Ben Johnson — Expanding the Green Dream

It’s been almost a year since Anne Korman, Assistant Superintendent of the Kettle Moraine State Forest — Southern Unit, introduced me to Ben Johnson and his contributions at The Springs have been gaining momentum ever since.  From his first, fearless, dead of Winter, forays in the Buckthorn Alley wielding a decidedly underwhelming chainsaw — to his latest step building project using recycled buckthorn logs on the sand prairie — Ben has demonstrated natural creativity and indefatigable enthusiasm.  Let’s take a look at some of his recent accomplishments and find out what makes Mr. Johnson tick (his words are indented in italics below.)

Is it an obsession, a religion, a deep metaphysical connection to our primal ancestral past?  I’m not quite sure why some of us have the ability to see and feel the natural world, while others have no association whatsoever to the land. That’s a pretty judgmental assumption to make, but quite simply, some people get it and others don’t. The Aboriginal People of Australia believe in “dreamtime,” a spirit world where they can transcend space and time. Maybe there are a few of us that are fortunate enough to journey into a green dream: a mindset or inquisitive state of consciousness where we can actually speak the language of ecology. And it’s absolutely a journey. Nobody just walks into the woods and is given this gift. We have to work at it, study, inspect. We must experience the rain on our faces, see the first buds open, and the last leaves fall to the ground, the progression, the phenology of the landscape.

On September 4th, Ben bugged out of work early and headed straight for the gaging station bridge to do a little stream bank remediation.  The view downstream before he got started on that steamy afternoon.

20140904_155037

And after…

20140904_182928

20140904_183250

Seen from the left bank.

20140904_155939 20140904_182907

A few years back, after investing a good many years in college, and a solid decade trying to capture an income under a fluorescent enclosed sky, I asked myself, “does any of this make me happy? Ok, then what would?” I felt there was only one route to take, and that was in a natural setting, far away from the corporate path I had chosen. It’s not quite so easy to dump ones routine and dive into a new career. I have plenty of experience in the “green industry”, but the world of commercial landscaping is a far cry from ecological stewardship. To get to where I wanted to be, I felt that education was the key component. So I again enrolled in the university. I chose to pursue an MA in Environmental Studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

One of the first things Ben noticed when he began volunteering at The Springs, a fact I lamented as well, was that there were no benches anywhere along the trail to rest one’s weary bones.  We talked about it many times and I know the satisfaction Ben must have felt when he finally got a chance to do something about it.  On Saturday, September 6th, he did some erosion control at the edge of the stone wall at the Scuppernong Spring and installed one of his custom benches using red oak pedestals foraged from a pile up the trail where the source tree had fallen across the path.

IMG_1407 IMG_1406 IMG_1408

On Sunday I joined Ben and we picked out 4 more pedestals, loaded our wheel barrows with two more benches, and headed for the Indian Spring.

IMG_3936

The bench design couldn’t be simpler and they are surprisingly stable when screwed into thick oak stumps.

IMG_3938

The views from the bench, looking right and left, of the some of the springs that comprise the Indian Springs.

IMG_3942 IMG_3941

You get a great view of the prairie to the west as well.

IMG_3943

There is no such thing as a free lunch, so on top of the scholastic pursuit, I began volunteering at the Wildlife in Need Center as an animal rehabilitation technician and this soon evolved into showcasing wildlife at educational events. The next step, and it felt like the natural one to take, was to find a habitat or ecosystem to immerse myself in, and take the time to learn the land. The Southern Kettle Moraine DNR volunteer coordinator pointed me towards Paul Mozina and the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail. I wouldn’t say that I found a blank slate to work, it was more like a Jackson Pollack painted over the top of a Thomas Cole.

We took the other bench up to the sand prairie and, amazingly, Ben picked one of my favorite spots, from which you get a classic view of the Scuppernong River winding westward, to plant the bench.

IMG_3945 IMG_3947 IMG_3946

The view from the bench.

IMG_3965

These conveniently located resting places cost almost nothing to build, and only a few minutes to install, yet they had gone wanting for years.

