and then there were four…

A little less than a month ago, we made a relatively short drive north to pick up a potbellied pig that, lost or abandoned (though most likely abandoned), had wandered into our friend June’s yard. Not knowing about us at the time, June called Laura Zitzelberger at Nature’s Nursery, who, in turn, called us.

in the carThe hour-long ride back was interesting; interesting in the sense of the ancient Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” Given to reckless behavior, I had decided to pick him up sans crate, so the little pig — and he is indeed little, weighing in at just a smidge over 30 pounds — was loose in the car. He spent nearly as much time on my shoulders doing his best to climb up on top of my head as he did on the seat. Eventually, though, he did settle in and down, sprawling in the back and resting his head in the palm of my right hand.

getting to know youOn arriving home, his behavior in the house was little different from his initial behavior in the car, that is to say, “hell bent.” He chomped and rooted, prodded and postured, picking fights with any and all comers, even with those more inclined to run away, myself included.

I grumbled. I growled. I cursed.

Anne smiled.

“He’ll be fine,” she said. “Don’t you remember Bob?”

Bob is a dear friend of ours, one of four pigs rescued last winter and one of two of the four who now live on The Quarry full time, along with Beatrice, aka Little Pig. At first, his behavior left something to be desired. Now, however, he’s nearly the perfect gentlepig. Despite Anne’s assurances, I had my doubts. And so did Lolly, who maintained a discreet distance.

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As he was still intact, the first order of business was arranging for a quick snip. Though she’d never performed this operation on a pig, our veterinarian, Dr. Jackie Santoro, did the requisite research and the procedure came off — pun intended — without a hitch.

On returning him to The Quarry, there wasn’t any significant change in behavior. He had this truly annoying habit of, when he wanted something, anything, of furiously rooting at any available ankle. With 30 pounds of pig behind it, that nearly vulcanized snout left bruises.

I threatened. I snarled. I swore.

Anne smiled.

CarltonHe hadn’t been back much more than a day, certainly no more than two, when, coming in from outside or up from the basement I heard Anne chirp, “Yes!”

She was standing in the kitchen with the little pig at her feet. In her hands was some manner of treat: grapes or carrots or banana or some such. She would hold out a morsel and watch the pig. When he took a step back, she’d bend at the waist, deliver the treat and exclaim the encouraging, “Yes!” In a single 15-minute session, she permanently broke his annoying, destructive rooting behavior.

Even Lolly was impressed.

Lolly and Carlton

annerNow, he spends his time making his way around the house. I’m not saying that there aren’t still problems. He has a habit of poking his nose into places it doesn’t belong and he and Bob will likely never be fast friends, but we all have our faults, our own clashes of personality. The bottom line is this: he’s a smart, gentle, comforting being and it shows in any number of ways.

So, he’s here to stay. This is home.

We call him Carlton.

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Winter 2015 Newsletter

2015 Winter Newsletter-2With heavy snow in the forecast for Sunday, we’re looking at pretty stellar photo opps on the trails. Since the roads leading to may be impassable, perhaps the upcoming events listed in the newsletter may be more accessible.

Click on the cover to the right and see if one or all fit into your winter schedule.

guess who came in for breakfast…

aphonse coming in This morning, after almost nine months on The Quarry Farm, one of the sanctuary’s potbellied pigs decided to expand his territory, see just what exactly makes the other side of the green door such a big deal. It took some coaxing, about an hour of Anne’s time, three apples, a banana and a handful or two of peanuts to get him all the way into the house, but, eventually, Alphonse took the plunge. Bob Barker, his father (at least, we’re pretty sure Bob’s his father; their similarities in appearance are uncanny), watched him slowly make his way in, while Beatrice (aka Little Pig) peered through the slats in her pen at all the goings-on.

Bob and Alphonse are two of the four pigs rescued from a horrific hoarding situation by representatives of the Humane Society of Allen County and the Allen County Sheriff’s office during the depths of last winter’s freeze. Their story isn’t groundbreaking news — we’ve talked about it repeatedly here — but their recovery is a source of joy for all acquainted with these two. Where Bob settled into a routine relatively quickly, Alphonse has retained near total independence, refusing most advances for even the simplest of interactions. And that’s reflective of what they found during his rescue. While none of the animals had adequate shelter, Alphonse, it seemed, had none at all. He was free of any pen, though the drifting snow had created some measure of confinement. He had worn deep alphonsetrenches in the snow and roamed the area within their confines. Following his rescue, he, Bob and Greta and Grits, the other two potbellies who now live on the top of a hill down in Kentucky, were sheltered at HSoAC. Even there, Alphonse was less interested in companionship than he was in regular meals. After all of the legal issues were dealt with and out of the way, Bob and Alphonse came here. After several months of living exclusively out-of-doors, Bob discovered the pleasures of clean floors, soft blankets and nearly constant access to treats. But Alphonse, not so much. He settled into the outbuilding we’d originally constructed for the turkeys and that’s where he stayed, quite content to keep his distance. Of all of us, Rowan had the best of luck with him, though maybe it’s better said that Alphonse has been much more tolerant of her than of any others. Routinely, she was the one permitted to touch him. So it was something of a shock when we noticed him standing on the front porch about three weeks ago, and this with Rowan off to college.

