The Keepers of The Springs

John and Sue Hrobar have been coming to The Springs for a long time.  They have a feel, and a feeling, for this “world class site”.  They watch closely as nature tries to heal the anthropogenic wounds inflicted at the headwaters of the Scuppernong River and amateur naturalists, like The Buckthorn Man, have their way.  It wasn’t long after I returned to work at The Springs in May of 2011, (I had worked there for approximately 6 months back in 2004, cutting buckthorn on the hillside between the river and highway 67) that I first met John and Sue on one of their frequent visits.

Sue takes most of the pictures and John does most of the talking and, together, they began to teach me about the flora and fauna — the biota — of The Springs.

John and Sue with Trail Boss, Don Dane.


I started this blog back in June 2012 and asked Sue if I could post some of her pictures.  Well, sorry it took me so long Sue… here is a sampling of what you gave me over two years ago: The Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail, 2012, through the eyes of The Keepers of The Springs (take your time browsing this collection, and don’t forget you can click any picture to expand it to full size.)


The bend in the trail along the northeast perimeter of the loop. eastern side of trail

Buckthorn still lined the riverbank near the old hotel site.near old hotel

Sue getting ready for a polar bear plunge.

Sue cattails

John near the Hatching House Springs.


phragmites A

Unfortunately, we rarely see trout like this at the Emerald Spring since Lindsay and I pulled out the watercress and disturbed their habitats in the spring of 2012.  The restoration of the headwaters of the Scuppernong River to it’s pre-settlement condition is a work in progress.

2 trout close-up A

5 trout

John at the Scuppernong Spring.

John at spring wateracress at spring

The south end of the sand prairie.

burning buckthorn A

You can see the buckthorn thicket on the far side of the Indian Springs outflow channel.Indian springs A

Lindsay Knudsvig, John Mesching and I burned 185 brush piles down on the flat below the Indian Campground.

Lindsay, Paul & John Paul, Lindsay, John Paul burning piles

It was a mild winter.

wall ruins John & wall



Smoke drifts from brush pile fires on the south end of the loop trail.smoke from piles burning pile Paul & John

The flats below the Indian Campground.  Heh, where’s the snow?burning by bridge ash remains

A nuthatch near the marl factory kilns.

nuthatch by kiln ruins


Life returns to The Springs.

Skunk cabbage.

skunk cabbage bird tracks ice patterns

Pussy Willows.

pussy willows



large catkins A

redwing blackbird


hepatica hepatica C hepatica D


blood root A


Sweet springtime at The Springs.



Marsh Marigolds.

.Marsh Marigolds


.Anemones B

Garter Snake.

garter snake

Brown butterfly?

brown butterfly

Birds-foot Violet.

.bird-foot violet

Wood Betony.

wood betony A

Red Admiral Butterfly.

red admiral butterfly 2


first Jacks A

Hoary Puccoon.

Hoary Puccoon B

Butterfly and Pussytoes.

butterfly & pussy toes

Northern Water Snake.

northern water snake 04:14:12 Northern water snake 04:14:12 close-up  snake head




dewberry A

American Lady.

American Lady 04:17:12

Juvenal’s Duskywing.

Juvenal's Duskywing 04:17:12

Eastern Tailed-blue Butterfly.

enhanced Eastern Tailed-Blue 04:17:12

White Sarsaparilla.

wild sarsaparillla 04:17:12

toad trilling 04:17:12

Cow:tuft Vetch.

cow:tuft vetch 04:24:12 A Sue Scuppernong 04:24:12


Robin Scuppernong 04:24:12 A

fleabane 04:30 wood betony, wild geranium, horsetail. 04:30JPG

Kittentail and Horsetail

kittentail & horsetail A

Swamp Saxifrage

swamp saxifrage 04:30

Golden Alexander

golden alexander 04:30

Solitary Sandpiper

solitary sandpiper 04:30


goldfinch 04:30


sparrow 04:30


Mystery Flower

Scuppernong mystery 05:03

Blue-eyed Grass.

blue-eyed grass 05:03


toadflax 05:03

Brown snake.

little brown snake C

Sulfur Butterfly

sulfur 05:03

Kitten Tails

kitten tails

Watercress was choking the river.

with watercress A 05:03 downstream with wataercress 05:03

Areas where we pulled the watercress.

towards spring without watercress 05:03 clear at spring 05:03watercress removal 05:19 A


goldfinch 05:03



Notice the thick buckthorn on the north/right side of the river.

