Weeds “R” Us

Back in the days when I used to stand on street corners passing out dvds and flyers in an attempt to get people to re-examine what really happened on 9/11, I would often hear, “Get a life”, mumbled or shouted at me.  “I have a life”, I thought, in which the truth matters and starting wars based on tissues of lies is deadly serious.  Nevertheless, the insults stung and dumbfounded me.  Why don’t they care?  Why are they choosing to remain ignorant?  Is ignorance really strength?

Although no one that passes by as I cut and burn garlic mustard, or pull and dig weeds on the sand prairie, says “get a life”, I wonder sometimes if it is the best use of my time.   Maybe I should be trying to make some money?  And, isn’t the definition of what is, or is not, a weed, a bit arbitrary?

“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I hope you don’t mind me baring my soul like this.  I’m volunteering my time — spending my spiritual currency — working at The Springs, and trying, one weed at a time, to make the world a more beautiful place.

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Since meeting Jason Dare on the trail last summer, I’ve adopted the approach of following the phenology of the weeds and timing my efforts accordingly; it feels like playing Whac-A-Mole.  There are so many weeds out there, and so little time, and I’m just one Buckthorn Man!

Paradoxically, I really enjoyed working on the daunting task of eradicating the invasive, non-native plants, infesting The Springs this past week.  I can see the progress being made and I got help from Andy Buchta and Ben Johnson, which was great.

On Tuesday, June 24, I pulled into the DNR 2-track on the south end of the property, and found someone hard at work grinding up the slash from the black locust trees that were recently harvested there.  They did the same on the north end of the property last week.  Thanks to Paul Sandgren, the Superintendent of the Kettle Moraine State Forest — Southern Unit, for making it happen; this is a huge improvement to the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve.

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I re-girdled some of the aspen trees just west of the Indian Springs and, hopefully, that clone will shrivel and die.  Then I pulled the flowering seed heads from smooth hawkweed and annual hawksbeard.  Unfortunately, the sand prairie is threaded with poison ivy, and I got another dose of it on my ankles and legs.

I mentioned last week that I did a little engineering at the Indian Springs, removing a dense mass of peat/clay that was blocking the channel and creating a little dam.  Here is how it looks now.

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When the stream bed settles down into its new profile, we’ll transplant some native plants to replace the quack grass and watercress that previously flourished here.

The late afternoon was spent pulling and digging spotted knapweed.  I contacted the Weedbusters and got in the queue for batches of root and flower weevils, which should be available by early August.  The Kettle Moraine Natural History Association is going to cover the costs!

I’ve been watching the area around the deck at the Emerald Springs for signs of life; it’s been a dead zone since I sprayed imazapyr there last year.  It looks like some brave grasses and sedges are finally starting to return.  I’m really glad I stopped spraying herbicide at The Springs.

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I missed the summer solstice sunset, but this is pretty close.
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On Thursday, June 26, I was back at it and, while I worked on the south end of the property, Andy Buchta was piling buckthorn near the main parking lot on Hwy ZZ.  Thanks Andy!

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I girdled a clone of little aspen that was spreading down the hillside in the vicinity of the Hidden Springs.  The mature aspen trees in this clonal colony were girdled last year, and its important to close the deal and get the little ones too.  The rest of the day was a repeat of Tuesday, only this time Ben Johnson joined me to pull and dig spotted knapweed.  We got a ton of it.

The highlight of the day was harvesting lupine seeds from the west facing slope of the sand prairie and sowing them along the trail above.  It will be sweet indeed if we can spread lupine across the sand prairie.

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See you at The Springs!

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