Loew’s Lake Ice Age Trail Hike

View overlooking the Oconomowoc River

The Loew’s Lake Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest is located in the heart of the Mid Kettle Moraine near Holy Hill. It was at one time slated for subdivision development but was soon recognized to contain many unique geological and ecological features. This kettle lake is 24 acres in size with the Oconomowoc River running through it. The park has tamarack wetlands, upland forests and prairies. The Ice Age Trail runs 5 miles though the 1000 acre property.

7 of us met at the emerald drive parking lot and headed out on a trail to see the great views of the entrance of the Oconomowoc River to Loew’s Lake. On the bridge we saw many small mouth and large mouth bass and several canoe/kayakers making their way to the lake from the Hwy Q drop-in several miles down stream. We then hiked several miles of the ice age trail north to emerald drive.

Laudato Si’ Project’s next outing will be Sunday, July 17th at 2pm in the Southern Kettle Moraine. We will be hiking and learning about the Scuppernong Prairie State Natural Area while in full bloom. We will also hike the Ice Age Trail that runs through the area. Meet at the “Rainbow Springs” parking lot off of Hwy N.


Celebrating the 1 Year Anniversary of the Encyclical “Laudato Si”

Patrick Donohue of MUHS installs bluebird houses he built on a 8 acre prairie planting.

June 18th marks the 1 year anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home. Within the last 2 weeks, Laudato Si’ Project has been busy celebrating by taking part in a wide array of activities.

1.) Two members of Laudato Si’ Project attended the “Green Schools Consortium of Milwaukee.” This conference had great speakers and educational sessions on green infrastructure and sustainable building, all aimed at engaging students in sustainability.

2.) We continued stewardship work and woodland restoration at the Schoenstatt Retreat Center. Our woodland trail with signs is now complete (about 2/3 of the buckthorn has been removed from the woodland- stay tuned for another work day this summer).

3.) We started a Laudato Si’ Project Team at St. Gabriel’s Parish in Hubertus that will also be doing an encyclical study.

4.) Patrick Donohue of Marquette University High School built 3 bluebird nest boxes and  put them on the newly planted 8 acre prairie at HH ski club. While in the Mid Kettle Moraine, he helped with turtle monitoring on the Schoofs Preserve.

Patrick Donohue helps with turtle monitoring on the Schoofs Preserve

5.) The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has written a nice article about Laudato Si’ Project in their June Newsletter. You can read it Here.

6.) This Saturday, June 25th, all are welcome to come out with us to the Mid Kettle Moraine to hike a section of the Ice Age Trail and explore the 1000 acre Loew’s Lake Unit. Please contact me if you are interested.

Lastly, the Vatican’s “Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace” launched a new website dedicated to the Laudato Si’ efforts around the world to put its teaching into practice. http://www.laudatosi.va/content/giustiziaepace/en/speciale-laudato-si.html


Conservation in the Mid Kettle Moraine

Mid Kettle Moraine Property

Laudato Si’ Project has teamed up with Ozaukee Washington Land Trust and Tall Pines Conservancy to help preserve a beautiful property in the Mid Kettle Moraine. We were joined by botanists from the Milwaukee Public Museum and the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC). The botanists were doing a property inventory and collecting specimens for record keeping. Because of the diversity of habitat types on the parcel; wetland, upland, grassland- the diversity of plant species is outstanding. The private property has a “Natural Area” designation as a result of the presence of several high quality community types, some of which are still in pre-european settlement condition. Although the total plant inventory is not complete yet, at least 2 WI threatened plant species were found, one of which has never before been found in Washington County.

Botanists from Milwaukee Public Museum and SEWRPC collecting and recording species 

Shoreline Restoration

Preserve on North Lake

Saturday was a shoreline restoration day at a Tall Pines Conservancy preserve on North Lake. It is a small preserve (under an acre) but has a large importance. This is due to the ephemeral pond ( dries up mid-late summer) that supports a wide diversity of insects and amphibians. This preserve has been spared the fate of most other lots in the area and was not filled 10 or more feet to allow building. Laudato Si’ Project brought MUHS students this past winter to remove buckthorn that had invaded the preserve (pictured below).

