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!

Bluff Creek West

Thanks again for coming to visit me at The Springs!

The Sand Hill Cranes are back and I’m wondering if we have opened up enough new habitat for a second family to take up residence in the area.  It has been an exceptional winter season for cutting buckthorn and, thanks to the Kettle Moraine Natural History Association funding the efforts of Chris Mann and the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards, LLC, we have opened up many acres of wetlands.

Prime real estate is available for ducks as well and on April 2, Brian Glenzinski, former DNR Wildlife Biologist now working with Ducks Unlimited, will be joining me to tour The Spings. You might recall that Brian is the artist who carved The Acorn given out by the Oak Savanna Alliance for their Land Steward of the Year award.  We plan to list with Brian and he was very positive about building some new “upscale” duck homes in the neighborhood.

By the way, don’t miss the Oak Savanna Alliance workshop on May 16th.  Contact Eric Tarman-Ramcheck (TR Natural Enterprises, LLC) for details and be sure to let him know who you think deserves The Acorn this time.

The highlight of the last two weeks was the morning I spent with the Southern Kettle Moraine SNA Volunteers at the Bluff Creek West State Natural Area, just south and east of Whitewater, WI.

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For sanity’s sake though, I’m going to recollect the events of the past few weeks in chronological order.

After weeks of cramming to prepare my defense against the band of thieves and robbers known as government, for my “day in court”, I needed a day in the woods with my chainsaw to settle my nerves.  I returned to the marl factory on March 12th to attack the last stand of buckthorn on the wedge of land between the Tibby Line railroad tracks (signpost #2) and Marl Pit Bridge (signpost #4).  Below, the area as seen from signpost #4.

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Now, imagine you just stepped forward to the treeline shown above and looked right, straight ahead and left.

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We carved a hole in the middle of this buckthorn thicket and now was the time to finish the perimeter.  I had a fine day cutting and stopped early to help my friend Scott, and his buddy Mr. Schnuddles, collect some firewood.

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The view from signpost #4.

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I love to take a walk around The Springs at the end of a hard day’s work!

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Hmmmm, why is that monster parked in the DNR lot above the Hotel Springs?

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The bubbler at the Emerald Springs was especially active.

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Ben, dude, we need to build a bridge here man!

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On Saturday, March 14th I joined Zach Kastern, Ginny Coburn, Jared Urban, and a great crew of SNA volunteers clearing buckthorn from the transition zone between the calcareous fen and the oak uplands at Bluff Creek West.  The area we worked is at the base of the forested ridge shown in the upper right hand corner of the Bluff Creek Prescribed Burn plan shown below.

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Zach and Jared introduced the agenda for the day…

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… and we got after it!

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We made tremendous progress thanks to volunteers like this team from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Ecology Club.

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I got a chance to talk to Zach Kastern about the project.

I really enjoy these events and you might like it too!

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I spent the afternoon at The Springs finishing the last patch of buckthorn near the marl factory that I described above.

Ben, dude, we gotta fix this boardwalk!

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Sunset at the Sand Prairie.

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On St. Patrick’s day I found evidence that leprecons had visited the springs the night before!

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I had NO IDEA they could operate heavy equipment!

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Abe Wittenwyler, heavy equipment operator with the DNR, wasn’t looking for a pot of gold under the Hotel Spring bridge; he had come to excavate the riverbed to address the hydrology issues that Ben Heussner identified as a result of the elevation survey the DNR conducted last year.  I called Ben for an update, left a message, and got to work cutting buckthorn in the wetlands just down the trail — to the left — from the main parking lot on Hwy ZZ.  Here is how it looked before I got started.

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When I broke for lunch, I got Ben’s message and headed over to the Hotel Springs to meet him.  We walked along the river and reviewed the results of our efforts last year while Ben waited for Michelle Hase, DNR Water Regulations and Zoning Engineer, to review the project.

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Ben Heussner, Steve Gospodarek and Abe Wittenwyler.IMG_5318

Michelle recommended they distribute the “spoils” excavated from the river slightly differently than Ben had in mind.   They regraded the slope on the east side of the river, sowed a crop of annual grass, and then covered the area with straw.  Ben was genuinely proud of the bridge he built there back in 1992 and he’s looking forward to building the replacement this summer.  Me? I’m going to watch the river make a head cut.

