I’ve been on a 16 year crusade, and now, finally, The Buckthorn Manis coming home. I never did find the holy grail amongst the buckthorn, and while I was gone, my home was invaded by mold. Pati suspected it long ago, but I had a tin ear — perhaps caused by the whining of the chainsaw — and I did not recognize the impact this could be having on our health, especially Pati’s lungs. I was under the spell of invasive species; I had become an Invader Crusader.
We also picked up a top-of-the-line dehumidifier and plan to do a prescribed burn in the basement next spring (I’ve heard that mold cannot tolerate fire.)
So many things have changed since I left. Why, I just heard there is a new “secret” trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership and I’m eager to find out more about it. And I’ve heard talk that something called U.N. Agenda 21 could be influencing the transfer of public lands to private ownership.
Yes, yes, it looks like it’s time to stop all this crusading and spend some time taking care of business at home and in my local community; there’s more to life than buckthorn and garlic mustard.
Pati celebrated with me and we toured the Olbrich Botanical Gardens after the event. She is always up for adventure and jumped at my suggestion to take a short drive west to spend the rest of the day at the Pleasant Valley Conservancy SNA. Kathie and Tom Brock have created something very special.
I’ll be working on the house for at least another month and enjoying some of Pati’s home cook’in, or rather, bak’in.
I’ll always love the Scuppernong Springs, but there is an even prettier, more pristine, more remote complex of springs at the Bluff Creek State Natural Area. There aren’t any noisy highways or bright lights nearby; just babbling waters emerging beneath old oaks in classic Kettle Moraine country.
The headwaters of Bluff Creek are a Class I Trout Stream!
Zach had done some preliminary work cutting and piling and he arrived early to light the fires.
Soon we were all hard at work. Thanks to Pati for these pics!
We wrapped up the morning’s efforts around noon and munched on some Valentine donuts.
A few of us continued working in the afternoon and here is how it looked at the end of the day.
That was Chris Mann and Zach Kastern talking shop after we visited the springs on the north side of the ridge. We hung out by the fire and watched the ducks and geese drift in for the night; it was blissful and none of us wanted to leave. It’s very inspiring to work with a big group of volunteers like we had yesterday. Lord knows we can’t rely on the arbitrary whims of the legislators in government to do the right thing by the land.
I got back to work last Monday cutting buckthorn amongst the tamaracks on the north west side of the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA. I can’t wait to see the tamaracks sans buckthorn this spring!
Here is the view from the pond.
The Buckthorn intertwines with the tamarack and kills it.
It will take a few more days to finish clearing this grove.
Ottawa lake sunset.
On Wednesday, I got back to The Springs to cut and burn buckthorn just down the trail from signpost #2. Here is how it looked before I got started.
I’m standing by my sled, which you can see in the picture above, for the next two shots.
I’m really looking forward to clearing this stretch of buckthorn between signpost #2 and the marl pit factory so that you’ll be able to see across the Scuppernong River Habitat Area to the Kettle Moraine ridges to the south.
Looking back up the trail towards signpost #2.
By the time I dropped my gear off at the truck and changed into some dry boots, the sun was already down.
I love springs. They’re pure and simple, shimmering musical, bubbling forth life and hope; just what I need. So it was serendipitous that Pati and I decided to hike the Ice Age Trail in the Kettle Moraine State Forest Pike Lake Unit, where we discovered that the lake is fed by numerous springs along its eastern shore.
The Rubicon River flows through the lake on its way to the Rock River, providing refreshing circulation.
In 2001 a 60′ observation tower was built at the top of Powder Hill that provides a unique perspective of the the surrounding Kettle Moraine topography.
The highlight of the extensive trail system is the Black Forest Nature Trail, which takes you through a remnant of Southern Dry-Mesic Forest that includes spring-fed wetlands.
We are definitely going to visit this beautiful place again as the seasons change.
Back home at The Springs, I had another great week thanks to a little help from my friends. On Martin Luther King Day, I was joined by my old friend from Northwestern Mutual, Mark Mamerow, who helped me for many years to clean out the Bark River and make it navigable for canoes and kayaks from the Village of Hartland to Lake Nagawicka.
THE COURT: In answer to the question did Loyd Jowers participate in a conspiracy to do harm to Dr. Martin Luther King, your answer is yes. Do you also find that others, including governmental agencies, were parties to this conspiracy as alleged by the defendant? Your answer to that one is also yes. And the total amount of damages you find for the plaintiffs entitled to is one hundred dollars. Is that your verdict?
