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!

Wisconsin DNR Appreciates Volunteers

Everything the government has it takes from the people. Try not paying taxes and you’ll soon feel the coercive hand of government in the form of a badge and gun.

Government is an association of men who do violence to the rest of us.

Leo Tolstoy

In what realm besides government do we pay for services at the point of a gun? Worst of all, these “services” including imperialist war mongering, obscenely corrupt cronyism, and zero accountability. I think voluntarism is the way to achieve a peaceful society. If we can each become the monarch, or ruler, of our own lives, respecting other’s rights and obeying Natural Law, then we can evolve into an anarchistic, stateless society, of people freely choosing to associate for the common good.

Yeah, but there are some truly evil people out there and we need government to protect us from them, right? So let’s draw “leaders” from this population, which includes power hungry psychopaths, and give them rights that none of us have (to tax us, to murder with drones, to force us to purchase health care, etc…) empowering them and their agents to govern, i.e. control, us with badges, guns, black robes and prisons; the tools of coercion and violence.

I was very interested to hear Paul Sandgren, Superintendent of the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, describing the funding constraints they currently operate under and the role that volunteer contributions make in the maintenance of the properties that the Wisconsin DNR is responsible for.

Paul spoke yesterday at a luncheon held at the D. J. Mackie picnic area organized by Melanie Kapinos and Amanda Prange to thank the many people who have contributed to the maintenance of the hiking, biking, horse riding and snowmobile trails, and land stewardship in general, in the southern unit of the state forest.

How much money would the government need to take from us to fully fund all of work that needs to be done? Can we trust government to prioritize the allocation of dollars to rehabilitating and protecting the land and the environment? I don’t think so, hence my commitment to volunteer my time and energy and I encourage you to do the same.

Earlier in the day, I was joined by Jim Davee, Tara Fignar and Anne Moretti and we piled brush along the main trail in what was previously The Buckthorn Tunnel.

I really appreciated their companionship and hard work! Check out the results.

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Pati joined me for the luncheon and then we returned to The Springs to spend a glorious afternoon digging out spotted knapweed at the sand prairie. We’ll be sowing the seeds that Don, Amanda and company collected here in the near future.

The Fall scenery at The Springs is spectacular!

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Pati and I enjoyed another sunset and, afterwards, we strolled through the Ottawa Lake campground checking out the fantastic Halloween displays at the campsites. We had never seen so many exquisitely carved pumpkins and I’ll be sure to bring my camera along next year. If you are a Halloween fan, don’t miss the annual celebration at Ottawa Lake.

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See you at The Springs!

A Stolen Face

I wonder at the boundaries between what’s yours, mine and ours and who owns things that are found.

I’ve been hoping to find on arrowhead on the sand prairie. John Hrobar gave me a tang from a broken arrowhead that he found near the Indian Spring. I have it on the windowsill above the kitchen sink and it gives me pleasure when I notice it. In the Heart of a Seed, at the end of the last video of the post, I showed this really cool stove door that I found at the ruins of one of the marl pit factory buildings…

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… and I speculated about how long it would remain there. I thought it was interesting and wanted others to see it, but it’s already been found and taken. Or, was it stolen? How is an arrowhead different from a stove door and when does private pleasure trump public?

I combined private and public pleasure at The Springs yesterday continuing the effort to creating something beautiful, that cannot be stolen, by piling the buckthorn I cut recently. I really enjoy working in the woods and all the feedback I’ve gotten so far has been positive; a win-win situation.

Here is video taken shortly after I got started.

And the results…

From there I went to the sand prairie to dig spotted knapweed and I ran into the ecology class from the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater. I get easily carried away and tend to talk way too fast, but they listened patiently as I described the work we are doing at The Springs and they had some good questions. I should have gotten a picture!

A crisp Fall afternoon.

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Indian Spring Sunset.

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The view from the sand prairie dune.

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I’ll be at My Shangri-La all next week.

See you at The Springs!

Autumn at The Springs

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
― Albert Camus

I love the menu changes at The Springs and Autumn, like the other seasonings, has it’s own spicy flavors to savor. Maybe it was the weekend I spent in LA at my nephew, Danny Bobbe‘s wedding that accentuated the arrival of Fall back home. It was fun and I loved playing in the surf at El Matador beach

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…and the scene on the strip between Venice Beach and the Santa Monica pier, where Route 66 meets the Pacific.

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I squeezed in a workday at The Springs on Thursday, October 16 before leaving on a jet plane, and did some brush cutting near signpost #1 and the marl pit factory. It is impractical to try to poison every little buckthorn stub so this effort is to preserve appearances and give other plants a chance. I don’t want to look at flourishing buckthorn resprouts and seedlings until the next burn. A couple days effort with the brush cutter per year is worth it to hold the line.

