Oakological Succession

What does the future hold for the Oak Savannas and Woodlands of Wisconsin?  I left the 2015 Oak Savanna Alliance workshop last Saturday at Camp Timber-Lee with a decidedly unsettled feeling aka, cognitive dissonance.  Am I fighting for another seemingly hopeless cause i.e., stopping the War On Drugs, or trying to get a real investigation into what happened on 9/11, when I volunteer my time and attention, my spiritual currency, to restore and preserve the oakosystems in the Kettle Moraine?  Can, or rather, should, anything be done to prevent the oakological succession of the oak forests below the “tension zone” to mixed central and northern hardwood forests?

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“Oak forests on medium- and high-productivity sites throughout the Midwest have been decreasing in extent for several decades. Historically, regeneration in these forests was facilitated by a periodic fire regime. Today, it is difficult to regenerate oaks on these nutrient-rich sites due to competition from native and nonnative plants that outcompete oak seedlings. Browsing by white-tailed deer also limits the survival and growth of oak seedlings. The lack of successful regeneration along with selective harvesting of mature oaks contribute to the gradual succession of oak forests to mixed central hardwoods, which includes species such as red and sugar maple, basswood, elms, green and white ash, and ironwood.Wisconsin’s Forests 2004 United States Department of Agriculture

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(see also: Shifts in Southern Wisconsin Forest Canopy and Understory Richness, Composition, and Heterogeneity)

DNR Natural Area Conservation Biologist Matt Zine made an excellent presentation about the progress of the oak succession and the master planning process currently happening at the Lulu Lake SNA.  But it appears, given the meager crumbs of financial support they get, that the Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation should be renamed to the Museum of Natural Heritage Conservation.  With an annual budget of around $5 million, supporting 33.5 full time employees (of which only a handful are working in southeastern Wisconsin), to manage the endangered resources on 673 State Natural Areas comprising 373,000 acres, they are hard-pressed to do more than save a few choice relics.  Matt explained that they are 10 years behind when it comes to creating master plans for all of the SNAs, and that’s excluding the SNAs above the tension zone, which presumably do not contain any endangered resources, or stand to benefit from any formal management planning.   We don’t know how many, or what percentage, of the SNAs below the tension zone have master plans. This limited perspective on our endangered resources ignores the other 5 million acres of publicly owned lands in the state as well as the privately held lands (approximately 29 million acres.)

Wetlands near Lulu Lake

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Matt is the messenger and I’m having trouble with the message.  Am I fighting Mother Nature when I cling to the ideal of the pre-settlement oak savannas and woodlands and work to restore something that can never be again?  It’s not just the trees, it’s the oakosystems and the mystique of the Native Americans who nurtured and mastered a life sustaining and harmonious balance of flora and fauna.  I fear that, if we don’t preserve the oak savannas and woodlands, we will loose forever the native wisdom accumulated over centuries, that they intrinsically and beautifully embody.

Thank goodness there are people like Eric Tarman-Ramcheck, Emily Stahl and Amanda Kutka, who organized the Oak Savanna Alliance Workshop, and Zach Kastern and Ginny Coburn, who share my passion for the oak savannas and woodlands of the Kettle Moraine!  Zach and Ginny have been organizing volunteer workdays in the Southern Kettle Moraine in partnership with the DNR for three years now.  Zach was awarded the Land Steward of the Year award by the Oak Savanna Alliance.  Way to go Zach!

Zach receiving the award from Matt Zine.

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The Buckthorn Man made a decent presentation baring his heart and soul while sharing his experiences volunteering for 20 years in the Kettle Moraine.

I’m plagued with doubts as I continue my efforts at The Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail: am I doing “The Right Thing” or am I fighting the natural succession?  Is it wise to abandon the management practices of the people who lived here for thousands of years, which kept the natural succession in check?