Scuppernong east to west A 05:07

White pea:pale vetchling

white pea:pale vetchling 05:07

Small-flowered crowfoot

small-flowered crowfoot 05:07

Monarch butterfly



Scuppernong lupine 05:07

lupine 05:19

Bellwort and starry false solomon’s seal

bellwort & starry false solomon's seal 05:07

Yellow Umbel

yellow umbel

Shooting stars

shooting stars B

shooting stars Use gray dogwood?  viburnum?

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly

black giant swallowtail A

Yellow woodsorrel

yellow wood sorel 05:11

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

tiger swallowtail 05:11

Carrion Flower

carrion flower

Wild Columbine

Columbine 05:19

Turtle tracks

turtle tracks 05:19

Hoary Puccoon

Hoary Puccoon 05:19


Thimbleweed 05:19 A

Wild Sarsaparilla

wild sarsaparilla 05:19 A


blackberries 05:19 yellow mystery 05:26 marsh marigo.d 05:26 A  white mystery 05:26 A

Solomon’s seal

solomon's seal 05:26

Blandings Turtle

turtle 05:26

False Solomon’s Seal

false solomon's seal 05:26

Sand Hill Cranes

Sandhill 05:26 AA sandhill 05:26 AAA sandhill 05:26

Blue Flag Iris

blue flag iris 05:28

Brush piles near signpost #1

brush piles 05:28

Ripe Dewberry

dewberry - ripe 05:30

Female Robin

redwing femaile 05:30 A

White Avens

white avens 05:30

yellow mallow? 05:30

Black-eyed Susan

black-eyed Susan 05:30


spiderwort 05:30

spiderwort 05:30 A

spiderwort & hoary puccoon 05:30 white butterfly 05:30

Prairie Rose

prairie rose 05:30


nine bark 05:30 A

Tall Meadow Rue

tall rue 05:30

Yellow Warbler

yellow warbler 05:30 A


Some of Sue’s best work.

sandhill & chick little black butterfly 06:02 C

Brown and white dragonfly

brown & white dragonfly 06:02 A

Yellow Avens

yellow avens 06:02 B


plantain 06:02

Cloudywing Butterfly

cloudywing butterfly 06:02


goldfinch 06:02 white dragonfly 06:02

Viceroy Butterfly

viceroy butterfly 06:04 A insect 06:04 B


hummingbird 06:04


bluebird 06:04


kingbirds -two 06:04


sparrow 06:04 chipmunk 06:04

Green Frog

green frog 06:15 A

New Jersey Tea

new jersey tea 06:15 A

Blandings Turtle

blandings turtle  06:12


elderberry 06:15


yarrow 06:15

Baltimore Checkerspot

baltimore checkerspot 06:15

Scarlet Tanager

scarlet tanager 06:24 B

Cedar Waxwing


Spring Keeper

cooling feet 06:24

Goldfinch at the hotel spring

goldfinch 06:24

Angelwing Butterfly

anglewing butterfly 06:24

Culvers Root

Culver's root 06:24

mowed boardwalk 06:24 A

Michigan Lily

michigan lily 06:24 B michigan lily 06:24 E

Sue contemplates the lilies of the field

michigan lily & Sue 06:26

Hognose Snake

hognose snake 06:24

Ninebark fruit

nine bark fruit 06:24

New England Aster

new england asters 06:24

Mystery Bird

mystery bird 06:26


sparrow 06:26

Scarlet Tanager

scarlet tanager A 06:26 scarlet tanager 06:26 B


lead plant 06:26

Downy Woodpecker

downey woodpecker 06:26


michigan lily 07:01


catbird 07:01

John and Sue do a lot of bird watching at the Hotel Spring.  The big willow is still there thanks to John pleading with me not to cut it down.female goldfinch wading 07:01 goldfinch 07:01 splish splash 07:01 cedar waxwing 07:01


lead plant 07:01 michigan lily 2 07:01


killdeer 07:01 B toad 07:01

Northern Water Snake.

water snake hunting from log 07:01

Common Agrimony

common agrimony 07:02 A

Green Frog

green frog 07:02

The Buckthorn Man working in the thicket across from the Indian SpringPaul 07:02

Lindsay Knudsvig in the thick-of-it

Lindsay 07:02

Prairie Crayfish burrow

prairie crayfish burrow 07:02 A

Mourning Doves

mourning doves A 07:07

Hognose Snake

hognose snake 07:09


sumac 07:31


jewellweed 07:14 A

Woodland Sunflower

woodland sunflower 07:14 A

Lindsay and I cut the catails and phragmites in the entire river valley.observation deck 07:14 A little bridge area 07:14 B

Mountain Mint

mountain mint A  indian spring prairie 07:14 A

Views of the prairie just west of the buckthorn thicket that Lindsay and I were cutting shown above.

