Digging a Bog Pond is Fun!

herb_wiOctober 27, 2004

I own a few acres of northern river bottom, flood plain, swamp, marsh, and bog. A diverse and rich landscape, altho frightfully buggy in the summertime! (bog = bug = coincidence?)

So anyway, I have a foot trail and wooden plank bridge crossing a bog to an piece of higher ground on my river. When the river floods water flows thru there. In the past I have dug peat there for my garden and there is water standing in that channel all the time altho it gets stagnant.

During this recent warm spell I've been cleaning that area up of fallen trees, brush, and dead stuff. Then I drove my garden tractor & trailer down there and got it down that trail so I could load up with peat. Took sand down and made the trail wider and of course I got stuck. And I doubt if that "1000 lb" Sears trailer will last long without ripping apart.

But it sure is fun digging that nice peat and muck and enlarging that channel into a "pond." Looking at it beforehand it seemed like a TREMENDOUS amount of work, but after a few days clearing and digging there is quite a transformation. My plan is to change a rather stagnent trashy looking area into a little jewel with a constantly flowing outlet into the river. I can also divert some springs and seeps from a swamp into it too. LOTS of hard work, but not the impossible task I previously thought it to be.

What are your "gardens" like and how have you worked on them? What is your water flow like? What is your peat like? Naturally in place or hauled in?

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Since posting I've worked more on my bog. Chopped and dug the outlet channel to the river into better flowing condition. There are floating and rooted humps with alder and other shrubs and small trees growing that block the old channel in spots plus lots of woody debris and mud. This is below or downstream of my little bridge crossing and pond.

Then I moved my operations above the bridge where there is a swamp running up towards my house out of which seeps and springs flow. There is a natural divide in there: some of the water fills my little pond area but most of it just sits there and seeps out in another direction.

There has been rain the past couple days and the swamp is rising. Yesterday I got in there with an axe and chopped a "gate" in that humpy divide and water gushed into my little pond area really nice as that is the old spillway. Then I worked upstream into the swamp clearing a channel to assist the water coming down out of there.

The rising swamp helped me a great deal. It will be interesting to see what happens when the water level drops again. These are ancient springs and channels blocked up over the years. Sure is nice to see them flowing freely again. Gotta be careful where I step, however, as it is a real "Grimpen Mire" in there and my boots are only knee high.

Will be interesting to see what is happening down there today as the water will be still rising...

    Bookmark   October 30, 2004 at 1:28PM
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River is flooding into my lower swamp and around bridge so I moved operations up into the headwater springs in my swamp. Lots of water up in there and I traced the pockets until finding some water flowing. But the flow kept disappearing underground! So I marked it with ribbons and traced the old channel best I could. Then started digging out old sunken branches and accumulated muck. In two days I have developed a really nice stretch of a crystal clear brook that was clogged up in there. Some places where it goes underground I left as that is cool too. I should be able to develop several more feeder springs as the entire sand hill where my house stands slopes down to this swamp that is wet wet wet with many deep water pockets that want to flow!

I wonder how many springs are like this one: clogged up with debris in need of a little love and cleaning out.

Another thing: I have done more in the past couple of weeks that I thought would take years to accomplish.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2004 at 10:31AM
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orcuttnyc(z5-6 NY)

Hey Herb? Any chance you might post pics? I've a boggy are i'm thinking of building a simple raised planked walkway around. I can't find any pics. Did you build yours? If so..how does it accomodate the soft soil without sinking?

    Bookmark   November 1, 2004 at 6:01PM
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I don't have pics now, but maybe in the future.

I'm wearing knee high rubber boots in there and have gauntlet type rubber gloves. The ground varies greatly from step to step. Some solid high spots to deep oozing mire. Gotta be careful where I step. Yesterday I went over the top of my boot with a bad step.

I'm not building any "artificial" walkways but am raking and digging roots and dead wood and piling that up for spots to step on. Heavy pieces of branch or chunks covered with wet sod and muck makes a pretty solid footing. Some places fallen ash trees form solid non-rotting natural walkways and the living ash roots which form solid hummocks. In time I will tie all these together in a series of pathways, but it will always be a damp stroll with spots that you have to step, hop across where he ground is boggy. It is a Grimpen Mire.

Yesterday I continued downstream on my newly dug swamp springs and brook from the headwaters combo balsam-ash-sphagnum swamp thru a short sedge grass heavily matted rooty stretch towards the more exclusively black ash portion where the water is deeper with a maze of watery channels and pockets. I used the chainsaw to cut out two fallen logs. There is more and deeper water in there than I realized. Towards dusk I used the axe to chop a couple of small "gates" that released the flow into what I think is continuous flow to my bridge pond area, although I will still need to dig and chop the rest of the way to make a good channel for when the water drops lower.

I had been in that swamp a few times over the past 24 years but only now getting to know it close up and seeing what a unique little treasure it is. At least during the bug-free months.

Unfortunately the weather is turning colder now and that will end my fun down in there. Today may be my last day as tomorrow I have to go to town and Thurs. the temps will drop. No fun getting wet when the temps are in the low 40s. At 47 it is okay and fine at 50 F.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2004 at 11:38AM
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Weather still nice and I'm still digging.

The water level is falling and I can see where the river overflow is still running thru the swamp allowing me to cut out some obstructions and hopefully keep some of that flow coming thru my bog pond at all times. Much depends on keeping the outlet open too which I cleared out a couple weeks ago.

Then (yesterday) I started working upstream from my pond area into the extension of the swamp running up towards my house where there are abundant seeps and springs. Previously I had started way up in there and worked part way down. The lower end has some very distinct ancient channels that flow the instant I rake some of the debris and mud out of them. Lots of alder to cut too. Black Ash roots and fallen logs form hard dense linear hummocks.

I also explored a string of deep wet pockets near higher ground that may be some useful feeder springs once I clean them out. My goal this fall is just to get a main channel established coming out of the swamp along with obtaining a permanent diversion flow coming out of the river and then thru my pond.