On Tuesday May 12, I spent most of the day cutting garlic mustard with my brush cutter.  I am observing that in the areas where I concentrated on cutting garlic mustard last year, there is significantly less this year and the plants that are present are typically 6-8″ tall, spindly, and with relatively few seeds.  I am gaining confidence that the strategy of mowing garlic mustard can succeed by focusing on keeping it out of the “best” areas and then gradually expanding the no-GM zone.

The river is starting to make a head cut at the Hotel Spring bridge location where the DNR recently excavated (scroll down to the leprechaun image in this post for more details.)

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The sun made a dramatic appearance late in the afternoon.

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On Wednesday, May 13, I was back at it whacking garlic mustard and pulling water cress.  I also spent some time weeding the spotted knapweed from the patches of lupine that are proliferating on the west slope of the sand prairie.

Sunset at Ottawa Lake.

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On Saturday, May 16, Pati and I stopped at The Springs on the way home from the Oak Savanna Alliance Workshop to check out the lupine.

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And finally, on Monday, May 18, I spent an absolutely beautiful spring day cutting garlic mustard, pulling water cress and digging out spotted knapweed.

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I weeded quack grass and water cress from the Indian Springs.

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In the late afternoon I joined Pat Witkowski and the Ice Age Trail Alliance “Monday Mudders” to do a little trail maintenance near the tower at Lapham Peak State Park.

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Views from the tower.

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See you at The Springs!

Volunteers of America

I’ve been asked to make a short presentation about my experience as a volunteer and volunteer opportunities at the upcoming Oak Savanna Alliance workshop.

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I’m a little worried that The Buckthorn Man will show up and start ranting like he is prone to do.  I asked him recently what his problem with volunteering was since he does so much of it, and that really set him off (don’t worry, none of this will make it into my presentation on May 16.)  The Buckthorn Man talks fast and loud when he gets excited, but I think I got the gist of it, which I will relate here now.

We need Volunteers to start a Revolution!

Make informed, free will choices, to spend your time and attention, your spiritual currency, in harmony with Natural Law

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and take RIGHT actions in the world!

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The Trivium: Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric, are the tools a rational mind applies to make sense — common sense — conscience (to know together) out of the world we live in.  You need a conscience to volunteer.  You’ve got to see the need!

If not me, who? And if not now, when?  Mikhail Gorbachev

I’ve been cutting buckthorn on State owned land for 20 years because I see the need.  According to the Wisconsin Realtors Association: “Wisconsin consists of approximately 34.8 million acres of land.  Over 5.7 million acres of this land, or 16.5 percent, is publicly owned and used for parks, forests, trails and natural resource protection.”  The lands are owned by federal, state and county governments, none of which apply the resources necessary to be good stewards.

Yes, there are caring individuals in all levels of government (especially the Wisconsin DNR), who see the needs, but they are constrained by a lack of funds to providing only a veneer of stewardship i.e., just enough to maintain good public relations and earn money to help offset the maintenance costs.  I’m not a fan of government, so I’m not suggesting we plead with them: I’m an anarchist (yes to rules, no to rulers).  Government is mind control.  It takes away rights we have and assumes rights no one has; taxes, prohibition, licenses and malum prohibitum laws are evidences of that.

Right here, right now, we have to deal with the cold, hard facts that, of the money government currently steals from us, the vast majority is going to fight wars of aggression, build an all powerful security state and line the pockets of the titans of finance who are really running the show.  We are rapidly headed towards a One World Government, a New World Order, make no mistake about it.

The opportunity to volunteer has never been better.  Open your eyes!  An Abrams 1 tank costs $8.5 million and Wisconsin State government plans to spend only $5 million employing 33.5 full time employees on endangered resources in 2016.  We have 673 State Natural Areas on which the Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation (formerly endangered resources) focuses and they all need tender loving care but the priorities of politicians are elsewhere.  The Department of Defense plans to spend $495 billion in 2015 as compared to the entire Wisconsin DNR budget of $570 million.  The U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are estimated to have cost $6 trillion.  We have spent almost $1 trillion on intelligence agencies since the false flag attacks of 9/11.  Do you see the problem?  I know I’m conflating state and federal budgets here, but the political hierarchies are just there to obscure the illegitimacy of the whole structure.

