Polly's blog

An Elephant Sneezed into Our Little Lake…Or, Why Is the Little Lake Dry? pt. 2

August 8, 2011

Last fall we drained the Little Lake, harvested the algae from the bloom , and used it for compost and papermaking. In the late spring we removed as much algae as we could and refilled the pond for the summer season and invited Christine to make a plan to control the bloom. At Lynden, we are constantly balancing the aesthetic imperative—our desire to maintain the landscape that Peg and Harry Bradley created—with out commitment to sustainability. Large buffer zones and aggressive aquatic plantings might make a bigger dent in the algae problem, but they would also radically alter the look of the pond and the area around it. With this in mind, and with lots of consultation with Lynden staff, Christine developed a plan.

drain stage 2


What can be done to control algae blooms?

Small ponds pose one of the biggest challenges to management but I have proposed a number of measures that are in the process of being approved and implemented. Elimination of lawn fertilization has been in place for a few years and will help to reduce nutrient run-off into the basin. Here are the highlights of the proposed plan that will help to reduce the prevalence of algae blooms:

1. Drain and dredge the lake. Dredging the lake will take place once the lake is drained and consists of removing the existing pea gravel and a portion of the sediments. This will remove some of the nutrients from the system in addition to some algae spores.

2. Submerge barley straw. Hydrogen peroxide and other enzymes/chemicals are released when barley straw decomposes in the presence of oxygen. The decomposition products inhibit algal growth, but do not kill existing cells.

3. Install a reciruculating pump. A recirculating pump will allow for continuous movement of water and help to discourage surface bloom formation while maintaining a more uniform oxygen concentration. The pump will encourage decomposition of the barley straw and will, with the help of the wind, circulate the products of decomposition throughout the basin. It will also enable us to run the waterfall on a regular basis!

4. Shoreline restoration.
Phase 1: Aquatic plants. Emergent aquatic plants will trap nutrients while shading the lake bottom, thereby reducing the surface area on which benthic (bottom-loving) algae can grow. These plants not only provide essential habitat for wildlife (frogs, turtles, some birds), but also stabilize the shoreline and provide a barrier to the organic matter that blows in from the lawn.
Phase 2: Shoreline plants. Plants that grow along the shoreline are adapted to wet or moist soils. Like emergent aquatic plants, shoreline plants encourage wildlife (birds and butterflies), stabilize the shoreline (they have deeper root systems than lawn turf) and help to block terrestrial organic matter. Moreover, geese are less likely to “hang out” by a shoreline where predators lurk.

Care will be taken to use plants native to Wisconsin, and which were raised in Wisconsin, to
maintain the ecological integrity of Little Lake.

An Elephant Sneezed into Our Little Lake…Or, Why Is the Little Lake Dry? pt. 1

July 25, 2011

Several people have asked us if we drained the pond for the Eiko & Koma performance. We did not. We drained as part of a pond remediation project designed by Christine Kozik, our aquatic biologist in residence, and Eiko & Koma chose it as a performance area. In this and subsequent posts, Christine will tell us something about the biology of algae, her plans for the pond, and how you can participate. Be sure to stop by Lynden periodically to watch the project progress and feel free to come with questions for Christine.

lake before drain 1
Little Lake, pre-drain

I. Algae 101
Some visitors may have noticed that Little Lake by the front house has been producing an abundance of algae over the years. This green alga, Mougeotia, is affectionately called “elephant’s snot” by limnologists and is a typical problem alga in small, shallow, eutrophic (rich in minerals and nutrients) ponds and lakes. When nutrient levels in the water are greater than those in the pond sediment, algae will outcompete aquatic plants because they absorb nutrients through all cells in a colony, while plants can only absorb through their roots.

Nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen enter a water system via surface run-off that carries fertilizers applied to lawns, and organic debris such as goose droppings, leaves and grass clippings. Although we have been eliminating chemical treatment of the lawns at Lynden over the past three years, removing these nutrients from a lake system often becomes difficult once introduced, and nutrients may accumulate in the water as well as the sediments. Moreover, the shallow nature of the pond allows sunlight to penetrate to the sediments where Mougeotia is normally found, enhancing the productivity of the algae. When production is very high or when Mougeotia begins to senesce, mats of the algae rise to the surface of the pond and we observe a bloom.

