Oakitecture

My favorite scene from The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies was when Thorin Oakenshield spotted Bilbo Baggins intently gazing at the Arkenstone.  Confronted by the deranged king of the dwarfs, who was desperate to posses the stone, the wily Bilbo produced an Acorn from his pocket instead, and he soothed the savage beast with tales of The Shire and his dream to plant the Acorn there.

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In Middle-Earth, they called those who were skilled at building with oak: Oakitects, and there were many fine examples of their Oakitecture in The Shire.  For me this mythical place is a touchstone in my dreams: a place of beauty and harmony, love and peace.

I can say with all honesty and sincerity that the closest place I’ve ever been to The Shire is The Holtz Farm.  It all started when Lindsay Knudsvig and I received the Land Steward of the Year award from the Oak Savanna Alliance back in 2012 in the form of an Acorn, beautifully carved by retired DNR Wildlife Biologist Brian Glenzinski.

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Years passed by and I never got the call saying it was time to return the Acorn so, finally, I contacted Barb Holtz, and asked if I could return the award to her for save-keeping until the next Oak Savanna Alliance workshop.  Now, I’m not making this up… literally a few days later I got an email from Eric Tarman-Ramcheck (TR Natural Enterprises, LLC) saying that he had just received a grant from Camp Timber-Lee to hold another OSA workshop, which is scheduled for May 16th.

I had heard a lot about the work Andy and Barb have done removing invasive plants from their 360 acre farm and I was very impressed with the presentation Barb made at the Oak Savanna Alliance Workshop back in 2012, so Pati and I were excited when Barb graciously agreed to give us a tour when we dropped off the Acorn.  The homestead is in the upper right, or northeast corner, of the map below.  Their oak savanna encompasses 140 acres on the west and south ends of their property.  That is Jericho Creek, a Class II Trout stream, flowing on the west edge of the property and they have a perfect, picnic, pond on the south end.

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Their homestead is so cozy, it would make Bilbo Baggins jealous.

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And the outbuildings?  They rival anything you would see in The Shire: neat as pins.

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Before we ventured out, Barb gave us an overview of their restoration efforts over the last 5 years, describing how they got started using funds from the grants they received from the DNR’s Landowner Incentive Program.

Barb got hands-on experience working for three months with famed Oakitect, Jason Dare (Dare Ecosystem Management), whom they hired to get them started on the right track.

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In contrast to the The Buckthorn Man‘s hyper-aggressive slash and poison technique, Barb has been very successful using a slower, calmer, basal bark spraying approach to killing buckthorn, which you can learn more about here.  You can’t argue with her results.

We survey the landscape below before starting off.

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Let’s take a look at the classic, pre-settlement, Oakitecture on The Holtz Farm.  We made our way west to the ridge overlooking Jericho Creek.

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And there we saw this ingenious contraption that they use to apply insecticide to their cattle as they lick mineral salts.  A reservoir of bug dope and oil soaks the sleeve that surrounds the lick and also permeates fabric enclosed by gnarly chain extending to the ground on the right side.  As the cattle push under the sleeve to get at the mineral lick, or rub their bodies against the chain, they get a light coating of sanity preserving insecticide.

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Barb and Andy’s daughter, Helen, explained that they have learned the value of allowing their sheep and cattle to graze in the oak savanna to help keep the invasive plants down.  Ben Johnson has been bugging me to do the same at The Springs, with goats, and I’m going to investigate that possibility.

This is the largest Oak Savanna remnant on private land in Southeastern Wisconsin.  Barb is quick to point out however, that at this point, the “structure” is there, but they still have work to do to re-establish the native plant community in the understory.  Check out this stunning Oakitecture!

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Here is the pond on the south side of their property.

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While we frolicked amongst the oaks, Andy was hard at work clearing brush.  Below, Helen works the pile.

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I’ve been a vegetarian for 3 years now, but when Barb said she had made a lamb stew for us, I had to make an exception.  It was delicious!

We hated to see the visit end, but we had to go and they had work to do as well.  Thanks again Andy, Barb and Helen for welcoming us into your home and little slice of heaven, we had a great time!  Stay tuned for more updates on the Oak Savanna Alliance Workshop scheduled for May 16th.  Who will win the Land Steward of the Year award this time?

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See you at The Springs!

Blind Traveler

I felt the first hint of Spring Sunshine on my face.  It’s coming!