alphSince then, Anne has worked with him daily. Talking to him, coaxing him closer to the house, to the porch to the door. This morning, all that effort payed off and he stepped inside for the first time, possibly ever, anywhere. To prove to him that he was still autonomous, captain of his own ship, we let him back out almost immediately. After, that is, as many peanuts as he could eat in the space of three minutes. It wasn’t long before he was back at the door, asking to come in. And out again. And back in.

He’s back out, out and running wherever and doing whatever within the confines of the four acres that serve as sanctuary for him and the others…but now he knows.

Alphonse, shortly after arriving.

Alphonse, shortly after arriving.

The door is always open.

all roads lead to OH-235 and at the end of the drive…pigs

Yesterday, Anne, Laura and I took half the day and drove south to Yellow Springs. Rowan’s there, engaged in a major of Environmental Sciences at Antioch College. It’s a great place to visit, even a groovy place, Yellow Springs having never entirely given up on hippy culture.

On the way, we crossed OH-235 and Laura made the comment that, seemingly, no matter where you’re going, there’s OH-235. We’d been on it just a few days before, coming back from a funeral, and here, unexpectedly, it was again.

Anne and I arrived home to a message from Laura Zitzelberger, the face and mind behind Nature’s  Nursery Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation Education. It seems that a potbellied pig had arrived uninvited at someone’s home and they’d called NN to see what could be done. Laura, in turn, called us and we closed the loop by calling June, the woman with the uninvited guest. She provided us with her address and we agreed to pick up the pig the next day (today, as I write this), Sunday.

In the morning, I input June’s address into mapquest. The recommended route sent me north on OH-235 for roughly an hour.

Go figure.

in the carStepping out of the car, I could hear him, the pig. He was quietly grunting, standing at the gate of a small outside kennel; behind him, a thick blanket that had served as his bed for the night. He trotted out, allowed me to scoop him up and we settled into the car for the drive back.

This is the second potbellied pig in less than one week to simply turn up, wandering without direction, without oversight and without hope. And while nowhere near one another – the first was discovered stumbling along State Route 65 in Columbus Grove and the second some 50 miles north – the trend is disturbing. It is, sadly, also not surprising. Visit any domestic animal rescue site and the sheer number of pigs up for adoption is staggering. RescueMe (what is, for us, the preeminent site for finding families and animals in need) is overburdened with people seeking new homes for pigs; not simply in Ohio, but all across the nation. And these are the people who are making an effort to re-home their companions.

Pigs are smart, strong, curious and obsessive. Left to their own devices, pigs will find a way; and, while cute and cuddly when little, most pigs don’t stay small. A low weight for a miniature potbellied pig is 60 pounds, but, while minis can maintain weights below 100 pounds, seeing pigs in excess of 100 pounds isn’t unusual. So, rather than the Chihuahua they were expecting, they wind up with an animal closer in size to a Labrador, or something even larger. All too often, these pigs that have grown bigger than anticipated are simply abandoned, turned out and left to fend for themselves. Within months, even the most docile and diminutive of pigs may revert to a feral state: growing tusks and thicker hair and becoming leaner and more muscular. Pigs returned to the wild, intentionally or not, within three generations will assume the physical attributes of their boar ancestry, no matter their ancestry. This is just as true of potbellied pigs as it is of Chinas and Polands.

But not this pig. He’s here for the long haul, or in another, similar environment.. He’s an intact adolescent male, but that condition won’t last long. Tomorrow, we’ll contact The Quarry Farm’s veterinarian and arrange for a bit of a snip. Tomorrow we’ll also contact the Wood County Humane Society and let them know he’s here.