This is why the Volunteers Marty Balin sang about must start a revolution.  We must say NO! and reject the whole concept of authority — that some folks have a right to rule, so long as some other folks say they do — and create a society of voluntary association.  There never was a time when the politicians who styled themselves “The United States of America” were accountable to “we the people”.  Read Gustavus Myers’ History of the Great American Fortunes, and see how this country was born in infamy.  What, besides threats and coercion, binds you or I to the U.S. Constitution and grants jurisdiction i.e., control, to these bureaucrats?

It comes down to this: my problem with volunteering on publicly owned land is that it tends to make it look like the current system is succeeding.  As a society, formed into bodies corporate and politic (governments), can we continue giving short shrift to being good stewards of the land in favor of exploitation and continued degradation while relying on expanding the army of volunteers to make everyone feel good about it?  It ain’t RIGHT!

Remember, “You are the Crown of Creation, and you’ve got no place to go.”

Well, thanks Buckthorn Man, that was interesting, but I wouldn’t dare bring any of that up next Saturday at the Oak Savanna Alliance workshop.  Personally, I volunteer to help restore the quality and diversity of “the commons” as a way to preserve my sanity in a world gone mad.  Making a positive difference, no matter how small, means everything to me.

Way back on April 27th, I enjoyed the opportunity to help the Kettle Moraine Land Trust on a workday with young people from the Elkhorn Area High School at the Beulah Bluff Preserve.

Herb Sharpless introduces the plan for the day

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Views from the bluff before we set to work

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The view at the base of the bluff where we began working

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It was a great day!

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I’ve been super busy cleaning the house from top to bottom and preparing for my adventure in legal land, which is still ongoing, and I haven’t gotten out to The Springs nearly as much as I’d like to.  But, I did find time to join Pat Witkowski and her team of “Monday Mudders” on a beautiful late afternoon working on the Ice Age Trail just east of The Springs.  There is a short section of trail that was rerouted a couple years ago and Pat was not happy with the results, so she is moving the trail up the slope a little to improve the drainage.

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Part of the team worked on a stewardship zone, just a bit up the trail, that Dave Cheever has had his eyes on.  There is a cluster of 10 or so massive, native white pines, that stand out conspicuously from the surrounding red pine plantation, once you know what you are looking at, and Dave thought it would be a great idea to clear the buckthorn from around their bases.  Right on!

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I hope to join Pat and the “Monday Mudders” again soon!

Last week I finally got back to work again at The Springs and spent a morning pulling weeds in the area around the Scuppernong Springs.  This patch of garlic mustard is history!

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Last year Ben Johnson and I weeded the lupine patches on the west slope of the sand prairie and I returned to get any spotted knapweed that we missed.  There is going to be a stunning outburst of lupine this year!

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Some curious friends stopped to see what I was up to and show off the beautiful morels that they found in the river valley on the east side of the sand prairie.  I went looking myself but came up empty.

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The spring flowers are in full bloom!

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Last Saturday I was planning to join Zach, Ginny and Jared for a State Natural Areas workday at Bluff Creek West, but I’m faced with fields of flowering garlic mustard at The Springs.  Instead, I spent the day brush cutting garlic mustard.  Now you may scoff at the idea of mowing garlic mustard but I am seeing great results in some areas.  It depends on how much seed is dormant in the ground and how thoroughly you can prevent new seed from maturing.  This was an unusually busy spring for me and I’m way behind on the garlic mustard, but I see that this approach, as opposed to foliar spraying poison, is going to work in the long run.

Late in the afternoon, I donned my chest waders and pulled watercress from the river.  I’m not trying to get it all out, I just want to keep a channel open.

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It was past 6:00pm when I finally called it quits.

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See you at The Springs!

Happy Ice Age Trails

Life is a journey!

