Critical Thinking

I like to fancy myself as someone who knows how to think critically, but I suffered a momentary lapse of reason recently acting on belief instead of real knowledge. Fortunately, the consequences in this case were minor and served as a good reminder. To think critically consistently, a tool like the trivium is indispensible; grammar, logic and rhetoric, these are the keys we can use to distinguish truth from fiction and knowledge from mere belief or opinion.

In my last post I reported that we have been spraying spotted knapweed with glyphosate, aka, RoundUp, on the Sand Prairie believing this was the right approach for this invasive plant. The problem is I had not researched this plant i.e. I had not done my grammar and answered the questions of the Who, What, Where, and the When as applied to spotted knapweed. Lindsay sent me the link above via which I learned that the preferred technique is to “Apply selective herbicide clopyralid during bud growth in early June for best results (48 oz per 100 gal water).” I complained in the post that I didn’t have any clopyralid without doing the grammar on this compound. Thankfully, Lindsay did and he informed me that clopyralid is the active ingredient in Transline, which we do have. So this was a good reminder for me to apply critical thinking skills as we continue to try to restore the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve.

The scientific method goes hand in hand with the trivium and critical thinking and I’m trying a little experiment in the Scuppernong River just a few yards upstream from the bridge across the former embankment that created the upper pond. When Ben Heussner and his team of DNR Fish Biologists recently inspected the river, he pointed out that the river was not “head cutting” at this point and that is why it is still filled with silt and marl upstream. I’m trying a little low tech experiment to encourage the river start head cutting here.

Saturday, April 27, was a very pleasant day at The Springs and I started out spraying garlic mustard along Hwy 67 north of the old barn site. The understory here is severely degraded and consists mostly of garlic mustard.

Then I spent a couple hours girdling aspen at the old hotel site. There are some huge trees here and I was skeptical about attacking them with hand tools, but the bark is separating very easily from the trunks now and I made good progress.

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Around mid-day, I headed over to the Buckthorn Alley, or, perhaps tunnel is more descriptive, and got started on one of the nastiest buckthorn thickets I have ever seen.

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I made a small dent and already you can start to see things, like the sky, that will make this section of the trail much more enjoyable and interesting.

The day flew by and I had a date with Pati at home, so I had to depart before the sun set. Here is a parting panorama taken from the Indian Campground.

See you at The Springs!

Frog Celebration

Welcome back to The Springs! I was lucky and fortunate to spend both this past Saturday and Sunday at the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail. I don’t know if the health benefits derived from the fresh air, sunshine and cold spring water can be objectively measured, but by the end of the day yesterday, I was in a blissful state.

Rich Csavoy joined me bright and early yesterday morning and we loaded up our backpack sprayers and got after the garlic mustard in the area around the old barn site. Rich showed me what the seeds look like when they first emerge and we tried to hit some of these, which literally formed a carpet in some areas. The DNR intends to burn here if conditions permit, but “the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray”, and we are not assuming this will happen. We also sprayed some spotted knapweed on the Sand Prairie that covers the Indian Campground.

After spraying we commenced girdling aspen trees at the old barn site. I refer to them as “clones” in the video below, but the correct term is clonal colony.

We are refining our techniques but this type of hand work is laborious. This is my first attempt at girdling aspen in this way, without using poison, and I want to give it a fair shot. I must confess though that the prospect of girdling the clonal colony of huge aspen at the old hotel site by hand is a little daunting. When I was working at the Hartland Marsh, I used my chainsaw to girdle a clonal colony of 40-50 huge aspen and I sprayed some glyphosate into the cuts. This worked perfectly and to this day there is nary an aspen in sight. I’m inclined to use the same approach at the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail except for switching from Glyphosate to Transline, which the DNR uses for black locust, which spreads by putting out suckers from it’s roots . We’ll see how it goes.

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After dispatching that clonal colony of aspen, we grabbed some heavy duty garbage bags and picked up litter on both sides of Hwy 67 south of where east-bound Hwy ZZ leaves Hwy 67. I had noticed a lot of trash when I was spraying garlic mustard along the highway on Saturday. This was a good opportunity to get some nice views of the springs and river.

Finally, Rich loaded his van with cherry, oak and buckthorn firewood and I headed over to the cut-off trail with my chainsaw. Here is a view of the area from across the river at the old hotel site. You can see a swath of buckthorn amongst a large sugar maple tree.

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I was chomp’in at the bit to finish this last stretch of buckthorn between the cut-off trail and the river and slashed and flailed with impassioned vigor. Three tankfuls later…

The view across the freshly cut area from the cut-off trail.

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And the view from the old hotel site.

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By the time I loaded my gear back in the truck and began my ritual walking tour, I was very relaxed. The Marl Pit bridge is one of my favorite places to hang out. In the summer, I always take a bath here in the river and do a little yoga to relieve any muscle stress. Here is panorama video from that location.

The highlight of the day however was the sound of the frogs; a veritable din! Listen to the Spring Peepers and Western Chorus frogs in this video.

The frogs are very active in the wetlands and old cranberry bogs along the cut-off trail. Last spring it was so dry, there was barely a peep from the frogs. Check them out if you get a chance.

The Indian Spring.

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Sunset at Ottawa Lake.

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See you at The Springs!

Let the Sun Shine

I was starting to feel the signs of Vitamin D deficiency.  Thankfully, the Creator blessed us with a gorgeous sunny day and I was happy to spend it at The Springs.  The agenda for the day included spraying garlic mustard, girdling aspen and cutting some buckthorn,

I interrupted a pair of geese in a pool just below the Scuppernong Spring as I was fetching some drinking water for the day.

With the light snow and chilly temps, I decided to try girdling some aspen down by the Indian Springs until the sun could do its work. Here is a view of the two groups of aspen clones I wanted to get.

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It’s getting easier and I was able to girdle around 15-20 trees in a couple hours.

The garlic mustard, spotted knapweed and other weeds are just emerging and it’s a perfect time to spray them with glyphosate. The plants are small, so they require less spray, and the weeds are the only things that have leafed out so there is very little collateral damage. I finally got a couple of decent backpack sprayers and that made it a lot easier. I ended up spraying the rest of the day using 12 gallons of mix and covering the south end of the trail including the Indian Campground, Indian Springs and Marl Pits. No doubt there will be additional weeds emerging from these areas, but our efforts over the last two years are paying off and the weeds are on the run.

This is a great time to visit The Springs if you are a birder. Ruby crowned and gold crowned kinglets are migrating through and they are fun to watch. Sand hill cranes, great blue herons, ducks, hawks, vultures and pileated woodpeckers, amongst many others, are active as well.

Here is a view of the Hillside Springs. Last June, these springs were completely covered with water cress and the surrounding hill was a thicket of buckthorn and honeysuckle; you couldn’t even see the boardwalks.

John and Sue Hrobar hike at The Springs frequently and they are keen observers of flora, fauna and fallenover. They reported that the pole holding the antenna at the stream gaging station had broken free and was leaning against the bridge. Anne Korman, Assistant Superintendent Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit, came out to investigate and within a day or two, Mike Parsen, Hydrogeologist with the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey and Rob Waschbusch, from the US Geological Survey got it repaired.

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There were a lot of people at the springs today and I had a great time meeting and talking with them as I was taking a leisurely walk.

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The frogs are back!

See you at The Springs!