John in prairie 07:14

Note the buckthorn thicket on the north side of the prairie

prairie northeast view A

Looking south

prairie southeast view 07:14

Prairie Swamp Milkweed

prairie swamp milkweed 07:14

Wild Bergamont

prairie bergamot 07:14

Angelwing Butterfly

anglewing butterfly 07:15 A


liatris 07:15

Evening Primrose

evening primrose 07:31

Trumpet Yellow Flower

trumpet yellow flower 07:31

Joe-pye Weed

joe pyeweed 07:31 B

Leopard Frog

leopard frog 07:31


elderberries 07:31 A

Flowering Spurge

flowering spurge 07:31 A

View west from the Indian Campground

Indian springs hill 07:31

White Wood Aster

white wood aster 07:31 B mushroom A 07:31

west view from bridge 07:31 A east view from bridge 07:31 A

Sawtooth Sunflower and Brown-eyed Susan

sawtooth sunflower 07:31 B browneyed susans 07:31 A

Blue Vervain

blue vervain 07:31 C

White Vervain

white vervain 07:31 A


Light Purple Aster

light purple aster 08:28:12

Shelf-type Mushroom

shelf-type mushroom 08:28:12


lettuce family 08:28:12 A

Goldenrod and bug

goldenrod & bug 08:28:12


sandpiper? 08:28:12 A


elderberries 08:28:12

White Asters

white asters 08:28:12


goldenrod? 08:28:12

Asters and Goldenrod

asters & goldenrod 08:28:12


mint? 08:28:12 A


pokeweed 08:28:12 B

Mystery stalk (Bush Clover?)

mystery stalk 08:28:12

Wood Asters (Forked Aster?)

wood asters? 08:28:12

Tall Sunflowers

tall sunflowers 08:28:12

Goldenrod along the marl pit trail

goldenrod & brown-eyed susans 08:28:12

Goldenrod and Bee

goldenrod & bee 08:28:12

Fringed Gentians along the marl pit trail

fringed gentians 08:28:12 A fringed gentians 08:28:12 fringed gentians & goldenrod 08:28:12A fringed gentians & goldenrod 08:28:12fringed gentians & cinqfoil 08:28:10

The view towards the sand prairie from the marl pit trail (note the buckthorn thicket)


marl pit & indian springs trail 08:28:12

The marl pit trail is a great place to see flowers!marl pit & goldenrod 08:28:12  new england aster 08:28:12 leopard frog 08:28:12

marl pit & old bridge 08:28:12 B

That’s it for the year 2012 in review, courtesy of Sue and John Hrobar.  Here are a couple of bonus pics that Sue took in September, 2013, of a watersnake capturing a grass pickerel.  I wonder what happened next?

watersnake & grass pickerel 09:01 watersnake & grass pickerel 2 09:01 watersnake & grass pickerel 1 09:01

I would love to share your photos of The Springs here, so contact me if you have some good ones.

See you at The Springs!

Scuppernong River Fish Count 2014

The Scuppernong Springs are “a world class site” according to Ron Kurowski, the godfather of the Scuppernong River Habitat Area restoration project.  I’m humbled to be a servant of Mother Nature helping take care of this beautiful place that attracts me so; it gives me the opportunity to manifest my vision for the world:

“The aggregate of all of our free will choices, bounded by the Laws of Nature, will determine the reality that manifests in this world.”  The Buckthorn Man


The attractive force of The Springs has been drawing a lot of attention lately.

I hope to post the work of landscape photographers Byron S. Becker and Kristen WestLake, who draw inspiration from The Springs.

The dynamic DNR duo, Melanie Kapinos and Amanda Prange, organized a volunteer workday pulling garlic mustard at The Springs and we were happy to have Wendy and Rene help us.

Like a martial arts expert, Ben Johnson turned the pull of The Springs into the capstone project for the masters degree in environmental studies (emphasis on environmental management and planning) he is working on through the University of Illinois Springfield. This is a 240 hour commitment and we thank Anne Korman, Assistant Superintendent of the Kettle Moraine Forest — Southern Unit, for expediting this DNR internship.