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I returned to my work site and cut buckthorn, like a mischievious leprecon, for the rest of the day.

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And later visited my favorite haunts.

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Yesterday I returned to the area and continued to open up dramatic views into, and out of, the very interior of the Scuppernong River Nature Preserve.  I completed clearing the area shown below to totally open the views into the interior wetlands.

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Then I moved much closer to the parking lot to take on this wall of buckthorn.

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It was a flawless day and I cut down a hell of a lot of buckthorn.  Views into the interior wetlands are now revealed.

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And, looking back towards the parking lot, that wall of buckthorn is not so formidable anymore.

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I’m going to cut as much buckthorn as I can before the garlic mustard and other weeds start to emerge.

I got my first call of the season from DNR Burn Boss, Don Dane.  Let’s get it on!

See you at The Springs!

p.s. I did not prevail against the agents of the state in court on Friday the 13th.  It ain’t over yet!

The Ottawa Lake Fen Scientific Area

Perhaps it was a reaction to my post about the Bluff Creek Springs, where I lamented the inability of the DNR, given the funding available to them, to adequately manage the state-owned lands under their care, that prompted Jared Urban, the coordinator of the State Natural Areas volunteers, to send me the Wisconsin’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program 2014 Annual Report.  The report explains some of the complex issues the DNR faces, as they try to manage 673 State Natural Areas encompassing over 373,000 acres with a budget under $5,000,000.  I have only respect for the hard working, dedicated staff of the Natural Heritage Conservation Program.

Philosophically, I’m in a bind.  Government is literally and etymologically: mind-control.  It is a religion based on the dogmatic belief, programmatically instilled in us from birth, that it is OK, even possible, for people to delegate rights that they do not have to an association of people that they call government.  People calling themselves “Government” assert rights they do not have, that no human being has e.g., torture, taxation etc., and they take away rights we all inherently possess e.g., prohibition, licensing etc.  So long as the vast majority of people continue to believe it is OK to do business and force your services on people at the point of a gun — if you call yourself Government — there will be no awakening of consciousness and immoral acts done in our name will continue.

Whether or not I think or believe any government: federal, state or local, is legitimate, counts for nothing when it comes to the reality of the challenges humanity faces if we choose to accept responsibility for preserving and protecting the flora and fauna on the planet.  Right now, entities we call government, control vast and diverse lands encompassing the treasures of the natural world and they are NOT prioritizing the effort to take care of them.  The amount of money spent on the Natural Heritage Conservation Program in 2014 is obscenely trivial compared to the amount required, or the amount spent on the military, industrial, security complex (to keep us safe, of course!)

I’m choosing to cooperate with government by volunteering my time and energy to help take care of the land it controls, but I’m sorely conflicted:

“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.”

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

In the past month I have been focusing, with the help of the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards, on the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA.

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Chris Mann, and his team from the KMLS, have made a huge difference, reminiscent of the way Ben Johnson super-charged our efforts at The Springs this past year.  Thanks again to Ron Kurowski for hiring Chris and to the Kettle Moraine Natural History Association for funding his team.

As we progressed clearing the buckthorn from the tamarack grove and along the north and east sides of the fen, I imagined a trail all the way around the fen connecting with the boat launch on the southwest side of Ottawa Lake.  I asked Anne Korman, the Assistant Superintendent of the Kettle Moraine State Forest — Southern Unit, about it and she entertained the idea.  I got an email the next day from Eric Tarman-Ramcheck, a long-time land steward recently hired by the DNR, containing The Ottawa Lake Fen Scientific Area Report.  This fascinating document, from 1975, provides a window into the management strategy of the DNR at that time, and includes this very interesting map of the fen.

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The dashed (——) lines could easily be mistaken for a trail system but they actually demarcate the different plant community zones.  Imagine what it was like back in 1975 when the buckthorn was not an issue and the bird watching tower and canoe accessible boardwalk were in place.  40 years of hands-off management “to maintain area in wild condition”, allowed the degradation of the land by invasive species to progress.  It has taken the effort of one who “loves his servitude”, to The Creator that is, to reverse that trend.

This past Monday, December 21, Chris Mann and Austin Avellone helped me finish clearing the buckthorn from the east side of the fen, just north of the walk-in campsite #334.  Here is how it looked before we got started.