THE JURY: Yes (In unison).
There is overwhelming evidence that James Earl Ray did not shoot Dr. King and that others, “including governmental agencies” were involved. Yet, every year on Martin Luther King day, the nation’s collective amnesia is “refreshed” by the total blackout of this important information in the main stream media. This is the kind of thing that drives The Buckthorn Man crazy. You can listen to William F. Pepper tell the story here.
I met Mark at the DNR parking area above the Hotel Spring and we headed to the area north of the old barn site along Hwy 67, where I have been working recently. Our goal was to burn the brush previously cut and continue clearing the buckthorn from the hillside below the highway. Here are a few shots taken after we got the first fire started.
We allowed time and energy to take a tour of The Springs afterwards and I got to show off all of the cool things we did last year. Thanks Mark!
Last Thursday I was joined deep in the Buckthorn Alley by Chris Mann and the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards (Brian Brandt and Austin Avellone.) We are clearing the north side of the trail, which, now that you can see, consists of rolling uplands interspersed with wetlands. Here is how it looked before we got started (the views are looking east, north and southeast.)
Lunch break update.
The results far exceeded my expectations! Brian Brandt really kicked ass, putting Chris, Austin and The Buckthorn Man to shame. I think he might even be able to give Ben Johnson and Lindsay Knudsvig a run for their money! Below are the same three perspectives shown above.
Finally, on Saturday, taking advantage of the mild weather, I headed over to the east shore of Ottawa Lake to burn some brush piles that Andy Buchta stacked this past Fall. Thanks again Andy!
Mark Miner joins us when he can, and I really appreciated his help on Saturday to watch and tend the brush piles after I got them lit. We had a safe and effective day burning piles along the lake shore all the way up to the east side of the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA.
Views from the campground, site #380, where I parked my truck.
Views from the east side of the fen.
It’s a load off my mind when I can get brush piles burned!
A couple of closing shots from our adventure at Pike Lake yesterday.
I hope you enjoyed the marvelous stretch of blessed Fall weather we recently experienced here in Southeastern Wisconsin as much as I did.
I chose to camp in late October at Ottawa Lake site #335, aka My Shangri-la, back in January because I wanted to enjoy the 5th annual Halloween Bash, and the event turned out to be magical indeed.
The campground was almost full Saturday evening for the climax of the festivities and a crescent moon hung over the lake. As Pati and I strolled amongst the fantasmicgorically decorated campsites, we were occasionally startled by ghoulish outbursts piercing the sweetly scented campfire smoke.
The pumpkin carving was exquisite again this year.
It was pure good fun, except for the premature report of the demise of the Buckthorn man, which I found very disconcerting.
Contrary to the epitaph above, I had a super productive week working on the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail and the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA. I setup camp on Monday October 20th…
… then proceeded with my empty truck to the gravel pile Anne Korman (Assistant Superintendent of the Kettle Moraine State Forest — Southern Unit) had directed us to.
There were a few spots on the trail that tended to puddle and I filled them with stone.
Back at camp I enjoyed a dinner of fresh vegetables, stir-fried with the Buckthorn Man’s secret recipe curry brown lentils and wild rice.
On Tuesday and Wednesday I began clearing buckthorn and honeysuckle on the south side of a channel that drains a spring that emerges from a ditch just below Hwy 67.
Here is the view before I got started standing on the shoulder of Hwy 67 and looking towards Ottawa Lake.
People I meet on the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail tell me that they used to be able to see Ottawa Lake from the highway. Now, the only way you could possibly do that is via the drainage shown above. I was determined to reopen this view as a tease to draw people into exploring this beautiful area. At the end of the day on Wednesday, I followed the drainage up expecting to see the water emerging from a culvert that drains wetlands on the northeast side of Hwy 67. Instead, the culvert was dry and I found the source was a bubbling spring on the west side of the highway.
On Thursday I took a day off, sort of, sharpening my chains in camp and later meeting Ben Johnson at the Hotel Springs to work on positioning a boardwalk that we had relocated to the cut-off trail. The rain didn’t dampen our spirits one bit! It was a pleasure to have Ben over to the campsite for dinner afterwards and we dried our butts off by the fire.
