I’ve had my hands full with spotted knapweed on the sand prairie, so I was curious when The Buckthorn Man said that his old hunting buddy, Elmer Fudd, might have a solution.
I was pretty skeptical, as you can image: Elmer knows a thing or two about wabbits, and wascals, it’s true, but knapweed?
Sometimes I can barely understanding Elmer, so when he described Cyphocleonus achates as “The Woot of all Weevil”, I had to scratch my head. Then, he challenged me to: “wook it up on the intewnet!” I brought up startpage, found Weed Busters BioControl, and before you could say “What’s Up Doc?”, I had my weevils.
Dick Jenks joined me as we wet weevil wun wild on the sand pwaiwie.
These little guys have a grip!
I’ve had a three day run at The Springs — beginning this past Sunday morning — every day spraying clopyralid on the black locust seedlings and resprouts that have emerged in the areas where Steve Tabat and his crew did major league black locust harvesting this past spring.
Ben Johnson joined me yesterday afternoon and helped me finish the area on the south end of the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve property. When I told The Buckthorn Man, he said: “dude, I thought you were only going to spray stumps!” “Yeah, I know”, I told him, but I thought these seriously degraded areas were far enough away from the river that it would be ok.
When I told Lindsay Knudsvig that my hands were sore and blistered from pulling and digging spotted knapweed, he suggested I focus on pulling off the flowering seed heads, and I think that is the way to go for the rest of the season. The flower and root weevils we’ve released could take 3-4 years to increase and spread across the whole prairie, and I’m going to do the best I can stop the production of new knapweed seed in the meantime. Sunday I worked on the northwest side of the sand prairie…
… and on Monday, I worked on the northeast side (before and after pics below); I’m leaving the knapweed on the far south end of the prairie to the weevils.
Later, I got in some relaxing time at the marl pit bridge…
I don’t remember the words, but I’ll never forget the way I felt when Todd sang his song “Friendberry Jam” to me. Just imagine how sweet and delicious it was. We’ve been friends — going on 35 years — since we roomed together in that basement closet on Humboldt Avenue, just a bit north of Brady Street, in Milwaukee’s hip “East Side”.
We lived for music, and it seemed so simple and obvious at the time that, if you did what you loved, you would be forever satisfied. It’s true. I know it, and feel it every time I come to The Springs.
My old friend Todd Nelson, who works as a finish carpenter in San Francisco, was passing through town and I jumped at the chance to enlist him to help me rebuild a deck near the Scuppernong Spring. He was willing and able and, after I picked him up from the airport and he got settled at our place, we headed out to The Springs. Ben Johnson promised to join us after work and I was feeling pretty confident that we could get the job done.
Over the years the end of this deck has slouched into the springs and it’s pretty slippery when wet.
I was an eager apprentice as Todd taught me the tricks of the trade and how to think about solutions to problems like this. After an hour of musing and discussing, we agreed on the plan and, while I cut the 18′ oak beams we recently harvested from the river into quarters, Todd performed the deconstruction.
Ben arrived as Todd made the finishing touches refitting the top section of the boardwalk, and he sparked us into high gear. A coworker just gave Ben a laser level, but watching him excavate and build the support platforms was enough to convince me that he can do pretty well without one. I was amazed that none of the 4 platforms he constructed needed any tweaking after it was laid.
We may have to put some railings on this deck!
Thanks Todd and Ben for your extraordinary efforts and thanks especially to Todd, for spreading us with Friendberry Jam.
We relocated our vehicles at the main parking lot on Hwy ZZ, preparatory to bathing at the marl pit bridge, and I saw our good friend, Andy Buchta, piling the last of the buckthorn I recently cut.
We had a refreshing, and relatively bug-free, time watching the sun go down.
I’ve been busy this past week, and on Monday I spent the morning cleaning up the debris from our recent excavation of the oak beams from the riverbed. Below you can make out the edge of the one beam we left in the river, creating a nice bend where the dead straight flume had run.
The edge of the flume was built over a substantial stone base and I dug out an opening to allow the water to carve its thalweg around the bend.
I pulled spotted knapweed all afternoon and that darn stuff is causing me to break out in nasty red blotches or bumps that make me scratch like a hound dog. The bugs were driving me crazy as well, so I escaped to the shores of Ottawa Lake to watch the sun go down.
On Wednesday my spotted knapweed weevils arrived! Because of the super fast response I got from the DNR, my permit was ready in time for Kandace, at Weedbusters, to send me the flower weevils (the root weevils will be available in a few weeks). Look at those hungry critters!