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The rain held off until the afternoon and then the gentle drizzle did not damper our spirits.  We had a very productive day and I returned the next morning to document the results.

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I made a date with Chris and company to meet me at The Springs, just down the trail a bit towards signpost #1, to burn some brush piles we made in late 2013 and cut the nearby buckthorn orchard.  Here is what we faced as the sun tried to peek through and a strong breeze from the southwest help dry out the wood.

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Jake Michaels joined Chris, Austin and myself and we had a field day!

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As I took the video below, two deer crept up behind me, blending in almost imperceptibly with the landscape.

I am amazed and, dare I say, overjoyed, by the progress being made since Chris and the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards joined the fray!

See you at The Springs!

Kettle Moraine Land Stewards Coming To The Springs!

In what could be a landmark in the history of the restoration of the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve, the Kettle Moraine Natural History Association is funding Chris Mann and the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards to come and work at The Springs.  Chris graduated with a Biology degree from the University of Stevens Point in 2007 and started the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards in 2008.  Since then, he has left his mark on the land in the service of the: Wisconsin DNR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Friends of Lapham Peak, Kettle Moraine Land Trust, Muskego Lakes Conservancy, and many private land owners. Chris can do it all from designing an ecologically sound restoration, to clearing invasive species, executing prescribed burns and replenishing the native flora.

It’s always a pleasure to see Ron Kurowski at The Springs because he loves the place so much.  Time is spiritual currency and last Friday afternoon Ron paid me a visit and spent his time celebrating the work we have accomplished at The Springs, and imagining what we could do with more help.  The next thing I know, I’m walking on the Sand Prairie with Chris Mann discussing the work we want him to do.  It is going to be a great partnership and I’m looking forward to learning a lot from Chris.

I had a fantastic, three day run, at The Springs this past week and the weather could not have been any sweeter.  My immediate goal is to cut the buckthorn, and other woody brush, that has sprung up in all of the areas of the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve in which we have done major buckthorn clearing operations.  The cut brush and stems should be nicely dried by the time the DNR does their next prescribed burn, hopefully in the Spring of 2015.  On Thursday I continued where I left off last time on the cut-off trail.  Here is what it looked like before I got started (the first picture is looking west at the ruins of an old building foundation, and the second is looking southeast towards the Scuppernong River.)

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I am very careful to avoid cutting oak seedlings and, native flowers and shrubs.

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Here are the same two perspectives shown above after 8 tankfuls of gas in the brush cutter.

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When I arrived on the sand prairie to watch the sunset, there were two women, obviously having a deep conversation, sitting on the bench that Ben built.  I respected their privacy and caught the last rays from the Marl Pit Bridge.

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Friday was another gorgeous, Fall, day and I strapped on my brush cutter to work along the Buckthorn Alley trail, just north of where I had been the day before.

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I find this work very relaxing and conducive to having thoughts; one of which struck me out of the blue was the relationship between the Greek Triviumtrivium_shield

… and the Shield of the Trinity.

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I first heard about this three years ago from Richard Grove, who asked the famous educator (at 26:00 in), John Taylor Gatto, about it at the start of the outstanding, 5 hour, interview he recorded with him.  For some reason, the power and implications of the idea — that the Christian Trinity was a metaphor for the Greek Trivium — took that long to sink in.

Jesus, The Son, is Grammar.  He is knowledge: who, what where, when.  He is the way, the truth and the life.  The only way to know The Father, is through The Son i.e., the only way to come to understand something is through knowledge. We gain knowledge via our five senses; only if we have eyes to see and ears to hear that is.

The Father understands all: God only knows why.  There are no contradictions between The Father and The Son just as there are no contradictions allowed when you apply logic to grammar.

Who doesn’t want to be filled with the wisdom of The Holy Spirit and speak in tongues persuading all who hear?  Don’t worry if you’re not a skilled rhetorician; The Holy Spirit knows how.

