Wisconsin DNR Appreciates Volunteers

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

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

Leo Tolstoy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

The Fall scenery at The Springs is spectacular!








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







See you at The Springs!

Sand Prairie Gardening

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


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


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

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

And after…



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


Another Scuppernong Sunset






See you at The Springs!

The Buckthorn Tunnel

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

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

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

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

At the end of the day…

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

And here is how it looked afterwards.

Then I cut the west side of the trail.

And after…

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

Gentian near the boardwalk leading to the Emerald Spring


Ottawa Lake site #335 Sunset reprise.



See you at The Springs!

Scuppernong Springs Refuge

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

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


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


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

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

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

Later, I took a walk around the trail and captured these images of the lower meadow


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






See you at The Springs!

Scuppernong Summer

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


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


The upper meadows


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


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

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


Another Scuppernong Sunset









See you at The Springs!

Traditional Gardening

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


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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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


Ron Kurowski supplied these maps to Robert.



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

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

A Scuppernong Summer Sunset.







See you at The Springs!

Mowing the Sand Prairie

My thoughts about the Sand Prairie are finally coming together into a restoration strategy.  Slowly mowing the weeds with my brush cutter affords ample time to carefully observe and ponder both the forest (prairie) and the trees (plants).  I see them both.

The weeds are obvious to me now; I recognize them from my childhood, playing at new home construction sites, and by their names: fleabane, knapweed, ragweed etc…. Jason Dare helped me connect the micro and macro perspectives when we talked last Saturday evening and I feel a lot more confident that I’m going in the right direction. DNR Trail Boss, Don Dane, is going to meet me at The Springs on Tuesday, August 6th, at 8:00am (where westbound Hwy ZZ meets Hwy 67 in a “T”) to walk the trails, identify invasive species threats and prioritize the efforts. We’ll also be integrating the results of Jason’s invasive species survey; a very timely commission by the DNR. You are welcome to join us and learn about the restoration!

I enjoyed a fine day at The Springs yesterday, spraying black locust saplings in the morning and then brush cutting weeds on the sand prairie. I would consider using a brush mower next year, but for now, I prefer the finer control of a weed whacker, as it gives me the opportunity to work slowly, identify what I’m seeing, and avoid cutting high quality native plants as much as possible.

The Wisconsin DNR Sand Prairie website includes this summary:

Sand prairie is a dry native grassland community dominated by grasses such as little bluestem, J junegrass, panic grasses, and poverty-oat grass. Common herbaceous associates are sand cress, field sage-wort, western ragweed, several sedges (e.g., Carex muhlenbergii, Cyperus filiculmis, and Cyperus schweinitzii), flowering spurge, frostweed, round-headed bush-clover, western sunflower, false-heather, long-bearded hawkweed, stiff goldenrod, horsebalm, and spiderwort. Drought-adapted fungi, lichens, and mosses are significant components of sand prairie communities.

One of the next steps is going to be to see how many of these plants are currently established at the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail’s sand prairie.  Then we’ll need to consider how we want to reintroduce the plants that are missing and if other native plants that are not listed above can also be included.  I’m looking forward to working with the new Naturalist for the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest once that person is hired.  We are a long way from the restoration ideals of John J. Ewel’s “Restoration is the ultimate test of ecological theory”, but I think we are headed in the right direction.

See you at The Springs!

The Poison Paradigm

In a broadly defined sense a paradigm is : a philosophical or theoretical framework of any kind. I’ve been contemplating John J. Ewel’s definition of “restoration” all week trying to resolve the cognitive dissonance in my head regarding the use of poison to wage a “war on weeds”. We know how the “war on drugs” and the “war on poverty” turned out. Can we poison our way out of this invasive species mess? Albert Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

My metaphor only works if you view invasive species as a kind of environmental poison. The work of The Creator was “altered”, by the White European invasive species, and now we confront the reality. Do we simply let nature run its course and allow a new equilibrium amongst the invasive and native plants to emerge? Or, do we intervene, as if in some kind of archaic revival, and try to “restore” an ideal?

Any gardener worth his/her salt has walked and knows every square foot of their vegetative domain and I aim to garden the Sand Prairie. I intervened at the square foot level the past two days deciding with my brush cutter emphatically that, NO, I won’t let nature run its course; these weeds must be stopped! My work at The Springs is like a castle made of sand so long as people believe we can address the invasive species issue with poison and assume that others, i.e. the government, or some crazed Don Quixote volunteer, is handling it. Nope, unless we have a raising of consciousness, and people prioritize the land and natural law over profits and war, we’ll be poisoning invasive plants forever.

I had the pleasure of meeting two consciousness raising educators and their group of 18 aspiring photographers at The Springs this past Tuesday morning. Listen to John Hallagan, 4rth grade teacher at Magee Elementary School and Pete “Laser” Nielsen, Biology teacher at Kettle Moraine High School, describe their awareness altering adventure.

I invite John and his students to post their Scuppernong Springs slide show right here, and I sincerely hope that I can persuade Pete to allow me to post his pictures of the Scuppernong Springs Hotel here as well.

