The Scuppernong River was beginning to remind me of a shaggy dog in desperate need of a trim. Watercress blanketed the river from bank to bank and bed to billowing flowers overhead. Way back in 2012Lindsay and I began pulling watercress from the river — we actually thought we were getting rid of it. Now I think that would be impossible unless one was willing to apply a huge amount of herbicide.
I pull watercress whenever it reaches the point were it begins to dam the river, which causes the flow to slow way down and the temperature to go up in what is called “thermal pollution”. I’ve been cautioned by DNR Fisheries Biologist Ben Heussner that the watercress provides cover for the native brook trout and habitat for the macro invertebrates they feed on, so, I’m not trying to get it all out; I just want to see and hear the river flowing freely.
The Scuppernong River upstream of the Hotel Spring is full of muck and marl that settled there during the 120 years the headwaters were impounded forming the upper and lower ponds.
During the trout farming days back in the 1870’s, three additional embankments were utilized to divide the river upstream of the Emerald Spring. When the DNR drained the ponds in the early 90’s, they did not dig deep enough at each of the openings created in the embankments and the natural flow of the river remained impeded, trapping muck and marl upstream. Beginning back in March of 2015, the DNR, along with help from the Southeast Wisconsin Trout Unlimited group and The Buckthorn Man, has begun rectifying this problem by excavating rock, soil and building materials from 4 of the old embankments.
The only thing still holding up the free flow of the river was watercress. Watercress loves the mucky river bottom and banks and it grows prolifically at The Springs. I am hoping now, with the embankments excavated and the watercress pulled back, or out, that we’ll finally start to see the Scuppernong River flowing like it used to; and taking some of that muck and marl downstream with it.
I started pulling watercress from the Scuppernong Spring downstream to the first bridge during my recent camping adventure at Ottawa Lake.
Over the last three weeks I have pulled watercress at the Fish Hatchery Springs, Indian Springs, Emerald Springs and the entire stretch of river upstream from there.
The Buckthorn Man in action at the Fish Hatchery Springs
Transplants of roundleaf monkeyflower
There are some very nice bubblers here!
The Emerald Spring, the jewel of The Springs, was almost completely covered by watercress. I still have some work to do at this location…
This area is just downstream from the Emerald Spring, and this view is looking upstream
Looking downstream from there
And directly in front of that vantage point.
The observation deck at the Emerald Spring.
Looking downstream from there.
Next three views are just below the observation deck
The area just below the observation deck after pulling watercress
Here is that area just downstream from the Emerald Spring
Then I worked on the stretch of river between the Emerald Spring and the Second Bridge , which is upstream from there (check the map above).
Looking downstream from the second bridge
Same views on a different day
And here is after the watercress pull
And finally, just yesterday, I finished the last stretch between the first and second bridges. There is a gurgling rapids just below the first bridge now!
View downstream from the first bridge
Looking back upstream from the second bridge
Ok, maybe it’s just a riffle
Looking back upstream from the second bridge
I got in a little garlic mustard pulling, and reed canary grass mowing, at The Springs.
Reed Canary Grass
JB “The Explorer”s birdhouse is occupied!
All of the new birdhouses have greatly increased the sparrow population, which has greatly reduced the mosquitoes!
Indian Campground view
Solstice sunset at Ottawa Lake
And a full moon to boot!
I’ve been busy at the Hartland Marsh as well and was happy to have some help from my friend Mark Mamerow. We had intended to do our “river rat” thing, and clear downed trees from the Bark River, but the water was too high so we pulled garlic mustard instead.
Someone had mowed the driveway to the Waukesha County Land Conservancy property
I put my ear to the ground and heard the faint rumble of a mower. My buddy Leo works in the shop for the Village of Hartland DPW and and he is a righteous dude. Many times he plowed the driveway for me so I could get into the property in the winter.
Leo’s handiwork around the detention pond. The cornfield is just north, to the left of the picture.
The top of a huge oak had fallen across the spur trail that connects the WCLC property with the Village and IAT lands to the west.
There is a very nice spring on the west end of the IAT property at the Hartland Marsh
What a coincidence. The farmer arrived to spray roundup on his corn field just after Mark left.
I’m going to watch the weeds very closely and witness the GMO miracle first hand.
Those two sandhill cranes across the field are bugging out!
Once you know a thing, there is no unknowing it. Unfortunately for me, I became aware of the negative impact of garlic mustard, and around this time of year I feel compelled to try to stop it’s spread. I wish I had more time to garden in our woods and wetlands!
After all these years pulling and cutting garlic mustard, you’d think I might be an expert on it, but I just learned from my good friend, Lindsay Knudsvig, that the seeds of garlic mustard form in what are called siliques.
