The Garden of Weed’in

I always wondered what it would be like to capsize a canoe in the middle of a windswept lake and I recently got to experience it on Lake Nokomis with my good friend, Todd Nelson.  I saved my tevas and backpack but lost my Canon G15 camera.  Todd saved his guitar but lost his funky hat and iPhone.  The thing I liked about it was that neither of us got upset in any way; we made it to shore, emptied the canoe and finished our voyage.  It was almost a pleasure to deal with the adversity, together, in a calm way.

ToddNelsonPerformingAlwaysOpenCarwash

Todd playing his song Sleeping Man in his inimitable style

I’ve been super busy this last month helping my friend Scott Finch break down his recording studio and move to North Carolina…

Velvet Sky Studio http://scottfinch.com/

Velvet Sky Studio http://scottfinch.com/

… and doing two art fairs with my friend Chris Belleau, but there is some good news and progress to share from The Buckthorn Man.

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Chris Belleau at the Morning Glory Art Fair in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Summer is the season to attack weeds and in years past I focused on pulling spotted knapweed on the sand prairie.  That is until August of 2014, when I introduced both flower (Larinus minutus) and root (Clyphocleonus achates) weevils to munch on the knapweed.  This is their third year feasting at the sand prairie and they are really getting the job done!  Now, when are they going to find an effective biocontrol for garlic mustard?

I’ve been concentrating on other weeds this summer and feeling sanguine about the prospect of significantly reducing the exotic, invasive plants, at The Springs and the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA.  One of the weeds I’ve been working on is narrow-leaved cattail — in cases where it is dominating springs or blocking the main channel down the river.  There are many springs on the east/right side of the observation deck at the Emerald Spring that were totally covered in cattails.  Here are before and after views.

IMG_2295IMG_2305IMG_2308And just last week I dug out cattails and reed canary grass from the main river channel all the way from the Hotel Springs upstream to the Hatching House Springs (map here).  I’ve been sprucing up the river in anticipation of meeting Tracy Hames, executive director of the Wisconsin Wetlands Association, and his entire staff, for a tour of the wetlands in the Scuppernong River Nature Preserve.  We had an excellent visit a few weeks ago exploring the wetlands that we opened up on the north end of the loop trail, and wading upstream from the gaging station bridge all the way to the Hotel Springs.  Tracy suggested we cut the narrow-leaved cattails as low as possible prior to the tentatively scheduled fall prescribed burn (hopefully DNR burn boss, Don Dane, can pull this off).  Not only will this put more dried fuel on the ground it will increase the chances that the burned tips of the cattails will be submerged under water next spring, which would significantly diminish their regrowth.  Tracy also pointed out that purple loosestrife was popping up all over the place.  I explained that biocontrol agents for the loosestrife had been released at The Springs more than 5 years ago and that they had made a dramatic impact on the southwest border of the nature preserve.  We speculated that the loosestrife beetles would find the newly emerging plants, but I’m probably going to pull all the isolated purple loosestrife I can find before they set seed — to be on the safe side.

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It was a real pleasure to share The Springs with such an enthusiastic and supportive group!

After the meeting with Tracy and the WWA staff, I visited the Indian Springs to pull creeping bentgrass that was spreading like crazy and setting loads of seed.  Here is a gallery of before and after images.

I took a couple days off from pulling and collecting seed heads from canada thistle, bull thistle, sow thistle, white sweet clover and yellow sweet clover at The Springs to hang out with Lindsay Knudsvig at the Hardscrabble Prairie State Natural Area, near Hazel Green, Wisconsin.  Lindsay is currently working in nearby Dubuque, Iowa and he has adopted the Hardscrabble Prairie SNA as his own.  We need more people like Lindsay who care about the land, see what needs to be done, and simply do it.

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I managed to squeeze in 5 days of camping at My Shangri-La (campsite #335 at Ottawa Lake), and took advantage of the proximity to get some work done at the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA.  I had not been there since May and I was amazed at how overgrown the trail from the campsite north around the fen had become.  Numerous box elder and black locust trees that we girdled a few years back had fallen across the trail and black locust seedlings and weeds of every stripe had made the trail nearly impassable.  Jared Urban, conservation biologist with the DNR and the main force behind the State Natural Areas volunteer program, was planning to visit so I spent two days clearing the trail and pulling weeds.

IMG_2408We explored the east shoreline of Ottawa Lake and took the freshly cleared trail around the north side of the fen, celebrating the progress that has been made.  Jared pointed out a few weeds like Japanese hedgeparsley and teasel that were just starting to make inroads and, needless to say, I pulled all I could find.   There is still a lot more weed pulling and weed seed collecting to do at both the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA and at the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail.  I started on the queen anne’s lace near the Hotel Springs and Jared tells me I’m way ahead of the DNR on this one.

IMG_2424IMG_2425Well, this has been a rambling recap of the adventures of The Buckthorn Man in the Garden of Weed’in.  You know, ever since he tasted the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and learned the difference between right and wrong, he has been a missionary: shining the light of truth into the darkness; pulling out the weeds to reveal the magnificence of The Creator.

In 2013 I ran into the DNR water quality team doing a fish count on the Scuppernong River and it was fascinating.  Then in 2014 I coincidentally ran into them again and documented it on my old website here.  I wasn’t able to join them in 2015 or 2016, but I got the latest counts from 2016.

Scuppernong River Fish Counts
Fish 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Brook Trout 121 213 92 66 46 113 27
Brook Stickleback 59 25 11 1 4 93 94
Central Mudminnow 69 72 15 5 58 69 2
Fantail Darter 2 10 8 9 0 36 58
Grass Pickerel 0 1 1 1 10 1 1
Green Sunfish 0 1 0 4 0 0 0
Johnny Darter 0 2 1 0 0 2 7
Largemouth Bass 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
Mottled Sculpin 240 169 211 86 107 212 168
Northern Pike 0 0 0 3 0 0 0

The DNR always counts fish in the same stretch of river between the gaging station bridge and the Hotel Springs and I always see 6-8 brook trout hanging out just below the bridge that is upstream of the Hotel Springs.  It is possible that all of the stream remediation work we have been doing has prompted a natural redistribution of the brook trout upstream of their old haunts.  The DNR has stocked brown trout and lately, brook trout, in the Scuppernong River, so that is another factor to consider.

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Here are some parting shots…

See you at The Springs!

5 thoughts on “The Garden of Weed’in

  1. I recently had a two day camping trip at Ottawa and hit the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail a couple times. When I get a chance, I’ll email you a few of the photos I took while there. I saw a group of decent sized fish in the river while there. I don’t really know anything about fish, perhaps these were trout of some kind. Of all the years visiting the trail, it was a sight I’ve never seen before and I could only imagine the work that has been done in and around the river may be a contributing factor.

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  2. Your continued and extensive efforts to save these beautiful areas is amazing and appreciated. Sorry you lost your camera. Glad you’re ok.

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  3. Hi Paul, I finally had some time to go back and read some of this post and check out the pictures! It’s always inspiring to read from someone who is making a real difference in our world. Thanks! As for the camera – darn! Here’s my story… paddle boarding with a friend… the wind picked up suddenly… I frantically reach up to clutch my .99 foam visor, but knock my $300 prescription sunglasses into the water instead – never to be seen again! Such is life… glad you survived what could have been a ‘nightmare’. Take care.

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  4. Pingback: Weeding 9/11 | I Am The Buckthorn Man

  5. Pingback: The Fen at Scuppernong Springs | I Am The Buckthorn Man

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