Lindsay Knudsvig joined me on Friday and we began clearing the north side of the channel that flows from the spring I “discovered” on Wednesday. Ottawa Lake is fed by many springs and I think this one may be the most substantial. Here are a couple views after we finished for the day.
There is a massive, pre-settlement, white oak near the spring’s channel.
Unfortunately, Lindsay could not stay for dinner, but Pati came out and we enjoyed the sunset and campfire.
There is an embankment on the north side of the channel that extends out to where the water joins the pond that is at the center of the Ottawa Lake Fen. There are excellent views south, west and north from this vantage point.
On Saturday I started to clear the buckthorn from both sides of this embankment. Here is what it looked like before I got started (looking left, then right).
I finished the left side on Saturday and began clearing the debris from the channel with the intention of getting a current flowing all the way to the union with the fen pond. That evening Pati returned to stay a couple nights with me and it was sweet.
On Sunday morning we took a nice walk around the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail waiting for the day to warm up and then we headed to where the Scuppernong River passes under Hwy Z to do our last river monitoring of the year. You can view the data we collected in 2014 at the Water Action Volunteers site by searching by site (Scuppernong River at Count Hwy Z) and specifying the date range of April thru November and the “select all parameters” button.
In the last post I made the bold and unsubstantiated assertion that: “We do not see the diversity of macroinvertebrates typically found on stoney, sandy, bottom riverbeds…”, in the muck and marl filled stretches of the headwaters of the Scuppernong River. So, Pati and I repeated the same biotic index study we did at Hwy Z as part of our river monitoring, at four locations in the Scuppernong River headwaters where the DNR is planning to remove material to enable the river to headcut. We investigated the areas just upstream from where the changes will be made. Here is what we found (refer to this link to see pictures of the Macroinvertebrates):
Where the Scuppernong River crosses Hwy Z, which has a stoney and sandy riverbed:
Aquatic Sow Bug
Amphipod or Scud
Giant Water Bug
Riffle Beetle Larva
Now, at the four sites in the headwaters. First at the Old Mill site:
Aquatic Sow Bug
Crawling Water Beetle
Amphipod or Scud
Predaceous Diving Beetle
Riffle Beetle Larva
At the Hotel Spring Bridge site:
Aquatic Sow Bug
Amphipod or Scud
Nematode of Threadworm
Riffle Beetle Larva
At the bridge to the Hidden Spring site:
Aquatic Sow Bug
Amphipod or Scud
Nematode of Threadworm
Predaceous Diving Beetle
And finally, at the first bridge to the Hillside Springs:
Aquatic Sow Bug
Amphipod or Scud
Riffle Beetle Larva
I think it is fair to say that I was wrong to conclude that there was not the same diversity of macroinvertebrates in the headwaters area, where the riverbed is generally full of muck and marl, as further downstream, like at Hwy Z, where the riverbed is stoney and sandy. I did have to literally drag the net through the muck and marl in the headwaters to get the samples so it may be the case the the macroinvertebrates there are not as accessible to the trout as they are in the areas downstream that are stoney and sandy. In any case, we will continue to collect data in the headwaters at the sites listed above next spring, before any changes are made to remove material from the former embankments, and continue to collect data after the changes are made.
Sunday evening we finished dinner early and raced over to the Indian Campgrounds to catch the sunset.
And finally, this past Monday, I finished clearing the buckthorn along both sides of the embankment that follows the Ottawa Lake Spring channel to its entrance to the fen pond.
One Last view from the highway.
I also pulled out a lot more junk from the spring channel including: a car tire, one 5 gallon bucket, three 1 gallon plastic plant containers, bottles, cans, logs, planks and deck boards. Walk with me as I follow the channel from the fen up to its source at the spring. There is a bit of drama halfway through when I get stuck in muck up to my chest and let a few choice words fly.
Last but not least, I captured these images of the brush piles that Andy Buchta made on the east side of Ottawa Lake in the area that I cleared last month when I camped at My Shangri-La. Thanks Andy!
Ben Johnson,and his wife Karen, were hard at work while Pati and I vacationed up North. They added 12 more steps to complete the erosion control on the path down to the Indian Spring from signpost #6 and they installed a very stylish bench near the Hotel Spring.
