The Curse of Garlic Mustard

The Curse of Garlic Mustard

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.

1330040This 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.

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.IMG_8636

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.

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.

IMG_2239IMG_2242IMG_2244There 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.

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…

See you at The Springs!

Wisconsin DNR: Super Mow Champs

Wisconsin DNR: Super Mow Champs

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.

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.


Long time followers of The Buckthorn Man were probably stunned when they read this statement at the bottom of the presentation I made to the Village of Hartland Board on January 25:

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.

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

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!

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.

I’m looking forward to joining my friends at another State Natural Area Workday at the Whitewater Oak Opening on February 13.

See you at The Springs!

Tis’ the Season to Cut Buckthorn

Tis’ the Season to Cut Buckthorn

The holidays are over but The Buckthorn Man, heedless of the wind and weather, is still celebrating before the blazing buckthorn yule with his friends.  Fa la la la la, la la la la his chainsaw sings in merry measure, as the buckthorn falls fast as the year passes.  Hail the new, ye lads and lasses!

IMG_7141It’s been a great winter season so far for cutting and burning buckthorn, with just enough snow cover and moderate temperatures.  I’ve been busy at the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail and the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA and, thanks to a lot of help from my friends, we’ve freed some oaks from their buckthorn chains and opened up some exciting new vistas.  It’s buckthorn cutting season, my favorite time of the year!

On Thursday, January 14, Andy Buchta and I worked at The Springs in the area marked in yellow on the map below.

SSTrailMapJanWorkI really appreciate Andy’s generous, volunteer contribution; he works hard and we make a good team.

On Saturday, January 16, we returned to the north side of the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA to work on the south side of the SkyDance Pet Lodge property.  Thanks again to Dennis Lutynski for agreeing to let us clear the buckthorn on his land and integrate the open space with the state natural area.  Our goal is to open the views into Ottawa Lake from Hwy 67 to show off this beautiful landscape; hopefully, this won’t cause any accidents by drivers rubbernecking to take in the scenery.

I was joined by Andy Buchta, Lindsay Knudsvig, Ben Johnson, Chris Mann and Steve Brasch; Thanks Guys!

On Friday, January 22, Dr. Dan Carter, Senior Biologist with the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, led a field trip at The Springs to teach us how to differentiate between exotic and native phragmites.  Dan organized his analysis into an excellent post on his Prairie Botanist blog.

Dr. Dan Carter, SEWRPC; Eric Tarman-Ramcheck, DNR; Maggie Zoellner, KMLT; Lindsay Knudsvig, Kilkenny Family Project; Mariette Nowak, Wild Ones; Cheryl White, WCLC

Dr. Dan Carter, SEWRPC; Eric Tarman-Ramcheck, DNR; Maggie Zoellner, Kettle Moraine Land Trust; Lindsay Knudsvig, Kilkenny Family Project; Mariette Nowak, Wild Ones; Cheryl White, Waukesha County Land Conservancy

I captured his work in the field in a series of videos, which are concatenated below.  The exotic identification comes first and then we visited two sites to see all of the characteristics of the native species.


This patch of native phragmites is just west of the gaging station bridge over the Scuppernong River

Almost all of the phragmites in the valley encompassing the headwater springs of the Scuppernong River is of the exotic variety, while the huge expanse of phragmites in the Scuppernong River Habitat Area, that is visible from the marl pit bridge or the Indian campground, is native.  The later information was a revelation, as we had always assumed that it was exotic phragmites, and had considered it as such in the NAWCA grant proposal.

Exotic Phragmites australis ssp. australis, John Hrobar standing on the deck at the Emerald Spring, photo by Sue Hrobar

Exotic Phragmites australis ssp. australis, John Hrobar standing on the deck at the Emerald Spring, photo by Sue Hrobar

Native Phragmites australis ssp. americanus, view into the Scuppernong River Habitat Area from the marl pit bridge over the Scuppernong River

Native Phragmites australis ssp. americanus, view into the Scuppernong River Habitat Area as seen from the marl pit bridge over the Scuppernong River

I really need to get more science in my life; that was fun!

Finally, on Saturday, January 23, I was joined by Andy Buchta and Ben Johnson at The Springs.  We worked in the area marked in red on the map above, near signpost #1.  Anne Korman, the new Superintendent Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit, Lapham Peak Unit and Glacial Drumlin Trail – East, stopped out to visit and thank us for all of our hard work.  You’re welcome Anne!

Well, it’s time to don my gay apparel and cut some buckthorn, Fa la la la la la la la.

See you at the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA.

Sky Dancing

Winter’s first blizzard is raging outside and I can’t wait for spring and the return of the Sky Dancing American Woodcock to The Springs.  The past few seasons The Keepers of the Springs, John and Sue Hrobar excitedly asked The Buckthorn Man: “Have you see the woodcocks?”  The joy and wonder brightly illuminating their faces was not enough to spark a glow in The Buckthorn Man’s dimly lit bulb.  It took a serendipitous encounter with Dennis Lutynski, owner of the SkyDance Pet Lodge, at the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA to turn on my learning switch.


Lindsay Knudsvig and I were relaxing yesterday in front of one of our blazing brush piles on the north side of the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA when Dennis emerged from the woods.  Although we had never met, I knew it was him; I had introduced myself at SkyDance a couple weeks earlier to let them know about the NAWCA grant application and review where the property line was.  The Buckthorn Man is a notorious interrupter and I could barely restrain myself as we began sharing information about how the restoration effort might impact SkyDance and how Dennis and his family took ownership of the property 12 years ago.

