Friendberry Jam

I don’t remember the words, but I’ll never forget the way I felt when Todd sang his song “Friendberry Jam” to me.  Just imagine how sweet and delicious it was.  We’ve been friends — going on 35 years — since we roomed together in that basement closet on Humboldt Avenue, just a bit north of Brady Street, in Milwaukee’s hip “East Side”.

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We lived for music, and it seemed so simple and obvious at the time that, if you did what you loved, you would be forever satisfied.  It’s true.  I know it, and feel it every time I come to The Springs.

My old friend Todd Nelson, who works as a finish carpenter in San Francisco, was passing through town and I jumped at the chance to enlist him to help me rebuild a deck near the Scuppernong Spring.  He was willing and able and, after I picked him up from the airport and he got settled at our place, we headed out to The SpringsBen Johnson promised to join us after work and I was feeling pretty confident that we could get the job done.

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

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I was an eager apprentice as Todd taught me the tricks of the trade and how to think about solutions to problems like this.  After an hour of musing and discussing, we agreed on the plan and, while I cut the 18′ oak beams we recently harvested from the river into quarters, Todd performed the deconstruction.

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Ben arrived as Todd made the finishing touches refitting the top section of the boardwalk, and he sparked us into high gear.  A coworker just gave Ben a laser level, but watching him excavate and build the support platforms was enough to convince me that he can do pretty well without one.  I was amazed that none of the 4 platforms he constructed needed any tweaking after it was laid.

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We may have to put some railings on this deck!

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Thanks Todd and Ben for your extraordinary efforts and thanks especially to Todd, for spreading us with Friendberry Jam.

We relocated our vehicles at the main parking lot on Hwy ZZ, preparatory to bathing at the marl pit bridge, and I saw our good friend, Andy Buchta, piling the last of the buckthorn I recently cut.

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Thanks Andy!

We had a refreshing, and relatively bug-free, time watching the sun go down.IMG_3573

I’ve been busy this past week, and on Monday I spent the morning cleaning up the debris from our recent excavation of the oak beams from the riverbed.  Below you can make out the edge of the one beam we left in the river, creating a nice bend where the dead straight flume had run.

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The edge of the flume was built over a substantial stone base and I dug out an opening to allow the water to carve its thalweg around the bend.

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I pulled spotted knapweed all afternoon and that darn stuff is causing me to break out in nasty red blotches or bumps that make me scratch like a hound dog.  The bugs were driving me crazy as well, so I escaped to the shores of Ottawa Lake to watch the sun go down.

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On Wednesday my spotted knapweed weevils arrived!  Because of the super fast response I got from the DNR, my permit was ready in time for Kandace, at  Weedbusters, to send me the flower weevils (the root weevils will be available in a few weeks).  Look at those hungry critters!

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Dinner is served!

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Yes, yes, be fruitful and multiply!

Long-time followers of this blog know that I’m a big fan of audiobooks and I can’t recommend this superbly rendered version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin highly enough.  Here, take a listen as George and Eliza contemplate the meaning of freedom and liberty as the Canadian shore looms ahead.

Peace.

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See you at The Springs!

Free the Scuppernong River

For thousands of years the Scuppernong River ran free, cutting its path across the bed of the old Glacial Lake Scuppernong per the laws of nature.

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In the 1870s Talbot Dousman established a trout hatchery at the headwaters of the river at the Scuppernong Springs, temporarily subjecting the river to the laws of man.  The trout farmers engineered the river with multiple levees, dams and flumes eventually leaving the headwaters submerged under two ponds.

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Scuppernong Ponds

I’ve been getting intimately familiar with the river, you might say, “getting in bed” with it, literally running my fingers through the muck searching for the original riverbed.  As I removed the planks that formed the flumes, I discovered that the river is bisected by 10 huge 6×8″ beams 16′ long.

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While the river was under the ponds, a lot of silt and marl migrated into the riverbed and, as we can see above, was trapped behind the beams.  This past Wednesday, Ben Johnson and I removed the first of these beams, the one shown above that points to the left, and we also removed more planks from the flume and other wood structures where the flumes began.

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Ben and I are very excited about giving mother nature a free hand to restore the natural riverbed in this area by removing the remaining 9 beams.  Free the Scuppernong River!