Both flows combine a few yards before entering the pond and right where I chopped a 'gate' through roots that was the key to getting this little river system gushing into and thru the pond where I have been digging peat and enlarging.

Longer term I will explore the swamp and develop more feeders.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2004 at 11:30AM
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orcuttnyc(z5-6 NY)

In the pic below, on the right, behind the dog and pond is my 'bog-island'. I call it that because it, the 'island' is surrounded by two streams, one on either end of the pond, and capped by a road. It partially floods several times a year. This august I built the bridge(geometric shape upper center) to cross the stream to access the island. The pond as you can see is a 'C' shape around the island. I'm slowly planning a raised plank walkway from the bridge around the perimeter of the 'bog-island'all the way to the beginning of the pond(out of picture to the right). I'm debating how to build it. Not sure whether sledge hammering support posts would do it? They might be end up unstable and/or continue to sink? Or possibly series of concrete blocks, holding up the ramp-walkway, placed strategically on the drier areas. I've seen pics of simple raised walkway foot bridges, but can't find info as to how they were built? I'm thinking low and unabtrusive, yet high enough to avoid being flooded.
The simple end result would be to take myself and my wife for late afternoon strolls around the pond, over the bridge and around the walkway and feed the mossies..ya know?
This will be a slowly put together project. Can you imagine how much the wood 'll cost? :) I probably should consult an engineer..but..hey, it's more fun figguring this stuff out myself!

    Bookmark   November 7, 2004 at 5:08PM
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Nice photo. The timber on your island look somewhat like my black ash swamp. What kind of trees are those? I will have to get some photos of my bog-swamp-pond-river-bottom-playground.

Couple things about "raised walkways," etc. Bear in mind that wood rots away in time and any metal (nails, spikes, etc.) will eventualy be rusty junk in a natural setting. The same is also true about concrete blocks in time becoming trash or junk.

I would stick with natural local (free) substances. I have found that firewood-lengths of round wood cut on site and then laid down across a swamp from high-point to high-point as a foot-path corduroy road and then covered with dirt, sand, sod, etc. makes a really good walkway. Once the short logs become water-logged and stuck they don't float away during flood time and they don't rot too fast either. That is how I built my swamp crossing to my island.

You have lots of timber. Some of it must be dead. All you need is a chainsaw. Can you dig or get dirt or sand onto your island? Looks like you also have lots of rocks. They would make a good base too and then covered with soil, etc. Any "streams" or "rivlets" you wish to cross can be accomplished with a plank. I weigh my plank bridge down with rocks to keep it from floating away.

With this system the cost is basically FREE. Just labor. And no lingering trash for future generations to deal with.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2004 at 12:29PM
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Well, I finished my flowing channel from the head of my ash and balsam swamp and that twists and turns thru that wetland until spilling into my bog pond and entering into the river.

The overflow that was coming from the river and into the bog pond has shut off and now flowing in reverse. There really is a divide in that swamp although you can't see it. But as long as my springs produce I'll have flow into and out of my bog pond to keep it fresh.

Finishing just in time as yesterday there was ice on the bog pond and the mud along the new channel was partly frozen.

Found what I think to be the main source of water in that swamp issuing near the edge at contact with higher ground. This is pure sand which holds LOTS of water and that my well-points are sunk into.

Warmer again today but snow in forecast.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2004 at 1:55PM
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I really am going overboard with this project, but the weather continues to be mild (although it froze hard again last night).

The swamp puzzles me greatly because I don't understand where the water is coming from. It lies in pools and pockets. Some deep when cleaned out, some shallow. Then in one little spot water wants to flow out of the ground. I dug down on the edge of the swamp near some pools into the sand below thinking water would fill up the hole fast, but it did not! So it almost seems that "maybe" there are "plumes" of rising water that come up thru the peat layer from the sandy bottom of this basin and fill the swamp with water.

Yesterday I connected several "pools" and then chopped a channel thru a spongy morass to the head of the main channel. It flowed! There is a whole network of water pockets I can connect and divert into the main channel. It almost looks like brook trout habitat. Frog habitat for sure! I am very nearly done!

    Bookmark   November 11, 2004 at 11:13AM
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Pretty much done for the year as I'm now chopping frozen ground and ice. About an inch of ice on my bog pond. What I will do now is continue to scout the swamp and mark which water pockets do NOT freeze. It occurred to me that I could find the REAL springs that way as the deeper sourced upwelling water will tend to be warmer and not prone to freezing. I've been out in that swamp in past winters and always noticed spots of open water.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2004 at 10:47AM
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maryo_nh(z5 SouthernNH)

Herb, I just want to let you know I'm enjoying your updates. Keep up the good work! And when the long winter is over, maybe you'll let us know how things are shaping up then too.


    Bookmark   November 15, 2004 at 9:08PM
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Thanks Mary!

This has been a fun but arduous project. That swamp was little more than a complex of non-connected stagnant pockets and short channels that only flowed when the swamp flooded. Now I have a 24-7 flow coming out of there with a pretty little brook and footpaths following it. You have to hop over soft spots here and there but I can go from my house all the way down to the river along that new little swamp brook and trail.

Couple days ago I took my rake and followed the brook down pulling out more muck and peat. Maybe I'll do that again today as the weather has turned mild again. Also did mark the non-freezing pools throughout the swamp. Now, I'll go back in there in January and see what is still not frozen up then. That will tell me where the water is originating from as that is still somewhat of a mystery. Some of the wet pockets seem to be just surface water while others seem to have deeper sources. I notice around 3-4 ancient white pine stumps out in the swamp what might be old springs in need of cleaning out.

Ordered an old 1915 book yesterday: Peat Resources of Wisconsin. Peat bogs are very interesting natural places. At least in the months that mosquitoes aren't around.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2004 at 11:15AM
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abgardeneer(Z3, Calgary)

What plants occur naturally in your bog?