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That splash of life and color arrived, just in time, in my in-box last week from Matthew J. George, a kindred soul, and so much more.

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“Fine Art Photographer, Creative Consultant,Tree Hugger, Sculptor, Storyteller, Witness, Explorer, Trailbreaker, Wanderer, Bohemian, Celt, Granola type”

Are you the “Blind Traveler” Matthew?

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The title you gave to the picture above is a beautiful metaphor to contemplate the difference between “an exoteric, literal meaning and an esoteric, inner teaching”.

Matthew, it was a pleasure to meet you on the Sand Prairie and I Thank You for sharing these beautiful pictures with us.

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The picture above, along with the first in the post, were taken at the Eagle Oak Opening State Natural Area.  Below, Matthew explores Bluff Creek East: “… It’s always a little different where I go and how I get there, but I bet you have an idea of how and why I do it.  I am looking for the “real” Kettle Moraine — the one that is hidden beneath the invasive brush — the Kettles you and I envision how they should look and feel. Thanks to your, and your team-mates efforts, the  Southern Kettle Moraine has become one of the most exemplary examples of what Wisconsin must have looked like a few hundred years back.”  _35A4643 _35A4696The Bluff Creek Springs.

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_35A1972Below, Matthew takes advantage of a new perspective revealed sans buckthorn at The Springs._35A2132 “I am an avid hunter of the Spring Ephemeral flowers that bloom in the areas  before the canopy fills with leaves, but there needs to be little or no invasive growth in order to find them. Now I can find them much easier. I am talking about Hepatica, Spring beauties, Jack in the Pulpit, etc. These Spring Ephemerals are inherently descriptive of the “real” Kettles.”

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Check out Matthew’s fine photography at: Matthew J George, Rain To River Photography!

Photographers treat the old marl factory wall at The Springs like a canvas (#3 on the Trail Brochure), and I think it’s going to become even more popular when all of the buckthorn is cleared away from it.

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I have been looking forward to clearing both sides of the trail between signpost #2, commemorating The Tibby Line, and the marl factory for a couple years now and I’m pleased to report that I finally got after it.  Andy Buchta, just back from his adventures Down Under, joined me to stoke the fires.

Tuesday morning was cold and windy.

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I lit the brush piles shown above and then started a few new piles amongst the buckthorn.  Thanks for all your hard, volunteer, labor Andy!

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Tuesday Afternoon.

We returned on Thursday and had another fantastic day.

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We finally broke clear through to the marl factory wall!

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I’ve been working so long into the short Winter days that it’s been a while since I took a walk around the loop as the sun set.

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Back at The Wall.

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See you at The Springs!

IATA Leads Hartland Marsh Restoration

I feel a lump welling up in my sore throat when I consider the latest turn of events in the saga of the Hartland Marsh restoration. My involvement began in earnest back in 2004 when I decided to clear the buckthorn from The Marsh, and I began spending most of my free time pursuing that goal.  I succeeded to a point: over the next 7 years I cut almost all of the mature buckthorn, burned hundreds of brush piles and followed up with brush cutting and foliar spraying, but I was not able to persuade the powers that be to implement a prescribed fire program — the only long-term solution to fighting invasive species — and I threw in the towel.

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The Hartland Marsh is home to some of the biggest, most beautiful oaks, in Southeast Wisconsin, and Pati and I returned to visit over the next 4 years whenever we could.

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In November of last year we were stunned not only by the site of the Chimney Swift Tower, but by the awakened spirit of CARE in the Village of Hartland that made it possible.  Perhaps is was just a coincidence, or maybe it was the Law of Attraction at work, but at the same time the tower was taking shape, Kevin Thusius, the property manager for the Ice Age Trail Alliance, decided it was time to commit some of his considerable leadership and organizational skills to resuscitating the Hartland Marsh/Bark River Preserve Project.

