Marsh Madness

I hope Spring is here to stay!

It’s been crazy here on the home front.  Pati, my African Queen, left for Cape Town today and I’ve been cramming for my “day in court” on Friday.  Like Ian Anderson sang: “Nothing Is Easy”.

I’ll tell you what looks easy though: two experts driving forestry mowers cutting huge swaths of buckthorn in a couple hours, that would have taken, even The Buckthorn Man,  weeks to do with a brush cutter.


We had absolutely perfect conditions for DNR Facilities Repair Worker, Don Dane (that title doesn’t even begin to describe what Don does!) and Forestry/Wildlife Technician, Mike Spaight, to mow buckthorn at the Hartland Marsh.  This latest initiative at The Hartland Marsh, spearheaded by Kevin Thusius, property manager for the Ice Age Trail Alliance, manifested it’s first concrete result last week thanks to Paul Sandgren, Forest Superintendent Southern Unit – KMSF Lapham Peak & Glacial Drumlin Trail East, donating two full days of his best equipment and crew.  Thanks Paul!

Way back on February 27th I spent a few hours at The Marsh flagging a firebreak for the prescribed burning we hope to start in 2016.  How about this Oakitecture!

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Last week Thursday and Friday (March 5-6) , just before this blessed thaw, Don and Mike came out and hit the buckthorn hard.  They completed the firebreak, and some mowing on the uplands, on Thursday.

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And on Friday, they continued working the uplands all the way back to the hillside below the Gazebo on Cottownwood Avenue.

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I love those guys!


Back on Monday, March 2, I was joined by Andy Buchta and Ben Johnson as we cleared glossy buckthorn from the tamarack grove on the northwest side of the Ottawa Lake Fen State Natural Area.


Here is a panorama view taken from the middle of the fen.

Closing in around the tamaracks…

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… is a thicket of glossy buckthorn.

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It was a glorious day; our last of the season over there no doubt.

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Last Saturday, March 7, Andy and I continue clearing the buckthorn near the old marl factory wall.  Here is how it looked when I got there.

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I won’t get tired of saying it was a great day!

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We gutted the core of the last nasty buckthorn thicket on this wedge of land just west of the marl factory wall, and I think I can finish it off with one more day’s work.

I was pretty tuckered out when the sun went down.

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See you at The Springs!

IATA Leads Hartland Marsh Restoration

I feel a lump welling up in my sore throat when I consider the latest turn of events in the saga of the Hartland Marsh restoration. My involvement began in earnest back in 2004 when I decided to clear the buckthorn from The Marsh, and I began spending most of my free time pursuing that goal.  I succeeded to a point: over the next 7 years I cut almost all of the mature buckthorn, burned hundreds of brush piles and followed up with brush cutting and foliar spraying, but I was not able to persuade the powers that be to implement a prescribed fire program — the only long-term solution to fighting invasive species — and I threw in the towel.


The Hartland Marsh is home to some of the biggest, most beautiful oaks, in Southeast Wisconsin, and Pati and I returned to visit over the next 4 years whenever we could.


In November of last year we were stunned not only by the site of the Chimney Swift Tower, but by the awakened spirit of CARE in the Village of Hartland that made it possible.  Perhaps is was just a coincidence, or maybe it was the Law of Attraction at work, but at the same time the tower was taking shape, Kevin Thusius, the property manager for the Ice Age Trail Alliance, decided it was time to commit some of his considerable leadership and organizational skills to resuscitating the Hartland Marsh/Bark River Preserve Project.

Kevin formed a committee including: Paul Sandgren, Forest Superintendent Southern Unit – KMSF Lapham Peak & Glacial Drumlin Trail East; Marlin Johnson, representing the Waukesha County Land Conservancy; Dave Cox and Mike Einweck, from the Village of Hartland; Duane Grimm representing Waukesha County; and fellow IATA members Brad Crary, Russ Evans and Ken Neitzke (I replaced Ken, wait, that’s not possible), and he enlisted Craig Annen with Integrated Restorations LLC to come up with a plan.  Per the assessment from Craig’s team:

Management action should be undertaken within the next five years to preserve this remnant and curtail any further degradation of its structural and compositional integrity and prevent local species loss; if the present trend is allowed to continue for more than five years, species invasions and successional changes will be increasingly difficult and expensive to reverse, and will require a longer time commitment to accomplish. Fortunately, previous efforts by IATA (Ice Age Trail Alliance) and WCLC (Waukesha County Land Conservation) volunteers have already placed this site on a trajectory toward recovery, and capitalizing on these efforts can be accomplished within a three year time period with a routine level of management intensity. The only foreseeable challenge this site poses is its urban location and obtaining permission and public acceptance of the use of prescribed fire as a management tool.