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.                                                         Pink Floyd — Time

I know the feeling well.  At first I didn’t think it was a race, then, for many years I acted like it was.  The thing is, I didn’t know where I was racing to.  I didn’t have directions or principles; I didn’t know right from wrong!

It’s been four years since my rite of passage i.e., my bout with cancer, and over three years since I retired — more like quit — my job with Mother Mutual.  Now I’m on a long hike, searching for truth amongst the oaks, and seeking a balance between carrying a light pack and being prepared for trouble ahead.

I’m really glad I decided to camp and hike in the Allegheny National Forest on my way to and from Philadelphia for the Free Your Mind III conference.  The Minister Creek Campground was a perfect mid-point for the journey and a great base camp to explore the Allegheny Plateau.

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Most of the campsites were still covered with ice and snow, but I found one that would work and soon had a nice wood pile thanks to my chainsaw.  I had two full days of hiking to collect my thoughts and the obvious first choice was the Minister Creek Trail.

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The view from the Minister Valley Overlook (note the sunny version below.)

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The North Country Trail, like the Ice Age Trail, is a National Scenic Trail and I hiked a section near Tracy Ridge that took me to the shores of the Allegheny Reservoir.

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The conference in Philadelphia was great.  I met a righteous dude named Pete to share my hotel room with, and continued in “camping mode” by cooking my fresh vegetables, rice and curry lentil staple beneath a beautiful white pine in the back corner of the hotel parking lot.  The highlight of the conference for me was the presentation by Jeanice Barcelo.  She contrasted giving birth in a hospital setting to home birthing and helped me understand how traumatic the hospital birthing process can be for both mother and child.  Some of us carry undiagnosed birth trauma with us our whole lives not realizing the impact it is having.

Below, Mark Passio‘s presentation and the “Meeting of the Minds” conference wrap up.

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I stopped at Minister Creek on the way home and had a couple of sunny days to continue exploring.

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The Hickory Creek Wilderness in the Hearts Content Recreation Area is just north of Minister Creek.  I wish I’d had this map when I took the hike; the trail was very difficult to locate and I literally spent 5-10 minutes on multiple occasions looking for the next marker.

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It’s good to be home and I can barely imagine how my African Queen, Pati, feels today as she makes the return trip from her 6 week adventure in South Africa and Uganda, where she has been working with special needs children.  Welcome home Pati!

Ever since I rediscovered the sections of the Ice Age Trail that are just east of the Scuppernong Springs last winter,

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and learned of all the trail building projects that Pat Witkowski has been leading there, I’ve been looking forward to joining the effort.  This past Saturday, April 18, Pat and her team from the IATA partnered with REI to pull off a very successful trail reroute workday.  Here is a flashback to my visit with Pat where she described the 280 yard reroute that we executed on Saturday.

Tina Pickruhn organized things from the REI perspective and she had to turn down dozens and dozens of volunteers, a testament to the reputation of the Waukesha/Milwaukee chapter of the IATA and the desire for people to get involved.  Pat enlisted the help of a fourteen highly trained Mobile Skills Crew team leaders to teach and guide the volunteers.

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Below, Pat introduces the project and fires up the volunteers.

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I joined the “Esker” team, led by Rita and Jo.  Below they explain how to use and handle the tools.

We stopped often along the 20 minute hike to the job site to note the spectacular Kettle Moraine features and the work already accomplished by the IATA volunteers.  The work crews spread out over the 280 yard reroute and we got after it!  Carl, Jo and Rita sharing a laugh.

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Pat shows us how to use a cool tool for ripping out buckthorn.

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Check out the buzz…

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The results are fabulous!

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Pat and Tina celebrating.

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After lunch I headed over to The Springs to replace signpost #4, near the marl pit bridge, which Anne Korman speculates was stolen by a Brett Farve fan.

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It won’t be so easy to rip off this time.  Then I continued rehabilitating brush pile burn rings near the marl factory by disbursing the ash and covering the rings with organic material.  And finally, I took a relaxing stroll around the trails and noted that Andy Buchta had finished piling ALL of the buckthorn I cut in the waning weeks of Winter.  Thanks Bro!

