The Buckthorn Man Comes Home

I’ve been on a 16 year crusade, and now, finally, The Buckthorn Man is coming home.  I never did find the holy grail amongst the buckthorn, and while I was gone, my home was invaded by mold.  Pati suspected it long ago, but I had a tin ear — perhaps caused by the whining of the chainsaw — and I did not recognize the impact this could be having on our health, especially Pati’s lungs.  I was under the spell of invasive species; I had become an Invader Crusader.

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

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We also picked up a top-of-the-line dehumidifier and plan to do a prescribed burn in the basement next spring (I’ve heard that mold cannot tolerate fire.)

So many things have changed since I left.  Why, I just heard there is a new “secret” trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership and I’m eager to find out more about it.  And I’ve heard talk that something called U.N. Agenda 21 could be influencing the transfer of public lands to private ownership.

Yes, yes, it looks like it’s time to stop all this crusading and spend some time taking care of business at home and in my local community; there’s more to life than buckthorn and garlic mustard.

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

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

The “head cut” is forming slowly.

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

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Jared with Kitten Tails.

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

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

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and Ottawa Lake.

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

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I got a chance to give a brief talk.

Pati celebrated with me and we toured the Olbrich Botanical Gardens after the event.  She is always up for adventure and jumped at my suggestion to take a short drive west to spend the rest of the day at the Pleasant Valley Conservancy SNA.  Kathie and Tom Brock have created something very special.

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I’ll be working on the house for at least another month and enjoying some of Pati’s home cook’in, or rather, bak’in.

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See you at The Springs!

It’s time to go for a walk

Pati and I met Dr. Jim Meeker, and his wife Joan Elias, when their neighbors, Greg Legault and Janette Christie (Legault), introduced us on the memorably challenging, private, cross country ski trails they had woven across their adjoining properties in Gurnee, Wisconsin.  We began renting Greg’s cozy cabin back in the early 90’s and I remember how starstruck Pati was when we met Jim, who already had a reputation for the manoomin, aka wild-rice, research he had done in the Bad River’s Kakagon Sloughs.

Jim and Greg at the South Point Banyan Tree house

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One of Jim’s best pictures of the Kakagon Sloughs

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Jim and Joan befriended us and we stayed in touch over the years.   Pati and I were truly saddened when we heard that Jim had “walked on” (see page 10 in this issue of Mazina’igan, or expand the article shown below.)

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I felt lucky and blessed to be in Gurnee on March 21 for the Memorial Service and Celebration of Jim’s Life (Pati had a business commitment in South Africa.)   Here are a couple of testimonials:

Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission is grateful for Dr. Meeker’s many contributions as a former staff member, scientist, teacher and mentor, but mostly as a very gentle, approachable human-being, filled with kindness and concern for all living creatures, but especially those plant-beings!

or, this from the Northland College Magazine (see page 8)

A professor of botany and natural resources, Jim shared his passion for the outdoors with students in the classroom, field and laboratory.  Jim fostered an inter-disciplinary approach to solving problems and used an experiential pedagogy before those approaches were being promoted within higher education.

Jim loved to share what he learned from nature: “It’s time to go for a walk!”

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One of Jim and Joan’s favorite places in the neighborhood: Potato Falls.
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That is the upper falls above cascading over multiple tiers, and below we see the lower falls.

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I got a real treat when I met a team of kayakers who had just run the upper falls!
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Check out Jonathan Sisley’s run down the upper falls, which begins around 1:00 into this video (thanks for sharing this Jonathan!)

Back at The Springs, there was buckthorn to cut and pile.  Andy Buchta stacked all the brush I laid down near the marl factory.

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I continued clearing the areas on both sides of the trail a couple hundred yards from the parking lot on Hwy ZZ, in what used to be, The Buckthorn Alley.

Tuesday I focused on the left side of the trail…

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…and cut many a buckthorn, though it’s hard to tell (below, same three views after.)

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On Thursday I continued cutting on both the right and left sides of the trail (below, before cutting, looking right, then left.)

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Below, the same three views after a 6 tanks of gas in the chain saw.

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Ben Johnson joined me after work to help rake out and rehabilitate the burn rings/scars from the last brush pile burning season.  The skunk cabbage is emerging.

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Believe it or not I was back at it on Saturday.  I’m trying to cut as much buckthorn as I can while it’s still dormant.  Andy is following close behind piling the brush.  Thanks Andy!

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Ben has been helping Anne Korman, Assistant Superintendent KMSF – Southern Unit, work on a plan to make the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail handicap accessible from the parking lot to the Hotel Spring and we had a date to review project.  The removal of the bridge by the Hotel Spring has opened up some new perspectives on how to route the trail.  Anne, and her boss Paul Sandgren, scoped out the situation and they are seriously considering building the new bridge over the river at the old sawmill site at signpost #12.  The new trail would follow the berm that formed the lower pond.

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This would be a beautiful spot to cross the river, with the added bonus that the east bank of the old bridge site, which has some very unique springs and flora, would be allowed to return to a natural state.  The DNR Water Regulations and Zoning engineers will have a say in the matter for sure.

While Ben moved boardwalks and cleared a trail along the berm, I continued cutting buckthorn on the left side of the trail, where I left off last time.

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That is how it looked before I got started.  Andy joined me and piled tons of buckthorn while I cut.

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I can’t wait to see how these wetlands respond in the absence of the buckthorn cover!

Ben and I had an excellent adventure exploring the northeast corner of the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve and then we took a tour.

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I’m excited to share that the Natural Resources Foundation has added the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail to their 2015 Field Trip Schedule.

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See you at The Springs!

p.s. Thanks to Mark Miner for monitoring bluebird houses!