This is empowering information as I was previously focused only on the flowering garlic mustard i.e., preventing the flowers from maturing by cutting or pulling the plants. Now, my garlic mustard fighting season will continue so long as I can locate and collect the siliques.
I recently spent three days pulling and mowing at the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA. Check out this gallery of garlic mustard horrors.
A wall of garlic mustard at the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA
I’m not using any herbicide on the garlic mustard and actually seeing very positive results just cutting and pulling. Hand pulling is definitely the best way to go when the garlic mustard is nestled in among native plants. I pulled the garlic mustard from the area around the Scuppernong Spring.
In the areas where it is carpeting the ground, like shown above, mowing is great option. Either way, eradicating invasive plants is a wonderful way to spend time in nature. Check out these morels I stumbled upon while pulling garlic mustard at the Hartland Marsh.
Morels are magical to me.
No, I did not pick any.
I hope someone else will find delight in them as I did.
Last Saturday I was joined by Arrowhead High School Instructor Greg Bisbee, and a group of young people from the school, along with Marsha and Jeff from The Friends of the Hartland Marsh, for a garlic mustard pulling party. We worked along the hillside at the Cottonwood Gazebo and north, across the village corn field, on the Waukesha County Land Conservancy property.
There is a long way to go in the battle against garlic mustard!
I spent a wonderful week camping at site #335, my favorite spot at the Ottawa Lake Campground. Thanks to Jim, Bob and Mark for stopping by to play some guitar and enjoy the campfire.
Views of the fen
The “Big Tree” at the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA
The boardwalk raising project we did last fall is looking good.
The Scuppernong River
Garlic mustard free zone
We have been pulling spotted knapweed and cutting out brush from the lupine fields on the west slope of the sand prairie for 3-4 years now. Nature is responding and in a few years the whole hillside will be covered with lupine!
I’m a point and shoot photographer and hope someday to learn how to use my camera. Until then…
Time was running out at The Marsh. Since I punted back in 2011, the Buckthorn’s offense had rallied back to take the lead and we were stymied by their impenetrable defense. Ice Age Trail Alliance coach, Kevin Thusius, got the call from the booth: offensive coordinator, Village Administrator Dave Cox, said the only hope to save The Buckthorn Man’s efforts was a “Hail Mary” pass. Kevin looked to the bench for the DNR’s special teams players Don Dane and Mike Spaight, who hadn’t seen action in the game since last March.
Don, the wily veteran, called timeout. He suggested we rent an ASV machine, mount a DNR forestry mower head on it, and then throw it to Mike, waiting upland in the end zone.
As the last seconds ticked off the clock, I snapped the ball to Don and blocked the rushing buckthorn, holding them off just long enough for him to get the pass in the air. Mike, surrounded by a thorny thicket, caught the ball and mowed the defenders down as he cleared a path into the end zone.
Here is a look at the field before the big play. Note that you can open the gallery and see the pictures full-size by clicking on any of them, or, you can hover your mouse over a picture to read the narrative in the description.
Here are a couple examples of how thick the buckthorn was becoming.
“Coach” Kevin, Marlin and Rachel
A dense thicket of buckthorn on either side of the trail.
DNR Special Teams Players Mike Spaight and Don Dane
Conditions were perfect for forestry mowing.
Mike and Don scoping out the terrain
Finishing prep on the mowing head
Mike gets after it!
I was working at the Scuppernong Springs this past Monday when Don called to say that he had lined up the ASV machine and they would be ready to start the next day. We had just enough funds left in the kitty, contributed by the Village of Hartland, and we had made the decision that its best use would be forestry mowing; that was a good call, as you can see by the amazing and outstanding work that Don and Mike accomplished. But our dance in the end zone will be merely a gaudy display if we don’t get more funding to treat the cut stubs. We are debating whether to do a basal bark treatment before they get covered with snow, Don’s recommendation, or, wait until the cut stumps bush out in the late spring to treat them with foliar herbicide spray. In either case, we don’t have any money right now. We’ll get flagged with a penalty, and the touchdown will be called back, if we don’t come up with something. Here is a map showing the area they mowed in blue, followed by an “after” gallery displaying the results.
The view from the trailhead
Recall the picture of Kevin, Marlin and Rachel above, this is what the background looks like now.
Looking back east at the south side of the Village land.
The pictures were taken walking from east to west
The amount of buckthorn they cut and the area they covered is phenomenal
This is the second biggest oak at The Marsh and it was surrounded by a wall of 8′ tall buckthorn
This is the far western extent of the mowed area
Turning back and walking east now
The view of the Village land just to the west of the detention pond
The preservation, restoration and protection of the primary environmental corridor in the Village of Hartland is too vitally important to leave in the hands of ad hoc groups of volunteers, especially when considering that the Village is one of the primary land owners in the corridor.