Comparing the two shields above:

  • Grammar (knowledge) is/est Consciousness: The Son (knowledge) is God
  • Logic (understanding) is/est Consciousness: The Father (understanding) is God
  • Rhetoric (wisdom) is/est Consciousness: The Holy Spirit (wisdom) is God

Truth is at the heart of consciousness.  Truth is what has actually occurred: the reality that is manifested moment by moment.  Yes, I see now: Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric united in truth is consciousness, and The Son, The Father and The Holy Spirit united are God.  Hmmmm… Richard Grove’s first question to John Taylor Gatto was:  “Is a metaphor a lie, or is it something else?”

á  Ω

Whoa there Buckthorn Man!  You better stick to your brush cutting.

Yeah… where was I?

The day flew by…

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… and soon I was joined by a beaming Ron Kurowski.  Thanks for your support and encouragement Ron!

Ottawa Lake sunset.

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The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.  I was brush cutting under the canopy just west of signpost #13 on Saturday and I had that special feeling I love of knowing I was in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing.

Before doing my thing…

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After doing my thing.

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There are wonderful, late afternoon, views to the west from the cut-off trail.  Check out the north side of the Scuppernong River under a canopy of massive white oaks on this trail that was once lost, but now is found.

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Sand Prairie sunset.

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Decking Out The Springs

Ben Johnson and I have been on a real nature binge at The Springs: intoxicated with fragrant breezes, bubbling spring water, clear blue skies, colorful wild flowers, singing birds, liberating temperatures, and, most of all, satisfying work.  We positively indulged in a nature bender!

Ben’s three day bacchanalia began last Friday, when he raised two boardwalks near the trailhead to ecstatic new levels.  The 8′, 4×6″ runners, that supported the deck boards disappeared into the ground long ago and were blocking the water, microbes and invertebrates that move through the soil.

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Deck #2

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The affair lasted all day, and when it was over, he was drunk with success.

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Deck #2

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I joined Ben on Saturday, modestly intending to cut buckthorn sprouts and seedlings near signpost #1 and completely unaware that he was riding the Bull.  I reminded him that our recent deck repair efforts were motivated by Big Jim Davee, and he just gazed a bit glassy eyed down the trail and said: “I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time.”  We briefly discussed the next boardwalk on our priority list, and, assuming he was simply going to lift up the 8′ sections and reset them on level logs, I left Ben to his mission and proceeded to cut brush near signpost #1.

Deck #3, comprised of 6, 8′ sections, is close to the east edge of the Buckthorn Alley and it rocked and rolled as you passed over.  There are wetlands on either side and, like decks 1 and 2 above, the runners were totally submerged in the soil.

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A closer view of the gap shown above.

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The far end of the boardwalk.

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Just before noon, I noticed that my iPhone had gone totally mad and I was not able to use it.  I was desperate (yah, a slave to my fondle slab) to keep in touch with Pati, who had just arrived in Uruguay to work with children for three weeks, and I had to let her know that I was incommunicado.  I raced over to deck #3 to borrow Ben’s phone and found him hard at work.

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He had surveyed the situation and boldly, or perhaps, bulldly, decided to raise the deck in dramatic fashion.  Back in my days at “The Quiet Company” we called this ‘setting a stretch goal’ and Ben delivered.  By the end of the day he was halfway done.

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I wondered why I had spent the day cutting brush; I should have been helping Ben.  I promised to help him finish the next day.

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We met early Sunday morning and I talked Ben into bringing his new Stihl 261 C-M chainsaw to the site.  Thanks to the Kettle Moraine Natural History Association for purchasing this versatile tool for Ben!

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We decided to harvest logs to raise the last 24′ of the deck from a huge red oak tree that had fallen across the trail, and Ben made quick work of it with his new chainsaw.  Another day reveling with mother nature; we couldn’t get enough!

The deck turned out great and I was really impressed with Ben’s effort!

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That was an intense, extended, weekend for Mr. Johnson!

Below is an example of the brush clearing I have been doing.  Ever since DNR Trail Boss, Don Dane, said they were planning to burn The Springs in the spring of 2015, I’ve been thinking about laying more fuel down on the ground.  I could be wrong, but I’m hoping that the cut buckthorn will dry out by next spring and contribute to a hotter ground fire, which in turn will scorch the cut tips of the buckthorn stems and kill them.

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The same views after brush cutting.

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I cut brush all day Monday and it was very relaxing.

This view is from above the Hidden Spring.

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Sunset on the deck above the Indian Springs.

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See you at The Springs!

