Oakological Succession

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


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


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

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

Wetlands near Lulu Lake


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

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

Zach receiving the award from Matt Zine.

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

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

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

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


The sun made a dramatic appearance late in the afternoon.


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

Sunset at Ottawa Lake.

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


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


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

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

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Views from the tower.

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See you at The Springs!

Volunteers of America

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

2015 OSA Oak Opening Workshop Flyer v4

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

We need Volunteers to start a Revolution!

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


and take RIGHT actions in the world!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Herb Sharpless introduces the plan for the day


Views from the bluff before we set to work

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


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It was a great day!

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


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

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

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



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


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

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The spring flowers are in full bloom!

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

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


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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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See you at The Springs!


SNA Team Visits The Springs

“This is one of the nicest oak savannahs in the kettles!”, that’s what Jared Urban, with the State Natural Areas Program (SNA), said as we toured The Springs and the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA last Thursday.  After 3+ years of steady effort to rehabilitate The Springs, you can imagine how delightful it was to share the results with DNR Conservation Biologists Nate Fayram, Sharon Fandel and Jared Urban.

We marveled at all of the high quality native plants that have emerged in the Buckthorn Alley since we opened it up last winter.  We could have spent hours identifying plants just on this stretch of the trail alone.  I made some notes and, in an effort to solidify my learning experience, I want to share a few of the plants we found and encourage you to look for them the next time you walk the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail.

Tall Meadow Rue Thalictrum pubescens (Thalictrum polygamum)


Culver’s Root Veronicastrum virginicum Snapdragon family (Scrophulariaceae)


Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina (L.) Roth)


Heuchera L. Alumroot


Lilium michiganense (Michigan Lily)


Only a few of the plants identified were flowering and it takes a keen eye to recognize species solely on leaves and stems.

Prenanthes L. rattlesnakeroot


Greenbrier Smilax Rotundifoilia


Red Baneberry & White Baneberry (Actaea rubra & Actaea pachypoda)


Aralia nudicaulis (commonly Wild Sarsaparilla)


Carex pensylvanica Lam. Pennsylvania sedge


Figwort Scrophularia nodosa


Arrow-Leaved AsterAster sagittifolius


Woodland Sunflower Helianthus divaricatus


Ohio Goldenrod (Oligoneuron ohioense)


Shrubby cinquefoil Dasiphora fruticosa


Pimpernel Anagallis arvensis


New Jersey Tea Ceanothus americanus


Viola pedata L. birdfoot violet

Bird's-foot Violets at Shawnee State Park in Scioto County, Ohio

Artemisia absinthium (absinthium, absinthe wormwood, wormwood, common wormwood, green ginger or grand wormwood)


Yellow Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum)


We’ve barely scratched the surface of “biotic inventory” at The Springs.  It was a pleasure to experience the enthusiasm Nate, Jared and Sharon bring to their jobs as DNR Conservation Biologists, especially when Nate discovered the Yellow Lady’s Slipper.  We were at the Ottawa Lake Fen and happened to run into Don Dane and Mike, who were doing a little maintenance on the trail that leads to the back country sites #334 and #335 and Don’s eyes lit up when Nate showed him the pictures. “Don’t tell anybody where they are!”, he cautioned.

One of the things we were discussing was the need to create a burn unit that includes the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA and Don explained that he had in fact been using a forestry mower this past winter to put in a fire break on the west side of the lake extending north to the dog trial grounds.  The terrain is really rough and bisected with old drainage ditches from the days when they tried to mud farm the area.  I think the SNA team is inspired to create a burn unit in this area.  In the meantime, I’ll continue to cut buckthorn along the east shore of Ottawa Lake all the way up to and around the fen.

Yesterday, I continued cutting the buckthorn just east of the parking lot on Hwy ZZ to connect with an opening in the brush we created last winter.  I think one more day will do it!

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And after 5 tanks of gas in the chainsaw…

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Ben Johnson took the afternoon off from his day job and pulled white clover near the old hotel site.  I joined him when I finished cutting and then we headed up to the sand prairie to pull garlic mustard, which is rapidly going to seed.

It was a beautiful day and Ben and I took a walk around the trails scoping out where we could get material to fill in behind the bio-logs that the fisheries team installed last winter.  We considered hauling the buckthorn that I’ve been cutting by the parking lot but then realized that the aspen we girdled along the river would make the perfect fill.   We are meeting Fisheries Biologist Ben Heussner and a group of volunteers at The Springs this Saturday to work on that project.  I’ll be out there tomorrow cutting down the dead aspen and getting it ready.

