Famous Springs of the Kettle Moraine

Hi, it’s The Buckthorn Man.  I’ve been blogging at my new site since November 2015, but couldn’t resist posting the Special 75th Anniversary Issue of The Scuppernong Journal here, after coming across it in my files.  Thanks to Ron Kurowski, retired DNR Naturalist, for allowing me to reprint this issue.  To join the Kettle Moraine Natural History Association and subscribe to The Scuppernong Journal, contact Ron Kurowski at:

Kettle Moraine Natural History Association

S91 W39091 Hwy 59

Eagle, WI 53119

Now, I wonder what I did with the other 2 of the 3 anniversary issues in the set… Heh Ron…

TheScuppernongJournal75thAnniversarySpecialTheScuppernongJournal75thAnniversarySpecial_0001TheScuppernongJournal75thAnniversarySpecial_0002TheScuppernongJournal75thAnniversarySpecial_0003See you at The Springs!

The Buckthorn Man Comes Home

I’ve been on a 16 year crusade, and now, finally, The Buckthorn Man is 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 started by “doing the grammar” i.e., studying mold: where it comes from, how it grows, and most importantly, how to get rid of it.  We’ve enlisted professional support to identify if we did in fact have a mold problem, and then to find out where it had established itself in the house.  I’ve been cleaning every nook and cranny for the last two months and I’m currently painting the joists and walls in the basements, where the mold was thriving.

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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.

I’ll always treasure my time at The Springs.  Last month I was preparing to give a tour to a a group from the Natural Resources Foundation…TroutStreamTherapy

with my good friend Jared Urban, who coordinates the State Natural Areas Volunteer Program in southeastern Wisconsin, and we met with Ben Heussner to get an update on the dam removal project.

The “head cut” is forming slowly.

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Jared and I had an excellent time with the folks from the Natural Resources Foundation.

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Jared with Kitten Tails.

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I got a chance to talk to NRF board member Dave Adam at the Scuppernong Spring.

It was a beautiful day and Pati joined me later for a walk at The Springs

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and Ottawa Lake.

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Last Thursday I was honored to receive the  “Invader Crusader” award from the Wisconsin Invasive Species Council.

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I got a chance to give a brief talk.

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.

PleasantValleyConservancyHikingTrails IMG_5681 IMG_5683 IMG_5684 IMG_5686 IMG_5687 IMG_5689 IMG_5691 IMG_5692 IMG_5693 IMG_5695 IMG_5696 IMG_5698 IMG_5699

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.

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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

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and take RIGHT actions in the world!

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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

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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

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See you at The Springs!

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.

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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.)

January

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.

John

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

February

phragmites

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

March

Life returns to The Springs.

Skunk cabbage.

skunk cabbage bird tracks ice patterns

Pussy Willows.

pussy willows

Catkins.

catkins

large catkins A

redwing blackbird

Hepatica.

hepatica hepatica C hepatica D

Bloodroot.

blood root A

April

Sweet springtime at The Springs.

Buttercups.

buttercups

Marsh Marigolds.

.Marsh Marigolds

Anemones.

.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

Jack-in-the-pulpit.

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

Toadflax.

toadflax

Dewberry.

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

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

goldfinch 04:30

Sparrow

sparrow 04:30

May

Mystery Flower

Scuppernong mystery 05:03

Blue-eyed Grass.

blue-eyed grass 05:03

Toadflax

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

goldfinch 05:03

Phoebe

phoebe

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

monarch

Lupine

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

Thimbleweed 05:19 A

Wild Sarsaparilla

wild sarsaparilla 05:19 A

Blackberries

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

spiderwort 05:30

spiderwort 05:30 A

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

Prairie Rose

prairie rose 05:30

Ninebark

nine bark 05:30 A

Tall Meadow Rue

tall rue 05:30

Yellow Warbler

yellow warbler 05:30 A

June

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

plantain 06:02

Cloudywing Butterfly

cloudywing butterfly 06:02

Goldfinch

goldfinch 06:02 white dragonfly 06:02

Viceroy Butterfly

viceroy butterfly 06:04 A insect 06:04 B

Hummingbird

hummingbird 06:04

Bluebird

bluebird 06:04

Kingbirds

kingbirds -two 06:04

Sparrow

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

elderberry 06:15

Yarrow

yarrow 06:15

Baltimore Checkerspot

baltimore checkerspot 06:15

Scarlet Tanager

scarlet tanager 06:24 B

Cedar Waxwing

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

sparrow 06:26

Scarlet Tanager

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

Leadplant

lead plant 06:26

Downy Woodpecker

downey woodpecker 06:26

July

michigan lily 07:01

Catbird

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

Leadplant

lead plant 07:01 michigan lily 2 07:01

Killdeer

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

sumac 07:31

Jewelweed

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

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

Elderberry

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

August

Light Purple Aster

light purple aster 08:28:12

Shelf-type Mushroom

shelf-type mushroom 08:28:12

Lettuce

lettuce family 08:28:12 A

Goldenrod and bug

goldenrod & bug 08:28:12

Sandpiper?

sandpiper? 08:28:12 A

Elderberry

elderberries 08:28:12

White Asters

white asters 08:28:12

Goldenrod?

goldenrod? 08:28:12

Asters and Goldenrod

asters & goldenrod 08:28:12

Mint

mint? 08:28:12 A

Pokeweed

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!

