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!

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!

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!

We Are A Conservation Force For Good

It might have been the U.S. Navy that introduced the “force for good” meme 5 years ago with their imperial recruiting slogan, “A Global Force For Good”.  And my former employer, Northwestern Mutual, modestly limiting its reach to the world around them, quietly claimed to be merely a “Force For Good” (this thought directing campaign was nestled between the very popular “Be One” and “Embrace Change”.)  Even the alternative “B” Corporations have gotten into the act claiming that they are, “using business as a force for good.”  I’m going to double down on these usurpers and make the bold claim that people who commit their lives to taking care of the land are A Conservation Force For Good!

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Yesterday I had the pleasure of working with DNR Conservation Biologists Jared Urban and Nate Fayram, and a team of State Natural Areas Program volunteers led by Zach Kastern and Ginny Coburn, as we cut and burned buckthorn at the Whitewater Oak Opening, which is part of the Clifford F Messinger Dry Prairie & Savanna Preserve SNA.

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I new it was going to be a great day when I spotted a gloriously bold and free, Bald Eagle, in a tree above the Scuppernong River, just below the Hotel Springs where I had stopped to get some water.

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These birds are awe inspiring and I recalled that the last time I saw one in the Southern Kettle Moraine Forest was more than 10 years ago, when I took my parents, Al and Elaine Mozina, to visit Brady’s Rocks.

Jared Urban spends half of his time with the DNR nurturing and coordinating volunteer efforts at State Natural Areas in the southern half of Wisconsin, and we could sure use a few more like him to coordinate efforts in the rest of the state.

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Jared lays out the plan for the day.

The brush piles were relatively fresh and buried under a couple inches of snow, so it took a little extra effort to get them lit.

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Scott Farrell delivers air to the fire.

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Some of us worked on lighting the piles while others cut fresh buckthorn and threw brush on the fires.  We managed to get 8 piles burned and expanded the perimeter of cut buckthorn in their vicinity.

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Scott and Herb worked for a few hours after lunch and Zach hung out with me until we had consolidated all of the burning piles.

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As we tended the piles, Zach told me about the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, and specifically about their support for the State Natural Areas Program.  He told me about the Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan and promised to send me the links.

I was amazed and impressed at the depth and quality of the scientific analysis and the comprehensiveness of the plans.  The maps in the Wisconsin’s Wildlife Action Plan (2005-2015) are outstanding.  Here is an example:

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I’m looking forward to reviewing the results of these plans, a decade after their conception, that I’m sure the DNR will publish.  Well, to be honest, I’m more than concerned: I feel like George Tenet, former CIA Director who said before 9/11 that, “my hair was on fire!”.  Can “we the people” succeed in reaching the conservation goals outlined in the DNR documents linked above if the current funding levels are not dramatically increased and we don’t get a much more substantial volunteer contribution across the state?

Take a look at the 2013-2015 and 2015-2017 Biennial Budgets for the Wisconsin DNR and compare the average $570 million annual allotments to the amounts we have spent on our Intelligence Agencies alone since 9/11.

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And the proof is not in the pudding as all this money spent has actually increased the number of terrorist attacks.

I’m getting all riled up here, lets calm down by the fire and just talk.

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See you at The Springs!

Ugly Buckthorn

Winter is a great time of year to appreciate just how ugly buckthorn is.  Contrasted with a majestic oak or stately hickory, the buckthorn’s lack of grace and beauty is readily apparent.  It grows like a cancer, stealing nutrients, water and sunlight from the healthy flora it invades, and some research indicates it has an allelopathic impact as well.  It’s polluting our forests and obscuring the natural beauty of the landscape.

I try to make the best of the opportunity I have to work at The Springs, and that means getting out year-round to do battle with the buckthorn.  But, it is definitely harder to motivate when the temperatures drop and the snow begins to accumulate.  After bailing out last Sunday, I did get out a couple times this week and I’m getting used to winter again.

Tuesday morning fetching some water at the Hotel Springs.

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On my way to signpost #2, I stopped to check out the work that Chris Mann, Ben Johnson and the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards did on Sunday.  That was a nasty day that The Buckthorn Man wimped out on.  They made good progress pushing back the wall of buckthorn on the east side of the trail as it leads to signpost #1.

