This is the first in our series of favorite Imago moments for 2018. Check back in for Bob’s favorite moment from Music in the Woods, Adrian’s favorite in our new kitchen, Chris’ story of cave adventures from summer camp, and Mo’s first sit spot with our students.

On November 10, 2018 Imago hosted the Champion Honeysuckle Hunt.  The idea was to take an ordinarily fun volunteer event focused on forest restoration and to spice it up with a bit of competition.  Bush honeysuckle is the scourge of many Midwest forests, and Imago’s lands have not been spared from this invader.  If you want to know more about how this species, you can click here, but to quickly summarize, this is a classic invasive plant species brought to the US as a horticultural shrub and planted extensively for erosion control.  The shrub, free of all its homeland diseases, insect pests, and predators, really likes our area’s limestone-based soils and has taken over.  It is so aggressive that it gobbles up all the light, water, and space and just plain bullies our native plants.  It even produces chemical weapons that stop other plant seeds from germinating nearby.  The plant is bad news for our forests and Imago regularly has volunteer days focused on removing the bush and restoring our forests.

My team, was made up of 3 generations of Schenks.  My father (age 75), myself (44), my son (8), and daughter (3). 

The Champion Hunter event mashed this important work with a something like a fishing tournament.  Teams of “hunters” went out into the forest to find the biggest shrubs, cut them down, dig them out of the ground (if you don’t get the roots it just resprouts) and haul them back to the headquarters.  The girth of the shrubs’ trunk was measured.  Teams had 2 hours and could enter as many as three shrubs.  The circumference of each was added up for the team’s total score.

This was a lot of fun, and though teams got into the competitive nature of the event, everyone understood it was kind of tongue and cheek (I mean, a honeysuckle hunting tournament, is pretty silly).  Everyone was very friendly and helpful.  My team, was made up of 3 generations of Schenks.  My father (age 75), myself (44), my son (8), and daughter (3).  My son was the scout, diving through the forest looking for the biggest shrubs and laying claim to them before the other teams.  Once identified, the cutting and digging team arrived to take the shrub down and get it’s stump out of the ground.  This worked better in theory than in practice however.  Because of the huge size of the first shrub found, the cutting and digging team took a long time to get our task completed.  Once over we were pretty tired and the scout had long ago found our next quarry.  We moved to the next even bigger shrub, which took over an hour to excavate.  The kids had long since moved on to building forts in the woods and throwing sticks in the pond, and the diggers were exhausted, but we did get the shrub out!  Too heavy to carry we had to employ the help of another team to load it on a wheelbarrow to get it to the measuring station.

While we didn’t win (we only entered two trophies) we had a great time!  Doing hard physical work with my father was really satisfying and was an nice bonding experience.  The kids were engaged…most of the time, and when they weren’t they had nature’s playground to romp in.  And if that wasn’t enough, we had the opportunity to collectively control a host of honeysuckle shrubs in Imago’s forests.