Buckthorn Resolution

After a long hiatus, The Buckthorn Man has returned, chainsaw in hand, to The Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail.  The winter of 2014-2015 was one of relentless attack on the bane of the Kettle Moraine and by the time I quit cutting there on April 1, 2015 my reservoir of aggressive energy was exhausted.  I took solace in the Alchemy At The Springs wrought with Stihl and Sweat: “Out of Darkness, into Light”.  There is light at the end of the buckthorn tunnel at The Springs and, with a little help from my friends, we will resolve the dissonance of buckthorn into the consonance of prairie, woodland and meadow.

The Buckthorn Man recorded this video on new year’s eve while standing on the west end of the buckthorn alley.

Therein I sketched out a plan for this winter’s cutting season describing burning snow covered brush piles and shining a light into the darkness of the buckthorn thicket.  A resolution is the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones — the act of answering or determining — and I think I have an excellent approach to cutting buckthorn this year.  We are going to focus on the area outlined in yellow on the map below.  This is the last upland area within the loop trail that is still covered by a buckthorn thicket and I don’t think more than a handful of people have threaded their way through it recent years.

SSTrailMapWinter2016The areas in red above mark the three locations where we cut buckthorn in the last week.  The blue circle indicates a large wetland area that is relatively open.  I am going to focus on clearing the area within the yellow circle this winter and just see how far we can get.  Each workday will consist of: picking a central location among the buckthorn to start a fire, digging a hole in the snow, cutting and collecting standing dead buckthorn, lighting a fire, and finally, feeding the fire with the surrounding freshly cut buckthorn.  This is the approach that The Friends of Lapham Peak (and many others) use and I have found it to be very efficient and effective.   So, if you are looking for something different to do on a cold winter day, watch my Upcoming Volunteer Events calendar feed on the Home page, or, better yet, subscribe to my volunteer workday events calendar via the Volunteer page, and meet me at The Springs or any of the other excellent places where I volunteer.

On new year’s eve day Andy Buchta joined me and we had a fine day cutting and burning in the topmost area marked in red on the map above.  Thanks Andy!

On Sunday, January 3, I returned to work in the area marked in red on the right on the map above.  During our recent workday with the Southeast Wisconsin Trout Unlimited group on the Scuppernong River, DNR Fisheries Biologist Ben Heussner suggested we return to the area when there was snow cover and transport brush piles over to the river to use to backfill behind the biologs we installed.  That is what The Buckthorn Man is discussing in this video.

I realized then that my original plan to burn all the brush piles there was no good, instead, we should make new piles and burn fresh buckthorn.  It’s hard to believe that a liar like The Buckthorn Man could have any friends, so I was a little surprised, and it warmed my heart, when Andy Buchta, Lindsay Knudsvig, Ben Johnson, Joe Winn and Chris Mann showed up to help me.  We had a great time, got a hell-of-a-lot of buckthorn cut, and revealed 5 or 6 large burr oaks and a cluster of 4 huge black oaks that you can see in the background of the group shot below.

Clearing buckthorn to expose an oak tree is what it’s all about for me.  We got to do it again on Tuesday, January 5 when Andy Buchta joined me in the third area marked in red on the lower left of the map above.  I scoped out the worksite and identified three spots to make fires and we got after it.

The weather reports on the nightly new have been sounding the alarm that “bitter cold” temperatures are coming — be very afraid.  Nevertheless, I did appreciate the bright sun and comfortably warm conditions on Tuesday while cutting some monster buckthorn trees.  The highlight of the day was uncovering 3 relatively young burr oaks.

I’m looking forward to joining my friends Zach, Ginny and Jared on Saturday, January 9, at Bluff Creek East to continue clearing buckthorn from around the springs that form the headwaters of the creek.


Join me at the Village of Hartland Board meeting at 7:00pm on January, 25 at 210 Cottonwood Ave. in Hartland, where we will be discussing the The Village of Hartland Comprehensive Development Plan: 2035 (See the Hartland Marsh project page for more details).

Dave and Jeff hard at work at the Hartland Marsh

Dave and Jeff hard at work at the Hartland Marsh

See you at The Creek!

Fighting the Good Fight

Buckthorn is resilient, stubborn and persistent — kind of like The Buckthorn Man!

I’ve been watching the buckthorn stumps resprouting at many of the locations where we cut last Winter, and the Winter before for that matter.  I always try to get some poison on the stumps right away — I prefer to kill them dead immediately — if I can.  Some professionals prefer to ignore the freshly cut stumps and instead, plan time in their schedules in the late Spring or early Summer, when the cut stumps have bushed out with fresh growth, to hit them with poison in the form of a foliar spray.

There are challenges to applying poison to cut stumps in the dead of Winter.  You’ve got to have some kind of anti-freeze in your mix to keep your spray bottles working, or, keep them near a fire when you are not using them.  And, depending on the snow conditions, you are likely to miss a lot of the smaller stumps even if you take your time.  Nevertheless, I think poisoning the freshly cut stump is the best way to kill the buckthorn and the method that results in the least collateral damage i.e., when foliar spraying and over-spray lands on native plants near the buckthorn resprouts.  I welcome your comments and opinions on the pros and cons of these two approaches (or the neglected aspect if you have one.)

Well, that being said, there was a lot of stump resprouting in areas that we cut last Winter.  In some cases, the sawyers simply chose not to spray the stumps, despite pleading to do so from The Buckthorn Man, and in other cases, the stumps were missed, or the poison was applied but failed to do it’s job.  When I returned to work at The Springs last September, I prioritized the areas where there were a lot of buckthorn resprouts and recut and poisoned the stumps.  There were also many fresh buckthorn seedlings to cut as well as black locust.  Here is a map of the areas I focused on this Fall that will be discussed in the galleries that follow:

SSTrailMapReSproutsCutThis area is down the main trail heading counter clockwise on your left.

From there I moved to the North end of the loop trail.  I think recutting these stumps is a must to facilitate a successful prescribed burn.

This area is just east of the marl pit factory ruins.

Along the cut-off trail.

On the North loop

Believe it or not, I had doubts about posting anymore of my work online and I didn’t bother to take before and after pictures on many occasions.

See you at The Springs!