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Pati and I took a short vacation last week up at the Chippewa Flowage to relax and do some paddling and biking.  The area is beautiful and we looked forward to exploring it.  Pati found the excellent documentary below about how the flowage was created, and it was disturbing to see yet another case of the native tribes being steam rolled by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  As we paddled different areas of the flowage, I kept thinking of how beautiful it must have been before the dam was put in, and the native way of life in the Chippewa River Valley was destroyed forever.

I was eager to get back to The Springs and on Monday, July 14, I spent the morning cutting weeds like Bouncing Bet (shown below), Nodding Thistle and Canadian Fleabane on the sand prairie.

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In the afternoon I got into the river and removed more of the planking that formed the flumes just below the Scuppernong Spring (see pictures above), and I discovered the 10, huge beams, bisecting the river.

Happily exhausted, I watched the sun set and imagined the river set free.

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On Wednesday, I “mowed” the trail from the area around the hotel spring, north up to signpost #13, and then, following the cut-off trail, to the marl pits.  I cut a lot of thistle that was about to go to seed and tons of white clover near the marl pits with my brush cutter, which is a lot more handy than a mower for stepping off the trail to get the nearby weeds.

In the afternoon, I cleaned up the area where I removed planks from the river.  Some of the oak planks are in relatively good shape and might make interesting components in some artwork.  I plan to revisit the stacks and reclaim some choice pieces.  You are welcome to do the same.  I asked Ben to bring his cordless reciprocating saw thinking we could cut notches in the beams to create gaps for the river to flow through.  That was a bad idea and Ben quickly concluded that we needed to dig the beams out.  It took the two of us over an hour to remove the beam shown in the picture above, but I think the process will go faster in the future now that we know what we are up against.

Yesterday I returned to The Springs to cut some buckthorn and pull spotted knapweed and found that Andy Buchta had completed piling all the brush near the parking lot on Hwy ZZ.  Thanks Andy!

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I wanted to finish a strip of buckthorn that separated an area we opened up last Fall from the area near the parking lot that we cleared this Spring shown above.

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I had to deal with some technical difficulties with my stump sprayer and chainsaw, its been a while since I cut buckthorn, but I got it done.

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I spent the afternoon pulling knapweed on the sand prairie.  Although the knapweed is starting to flower, there is a window of opportunity to continue pulling it before it sets seed.  Assuming I won’t get it all pulled, I’ll use the brush cutter to mow the remainder (except for the areas dedicated to introducing weevils.)  The problem is that its impossible to cut the knapweed without also cutting the surrounding native plants, so I’m trying to pull as much as possible.  The good news is that I sent in my permit to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, which I got from Weed Busters, and I should be receiving my Cyphocleonus Achates knapweed root weevils soon.  We’ll get the Larinus Minutus Obtusis flower weevils next year (that is how they recommend doing it).

Steve (third from the left below), and his Ecology class from UW Madison, stopped on their tour to say hello as I was wrestling with the knapweed.  Did you take a drink of the marvelous spring water?

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It’s buggy as hell now at The Springs and my bug net is constantly at the ready.  So be prepared if you come out…

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See you at The Springs!

SEWRPC Surveys The Springs

I love to landscape the landscape at the Scuppernong Springs.  This distinguished tract of land deserves our love and attention for the sake of its beauty.  So please, come out and help me dig a little spotted knapweed from the sand prairie!

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The lay of the land at The Springs was evoked beautifully by John Muir, in his classic: The Story of My Boyhood and Youth, and I had to pinch myself last night as I walked alone behind the Scuppernong Spring and thought: ‘this is my garden’.

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I’m intrigued by how others experience my garden.

Here is a great image from Landscape Photographer Byron S. Becker: “The photograph was taken in the spring of 2008 along Suppernong River near sundown. The camera was a 4×5 with a 90mm lens, using TriX 320 film and the exposure was 2 minutes; the developer was Pyronal.”

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Below is an example of Kristen Westlake’s Fine Art Photography.  You can see more of her images of The Springs, and all of her other outstanding work, here.

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I had a wonderful week of beautiful weather for landscape gardening at The Springs!  Last Monday, June 9th, I tried something new, per the advice of Jared Urban, and burned the first-year garlic mustard off the cut-off trail with my blow torch.  Below is where the cut-off trail joins the main trail at signpost #13.