Here is the area near signpost #1, where the first views of the Scuppernong River Habitat Area open up, after I did some brush cutting.

The area around the marl pit factory before cleanup.

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And after…

Pati road her bike out to meet me and, with the threat of rain, we decided to converge in Delafield and visit the Hartland Marsh on the way home. I lament leaving my work at The Marsh unfinished. Without fire in my toolbox, it seemed futile to continually repeat the brush cutting and poisoning cycle. Now, left unattended, the buckthorn is returning to dominate the understory. I’m hoping that the combination of fire and brush cutting will eventually eliminate the invasive woody species at the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail.

I little Hartland Marsh scenery.

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I came back to The Marsh yesterday to clear this huge oak branch off the trail.

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Then I headed over to The Springs to finish piling brush on the east side of the loop trail just a bit north of the old barn site.

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I dug spotted knapweed on the sand prairie and enjoyed visiting with friends passing by. Here are some late afternoon Autumn scenes from the valley along the headwaters of the Scuppernong River.

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The spring at the old fish hatchery site.

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Sunset at the Indian Spring.

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Parting shots from the sand prairie.

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See you at The Springs!

Sand Prairie Gardening

It was a flawless fall day for a fool’s errand at The Springs

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and I was delighted to share it with Tara Fignar and Jim DaVee, who usually volunteer with the DNR or Ice Age Trail, and Pati.

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Are we fools for attempting to dig the spotted knapweed out of the Sand Prairie? In any case, it was comforting and thoroughly enjoyable to spend a sunny Sunday morning digging in the sand with friendly people who share my love for gardening and vision of what could be. We made great progress in the area by the spur trail to the Indian Spring, which is now primed for seed sowing.

In the afternoon we headed over to the north east section of the loop trail where I recently did some cutting to pile brush. Tara and Jim were both eager to return and work with us, or independently, either way that is fantastic! I got in a few licks with the brush cutter laying down some half burnt, re-sprouting buckthorn and cherry skeletons that were spoiling the views.

And after…

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There were a lot of hikers at The Springs, the most I’ve ever seen, and I think this is due to the great publicity we are getting from all of our DNR friends at the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest.

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Another Scuppernong Sunset

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See you at The Springs!

The Buckthorn Tunnel

In The Buckthorn Metaphor I equate fighting buckthorn with fighting for the truth. A bit of a stretch maybe, but here is another buckthorn metaphor. Remember the last time you were entangled in a complex emotional conflict with at least one other person? How did you get there and what is the path to resolution? It’s kind of like being lost in a buckthorn tunnel: one minute your just walking down the trail and the next thing you know, the buckthorn has grown so thick that it envelops you.

The first hundred yards of the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail taken in the counter clock-wise direction could only be described as a Buckthorn Tunnel. Using towering aspen clones for support, the buckthorn had grown tall and lush on both sides of the trail literally forming a tunnel. During my recent camping adventure at Ottawa Lake I got the chance to shed light at the end of the buckthorn tunnel with my chainsaw. And, via the power of podcasts, I got some useful tools for resolving interpersonal conflict from my friends at Tragedy and Hope that I want to try to integrate.

One is Marshall Rosenberg‘s idea of Non-Violent Communication, which is explained in relation to critical thinking in this excellent article by Darrell Becker. The other is Edward Di Bono’s The Six Thinking Hats, which is a fantastic way to think in parallel and cover all the bases when trying to resolve an issue. Listen to Di Bono enlightening lecture.


I began ripping down the buckthorn tunnel at The Springs near signpost #1.

At the end of the day…

After years of walking through this deeply shaded tunnel of buckthorn, my eyes were eagerly awaiting the views of the landscape and open skies. I was able to get after it two more times before folding my tent. The next time out I cut the east side of the trail.

And here is how it looked afterwards.

Then I cut the west side of the trail.

And after…

I cut heaps of buckthorn that is now waiting to be piled and burned. Opening up views of the landscape and letting the sun shine in is exciting and I deeply appreciate every minute I spend at The Springs. At a much smaller scale I dug out spotted knapweed on the sand prairie in anticipation of sowing the seeds that Amanda Prange, Don Dane and their helpers have been collecting nearby. Since visiting the sand prairie a 1/2 mile east of forest headquarters along the Ice Age Trail and the pasque flower preserve sand prairie just north of Piper Road alongside the horse trail, I know better now what “success” looks like.

Gentian near the boardwalk leading to the Emerald Spring

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Ottawa Lake site #335 Sunset reprise.