Past buckthorn removal with Marquette University High School students

The focus on Saturday was restoring the 65 feet of shoreline on North Lake. Much of the shoreline was being eroded and because of past buckthorn invasion, native plants were not present to hold the soil. To accomplish this bank stabilization, Herb from Sandy Bottom Nursery of Delefield brought in “bio-logs” which are made from coconut husk. These 10 foot logs hold the shoreline in place while the plants planted into them establish. The bio-logs also wick moisture up into the roots while the plants are young. This use of bio-logs is a great alternative to traditional rip-rap used on many shorelines. Restrictions on use of rip-rap has been tightened due to its inability to reduce lawn fertilizer runoff and its lack of habitat for young fish and amphibians. These two issues exacerbate the need for lake weed cutting and fish stocking.

Arrowhead High School student Mackenzie and Tall Pines Conservancy biologist, Jill Bedford, were also on hand to help complete the project. Because the shoreline was very wet, native species were selected to handle those moisture conditions. Sunlight also varied, with some places being in full sun while others being in complete shade. The species chosen were several types of sedges, rush, and iris. Also planted behind the bio-logs were dogwoods, lobelia, and aster. The bio-logs will decompose over a few years and by that time the shoreline will be a matrix of plants and roots- reducing soil erosion while provided vital shoreline habitat for fish, amphibians, and insects.


Prairie Planting


Today we completed an 8 acre prairie planting at Heiliger Huegel Ski Club near Holy Hill. We helped HH apply for funding through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and also did the technical planning. This planting was for “pollinator habitat” which means it will have a heavy concentration of native wildflowers blooming from May to November. This ensures bees, butterflies, etc have a food source throughout their life cycle. Of course, it will also benefit a tremendous amount of other wildlife, stop erosion, and eliminate fertilizer runoff.

Separating the seed according to size

To seed the prairie, DNR wildlife technician Angie Rusch brought down the Truax no-till seed drill. It was then calibrated to ensure that the seed would be planted evenly throughout the 8 acre planting. Wally Hembel, who’s family had farmed the land since the 1920’s, brought his 1968 tractor to do the planting. The tricky part about prairie seeding is that the seed is very different sizes. That is why the seed drill has 3 compartments; small, large/fluffy, and cover crop. Some prairie seed may be large and an ounce might be 800 seeds, whereas another prairie plant might be 250,000 seeds per ounce.

Prairie plants put most of the energy in the first 2 years into building enormous root systems. Some prairie plants, like compass plant, have roots that go nearly 15 feet down! This is what allows a prairie to last through every drought, flood, fire, and winter Wisconsin throws at it. The actually planting took about 4 hours with only a few machine malfunctions. Now, with thunderstorms in the forecast, it is time to let nature do what it does best- bring life.



Beekeeping 101

Beekeeper Christian Diehnelt checks one of the hives on the Meyer property

I have had the privilege of having bee hives on my land for the last 5 years. Two beekeepers, Roland and Christian Diehnelt, who are a father and son 5th and 6th generation beekeepers, take care of the hives placed on my land. In return, my family gets a portion of the organic, raw honey they produce. Today, they allowed me to help with their maintenance and check up of the 26 hives.


During their visit, they check to see the  success of each hive by first pumping smoke into the hive to calm the bees. They then pull out the frames and check for honey, new bee eggs and larvae, clip the queen’s wings, and add new “supers” (bee hive boxes). All worker bees seen in the picture are female and they are the ones out foraging. The males are called drones and about 20-30 of them get to mate with the queen.

Bees forage within a 2 mile radius of the hives. They collect pollen, their protein source, and also flower nectar, their carbohydrate. These are used to raise and feed young, as well as, provide a food source for the winter months. Many beekeepers have been dealing with a lot of different issues affecting their hives. You may have heard of colony collapse. My beekeepers (and beekeepers all over the country) have also been dealing with lots of dead hives thought to be caused by certain pesticides called neonicotinoides. But it is not just the European Honey Bee being affected. Many of our native pollinator populations have seen dramatic decline because of pesticides, disease, and loss of habitat. This is a big reason why planting native flowers and prairies is so important. In fact, we are planting an 8 acre prairie next week for a land owner as “pollinator habitat” (very heavy in flowering plants from May through October).