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And after…

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I got the worst patches and now the trail is officially “burned in” as Don Dane would say.  I spent the afternoon digging spotted knapweed from the sand prairie and was glad to have Ben Johnson’s help with this seemingly Sisyphean task.  We focused on cleaning up the lupine patches.

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On Friday, June 13, I was joined by Dan Carter, Senior Biologist with The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC).  Dan was continuing SEWRPC’s ongoing effort to document the vegetation at The Springs and invited me to come along.

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SEWRPC has divided The Springs into 4 areas for their vegetation surveys:

1) The dry prairie at the springs (aka, the Indian Campground)
2) The dry woods
3) The springs, immediately adjacent wetlands, and upper reaches of the creek
4) The fen and sedge meadow in the vast open area immediately to the west (includes trench where marl was mined).

The first three areas listed above are located in the blue circle on the right below and the fourth is in the larger blue circle to the left.  Click the links above to view SEWRPC’s preliminary vegetation surveys.

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As we walked through Buckthorn Alley on our way to the hotel spring, Dan and I stopped frequently to make notes and take pictures.  Dan recently completed his PhD in Biology at Kansas State University and he has a wealth of knowledge, understanding and wisdom.  Here are just a few of plants he identified.

Lady Fern

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Sensitive Fern

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False Solomon’s Seal

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True Solomon’s Seal

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Be careful at The SpringsPoison Hemlock.IMG_3210 IMG_3211

Bulrush

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Forked Aster, a state threatened plant!

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Valerian

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Horsetail

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We visited the Ottawa Lake Fen State Natural Area and Dan showed me two new springs that I had never seen before.  They emerge from the east side of the wetlands and you can find them by walking across the fen from campsite #334 towards the north until you come across their outflow channels.

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Of course, there were lots of interesting plants here too.

Bracken Fern

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Lake Sedge

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And the carnivorous Pitcher Plant

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Thanks Dan, for showing me around the place I love!

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I spent the afternoon pulling and digging spotted knapweed on the sand prairie.  There is a bumper crop of this noxious invader!

A soothing sunset at Ottawa Lake.

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A “Honey” moon at the Lapham Peak Tower.

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I had the pleasure of spending yesterday, June 14, at my favorite spot again.

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The Indian Spring is being quickly overrun by quack grass and water cress so I spent the morning pulling these invasive plants.  Before…

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… and after.

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Then I moved up the hill to the sand prairie and continued pulling and digging spotted knapweed.  It’s going to take years to get rid of this stuff unless I get a whole lot of help.

Speaking of which, my good friend Carl Baumann, who has been harvesting black locust on the south end of the trail, split all of the logs in my woodpile setting the stage for some cozy fires at My Shangri-La.  Thanks Carl!

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And Andy Buchta noticed the freshly cut buckthorn by the main entrance on Hwy ZZ and he has commenced to piling.  Thanks Andy!

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It was a great week!

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See you at The Springs!

 

The Adventures of The Buckthorn Man

I took a break from The Springs this past week and joined forces with other teams of land stewards to help them on their restoration adventures.  I was accompanied by Jules Verne, via A Journey to the Interior of the Earth, and the fearless professor Lidenbrock, his thoughtful nephew Axel, and their imperturbable guide Hans.

It was through the character of the unflappable Hans that Verne revealed the essence of the great eastern philosophies.  Surrender completely to the present moment.  Of all moments past and future, the present moment is the very best; the key to being enlightened.

My journey through the Kettle Moraine began last Tuesday when I helped the DNR burn the Hwy 67 East Horse Trail.

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Burn boss Don Dane conferring with line the line bosses Brian and Paul.

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Staging at the “anchor”.

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The predominately northwest winds were strong — on the edge of the prescription — and the DNR team was extremely careful to lay down extensive black zones on the downwind perimeter of the burn unit beginning at point 6 on the map above.

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We finally tied in the lines along Hwy 67 and then the north line team ignited a raging head fire driving flames 20′ high.

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I was south of the tree line and missed the show but I did see Paul Sandgren light off the southeast edge of the horse trail.

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The burn was a great success!