I whacked some buckthorn sprouts and seedlings with my brush cutter on Tuesday and ran into Dr. Dan Carter from the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. He was documenting rare plants and waiting for the rest of his team to arrive to complete the demarcation of the wetlands for the Wisconsin DOT. I know, “Say it ain’t so Joe!”, but WisDOT is in the initial planning stage of some changes deemed necessary to make Hwy 67 safer. Please plan on attending the public meeting, which WisDOT will be scheduling for later this Fall, and help us make sure they don’t mess with The Springs.
Dan has a keen eye and he spotted the sixth known occurrence of Pipsissewa (Chimaphila Umbellata) in the area: “It is more rare in the region than any other plant I am aware of at The Springs…” (photo courtesy of Dan Carter)
I want to give a belated thank you to Scuppernong Springs Super Friend, Anne Moretti for informing me that there is a difference between Buckthorn and Chokecherry!
Last year when I was cutting in The Buckthorn Tunnel, Anne noticed that I was oblivious to the distinction and she gently pointed it out. Well, I’m a little slow when it comes to confronting my own ignor-ance and I finally “did the grammar” and now I know the difference. I’m going to let 100 Chokecherries blossom!
I had a crazy busy week and didn’t get much work done at The Springs, but Pati and I did enjoy a wonderful late afternoon at Ottawa Lake yesterday, and we caught the sunset from the Indian Campground.
Like the buckthorn thickets of the kettle moraine are ‘a bit’ like the jungles of Africa, The Buckthorn Man is only ‘a bit’ as noble and virtuous as the mighty Tarzan. Yes, yes, if only I could be as self-possessed as the king of the jungle, how liberating that would be.
Imitating the lord of the apes, I aspired to noble contemplation of ethics and aesthetics as I bent over the spotted knapweed on the sand prairie and listened to The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas. Sweet freedom. Paradoxically, I do love my servitude to The Creator, which is my free choice to labor at The Springs, because it enables me to manifest my version of Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic, and satisfy my desire to make the world a more beautiful place.
I finally did read A Sand County Almanac, which includes Leopold’s thought provoking essay, “The Land Ethic”:
A land, ethic, then, reflects the existence of an ecological conscience, and this in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of the land.
Much of what he said resonated with me, but, and I hope you won’t think that The Buckthorn Man simply must have a buckthorn spike stuck in his butt to quibble with Aldo, like other careful readers, I found myself disconcerted by some of the things he said, or, as the case may be, did not say. He fails to mention the highly evolved Seventh Generation Earth Ethics of the indigenous people, while hoping that “we”, homo sapiens (Latin: “wise man”), who violently and rapaciously “conquered” the land, have learned a lesson.
A nation spawned from empires built on the backs of slaves is not easily weaned from gluttonous exploitation. Lest you think my ranting hyperbolic, consider this example from Donald Culross Peattie’s fine work, A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America:
Until almost the turn of the present century (1900), pecans reached the market largely from wild trees. The harvesting methods in early times consisted in nothing less heroic and criminal than cutting down gigantic specimens — the bigger the better — and setting boys to gather the nuts from the branches of the fallen giants. It seemed to the pioneer then, as it did to every American, that the forests of this country were inexhaustible. Thus it came about that the wild Pecan tree had become rare before men began to realize how much was lost.
Before I proceed with the riveting story of what happened when The Buckthorn Man returned to Shangri-La, I must complain about another, subtle perhaps, line of Leopoldian thought. He espouses a moral relativism that positively rankles me: “An ethic, philosophically, is a differentiation of social from anti-social conduct.”, and later: “The mechanism of operation is the same for any ethic: social approbation for right actions: social disapproval for wrong actions.” No Aldo, NO! There is an objective difference between right and wrong, independent of the whims of society, which Mark Passio eloquently and passionately explains in his Natural Law Seminar.
If you have any doubts, please check with Fredrick Douglas.
I arrived at the Ottawa Lake campground on Friday, August 22, excited to setup camp at the walk-in site #335, only to find that it had been let to another party an hour earlier. It reminded me of that scene where Jerry Seinfeld complained to the car rental company that knew how to take his reservation, but not how to hold it. Undecided about what to do, I took a walk downstream in the Scuppernong River to inspect the work that was recently done to improve the channel.
Here are some views of the stretch of the river just upstream from the gaging station bridge that still need some channel remediation.
While wandering the trails I met Eliot and his son Isaiah, and they graciously invited me to stay with them at site #388, which is a beautiful site on the bluff overlooking Ottawa Lake. Thanks again guys!
Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday were dedicated to digging and pulling spotted knapweed on the sand prairie. Most of the seed is still firmly attached and, since I did not mow the prairie this year, there is a ton of it.
I didn’t care if it rained.
It was hot, humid and buggy, but beautiful nevertheless.
The Hillside Springs.
The Indian Springs.
Ottawa Lake sunset.
On Tuesday and Wednesday I was determined to finish clearing the buckthorn along the trail that follows the east shore of Ottawa Lake between site #380 and #335. I was concerned about the bar oiling mechanism not working properly on my chainsaw and, sure enough, it was kaput. So, I carried a little pint bottle of bar oil in my chaps and stopped every couple minutes to manually apply some lubrication to the bar and chain. No problem!
… and after.
The sights and sounds of The Springs:
Buckthorn seedlings along the cut-off trail.
The cut-off trail.
Giant thistles that I should have positively identified as friend or foe a few months ago.
The Hidden Spring.
The area of phragmites that I poisoned near the Emerald Spring deck is finally coming back to life.
The Emerald Spring.
The Scuppernong Spring.
The Indian Spring.
A beautiful, unidentified flower near the Hotel Spring.
The valley of the headwaters.
Wednesday morning and I had a date with buckthorn.
… and after.
You can follow the lakeshore trail all the way from the beach to the north end of site #334 and enjoy wide open views of the lake and fen to the west the whole way. It’s lovely.
Thanks again to Carl Baumann, for splitting and restacking my stash of firewood!.
And thanks to Dave and Lindsay for coming out to visit; I really enjoyed it. I had a couple of uninhibited and inspired guitar jams by the fire and, despite all the rain, never had to setup my tarp at camp. It was excellent.
Despite a veritable who’s who of pundits, ranging from rocker Eddie Cochran…
to mod philosopher Pete Townsend …
… to legal scholar, former Attorney General, Janet Reno,
vociferously claiming that “… there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues!”, JB “The Producer” has, indeed, found the cure at The Springs! I’ll let JB explain….
On July 16th, I arrived at Ottawa Lake Campground. I didn’t have a lot of time but I hit parts of the trail. The first image was taken by the Marl Pit bridge.
The second one was taken at the main springs. The sun was spotlighting the springs and it was a photo I couldn’t resist.
The next morning, I got up bright and early and was able to walk the entire trail. When I got to the Sand Prairie and looked out, I noticed three deer down by the stream fed by the Indian Spring. They saw me before I saw them and ran into the woods before I could get a photo.
When I arrived at the Emerald Springs, I saw a few Monarchs on the milkweed plants. One of them allowed me to photograph it before continuing on its journey.
Later that day, I returned to “The Springs” for a short time. For years I had been tempted to get in the ice cold Scuppernong River and finally took advantage of it. The Marl Pit bridge has always been my favorite area, and I was thrilled to become one with the river for a moment. I then sat along the river while my feet dried and realized how lucky we are to have this beautiful spot in our part of the world.
I visited the trail one more time the next morning before packing up and heading home. Back at the Marl Pit Bridge, I was enjoying the morning air when the call of a Sandhill Crane nearly made my jump. It came out from behind the bend for just a second when I snapped this photo.
I then, of course, had to get a shot of the river facing west.
Over at Ottawa Lake I had a good time canoeing. I love canoeing at Ottawa more than any other body of water I’ve visited.
While canoeing, I saw Painted Turtles, Sandhill Cranes, a Great Blue Heron, a Northern Watersnake, and a state-threatened Blandings Turtle, but the highlight came shortly before packing up and heading home. I surprisingly found this Eastern Hognose Snake crossing the campground road. It put on a show by flattening its neck, hissing, bobbing its head, and curling up. Eventually it slithered back into the tall grass.
(editor’s note. JB, it was great to finally meet you at The Springs. One question: Do you think it will last?)
“I got to liberate an oak tree! It felt great.” I was struck when Cameron Barker, a volunteer from the UW-Whitewater environmental group S.A.G.E., said that when introducing himself at the State Natural Areas workday at Little Kestol Prairie.
He was referring to the work he did at the Kettle Moraine Oak Opening back in February and it made me feel as John Nada, the protagonist from the science fiction classic They Live, might have when he encountered another person that could see.