In due time, I came to understand that the work at the Springs was the practice of restoration ecology, be it in the river, the sand prairie, or knee deep in the snow removing buckthorn. Vegetation is a monster to ID, learn, and control in itself, but I felt the fauna of the area deserved attention as well. I used the skills gained through osmosis as the son of a carpenter (thanks Dad) to build fifty nesting boxes for various woodland and prairie species. I would like to think that the overall avian population at the property increased as a result of this project. That’s the restoration, let’s bring back what’s native to the Springs.

The morning passed quickly and in the afternoon I headed over to the buckthorn alley to cut the buckthorn resprouts and seedlings that flourished there with my brush cutter.  Ben had other plans.  There are two trails that descend from the sand prairie down to the Indian Springs and they converge along the edge of the outflow stream forming a little loop trail.  Both trails are pure sand and suffering from erosion, so Ben decided to build some stairs.

IMG_3958 IMG_3961

Ben plans to finish the steps on this path and then tackle the more deeply eroded trail that leads directly down to the Indian Spring.

Johnson, another carpenter’s son, loves to work with his hands on wood.  We saw some of his handiwork resurrecting the deck near the Scuppernong Spring.  Thursday after work, he stopped out with his friend and coworker, Glen Rhinesmith, and replaced the missing toe boards on the boardwalk leading to the Emerald Spring.

IMG_3995 IMG_3996 IMG_3997 IMG_3999

While Ben worked, I got to show Glen around The Springs and I learned way more from him than he did from me.  Glen has a great eye, two in fact, and deep, deep knowledge about plants, fish, birds and the natural world, not to mention photography and ham radios.  I hope to post some of his pictures of The Springs here soon.  Here are just a few of the interesting things he pointed out to me.

Blue Milk Mushrooms.

IMG_4001

Indian Pipe.

IMG_4002

Evening Primrose, which Glen explained attracts moths and smells like lemon!

IMG_4005

Ben and Glen.

IMG_4006

Though I thought the day would never come, I have reached the final course in the Master’s degree program at UIS, the capstone internship. With the help of Anne Korman, Assistant Superintendent of the KMSF – Southern Unit, I secured my graduate internship with the WDNR at the Springs. We have outlined projects and areas of need on the property. First priority is invasive vegetation, followed by trail improvements and accessibility. The fisheries team has also given me the opportunity to learn about stream restoration. It’s an honor to have such a beautiful classroom in which to work. This is the place where I enter the green dreamworld. I carry on a conversation with the land. It’s a very Leopoldian concept. Restoration ecology is an ethical practice, deciding what is right for the landscape.

Thanks Ben!  It’s a pleasure to work with you.

I got a few licks in myself this past week cutting buckthorn resprouts and seedlings along the trail from the parking lot on Hwy ZZ all the way to the end of the Buckthorn Alley.

The spotted knapweed flower weevils we released in early August appear to be doing well and I have spotted them munching seedheads on the south end of the prairie and in the huge patch of knapweed to the east of the Indian Spring spur trail.  I am leaving these remaining mature knapweed plants for the weevils despite the fact that they are loaded with seeds.  There are lots of first year plants that do not have flowers, and that are far from where I released the root weevils (they migrate less than 100 yards a year), that I may dig out yet this season.

I love the view from the Scuppernong Spring as the late afternoon sunlight illuminates the valley.

IMG_3984

Sunset out on the marl pit canal looking East towards the sand prairie.

IMG_3955

IMG_3969

Looking south…

IMG_3971

… then north

.IMG_3972IMG_3973 IMG_3977 IMG_3978

Last Monday evening at the marl pit bridge.

IMG_3982

Sunset on the south end of the sand prairie.

IMG_3986 IMG_3991 IMG_3993

See you at The Springs!

p.s. I’m taking a week off to relax with Pati at a cabin up north on Lake Owen.

The Return of The Buckthorn Man

It was a bit reminiscent of The Return of Tarzan when The Buckthorn Man returned to his Shangri-La on the shores of Ottawa Lake.

IMG_3908

Like the buckthorn thickets of the kettle moraine are ‘a bit’ like the jungles of Africa, The Buckthorn Man is only ‘a bit’ as noble and virtuous as the mighty Tarzan.  Yes, yes, if only I could be as self-possessed as the king of the jungle, how liberating that would be.