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On Wednesday I joined Natalie Dorrier and her group from Nature’s Classroom Institute shoring up a bank of the Mukwonago River on the north end of what was the Rainbow Springs golf course.  Last year, the DNR Fisheries Team, led by Ben Heussner, removed 7 culverts from this stretch of the river.  I blackened in a little spot on the northeast section of the map below, where there is a fork in the river, to indicate the area that we worked in.

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Rainbow Springs Lake.

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The golf course reverting back to nature.

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Dick Jenks poisoning buckthorn that he cut the day before.  This was the source for the brush used to help stabilize the bank.

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We cut more buckthorn along the south side of the river shown above until we ran out of stump poison.

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Below is the river bank showing the work they accomplished on Tuesday and where we would continue.

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Natalie marshaling her forces.

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Passing brush across the river.

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We extended the brush line all the way to the rocks where the river forks.

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They warmed my heart with a cheer for The Buckthorn Man.

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After the work was done, I wandered the property exploring a route that Dick suggested.  When I see a beautiful piece of land like this scarred by a golf course, it makes me wish the game had never been invented.

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On Thursday I joined: Herb Sharpless (the organizer), representing the Kettle Moraine Land Trust, Volunteers from the Lauderdale Lakes Improvement Association, and Camp Charles Allis, Students from Elkhorn High School and, last but not least, Eric Tarman-Ramcheck , who grew up on this property — to work on the Beulah Bluff Preserve.  We focused on the hill immediately below the old homestead site overlooking Upper Beulah Lake to the south.

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The students alternated between different tasks including: water quality testing, brush piling, stump treatment and learning how geology and prescribed burning shape the landscape.  Herb provided an overview of the project and then we got after it.

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Brush dragging and piling.

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The Buckthorn Man, Ginny Coburn and Eric got in some good licks with their chainsaws on the steep hillside.

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The view towards Upper Beulah Lake.

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Who knows, maybe one or more of the young people there will be inspired to continue this restoration work, which is sorely needed.

After we wrapped up at the Beulah Bluff Preserve, I headed up to The Springs to pull some garlic mustard. I was stunned when I came around the bend on Hwy 67 and saw that the forest of towering, girdled, black locust, hulks on the south side of the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve property, had been laid waste.

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The highway department was worried that any of these trees might fall across the road and they coordinated with Paul Sandgren, Superintendent of the Kettle Moraine State Forest–Southern Unit, to bring in contractors to remove them.  They closed Hwy 67 on Wednesday to be safe.  Steve Tabat was hard at work bucking up rounds of black locust when I got there.  He has been cutting timber in the Kettle Moraine forests since the 1970’s — a real pro.

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They plan to take down the black locust that I recently girdled in the area where westbound Hwy ZZ leaves Hwy 67 in the very near future.  These are very positive steps in the restoration of the property!

Light showers fell as I took a walk around the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail.

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New life in old burn rings.

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Green algae invades the Emerald Spring.  Is this the same species that gave this spring its name?

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Brave Marsh Marigolds are blooming.

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See you at The Springs!

Buckthorn Alley Breakthrough

It took me two years working at The Springs to get my courage up to tackle the Buckthorn Alley.  Or, maybe it was that I was focused on what I thought were the more scenic parts of the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail that caused the delay. I avoided even walking this section of trail, but, as is typically the case, ignoring the problem did not make it go away.

In April 2013 I made a start at it, but the weeds of summer came early and I discovered the advantages of following their phenology to identify the best ways and times to attack them. Finally, in late November 2013, I returned to the Buckthorn Alley with Ben Johnson, Andy Buchta, Dick Jenks, Jim Davee and Zach Kastern determined to change the status quo. Now, after 3 months of consistent, team effort, we have finally, reminiscent of our efforts on the “Lost Trail” in the fall of 2012, broken through to the other side.

When I arrived yesterday, it was really great to see that Andy Buchta had piled all of the buckthorn that I cut the last time out, and the table was set for me to get right to work.

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The end of the Buckthorn Alley in sight.

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This long, cold, winter season has been perfect for working in this very wet, marshy area. I’m not going to cut anymore along the trail here for now and will focus, while the snow cover lasts, on piling and burning what has already been cut. So, here are the final results along the buckthorn alley for this season. In the fall, we’ll work on the north side of the trail to reveal the oak groves there.