I’ve had that liberating feeling as well these past two weeks cutting buckthorn on the steep hillsides between Ottawa Lake and the campground. Dick Jenks and I started in the area just below the handicap accessible cabin and worked our way south past site #388 to where the bluff gives way to the beach.
We continued this past Wednesday and Friday, working both south and north of the cabin. On the map below, the upper red line represents the area we cleared last year, and the lower line shows where we have cleared this year.
Alfred Korzybski said: “The map is not the territory”, but the bird’s eye view below will help bring it closer to life. Zoom in and note the contrast in water color near the shore. I thought the map was fuzzy there, but it is the surprising emerald color of the water that threw me off.
The views of the lake from the bluff, sans buckthorn, are simply beautiful. I wish I could show you the pictures I took on Wednesday, but I unconsciously deleted them somehow. Below are before and after videos and they do capture some of it.
It was a gorgeous, sunny day with a steady west wind pushing waves across the deep blue center of the lake into the emerald eastern shore.
There are some mighty oaks indeed along the shore and bluff below site #388 and I couldn’t wait to get back there yesterday to finish liberating this regal specimen, which, until Wednesday, had been completely encircled on the north side as well.
The buckthorn look puny compared to the massive oak, but they were huge for their kind.
It’s hard to capture a big tree in a single photo. I’m going to have to learn how to stitch multiple shots together into a panoramic view to do justice.
I then moved to the hillside below campsite #382 to continue the clearing we began in front of the cabin.
There were some massive buckthorns at the base of the hill.
Yes, “I got to liberate an oak tree. It felt great!”
The view from the deck in front of the cabin is glorious; and what a great place to watch birds from! I accidentally deleted the incredibly classic “sun setting over Ottawa Lake” pics I took on Wednesday, so I’ll leave you with the return of garlic mustard instead.
I’m not spraying any poison on the garlic mustard, so I’m hoping you will come out and help pull it.
Melanie’s brow furrowed focusing energy from her third eye as she studied the weather beaten old sign she found in a closet at the DNR maintenance shop. It was done in the style of the signs at the Scuppernong Springs that she replaced last year with her volunteer trail crew and it read: The Ruby Spring. “Hmmmm…” she thought, “I’ll bet The Buckthorn Man knows where The Ruby Spring is.”
There are stories behind each of the springs you’ll find along the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail and I invite you to share yours on our new Facebook Page. You may have grown up with The Springs like Pete Nielsen or Steve Brasch, or you’ve been coming for a long time, like John and Sue, or Dick and Shirley, or Terry and Lisa. Share your favorite memories and pictures of The Springs on our Facebook timeline.
“Ruby Spring”, “Ruby Spring”, I thought “…is this in the Land of OZ?” Melanie and I made a date to meet with Ron Kurowski, at the Kettle Moraine Natural History Association‘s annual meeting, to learn the story of this spring. The amphitheater at Forest Headquarters was alive with many excited faces and voices when I arrived.
Don Reed, Chief Biologist with the SEWRPC, making opening remarks.
Ron Kurowski and Paul Sandgren, Superintendent of the Kettle Moraine State Forest — Southern Unit drawing lucky numbers.
Matt Zine, a conservation biologist and longtime leader of the State Natural Areas crew in southern Wisconsin, took us for a walk down memory lane, or rather, through an oak savannah landscape, as he explained what God and Man have wrought to put us in the state we are today, and why it is important to understand and take action. Thanks for the great presentation Matt!
It was a pleasure to meet Dan Carter, a member of SEWRC’s environmental planning staff after Matt’s presentation. Ben Johnson joined us and that led to the parking lot, where Dan identified the seed/spore heads of a fern that Ben and Karen found in the wet prairie just west of the Indian Spring. Just then, DNR trail boss, Don Dane, arrived to take me into the inner sanctum of the maintenance facilities to pick up two huge seed bags: one with a dry mesic prairie mix, and the other with a wet prairie mix. Thanks again to Don Dane and Amanda Prange for organizing and leading the seed gathering volunteer workdays!
After Don left, Ben and I wondered if we needed to wet the seed or mix it with anything prior to sowing. I couldn’t reach Don, who was already engaged on a project with the Ice Age Trail Alliance, so we headed back to the amphitheater to get some expert advice. I invited Melanie to join us and we found Ron busy in a back office. He explained that we could just sow the seed as is, and we talked about lightly raking afterwards, and then Ron shared the secret of The Ruby Spring.