The Ruby Spring

Melanie’s brow furrowed focusing energy from her third eye as she studied the weather beaten old sign she found in a closet at the DNR maintenance shop.  It was done in the style of the signs at the Scuppernong Springs that she replaced last year with her volunteer trail crew and it read: The Ruby Spring.  “Hmmmm…” she thought, “I’ll bet The Buckthorn Man knows where The Ruby Spring is.”

There are stories behind each of the springs you’ll find along the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail and I invite you to share yours on our new Facebook Page.   You may have grown up with The Springs like Pete Nielsen or Steve Brasch, or you’ve been coming for a long time, like John and Sue, or Dick and Shirley, or Terry and Lisa.  Share your favorite memories and pictures of The Springs on our Facebook timeline.

“Ruby Spring”, “Ruby Spring”, I thought “…is this in the Land of OZ?”  Melanie and I made a date to meet with Ron Kurowski, at the Kettle Moraine Natural History Association‘s annual meeting, to learn the story of this spring.  The amphitheater at Forest Headquarters was alive with many excited faces and voices when I arrived.

Ben Johnson and Zach Kastern.

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Ron Kurowski, retired DNR naturalist, and Chris Mann, owner of Kettle Moraine Land Stewards LLC.

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My spiritual father, Mike Fort.

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Don Reed, Chief Biologist with the SEWRPC, making opening remarks.

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Ron Kurowski and Paul Sandgren, Superintendent of the Kettle Moraine State Forest — Southern Unit drawing lucky numbers.

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Matt Zine, a conservation biologist and longtime leader of the State Natural Areas crew in southern Wisconsin, took us for a walk down memory lane, or rather, through an oak savannah landscape, as he explained what God and Man have wrought to put us in the state we are today, and why it is important to understand and take action.   Thanks for the great presentation Matt!

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It was a pleasure to meet Dan Carter, a member of SEWRC’s environmental planning staff after Matt’s presentation.  Ben Johnson joined us and that led to the parking lot, where Dan identified the seed/spore heads of a fern that Ben and Karen found in the wet prairie just west of the Indian Spring.  Just then, DNR trail boss, Don Dane, arrived to take me into the inner sanctum of the maintenance facilities to pick up two huge seed bags: one with a dry mesic prairie mix, and the other with a wet prairie mix.  Thanks again to Don Dane and Amanda Prange for organizing and leading the seed gathering volunteer workdays!

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After Don left, Ben and I wondered if we needed to wet the seed or mix it with anything prior to sowing.  I couldn’t reach Don, who was already engaged on a project with the Ice Age Trail Alliance, so we headed back to the amphitheater to get some expert advice.  I invited Melanie to join us and we found Ron busy in a back office.  He explained that we could just sow the seed as is, and we talked about lightly raking afterwards, and then Ron shared the secret of The Ruby Spring.

After THE PONDS OF THE SCUPPERNONG were drained in the early nineties, the DNR began the slow process of rehabilitating the Scuppernong River stream bed, which had been submerged under 3-5 feet of water for over 100 years and was thus thoroughly silted in with marl.  It was quickly apparent that they needed to name the springs to facilitate planning, meeting and, bringing them to life in the mind’s eye.

In the middle of the valley left when the upper pond was drained, they found the largest complex of springs on the property.  A red algae made its home there giving the waters a distinct ruby color, hence the name: The Ruby Spring.  As the restoration work progressed and the environment changed, the red algae disappeared and the bubbling spring pools located at the end of the observation deck took on an emerald hue, and were rechristened The Emerald Springs.  The names evoke ruby slippers and emerald cities for me.

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Ben and I headed straight for the sand prairie, aka, the Indian Campground, and began sowing the dry mesic prairie seed at the intersection of the main trail with the spur trail that leads down to the Indian Spring.  This is an area where we dug out a lot of spotted knapweed last year and the soil is bare.

The plant below has heretofore escaped my identification skills.  I suspected it was an invasive plant, but which one?  Ben suggested we send a picture to Dan Carter.

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Dan responded quickly that it was motherwort and advised us not to worry too much about it because it will give way to native plants as we introduce them or they re-emerge.  It’s not fair to characterize this plant as a weed, which, according to Ralph Waldo Emerson, is: “A plant whose virtues have never been discovered”, given its long history of use as an herb.