Jon Bradley Discovers Cure For The Summertime Blues

Despite a veritable who’s who of pundits, ranging from rocker Eddie Cochran…

to mod philosopher Pete Townsend …

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… to legal scholar, former Attorney General, Janet Reno,

Janet-Reno_First-Female-US-Attorney-General

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.

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The second one was taken at the main springs. The sun was spotlighting the springs and it was a photo I couldn’t resist.

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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.

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I then, of course, had to get a shot of the river facing west.

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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.

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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.

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(editor’s note.  JB, it was great to finally meet you at The Springs.  One question:  Do you think it will last?)

See you at The Springs!

Buchta Wins Gold in PilingStyle

It was a clear and cold morning at the 2014 Scuppernong Springs Olympics.

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In, perhaps the biggest upset in Olympic history, Andy Buchta…
AndyBuchta

…surprised the pundits and walked away with the gold medal in the PilingStyle event. In his first appearance at the Olympics, Buchta, a roofing professional by trade, impressed the judges with his flawless technique and flair for the dramatic as he created tall, compact and uniquely expressive piles from the scattered, snow-covered, buckthorn brush. Andy flew under the radar all week as most eyes were focused on three time gold medal winner, the Russian brush piler, Boris Maksmopilenovitch.

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(I turned on the camera’s date-time function by mistake!)

The Buckthorn Man surveyed the field just before the competition began.

While Andy experienced the thrill of victory, The Buckthorn Man suffered the agony of defeat. All week long in training The Buckthorn Man set new records for slashing and burning in his signature ChainsawStyle event. He was notably loose; joking with teammates, and seemed to have put his failure to win gold at the 2010 Hartland Marsh Olympics behind him. But on the big day, he bolted upright at the 5:30am alarm and it was game on.

Unfortunately, and indeed, heartbreakingly, it was not The Buckthorn Man’s day. The hose on his Red Dragon Torch cracked and spewed propane gas preventing him from lighting it and starting a brush pile on fire. Then, without a heat source, he was unable to keep his poison sprayer from freezing up, despite the fact that it contained only anti-freeze and triclopyr. When we ran into The Buckthorn Man at the trailhead, he was inconsolable; refusing, or perhaps incapable, of answering any questions.

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We located this transcription of a discussion of The Buckthorn Man’s disappointing performance between Bob Costas and Cris Collinsworth on the internet (no wonder it was not televised live!)

Costas: I’ll be frank with you Cris, I think it is highly suspicious that The Buckthorn Man’s Red Dragon torch failed just when he needed it the most. I suspect the Russkies and, given his background in the FSB, that Putin was behind it.

Collinsworth: Ahh Gee, I dunno Bob. The Cold War is over isn’t it?

Costas: Not so fast Cris. Do you really think those evil commies have given up their dream of overthrowing monopoly capitalism and replacing it with a socialist paradise?

Collinsworth: But Bob, according to Antony C. Sutton’s seminal work Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution, WE funded the Bolshevik revolution and helped Trotsky and Lenin win recognition for their fledgling revolutionary government.

Costas: That sounds like a bunch of conspiratorial drivel to me Cris. Why would Wall Street support the Bolshevik Revolution?

Collinsworth: Bob, have you never heard of the Hegelian Dialectic, you know, thesis/problem, antithesis/reaction, synthesis/solution? The problem for the monopoly capitalists was that the masses were beginning to recognize how badly they were being exploited and how the rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer. So the financial oligarchs in the west created the reaction in the form of the evil communist empire to scare the people into believing that their liberties and freedoms were being threatened. Since Wall Street, via it’s interlocking relationships with the central banking systems across the world, was controlling the finances of both the “West” and the “East”, their solution was to play one off against the other, thus keeping the military industrial security complex fed and causing both the U.S. and the USSR to go deeply in debt TO THEM.

Costas: That is total Bullshit Cris. Cut his mic! (Costas, storms off the sound stage.)

Although he might have been able through shear force of will to persevere and get some work done, The Buckthorn Man decided to take the day off, relax, and enjoy The Springs.

When I emerged into this view of the prairie, I was stopped in my tracks by how quiet it was. I’ve been so busy at The Springs — I haven’t taken as much time as I should to look and listen.

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Here is the view from the Marl Pit bridge, where I stopped to listen to the river.

The view from the gaging station bridge.

The Indian Campground.

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The Indian Spring channel.

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The Scuppernong Spring.

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The Hillside Springs.

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The Hidden Spring.

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This one doesn’t have a name. How about the Robin’s Spring?

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I left The Springs early and bought a new Red Dragon torch on the way to the Hartland Marsh, where I picked up a load of seasoned buckthorn for the party this weekend and spent the rest of the day wandering.

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

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See you at The Springs!