Just last week DNR conservation biologists Nate Fayram, Jared Urban and Sharon Fandel visited The Springs and they provided great feedback and ideas about how we can do the right thing here together.  Jared was inspired by the visit and shared this excellent document, Biotic Inventory and Analysis of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, which is also available at forest headquarters.

I had a heart-warming encounter a few days ago at The Springs, specifically, at the hotel springs,


where I met a group of people who were conducting a meaningful, and possibly religious, baptismal ceremony.  I was drawn by their energy, and surprised later, when they stopped on their way out to give me a beautiful, rose crystal, straight from the Black Hills, for my heart.  Not my head; my heart.  I get it!

DNR fisheries biologist Ben Heussner, organized a workday tomorrow to fill in with brush the wet areas on the outside of the coconut rolls they placed into the river late last fall.


And yesterday I ran into DNR Water Resource Management Specialists Rachel Sabre, Craig Helker and April Marcangeli, who were doing their annual fish count on the Scuppernong River.


Yes indeed, The Springs are attractive!

I started yesterday near the old hotel site taking down some of the aspen we girdled last year so that we can use the wood as fill along the riverbanks tomorrow.


After a couple tankfuls of gas in the chainsaw, I was ready to move to the north side of the river when I saw Craig, Rachel and April with their fish shocking sled in the river.  I helped them last year and learned how they use electric shocks to temporarily paralyze the fish so they can catch and count them.  A coincidence, or was it the law of attraction?  I took a break from the chainsaw and followed them upstream.

IMG_3086  IMG_3090 IMG_3093 IMG_3095

Don’t miss the shocking interview with the DNR team at the end of this video!

I was a mosquito on a buckthorn leaf watching them sort, count, measure and weigh the fish.

IMG_3100 IMG_3102 IMG_3103 IMG_3105 IMG_3108

4 Brook Stickleback


58 Central Mudminnow


107 Sculpin


10 Grass Pickerel


46 Brook Trout


What do the numbers mean?

I really appreciated them welcoming me into their workspace and giving me an interview after barely catching their breaths!


I commenced to taking down some huge aspen on the north side of the river and, an hour or so later, there they were again,


taking their annual habitat survey.  I’ll let Craig and Rachel describe it.

I ended the workday cutting garlic mustard flowers with the brush cutter.  It looks like its run is just about over at The Springs this year.  I think we put a hurt on it.

Then it was off to the baths at the marl pit bridge and a sun setting headstand.

IMG_3117 IMG_3120

IMG_3123 IMG_3125 IMG_3128 IMG_3129 IMG_3131

See you at The Springs!


Super Friends of the Scuppernong Springs

2013 was a fantastic year at The Springs. Here are highlights from the perspective of all the Super Friends♥ of the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail. We don’t have a normal friends group; no, we have Super Friends♥



scuppernong nature trail(photo by Tighe House)

We burned a lot of brush piles on the south side of the Indian Spring and all across the Indian Campground, aka, the Sand Prairie.  My old friend from “The Quiet Company”, Mark Mamerow, was a big help.

The USGS installed a ground water flow meter at what I now call the “gaging station” bridge and Rich Csavoy and Lindsay Knudsvig were very active helping burn 173 brush piles.

Lindsay, Rich and I cut and piled buckthorn between the cut-off trail and river.  DNR trail boss, and jack-of-all-trades, Don Dane, provided native flower and grass seeds that we sowed near the Indian Spring.

Lindsay, Pati and I began our Journey Down the Scuppernong River in an effort to become more intimately familiar with the Scuppernong River Habitat Area.



We continued exploring the Scuppernong River hiking the frozen, snow covered, banks from Hwy N all the way to Hwy 59.


The powers that be relented and I got a window of opportunity to burn the brush piles I had left behind at the Hartland Marsh.  I couldn’t have done it without the help of my friends from the Ice Age Trail Alliance, Pat Witkowski, Mike Fort, John Mesching, Marlin Johnson, Glenn Ritz, Jack, Dick and the maintenance crew from the Village of Hartland.  We lit over 300 piles during the month on many workdays.

Carl Baumann and Rich Csavoy helped cut buckthorn between the cut-off trail and the river.  I hope to work with these righteous dudes again soon!

Steve Brasch, Carl, Lindsay and I had a couple of brush pile burning adventures and Lindsay showed me the value of having a leaf blower handy to ignite a smoldering pile.

Pati and I continued our investigation of the Scuppernong River watershed following the outflow from McKeawn Spring to the river on a gorgeously warm winter day.