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I stirred up the coals and warmed up before heading to my destination near signpost #2.

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I picked a spot where a huge aspen had fallen, and there was lots of dead wood to start a fire, and was soon joined by Andy Buchta.

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After a few hours cutting, my chainsaw was running rough and I had to stop and figure out what was going on; there was a part loose rattling about somewhere inside.  There is always something new to learn about chainsaws and, apparently, when I replaced the muffler a few months ago, I did not tighten the screws properly.  Fortunately the saw is designed to capture the screws if they work themselves free and I simply had to screw the muffler back on.  We got modest results and dispatched some very ugly buckthorn.

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Below, looking west, then east.

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I took my gear back to the truck and returned to hang out by the fire.

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Thursday proved to be a bit more challenging; Andy informed me that it was -4 when he arrived, and snow was forecast for the afternoon.  I was joined by Chris Mann, Austin Avellone, Phil Hass, Drew Ballantyne and Andy Buchta deep in the Buckthorn Alley, where the trees were hideously misshapen after years of falling over themselves and resprouting.  The views below are looking west, north and east from where I parked my sled.

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Drew keeps our drinks from freezing.

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We sent many odious buckthorn to hell that day.  Below, mid-day, looking west and north.IMG_4736

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Wrapping up for the day.

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Compare this view west to the first look aboveIMG_4739

and, likewise, this view looking north.

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Thanks again to Chris, Andy, Phil, Austin and Drew; you guys rock!

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See you at The Springs!

The U. S. Government is a Pyschopath

The Buckthorn Man enters 2015 swinging a chainsaw and a torch in the hopes that you will see the lay of the land.

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Walk this trail with me:  Start with an abstraction called government and make it real in your mind (reification); then anthropomorphize it with the worst of human characteristics i.e., psychopathy and you get the metaphorThe U.S. Government is a Psychopath.

Jan Irvin showed me this trail in his recent podcast entitled: “Remedy Roundtable 05 – Prof. Jay Courtney Fikes, Lydia & Royce White Calf – “The Lakota, Naropa Institute, and Wounded Knee – From Gen. Custer to Carlos Castaneda.”  I’m embarrassed sometimes by my lack of recollection of history and resulting inability to put current events into context.  When reminded of the way the Lakota were treated by the U.S. Government following the signing of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, and the way they are being treated now, in the context of the Keystone XL Pipeline debate, I know we are dealing with a psychopath.

It didn’t take but a few years for the U.S. Government to strip the Lakota of the vast majority of the lands, “…set apart for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupation of the Indians herein named…”, as declared in Article II of the treaty.

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(Map sourced from OWE AKU International Justice Project)

The U.S. Government has physically, culturally and financially terrorized the Oglala Lakota, or Oglala Sioux, people since they first met.  The latest abuse is the continued ignorance of their legitimate ownership claim to the lands ceded to them back in 1868, which, inconveniently, would give them veto power over the proposed path of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

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(Map sourced from TransCanada)

The debate in congress focuses on man-made climate change, and the potential for a spill on the pipeline route to pollute the Oglala Aquifer.

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But, missing in the debate in the mainstream media and congress, is the context that the proposed pipeline would pass directly through territory ceded by treaty to the Lakota: a treaty the U.S. government abrogated within 8 years of signing.  The Lakota people are the only military opponent of the U.S. Government to capture it’s flag 3 times and they are not done fighting!  They have refused to be bought off and they stand united to protect the earth and assert their legitimate rights.

I described the double bind I’m in volunteering at The Springs in a recent post i.e., I Hate Government — I Serve Government, and I tried to resolve it by suggesting that I’m really serving The Creator, not the the temporary owner of the land.  And so I carry on…

The snow is swirling and blowing outside as I write this and I’m really glad we focused on burning as many brush piles as we could at The Springs, before they got buried.  Thursday I was joined by Chris Mann and his team from the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards including: Andy Buchta, Austin Avellone and Phil Hass.  Our goal was to burn all of the piles near the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail parking lot on Hwy ZZ.