    Bookmark   November 30, 2004 at 10:13PM
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Marsh marigold, black alder, speckled(?) alder, black ash, white pine, balsam fir, different types of sedge and grasses, some kind of tree climbing vine, wild orchids (Indian slipper?), bunchberry, dwarf willow, swamp oak, maple is nearby as is blue beech and jack pine. Technically its probably more of a swamp as it has trees. Lots of other stuff I need to identify. Just got a book on bushes and shrubs this fall, but the leaves were already mostly down.

It's pretty well frozen up as I walked down there the day after deer season last Monday or so.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2004 at 10:20AM
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21 January 2005

I took a walk thru my swamp/bog yesterday looking for open water. Saw only one spot where a deer had broken thru thin ice. It has been very cold down to minus 35 F. here. Now with warmer temps (18 F.) I'll go out again and see if any open pockets of water have developed. Such "warm" spots will help tell me where the water in my swamp/bog is coming from.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2005 at 2:05PM
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Walked thru bog & swamp again. Found 3 spots of open water. The rest all frozen hard. Including about 20 spots of open water I had marked last fall. Open water in this deepfreeze gotta be the source of the wetness......

    Bookmark   January 24, 2005 at 11:39AM
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In bog-swamp again yesterday and triple marked the spots of open water. One area is about 4 separate pockets with no ice that aren't very far from the headwaters of the brook I created last fall. I can see an early spring project shaping up of cleaning these "warm" springs out and connecting them to my bog brook.

Heard on radio yesterday that mosquitoes don't like deep water and where fist and frogs live and also like the shallow organic filled puddles. So cleaning out these pockets and creating frog habitat can only knock down the mosquitoes too.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2005 at 10:21AM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

Hey Herb: reading what you have been doing has made me wish I was back in WI. We lived in an area above a meadow which was backed by a boggy marsh(filled by an artesian fountain)that flowed into a small river. I loved going into it to locate ferns and other plants. It was a great place to see the birds, and wild critters, too. Deer often walked within a few yards of me when I was sitting on an old log to rest. I was glad to leave when I heard they planned to locate and cap the artesian flow and fill in the marsh for building lots. I'm glad there are still people who have some sense when it comes to land improvement. Has the DNR or EPA given you any flak? Sandy

    Bookmark   January 25, 2005 at 12:18PM
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No flak....

Is there any law against cleaning debris and mud from springs and re-estalishing their original flowing condition?

Okay, so I dig out some peat too for my garden and trees. But that creates frog habitat and they are always complaining that frogs are disappearing.

If frogs instantly move in and set up housekeeping can it be bad?

This swamp and bog is clogged up with thousands of years of fallen leaves and woody debris. I am restoring it to an earlier, less plugged up state so the springs are deeper and the outlets flow again.

It would be interesting to hear what an "expert" would say....

I have discovered the secret of my swamp-bog. The open pools at 30 below zero don't look any different from the hundreds of other pockets of water, but they are the ORIGINAL SOURCE SPRINGS. Since their outlets are now blocked, their waters just seep out and permeate the entire swamp in many little pockets that become stagnent and mosquito filled in summer. I can see that process happening now as water flows out over ice.

I've raked some debris out of the spring pools and they are deep and look good!

I sure do know what my spring PROJECT will be!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2005 at 12:12PM
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kwoods(Cold z7 Long Is)

Well Herb I've been following your posts and can wait no longer for the next one to come.

Any thawing up there yet? Let us know when anything interesting starts to come up (especially any orchids).

    Bookmark   March 17, 2005 at 11:47AM
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catherinet(5 IN)

I'm so envious!
We have some bottom land here in Indiana, but it just doesn't do much. Probably too dry and well drained. It floods several times a year, so I suppose anything really nice would get washed away. Isn't it funny. For so many years I thought swamps were useless pieces of land........now I think they're absolutely the best places!
I've enjoyed reading your progress Herb....keep us updated!

    Bookmark   April 1, 2005 at 5:47PM
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I haven't posted for awhile, but I've been busy!

During winter I cut a little firewood down in that same swamp when it was frozen hard and sledded the wood out. The somewhat melted (Feb. thaw) then refrozen swamp made smooth walkways after it got cold again. Walked over the swamp many times and got much better acquainted with it. I love winter.

In late March the swamp began its spring thaw and then water started to flow on top of the ice. Like magic, it followed the exact twisting course of my little brooklet project from last autumn. So when I traced out what I thought was the ancient plugged channel last fall I was right on target. We had warmer weather and for a few weeks it was enchanting to see the flowing meltwater amidst the sculpted ice and bare ash tree trunks and their knobby roots. A really excellent time of year!

As the banks along the little swamp brook began to reappear, I smoothed out the edges and cut a little more brush to let more sun in. The ice slowly went away on many other isolated pockets of water thru-out the swamp, so I started to rake out debris to deepen them for new frog habitat. There was some 6-8 inches of detritus filled water on top of hard smooth ice. A curious phenomenon. There is still submerged ice in some places (May 1). I still can't say whether deepening those pockets will assist the already large mosquito population or assist mosquito predators. I'm hoping for the latter as all I've read says that "healthy" wetlands don't have many mosquitoes because of many such predators.

As the weather warmed above normal in mid-April I encountered a couple of water snakes that had discovered the newly flowing swamp brook and were sunning themselves along its edge. I introduced myself and moved on. Also a couple of frogs were also using it and water insects had moved in too. I was very glad to see that. Apparently many of those swimming water insects eat mosquito larvae which I've seen already in some of the many isolated (stagnent) pockets.

Also, for a time the river flooded from melting ice and snow and the swamp got high and about half of my little brook was submerged. Now it's dropped again and it's normal flow resumed. Even a little low now as there has been no significant rain lately. Marsh marigolds are coming up.

So far this spring I've raked a little between the brook and those non-freezing pools that I discovered last winter. Sure enough there are easy original (semi-plugged) connections between them and now they flow too. In one of those pools I probed down and the peat is 5 feet deep until you hit hard sand. I may put down a post-hole bore thru the peat to see if the groundwater flow increases a bit as I believe it will.