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See you at The Springs!

The Tibby Line

Storms clouded the skies and my mind as I arrived early September 11th at The Springs.

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I was reminded of the fact that, although September 11, 2001 was a bright, sunny, day in the city, hurricane Erin, a category 3 hurricane, passed by just offshore as the towers disintegrated.

There is a lot we know — or choose not to know — about what really happened on 9/11. Don Rumsfeld explained the conundrum: “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.” Now juxtapose that with the words of the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard: “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” So long as the majority of people choose to remain ignorant, i.e. to not ask who, what, where and when, examine the facts and remove the contradictions, regarding the events of September 11, 2001, the crime of the century, we will continue down the path of endless war that we are on.

I found solace for my breaking heart and worried mind at The Springs yesterday. My first stop was the drainage ditch along the trail near signpost #1 in which a curtain of cattails had risen up to obstruct the view into the Scuppernong Prairie.

And after…

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White turtlehead is a new plant for me (thanks for the ID John).

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Water Smartweed (Polygonum amphibium). I found it in the meadow in front of signpost #1. Thanks to Amanda Prange for identifying it!

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This great plains ladies-tresses is near the marl pit bridge.

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On my way to the marl pit area I noticed that someone had made off with two of the original rails from the Dousman Marlboro & Southern railroad at signpost #2. Robert Duerwachter, the author of THE PONDS OF THE SCUPPERNONG, also wrote a fine history of this railroad called The Tibby Line, which you can find at the bookstore at the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest headquarters. John Hrobar noticed last week that one of the rails had been loosened and he suggested that I try to secure it before it got stolen. Sorry John. You can sum up all of Natural Law in one statement: Do Not Steal!

The area between the gaging station bridge #5 and the marl pit bridge #4 is another meadow that is being invaded by cattails, phragmities, purple loosestrife and reed canarygrass. Here is a look before I got after it with the hedge cutter.

And after…

Then I went to a cranberry bog along the cutoff trail to finish piling some buckthorn that I cut last spring. My to-do list is clear now and I’m looking forward to getting back to Buckthorn Alley. I had a little time at the end of the day to dig spotted knapweed on the sand prairie.

Relaxing at the marl pit bridge.

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Another sweet sunset.

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See you at The Springs!

Scuppernong Springs Refuge

Nature is my refuge, it’s been my Bridge Over Troubled Waters ever since I was a boy growing up in a family of 12, and now no less since I’ve become aware of the truth about how the world really works. I feel a bit selfish spending so much time at The Springs; shouldn’t I be doing something to stop the U.S. intervention in Syria, or, nurturing my gardens at home?

The world “out there” is never far from mind when I’m at my Scuppernong Springs Refuge. I felt comforted and protected there yester-Sun-day morning and, as the day progressed, I calmed down a little.

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I started the day in the lower meadow cutting cattails and purple loosestrife. I have seen loosestrife eating beetles and their effects at The Springs; nevertheless, this will be a bumper year for the purple invader.

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As I was walking along the south side of the river in the lower meadows heading back to my truck, I had to stop and appreciate how beautiful it was (sorry, the video is blurry for the first couple seconds, while the camera focuses.)

I’m cleaning up my “to do list” — last time it was girdling black locust — and there was some brush I cut back in the spring between the cut-off trail and the river that I needed to get piled (note, I mistakenly refer to the upper meadows at the beginning of the video, s/b lower meadows.)

There is one more place that needs piling and I’m chomp’in at the bit to start whacking buckthorn again. Meanwhile, I spent the afternoon pulling and digging weeds, mostly spotted knapweed on the sand prairie. I’m seeing tons of young lupine plants on the western slope of the north side of the prairie and, in many cases, I was able to dig out the knapweed leaving the lupine unmolested, which was very satisfying.

Later, I took a walk around the trail and captured these images of the lower meadow
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After a cloudy day, the sun came out just in time for me to take a dip in the river and do a bit of yoga at the marl pit bridge. I got these parting shoots as the clouds thickened again.

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See you at The Springs!

Scuppernong Summer

Usually you’ll find me in the mountains this time of year, when they are gentle and uncrowded.  This year I’m looking forward to experiencing the waning days of summer right here at home — at the Scuppernong Springs.

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I’m taking liberties at The Springs including attempting to transition the cattail and phragmities dominated marshes that border the river into wet meadows, which will encompass a wider diversity of flora and fauna.  The upper meadows (shown in blue below) are along the river valley upstream of the sawmill site #12 and the lower meadows (in red) are downstream from there to the gaging station bridge #5.