Just in case someone’s interested.

getting to know you

a different shade of white

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In 1911, Franz Boas, an anthropologist who spent years living among the Inuit, published The Mind of Primitive Man. Through it, Boas not only revolutionized anthropology, but sparked a debate that has lasted over a century. Boas famously suggested that the Inuit have dozens, if not hundreds, of different names for snow. Linguists argue back and forth the merits of the claim, some saying that added suffixes to root words are simply individual flourishes while others assert that, yes, each new permutation is, indeed, a separate and distinct word.

Which leads me to my question and my subject…Would the Inuit consider a heavy frost snow?

There was fog in the early morning hours on Wednesday; fog and a whole lot of cold. Combined, the two create what I’ve always considered hoar frost, a consideration that is at least mostly accurate.

frosted wild teasel

frosted wild teasel

As it turns out, there are six different recognized types of frost – two of which, rime and black, are subject to debate – one of which is hoar. Well, sort of “one of which”. See, there are actually four different types of hoar frost: air, surface, crevasse and depth. Air hoar is the type of frost we experienced today. Tangentially, hoar is a word of Old English derivation, an adjective meaning “showing signs of old age”; in this case, conceivably, it is the fringe of white that conveys senility.

The world seems to froth with it, this thick confection of frozen air. It shrouds tree limbs, coats fences, cars and outbuildings and accumulates on the individual hairs and feathers of the animals that spend a good deal of their time out of shelter.

In the bottom land below our house, the plants and grasses were still, bowed under their burden of frost. The wild teasel (Dipsacus fullonum), an invasive from North Africa and Eurasia that has been here so long that it seems native, carried its coat with grace.

Later, though it never truly grew warm even for this time of year, the rising sun brushed so much frost from tree limbs that, under the canopy, it fell as thick as snow.

So, can anyone tell me? Does anyone know? Make it official…does frost translate to snow?

Buddy

turkeys and some clean, new snow

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Turkeys woke us up Monday morning, woke us up to at least a couple of inches of new snow.

InygoNot this turkey. This is Inigo, one of the domestic bronze turkeys who live here in the residential neighborhood of The Quarry Farm. And not the turkeys pictured first. Well, probably not them, at any rate. It could be, I suppose; they’re representative of the wild turkeys that live here, but probably not, as that photograph’s at least two years old, possibly four. While turkeys in the wild are known to live to the ripe old age of 14 years, the average lifespan is only three. So, possible, but not probable.

flying turkeyMore likely, it was this one, though it’s a poor likeness. Him and his friends, no doubt. He made himself known late this evening, pacing back and forth along the fence line that separates the sanctuary from the preserve, the domestic from the wild, chortling to himself or to a hen on the other side of the fence. I crept out with the idea of getting a good photograph. He’d have none of that, though, and took to wing.

But back to yesterday morning.

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Outside the house, through the doors and windows, there was a whole lot of white. All that new snow made Lolly twitchy. For her, it was like a clean canvas to a painter, an empty page to a writer; she just had to go out and make her mark.

lollyMonday morning’s walk was very much like Sunday’s, though there weren’t as many tracks readily visible as the day before. The new snow had covered the old and there weren’t nearly enough intrepid explorers out and about before Lolly and I got there. We did see some eastern cottontail rabbit tracks and what we assume are fox tracks; at least, that is how they appear to us. Lolly almost first thing scared up an eastern fox squirrel; scared it right up a series of consecutively larger trees, in fact, until it settled in a big, old sycamore that sits just up and off the path.  Lolly must carry herself with a certain amount of menace, because that squirrel left the better part of its hedge-apple breakfast behind. If that squirrel only knew, it would have blown a raspberry and kept right on breaking its fast. Off we went, then, along the path some more and across the bridge and skirting the edge of the quarry, covered in a blanket of white with hardly a mark on it. Just the tracks of that rabbit I mentioned earlier. We could hear the occasional bird, but they were keeping their heads down; down and tucked under a wing, most likely, out of the snow.

honey locustTree houseThe big back field was as quiet as the quarry and we passed through without seeing much of anything. Rounding back, we took to the path that leads down into what some locals refer to as Coburn’s Bottom. We saw a downy woodpecker or two and signs of them in some still-standing dead trees. The thorns on the honey locust trees (Gleditsia triacanthos) were softened with snow, though you’d sooner want to kiss a porcupine than hug a honey locust; the wild ones, anyway.