Right now I have identified 9 groundwater springs in that swamp and know the origin of 5 of them. The swamp also receives water from floodwater, melt-water, and run-off. I never realized how complex and interesting a swamp could be. That was the one part of my property I hardly ever entered and even shunned. Now it's my favorite place!

At least until the mosquitoes hatch (about 3 weeks).

Snowing lately and we've regressed back to February it seems. Snakes and frogs gone back into hiding....

    Bookmark   May 1, 2005 at 2:05PM
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theoclete(9/Florida marsh)

I have about 4 acres of marsh- have not even walked it year as is has been too wet...
where to start??? what kind of walkways should I make?
Not standing water at this time but gooey black sludge...

    Bookmark   September 6, 2005 at 8:49AM
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This has been a fascinating thread. Herb, what's going on now?

    Bookmark   September 21, 2005 at 12:07PM
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Wow Herb, I just discovered your creative writing posts and had to respond. I really like myths; seems like you folks in the north woods do too. Paul Bunyan and his blue ox leads over time to your hero and his great blue chainsaw. Clever.

I'm waiting to see what your protagonist does next--I bet you got him set up for some real action since he is breaking about a dozen federal and state laws. Should be some exciting chases through the bogs.

You know as well as anyone that Mother Nature never sits still; she answers every action with a reaction, especially when changing the flow of water is involved. I bet you got some good material ready for that--maybe the great blue chain saw or the great blue backhoe saving the day with log dams to stop a flood. Exciting ideas.

Now, I'm not one of those "experts" you want to write into the myth but I do have a couple of ideas for you. I'm sure you know there isn't anything really "ancient" out there. You recall that the timber interests deforested your whole part of the country about a hundred years ago, cutting everything, blocking streams for forest roads, generally scaring away the wildlife and leaving nothing natural--heck, even springs and seeps were damaged and dry areas became wet and wet areas became dry, real ecological mess. It was just raping the land but at a bigger scale than your hero. Maybe you could work some of this history into the story as a moral.

Far be it from me to try to add to your work, but from what I have read so far it seems most of your observations about water aren't quire right. Maybe a little more research on groundwater and soil would help you do the right thing, make your guy more aware of nature, go beyond your local Paul Bunyan in doing good.

Here's a little story for you to think about. Back when the first Herb settled that neck of the woods it was possible to live next to a stream and do anything you wanted to it, in it, and it cleaned itself up in a mile. Mother Nature has a plan, a delicate balance of people, plants and animals.

Of course, then the next guy comes along and settles in half a mile downstream and sees this "stuff" going by, not yet cleaned up. Being an ornery north woodsman himself, he complains but nothing good happens.

Now, and I know you guessed this, someone comes and settles a half mile upstream from our hero and dumps his "stuff" in the stream. Now our guy is righteously upset, feels no one has a right to interfere with his life and use of the land. So he complains and nothing good happens from that either. Then more people come in and you got it, everything is screwed up--floods, unsanitary conditions, fewer animals, the whole ecological collapse. And everyone sits around pointing their finger at the other guy, forgetting to look in the mirror.

I know you have a great moral to your story, something to teach us all about interacting with the environment. Maybe your hero will get the moral of the story--that we are all our brothers' and sisters' keepers and have to give something up for the good of all. Probably not a popular idea with the individuals there and I'm sure your hero won't hug trees or quit making mountains of trash in the streams, so to speak, but we all need to keep an eye out for who is moving in above us.

I am enjoying your work and think you could make a novel that could become a classic. Great fiction Herb although a little hard to believe your hero or any hero could be quite so active in doing this, but testosterone charges some people up. Are you thinking of a happy ending, they all lived happily ever after or a more tragic ending with disaster and the law?

Anyway, your work is very clever and using a forum like this to test out your imagination is a great idea. Hope my modest response gives you ideas for research and story line although I doubt someone like me can change your good thinking and creative work.

Writer 2

    Bookmark   November 9, 2005 at 2:09PM
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    Bookmark   November 21, 2005 at 7:05PM
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Any points or facts in there are lost amidst condescending and arrogant drivel. I'm not impressed.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2005 at 6:51PM
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As a curmudgeon and cynic myself I accept your reaction--I think you forgot sarcastic though.

Here is a guy happily altering/destroying a special ecosystem and no doubt creating consequences for neighbors downstream. I think it is misguided and I know it is illegal even if it is his property, whether he likes it or not.

The unwitting damage is compounded by the fact that his observations of nature are inaccurate and abet the damage--the dangerous self-taught man.

You can't reason a person out of a position they didn't first reason themselves into--trying is like spitting into the wind.

After reading the posts a few times and calming down, I realized that it was like reading a farce, an absurdist play. I just had to say something and so followed that approach, creating drivel. I do have arrogance in me and you caught me at it.

In my environmental career I encountered many people who meant well but did damage they didn't understand. Because there is no right or wrong in the debate about individuals and property rights there usually isn't much you can do to change minds and behavior except impose the law. And that is against my grain entirely.

Like I said, I've met lots of Herbs; what was disconcerting was the encouragement from people who claim to be champions of the environment in other forums. I can respect Herb for his straight ahead fun, but it is hard to respect hypocrites.

The part about settling on a stream and doing what you want, even if it pollutes your downstream neighbor but getting upset when someone upstream does the same to you was, I guess, the moral even if lost in the condescending drivel. I believe, in a crowding world, we must be our brother's and sister's keepers because we are all we got between us and real problems.

I should have said it differently after cooling off more or I should have kept my mouth shut about this "bog garden."

Thanks, in sincerity, for telling me the truth. You are right and it didn't work. But I still feel strongly about the whole thing.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2005 at 3:55PM
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I had my doubts about the authenticity of this account as well. It sounded immediately like someone who got off on finding and flaming lists.