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I was able to significantly broaden the clearing between the north side trail, aka, the Buckthorn Alley, and the cut-off trail, aka the “Lost Trail”. The downward pointing blue arrow below indicates the newly cleared area and the upward pointing arrow represents the perspective from the cut-off trail shown in the video below.

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Here are a couple of views of late winter at The Springs.

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And the fire that warmed me all day.

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See you at The Springs!

Kettle Moraine Natural History Association

Well, it’s that time of year.  No, not when you start to go crazy anticipating spring weather, it’s Tax Time.  What?  You haven’t started working on your taxes yet?  Pati and I sat down today to collect the numbers and I was reminded of how critical the support of the Kettle Moraine Natural History Association (KMNHA is on Facebook) is to the restoration work we are doing at The Springs.  Oh, and the brand new pair of steel-toed muck boots I wore yesterday working in the Buckthorn Alley were also a great reminder as well.

The Kettle Moraine Natural History Association is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping preserve the features of outstanding interest in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. The Kettle Moraine Natural History Association generates financial support through gift shop sales, donations, and membership dues. It has provided matching funds for Stewardship grants.  (Kettle Moraine State Forest Southern Unit)

Speaking of grants, last April the KMNHA played an instrumental role in the DNR winning a $75,000 NAWCA grant to continue the restoration of the Scuppernong River Habitat Area, the largest wet prairie east of the Mississippi.

Let me introduce you to the KMNHA board:

The KMNHA is a great organization and their, always entertaining and informative, annual meeting is coming up soon.  Reach out to Ron Kurowski at:
Kettle Moraine Natural History Association
S91 W39091 Hwy 59
Eagle, WI 53119
or, visit the Kettle Moraine State Forest Southern Unit headquarters to pick up an application, and join the KMNHA and you’ll receive their excellent quarterly publication The Scuppernong Journal.  Here’s a sample to wet your appetite.
The Scuppernong Journal
With all the rain we had this past Thursday, I was glad to have on my new pair of muck boots yesterday; the slush was just an inch or two below the surface of the snow.  I’ll try to contain my excitement as I describe the work on the last stretch of the Buckthorn Alley (well, the last stretch of the south side of the trail that is.)  The first thing I noticed was that Andy Buchta had piled all of the brush that Ben, Zach and I cut last tuesday.
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I really appreciate the way Andy just sees what needs to be done and does it.  That enabled me to get right to work on the trail.
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The blustery weather continued all day and blew the clouds away.
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I cut a swath through the woods to open views to the hills on the south side of the Scuppernong River.

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I couldn’t wait to drop my gear off at the truck and take a walk on the cut-off trail to see the effects of the days work from another perspective.  In the center of pictures below you can faintly make out the wetland adjoining the Buckthorn Alley trail, where I spent the day and where we have been focused for the last couple months.
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Here are a few views from my favorite spots along the loop trail.
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Another glorious sunset.
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See you at The Springs!

Kettle Moraine Oak Opening

A lot of ingredients go into a successful land restoration recipe and you’ll always find persistence as the base stock. Our chef Saturday, February 15, at the Kettle Moraine Oak Opening SNA chilly bowl, was noted Oakologist and Wisconsin DNR Conservation Biologist, Jared Urban.

Restoring and preserving oak savannahs and woodlands is an important goal of the DNR’s Endangered Resources Program (newly christened as the Natural Heritage Conservation Bureau), and Jared has been focusing on organizing and empowering volunteers to accomplish this.

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Zach Kastern gets the party started.
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Our chef sets the table.

Feast your eyes on this work crew!
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Jared likes to spice up workdays with unique mixes of people, locations and activities and Saturday’s stew pot included burning brush piles and cutting and poisoning buckthorn, honeysuckle and other brush on the sunny south side of an oak covered moraine just northeast of the intersection of Bluff Road and County Hwy H.  Enthusiastic volunteers from the Ecology Club, and S.A.G.E. (Students Allied for a Green Earth) at UW Whitewater, the Kettle Moraine Land Trust, and others, provided the meat and potatoes for the savory stew but Jared’s “secret ingredient” was Gary Birch.

