds of the highway to major portions of the trail.  I won’t occult the truth: this is very obnoxious, especially in winter, and worst of all, at night.  The bright, rolling headlights, intermittently blocked by trees, evoke the feeling of prison bars and clandestine interrogations; not very relaxing or natural.  And on Saturday night, it was one car after another… I don’t like it one bit.  We have to get some native shrubs planted and recreate a healthy understory.

Despite my deeper appreciation for those who prefer a wall of buckthorn to highway traffic, I continued to work the brush cutter last week at The Springs.  Tuesday was cold and I had to rest my water bottle in the relatively warm river to keep it from freezing solid.

Here is how it looked before I started…

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… and after

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It’s subtle.

While on my evening stroll, I got a call from my old friend, Randy Schilling, who came out to The Springs 2 years ago to harvest some oak, hickory and cherry logs.  He had some presents for me: vases and bowls turned with care into art on his wood lathe.

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Thanks Randy.  I love you man!

Friday was perfect and I worked on the south side of the river just upstream from the gaging station bridge.

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Again, before …

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… and after.

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I think this is the best use of my time now: solidify the gains that have been made in the last few years and prepare for the burn next spring.

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Yesterday I did some work on the south end of trail focusing on black locust.

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I took a walk as night fell …

See you at The Springs!

Natural Law

It was a dam cold winter morning at the Hartland Marsh when I carelessly let my hands get bitten by frost.  Like gravity, it’s a law of nature: if you don’t understand and protect yourself, you’re going to get hurt.  Ever since then my hands are the first to tell me Winter has arrived.

The polarity between hot and cold is really only a matter of degree i.e., the amount of vibratory energy that is present.  And the rhythm of the seasons is just Nature’s Way.  We have no trouble understanding the physical laws of nature but how about the spiritual laws of nature?  What are they?

I’ve recommended Mark Passio’s Natural Law Seminar before on this blog and it bears repeating.  The degree to which we, collectively, live our lives in adherence with natural law, will determine the kind of world we create: the reality that manifests around us.

I’ll give you a quick, thumb-nail sketch, using a few slides from Mark’s presentation to wet your appetite.

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What are the principles, or first things, underlying natural law?

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And what binds them together?

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But you already know this!

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What are the consequences of following natural law or ignoring it?

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At it’s heart, natural law teaches us the difference between right and wrong. 141

What distinguishes natural law from mans law?

177

How can we get what we say we want from life?

276 277 278

You don’t have to look far to see which way we are heading… but, we can change that by seeking and speaking the truth.

I like to think I’m combining the laws of nature (physical) with natural law (spiritual) by voluntarily giving my time and attention, my spiritual currency, working to reveal the beauty of God’s creation.  For my reward, I get to keep my sanity in a world gone mad.

This past week I continued prepping The Springs for the prescribed burn that the DNR plans to execute next spring.  I’m focusing on the sand prairie area now cutting buckthorn, cherry, red oak, black locust and honeysuckle seedlings and resprouts.

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I’m taking my time and poisoning as many cut stumps as I can find after each tank of gas burned in my Stihl FS-90 brush cutter.  One reason the buckthorn is coming back so strongly here is that I took the shortcut of not poisoning the stumps the first time I brush cut here back in 2012.  For every stump I didn’t poison, a half-dozen new shoots appeared.

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I quit early to spend time at The Springs with my dear friend Ed Brown, who was in town to attend the 2014 Urban and Small Farms Conference hosted by Growing Power.

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Hey Ed, thanks for inviting Pati and I to take a tour of Growing Power’s headquarters here in Milwaukee with you!

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Pati joined me for the sunset at Ottawa Lake.

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Last Wednesday, I picked up where I left off on the sand prairie.  It was another cold day swinging the brush cutter.

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I’d really like to get all the brush laid down in the areas that I have previously cut before the snow falls, so I hit the trail again on Friday.  Here are a couple of views Friday morning.

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And the same two perspectives in the afternoon.  Can you tell the brush was cut?IMG_4418 IMG_4419

I worked until the sun went down.