What was rather disturbing though were how many people never caught on... It would be similar to me going on a list about bird watching and posting about what great hats wild bird feathers make, then having the people on the list agree... quite surreal.

To those who still don't get it, let me put it differently:

Natural systems do not require "improvement" of any sort unless it is simply fixing the damage other people have already caused...

    Bookmark   November 29, 2005 at 5:08PM
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yarthkin - Herb hasn't been around since May 1. Makes you wonder about his activities. It is disappointing that everyone affirmed what he was reporting. Some are self-declared nature lovers on other forums. Seems a lot of people just like to be nice, non-offensive when responding. Or really don't get it.

I'm pretty new to this stuff--did I flame Herb? Not sure what that means. I think I get your meaning referring to Herb's possible motive. I expected him to flame me about property rights, "so-called experts", improving on nature.

You put it well in a few words about improving natural systems. There are a lot of posts all over by people who want to do just that. Uninformed, not malicious. One hopes.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2005 at 2:43PM
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Joe_Homeowner(z 6b NY)

mgeca, yarthkin

Thanks so much for setting us all straight. It's always good to have arrogant, judgemental people with delusions of their own knowlege and intellect fill the rest of us poor slobs in.

I guess I am one of the "uninformed" who "doesn't get it".

Your statement "Natural systems do not require "improvement" of any sort unless it is simply fixing the damage other people have already caused." sounds nice in an ideal world but in the real world is idiotic. We impact and effect our enviornment whether we try/want to or not, therefore we have a responsibilty to be good stewards of it.

If you frequent other forums you will see that most posters treat one another with deference and respect, perhaps that is why people have been supportive of the original poster in this instance. Valid points can be made and arguments had but to chastise an entire thread, hold other posters in judgement and preen yourselves as though you are some kind of authority is laughable.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2005 at 3:44PM
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I agree I could have been kinder to the responders. After all, who can be expected to imediately know all these things? After all, the US Forest service and other government agencies make a living off of convincing people that natural systems need "improvement". In fact, most clear cutting operations are usually disguised with names like "white tailed deer habitat enhancement" (like we need more...)

I was just trying to illustrate that there was an undo amount of misinformation on this thread concerning wetlands, especially for people who presumably enjoy them. As I said, if I made a comparable comment on a birding list, the outrage would be imediate. Why did it take people so long to "get it" here? I don't necessarily blame the responders, but I do think it clearly illustrates the degree of misinformation out there about wetlands.

Now all that said, please note that in my post I didn't use the kind of words like "slobs", "arrogant", "judgemental", "idiotic", etc. like you have. Call me "delusional" or "laughable" if you like, but you know nothing of my professional credentials, and I'd encourage you to honor your own advice.

I have every right to question advice or comments on a thread about actions which are not only irresponsible, but illegal. Yes, "improving" a wetland without permission of the Army Corp of Engineers and the proper permits is illegal, and that is my authoritative and professional reporting of fact. I do not feel any need to be "supportive" of people who claim otherwise. If that makes me arrogant, then so be it.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2005 at 1:50PM
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Nothing wrong with being uniformed. All of us are uninformed about lots of things. You would think a lot of people would be informed about environmental damage and the importance of wetlands for things like feeding the groundwater for your well.

A forum is a place for the exchange of ideas, a place to learn. What is surprising is how many people on a nature- based forum seem not to learn about important environmental issues despite a lot of posts trying to inform. Or are resistant to accepting the facts. They don't get it. Being nice and polite is one thing; praising and encouraging ill-conceived acts is another. Silince speaks loudly sometimes.

We, people, are at the top of the food chain and you are right that we alter the environment all the time. When we finally control our destructive tendencies and acts, stop poisoning the well, stop hurting other people needlessly, then we can say we are stewards.

I may be arrogant and judgmental; I admit to pedantic, pompous and overly verbose at times as well. There are many people who have dedicated their lives, their careers to trying to promote environmental awareness and sanity and they are dissed worse than the posters on this thread. By your own words you have to admit that a strong response sometimes just happens.

I am a realist enough to know that change occurs as a result of people's actions and I live with that fact of life. But when someone gleefully reports devastating an entire natural system that is protected by law it is too much.

When you go beyond discussing trees or lawns or fish or flowers, there is the chance of a heated discussion in a forum--that is the point of a forum.

I don't believe the responses here were as caustic and rude as you do but I respect your opinion. Actually, I am as nice a person as the gentle posters who said nice things about Herb. None of us need apologize for feeling as we do but maybe we can all become better informed.

As a respected wetland expert and novelist, I certainly don't feel badly about my "delusions" of my knowledge and intellect. No insecurity here, just a thick-skinned tree-hugger, enviro-freak, do-gooder, hack and whatever else I have been called. Now I can add idiotic laughable slob.

Frankly, it would be more fun to exchange ideas about the real world than about negative perceptions of anonymous cyber posters.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2005 at 3:58PM
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I am enjoying this conversation and am quite happy that there is a lack of agreement. I am in the process of deciding what to do with my recently acquired "wetland". I have the conversation posted here all by myself and decided to join this forum to gain more info before making any decisions.

After reading other entries, I do not know if I have a bog, a marsh or a swamp. My whole lawn is wet in the spring and then only pockets in the summer. One spot is always wet and a frog lives there. There seems to be a steady strem of water, more so in teh spring. Don't know if it is overflow from my well (cartesian, high iron, calcium and salt content) or a natural spring. Either way, I dopn't really want to disturb it too much, because of the frog.

Nothing in the yard was kept up by the last owners, so I have no idea what i have. Also, in the sping, overflow from around the house runs through a plastic pipe into another area of the wetland. This area is much dryer in the summer. There are many catails and what i think is some milkweed and some areas 9mostly where the catails grow) smells.

I know the final decision will be my own, but would appreciate any information or whatever you can through out there.

By the way, I'm in central Canada, zone 5a according to Canadian charts, no idea what that is in American charts.