One of the most memorable days of the year was with the DNR Fisheries team of Ben “Benny” Heussner, Steve “Gos” Gospodarek, Andrew Notbohm and Josh Krall (right to left below, “Double D” Don Dane kneeing in front) as they reviewed their past efforts to rehabilitate the river and formed plans for the coming year.  They made good on their promise returning for two workdays on the river, most recently with a crew from the South Eastern Wisconsin Trout Unlimited group.



Pati, and I and Lindsay continued our Journey Down the Scuppernong River hiking from Hwy 59 to Hwy 106.  We attempted the last leg from Hwy 106 to where the Scuppernong River joins the Bark River south of Hebron, but we were foiled by melting ice.


I continued clearing brush between the cut-off trail and the river and was glad to have the help of Boy Scout Troop 131, from Fort Atkinson to help pile it up.


Lindsay and I were honored to jointly receive the Land Steward of the Year Award from the Oak Savanna Alliance for our work at the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail.  I continued investigating the Scuppernong River watershed hiking the Paradise Springs Creek from it’s source to it’s confluence with the river.

Steve, Lindsay, myself and Carl had a classic brush pile burning day in the area around the Scuppernong Spring and shared a few cold brews afterwards.


I began volunteering with Jared Urban and the DNR’s Endangered Resources team and met great people like Virginia Coburn, Zach Kastern and Herb Sharpless.

Dave Hoffman and Matt Zine secured a $75,000 NAWCA grant for the DNR to continue the work on the Scuppernong River Habitat Area that Ron Kurowski had championed for over 20 years.


We began clearing brush in the area around the Old Hotel and Barn sites near the Hotel Springs.  Rich Csavoy, Pati and I continued to clear the brush between the cut-off trail and the river; this time on the far east end.

John and Sue Hrobar (shown with Don Dane below), the “Keepers of the Springs”, began to report that they were not seeing as many brook trout as they had in previous years and attributed this to our removing too much water cress the previous spring.  Indeed, Ben Heussner had warned us that the trout relied on this invasive plant for food (bugs) and cover.


DNR wunderkind, Amanda Prange, her boyfriend Justin, his mother Beth, Roberta “Berta” Roy-Montgomery and DNR Ranger Elias Wilson (who would save my life 3 weeks later!) joined me for a day installing prothonotary warbler houses and piling brush.


Rich, Berta and I began girdling aspen.  This was new for me and now I realize we were a bit early.

Rich and I began spraying weeds like garlic mustard and spotted knapweed.  I started having misgivings about using poisons in this delicate ecosystem.

I began working in the Buckthorn Alley.

Pati, Lindsay and I made the final leg of Journey Down the Scuppernong River via canoe and were sorely disappointed to contrast this stretch of the river to those preceding.

Jon Bradley contributed an excellent photo essay to this blog.



I began the month girdling aspen and working in the Buckthorn Alley.

The most exciting day of the year was when the DNR burned the Scuppernong.  It was memorable in every way but it almost began disastrously.  I was using a drip torch for the first time and it was leaking fuel badly from the rim of the cap.  DNR Ranger Elias Wilson noticed the danger immediately and calmly said: “Put the torch down Paul.”  Again, he repeated, with a little more emphasis: “Paul, put the torch down.”  Finally, I came to my senses and realized the danger too.  Thanks Elias, you saved my life!


This is probably a good place to thank Paul Sandgren, Superintendent of the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, Assistant Superintendent Anne Korman, Don Dane, Amanda Prange, Melanie Kapinos and all of the DNR staff, including retired naturalist, Ron Kurowski and the Kettle Moraine Natural History Association for all of their help and support.

Within a few weeks, flowers and grasses were emerging from the blackened earth and I kept busy girdling aspen along the river valley and piling brush from the Old Hotel site north to where the trail turns west away from Hwy 67.  Garret and Jenny interrupted their studies to help me pile brush and I hope to see them again sometime.


Spring was in full bloom and Rich helped me girdle aspen and pile brush between the cut-off trail and the river.  Ticks and mosquitoes where out in force and I got infected with lymes.



Amanda, Tara Fignar and Melanie pictured below, along with others including Jim Davee, Kay, Barb, Berta and Rich (see this blog) replaced all of the signposts that accompany the interpretive guide.  Don Dane made the new posts.


Jon Bradley built and installed this swallow house near the marl pit bridge and we are looking forward to the new tenants moving in this spring.