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We did that and a whole lot more.  I really enjoy working with these guys!  The audio on this clip is drowned out by the wind at times, but you’ll get the idea.

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Chris and Phil returned after dinner to listen to The Buckthorn Man rant.

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I was in the neighborhood, fetching some water at the Parry Road Spring on Friday, and took advantage of the lack of snow to add some gravel to the beginning of the trail where water tends to puddle.

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Here are a view perspectives of the areas we burned on Thursday.

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I continued clockwise on the trail through the old buckthorn alley until I arrived on the east end and surveyed the areas we recently burned there.

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I’ve been working well into darkness for the last couple of weeks so I really enjoyed seeing The Springs in the daylight.

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When I arrived at the Emerald Spring, the water was cloudy and disturbed and I suspected a creature had just vacated the premises.  In this video I jump to the conclusion that a turtle is making it’s home in the neighborhood, but I think it might be a muskrat.  What do you make of this?

Turtle caves?  Muskrat dens?

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See you at The Springs!

Fire Works at The Springs

We’ve been celebrating the end of 2014 at The Springs

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with fire works of our own.

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It’s been a great year, and we’ve accomplished a lot — some of which is really good.  Visit the Archives drop-down list, on the right side of the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail Home page, and pick a month to scroll through.  I did just that, and added my favorite moments of 2014, one for each month, to the Posts I Like section of the Home page (scroll down and look on the right side.)  I hope you have enjoyed your journey on The Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail with The Buckthorn Man in 2014 and that you will continue with me in 2015!  I welcome your comments, suggestions, clarifications and corrections.

There is one thing that buckthorn fears more than The Buckthorn Man: FIRE.  Buckthorn will fight you until you subject it to the flame.  When you’ve been offended, slapped, pricked, tripped, mocked and poked by buckthorn, like The Buckthorn Man has, then you will understand how satisfying it is to cut, poison and burn this vermin foliage in a few hours time.

Usually we wait for snow cover before burning brush piles, but this Winter has been wet enough that I considered giving it a try.  Our first burns at the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA were safely conducted and very productive.  It saves a tremendous amount of time and effort when you can throw freshly cut buckthorn onto a raging fire, as opposed to piling it to burn another day (when it may be buried under 6″ of snow.)

Last weekend I began burning brush piles along the northeast rim of the loop trail.  I tried, and failed, to light some of these piles last year, and was glad to get another chance at them sans snow.

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I’ll never get tired of saying ‘it was a great day’!

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Andy Buchta came out to help me and mentioned that he had finished piling the brush we cut, and did not burn, at the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA.  Thanks Andy!

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On Sunday, I had a date with Chris Mann and the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards and we continued where Andy and I left off on Saturday.  But first, here are a couple of “the day after” views of what we accomplished.

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The slope from the wetland shown above, east to Hwy 67, transitions from mostly buckthorn to mostly black locust.  The black locust has been harvested but many of the buckthorn were simply pushed over.  The ones that were cut did not appear to be poisoned.  The combination of battered buckthorn and slashed black locust resembled a war zone, and I wanted to clean up the mess.

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Chris, Andy and Austin joined me as we re-cut and poisoned the buckthorn stumps and fed huge fires with buckthorn and black locust slash.  We cleaned up the lower portion of the hillside, leaving the rest for a contractor that the DNR hires.  They grind everything up, which contributes fuel for a prescribed burn, but it is necessary to come back and poison the resprouts from the undamaged buckthorn root systems.  On the other hand, our technique leaves much less fuel for a prescribed burn but kills the buckthorn the first time.  It will be interesting to see how fire carries through these areas if the DNR is successful at executing a prescribed burn here in 2015.

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The conditions for burning brush piles are still very good, so I’m going to try to burn as much as I can before the snow finally arrives.  We got out again yesterday and continued on the west side of the wetland shown above, approaching The Buckthorn Alley.

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It was a cold day and the fires felt real good.  Andy, Chris and Austin standing before a huge blaze.

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One of my favorite things to do is hang out by a fire on a cold winter’s night.  I propped myself up with a pitch fork and watched the smoke trailing up from the embers and through the trees into the moonlit sky.