    Bookmark   April 7, 2006 at 7:42PM
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kwoods(Cold z7 Long Is)

So Herb, what have you been doing on your property lately?

    Bookmark   November 29, 2006 at 10:13AM
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I haven't been around for awhile and didn't realize my Swamp Journal had drawn controversy. After a hard-drive crash I just stopped coming here, altho my project didn't end.

Also: I did speak with the DNR at one point and was told that as long as you restrict yourself to hand-tools (or a chainsaw) there are no penalties with what you can do on your wetlands. When you think about it, that's just common sense!

Some self-styled "expert" posters here, however, would like us to believe that we cannot do ANYTHING in a wetland: even turn over a leaf, pull out a stick, rake muck, or unclog degenerated springs. But again, I was told that so long as you restrict yourself to hand-tools you're okay. Bring in a backhoe, bulldozer, dragline, dredge, etc. and things change fast and permits are needed.

Common sense.

I have taken hundreds of pictures and will post some once I figure out how to do so. Then you can all judge for yourself the terrible environmental "destruction" my humble axe and rake have wrought upon the landscape here. And I must agree with the poster who said "nature reclaims her own." After a summer in there you cannot even tell that a dreadful human had been running amok except for a few cut roots and branches.

What these self-styled "experts" don't get is that human beings not only destroy, but because we are rational beings we can also create. What they don't get here is that I am not destroying habitat but am rather creating new habitat and restoring habitat from thousands of years of mindless natural degenerative sedimentation. Guess what? Not everything nature does by itself is beneficial. Sometimes human intervention is the ONLY way to "improve" or "restore" environmental quality.

Instead of listening to arrogant self-styled "experts" and "novelists" I will appeal to the frogs, who are the TRUE wetland experts and understand these things far better than any of us.

For example, wherever I created new aquatic habitat in that otherwise largely flood-pulse stagnant wetland, frogs immediately moved in and set up housekeeping. In fact, and this is almost unreal, while digging down into the peat layer to create another groundwater pool, I could hardly turn my back and a frog hadn't jumped into the still dry mini excavation and was inpecting it close up. I had to chase them away so they wouldn't get hurt! Call me a freak, but once the pool filled up with nice clean groundwater and frogs settled in and got to know me (and they did) I could get down on my hands and knees, put my face right up by theirs, and say: "Pretty nice, eh?"

I might also add that it was a drought summer here and the ONLY pools in my swamp that lasted long enough for frog and salamander breeding habitat were those I created and that had a groundwater source. The degenerated and plugged-up "natural" microbasins with their perched water-table simply dried up leaving tadpoles to wither and die (except for those that I moved into my own little pools). Call me sentimental, but I felt good about that.

Going by my own sense of aesthetics and personal observations this "dangerous self-taught man" will debate any naysayer on this forum and whatever they would like to bring up. Because yes, since posting last I have learned a lot more, educated myself a lot more, and yes, have also been having fun in my beautiful and ever more wet wetlands....

    Bookmark   November 29, 2006 at 11:56AM
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kwoods(Cold z7 Long Is)

Yeah, I brought it back to the top when I saw you posting again. Thought you'd enjoy it. Cracked me up when I reread it.

Keep us informed of your illegal activity!

    Bookmark   November 29, 2006 at 3:58PM
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I've been reading for 2 years, and like kwoods I love to hear the progress. I understand damaging or altering a wetlands is illegal. But what about cleaning up? Round these parts groups frequently go out and clean up streams, rivers, lakes etc. I my yard I have three springs in a low area. Wonderful plant life is there. I found though, that the water was not full of life. I began looking around and found the area had been used as a dump when the house had been built (in the 70's). I have dug out cement, tires, building materials and have re-routed the drainage ditch away from the swamp area and along its own course. Illegal? frogs and salamanders abound (now). The variety of plant life has increased.
I try to learn as much as I can about eviro-friendly gardening (like from Mike mcgrath on You Bet Your Garden). mgeca, while your initial foray has been poorly received, I would like to know what Herb can do. Surely the answer is not just sit and watch.

Btw I now have two open beautiful spring areas with pools and I do clean out leaf fall, fallen branches, and the period children's toys that bubble up to the surface from years long gone.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2006 at 9:37PM
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I can see that you "get it" from personal observation and experience and not ivory tower theory. Not that theory is bad -- I have a whole shelf of books on nature and the environment.

Like me, it sounds like you're going by your own sense of aesthetics and how wildlife responds to your bog/springs/swamp work. Amphibians seem to be like the canary in the coal mine. If frogs and salamanders respond in a positive manner you are certainly on the right track.

Another thing that I've recently discovered here is this. My swamps were flooded for many years by logging dams downriver in the 1860-1900 period. That would certainly help explain the sedimentation degradation of my springs and microbasins, which are deep and sometimes have groundwater sources but are filled and clogged with organic debris. Clean that stuff out and the water quality improves, flow resumes, and new breeding habitat is created.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2006 at 11:23AM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

I have every right to question advice or comments on a thread about actions which are not only irresponsible, but illegal. Yes, "improving" a wetland without permission of the Army Corp of Engineers and the proper permits is illegal, and that is my authoritative and professional reporting of fact. I do not feel any need to be "supportive" of people who claim otherwise. If that makes me arrogant, then so be it.

Yarthkin is correct, and not arrogant. May the lord have mercy on you if the Army Corp of Engineers finds out, or the EPA. They DO have airplanes, and they do fly over wetlands looking for man-made changes to them. They take pictures. They would present these pictures as evidence in court. I have a friend who was fined $10,000 for hand digging a small(20 ft.) channel out of a wetland to fill her pond. AND she had to fill the channel back in, too.

The sedimentation degradation you speak of is part of a natural process called succession. While it deprives you of open, moving water, it also provides habitat for different types of flora and fauna.

Volo Bog is the northernmost bog in Illinois that still has open water in the center. It will slowly fill in, and someday there will be no open water at all. No one is trying to stop this process.