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Gary has dedicated his professional career (first with the Wisconsin DNR and currently with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation) and a lot of his personal time to nurturing, protecting and researching the flora and fauna in Wisconsin.  Here is a small sample of Gary’s diverse activities:

NR40 establishes classification of invasive species and regulates certain categories of plants. The BMPs (Best Management Practices) identify measures that ROW (right-of-way) managers can take to minimize the introduction and spread of invasive plants by applying maintenance resources effectively. A growing concern for more than 20 years, experts point to invasive species as a threat to ecological balance and the economic value of Wisconsin’s lands and water.
Gary Birch, an ecologist with the WisDOT Division of Transportation Development, says the department is reviewing the impact of NR40 on its policies and mowing directives for state highways.  WisDOT also is working with the DNR to create programs on invasive species management for use around the state. Birch hopes to circulate the DNR Field Guide at future workshops, part of “a monumental effort” to help road maintenance managers and crew members recognize problem plants and what methods to use, when.

Gary’s life’s work epitomizes  persistence, which is the key to any “monumental effort”.  His latest tip is to check out the Pleasant Valley Conservancy SNA, which I plan to do soon!  Thanks for everything you do Gary!

Meanwhile, back at the Oak Opening, Jared led a crew of brush cutters, stump poisoners and brush haulers and I led a team to set the piles on fire..

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Zach Kastern led another team clearing brush along the horse trail.

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Jerry took one for the team.

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Herb Sharpless, with the Kettle Moraine Land Trust, led another crew working farther north along the horse trail, but they were in brush so dense that I didn’t see them!

It was another wonderful and satisfying day working at the Kettle Moraine Oak Opening SNA!

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See you at The Springs!

I Am the Buckthorn Man

Most people don’t see the buckthorn that dominates the understory of our forests here in southeastern Wisconsin. They don’t see it spreading to fill wetlands and abandoned pastures or understand the impact it is having; it’s just another tree — it’s “natural”. But, like the protagonist John Nada (John Nothing) in the great science fiction thriller They Live, I do see the environmental damage that buckthorn is doing.

I hope Willie Dixon doesn’t turn over in his grave when I sing “I am the Buckthorn Man” to the melody of his blues classic Back Door Man. It still sends chills down my spine when I hear him sing and recall the great shows he performed at SummerFest with Sugar Blue on the harp.

This past Wednesday I was working in the Buckthorn Alley and two women, along with kids and dogs, paused as they walked by and one of them exclaimed, “you’re the buckthorn man!” Yes, “Iiiiiiii aaaammmm the Buckthorn Man!

If you are, or want to become, a SuperFriend♥ of The Springs, or you just love The Springs, or you just want to help the Buckthorn Man celebrate his birthday, then come to our open house in Milwaukee on February 16th from 2-8:00pm.  If you have not already received an invite via email and want to come, please contact mePati is going to make some crazy good food and we’ll have beer and wine and a roaring buckthorn fire outside on the patio.  We hope to see you on the 16th!

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I spent two excellent days this past week working at The Springs continuing my effort to open up views along the part of trail that I christened the Buckthorn Alley. The map below shows the progress made so far from the west (shown in black) and the east (shown in white) and the gap that remains. I roughly outlined wetland areas in blue that are filling in with brush (the Buckthorn Man will put a stop to that!)

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This was the scene when I arrived on Wednesday morning.

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I was gratified to see that Andy Buchta

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had paid a visit and made 8 or so brush piles. Needless to say, this is hard work in the current conditions and I really appreciate Andy’s contribution.

I enjoyed a relaxing day and was not perturbed by any technical difficulties with the chainsaw. I experienced a curious, and seemingly contradictory mix of emotions, including deep calm and overflowing excitement. Here is how it looked at the end of the day.

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Some classic perspectives of The Springs in the subdued early evening light.

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Yesterday, Friday February 7th, I was back at it. It was a cold, bright sunny, morning and I stopped at the Hotel Springs to get some water.

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I resumed where I left off on Wednesday and made a new fire in the same place as last time.

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The views to the interior wetlands are beginning to open up! John, Sue and Tim stopped by to offer encouragement and John said they have seen 20+ robins playing in the springs just north of the Emerald Spring boardwalk. I had a fine day swinging the saw and got farther than expected.