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Finally, to cap off the week, I joined Ginny Coburn, Zach Kastern, Jared Urban and a great group of State Natural Areas volunteers, including students from the UW Whitewater Ecology Club, at the Whitewater Oak Opening, one of the 16 sites that comprise the Clifford F. Messinger Dry Prairie and Savanna Preserves.

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Ginny gives an overview.

That was a nasty site!

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Zach shows how to poison a stump.

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Jared, Ginny and Zach organized the teams and we got after it.

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That’s Mike with the chainsaw below.

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Eric swinging his saw.

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Steve lives next store, literally, and he is committed to restoring the oak savanna on his property and the surrounding state owned land.

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I was amazed at how much we accomplished before high noon!

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Let there be unity between your thoughts, emotions and actions.

See you at The Springs!

Swift Action In Hartland

Pati and I were dumbfounded as we walked up the trail to the Cottonwood Gazebo at The Hartland Marsh.  What was that monolithic tower poking through the treetops at the top of the hill?  I pulled my coat across my face, cowering like quasimodo behind Pati, and, turning slightly to avoid looking directly at it, I pointed with my right hand asking with trembling voice: “what is it?”

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I’ve walked up that trail a thousand times and it was absolutely jarring to see a brick tower at the trailhead.

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It all started when Tikvah Schlissel, Hanna Kimmel and their friends from the Hartland School of Community Learning heard about the near threatened Chimney Swift

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… and the fact that one of their favorite resting spots in the Village of Hartland was scheduled for destruction.  Thousands of lives were at stake!  Ramsey Schlissel does a brilliant job telling the story.

The whole Village of Hartland came together spurred by the passionate environmentalism of their vibrantly conscious youth.  Wow!  They still need some help paying for the new Chimney Swift Tower.  Visit them on Facebook or at SaveTheSwifts and make a contribution.

Can a movement in the village to Save The Oaks Of The Hartland Marsh be far behind?  The buckthorn has returned, thick as thieves, since I abandoned my valiant (or was it vain?) effort to save the oaks there 3 ½ years ago.

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One of the reasons I “gave up” at the Hartland Marsh was the resistance to the use of fire as a tool to restore the landscape and control the buckthorn seedlings and resprouts.  I was lucky they let me finish burning the hundreds of brush piles I left there.  At the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail, on the other hand, I have the total support of the DNR, and, in fact, they are hoping to burn The Springs in 2015.  To that end, I continue to focus on prepping the land for the next burn.

On Monday, November 3rd, I used a brush cutter to “mow” the woods on the northeast side of the loop trail.  The DNR has never been able to get a hot ground fire to run through this area.  Now, with the removal of the black locust and my brush clearing, we’re hoping for better results in 2015.

I recently replaced the bar oil pump, clutch and muffler on my Stihl 361 Pro chainsaw and I was eager to see how it performed. On Wednesday I returned to the cut-off trail to finish cutting a little patch of buckthorn on the east side of a wetland that sits between the cut-off trail and north loop trail.  Then I moved 100 yards to the east to cut buckthorn on the east side of another wetland near an old building foundation.

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And after cutting… the same three perspectives shown above.

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Pati joined me and we walked over to the north loop trail to check out the view from that perspective and to see the newly minted brush piles that Andy Buchta made.  Thanks Andy!

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Here is a view of the work area as seen from a bit further east on the cut-off trail.

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And video tour of the area.

My chainsaw ran perfectly and on Friday I was back at it again this time on the south end of the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve.  There was a patch of buckthorn on a little knoll between the Scuppernong Spring and Hwy 67.

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I had to tie a rope around some of the buckthorn to pull them pack away from the road as I cut them.

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Then I moved over the west a few yards to tackle a nasty thicket of buckthorn mixed with black oak slash.

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Like Wednesday, it was a sunny warm morning that turned cloudy and chilly as the day progressed.  Here are the same three views above at the end of the day.

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I caught the sunset at Ottawa Lake.

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See you at The Springs!