Here is a link that might be useful: Volo Bog

    Bookmark   December 26, 2006 at 12:05PM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

P.S. to mgeca. What you wrote was very funny and right on target.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2006 at 3:12PM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

What they don't get here is that I am not destroying habitat but am rather creating new habitat and restoring habitat from thousands of years of mindless natural degenerative sedimentation. Guess what? Not everything nature does by itself is beneficial. Sometimes human intervention is the ONLY way to "improve" or "restore" environmental quality

God, this is so funny. Who's arrogant? ROFL!

    Bookmark   December 26, 2006 at 9:17PM
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Anybody who considers the army corp of engineers as stalwarts of enviromental protection is a fool,

    Bookmark   December 26, 2006 at 11:18PM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

Don't know anybody who does. Who said they are? However, they do take the un-permitted draining of wetlands fairly seriously.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2006 at 4:14PM
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'round my parts, permits to destroy wetlands are given to anyone wanting to build several dozen houses on a few acres as long as they create a catchment area.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2006 at 8:32PM
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Alas, my critics were 100% correct about me. I was busted when a government surveillance aircraft, space shuttle, or satellite (I'm not sure which) flew over and saw where I had been working with my shovel and rake.

Now I understand how misguided and sinful my efforts were. I have chased all those stupid ugly frogs out of their new homes and have put things back the way they were. I will also be paying a $40 million dollar fine and spending the next 20 years in a Federal Penitentiary. I've already been given the handle "Frogman of Alcatraz" by my cellmate Mean Joe Green.

Since Bog Gardens is a forbidden website for me (bog enthusiasts are considered worse in here than child molesters) I will not be posting on this Forum anymore. But I do repent all of my evil, misguided, and dangerous self-educated notions and have never liked frogs anyway except when eating their legs in French restaurants. Furthermore, all of my posts have been totally fictional and were a daydream exercise on my "Paul Bunyan & Blue Ox PC" (registered trademark) in a class on creative writing, internet gullibility, web hoaxes, and rural myths. I actually live in a desert as I am phobic to water, swamps, mosquitoes, and ugly slimy herptiles in general. How can you people stand that stuff?

Goodbye cruel world...

    Bookmark   January 2, 2007 at 1:37PM
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kwoods(Cold z7 Long Is)

It just keeps getting better!

What's next?

    Bookmark   January 2, 2007 at 1:48PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

Hi Herb!
I wish you left a forwarding address, I still want to read the next update in your bog story.

Where do the bog-molesters go when they've been run off..... ??

ps, if you need help putting the bog back the way it was I have a landscaper friend who could probably recommend a spray to get rid of those nasty croaking things.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2007 at 8:16PM
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Small scale bog gardens are more my style. I dug a hole about a metre deep..went to the hardware store and bought the toughest plastic sheeting which I laid down. I punched holes in the sheeting about 18 inches up so it wouldn't become a pool. Now the whole thing gets a lot of sunlight which is challenging. Actually it's worked out well and is a small gardening pleasure. Iris plants are a natural. I put my Joe Pyee weed in a plastic pot..cut out the bottowm and this has given me a nice plant and a way to control enthusiastic spreading.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2007 at 4:22AM
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gardnpondr(Zone 8)

oh man don't leave!!! This was soooooooo interesting!!! I WOULD LOVE to see and know what you're doing now with your pond/bog whatever. This was sooooooooooo interesting until trouble makers got started! Could you do a blog on one of the other sites and invite the ones of us that are interested in your story to see what you write? PLEASE???

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 3:46AM
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I second that. Please, Herbie?

    Bookmark   April 12, 2007 at 11:46AM
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Yeah Herb, don't go!
Want to touch on 2 things: beavers, and vernal pools.
Beavers, both fill in streams and cause pools, and can also restart streams, with water that has backed up behind abandoned dams. And dragging logs around, can make deep grooves that grossly affect drainage, both ways.
So, Beave, you little pond changer you, have you heard of vernal pools? [I hadn't, before this year, when I found a salamander.] They are really cool.
Turns out, those pools that disappear after the spring, are vernal [spring] pools, and a hatching area for some cool and unique, wildlife. Because they disappear, they don't support fish that eat eggs. some are quite small, puddle sized.

The mammoths have only been gone a few years, [in an evolutionary sense] bet those herds, did more than a bit of spring clearing ...
Were the giant forests close by? They probably would have lowered the water table.
Dryer, with deeper waterholes, and beaver-ish changes, sound evolotionarily plausble.
The eastern woodlands and peat bogs, are both large complex areas, that can tolerate a lot of the fairly small changes, that you have been making.

My neighbor in the new house next door, is planning on major hardscaping- ie, 2/3 patio and walls. Why move to the country? grrr. Wish I lived downstream from you.

What's been lovely, has been being included, on your efforts. In the beginning, I wanted to quibble a bit. Thought the water would rush [in the photo, it hardly seems to be moving at all ], and thought the ring path might block crawlers, and hoped some of the puddles could stay, & a few of the vernal pools... but, your observations as you worked, taught me some cool new things. And it was lovely to see you grow too.
Thanks for all your work and observations, and clearing a new way for us to look at this special place, whether we agree with every single decision or not.

The [very young, i hope ] rude guys, seem to think that you wanted to and have, channelized the Everglades. Have you found them at all right? So, are there areas that you would like to slow, or fill in again, or otherwise change back ? Are there some pools that you want to now, er, keep separate?
Please come back and share your observations, and your progress.

Here is a link that might be useful: vernal pools

    Bookmark   July 18, 2007 at 3:12AM
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Yes, Herb, please come back to the forum, we want to see pictures. I have just purchased some land on the river and wanted to hear more of what you have accomplished so that I might try it too! I have read all of your posts and look forward to more.....