Imitating the lord of the apes, I aspired to noble contemplation of ethics and aesthetics as I bent over the spotted knapweed on the sand prairie and listened to The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas.  Sweet freedom.  Paradoxically, I do love my servitude to The Creator, which is my free choice to labor at The Springs, because it enables me to manifest my version of Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic, and satisfy my desire to make the world a more beautiful place.

IMG_3816

I finally did read A Sand County Almanac, which includes Leopold’s thought provoking essay, “The Land Ethic”:

A land, ethic, then, reflects the existence of an ecological conscience, and this in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of the land.

Much of what he said resonated with me, but, and I hope you won’t think that The Buckthorn Man simply must have a buckthorn spike stuck in his butt to quibble with Aldo, like other careful readers, I found myself disconcerted by some of the things he said, or, as the case may be, did not say.  He fails to mention the highly evolved Seventh Generation Earth Ethics of the indigenous people, while hoping that “we”, homo sapiens (Latin: “wise man”), who violently and rapaciously “conquered” the land, have learned a lesson.

A nation spawned from empires built on the backs of slaves is not easily weaned from gluttonous exploitation.  Lest you think my ranting hyperbolic, consider this example from Donald Culross Peattie’s fine work,  A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America:

Until almost the turn of the present century (1900), pecans reached the market largely from wild trees.  The harvesting methods in early times consisted in nothing less heroic and criminal than cutting down gigantic specimens — the bigger the better — and setting boys to gather the nuts from the branches of the fallen giants.  It seemed to the pioneer then, as it did to every American, that the forests of this country were inexhaustible.  Thus it came about that the wild Pecan tree had become rare before men began to realize how much was lost.

native-pecan-tree

Before I proceed with the riveting story of what happened when The Buckthorn Man returned to Shangri-La, I must complain about another, subtle perhaps, line of Leopoldian thought.  He espouses a moral relativism that positively rankles me: “An ethic, philosophically, is a differentiation of social from anti-social conduct.”, and later: “The mechanism of operation is the same for any ethic: social approbation for right actions: social disapproval for wrong actions.”  No Aldo, NO!  There is an objective difference between right and wrong, independent of the whims of society, which Mark Passio eloquently and passionately explains in his Natural Law Seminar.

If you have any doubts, please check with Fredrick Douglas.

I arrived at the Ottawa Lake campground on Friday, August 22, excited to setup camp at the walk-in site #335, only to find that it had been let to another party an hour earlier.  It reminded me of that scene where Jerry Seinfeld complained to the car rental company that knew how to take his reservation, but not how to hold it.  Undecided about what to do, I took a walk downstream in the Scuppernong River to inspect the work that was recently done to improve the channel.

IMG_3793

Here are some views of the stretch of the river just upstream from the gaging station bridge that still need some channel remediation.

IMG_3796

IMG_3797 IMG_3798 IMG_3799

While wandering the trails I met Eliot and his son Isaiah, and they graciously invited me to stay with them at site #388, which is a beautiful site on the bluff overlooking Ottawa Lake.  Thanks again guys!

Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday were dedicated to digging and pulling spotted knapweed on the sand prairie.  Most of the seed is still firmly attached and, since I did not mow the prairie this year, there is a ton of it.

IMG_3819

IMG_1383

I didn’t care if it rained.

IMG_3833 IMG_3835

It was hot, humid and buggy, but beautiful nevertheless.

The Hillside Springs.

IMG_3840 IMG_3842

The Indian Springs.

IMG_3844

Ottawa Lake sunset.

IMG_3849

IMG_3852

IMG_3867

On Tuesday and Wednesday I was determined to finish clearing the buckthorn along the trail that follows the east shore of Ottawa Lake between site #380 and #335.  I was concerned about the bar oiling mechanism not working properly on my chainsaw and, sure enough, it was kaput.  So, I carried a little pint bottle of bar oil in my chaps and stopped every couple minutes to manually apply some lubrication to the bar and chain.  No problem!

Tuesday, before…

IMG_3871 IMG_3872

… and after.

IMG_3873 IMG_3874

The sights and sounds of The Springs:

Buckthorn seedlings along the cut-off trail.

IMG_3878

The cut-off trail.