The plan prioritizes the uplands (see area enclosed in yellow and the John Muir Lookout Island, circled in magenta below.)


Money is the limiting factor, so if you know any “angels” who are willing to come forward and help us save the Oaks of the Hartland Marsh, please ask them to contact Kevin (!  With the funds Kevin has been able to hustle so far, we plan to hire Craig’s team to begin putting the plan into action by attacking the invasive species on the 37 acres of uplands.  Paul Sandgren has generously donated two days service from DNR Trail Boss Don Dane and Forestry Technician Mike Spaight to help us cut fire breaks and begin mowing the buckthorn, box elder and other woody invasives.

We really appreciate that Lake Country Now is helping us tell our story! Thanks for that post Steve, and for convincing your editors to send freelance journalist Rebecca Seymour out to meet us this past Wednesday as we gathered at The Marsh to review the plan and flag the areas where Don and Mike should work.  The next few shots are courtesy of Rebecca.

(From left to right: The Buckthorn Man, Craig Annen, Mike Einweck, Kevin Thusius and Marlin Johnson)




Our nemesis: Mr. Buckthorn.


Keep an eye on Lake Country Now (2/24 and 3/10) for Rebecca’s next stories about The Marsh.


After our meeting on Wednesday, I drove down to Forest Headquarters to review the plan with Don Dane.  I had heard a little about the cuts to the DNR that Governor Walker has planned for the 2015-2017 budget, which begins in July, and Don filled me in with the following:

I’m a Voluntaryist, and Anarchist, so I’m not going to ask you to beg the legislature or governor to spend the money they take from us via threat and coercion (hyperbole? pay or you go to jail!) differently.  No, I’m asking you to roll up your sleeves, volunteer, and get to work.  You take responsibility for the land; don’t rely on government.


It’s been darn cold and I’ve been under the weather a bit so I only got out to The Springs one day this week on Monday.  I continued cutting and burning along the stretch of trail between signpost #2 and Marl Factory.  I’m going to focus on finishing this area while it is frozen.  Here is how it looked when I got there.

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I had a relaxing day and made modest progress.

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If you are interested in prescribed burns, aka wildland fires, and want an inside look from the DNR’s perspective, check out the videos from their 2015 Prescribed Fire In-Service.   I found the Cranberry Fire — Lessons Learned and the Prescribed Burn Scenario, which features the 2014 Bluff Creek East Burn, very interesting.

Last but not least, don’t forget to visit my Wisconsin Wetlands Association “Big Share” campaign and make a donation.   Please note, the totals for contributors and dollars are not updated and still show zeroes; that’s just the way it is.

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


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

Kama Kosmic Krusader


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.




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.






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


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.



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.






The spring at the old fish hatchery site.


Sunset at the Indian Spring.


Parting shots from the sand prairie.





See you at The Springs!


I’m celebrating true freedom from the mental chains of law and government! I was recently introduced to the work of Marc Stevens, who stands tall on the shoulders of people like: Lysander Spooner, author of No Treason (audio here), Frederic Bastiat, author of The Law (audio here), and Etienne de la Boetie, author of The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude.

Marc’s book, Adventures In Legal Land,

is an evolution of the principals of true freedom espoused by the aforementioned authors applied to our current political, legal systems. Don’t go to court without reading this book! I have been studying history and philosophy searching for the truth, which is the key to happiness according to Aristotle, and now I finally understand. Our Political “law” is nothing but the arbitrary WILL OF MEN and WOMEN. Government exists to direct and control our minds; the “State” is a figment of our collective imaginations. The Constitution is a “written instrument” that was only witnessed, not signed. It is not a binding contract (which must include an offer, acceptance, a meeting of the minds and consideration) on ME.

If the Catholic Church declared that my home was located in a “parish” that the pope drew on a map and that I must pay tithes to support their god works, I would laugh at them. Government is no different; it’s based on belief, faith and, ultimately, on violence and coercion. What facts and evidence do government bureaucrats have to prove that they have jurisdiction i.e., control, over me, and that their codes apply to me? They will point to the “law”, the arbitrary will of men, as if that were evidence that the laws apply to me. Shame on these sophists and their fallacious circular reasoning! I don’t believe in their “state” and their “laws”. They’re noth’in but a badge and a gun! Free your mind!