Polly's Eiko & Koma Preview

June 25, 2011

On Friday I travelled down to Chicago with David Ravel of Alverno Presents (our partner in presenting Eiko & Koma here at Lynden on July 23 to see Eiko & Koma performing in the gallery at the MCA as part of their exhibition there, "Time is Not Even, Space is Not Empty."

The two dancers perform within an installation that they have designed for the entire time the gallery is open on a given day. On Friday, they lay on what looks like a heap of detritus--rocks, feathers, sand--not much larger than a large bed, their bodies covered with white paint and stray marks, and ebbed and flowed for five hours. The space is silent, except for the occasional video soundtrack drifting in from another gallery and a sound like sandpaper as visitors walk in and out of the small room. The lighting changes, sometimes warming one body and cooling the other, occasionally evoking a sunrise as the paper walls of the installation are illuminated. Eiko & Koma's slow folding and unfolding, reaching out and turning away, brings to mind Samuel Beckett, the activities of larvae; but more importantly it allows one to focus intensely on the form of the human body--these two human bodies--as they move very, very slowly, dissolving and recomposing in the changing light. Time falls away in the presence of their deliberate, concentrated movements; thoughts roam (death? the end of humankind? will Eiko's foot blindly find its way to Koma's thigh, and will that signify hope, redemption?); vision blurs in this hallucinatory space.

Eiko & Koma will be performing periodically during the run of their MCA exhibition, and I urge you to go and see them, and to see the exhibition itself, which includes lots of documentary material, video, costumes and other objects from their long performing career. Seeing them in the gallery will be very different from seeing them at Lynden, but it will provide context and you will not soon forget it. And if you can't make it to our performance at Lynden, try to get to Chicago during one of their performance visits--they are doing several projects (the complete performance schedule is at the link above).

We have a copy of the catalogue produced by the Walker Art Center available in our porch reading room area, too.

Hope to see you on July 23!

YouSnow pt. 3 -- Winners Announced

March 17, 2011

Our apologies for keeping everyone on the edges of their seats as they awaited the outcome of the YouSnow event. With spring making a sudden appearance up here at Lynden, we’ve been watching the snow recede and the turkeys reappear. Still, as Willy has shown in a prior post, the traces of snow sculptures remain on the grounds, and may even be visible on Sunday (from my window I can see a miniature version of the Cucullu/Matthes wall across the lake, more of a fence than a fortress).

Our thanks to Emilia Layden and Paul Druecke, our esteemed judges. They spent an hour trekking around the grounds in the snow in the late afternoon during Winter Carnival looking at projects and talking to artists. The snow sculptures were a marvel of ingenuity—so many ways to shape, arrange, imprint or ingest the snow! Best of all, each sculpture enabled us to see the garden, at least for a little while, in a new way.

The judges began with the delicious Snownuts purveyed by Cody Frei of the 62nd Dimension (though they had to fight for space at the table with two very serious young Snownut-makers).


Her performance completed, Sara Caron met the judges on the path to explain her project. Armed with a cell phone and a loaf of bread, Sara traced a friend’s path between her car and the Capitol in Madison in a field of snow. The directions were relayed in real time over the phone, allowing the artist and her double to walk together. Sara left a trail of breadcrumbs as well as her footsteps in the field of snow.


Amanda Tollefson returned to her tree perch to greet the judges. She explained that she had abandoned her original plan when she discovered how un-packable the snow was (a sketch of the proposed structure hung from a branch) and instead had taken up residence in the tree.


A little farther along, Katie Kraft’s giant bracelet had taken on a welter of blue markings, thanks to passing participants. (Just the other day we brought in the braided rope that was all that remained of the piece after the weather changed.)


Colin Matthes and Santiago Cucullu showed off a small white painting on a thick white wall—one of the afternoon’s major engineering feats. Intriguingly, this extemporaneous gallery faced the woods to the south; if you positioned yourself in front of the painting the wall effectively usurped the entire sculpture garden, obliterating the view of lake, sculptures and buildings.


Roy Staab showed off his piece, now called Prosperity, from the bridge. He and his crew had battled the dread double ice on the lake, breaking through the top layer into the slushy water that rested on top of the very thick layer below. Lots of wet socks, shoes and pants, as well as a video, which can be seen by clicking the image below (yes, it did snow that day!).