IMG_3880

Giant thistles that I should have positively identified as friend or foe a few months ago.IMG_3882

The Hidden Spring.

The area of phragmites that I poisoned near the Emerald Spring deck is finally coming back to life.

IMG_3885

The Emerald Spring.

The Scuppernong Spring.

IMG_3888

The Indian Spring.

IMG_3915

A beautiful, unidentified flower near the Hotel Spring.

IMG_3918

The valley of the headwaters.

IMG_1388

Wednesday morning and I had a date with buckthorn.

Before…

IMG_3892

… and after.

IMG_3894

You can follow the lakeshore trail all the way from the beach to the north end of site #334 and enjoy wide open views of the lake and fen to the west the whole way.  It’s lovely.

IMG_3898 IMG_3902 IMG_3910

IMG_3912

Thanks again to Carl Baumann, for splitting and restacking my stash of firewood!.

IMG_3288

And thanks to Dave and Lindsay for coming out to visit; I really enjoyed it.  I had a couple of uninhibited and inspired guitar jams by the fire and, despite all the rain, never had to setup my tarp at camp.  It was excellent.

See you at The Springs!

 

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.

Elmer_fudd

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.

IMG_3784

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

IMG_3786

These little guys have a grip!

IMG_3787 IMG_3789

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.

IMG_3748

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…

IMG_3752

… 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.

IMG_3778 IMG_3779

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

IMG_3757 IMG_3759

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

IMG_3767

The big bend.

IMG_3761

The view from the Scuppernong Spring

IMG_3768

The Indian Spring.

IMG_3769

The Sand Prairie.

IMG_3783

More views from the marl pit bridge.

IMG_3780

IMG_3776

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.

rodin

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.

IMG_3687

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 …

IMG_3688

… and after

IMG_3690

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

IMG_3692

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

IMG_3693 IMG_3694

… I visited my favorite spots,

IMG_3696

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

IMG_3698 IMG_3701 IMG_3703

IMG_3706

IMG_3708

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

IMG_3710

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

IMG_3711

IMG_3722

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

IMG_3721

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.

IMG_3716

Anyone recognize this woodland flower?

IMG_3718

Sunset at the marl pit bridge.

IMG_3724 IMG_3727 IMG_3733 IMG_3739

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.

IMG_3743

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.

IMG_3747

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.

TwinTowerConstruction

AccelerationOfGravity

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.

SouthTowerDestruction

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.

IMG_3640

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…

IMG_3623

… and after.

IMG_3625

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…

IMG_3615 IMG_3626 IMG_3627

… and over by the the no-name spring.

IMG_3617 IMG_3618

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

IMG_3620

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.

IMG_3629 IMG_3637

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.

IMG_3643

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

IMG_3644 IMG_3646 IMG_3647

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

IMG_3649

Another marl pit bridge sunset.

IMG_3652 IMG_3659

The perigee moon.

IMG_3663

IMG_3666 IMG_3671 IMG_3676 IMG_3678

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

IMG_3682

Wish I’d been here as the sunset!

IMG_3684

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:

GeorgeOrwell

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

WinstonChurchill

“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.

IMG_3578

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.

IMG_3597 IMG_3598

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.

IMG_0385

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

IMG_3586 IMG_3587

He moved like a cat.

IMG_3588 IMG_3589

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.

IMG_3590 IMG_3591 IMG_3595

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.

IMG_3567

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.

IMG_3584 IMG_3585

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.

IMG_3581 IMG_3582

Ahhh, the simple life.

IMG_3580

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”.

ToddNelsonPerformingAlwaysOpenCarwash

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.

IMG_3554

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

IMG_3555 IMG_3556

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.

IMG_3557 IMG_3558 IMG_3559

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.

IMG_3560 IMG_3561 IMG_3562 IMG_3563 IMG_3564 IMG_3565

We may have to put some railings on this deck!

IMG_3566 IMG_3567 IMG_3568

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.

IMG_3570 IMG_3572

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.

IMG_3511

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.

IMG_3519

IMG_3512 IMG_3518

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.

IMG_3523 IMG_3531

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!

IMG_3536

Dinner is served!

IMG_1368

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.

IMG_3543 IMG_3549 IMG_3552

See you at The Springs!