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See you at The Springs!


Spring Revelations

Thanks for tuning into my posts.  I hope you will bear with me — I’m trying to absorb some shocking revelations. 

Its been 20 years since the events we all know as the Rwandan Genocide occurred and I’d never doubted or questioned the story that the Hutus massacred the Tutsis.  So I was stunned to learn that the truth is the exact opposite.  Here is James Corbett‘s introduction to his interview with Christopher Black.

Christopher Black is a Toronto-based international criminal lawyer who has spent the last 14 years successfully defending former Rwandan Gendarmerie General Augustin Ndindiliyimana at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. In that 14 years, Black has uncovered copious evidence about what really happened in the so-called “100 Days” of 1994 and the four year civil war that led up to it. Today on the program, Black shares that information with us and deconstructs the lies that continue to be propagated about the Rwandan genocide.

Jame’s interview with Keith Harmon provides more historical context…

Keith Harmon Snow has extensive experience in Africa as a journalist, photographer and genocide investigator who attended the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda. He joins us today to discuss the 20th anniversary of the “100 days” and how the true story of the genocide (and who was really behind it) has been completely inverted by politicians, the press, Hollywood and everyone else with a vested interest in what happened there.

…as does this article by Keith Harmon Snow.

How could I have been so wrong about something that I thought I knew and firmly believed?  It’s humbling, and disconcerting, to say the least.

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”  — George Orwell

The Buckthorn Man is attempting to control the present at The Springs — one buckthorn at a time.  The last few times out I’ve been splitting the day between cutting buckthorn near the trailhead parking lot in the morning and cutting garlic mustard in the afternoons.  The weather was spectacular and the mosquitoes haven’t arrived yet.   It was blissful!

This was the scene Sunday morning, May 25th, on the edge of a patch of buckthorn between the trail and Hwy ZZ, just east of the parking lot.

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It was slow going but I made some progress.

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Then I headed over to the area north of the hotel and cut garlic mustard.  The jury is out as to whether or not this approach will work.  I’m on my third lap around cutting the areas of major garlic mustard infestation that adjoin the trail.  The north and south perimeters of the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve are thick with garlic mustard and I plan to work on these areas in the coming years.

Late afternoon at the marl pit bridge.

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I love this patch of columbine near the hotel bridge.

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Sunset out on the marl pit.

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It threatened rain Wednesday morning but it turned into a beautiful, warm, sunny day.  I took up right where I left off on Sunday, working on the strip of buckthorn between the trail and Hwy ZZ.  There are going to be amazing sunsets over Ottawa Lake that will now be visible from the trail.

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I think there is just one more day of work to finish this thicket of buckthorn!

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The next series of shots were taken while walking west to east on the cut-off trail.  I’ll never forget how my good friend Lindsay Knudsvig ripped a path through the buckthorn back in the fall of 2012.  This trail is sweet as can be so check it out if you haven’t done so yet.

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The valley of the Scuppernong River headwaters.

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The lupine on the west slope of the sand prairie are peeking!

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Another marl pit sunset.

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See you at The Springs!


Flower Power

If your heart is burdened come, to the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail and feel the healing flower power.  The soothing outbursts of form, color and texture will soften the rough edges in your mind and bring you peace and calm.

Resurgent lymes symptoms knocked me off my horse after the Whitewater Oak Opening burn and I was temporarily blinded to the beauty of life.  Yesterday was the first time in two weeks that I felt “normal”.  The antibiotics are helping my body heal but it’s flower power that is healing my mind.

Columbine at the Hotel Springs bridge.


Large-flowered Bellwort just around the corner.

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Kitten Tails and Pussy Toes near the Emerald Springs spur boardwalk.

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Wood Betony and Marsh Marigolds.

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This is a perfect time to see a huge variety of woodland flowers at The Springs!

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Sleeping seemed like the best option for a while there, but I willed myself back into action last Monday.  Siddhartha taught me to listen to the river and Jayne Jenks, with the Waukesha County Parks and Land Use, taught me how to test the water’s quality.  I’m now part of the Water Action Volunteers — Citizen Stream Monitoring team and happy with my site on the Scuppernong River, where it crosses Hwy Z, just downstream of its confluence with the South Branch.

I stopped at The Springs on my way there to re-girdle some of the aspen near the hotel site.