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Here is what the north end of the trail looks and sounds like now!

Happy Ice Age Trails to you until we meet again at The Springs!

Alchemy At The Springs

The Springs, and I, have undergone a dramatic transformation over the last four years.  The invasive plants that once dominated the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve are akin to the “base metal” in an alchemical process, and the years of indoctrination in the religions of: Government, Catholicism and Money, had me in “base consciousness”.  The allegories of Alchemy are aptly suited to both contexts, as explained by Mark Passio in his latest seminar: “De-Mystifying The Occult“, which was expertly immortalized by my friends at Tragedy and Hope.

“ALCHEMY, literally “From Khem,” or “Out of Darkness” is an Occult Tradition taught through allegories.”

AlchemyOutOfDarknessIntoLightMark explains the essence of the esoteric truth that has been hidden, or occulted, from us:

“The Alchemist seeks to remove from his or her thoughts, emotions and actions their disorderly imperfections, or base characteristics, in order to bring them to their true state of Natural Order (Harmony with Natural Law) and to transmute them into “Alchemical Gold,” representing the purification of Body, Mind and Spirit.”

AlchemyBaseMetalsI feel deeply connected to Earth, Air, Water, Fire and, the Quintessence — Spirit, when I’m at the Scuppernong Springs.   Below, Mark begins to explain the allegories in Alchemy by revealing the esoteric interpretations of these fundamental elements.

AlchemyQuintessenceThere can be no start to the journey Out Of Darkness, Into Light, unless we honor the Sacred Feminine aspect of the Human Psyche in ourselves.AlchemyStartingSubstanceThis brief sketch can’t begin to do justice to Mark’s full De-Mystifying The Occult Presentation:

“The Philosopher’s Stone represents man himself at the beginning of the process of Self-Mastery.”

AlchemyPhilosophersStoneAllegorically, invasive species had “corrupted” The Springs, and a lack of concern on the part of the area’s first real estate developers for the consequences of their actions, put the hydrology of the Scuppernong River into disharmony.

AlchemyTheGreatWorkLast week, I stood on the north end of the loop trail filled with joy and awe as the late afternoon sunlight flooded the wetlands that were once canopied by tangled buckthorn, and contemplated my own journey to higher consciousness.AlchemyAlbedo“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: not going all the way, and not starting.”  Buddha

AlchemyRubedoWell, I’m going all the way — to Philadelphia that is — to meet Mark Passio, and a host of other truth seekers, at the Free Your Mind III Conference next weekend.  I plan to do some exploring in the Allegheny National Forest on the way there, and back, so it should be a fun vacation.

Even The Buckthorn Man can get too much of a good thing, and I need to take a break from cutting for at least a month or two.  The level of aggressive force required to attack a buckthorn thicket can’t be sustained year round.  I’ve been ripping it up lately and it’s time to put the chainsaw down.

Last Monday, March 30th, I stabbed and slashed many a buckthorn on the north side of the north end of the loop trail, continuing where I left off last time.  Here are four views, taken when I arrived, progressing from west to east.

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And the same perspectives after my violent assaults.

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All kidding aside, I’m almost looking forward to Garlic Mustard season!

For my last hurrah on Wednesday, I was headed a bit farther east down the north end of the loop trail, almost to signpost #13 and the junction with the Cutoff trail.  Along the way, at the scene of Monday’s attack, I noticed fresh stacks of buckthorn; Thanks Andy!

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At the worksite shown below, the presence and shape of the wetlands on the north side of the trail was much more evident, even though there was a relatively thin, although decidedly nasty, curtain of buckthorn still shrouding them.  The views below are: first, from near the trail, then at the buckthorn curtain looking left and right.

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I knew this was going to be my last time cutting for a while and tried not to get impatient with the machine.

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It was on the way back to my truck on that gorgeous, sunny afternoon, that it really began to sink in just how dramatically different this area of the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve looks now.