Kevin formed a committee including: Paul Sandgren, Forest Superintendent Southern Unit – KMSF Lapham Peak & Glacial Drumlin Trail East; Marlin Johnson, representing the Waukesha County Land Conservancy; Dave Cox and Mike Einweck, from the Village of Hartland; Duane Grimm representing Waukesha County; and fellow IATA members Brad Crary, Russ Evans and Ken Neitzke (I replaced Ken, wait, that’s not possible), and he enlisted Craig Annen with Integrated Restorations LLC to come up with a plan.  Per the assessment from Craig’s team:

Management action should be undertaken within the next five years to preserve this remnant and curtail any further degradation of its structural and compositional integrity and prevent local species loss; if the present trend is allowed to continue for more than five years, species invasions and successional changes will be increasingly difficult and expensive to reverse, and will require a longer time commitment to accomplish. Fortunately, previous efforts by IATA (Ice Age Trail Alliance) and WCLC (Waukesha County Land Conservation) volunteers have already placed this site on a trajectory toward recovery, and capitalizing on these efforts can be accomplished within a three year time period with a routine level of management intensity. The only foreseeable challenge this site poses is its urban location and obtaining permission and public acceptance of the use of prescribed fire as a management tool.

The plan prioritizes the uplands (see area enclosed in yellow and the John Muir Lookout Island, circled in magenta below.)

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Money is the limiting factor, so if you know any “angels” who are willing to come forward and help us save the Oaks of the Hartland Marsh, please ask them to contact Kevin (kevin@iceagetrail.org)!  With the funds Kevin has been able to hustle so far, we plan to hire Craig’s team to begin putting the plan into action by attacking the invasive species on the 37 acres of uplands.  Paul Sandgren has generously donated two days service from DNR Trail Boss Don Dane and Forestry Technician Mike Spaight to help us cut fire breaks and begin mowing the buckthorn, box elder and other woody invasives.

We really appreciate that Lake Country Now is helping us tell our story! Thanks for that post Steve, and for convincing your editors to send freelance journalist Rebecca Seymour out to meet us this past Wednesday as we gathered at The Marsh to review the plan and flag the areas where Don and Mike should work.  The next few shots are courtesy of Rebecca.

(From left to right: The Buckthorn Man, Craig Annen, Mike Einweck, Kevin Thusius and Marlin Johnson)

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Our nemesis: Mr. Buckthorn.

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Keep an eye on Lake Country Now (2/24 and 3/10) for Rebecca’s next stories about The Marsh.

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After our meeting on Wednesday, I drove down to Forest Headquarters to review the plan with Don Dane.  I had heard a little about the cuts to the DNR that Governor Walker has planned for the 2015-2017 budget, which begins in July, and Don filled me in with the following:

I’m a Voluntaryist, and Anarchist, so I’m not going to ask you to beg the legislature or governor to spend the money they take from us via threat and coercion (hyperbole? pay or you go to jail!) differently.  No, I’m asking you to roll up your sleeves, volunteer, and get to work.  You take responsibility for the land; don’t rely on government.

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It’s been darn cold and I’ve been under the weather a bit so I only got out to The Springs one day this week on Monday.  I continued cutting and burning along the stretch of trail between signpost #2 and Marl Factory.  I’m going to focus on finishing this area while it is frozen.  Here is how it looked when I got there.

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I had a relaxing day and made modest progress.

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If you are interested in prescribed burns, aka wildland fires, and want an inside look from the DNR’s perspective, check out the videos from their 2015 Prescribed Fire In-Service.   I found the Cranberry Fire — Lessons Learned and the Prescribed Burn Scenario, which features the 2014 Bluff Creek East Burn, very interesting.

Last but not least, don’t forget to visit my Wisconsin Wetlands Association “Big Share” campaign and make a donation.   Please note, the totals for contributors and dollars are not updated and still show zeroes; that’s just the way it is.

See you at The Springs!

I Left My Heart At Bluff Creek

I’ll always love the Scuppernong Springs, but there is an even prettier, more pristine, more remote complex of springs at the Bluff Creek State Natural Area.  There aren’t any noisy highways or bright lights nearby; just babbling waters emerging beneath old oaks in classic Kettle Moraine country.

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The headwaters of Bluff Creek are a Class I Trout Stream!

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It was great to get back to work in the forest and the highlight of the week was returning to the Bluff Creek Springs with Zach Kastern, Jared Urban and the hard-working, dedicated State Natural Areas volunteers.

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Zach had done some preliminary work cutting and piling and he arrived early to light the fires.

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Soon we were all hard at work.  Thanks to Pati for these pics!

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We wrapped up the morning’s efforts around noon and munched on some Valentine donuts.

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A few of us continued working in the afternoon and here is how it looked at the end of the day.

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That was Chris Mann and Zach Kastern talking shop after we visited the springs on the north side of the ridge.  We hung out by the fire and watched the ducks and geese drift in for the night; it was blissful and none of us wanted to leave.  It’s very inspiring to work with a big group of volunteers like we had yesterday.  Lord knows we can’t rely on the arbitrary whims of the legislators in government to do the right thing by the land. 