Carl Baumann was there removing a huge, dead, black locust that had broken off and was leaning into a cherry tree and hanging over the south end of the trail.  Thanks Carl!  Our friend Marty came back with his skid steer loader and smoothed out the tracks he laid in the mud this past spring.

Wednesday was my first real day back at work and I was pretty light-headed and emotionally unstable by the end of the day.  I started with the chainsaw on the south end of the trail, where I want to extend the sand prairie and continue opening up the “big sky” views out towards the Scuppernong River Habitat Area.

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I’ve been focusing on garlic mustard lately, but I need to cut buckthorn to preserve my sanity…

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… and balance!


I spent the afternoon whacking garlic mustard on the south end of the loop trail.


When I woke up yesterday, I was raring to go — back to my old self!  I started with the buckthorn near the parking lot on Hwy ZZ.

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You’ll be able to see the sun setting over Ottawa Lake as you return to the parking lot when I get the rest of this mess cut.

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I spent the late afternoon cutting garlic mustard north of the hotel site.

The views of the north side of the river are outstanding.


I missed the sunsets!


Out on the marl pit.



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See you at The Springs!

Hognose Snakes

I met my first hognose snake of the year with the tip of my brush cutter.  Darn it!  I watched helplessly as it writhed in pain, snarling angrily at me.  I’m on the lookout for them now!  When you encounter one on the trail, The Springs feel more wild.

Carl Koch captured these wild hogs at The Springs last year.


Sue Hrobar caught this hognose displaying its classic defensive posture: “When threatened, hognose snakes will flatten their necks and raise their heads off the ground, like a cobra, and hiss.” (from Wikipedia)

hognose snake 04:25 hognose snake A 04:25 hognose snake B 04:25 hognose snake CA 04:25

I’m getting more intimately familiar with every square foot at The Springs as I continue attacking garlic mustard with my brush cutter.  Guiding a brush cutter focuses your attention to detail much more so than waving a poison spray wand.  In many cases I found the garlic mustard amidst many diverse flowers and grasses.  Using the brush cutter definitely causes less collateral damage than spraying a non-selective herbicide like glyphoste.  Rich Csavoy suggested this approach and it will take a few years to judge its effectiveness.

Over 5 days I have worked at all of the locations where I sprayed garlic mustard in previous years and I have to note that, in some cases, particularly on the cut-off trail, the poison significantly reduced the amount of garlic mustard.  Last year the area near where the cut-off trail merges with the main trail at the marl pit factory was carpeted with garlic mustard and this year there was barely a plant or two, and the forest floor is alive with sedges and flowers.  I’ll speculate here that this area did not have as much garlic mustard seed in the soil as others areas where the mustard came back strong after spraying.

Sunday I worked on the south end of the loop trail in and around the bowl with the vernal pond.

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It was a peaceful day and I did a little yoga on the marl pit bridge to unwind at the end.  Here is the view from the old barn site.


I returned yesterday to work in the area around the old hotel site, then near signpost #13, and finally, along the cut-off trail.  It was a blessed warm, sunny, bug-free day with fragrant breezes blowing in from the northeast.

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Garlic mustard on the hillside at the old hotel site.


As I was finishing up at the hotel, I heard the sound of heavy machinery working on Hwy 67; they were taking down the black locust trees I girdled back in March. I was headed that way to signpost #13 with my wheel barrow and stopped to check it out.

I don’t know what this machine is called, but I think Hognose is a fitting description.

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The operator of this hydraulic hercules was a virtuoso, and I could have watched him for hours.

I’ve never seen forestry done like this before.  Below, Steve Tabat cuts the base of a tree and his partner pushes it over.  Check out the snout on this hog and the way it chews off logs and spits them out at the end of the video.

I returned to admire their work after cutting garlic mustard all afternoon.

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Again, the person operating this log loader was an adept and it was a pleasure to watch him drive that huge machine through tight spots and skillfully manipulate the log picker.




The corner of Hwy ZZ and Hwy 67.

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I’m glad to see the black locust go and I have a lot of respect for the hard-working foresters, who were paid for their efforts in wood; the coin of the realm.

From there I headed over to the boat landing at Ottawa Lake to check out the brush and tree removal the DNR did there this past winter.

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Above you can see the shadow of the mighty oak below.



These nice improvements compliment the buckthorn clearing we have been doing on the east shore of the lake, which you can see in the views from the fishing pier and boat launch dock.

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My new favorite place to hang out, meditate, and do yoga after working is the observation deck at the handicap accessible cabin.