Dinner is served!
Yes, yes, be fruitful and multiply!
Long-time followers of this blog know that I’m a big fan of audiobooks and I can’t recommend this superbly rendered version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin highly enough. Here, take a listen as George and Eliza contemplate the meaning of freedom and liberty as the Canadian shore looms ahead.
For thousands of years the Scuppernong River ran free, cutting its path across the bed of the old Glacial Lake Scuppernong per the laws of nature.
In the 1870s Talbot Dousman established a trout hatchery at the headwaters of the river at the Scuppernong Springs, temporarily subjecting the river to the laws of man. The trout farmers engineered the river with multiple levees, dams and flumes eventually leaving the headwaters submerged under two ponds.
I’ve been getting intimately familiar with the river, you might say, “getting in bed” with it, literally running my fingers through the muck searching for the original riverbed. As I removed the planks that formed the flumes, I discovered that the river is bisected by 10 huge 6×8″ beams 16′ long.
While the river was under the ponds, a lot of silt and marl migrated into the riverbed and, as we can see above, was trapped behind the beams. This past Wednesday, Ben Johnson and I removed the first of these beams, the one shown above that points to the left, and we also removed more planks from the flume and other wood structures where the flumes began.
Ben and I are very excited about giving mother nature a free hand to restore the natural riverbed in this area by removing the remaining 9 beams. Free the Scuppernong River!
Pati and I took a short vacation last week up at the Chippewa Flowage to relax and do some paddling and biking. The area is beautiful and we looked forward to exploring it. Pati found the excellent documentary below about how the flowage was created, and it was disturbing to see yet another case of the native tribes being steam rolled by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. As we paddled different areas of the flowage, I kept thinking of how beautiful it must have been before the dam was put in, and the native way of life in the Chippewa River Valley was destroyed forever.
I was eager to get back to The Springs and on Monday, July 14, I spent the morning cutting weeds like Bouncing Bet (shown below), Nodding Thistle and Canadian Fleabane on the sand prairie.
In the afternoon I got into the river and removed more of the planking that formed the flumes just below the Scuppernong Spring (see pictures above), and I discovered the 10, huge beams, bisecting the river.
Happily exhausted, I watched the sun set and imagined the river set free.
On Wednesday, I “mowed” the trail from the area around the hotel spring, north up to signpost #13, and then, following the cut-off trail, to the marl pits. I cut a lot of thistle that was about to go to seed and tons of white clover near the marl pits with my brush cutter, which is a lot more handy than a mower for stepping off the trail to get the nearby weeds.
In the afternoon, I cleaned up the area where I removed planks from the river. Some of the oak planks are in relatively good shape and might make interesting components in some artwork. I plan to revisit the stacks and reclaim some choice pieces. You are welcome to do the same. I asked Ben to bring his cordless reciprocating saw thinking we could cut notches in the beams to create gaps for the river to flow through. That was a bad idea and Ben quickly concluded that we needed to dig the beams out. It took the two of us over an hour to remove the beam shown in the picture above, but I think the process will go faster in the future now that we know what we are up against.
Yesterday I returned to The Springs to cut some buckthorn and pull spotted knapweed and found that Andy Buchta had completed piling all the brush near the parking lot on Hwy ZZ. Thanks Andy!
I wanted to finish a strip of buckthorn that separated an area we opened up last Fall from the area near the parking lot that we cleared this Spring shown above.
I had to deal with some technical difficulties with my stump sprayer and chainsaw, its been a while since I cut buckthorn, but I got it done.
I spent the afternoon pulling knapweed on the sand prairie. Although the knapweed is starting to flower, there is a window of opportunity to continue pulling it before it sets seed. Assuming I won’t get it all pulled, I’ll use the brush cutter to mow the remainder (except for the areas dedicated to introducing weevils.) The problem is that its impossible to cut the knapweed without also cutting the surrounding native plants, so I’m trying to pull as much as possible. The good news is that I sent in my permit to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, which I got from Weed Busters, and I should be receiving my Cyphocleonus Achates knapweed root weevils soon. We’ll get the Larinus Minutus Obtusis flower weevils next year (that is how they recommend doing it).
Steve (third from the left below), and his Ecology class from UW Madison, stopped on their tour to say hello as I was wrestling with the knapweed. Did you take a drink of the marvelous spring water?
It’s buggy as hell now at The Springs and my bug net is constantly at the ready. So be prepared if you come out…