Richard Galling wrapped up his solo labors and showed his minimalist sculpture to the judges.


KT Hancock, Sam Scheller and Tina Graziano also explained their work, a snow intervention in the crotch of a tree, and led the judges around to the far side to show a hidden detail.


The judging ended on a high note with a formal presentation by Jade Pergl, who told Paul and Emilia about the tool she and her sister Mia and father Will had built before the carnival to make their path in the snow. She expertly fielded questions about color and route choices, impressing the judges and their entourage (by now many of the artists were following along).


Emilia and Paul retreated into the house to make their final decisions, emerging after a long period to announce the winners. They admitted that it was a difficult decision, and thanked all the artists for their inspired work.

The Grand Prize, a snow painting by John Riepenhoff, went to Sara Caron.

The two First Prizes, gift certificates to Utrecht, went to Richard Galling and to the team of KT Hancock, Sam Scheller and Tina Graziano.

All the participants received memberships to Lynden, where we hope to see them often in the coming months. Special thanks to our friends at Boswell Book Company, who provided rewards for the judges. And of course to John Riepenhoff, for organizing YouSnow and The Pond Is Our Canvas.

For a very comprehensive collection of photos from the Winter Carnival, visit us on flickr.

Where Have They Gone?

March 6, 2011

Tree trimming is underway at Lynden, and we've moved a few sculptures to keep them out of harm's way. The two Heinz Mack sculptures, Knife Tree and Three Graces have been moved to the barn where they will be waxed before returning to their position beneath the elm next to the house. We had already moved George Rickey's Peristyle-Three Lines indoors when heavy winds threatened several months ago; it has now been joined by the other two sculptures on the ledge outside the glass pavilion: Bernhard Heiliger's Unfolding and Lyman Kipp's Lodgepole.

Winter Carnival Recap

February 28, 2011

Roy Staab & collaborators during YouSnow
Roy Staab & Collaborators during YouSnow

Members and newcomers visited Lynden on Saturday for our first Winter Carnival.

Eddee Daniel was the first to post on his blog about the event (the post includes some wonderful pictures).

Jeremy Stepien and Jenni Groot had the studio ready by 10 am for a day’s worth of art activities (people of a variety of ages were still making candles well after studio closing time at 4 pm). John Riepenhoff helped the YouSnow snow sculptors find perfect spots for their projects, while Darlene Lochbihler, Jason Housworth and Bob Retko gathered a group for their tour of Lynden’s trees. By early afternoon the watering cans and spray bottles of food coloring were ready, and people were painting the pond (and themselves) while docent Lloyd Hickson led a group on a sculpture tour. We called in the YouSnow artists and their helpers around 2:30 pm so that Emilia Layden and Paul Druecke could tour the projects and make their decisions. I spotted walkers, cross-country skiers, snow-shoers, and the occasional lucky child being hauled on the sled as I followed the judges on their rounds.

In the late afternoon people began to arrive for the opening of Inside/Outside: Shana McCaw+Brent Budsberg. We had been watching the artists, dressed as 19th century farmers and wielding a shovel and pick axe, as they steadily excavated the outline of a farmhouse, their shoveling punctuated by slow trips across the garden as they hauled out dirt and brought back coal. Just as it was turning dark, we all went back outside and the characters (you could no longer think of them as Brent and Shana) doused the coal and set it alight. They stood in the center of their ghostly house, smoke rising and embers glowing. Eventually, they stepped out of the ring of fire and disappeared into the woods. The spectators moved closer to the coals, warming themselves before they returned indoors to see the work in the gallery.

We will be posting more info and pictures all week, including a complete report on the YouSnow competition.

Ice update

February 14, 2011

Roy Staab ice skating at Lynden

It may not have been a great day for ice skating (though artist Roy Staab ventured out and braved the puddles and bumps) but we did have some snowshoers and walkers. Today the snow is disappearing fast, and if we get the right combination of freeze and thaw we may yet be able to reclaim the surface of the lake for skating--as long as we can avoid the dreaded slush! We'll continue to post information as the weekend approaches.

Click here for more ice skating photos.

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