I continued volunteering with Jared Urban’s Endangered Resources team in Oak woodlands around Bald Bluff.  Jared, Zach and Gary are great teachers!


Jon Bradley contributed another excellent photo essay.


I sprayed Habitat/imazapyr on phragmites near the Emerald Spring and no life has returned there — maybe this spring.  I suspected it would be the last time I used this poison.  I switched strategies and began cutting invasive plant seed heads with a hedge trimmer, or I cut the entire plant with a brush cutter.


My lymes infection kicked into gear and I had a few miserable days.


Ben Heussner and the DNR Fisheries team returned to the Scuppernong River to lay down some bio-logs continuing their effort to improve the river channel.

I spent a few days working at the Hartland Marsh brush cutting along the boardwalks and mowing the trails.


I was still spraying poisons like Transline and Milestone on various invasive plants at The Springs and it bothered me. I cut a ton of huge, flowering, spotted knapweed plants with the brush cutter to prevent them from going to seed and also started digging them out.

Pati, Lindsay and I were very disconcerted when we completed out Journey Down the Scuppernong River in the Prince’s Point Wildlife Area and I followed up and got a guided tour from DNR veterans Charlie Kilian, the recently retired property manager, and Bret Owsley to better understand what was going on.


Ron Kurowski, retired DNR Naturalist and champion of the Scuppernong River Habitat Area restoration effort, met me at The Springs and helped me identify what was growing on the Sand Prairie and in other parts of the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve.


I was becoming more and more disillusioned with the idea of spraying poison on weeds ad infinitum and began looking for alternatives.  Late in the month I met Jason Dare, the real deal when it comes to ecosystem management, at The Springs.  He was doing an invasive plant survey for the DNR and I became painfully aware that I didn’t know what I was doing vis-a-vis spraying invasive plants with poison in that delicate ecosystem.


The Buddha said : “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”.  It was Atina Diffley’s award winning memoir Turn Here Sweet Corn that finally opened my eyes and raised my organic consciousness.


I’m done spraying toxic poisons at The Springs, except for on freshly cut buckthorn, honey suckle and black locust stumps.

Ben Heussner had warned that our aggressive removal of water cress from the river in the spring of 2012 might impact the brook trout and John and Sue Hrobar observed that, indeed, they were seeing far fewer fish than in previous years.  We finally got some objective data when Craig Helker and his DNR team of water resources specialists, performed their annual fish count.  It was a fascinating day!  Below: Craig, me, Chelsea, Rachel, Shelly and Adam.


The fish counts were down significantly this year and I don’t doubt that it was a result of our removal of too much cover and food source from the river.  At the time we pulled the water cress, it had formed thick mats that damned the water flow raising the water table along the river by at least 6 inches.  I thought it was important to help re-establish the river channel, and the flora in the valley, to remove the water cress dams.  Until we can establish a native water plant, like Chara, which is in fact making a comeback, to replace the invasive water cress, we will allow the cress to thrive short of damning the river again.

I began attacking the phragmites and cattail that dominate the river valley with a hedge cutter loping off the maturing seed heads and leaving the emerging golden rod and asters undisturbed beneath them.


I learned to adjust my efforts to the plant life cycles and spent a lot of time pulling weeds by hand including: Canada Fleabane, American Burnweed (shown below), Common Ragweed , Queen Anne’s Lace  and Sweet Clover.


I wonder if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew attempting to eradicate invasive weeds at The Springs without using poison.  I take heart when I consider all of the Super Friends♥ that are willing to help.  Sue Hrobar captured this ambitious water snake and it inspires me to keep trying!

watersnake & grass pickerel 09:01

I’m getting more philosophical these days and thank my friends Mike and Yvonne Fort for their inspirational efforts at Lapham Peak State Park.

I began pulling Japanese knotweed and purple nightshade as well as all of the other aforementioned weeds and it almost seemed like the whole nature preserve was just a big weed patch.

Pati and I usually go camping in the mountains in September and she couldn’t make it this year so I decided to camp at Ottawa Lake and see what that was like.  The two walk-in sites #334 & #335 adjoin the Ottawa Lake Fen State Natural Area.  Lindsay and his wife Connie and Pati joined me for my first evening at site #335 and we agreed that the wall of buckthorn on the hillside between the campsites and fen simply had to go.  I divided my time over the next two weeks between working near the campsites and at The Springs.



I began cutting buckthorn on a stretch of trail at The Springs that I christened the Buckthorn Tunnel.