Those were my thoughts on Independence Day as I worked the brush cutter at the Hartland Marsh and later, The Springs. I had to visit the “grandfather” oak before I got started. Here is the trail leading from the Waukesha County Land Conservancy property to the junction of the Village of Hartland and Ice Age Trail properties.



The Mystery Island



The Patriarch



Back at the Parker Brothers’ homesite



Looks like a job for the “river rats



Here is the trail on the Village of Hartland property just below the gazebo on Cottonwood Ave.


A couple video perspectives

Out on the boardwalk, which I was trimming.


After finishing the trail maintenance for this year at the Marsh, I went to The Springs to pull some weeds. I thought the white clover at the marl pit bridge would pull right out, like the hoary alyssum on the sand prairie, but it was quickly evident that I’d need the brush cutter again.



Crown vetch

I’m adjusting my game plan regarding scheduling work and what to focus on to recognize when the best time to strike at the weeds may be. The goal is to reduce the invasive species, using as little poison as possible, by preventing them from going to seed whether by pulling or cutting. Buckthorn alley will have to wait.

Pati peddled her bike out from Milwaukee and we had a picnic dinner at Ottawa Lake followed by fireworks at Pewaukee Lake; a very nice day. I’ll be back around the 15th.

See you at The Springs!

Frog Celebration

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

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

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

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




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

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


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

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


And the view from the old hotel site.


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

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

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

The Indian Spring.


Sunset at Ottawa Lake.



See you at The Springs!

Redemption at the Hartland Marsh

I’ve been looking for a word, an idea, that captures how I feel about finally burning the hundreds of brush piles I left at the Hartland Marsh.  Redemption!  It looks and feels much better now that most of the piles are gone.  You can see the lay of the land more clearly; the view of the horizon through the trees.  The scale of the big oak trees is more evident when your eye can follow their lines from the earth to the sky without being obscured by piles of brush at the trunk.

On Monday, February 18th, the Village of Hartland DPW crew (Dave, Jake, Josh, Tom) took advantage of the southerly winds to burn the most problematic brush piles right along Cottonwood Ave on the hillside just north of the gazebo.  Yesterday they helped Rich Csavoy, who volunteers with me at the Scuppernong Springs, and myself burn the 33 remaining piles on the north side of Parker Island, which is just over the river from the Parker Brothers home site (this property is now owned by the Waukesha County Land Conservancy).  There are less than 30 piles to burn on Village land to complete the cleanup!

Here is a video taken yesterday before we began burning piles on the north side of Parker Island.

And a few pictures.



I must confess I didn’t have a fire in my belly to get to work yesterday and, when confronted with the cold temperature and snowy, ice-encrusted piles, I seriously considered bailing out. But I didn’t, and shortly thereafter Rich, Jake, Josh and Tom arrived to boost my energy and spirits.  Here is a video taken after the piles were burned.




I recently posted a little tour of The Springs and Islands of the Hartland Marsh. Here is a perspective taken from the hilltop where John and Jim Parker built their homestead.

Below we travel over the boardwalk that leads to the John Muir Island and take a look around there.

Sunset at the marsh.



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I hope you enjoy this side trip to the Hartland Marsh.  This weekend we will be continuing our Journey Down the Scuppernong River.

The Springs and Islands of the Hartland Marsh

The Hartland Marsh, aka Ice Age Marsh, aka Ice Age Wetland, is an important wetland in the Bark River watershed. It filters runoff water from the commerce centers on its north and south and the roads and subdivisions of the Village of Hartland to the east and helps prevent flooding downstream.  It’s diverse landscapes include Oak and Hickory uplands and three islands.  And bubbling forth from the labyrinth of rock formations below, are many crystal clear springs that join the Bark River.

Please refer to the About Paul page on this site for a Google Map showing the location of the Hartland Marsh.  I love to show people around the marsh, but since we may not get a chance to meet there, here is a little tour.  We’ll start at the old Parker brothers home site on the south side of the Bark River.  This is just north of the detention pond and farm field on the west side of Cottonwood Ave.  I’ll be referring to this map; note the numbers of the springs in blue to correlate with the text (click the image to view full size).


Upon their return from World War I, John and Jim Parker built a cozy home on top of a “low finely modeled hill” surrounded by springs and mature oak trees.  John Parker carved this totem pole, which I found laying on the hill above the river completely obscured by a buckthorn thicket.  Marlin Johnson, who was instrumental in acquiring this property for the Waukesha County Land Conservancy, and Brian Engel stood the pole up.