“The third and final phase of the Alchemical Great Work is Rubedo, or Reddening, the transmutation into Gold or Sulfur, representing Purified and Enlightened Consciousness, the Elemental Fire of the Philosopher’s Stone, symbolized by a red elixir, which represents the unification of Man (the limited) with the Divine (the unlimited).”  Mark Passio

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See you at The Springs!

It’s time to go for a walk

Pati and I met Dr. Jim Meeker, and his wife Joan Elias, when their neighbors, Greg Legault and Janette Christie (Legault), introduced us on the memorably challenging, private, cross country ski trails they had woven across their adjoining properties in Gurnee, Wisconsin.  We began renting Greg’s cozy cabin back in the early 90’s and I remember how starstruck Pati was when we met Jim, who already had a reputation for the manoomin, aka wild-rice, research he had done in the Bad River’s Kakagon Sloughs.

Jim and Greg at the South Point Banyan Tree house

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One of Jim’s best pictures of the Kakagon Sloughs

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Jim and Joan befriended us and we stayed in touch over the years.   Pati and I were truly saddened when we heard that Jim had “walked on” (see page 10 in this issue of Mazina’igan, or expand the article shown below.)

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I felt lucky and blessed to be in Gurnee on March 21 for the Memorial Service and Celebration of Jim’s Life (Pati had a business commitment in South Africa.)   Here are a couple of testimonials:

Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission is grateful for Dr. Meeker’s many contributions as a former staff member, scientist, teacher and mentor, but mostly as a very gentle, approachable human-being, filled with kindness and concern for all living creatures, but especially those plant-beings!

or, this from the Northland College Magazine (see page 8)

A professor of botany and natural resources, Jim shared his passion for the outdoors with students in the classroom, field and laboratory.  Jim fostered an inter-disciplinary approach to solving problems and used an experiential pedagogy before those approaches were being promoted within higher education.

Jim loved to share what he learned from nature: “It’s time to go for a walk!”

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One of Jim and Joan’s favorite places in the neighborhood: Potato Falls.
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That is the upper falls above cascading over multiple tiers, and below we see the lower falls.

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I got a real treat when I met a team of kayakers who had just run the upper falls!
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Check out Jonathan Sisley’s run down the upper falls, which begins around 1:00 into this video (thanks for sharing this Jonathan!)

Back at The Springs, there was buckthorn to cut and pile.  Andy Buchta stacked all the brush I laid down near the marl factory.

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I continued clearing the areas on both sides of the trail a couple hundred yards from the parking lot on Hwy ZZ, in what used to be, The Buckthorn Alley.

Tuesday I focused on the left side of the trail…

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…and cut many a buckthorn, though it’s hard to tell (below, same three views after.)

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On Thursday I continued cutting on both the right and left sides of the trail (below, before cutting, looking right, then left.)

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Below, the same three views after a 6 tanks of gas in the chain saw.

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Ben Johnson joined me after work to help rake out and rehabilitate the burn rings/scars from the last brush pile burning season.  The skunk cabbage is emerging.

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Believe it or not I was back at it on Saturday.  I’m trying to cut as much buckthorn as I can while it’s still dormant.  Andy is following close behind piling the brush.  Thanks Andy!

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Ben has been helping Anne Korman, Assistant Superintendent KMSF – Southern Unit, work on a plan to make the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail handicap accessible from the parking lot to the Hotel Spring and we had a date to review project.  The removal of the bridge by the Hotel Spring has opened up some new perspectives on how to route the trail.  Anne, and her boss Paul Sandgren, scoped out the situation and they are seriously considering building the new bridge over the river at the old sawmill site at signpost #12.  The new trail would follow the berm that formed the lower pond.

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This would be a beautiful spot to cross the river, with the added bonus that the east bank of the old bridge site, which has some very unique springs and flora, would be allowed to return to a natural state.  The DNR Water Regulations and Zoning engineers will have a say in the matter for sure.

While Ben moved boardwalks and cleared a trail along the berm, I continued cutting buckthorn on the left side of the trail, where I left off last time.