The task of weeding the Sand Prairie is daunting to say the least and I’m glad to have the help of Jim Davee, Pati and Tara Fignar.  I know we can stop the spotted knapweed from going to seed and then it’s just a question of carefully digging out the plants.


Lindsay informed me that there is a weevil that attacks only spotted knapweed and I’m considering if we should try to introduce it at The Springs.  That reminds me that we need to reintroduce more Purple Loosestrife beetles, as we had a bumper crop of this invasive plant in 2013.

Anne Moretti, Jim Davee and Tara Fignar helped me pile the buckthorn I had cut in the Buckthorn Tunnel.  I really appreciated their companionship and contribution.


The fall colors where just starting to emerge by the end of the month.



The Fall season lingered long and colorful.


I spent another week camping at Ottawa Lake and continued cutting buckthorn and thinning American Hop Hornbeam near sites #334 and #335.



I began opening up a new area on the northeast end of the loop trail where it passes by an old cranberry bog; at signpost #13, the junction with the cut-off trail.  And I continued piling the freshly cut brush along the Buckthorn Tunnel.

Jon Bradley contributed another post-full of beautiful and interesting photos.  If you would like to contribute photos or stories to this blog, please let me know.


I spent 3 days piling the brush cut near campsites #334 & #335.  I separated the good logs, suitable for firewood, from the brush and plan to return this spring to cut the logs into smaller pieces.

Lindsay took a full-time position at UW Madison and Rich focused on his beautiful grandchildren, awesome garden and classic pottery, but the Three Brushcuteers reunited for a day piling the brush I cut near the cranberry bogs mentioned above.  It was sweet to spend time with them again working in the forest.

Ben Johnson and Andy Buchta joined forces with me to pile brush right at the main parking lot on Hwy ZZ.  They are both hard-working men and I truly appreciate their contributions.  Both Ben and Andy have returned numerous times since then and I really enjoy working with them!

Towards the end of the month, master naturalist Dick Jenks began volunteering as well, doing everything from cutting, to piling, to burning brush piles.  Dick, Ben, Andy and Jim all have great ideas and are very observant.  I’m really benefiting from their experiences and perspectives.

Conditions were borderline, but we succeeding in lighting up all the brush piles we recently made in the Buckthorn Tunnel.



After more than 6 months delay, while we focused on other areas of The Springs, we finally got back to the obscenely grotesque and nasty Buckthorn Alley.  You will not find a worse thicket of buckthorn anywhere on the planet.  With the help of Dick Jenks, Ben Johnson, Andy Buchta, Jim Davee and Pati, I was eager to “get after it”!


Everyone agreed we should separate the wood suitable for campfires at Ottawa lake from the slash and we have many log piles that we plan to prep using Dick’s custom sawbuck.  We’ll put some information fliers at the visitor’s center across Hwy ZZ and in the trail brochure box offering the wood to campers on a donation basis.  With the 25 mile limit on transporting firewood scheduled to kick in this season, we expect campers will take advantage of the buckthorn firewood.



The snow cover was perfect for burning brush piles, and I took advantage of it burning all of the piles we had made the past year between the river and the cut-off trail.


Dick Jenks with his sawbuck.


We had a perfect day burning brush piles along Hwy 67.


I took advantage of another fine day and lit up all the brush piles remaining along the main trail.


John and Sue Hrobar informed me that Ben Heussner and the Fisheries team, along with the South Eastern Wisconsin Trout Unlimited group, had executed another workday on the river on December 14.  Check out their excellent results here and here.


Ben Johnson (shown below) got his first licks in with a chainsaw in the Buckthorn Alley.  And Jim Davee came out to pile brush there too.


The year ended for me with a “Big Bang“, that, given my evolution of consciousness documented in these posts over the last year, should not be too surprising.

I worked with Zach Kastern on numerous occasions over the past year and so I was really excited when he made time in his very busy life to come out and help cut some buckthorn.  I hold him in high esteem!  Here is the “blue V” we used as our target to open a channel through the buckthorn connecting the trail to the remnant of a cranberry bog.


Thanks to Ben Johnson for inspiring me to put together this year-in-review.  And THANKS to all the Super Friends♥ who pitched in to help reveal the beauty of the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail.


See you at The Springs!

Fish Count

Hello, welcome to The Springs!