We had enough seed to cover a huge area of the sand prairie and it will be exciting to watch the results develop.

Upland/Dry seeds:
Prairie dropseed
Sand dropseed
Rough Blazingstar
Wild rose
Boneset
Prairie smoke

Wet/Prairie mix:
Prairie blazingstar
Brown-eyed susans
Bottle gentian
Blue valarian
Swamp sunflower
Cord grass
Little bluestem
Big bluestem
Compass plant
Prairie dock
Indian plantain

After our labors were done, we went for a walk intending to explore the trail south along the marl pit.  Along the way we met Jill Bedford, who works with the Tall Pines Conservancy, and switched gears to give her the grand tour of The Springs.  Jill is involved in writing grants to conserve and restore land and it was exciting to hear of all the developments in her world.  We got up to the sand prairie just in time to watch the sunset.

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My weekend at The Springs was only half over and I returned on Sunday to sow the wet prairie seeds in the many, many burn rings left from our work in the Buckthorn Alley and the Cut-off Trail.

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After the last seeds were sown, I returned to the cabin at Ottawa Lake, where Dick Jenks and I cut buckthorn last week, to “mop up” with my brush cutter.

I tried using a little sponge to daub poison on the little buckthorn stubs and it worked pretty well; a lot less waste than if I would have used a sprayer.  The view from the deck is really nice.

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See you at The Springs!

 

 

 

The Buckthorn Barrow

Don’t miss the Kettle Moraine Natural History Association’s annual meeting at 10:30am on Saturday, April 5, 2014 at the Kettle Moraine State Forest-Southern Unit Headquarters, located 3 miles west of Eagle on Hwy 59.  We couldn’t do the work we do at The Springs without the support of the KMNHA!  Come and see what this great organization is all about.

Conservation Biologist Matthew Zine, Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation (formerly the Bureau of Endangered Resources), will present a program on “State Natural Areas in the Kettle Moraine”.  The program will cover the 12 State Natural Areas found throughout the area of the Southern Kettle Moraine and describe their special qualities and their management concerns.

This program is open to all members and their guests (If anyone asks, tell them The Buckthorn Man sent you.)  Membership applications are available at the State Forest Headquarters.

A short business meeting will follow the program.

Refreshments will be served and door prizes awarded.

The brush pile burning season at The Springs is finally over and, unfortunately, Matt Wilhelm, a volunteer with the North Prairie Fire Department, who also works for the DNR in the Kettle Moraine State Forest–Southern Unit, had to put out the last fire.  I was wandering around the sand prairie watching the sun go down, and Marty driving his skid steer loader north, home bound on Hwy 67, when I saw the lights of his 4-wheeler heading to the site where Dick Jenks, Rich Csavoy and l burned piles earlier in the day.

It was a calm night and there was no chance of any of the fires spreading, but the glowing embers from a few of the fires were visible from Hwy 67 and someone called it in.  That prompted a call from Paul Sandgren, the Superintendent of the Kettle Moraine State Forest–Southern Unit, and he explained that the DNR was reviewing their prescribed burning procedures and that no more burning should be done until that review is complete.  That’s OK with me, the conditions this past Sunday were a little dicey and we stopped lighting piles early because of our safety concerns.  Thanks to Matt for completing the mop up!

We are looking for a wheelbarrow donation!  If you have one, new or used, we’d like to leave it at The Springs near the buckthorn firewood piles that Dick Jenks is preparing.

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I want to paint The Buckthorn Barrow on the sides and hopefully campers from Ottawa Lake will utilize it to haul the buckthorn firewood to their vehicles.  Thanks Dick!

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Sunday was a busy day at The Springs and I met many new and old friends.  I was on my way to clear a large red oak that had fallen across the trail near the Emerald Springs (thanks to John Hrobar for notifying me!) when I met Lester Crisman.  Check out his photos, including this beautiful shot of the river just upstream from the gaging station bridge.

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I was soon joined by Dick and Rich and we commenced to prepping, lighting and tending brush piles along the north east rim of the loop trail between the old barn site and signpost #13.

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Ben Johnson, and his wife Karen, stopped to visit on their tour of all the birdhouses to collect fresh GPS points.  Ben was not satisfied with the accuracy of the data he got the first time around.  Let us know if you spot any birds moving in!

