Life on the Edge

Life on the Edge

The Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve is a crazy quilt of wetlands and uplands but the beauty of the pattern has been hidden beneath a blanket of buckthorn for years.  Last winter we cleared the perimeters of three or four distinct wetland areas in the northeast section of the preserve thus creating more open “edge” habitat — the kind that bluebirds prefer.

This winter we have been opening the woodland along the left side of the trail roughly between signpost #1 and #2 and this past Wednesday we arrived at the wetland across the trail from the marl plant ruins.  The wetland is marked in blue below and the area we cleared is shown in red.

SSTrailMapMarlFactoryWetlandsA couple inches of fresh snow had fallen the day before and temps were in the single digits when I arrived at the Hotel Spring to get some drinking water for the day.

IMG_2157The hoarfrost was spectacular.  Check out this gallery of early morning pics.

This was going to be my last day working at The Springs until Pati and I return from South Africa, and likely the last real winter day of the season, so I was really looking forward to it.  Andy Buchta, Lindsay Knudsvig and Chris Mann would be joining me and it promised to be a very productive day.  I tried to arrange the pictures with before and after images side by side for easier comparison (click any photo to open the gallery).  If you subscribe to get these posts via email, you may have noticed some inconsistencies in the way that gallery pictures are delivered: sometimes they come as medium/large images, and at other times they arrive as jumbled thumbnails.  I have reported this issue to the folks at WordPress…  You can double-click any photo embedded in the email to view it full size on the website.  Better yet, visit the website to take full advantage of the gallery feature.

We almost connected the open space on the north side of this wetland with the space we opened coming from the other direction back in January.


Some of you may know Paul Sandgren, the former Superintendent of the Kettle Moraine State Forest — Southern Unit, Lapham Peak Unit and Glacial Drumlin Trail — East, who was forced to retire last spring.

IMG_1150Yes, Paul is a giant of a man.  He is having a rough go of it with brain cancer.  I got this update from his Caring Bridge from Anne Korman, the new superintendent.

Next step
By Paul Sandgren — 1 hour ago
As of Tuesday, March 1st, Paul now resides at Angel’s Grace Hospice, Cty. P, Oconomowoc,

This was our plan all along…it was just a timing issue and what could not be handled at home any longer.

The MRI on Tuesday at the cancer center confirmed what we suspected.  Paul’s decline in the last two weeks included balance loss confirmed by the tumor growth at the back near the 4th ventricle that inhibits balance and causes nausea.  The mobility loss is from the expansion of the edges of the main tumor extending more into the motor skills area.  The two small tumors near the front also grew and it has spread into the right hemisphere…something we knew would happen eventually.

So no infusion on Tuesday.  No blood thinner shots into the belly.   We stopped the Optune system…so he has some hair fuzz coming back.  We continue with the steroid to keep down inflammation and Keppra to stave off seizures.

Angel’s Grace is beautiful.  Paul, of course, is teasing all the staff–those poor unsuspecting people!!!  Food is great.  We recommend the French toast.

Continue with thoughts and prayers. If you want to do a short visit with him there are no set hours but he may be sleeping.  Even with his eyes closed, he does carry on some conversation.  Of course you want to know the big question..how long.    Dr. Krouwer said weeks, not months.  RN Carol has been amazed at the large support system Paul has and this long length of battle time.  That is by far not what the cancer team sees.

Judy has been having breakfast and supper with Paul and adjusting at home this week.  There are so many emotions ….some are better taken with happy hour.  Oh, and speaking of that….it’s 5:00 somewhere so we are signing off for now so Judy can pack up some snacks and beverages and head back to hospice.

Smile…just imagine Paul’s hair coming back with a little red tint!!

More posts later,  Judy

Thinking of you Paul…

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Burn the Scuppernong!

Burn the Scuppernong!

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See you at Bluff Creek West on March 12!

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.

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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!