Famous Springs of the Kettle Moraine

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

Kettle Moraine Natural History Association

S91 W39091 Hwy 59

Eagle, WI 53119

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

TheScuppernongJournal75thAnniversarySpecialTheScuppernongJournal75thAnniversarySpecial_0001TheScuppernongJournal75thAnniversarySpecial_0002TheScuppernongJournal75thAnniversarySpecial_0003See you at The Springs!

The Fish Hatchery Springs

It was a heart warming week at The Springs both physically and emotionally.  Old Man Winter loosened his grip…

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and, instead, I felt again the embrace of my loving soul mate, family and friends.

I might be his biggest fan, so the pleasure was all mine this past Monday when I helped Scott Finch harvest some black locust firewood for the cozy living room stove over his recording studio in Milwaukee’s hip, Riverwest, neighborhood.

I took a leisurely walk around the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail before Scott arrived,

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and was happy to take the call from my sister Cathy, “Heh, will you give us a tour of The Springs?”   We made a date for Tuesday and I finished my walk contemplating the fun we would have.

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While Scott, his buddy Mr. Snoodles, and I, loaded our trucks with firewood, Chris, Brian, Austin and Phil, from the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards, continued cutting and burning on the north side of the Buckthorn Alley.  Nice work!

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On Tuesday I was very pleased to be joined on the trail by 5 of my 9 brothers and sisters (Cathy’s husband Tom, a 35+ year veteran of the U.S. Forest Service was there too, and took the picture of us shown below.)  I deflected their compliments by explaining that working out at The Springs is the only thing that is keeping me sane.  It’s the only time I get to win.  With my trusty chainsaw, and a razor sharp chain, I win the argument with Mr. Buckthorn every time.   I know — it’s pathetic.

I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did!  Below from left to right: Joe, Margret, Paul, Pete, Liz (in blue) and Cathy.

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On Wednesday, I took care of business at home cleaning the house in preparation for the return of my loving mate, Pati Holman, from her second trip to Uruguay.  Meanwhile, Chris, Austin and Phil broke through the buckthorn thicket on the north side of the Buckthorn Alley to reach some massive red oaks.

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Thursday, I returned to get some licks in myself, but first I had a sign to put up.

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I mistakenly named this previously anonymous haven for birds and bees The Hatching House Springs, after Lindsay Knudsvig uncovered them by some intense brush, cattail and phragmites clearing.  When I saw this map that Ron Kurowski preserved, I realized that the Hatching House had actually been located much closer to the Hotel Springs.

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Shortly thereafter, Jim Davee and Melaine Kapinos positioned the new signpost #9 in the correct location.

So… what to call this unique set of springs in the heart of the valley?

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Ron suggested the Fish Hatchery Springs and Anne and James from the Kettle Moraine State Forest — Southern Unit soon had the sign ready.  I brought out a 20lb bag of charcoal, and was even prepared to use my torch, but, like I said, Old Man Winter had loosened his grip, and I had no problem digging a hole for the post.

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I took a minute to secure the 4′ deck we positioned where the Fish Hatchery Springs join the river, by toe nailing the deck onto its support beams.

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By 10:00am I was repositioned north of the old barn site to work on the last stretch of buckthorn along Hwy 67 in the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve property.

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There was a nice brush pile left over from the last time we worked in this area and, as soon as it was lit, I commenced to cutting buckthorn.

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I think we’ll be able to finish this area with one more workday.

My sweetheart Pati came home on Friday and we took a very nice walk on the Ice Age Trail in the Loew Lake segment.  I must say, I feel pretty lucky to have had a heart warming week like that in the dead of winter.

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?”

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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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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!

 

 

 

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!