I feel so much better about my work at the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve since making the commitment to go organic. One barometer of healthy human consciousness is whether or not your thoughts, emotions and actions are in unity. The cognitive dissonance I was feeling about using poisons in the restoration effort is gone now and my thoughts, emotions and actions are unified in a renewed commitment to take care of the land; naturally.
Yesterday, it was my great pleasure to participate with a dedicated team of Wisconsin DNR Water Resource specialists as they conducted their annual fish count of the Scuppernong River. Fish Count in that they are viewed as key indicators of the quality of the water, the health of an ecosystem and even global climate change. We made significant changes to the Scuppernong River headwaters and valley last year by removing water cress dams, which freed the river’s flow lowering its depth 4-6″, and cleaning out springs to allow the water to join the river more directly. In theory (because I don’t have any data to prove it) these efforts should have reduced the “thermal pollution”, i.e. the temperature increase caused as the water warmed while slowly filtering through dense mats of water cress, which is a good thing because native brook trout like cold water. The downside is that we reduced a source of food and cover (water cress) and we disturbed a lot of muck. Did we inadvertently tip a delicately balanced system out of favor for the brook trout? I’ve been waiting for this year’s fish count with nervous anticipation since we heard about it from Craig Helker last November.

Meet Craig, Rachel, Adam and Chelsea.

Craig and Rachel explain the fish count.

And Adam provides the safety explanation.

That was on Tuesday, August 6, and unfortunately, there were problems with the equipment that could not be resolved and we had to reschedule for Thursday. I’m waiting for the crew at the gaging station bridge and here they come.



We reviewed what the problem was on Tuesday (a faulty probe) and I got a more detailed explanation of the system. The generator in the white boat creates the electrical current that flows from a plate on the bottom of the boat, which acts the cathode, to the probes held by the shockers, which act as anodes (I mix this all up in the videos) creating an electrical field. There is a separate system, powered by a battery, that shuts the current off if either of the shockers looses control of their probe. The current flow is also stopped if a probe stops working for some reason, which did happen again on Thursday, but this time the team was prepared and simply reverted to using only one probe.

Here is my first attempt to use iMovie to string a couple videos together showing our shocking actions. Note that Shelly, also from WDNR Water Resource team, has joined us.

We finished at the Hotel Spring and they setup buckets and began sorting the fish.

Adam, Craig and Rachel measure and count the fish.

Chelsea gives us a close up look at four of the eight different fish species that were collected.

And Rachel delivers the final tallies.

I got 2010 – 2012 data from Craig. Let’s see how we’re doing (note that we may have also impacted the 2012 numbers since we began our work that spring).


Mottled Sculpin – 240
Brook Stickleback – 59
Central Mudminnow – 69
Fantail Darter – 2
Brook Trout – 121


Mottled Sculpin – 169
Brook Stickleback – 25
Central Mudminnow – 72
Fantail Darter – 10
Brook Trout – 213
Green Sunfish – 1
Johnny Darter –2
Grass Pickerel – 1


Mottled Sculpin – 211
Brook Stickleback – 11
Central Mudminnow – 15
Fantail Darter – 8
Brook Trout – 92
Green Sunfish – 1
Johnny Darter – 1


Mottled Sculpin – 86
Brook Stickleback – 1
Central Mudminnow – 5
Fantail Darter – 9
Brook Trout – 66
Green Sunfish – 1
Grass Pickerels – 4
Northern Pike – 3

The numbers are definitely down from previous years and I wonder if the appearance of Northern Pike is significant. There are a lot of variables that could affect the number of fish collected, including the changes we made to the river last year, but I don’t know if we can go beyond speculation to identify specific cause and effect relationships. We are assuming that removing as much water cress as we did last year did reduce the food and cover that brook trout need, and hence we are letting it grow this year, but not to the extent that it forms dams like it used to. We did collect some “young of the year” brook trout, which indicate that they are still spawning in this area of the river.

Anne Korman, Assistant Superintendent of the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest stopped over to say hello and take this picture of the crew (Craig, Paul, Chelsea, Rachel, Shelly and Adam).


I managed to pull a few weeds yesterday before meeting the DNR team. I got this queen anne’s lace along the first bridge over the river downstream from the Scuppernong Spring.


And some of this purple nightshade on the south end of the loop trail


Rachel showed me this chara plant, which is the source of the calcium carbonate that forms into marl.


I spent the rest of the afternoon pulling spotted knapweed, common ragweed and hoary alysum on the sand prairie, which is poised for an explosion of color from rough blazing star, golden rod and many other flowers. Come and see the prairie!

Summer is flying by and you no longer have to walk way out along the marl pit channel to see the sun going down. I got these pictures from the marl pit bridge.






See you at The Springs!