My agenda on both Tuesday and Wednesday, July 23-24 was the same i.e., spray buckthorn and other invasive plants along the cut-off trail in the morning, and then brush cut weeds on the sand prairie.

Good Morning Springs!




I thoroughly enjoyed the day!


Check out this Blandings turtle catching some dinner below the marl pit bridge.

The north breezes began to wain as evening fell and the skeeters were thick around my bug net as I watched the sun go down at Ottawa Lake.



Wednesday was almost a carbon copy of Tuesday and I managed to cover almost the entire sand prairie whacking weeds as well as cherry, oak, hickory, buckthorn, honeysuckle and sumac brush. This is not what Ewel would call a “sustainable” restoration but, nevertheless, I do aspire to the sand prairie ideal.


I’m sorry to say that I hit and killed my first deer on the way home Wednesday night. I swear to god, I remarked to myself proudly, as I was getting in my truck to drive home, that I had never hit a deer!


See you at The Springs!

Bluff Creek West

If you want to explore some hidden treasures in Wisconsin consider participating in the State Natural Areas Volunteer Program. Ginny Coburn is organizing volunteers on a regular basis to work with DNR Conservation Biologist and Wildlife Technician, Jared Urban, at uniquely beautiful locations in the South Kettle Moraine Forest just north and east of Whitewater. Back in May we girdled aspen at the Lone Tree Bluff Scenic Overlook and I visited the springs that originate Bluff Creek.

Jared is a careful phenologist, optimizing every volunteer hour to the max. Last Saturday, July 20, our mission, dictated by dynamic biological phenomena, took us to the Bluff Creek “west” (of Hwy P that is) State Natural Area to a secluded prairie where we cut white sweet-clover and wild parsnip. I knew this was going to be good as I rode on the back of the 4-wheeler Jared was driving, holding down brush cutters and other gear, as we left the paved road behind us. I think the black line coming north off of Hi-Lo Road approximates where we entered the prairie and the black dots show where we cut weeds.


The view from on top the ATV.

Jared explained how the DNR has been cutting brush and burning in this prairie for years and the results of their tender loving care were evident in the diversity of plants in this high quality prairie. Zach, Ginny, Jared, Diane and I had a wonderful morning doing what we love!




I’m becoming a bit of a phenologist myself, or maybe its just hard not to notice the spotted knapweed and buckthorn resprouts/seedlings that are growing at phenomenal rates at The Springs. I had a few hours to spare before the Waukesha/Milwaukee chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance was to have their summer gathering, and I headed over to Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail. There were two trees down across the cut-off trail, and another down across the river just upstream from the gaging station. Sometimes trees grow faster than they can handle, and that appeared to be the case here. After cutting them out of the way, I started spraying weeds and brush seedlings on the cut-off trail. In many places both sides of the trail are literally carpets of new buckthorn and prickly ash seedlings. This is a perfect time to spray these plants as they are still small and there will be minimal collateral damage.

This week I’m planning to cut spotted knapweed on the Sand Prairie and continue spraying buckthorn along the cut-off trail.

See you at The Springs!

Summertime at The Springs

Summer has arrived buzzing with life and heat. Whew, it was hot yesterday as I pulled spotted knapweed at the sand prairie (see white shaded area in the map below). At least there was some breeze and beautiful, billowing, clouds to entertain me and it seemed like a better option than piling brush amongst the mosquitoes and poison ivy in the woods. This is a perfect time to get after knapweed, it’s the nail with its pink head sticking up the highest. The art is to get a diversity of native plants to return and fill the voids left after we pull weeds; this is where knowledgeable volunteers could really make a contribution. I’m envisioning the sand prairie in all its natural glory!


I started the day with a little walk around and saw that the Transline I sprayed on the young black locust trees at the south end of the loop trail was very effective.


The Scuppernong Spring


Michigan Lilies at the Indian Spring


The Scuppernong Prairie


There are three projects that would really improve the nature trail: build a bridge over the ditch where the cut-off trail joins the main loop trail at the marl pit factory, rebuild the observation deck at the Indian Spring, and fix the trail junction where the spur to the Indian Spring joins the mail loop trail. Check out this video to see what I mean.

I started the day spraying Milestone on a variety of weeds and buckthorn seedlings on the south end of the loop trail. Then I headed to the sand prairie to pull spotted knapweed.




There is an unofficial, well established, trail that leads down the sand prairie from sign post #6 towards the channel that carries the outflow of the “Indian” Springs. At the bottom of the hill the trail was overgrown with wild raspberry, nettle and other plants, making it nearly impassable, so I brush cut this to complete a little loop trail over to the Indian Spring.

I returned to the Scuppernong Spring to cool off, get out of the sun and meditate and found a team of engineers hard at work creating a dam to hold back the flow. They succeeded in raising the water level 3-4″ and I couldn’t resist taking a dip! One of those righteous dudes left an excellent “Alaska Denali Park” cap behind and can claim it by contacting me.


Amanda, Melanie and their crew of volunteers have been hard at work completing he installation of new sign posts #10, 11 and 12.


The view down river from the old barn site


Looking upstream from the stream gaging station


And a few parting shots from the marl pit bridge



See you at The Springs!