I got back to work last Monday cutting buckthorn amongst the tamaracks on the north west side of the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA.  I can’t wait to see the tamaracks sans buckthorn this spring!

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Here is the view from the pond.

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The Buckthorn intertwines with the tamarack and kills it.

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It will take a few more days to finish clearing this grove.

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Ottawa lake sunset.

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On Wednesday, I got back to The Springs to cut and burn buckthorn just down the trail from signpost #2.  Here is how it looked before I got started.

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I’m standing by my sled, which you can see in the picture above, for the next two shots.IMG_4887 IMG_4886

I’m really looking forward to clearing this stretch of buckthorn between signpost #2 and the marl pit factory so that you’ll be able to see across the Scuppernong River Habitat Area to the Kettle Moraine ridges to the south.

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Looking back up the trail towards signpost #2.

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By the time I dropped my gear off at the truck and changed into some dry boots, the sun was already down.

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See you at The Springs!

The Buckthorn Man Calls In Chits

I would never ask for money on my own, but The Buckthorn Man, on the other hand, thinks you might feel an obligation, and he asked me to help call in his chits.  Please participate in his fund raising campaign for the Wisconsin Wetlands Association Inc. by clicking here and making a donation to support this worthy organization’s efforts.

We have featured the Wisconsin Wetlands Association here and here and they have been a real inspiration for our restoration efforts at The Springs.

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Zach Kastern and Ginny Coburn are leading another State Natural Areas Volunteer workday at the headwaters of Bluff Creek, near Lone Tree Bluff, this Saturday from 9-noon.  There will  be Fire!

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See you at The Springs!

Winter Break

I confess — I’m a little burnt out working at The Springs.

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Maybe it’s the Red Pill I took, or the Coffee, or the Buckthorn, or Winter, or too much Smoke — I don’t know, but I need a break.  I’ve been taking advantage of the mild weather, and the opportunity to work with the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards, to clear huge swaths of Buckthorn from the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA and the Buckthorn Alley and I’m pooped out.  I need to do some yoga, strum a guitar, prepare for traffic court and simply be with Pati, so I’m taking a week off.

Yes, you heard right, I’m going to fight the speeding ticket I got a few weeks ago in the Town of Lisbon on the way home from hiking the Ice Age Trail on the Loew Lake segment.  I’m taking the approach recommended by Marc Stevens and striking at the root i.e., their claims that their laws and statutes apply to me because I’m physically in the State of Wisconsin, and that they have jurisdiction (they can speak [diction] the law [juris] — they can control me.)  That is their argument and I’m simply going to ask: where are the facts — the persons with first hand knowledge — that prove this is true?  Mere opinions, albeit, made by men and women dressed in black robes and sitting on pedestals, that reference the state statutes/codes and the citation are circular: the code applies, because the code says it applies (the bible is the word of god because the bible says it is the word of god etc…)

I’m an anarchist.  That just means I don’t believe in rulers; it does not mean I don’t believe in rules.  I’ve been listening to Lysander Spooner’s seminal work No Treason, No. 6 The Constitution Of No Authority to help ground me:

The Constitution has no inherent authority or obligation. It has no authority or obligation at all, unless as a contract between man and man. And it does not so much as even purport to be a contract between persons now existing. It purports, at most, to be only a contract between persons living eighty years ago. And it can be supposed to have been a contract then only between persons who had already come to years of discretion, so as to be competent to make reasonable and obligatory contracts.

I’ll be bringing an unsigned plea of guilt to the intake/arraignment, which I am ready to sign, if they can just show me the facts that substantiate their claims that their laws apply to me and that they have jurisdiction.

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Mark Passio explained: “Morality and freedom are directly proportional.”  One need look no further than the NSA’s warrantless spying programs to understand how our immoral government reverences the constitution.

 

When it comes to Buckthorn, I don’t rely on opinions that this obnoxious invasive tree must be eliminated from our forests to grant jurisdiction to me and my chainsaw; I can see the factual evidence that this weed tree is causing harm and violating the rights of White, Red and Burr Oaks to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. The Buckthorn Man has jurisdiction!

Last Tuesday, Jim Brown, my oldest and dearest friend — since we were 4 or 5 — came out to help me cut and burn on the east end of the Buckthorn Alley.  Here is how it looked west, north and east, before we got started:

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Jimmy never flagged and we got a hell of a lot done.