As we broke for lunch, I happened to look up and see a line of flames spreading east into the woods from one of the brush piles.  We put the creeping fires out quickly and focused on tending the burning piles from that point on.

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As I was mopping up, I was greeted by the friendly faces of Mark Duerwachter and his daughter Karri.  Mark is the son of Robert Duerwachter, the author of THE PONDS OF THE SCUPPERNONG and Karri helped Robert format and edit the book.  Mark agreed to help me persuade Robert to meet me at The Springs for a video interview!

As I was taking my equipment back to my truck along the trail near the old barn site, I saw someone standing in the river.  Who was that?  I loaded my gear and drove over to the main parking lot on Hwy ZZ just in time to meet Scott C., the trout fisherman.  That was the first time I saw anyone fishing in the river!

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After chatting with Scott, I headed down the trail for my evening stroll.

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When I got into the the upper river valley, I could hear the sound of Marty’s skid steer loader and I hastened to the south end of the trail hoping to talk with him about his plans to repair the damage done by his heavy machine.  Marty, with lots of help from Carl Baumann, has been harvesting dead black locust trees for firewood.

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I missed him and was surprised to see him from the sand prairie driving his machine slowly north on Hwy 67 to his home some 3 miles away.  Marty called me last night and assured me that as soon as the frost is out of the ground and things dry up a bit, he will return to clean up the slash and repair the skid steer scars.

As I was watching the sun go down, I heard the call of a sand hill crane behind me to the east and turned to watch in amazement as two birds glided overhead not more than 20 feet above me.  I watched hundreds of cranes lazily floating north in wave after wave all afternoon.  It is remarkable to contrast the apparent effort exerted by cranes versus that of geese.

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See you at The Springs!

Kettle Moraine Natural History Association

Well, it’s that time of year.  No, not when you start to go crazy anticipating spring weather, it’s Tax Time.  What?  You haven’t started working on your taxes yet?  Pati and I sat down today to collect the numbers and I was reminded of how critical the support of the Kettle Moraine Natural History Association (KMNHA is on Facebook) is to the restoration work we are doing at The Springs.  Oh, and the brand new pair of steel-toed muck boots I wore yesterday working in the Buckthorn Alley were also a great reminder as well.

The Kettle Moraine Natural History Association is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping preserve the features of outstanding interest in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. The Kettle Moraine Natural History Association generates financial support through gift shop sales, donations, and membership dues. It has provided matching funds for Stewardship grants.  (Kettle Moraine State Forest Southern Unit)

Speaking of grants, last April the KMNHA played an instrumental role in the DNR winning a $75,000 NAWCA grant to continue the restoration of the Scuppernong River Habitat Area, the largest wet prairie east of the Mississippi.

Let me introduce you to the KMNHA board:

The KMNHA is a great organization and their, always entertaining and informative, annual meeting is coming up soon.  Reach out to Ron Kurowski at:
Kettle Moraine Natural History Association
S91 W39091 Hwy 59
Eagle, WI 53119
or, visit the Kettle Moraine State Forest Southern Unit headquarters to pick up an application, and join the KMNHA and you’ll receive their excellent quarterly publication The Scuppernong Journal.  Here’s a sample to wet your appetite.
The Scuppernong Journal
With all the rain we had this past Thursday, I was glad to have on my new pair of muck boots yesterday; the slush was just an inch or two below the surface of the snow.  I’ll try to contain my excitement as I describe the work on the last stretch of the Buckthorn Alley (well, the last stretch of the south side of the trail that is.)  The first thing I noticed was that Andy Buchta had piled all of the brush that Ben, Zach and I cut last tuesday.
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I really appreciate the way Andy just sees what needs to be done and does it.  That enabled me to get right to work on the trail.
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The blustery weather continued all day and blew the clouds away.
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I cut a swath through the woods to open views to the hills on the south side of the Scuppernong River.

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I couldn’t wait to drop my gear off at the truck and take a walk on the cut-off trail to see the effects of the days work from another perspective.  In the center of pictures below you can faintly make out the wetland adjoining the Buckthorn Alley trail, where I spent the day and where we have been focused for the last couple months.
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Here are a few views from my favorite spots along the loop trail.
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Another glorious sunset.
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See you at The Springs!