A New Spring

I could sit for hours watching water bubble forth from a spring. It’s a form of hypnosis, or hypo (under)gnosis (knowledge). Gazing into a spring leads one to the under-knowledge; what is causing water to flow out of the earth right here, right now? If you go all the way, you’ll find it’s “turtles all the way down“!

I was working on the Buckthorn Alley yesterday and noticed a drainage ditch demarcating an area on the south side of the trail that I wanted to cut. Working along the west bank of the ditch, I noticed open water and soon beheld this spring.

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What a hardy bubbler!

I arrived at the Hotel Spring to get some water around 8:00am, still basking in the glow from the fires the day before at the Eagle Oak Opening. Soon I was at the spot where I left off, on the north end of the trail, scoping out the situation.

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It was relatively warm, and definitely sunny. I took it easy, cutting what I could (being frequently interrupted by the beautiful clouds drifting by overhead). My speculations about the torch not working due to cold temps were fallacious, as all it needed was a little WD-40 and resetting of the nozzle fitting.

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The days are getting longer and I didn’t rush to stow my gear and get walking before the sun set. Here are some views from the cut-off trail.

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Well, I could have easily lingered, hypnotized, at any of the springs along the way for hours, but the setting sun was beckoning.

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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♥

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January

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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.

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February

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

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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.

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March

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

April

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.

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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.

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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.

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May

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!

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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.

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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.

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June

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.

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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.

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

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Jon Bradley contributed another excellent photo essay.

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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.

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

July

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

August

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.

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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.

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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.

September

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.

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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!

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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.

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October

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.

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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.

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

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November

The Fall season lingered long and colorful.

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

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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.

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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.

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December

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”!

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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.

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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.

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Dick Jenks with his sawbuck.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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See you at The Springs!

Three For All

The coldest day of the Fall season put us on our mettle. Ben Johnson and Andrew Buchta coincidentally converged with me for their first volunteer adventures at the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail. I met Andrew at the DNR Volunteer appreciation lunch and Ben contacted me via this website. I should have gotten pictures of these hard working men in action poisoning stumps and piling brush.

It’s a good thing we were working right at the main parking lot on Hwy ZZ because it was a frigid day and we had to defrost the tip of the stump sprayer in our vehicles numerous times, even though the mix was 50% marine antifreeze. We eventually figured out that closing the nozzle after each use kept the tip from freezing up. Ben followed behind me with the sprayer and that was a very efficient way to go. I was amazed at how much we were able to cut, poison and pile. Here is how it looked before we got started.

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We cleared so much ground that I ran out of stump poison and sharp chains! There were many dead slippery elms and aspen amongst the lively buckthorn. Check out the excellent results!

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I’m looking forward to working with Ben and Andy again!

Pati had an intense work week and came out to join me for a walk after her last client. We bundled up against the cold wind and just caught the sunset from the Indian Campground on our way around the loop trail.

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See you at The Springs!

JB the Explorer’s Fall Classic

Today Jon Bradely, aka JBtheExplorer, makes another guest appearance. Check out these interesting and beautiful pictures from his recent adventure (Nov. 3) at The Springs.

I went today expecting the Autumn colors to be over and wildlife to be gone or dormant. It was a pleasant surprise to see quite a bit of color still there. The trail was also loaded with snakes today, 10 that I remember. Most of them were Garter Snakes however I also found two Red-Bellied Snakes. The first one (first 2 images) was found at the sand prairie and only about 3.5″ long. The second one was found at signpost 10 and was roughly 6″ long. In 2009 found a Red-Bellied Snake on the trail but didn’t know what kind it was at the time and it slipped away before I could see its belly. This time I made sure to photograph it!

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The Garter Snakes I found were mostly along the Marl Pits. Admittedly I don’t know how to tell different types of Garters apart however the stripes below the eye of the Garter in the first picture look like the Plains Garter Snakes I see quite a bit where I live. If it is a Plains, its the first one I’ve seen at the trail.

Red-Bellied Snake.

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Finally, I have some scenery shots I took at various spots along the trail.

Marl Pit bridge view.

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The bird house Jon put up this past summer. (ed. note I Haven’t seen any tenants yet!)

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Cloud gazing. (ed. note, if you love clouds, check out the pics on this incredible site!)

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The Big Spring and the steps leading up the trail from it. (ed. note, this location is begging for an extended time exposure shot ala Toby Gant)

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The view from the deck leading to the Emerald Spring.

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The old Hotel/Cheese Factory/Sawmill site.

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Ruins on the cut-off trail. (ed. note, in a recent post I speculated that these ruins were part of the marl pit factory because of a long concrete structure with a rectangular hole in it. Pati said it looked like a chimney that had simply fallen over. hmmm… applying Occam’s razor, I’d have to agree with Pati.)

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The make-shift bridge connecting the cut-off trail to the main loop trail at the marl pit factory.

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Near signpost #2.

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I was lucky enough to visit The Springs four times this year and can’t wait to return next spring!

(ed. note Thanks Jon! Pati and I were at The Springs on Nov. 3 too. Maybe next time we can coordinate and meet there.)

See you at The Springs!