After THE PONDS OF THE SCUPPERNONG were drained in the early nineties, the DNR began the slow process of rehabilitating the Scuppernong River stream bed, which had been submerged under 3-5 feet of water for over 100 years and was thus thoroughly silted in with marl. It was quickly apparent that they needed to name the springs to facilitate planning, meeting and, bringing them to life in the mind’s eye.
In the middle of the valley left when the upper pond was drained, they found the largest complex of springs on the property. A red algae made its home there giving the waters a distinct ruby color, hence the name: The Ruby Spring. As the restoration work progressed and the environment changed, the red algae disappeared and the bubbling spring pools located at the end of the observation deck took on an emerald hue, and were rechristened The Emerald Springs. The names evoke ruby slippers and emerald cities for me.
Ben and I headed straight for the sand prairie, aka, the Indian Campground, and began sowing the dry mesic prairie seed at the intersection of the main trail with the spur trail that leads down to the Indian Spring. This is an area where we dug out a lot of spotted knapweed last year and the soil is bare.
The plant below has heretofore escaped my identification skills. I suspected it was an invasive plant, but which one? Ben suggested we send a picture to Dan Carter.
Dan responded quickly that it was motherwort and advised us not to worry too much about it because it will give way to native plants as we introduce them or they re-emerge. It’s not fair to characterize this plant as a weed, which, according to Ralph Waldo Emerson, is: “A plant whose virtues have never been discovered”, given its long history of use as an herb.
We had enough seed to cover a huge area of the sand prairie and it will be exciting to watch the results develop.
After our labors were done, we went for a walk intending to explore the trail south along the marl pit. Along the way we met Jill Bedford, who works with the Tall Pines Conservancy, and switched gears to give her the grand tour of The Springs. Jill is involved in writing grants to conserve and restore land and it was exciting to hear of all the developments in her world. We got up to the sand prairie just in time to watch the sunset.
My weekend at The Springs was only half over and I returned on Sunday to sow the wet prairie seeds in the many, many burn rings left from our work in the Buckthorn Alley and the Cut-off Trail.
After the last seeds were sown, I returned to the cabin at Ottawa Lake, where Dick Jenks and I cut buckthorn last week, to “mop up” with my brush cutter.
I tried using a little sponge to daub poison on the little buckthorn stubs and it worked pretty well; a lot less waste than if I would have used a sprayer. The view from the deck is really nice.
When The Buckthorn Man retired early from the Quiet Company back in February 2012, he made a deal with his mate that he would help her with her business. Pati always dreamed about taking her work as a Guild Certified Feldenkrais® and Anat Baniel Method™ for Children practitioner on the road, and she recently accepted an invitation to work with special needs children in South Africa. I’m going to put my chainsaw down for the month of May and help Pati on her big adventure. We’ll be staying at the beautiful Umtamvuna River Lodge, just upstream from the Indian Ocean on the eastern side of South Africa. We plan on doing a week of touring after 3 weeks of Pati’s intensive work with the children. I can’t wait!
Well, I’m going to get my licks in on the buckthorn that is crowding the hillside on the east shore of Ottawa Lake before I go. Anne Korman, Assistant Superintendent of the Kettle Moraine State Forest–Southern Unit, asked us to focus on the area below the handicap accessible cabin at the Ottawa Lake campground.
I’m trying to learn how to use my Canon G15 camera and accidentally left it on a weird setting, so all of my “before” shots are hopelessly blurry. But, Dick Jenks can back me up when I say there was a lot of nasty buckthorn there.
It was a gorgeous day; perfect for cutting buckthorn! Ben Johnson and I are planning on returning this Saturday with a brush cutter to clear the little stuff and do some piling. The “after” pictures below are of the area around and below the cabin panning from north to south.
I was glad to have Dick Jenks and his dog Zeus there to help!
I had scheduled a week camping at My Shangri-La in April and May, but with the trip to South Africa, I’ll have to wait until August for my next reservation. I’m looking forward to seeing the stars, skies, sunrises and sunsets from the perspective of the southern hemisphere; I’ve never been south of the equator.
From Ottawa Lake I headed over to The Springs to rake out ash rings from all the brush piles we burned. DNR trail boss, Don Dane, is going to give us some seed to sow on the barren soil. He also has seed for the sand prairie that we will be sowing. Is there anything more fun than sowing seed?
I took a nice, meditative, walk after my labors were done.