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Pati joined us and we warmed up by the fire before taking Jim on a grand tour of the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail.

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On Wednesday, Chris Mann volunteered to help me burn the brush piles Andy Buchta made on the south side of the trail last Fall, near the location shown above.  Again, here is how it looked north, east and south, before we got started:

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I wanted to take advantage of the minimal snow and moderate winds.

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Jimmy came out again to provide a shot of energy just after Chris left and, all together, we got dozens of brush piles lit.

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Thanks Jimmy!

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We hung out by the fire and Jim wished the day would never end.

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See you at The Springs!

The Pike Lake Springs

I love springs.  They’re pure and simple, shimmering musical, bubbling forth life and hope; just what I need.  So it was serendipitous that Pati and I decided to hike the Ice Age Trail in the Kettle Moraine State Forest Pike Lake Unit, where we discovered that the lake is fed by numerous springs along its eastern shore.

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The Rubicon River flows through the lake on its way to the Rock River, providing refreshing circulation.

In 2001 a 60′ observation tower was built at the top of Powder Hill that provides a unique perspective of the the surrounding Kettle Moraine topography.

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The highlight of the extensive trail system is the Black Forest Nature Trail, which takes you through a remnant of Southern Dry-Mesic Forest that includes spring-fed wetlands.

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We are definitely going to visit this beautiful place again as the seasons change.

Back home at The Springs, I had another great week thanks to a little help from my friends.  On Martin Luther King Day, I was joined by my old friend from Northwestern Mutual, Mark Mamerow, who helped me for many years to clean out the Bark River and make it navigable for canoes and kayaks from the Village of Hartland to Lake Nagawicka.

Before I dive into our modest accomplishments, I want to call your attention to An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King, by William F. Pepper.  While the nation was distracted by the O. J. Simpson trial, the family of Dr. King was successfully pursuing truth and justice via a wrongful death civil trial against Loyd Jowers.  The jury deliberated for about an hour before delivering their verdict:

THE COURT: In answer to the question did Loyd Jowers participate in a conspiracy to do harm to Dr. Martin Luther King, your answer is yes. Do you also find that others, including governmental agencies, were parties to this conspiracy as alleged by the defendant? Your answer to that one is also yes. And the total amount of damages you find for the plaintiffs entitled to is one hundred dollars. Is that your verdict?

THE JURY: Yes (In unison).

There is overwhelming evidence that James Earl Ray did not shoot Dr. King and that others, “including governmental agencies” were involved.  Yet, every year on Martin Luther King day, the nation’s collective amnesia is “refreshed” by the total blackout of this important information in the main stream media.  This is the kind of thing that drives The Buckthorn Man crazy.  You can listen to William F. Pepper tell the story here.

I met Mark at the DNR parking area above the Hotel Spring and we headed to the area north of the old barn site along Hwy 67, where I have been working recently.   Our goal was to burn the brush previously cut and continue clearing the buckthorn from the hillside below the highway.  Here are a few shots taken after we got the first fire started.

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We allowed time and energy to take a tour of The Springs afterwards and I got to show off all of the cool things we did last year.  Thanks Mark!

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Last Thursday I was joined deep in the Buckthorn Alley by Chris Mann and the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards (Brian Brandt and Austin Avellone.)  We are clearing the north side of the trail, which, now that you can see, consists of rolling uplands interspersed with wetlands.  Here is how it looked before we got started (the views are looking east, north and southeast.)

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Lunch break update.

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The results far exceeded my expectations!  Brian Brandt really kicked ass, putting Chris, Austin and The Buckthorn Man to shame.  I think he might even be able to give Ben Johnson and Lindsay Knudsvig a run for their money!  Below are the same three perspectives shown above.

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Finally, on Saturday, taking advantage of the mild weather, I headed over to the east shore of Ottawa Lake to burn some brush piles that Andy Buchta stacked this past Fall.  Thanks again Andy!

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Mark Miner joins us when he can, and I really appreciated his help on Saturday to watch and tend the brush piles after I got them lit.  We had a safe and effective day burning piles along the lake shore all the way up to the east side of the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA.

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Views from the campground, site #380, where I parked my truck.

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Views from the east side of the fen.

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It’s a load off my mind when I can get brush piles burned!

A couple of closing shots from our adventure at Pike Lake yesterday.

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See you at The Springs!