Happy New Year and I hope to see you at The Springs!

The Ottawa Lake Fen Scientific Area

Perhaps it was a reaction to my post about the Bluff Creek Springs, where I lamented the inability of the DNR, given the funding available to them, to adequately manage the state-owned lands under their care, that prompted Jared Urban, the coordinator of the State Natural Areas volunteers, to send me the Wisconsin’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program 2014 Annual Report.  The report explains some of the complex issues the DNR faces, as they try to manage 673 State Natural Areas encompassing over 373,000 acres with a budget under $5,000,000.  I have only respect for the hard working, dedicated staff of the Natural Heritage Conservation Program.

Philosophically, I’m in a bind.  Government is literally and etymologically: mind-control.  It is a religion based on the dogmatic belief, programmatically instilled in us from birth, that it is OK, even possible, for people to delegate rights that they do not have to an association of people that they call government.  People calling themselves “Government” assert rights they do not have, that no human being has e.g., torture, taxation etc., and they take away rights we all inherently possess e.g., prohibition, licensing etc.  So long as the vast majority of people continue to believe it is OK to do business and force your services on people at the point of a gun — if you call yourself Government — there will be no awakening of consciousness and immoral acts done in our name will continue.

Whether or not I think or believe any government: federal, state or local, is legitimate, counts for nothing when it comes to the reality of the challenges humanity faces if we choose to accept responsibility for preserving and protecting the flora and fauna on the planet.  Right now, entities we call government, control vast and diverse lands encompassing the treasures of the natural world and they are NOT prioritizing the effort to take care of them.  The amount of money spent on the Natural Heritage Conservation Program in 2014 is obscenely trivial compared to the amount required, or the amount spent on the military, industrial, security complex (to keep us safe, of course!)

I’m choosing to cooperate with government by volunteering my time and energy to help take care of the land it controls, but I’m sorely conflicted:

“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.”

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

In the past month I have been focusing, with the help of the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards, on the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA.

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Chris Mann, and his team from the KMLS, have made a huge difference, reminiscent of the way Ben Johnson super-charged our efforts at The Springs this past year.  Thanks again to Ron Kurowski for hiring Chris and to the Kettle Moraine Natural History Association for funding his team.

As we progressed clearing the buckthorn from the tamarack grove and along the north and east sides of the fen, I imagined a trail all the way around the fen connecting with the boat launch on the southwest side of Ottawa Lake.  I asked Anne Korman, the Assistant Superintendent of the Kettle Moraine State Forest — Southern Unit, about it and she entertained the idea.  I got an email the next day from Eric Tarman-Ramcheck, a long-time land steward recently hired by the DNR, containing The Ottawa Lake Fen Scientific Area Report.  This fascinating document, from 1975, provides a window into the management strategy of the DNR at that time, and includes this very interesting map of the fen.

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The dashed (——) lines could easily be mistaken for a trail system but they actually demarcate the different plant community zones.  Imagine what it was like back in 1975 when the buckthorn was not an issue and the bird watching tower and canoe accessible boardwalk were in place.  40 years of hands-off management “to maintain area in wild condition”, allowed the degradation of the land by invasive species to progress.  It has taken the effort of one who “loves his servitude”, to The Creator that is, to reverse that trend.

This past Monday, December 21, Chris Mann and Austin Avellone helped me finish clearing the buckthorn from the east side of the fen, just north of the walk-in campsite #334.  Here is how it looked before we got started.

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The rain held off until the afternoon and then the gentle drizzle did not damper our spirits.  We had a very productive day and I returned the next morning to document the results.

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I made a date with Chris and company to meet me at The Springs, just down the trail a bit towards signpost #1, to burn some brush piles we made in late 2013 and cut the nearby buckthorn orchard.  Here is what we faced as the sun tried to peek through and a strong breeze from the southwest help dry out the wood.

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Jake Michaels joined Chris, Austin and myself and we had a field day!

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As I took the video below, two deer crept up behind me, blending in almost imperceptibly with the landscape.

I am amazed and, dare I say, overjoyed, by the progress being made since Chris and the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards joined the fray!

See you at The Springs!