The Emerald Spring is really looking the part these days.  This past winter was a hard one and I often saw ducks feeding and staying warm in the river.  I wonder if the algae bloom might be fueled by duck poop?


Sunset at the marl pit bridge.


See you at The Springs!

Buckthorn Man Accepts Bitcoin!

I’m pleased to announce that The Buckthorn Man will now be accepting bitcoin donations to support his work at the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail.  Here is the QR code for my Blockchain.info wallet.  Just scan it into your favorite bitcoin payment system and start sending bitcoins to me now!


I sympathize if this is moving a bit too fast for you.  You might even be asking ‘what is he talking about?’ or, ‘what has The Buckthorn Man been smoking?’  It is no hyperbole to refer to bitcoin as a movement; it is one of the most exciting new technologies to come along since the internet.  From the November 2013 ssue of BitcoinMagazine:

Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer digital currency.  It does not depend on any particular organization or person and it is not backed by any commodity like gold or silver.  Bitcoin is a name for both: the currency and the protocol of storage and exchange.  Just like dollars or gold, Bitcoin does not have much direct use value.  It is valued subjectively according to one’s ability to exchange it for goods.

It took me a bit of investigation to appreciate the revolutionary, game-changing, nature of bitcoin.  From it’s roots, eloquently expressed by it’s creator Satoshi Nakamoto, it has matured into a bonafide, 21st century solution, to the corruption endemic in our current, central banker controlled, fiat money system.  The Federal Reserve banks are privately owned and, with the passage of the Federal Reserve Act in 1913, the U.S. Congress bestowed on them the power to create money out of thin air; they are accountable to no one.  Just listen to former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke telling Representative Alan Grayson to pound sand when he asked which foreign banks got bailed out to the tune of $550,000,000,000 during the meltdown of 2008.

But it is the bitcoin software and distributed architecture that has captured my attention.  I cut my teeth programming in C++ and when I found out that bitcoin was written in this language, I had to take a look at the source code, which is open to anyone to inspect, or clone to build something totally new.  I’m off on a new adventure and, if I can get my chops back, I’d love to go back to work programming for a bitcoin startup (I can hardly believe I’m saying that.)

Meanwhile, back at The Springs, my bête noire is Garlic Mustard.  It’s everywhere and I’ve noticed that in the places where I sprayed it with glyphosate the past three years, it is the only thing that has survived.  I committed to going organic because of my fear of poisoning the water in this sensitive location at the headwaters of the Scuppernong River, and my concern about collateral damage, and now the reality of that challenge is daunting me.  I will dig it out of the highest quality locations, or where there are just a few plants, but for the majority of the infestation, I’m going to try cutting it back with the brush cutter to prevent it from going to seed; a fool’s errand perhaps.

Last Wednesday, after dropping off the Buckthorn Barrow at one of the piles Dick Jenks cut up…,


…I worked on the south end of the loop trail wacking garlic mustard with my brush cutter.  Let me know if you have seen enough garlic mustard pictures.

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I have no illusions that this will kill the plants, I’m just hoping that, with repeated mowings, I can prevent it from going to seed.  I mowed all day and then took a walk around the loop and admired this new signpost, #9, marking the location of the hatching house (see Maps and  Brochures.)  Thanks to Jim Davee and Melaine Kapinos for making it happen!


Is it ever going to get warm and sunny?


Yesterday, I was back at it, this time cutting garlic mustard in the area by the old gnarly oak and the old barn site at the bend in the river.

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I’m going to stick it out with this experiment and hopefully the garlic mustard cuttings won’t take root and make matters even worse.  If you are walking the trails at The Springs, and you see some garlic mustard flowering, please, stop and pull it.  And, send me bitcoin if you can!

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See you at The Springs!

p.s. If you are interested in learning more about bitcoin, join me at the Milwaukee Bitcoin Meetup.

I Am Not Buckthorn

The Buckthorn Man has been doing a lot of soul-searching lately.  Could his dis-ease be caused by excessive mind-identification?  Is his preoccupation with past and future at the expense of the present moment dimming the radiant light of his Being?

In an effort to help him sort out his mess, I’ve recently been listening to The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle.

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.”

“The past has no power over the present moment.”

Tolle has deep insight into what it means to be enlightened, but there is something missing it seems and I’m not sure The Buckthorn Man will be able to let go of his ego; his excessive need to be right, his belief that HE knows the truth.  He might respond that we need to understand our past — the origins of the Powers That Be — to have any chance of responding intelligently to the events unfolding around us every day.  The Truth — that which is, that which has actually occurred — does it matter?