Yup, this is coming from the same pen that wrote a post called Freedom that includes this gem:
Our Political “law” is nothing but the arbitrary WILL OF MEN and WOMEN. Government exists to direct and control our minds; the “State” is a figment of our collective imaginations.
On one hand, I’m challenging the legitimacy of the government’s claim of “authority”, and on the other, I’m asking the Village of Hartland — the powers that be, who “speak the law (exert jurisdiction)”, in these parts — to step up and take leadership. You can rightly question the sanity of The Buckthorn Man: is he schizophrenic, or just pragmatic?
I’m still trying to sort out the meaning of Village Board President David Lamerand’s response to my presentation and I have confidence that the Village will act in good faith to address the concerns I have raised. You can listen to an audio of my presentation to the Village Board on January 25, here, beginning at the 5:55 mark. Thanks to the Village Clerk, Darlene Igl, for providing the audio.
It has been an exceptionally benign winter so far, perfect in every way for cutting and burning buckthorn in the forest. On Thursday, January 28, I was joined at the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA by Andy Buchta and Ben Johnson. We had a flawless day continuing to open up the views to Ottawa Lake from Hwy 67 and the SkyDance Pet Lodge parking lot.
The northeast edge of the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA at the property line with the Skydance Pet Lodge
We lit 5 old piles and made three new ones.
I think one or two more days work here and we will have totatly opened up the view
Andy stokes the flames
On Friday, January 29, I was joined by a new volunteer, Jeff Saatkamp, a member of the Ice Age Trail Alliance at the Hartland Marsh. I brush cut buckthorn saplings on the Waukesha County Land Conservancy property and Jeff and I poisoned the cut stubs. Thanks Jeff! I’m looking forward to working with you again at The Marsh. As a bonus, Cheryl White the new executive director of the Waukesha County Land Conservancy, stopped out to visit and we had a marvelous time exploring the property. Cheryl brings a wealth of experience and skill to the job and I’m looking forward to working with her
A gorgeous morning at the old Parker Brothers Homestead site
The views of the target work area
I feel priviledged to be the caretaker/steward, along with Pati Holman, of this beautiful property.
A spring flowing into the Bark River
I hope to see the creation of the Bark River Water Trail, per the Village of Hartland Comprehensive Development Plan: 2035, recommendation
Views from the homestead site
On Monday, February 1, I was joined at the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail by Andy Buchta and Lindsay Knudsvig in the morning, and Ben Johnson later in the day. Thank you all for volunteering your time and energy to restoring our Kettle Moraine treasure!
Lindsay, just came off working 4 night shifts in a row! Here he preps the first pile.
Before image of a huge red oak.
Here is that red oak again.
A couple of other oaks we opened up.
Later that evening, around 6:30pm, as Ben and I were tending the fires, I happened to be looking to the east through spreading oak branches at Orion’s belt in the sky. Just then a bright light emerged and I called out to Ben, “Look!” and we both watched the meteor expand into a huge white ball before it disappeared at the horizon.
The fall of 2015 marked a turning point in the history of The Marsh: the return of The Buckthorn Man. After watching the buckthorn resuming it’s domination over the last four years — and all of my hard work going for naught — I was inspired by my friends at the Ice Age Trail Alliance, the Village of Hartland and the Waukesha County Land Conservancy (the Hartland Marsh Restoration Committee) to pick up the torch again, and try to save The Marsh.
Marlin Johnson has championed the restoration effort since around 1990 and over the years he has played a key role in preserving and protecting this primary ecological corridor and natural habitat area in the Village. He recently shared all of his records with me and I will be scanning them and posting them here in the near future. It’s all there: fish counts, land acquisitions, archaeological sites, glacial history, and contact information for all of the Friends of the Hartland Marsh who worked with him. Don’t be surprised if you get a call or letter from The Buckthorn Man: I am taking over coordination of the Friends of the Hartland Marsh and will soon have a new version of the brochure stocked in the Ice Age Trail Alliance trailhead map boxes on Maple and Cottonwood Avenues.
Please do check out the new Hartland Marsh page on this site for a who, what, where, when, why and how breakdown of the restoration effort.
In 2007, when the Waukesha County Land Conservancy acquired the 27 acre Minogue property that straddles the Bark River, Marlin asked if Pati and I would like to be the caretakers of this property. Since then, it’s felt more like home than the rest of The Marsh, and that is the first place where I resumed my work. Thousand of young buckthorn were thriving on the old Parker Brothers homestead site and I began cutting and poisoning them. Over the course of 4-5 workdays I cleared the area marked in red on the map below.
East side of homestead before…
Middle of homestead before…
West side of homestead before…
On September 23, 2015 Lynn, Cindy and other members of The Hartland Business Improvement District met The Buckthorn Man at the Cottonwood Wayside for a discussion about The Marsh followed by a short tour. I really appreciated the opportunity to share the beauty of The Marsh with members of the community who had yet to experience it. I’m hoping to partner with The Hartland BID in the future restoration efforts!