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That is how it looked before I got started.  Andy joined me and piled tons of buckthorn while I cut.

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I can’t wait to see how these wetlands respond in the absence of the buckthorn cover!

Ben and I had an excellent adventure exploring the northeast corner of the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve and then we took a tour.

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I’m excited to share that the Natural Resources Foundation has added the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail to their 2015 Field Trip Schedule.

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See you at The Springs!

p.s. Thanks to Mark Miner for monitoring bluebird houses!

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Thanks again for coming to visit me at The Springs!

The Sand Hill Cranes are back and I’m wondering if we have opened up enough new habitat for a second family to take up residence in the area.  It has been an exceptional winter season for cutting buckthorn and, thanks to the Kettle Moraine Natural History Association funding the efforts of Chris Mann and the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards, LLC, we have opened up many acres of wetlands.

Prime real estate is available for ducks as well and on April 2, Brian Glenzinski, former DNR Wildlife Biologist now working with Ducks Unlimited, will be joining me to tour The Spings. You might recall that Brian is the artist who carved The Acorn given out by the Oak Savanna Alliance for their Land Steward of the Year award.  We plan to list with Brian and he was very positive about building some new “upscale” duck homes in the neighborhood.

By the way, don’t miss the Oak Savanna Alliance workshop on May 16th.  Contact Eric Tarman-Ramcheck (TR Natural Enterprises, LLC) for details and be sure to let him know who you think deserves The Acorn this time.

The highlight of the last two weeks was the morning I spent with the Southern Kettle Moraine SNA Volunteers at the Bluff Creek West State Natural Area, just south and east of Whitewater, WI.

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For sanity’s sake though, I’m going to recollect the events of the past few weeks in chronological order.

After weeks of cramming to prepare my defense against the band of thieves and robbers known as government, for my “day in court”, I needed a day in the woods with my chainsaw to settle my nerves.  I returned to the marl factory on March 12th to attack the last stand of buckthorn on the wedge of land between the Tibby Line railroad tracks (signpost #2) and Marl Pit Bridge (signpost #4).  Below, the area as seen from signpost #4.

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Now, imagine you just stepped forward to the treeline shown above and looked right, straight ahead and left.

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We carved a hole in the middle of this buckthorn thicket and now was the time to finish the perimeter.  I had a fine day cutting and stopped early to help my friend Scott, and his buddy Mr. Schnuddles, collect some firewood.

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The view from signpost #4.

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I love to take a walk around The Springs at the end of a hard day’s work!

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Hmmmm, why is that monster parked in the DNR lot above the Hotel Springs?

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The bubbler at the Emerald Springs was especially active.

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Ben, dude, we need to build a bridge here man!

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On Saturday, March 14th I joined Zach Kastern, Ginny Coburn, Jared Urban, and a great crew of SNA volunteers clearing buckthorn from the transition zone between the calcareous fen and the oak uplands at Bluff Creek West.  The area we worked is at the base of the forested ridge shown in the upper right hand corner of the Bluff Creek Prescribed Burn plan shown below.

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Zach and Jared introduced the agenda for the day…

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… and we got after it!

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We made tremendous progress thanks to volunteers like this team from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Ecology Club.

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I got a chance to talk to Zach Kastern about the project.

I really enjoy these events and you might like it too!

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I spent the afternoon at The Springs finishing the last patch of buckthorn near the marl factory that I described above.

Ben, dude, we gotta fix this boardwalk!

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Sunset at the Sand Prairie.

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On St. Patrick’s day I found evidence that leprecons had visited the springs the night before!

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I had NO IDEA they could operate heavy equipment!

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Abe Wittenwyler, heavy equipment operator with the DNR, wasn’t looking for a pot of gold under the Hotel Spring bridge; he had come to excavate the riverbed to address the hydrology issues that Ben Heussner identified as a result of the elevation survey the DNR conducted last year.  I called Ben for an update, left a message, and got to work cutting buckthorn in the wetlands just down the trail — to the left — from the main parking lot on Hwy ZZ.  Here is how it looked before I got started.