The Buckthorn Man has never been one to “go along to get along”; he’s always been an activist speaking truth to power about the 9/11 cover-up, the nefarious origins and dealings of the CIA, the totally insane and misguided “War on Drugs”, the international banking cartel that pulls the levers of power etc… I fear pillow sitting and new age philosophy will never make The Buckthorn Man ignore what he knows.

Last week my mind was troubled and I tried in vain to be in the present moment.  I returned to Ottawa Lake to continue cutting buckthorn on the bluff above the lake in the area around and below campsite #380.  Here is how it looked when I got there.

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The buckthorn were huge!

It was a cold day, hopefully the last for a while.

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The views of the lake are outstanding!

I think that will be the last time I cut buckthorn all day until the Fall; I need to give my left shoulder a rest.

The USGS team came out to reset the water depth indicator in the river; someone had pulled it out.


The sights at The Springs.

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Don Dane cut a lot of brush with the forestry mower on the south end of the nature preserve.  Thanks Don!


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I returned a couple days later still trying to adjust to the reality that I would not be going along with Pati to South Africa.  I piled brush in an area just 100 yards or so down the main trail, towards signpost #1, that Dick Jenks and I cut last December while tending brush pile fires.

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That was a tangled mess and it took me all morning to pile it up.

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When I returned to my truck, I was greeted by Jim Davee and he willingly agreed to help me pull garlic mustard by the old hotel site.

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I really enjoyed his company and we dug out 3 large bagfuls of the herb/weed and I burned them up with my torch.  Ben and Karen Johnson joined us near the Indian Spring and we shared the late afternoon sun.

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See you at The Springs!




Garlic Mustard Update

Thanks again for following our adventures at The Springs!

The Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve, which encompasses the nature trail, is overrun with invasive species including: buckthorn, garlic mustard, spotted knapweed, phragmites and many others. We have made some progress over the past 2.5 years and take heart in that, but there is a long way to go. This past summer I made a commitment to stop using toxic foliar sprays to control invasive species and the challenge remains to come up with effective and efficient alternatives.

Garlic mustard is a biennial weed and the first year growth is lush throughout the nature preserve, especially in areas where we have cleared buckthorn, girdled black locust or otherwise increased the amount of light reaching the ground. Here are a few images of garlic mustard on the south end of the loop trail.




In the old days, I would have sprayed this with glyphosate, aka RoundUp. Now, what to do? I have been working with the DNR to try a non-toxic herbicide and it has taken some time to acquire a sample since the product was new for the DNR. Don Dane navigated the procurement process for me and got 1 gallon of EcoExempt HC, which has the active ingredients: 2-Phenethyl Propionate (extracted from peanuts) and Eugenol (clove oil). There seems to be a lack of research available on 2-Phenethyl Propionate as reflected on this site as indicated by it’s “no available weight-of-the-evidence summary assessment” for key toxicity indicators. This herbicide is less effective in cool weather, and, given the cost, I’m hesitant to use more this fall unless I see excellent results in the area I sprayed yesterday. Speaking of the costs to fight invasive species, I thought this piece from Dow AgroSciences made some valid points contrasting the various options available e.g. what uses more energy and produces more environmental harm: spraying with an herbicide like glyphosate, or transporting 10 volunteers to pull weeds?

It looks like I may be too late this year to attack the first year garlic mustard and we can expect carpets of this weed to flower everywhere throughout the nature preserve next spring. We’ll have to decide whether to continue using EcoExempt, try an acetic acid based herbicide, mow with a brush cutter, or pull the weeds before they set seed.

This past Thursday and Friday (Nov. 7-8) I spent some time stacking buckthorn at The Springs and at Ottawa Lake campground site 335. I’ve been working on the northeast side of the trail in the area around signpost #1 and #2 and recently laid down the buckthorn that surrounded the brush piles I had started. On Thursday I added all the newly cut buckthorn to the existing piles and they are ready now to burn.

It was a cool day and the wood was wet to handle but the sun finally came out revealing fall splendor.





A parting shot.


I spent 3 days clearing brush and thinning the trees around Ottawa Lake campsites 335 and 334 and this wood needs to be piled. Yesterday, under beautiful skies…



… I started, and I’m putting the big pieces that would make good firewood into separate piles.

Sunset at Ottawa Lake.








See you at The Springs!