With winter fast approaching and hand surgery scheduled (followed by 5-6 weeks on the bench), I was eager to capitalize on the new spirit of enthusiasm in the Village for The Marsh, and I scheduled a workday for November 14, 2015. Our goal was to continue the brush clearing that the DNR did for us back in March along the hillside below the Cottonwood Wayside. It’s the area marked in blue on the map shown above. We had great weather and an outstanding turnout. So unlike the Ides of March, the future bodes well for the Ides of Marsh.
These are “before” pictures…
beginning near the Ice Age Wetland sign…
walking along the edge of the mowed area…
at the wayside all the way to Cottonwood Avenue.
This is very close to Cottonwood looking west
The Buckthorn Man sets the stage.
I think everyone really enjoyed the day!
Dave and Jeff hard at work at the Hartland Marsh
These are “after” pictures following the same path that I took for the before pictures
It was meant to be. The Blue Dolphin canoe, pocked with holes and abandoned at a DNR boat launch, was destined to become the Bark River search and rescue boat. Mike Fort connected me with Jay, who works with the DNR at Lapham peak, and who had been storing the boat in his backyard for years, and Pati and I lashed it atop her subaru and brought it home. It was soon refurbished and christened in the tannin brown waters of the Bark River.
The long neglected Bark River was crisscrossed by huge downed trees, choked with thick floating mats of duck weed and festooned with the refuse of the Village of Hartland. My good friend, Mark Mamerow, is a seasoned canoeist and I was lucky to have his stable hand at the stern.
We took many a trip down the Mighty Bark in the Blue Dolphin with chainsaw, chest waders and garbage bags and, slowly, cleaned up the river and made it navigable again. I’m looking forward to the “river rats” return to the Bark in 2016 — it’s been a while and I wonder if the river is still open all the way to Lake Nagawicki.
After World War I, Jim and John “Ike”, Parker built a homestead on the south side of the Bark River. Their niece, Debby Erwin, known as “Ms. Lake Country” in the real estate business, used to visit “The Old Boys” at their home on the Bark River and she shared many stories about them with Pati and I. Jim got into some difficulties with the authorities and lived there “under the radar.”
They loved to hunt and buried their beloved dog, “Jacob Boy”, on the island across the north side of the Bark River. The gravestone is still there: Jacob Boy of Avondale 1941-1955, it reads. That’s a reference to Avondale, England and I image Jacob Boy looked something like this.
Ike loved to carve wood (their father owned a lumber business in Merton) and you can see an authentic totem pole he fashioned at the old home site. I found it hidden in a buckthorn thicket on the hillside between the house and the river. Marlin Johnson and Brian Engel erected it quite ingeniously!
The brothers built the bridge over the river in 1948, etching the date in the concrete foundation at the south bank. I’ll never forget the heavy rain in the summer of 2008 that lifted the bridge from it’s center support posts and left it pointing downstream, hanging by a corner on the south bank. Luckily, Mike Fort was there to help me and we repositioned it exactly. Later, Pati and I replaced the deck boards.
In the early 70’s a woman with the surname Minogue, who taught pottery at a local school, moved in with her son. He didn’t care much for The Buckthorn Man and he used to curse a blue streak, harassing me for cutting buckthorn on the adjoining IAT property. Occasionally, I would find a dead bird and a nasty note from him under my windshield wiper. There were many times I stayed late after working, to enjoy the moon and stars with my old friend Jack Daniels, that I would hear him howling and wailing as if possessed by a demon.
Marlin loaned me his research papers and documentation related to The Marsh and I am starting to scan them and post them on the Marlin Johnson’s Research page. Below, in one of the nuggets from Marlin, John Parker comes to life.
In 2007 Marlin negotiated the purchase of the property on behalf of the Waukesha County Land Conservancy and Pati and I became the caretakers. How ironic! It wasn’t long before The Buckthorn Man had cut all the buckthorn on the Parker/Minogue property. That was some of the most gratifying work I have ever done!
On October 18, 2007 the Village of Hartland Fire Department burned the homestead down for a training exercise (removing the structure was part of the purchase agreement), and Pati was there by chance to capture these pictures.
On April 24, 2008, Pati and I took a plane ride over the Hartland Marsh. It was a birthday present from Pati and our objective was to get some cool pictures to use in our presentation to The Village of Hartland Board to ask permission to cut the buckthorn and honeysuckle on the village property around the Cottonwood Wayside/Gazebo.
We followed the Bark River Northeast from where it spills into the Upper Nemahbin Lake and upstream through Lake Nagawicka finally arriving at the Hartland Marsh.