To west down river and across the marsh we see the Mystery Island.


And passing silently by to the north is the Bark River.


The first spring marked #1 on the map above is just east of the home site near the base of a huge willow tree.  You will often catch a glimpse of a great horned owl here.

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At the base of the hill on the west side of the home site at #2 is another spring.  The outflow of this spring used to pass through the mouth of a turtle that was chiseled out of stone.  We used to keep the Bark River search and rescue canoe docked alongside the channel for easy deployment.


Crossing the bridge we encounter springs #3 and #4.

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I’ll never forget the time the bridge almost got washed down the river.  It was hanging on by one corner with the span pointing downstream.  The water was so deep that Mike Fort and I were barely able to reposition it.  Later, Pati and I laid a fresh deck of 2×6 planks on it.  I’m always amazed to consider how high the river got.

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Can you make out the “J. Parker May 2, 1948 on the concrete foundation above?  I wonder if it was John or Jim?

Crossing the river we find spring #5 on the west end of Parker Island.

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And around 2/3 of the way east on north side of the island is #6.


The Fire Chief, Augie Wilde told me there used to be a pond here where people caught Northern Pike.  They must have made a dam trapping the outflow of springs #5 and #6.


The seventh spring is just off the east side of Parker Island.


There is a beautiful oak, hickory, cherry and pine woodland on the island.

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Leaving the Parker Island, we follow the south side of the Bark River downstream to the Mystery Island. Winter is the easiest time to visit.

Here is the view along the trail connecting the Waukesha County Land Conservancy property with the Village of Hartland and Ice Age Trail Alliance properties.


There is a nice picnic site and parking lot at the Cottonwood Gazebo and this sign.

Here is the view from the sign above looking west down the loop trail. You can see the charred remains of burned buckthorn piles.

The daylight was fading as I made my way to the John Muir Island via the excellent set of boardwalks that the Ice Age Trail Alliance built.

The southwest side of Mystery Island as seen from the boardwalk leading to the John Muir Island.





There is another set of springs at #8 at which I have seen muskrats chomping on water cress in the dead of winter. And finally, right along Cottownwood Ave. at #9 is another set of springs.

I hope this little taste of the Hartland Marsh will motivate you to pay a visit and see for yourself.

Hartland Marsh Carpe Diem

It’s a new day at the Hartland Marsh and we aim to seize it! The Village of Hartland is taking a fresh look at the natural spaces within its borders and exciting new developments are in the offing. One of the first steps initiated is the removal of all the brush piles, and we are making great progress on that front.

On February 12th and 13th crews from the Village of Hartland Dept. of Public Works and the Ice Age Trail Alliance burned another 123 brush piles at the Marsh. This is a great relief for me since I’m the one responsible for making the piles! On the 12th we focused on the island north of the Bark River on the Waukesha County Land Conservancy’s property. Dave, Jake, Josh and Tom, from the Village DPW and Mike Fort, John Mesching and Glenn Ritz, from the IATA joined me. We had many distinguished visitors!

Here are a couple of videos showing the area in question.

Marlin Johnson has played in instrumental role in the evolution of the Hartland Marsh (The Bark River Chronicles, by Milton Bates, includes a good summary) into its current state and he joined us in the early afternoon. Augie Wilde, the Village Fire Chief and Dave Lamerand, the Village President also came out to show their support.

Marlin and Augie.

Glenn and Mike taking a break.

Josh and Jake had way too much fun.

Here are a couple of videos after the burn.

After we were all done I took Dave, Jake and Josh to see The Biggest Oak Tree for miles around. You have to get right up next to this beauty to really appreciate it.

Yesterday, the 13th, we were back at it; this time continuing were we left off last time on the Village land down the trail from the Cottonwood Gazebo.

It was the same cast of characters including Jack and Bob from the IATA. Dave Cox, the Village of Hartland Administrator visited and we discussed the situation at length. It is clear that the winds of change are blowing through the Village of Hartland bringing good things to the Marsh.

Lastly, we have many stacks of excellent Buckthorn firewood on the Village property shown above. Please do come and take this wood and make use of it. You can contact Mike Einweck, the Director of Public Works to get permission. You can drive your vehicle down the trail from the Cottonwood Gazebo and load the wood directly.

Tell your friends about the Hartland Marsh and let the leadership team at the Village know that you support their efforts to take care of the land!