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Speaking of the Emerald Spring, some beautifully random organic patterns have emerged in the marl “dunes” at the river bottom.

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Sunset at the Indian Campground.

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See you at The Springs! And don’t forget the open house at our place on the 16th.

A Cold Day at The Springs

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… is better than a warm day at the office! That’s me on the left back in the days when we struggled to get complex “Sales Illustrations” software to run in 640k of memory.

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It was really challenging work but at the end of the day, it was just for money; my heart wasn’t in it, my mind was exhausted and the fire in my belly was out cold. It’s been 2 years since I retired and I’m very lucky the way things turned out.

Working at The Springs helps me keep my sanity. If you open your eyes, see what is going on around in the world, study history to build out a context for current events, and use a method like the integrated Trivium (knowledge/grammar, understanding/logic, wisdom/rhetoric) to sort fact from fiction, it’s hard not to get depressed. The powers that should not be are enslaving humanity and most people choose to ignore it. They choose IGNORE-ance rather than knowledge, contracting fear instead of expansive love. The Truth is that which is; that which has actually occurred. We can come to know the truth, and be set free, or we can ignore it, and be enslaved. The aggregate of all of our free will choices, bounded by the Laws of Nature, will determine the reality that manifests in this world. I encourage you to check out the work of Richard Grove at Tragedy and Hope, especially the podcasts, and tune in, don’t drop out.

Super Friend Andy Buchta is definitely tuned in!

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He has been working at The Springs recently, piling brush along the trail where we have been cutting. You can see his latest efforts in the first picture above. It really warms my heart to see others independently volunteering their time and attention at The Springs and, thanks to Andy, I had a convenient brush pile to light up yesterday to keep me warm. Thanks as well to John Hrobar for stopping out with Sue and Tim and throwing a couple piles worth of brush on the fire. Below are a couple perspectives before I started working.

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It was a cold, snowy day but I was happy to get out of the house and careful to keep my hands warm.

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After work I enjoyed a walk around the trail in solitude and took the north end trail route from east to west through the Buckthorn Alley to get back to my truck. I think a couple more weeks and we’ll have a wide swath cleared on both sides of the trail through the Buckthorn Alley!

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See you at The Springs!

Winter’s Rhythm

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…”, that’s what George Gershwin said.  Per the Natural Law Principle of Polarity, he might have added another line like: Wintertime, and the livin’ ain’t easy; although it may be true, it doesn’t ring with the same poetry.  Hot and cold, easy versus hard, they’re simply polarities of temperature and effort.  Or, consider the swing between the summer and winter seasons, or solstices, as an expression of the Natural Law Principle of Rhythm. At The Springs we adjust to Winter’s Rhythm by carefully relaxing, lowering expectations, and dressing warmly; then we carry on.

We had a window of opportunity last Saturday, January 4th, before the deep freeze arrived, to slash, pile and burn in the Buckthorn AlleySuperFriends Ben Johnson, his wife Karen and Pati joined me, softening the hardness of winter with their warm energy.

I visited the Hotel Spring when I arrived to get some fresh, clean, drinking water.

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This was the scene in the Buckthorn Alley before we started.

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We lit the brush pile in the foreground of the first picture above and had a nice fire to keep warm by. Karen and Pati split their time between piling brush and feeding brush into the fire. Ben was obviously more comfortable with the chainsaw and, I dare say, I think he had a lot more fun. He and Karen visited this spot on New Year’s day and they bushwhacked through the opening in the buckthorn that Zach and I cut and passed through three different cranberry bogs before emerging on the cut-off trail. It is encouraging to know that the area between the north section of the trail and the cut-off trail is not a solid mass of buckthorn. I’ll have to check this out myself!

Snow fell, heavily at times, while we worked and John and Sue Hrobar stopped by to say hello. Here is how it looked when we quit.

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Afterwards, Pati and I had time to enjoy a walk and the views through the large flakes of steadily falling snow on the cut-off trail were enchanting. That’s John and Sue on the gaging station bridge below.

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The Hillside Springs.
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The Scuppernong Spring.
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The Indian Spring.
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Check the Volunteer page at this site for the workday schedule.

See you at The Springs!