    Bookmark   August 14, 2007 at 5:03PM
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Hello roomie's,
This is my first post. First I really enjoyed Herbs postings and hope he returns !!
I moved the summer of 07. I now enjoy 640 feet of fish bearing creek front, The couple we bought from had started to dig a pond. I think it is spring fed as it was about three feet deep at a minimum with water. I see when the creek rises it flows into the far west tip of this pond.
On the east end is what appears to be a low channel meandering through the property toward the creek. Now with all the rain it is a 70 % flowing stream, Which enters the pond . To the south of the entire pond is the creek. On the north a huge amount of sword ferns with a secondary low spot/seasonal pond.
There are beaver at work. And the pond contains Crayfish/craw dad's, salamanders, frogs and tiny fish.
My questions: How do I keep down the algae ? remove skunk cabbage ? kill A lot of the ferns??? Should I add more rock to the pond sides and bottoms ? And would like to add non invasive water plants.
I do not want to harm the fish or wild life. We enjoy deer, chipmunks, eagle, grouse, and all this setting has to offer. I live in Washington state. Up in the sticks :)
Yet I do mow to the creek, cut blackberries, dig ferns, rake leaves, and plan on enhancing.
The property is not listed as wetlands but seems some is to me.
Suggestions and photos are much appreciated.
Life is short! Break the rules! Forgive quickly! Kiss slowly!
Love truly, Laugh uncontrollably......and never regret anything that made you smile

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 11:10PM
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Please start another thread, as you will get more and i hope, better, more thoughtfully put, attention.

Hope you leave all or much of the skunk cabbage. It is a wonderful plant, look it up. It heats up in spring, and melts its way through ice. there are different kinds.

Why would you you want to add rock?

Sounds like a pristine and healthy wetland.
Be extra careful not to put anything on the lawn. Chems can mess up your critters.

Any thing you want to remove, please do it with a tool rather than a poisen.
Keep us posted.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2007 at 4:32PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Ha, my parents often joked that they'd found me under a skunk cabbage leaf....

Anyhow, I really enjoyed this thread - and, no surprise, I have a couple of comments to make.

First, green-eyed blowhards the like of mgeca and ahughes do more harm to the environment than a hundred Herbs.
A humble observation.

Second, this wetland of Herb's has its roots in human intrusion.
Like it or not, the ball's rolling, and Herb has every right to maintain a balance -- which is precisely what he claims in his posts to be doing. No problems there.

Thirdly, mgeca, jealousy unbecomes you.
You are not a better writer than Herb. Get your own thread. Start your own bog-topic. Sorry, pal, but I'd rather read Herb's free-flowing words than your stagnant garbage any day of the week. Simply put, you strike me as a fear-monger. An elitist. A zero (judging by these posts alone).

And, finally, thanks for chasing off a decent poster.

Would that there were more of Herb's type around.


    Bookmark   December 12, 2007 at 10:52AM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

Well it's been just over a year since Herb's last update. I would love to hear how things are going but unfortunately it appears he got fed up with the nonsense and really isn't coming back for any more posts.

I wish he would though.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2008 at 9:35PM
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just put bettas and mosquitoes fishes in ur bog....they are hardy...and also..mosquitoes only thrive in stagnant waters...so put the fishes there 1 or 2 in each puddle, so that they wouldnt swim away! how's my suggestion??

    Bookmark   February 14, 2008 at 11:58PM
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Hi lwfevelyn, you definetly get points for creativity.

Just looked up bettas, and mosquitofishes for you. Unfortunately they turn out to be invasives. So, not so good. There might be native fish, or tadpoles, you could put in. Any fish, might also eat eggs of things you do want.
Run your ideas past your county or state agricultural extension office. They are extremely helpful, the master gardeners, will check with the best advisors in your state/region. They are connected to your state agricultural college.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2008 at 11:49PM
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Owning 40acres in Northern WI. It has a pond for drainage as well as a pond underging succession. I want to change that and had come here as there are some other folks out there doing the same.

I wanted to clarify some things. According to a checklist I found dnr.wi.gov/topic/waterways/checklists/checklist_manualdredging.pdf

it appears that I can do this. I have an area about 30' x 20' that I will bring all down to about 1' or less, as long as it all has water and I can get rid of the canary grass. I will so this by hand and plan on replanting with native WI plants which will benifit nature. I realizeI am disrupting nature but there are some species of plants which are not native and are invasive which I would like to avoid and be rid of.

I have read much drivel on this site and anyone who wants to know local/state laws the DNR of many states have excellent information on their respective websites. What a wonderful wealth of information. Teaches all anything from planting trees to building a pond.

After removing I will place the spoils within 20' of the newly rejuvenated pond in case i picked up any critter along the way. They can make their way back home.

I would love to simply fill in the wet hole but I cannot following the law!!! I repeat, following WI DNR codes I will work MY land finding compromise with what I would like as well abiding by laws set up to protect nature.

I will plant the following in the water that will fill the hole:

Spike Rush, Arrowhead, Waterlily, Pickerelweed, Sweet Flag, Wild Celery, Longleaf Pondweed, Water Stargrass

All are edible by various wildlife and even some by humans. I do not have such an ego that I will keep them all for myself......

An old post I am adding to but I enjoyed and am going to enjoy more watching the ducks swim among the frogs. There are 39.8 more acres that has already succesionized so I don't worry too much.

I hope the rest of the frogs nt in the pond don't die too much from the glyphosate I will use to get rid of the canary grass so I can plant trees. Only about 400 this year.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 6:50PM
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I almost forgot. I need to rid the canary grass as the previous owner and the nearby STATE land was clearcut 15 and 2 years ago respectively. I would also like to add they did nothing to repair their damage.

Herb you still out there Buddy?

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 6:57PM
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In addition, manual dredging with handheld devices that have no auxiliary power and remove a total of less than 3 cubic yards of material are generally exempt from permit requirements. HOWEVER, this manual dredging is NOT exempt for waters designated as "areas of special natural resource interest" (ASNRI) or where there are "public rights features" (PRF).

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 7:08PM
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