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The upper meadows

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It was a beautiful summer day at The Springs yesterday and I got started with a project that has been on my mind for some time i.e., re-girdling the black locust trees on the south end of the loop trail.  Some years ago the DNR hired a person to girdle the trees in this area and they did approximately 200 of them before committing suicide (he did not mention the black locust trees being a motivating factor in his last note).  Unlike this unhappy forester, many of the trees survived despite being deeply wounded.  I re-girdled around 40 trees and added a new girdle to another 20 or so.

 

There is a vernal pool inside the south end of the loop trail just below the trees shown in the beginning of the video above that was filling in with phragmities, reed canarygrass and Japanese knotweed and I spent some time with the hedge trimmer cutting the flowering seed heads from these invasive plants. Then I headed over to the west edge of the lower meadows at the gaging station bridge to cut some cattails. Below are before and after videos, and again, I was able to cut above most of the flowering heads of the aster, golden rod and joe pye weed.


I almost finished before the hedge trimmer jammed. Then I headed up to the south end of the sand prairie and dug out spotted knapweed for a couple hours and finally finished the day pulling Japanese knotweed on the hillside just south of the Indian Springs. It was a great day to stop and enjoy the sky, the breeze and the summer flowers that are approaching their peak color.

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Another Scuppernong Sunset

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See you at The Springs!

Traditional Gardening

Your mind is garden soil; carefully fertilized and sown with the right seed it is capable of growing something beautiful. I just finished reading 1491, by Charles C. Mann, per recommendation of the “keeper of the springs”, John Hrobar. Its New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, chronicle the incredible legacies of the indigenous, native, peoples of the Americas north, central and south, in a way that, like a superb mulching legume, “fixed” the oxygen feeding my brain allowing new conceptions to take root. Thanks John (below on the left, in a literal sense only of course).

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The earth was their garden and they worked the soil and landscape to suit their purposes, which, per a deep understanding of Natural Law, were typically in harmony with the Will of Nature’s God; The Creator. Those cultures that violated natural law, e.g. the non-aggression principle, eventually fell to the murderous onslaught of their “neighbors”. Cultures that recklessly harvested the earth’s bounty in the same rapacious way we often see around us today, i.e. coal river mountain, failed as well. Without a doubt however, the main decimators of the Native American populations were the infectious diseases that accompanied the pale faced European Invasive Species.

Politically, they reached their apex in the Five Nations confederation of the Haudenosaunee, of whom Cadwallader Colden, vice governor of New York and adoptee of the Mohawks said, they had “such absolute Notions of Liberty, that they allow of no Kind of Superiority of one over another, and banish all Servitude from their Territories.” This is the heirloom seed we need to sow and nurture in our brains!

The book helped me reconcile the fact that my work at The Springs is not sustainable. The restoration of the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve, indeed, the whole Scuppernong River Habitat Area, will always need the hands of caring people to cultivate its natural beauty.

I spent a care-full day at The Springs last Friday pulling spotted knapweed on the sand prairie and trimming cattail and phragmities seed heads in the valley along the Scuppernong River headwaters.

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Join me on a stroll through the sand prairie before we get started.

I’m encountering a lot of stubby spotted knapweed that I cut with the brush cutter back in July to prevent from going to seed. The scope of the invasion is thorough in some areas and will probably require hand to root combat with shovels and forks to defeat. It’s not sustainable, but I’m determined to give it my best effort; this is my garden.

Here is what the west side of the Scuppernong River, just across from the observation deck, looked like after I did a little pruning with my hedge cutter.

Later I took a walk around the loop trail to admire the new sign posts that correspond to the Scuppernong Springs Trail Brochure that Melanie, Tara and Jim finished installing last week. Nice work! It motivated me to take another look at Robert Duerwachter’s wonderful book THE PONDS OF THE SCUPPERNONG, and I noticed the real location of the Old Hatching House. I added a new blue #9 on the map below that conforms with the maps shown on pages 155-156 of Robert’s book (shown below) and conforms as well to the old foundation, infrastructure and spring physically at that location.

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Ron Kurowski supplied these maps to Robert.

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When Lindsay, Pati and I uncovered the springs that begin to flow right at the location corresponding to the old #9 on the map above, I thought, per the description in the trail brochure, that this was the site of the Old Hatching House, hence The Hatching House Springs. Here is a good look at the Old Hatching House site and the Real Hatching House Springs, which just began flowing again this past June. (I make an incorrect reference to the Emerald Spring at the end of the video.)

We’ll have to come up with another name for the set of springs that I previously referred to as The Hatching House Springs. Any suggestions?

A Scuppernong Summer Sunset.

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See you at The Springs!