The SkyDance Pet Lodge is immediately north of the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA and completely surrounded by DNR land.  We talked about the need to preserve the privacy of the dog kennels, sans the buckthorn, black locust and box elder, and about the potential impact the removal of all that cover would have on the local American Woodcock population.  Dennis is the only woodcock bander in southeast Wisconsin and his face lit up as he described the sky dancing performances they put on right in their front yard.

Version 2In Dennis’ words:

“There is magic in experiencing the sky dance of the male woodcock during his courtship.

A series of spiraling flights and ground strutting mixed with musical loud buzzy bzeeps!  Sky dancing as he plummets back to earth, twittering as he descends, inviting you to wonder about this unique spring ritual and the rotund little shore bird that rarely sees the shore!  We invite you to experience the magical dance in the open fields surrounding our property in the Kettle Moraine Forest.

Banding the woodcock chicks is required to aid in research of the rapidly declining population. English Setter’s are frequently preferred for locating the nesting chicks. The English Setter’s careful footsie ghost-like motions set the woodcock, enabling the banders to net, record and band the chicks.”

Dennis named their kennels after the unfathomably mysterious flight of this beautiful bird.

woodcockAldo Leopold wrote eloquently about the American Woodcock in A Sand County Almanac essay: Sky Dance.

I get it now! and plan to be front and center near the parking lot of the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail, where the American Woodcock will be performing again next spring.

It was a real pleasure to meet Dennis and he could not have been more supportive and cooperative.  We are looking forward to working closely with him during the restoration to insure that a suitable visual and sound border is established between the trail on the north side of the fen and the SkyDance Pet Lodge kennels.

Dennis returned a few minutes later with a large aerial photograph circa 1967 of the property, which has been utilized as a dog kennel for over 50 years.  “You got a lotta work to do!”
Yes indeed there is a lot of work to do at the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA and throughout the Kettle Moraine Forest; everywhere you look invasive plants are spreading and dominating the native flora.  I want to thank everyone who has contributed to support The Buckthorn Man’s efforts — it means a lot to me and I do appreciate it.  Most of all, I thank people like Andy Buchta, Lindsay Knudsvig and Ben Johnson, who have consistently volunteered their time and energy to help me on these restoration projects.

Andy and Lindsay joined me at the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA yesterday, December 27, 2015 and we lit our first brush piles of the season.  There was no snow cover so we avoided the brush piles that were nestled in the edge of the marsh and instead we lit piles that were well upland.  This worked out great as there were plenty of massive buckthorns on the hillside to cut and throw into the fire.  We had a safe and very effective first outing with fire on land this winter season.

In case you have not noticed the events on the front page of this website, I’m posting all of my volunteer workdays on a iCalendar which you can subscribe to by visiting the Volunteer page.    I’m really looking forward to the next State Natural Areas workday at the Bluff Creek SNA on January 9th.  Visit the State Natural Areas Volunteers DNR site to see their workday schedule and get on their mailing list.  You can also follow the action on Facebook at Southern Kettle Moraine SNA Volunteers.


See you at The Creek!

NAWCA Grant Proposal for Ottawa Lake Fen SNA

Eric Tarman-Ramcheck has been on his new job as a Conservation Biologist with the Wisconsin DNR for over a year now and he is definitely making his impact felt.  Eric works out of the Kettle Moraine State Forest — Southern Unit and he is as handy with a pen as he is with a chainsaw.   He recently submitted a North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant proposal for the Scuppernong River Habitat Area and the Ottawa Lake Fen State Natural Area.

NAWCA 2015 Scuppernong River HPA & Ottawa Lake SNA Restoration - Phase 1 Survey RouteIf you have been following the adventures of The Buckthorn Man, you will recall that I participated in the 2013 Phase IV NAWCA grant for the Scuppernong Springs Nature Preserve and the Scuppernong River Habitat Area.  The Buckthorn Man was on the hook for $37,500 worth of labor at $15/hour and, along with help from my super friends, we actually contributed over $80,000 worth of labor over the 2 year grant period.  I’m proud of our contribution and very excited that Ben Johnson and Lindsay Knudsvig have joined me in committing our labor to generate matching funds as part of Eric’s new NAWCA grant proposal.  Visit the Volunteer page to learn more about how you too can make a contribution and subscribe to my iCalendar to get notified of all the upcoming volunteer workdays.

I recently published the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA Volunteer Project page on this site, so check it out for more details about the history of the land and the work done so far by volunteers and the Kettle Moraine Land Stewards, LLC.

You are probably wondering what’s up with the thick black line on the map above.  Ben Johnson called me last week and said his brother, Abe, was in town and we should go investigate the NAWCA grant area.  That was a brilliant idea, and just my speed, as I’m still healing from surgery on my right hand for Dupuytren’s Contracture.  We headed due west from the dog trial grounds parking area and made a loop over to the western boundary and then south and around Ottawa Lake.

Deep in the buckthorn thicket.

I experienced a happy coincidence on November 10, when I drove out from Milwaukee to cut some brush (one of my last workdays before the surgery) on the north end of the loop trail at The Springs, and noticed a plume of smoke rising near the visitor entrance to the Ottawa Lake recreation area.  Burn boss, Don Dane, and his DNR crew managed to execute a few prescribed burns this fall season, and I caught them doing one in area #2 marked in green on the map above.  I took a series of 4 videos capturing the conflagration that you can watch via the youtube playlist below.


See you at The Fen!