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When I broke for lunch, I got Ben’s message and headed over to the Hotel Springs to meet him.  We walked along the river and reviewed the results of our efforts last year while Ben waited for Michelle Hase, DNR Water Regulations and Zoning Engineer, to review the project.

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Ben Heussner, Steve Gospodarek and Abe Wittenwyler.IMG_5318

Michelle recommended they distribute the “spoils” excavated from the river slightly differently than Ben had in mind.   They regraded the slope on the east side of the river, sowed a crop of annual grass, and then covered the area with straw.  Ben was genuinely proud of the bridge he built there back in 1992 and he’s looking forward to building the replacement this summer.  Me? I’m going to watch the river make a head cut.

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I returned to my work site and cut buckthorn, like a mischievious leprecon, for the rest of the day.

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And later visited my favorite haunts.

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Yesterday I returned to the area and continued to open up dramatic views into, and out of, the very interior of the Scuppernong River Nature Preserve.  I completed clearing the area shown below to totally open the views into the interior wetlands.

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Then I moved much closer to the parking lot to take on this wall of buckthorn.

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It was a flawless day and I cut down a hell of a lot of buckthorn.  Views into the interior wetlands are now revealed.

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And, looking back towards the parking lot, that wall of buckthorn is not so formidable anymore.

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I’m going to cut as much buckthorn as I can before the garlic mustard and other weeds start to emerge.

I got my first call of the season from DNR Burn Boss, Don Dane.  Let’s get it on!

See you at The Springs!

p.s. I did not prevail against the agents of the state in court on Friday the 13th.  It ain’t over yet!

Marsh Madness

I hope Spring is here to stay!

It’s been crazy here on the home front.  Pati, my African Queen, left for Cape Town today and I’ve been cramming for my “day in court” on Friday.  Like Ian Anderson sang: “Nothing Is Easy”.

I’ll tell you what looks easy though: two experts driving forestry mowers cutting huge swaths of buckthorn in a couple hours, that would have taken, even The Buckthorn Man,  weeks to do with a brush cutter.

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We had absolutely perfect conditions for DNR Facilities Repair Worker, Don Dane (that title doesn’t even begin to describe what Don does!) and Forestry/Wildlife Technician, Mike Spaight, to mow buckthorn at the Hartland Marsh.  This latest initiative at The Hartland Marsh, spearheaded by Kevin Thusius, property manager for the Ice Age Trail Alliance, manifested it’s first concrete result last week thanks to Paul Sandgren, Forest Superintendent Southern Unit – KMSF Lapham Peak & Glacial Drumlin Trail East, donating two full days of his best equipment and crew.  Thanks Paul!

Way back on February 27th I spent a few hours at The Marsh flagging a firebreak for the prescribed burning we hope to start in 2016.  How about this Oakitecture!

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Last week Thursday and Friday (March 5-6) , just before this blessed thaw, Don and Mike came out and hit the buckthorn hard.  They completed the firebreak, and some mowing on the uplands, on Thursday.

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And on Friday, they continued working the uplands all the way back to the hillside below the Gazebo on Cottownwood Avenue.

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I love those guys!

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Back on Monday, March 2, I was joined by Andy Buchta and Ben Johnson as we cleared glossy buckthorn from the tamarack grove on the northwest side of the Ottawa Lake Fen State Natural Area.

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Here is a panorama view taken from the middle of the fen.

Closing in around the tamaracks…

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… is a thicket of glossy buckthorn.

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It was a glorious day; our last of the season over there no doubt.

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Last Saturday, March 7, Andy and I continue clearing the buckthorn near the old marl factory wall.  Here is how it looked when I got there.

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I won’t get tired of saying it was a great day!

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We gutted the core of the last nasty buckthorn thicket on this wedge of land just west of the marl factory wall, and I think I can finish it off with one more day’s work.

I was pretty tuckered out when the sun went down.

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See you at The Springs!