Anne, Lolly and Old Man Sycamoresycamore barkA little farther on and we came to a magnificent old gentleman of a tree; a huge and stately American sycamore that Anne calls by the name of Old Man Sycamore. There are any number of American sycamores (Platanas occidentalis) growing within the riparian areas of The Quarry, and we’re pleased to have them. The trunk and branches are of a mottled color, with reddish brown, pale gray, light green and olive shades of bark setting side by side in irregular patches. This is because the bark of the sycamore isn’t as rigid as the bark of other trees and sloughs off in patches, leaving a pattern created by different layers of bark. A hardwood, sycamores have been used for furniture, siding and even the creation of musical instruments. Because they’re so hardy, they do well in urban and suburban settings, and they do grow quite large; four foot in diameter is common and 70 to 100 feet tall isn’t unusual. Their canopies are welcome on hot summer days and even their stripped branches in winter offer a good deal of shelter from the elements.

sycamore canopy

lollly in sycamoreAs for Old Man Sycamore, he’s a good four and a half feet in diameter and fifty feet high. That he’s had to work to get to sunlight is apparent. His trunk has a great bit of a bow to it where he worked his way past a rock, another tree that has long since passed or some other unknown obstacle, and his trunk bears a wide rent in the southern side that opens out into a wide cavity. Lolly just couldn’t keep her nose out of it…then her shoulders. Finally, all but her tail was snug inside.

There’s a nice swale near the Old Man that’s formed by the run-off from the vernal pools down into Cranberry Run and we took advantage of it to walk out onto the stream. Lolly and I followed the Little Cranberry for quite a ways, though every time the ice cracked or popped, Lolly hopped and scurried forward and away. Eventually, though, we made it back to the ford without much incident and out and back up to the house.

And so ended a nice morning walk in the woods, with Lolly curled up on our bed, licking the warmth back into her feet and me easing back with a hot cup of Earl Grey.

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In the footsteps of Fizz

Lolly There’s a man we admire who lives near the Forest of Dean. We are genuinely fond of him, though I don’t even know his name. I simply know him as The Tramp. He walks about the Forest, taking pictures of whatever catches his eye, turns his feet home and then cracks open his head and spills an absolute treasure trove of knowledge about the world around him into the ether (if you’ve not yet met him, haven’t found him through social media or some obscure search or simply missed him through sheer bad luck, here he is: https://atrampinthewoods.wordpress.com/). We do, however, know the name of his companion, his Sancho Panza. I think it’s probably safe to say that The Tramp would find his wanderings considerably less in so very many ways without her. Her name is Fizz and she’s every bit as curious about the world around her as any tramp.

But, why, you ask, are we bothering to discuss these someones that are half a world away? Well, first and foremost, The Tramp’s musings and observations are all of that and so much more. Read. Look. You’ll thank me for it. Thank me and The Tramp. And Fizz? Fizz is…well…Fizz. Second, it’s been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and while I’m not above stealing an idea or three if I think it will help move everything along a bit more smoothly, I do draw the line at failing to give credit where credit is due. Having said that…

Here’s Lolly.Lolly crossing

For those of you not near the here we’re at, it’s been cold; so cold that walks to retrieve the mail are arduous undertakings requiring planning, oversight and at least five layers of clothing. Today, however, (and likely tomorrow, if the forecasters read their scattered bones correctly, scried sincerely their battered leaves of tea), it’s been comparatively balmy; nearly 30° F. On Tuesday, though, we’re back into the basement, temperature-wise. So, given that we’ve been cooped up for the better part of a week, we threw open this window of opportunity and bounded back into the woods, Lolly, Anne and I.

DriftsFirst observation of the day: snow is ever so much whiter under the crust. The winds that have battered this area have stripped the topsoil from all of the surrounding fields and tossed it until it couldn’t be tossed any further. Where it falls it lays in blankets, ribbons and bands of varying shades of brown. Sometimes you don’t even notice it until you’ve taken a step or two, all that dirt being evenly distributed so that there’s just no way of knowing. Other times, you just can’t help but see.

That same wind, though, did interesting things to what little snow has fallen, pushing what must have been little more than two inches of overall snow into two- and three-foot deep frozen waves caught in the process of cascading over the lip and down into the stream bed. Cranberry Run itself is frozen along most its sinuous length, with water breaking through the ice only along the most turbulent runs.Creek sculpture

Tracks on QuarryOn the paths we’ve carved through the woods, down on the frozen stream and across the quarry itself were sign after sign after sign of the many and varied creatures that live here. Tracks of rabbit, squirrel and raccoon crisscrossed those of turkey and deer and a host of songbirds. There were even what we suspect were fox tracks and signs that at least one fox was successful at the hunt. Though we’ve not yet managed to photograph any of the foxes that we know live here (we know of two active dens), we hear them at night, interacting with one another in eerie, high-pitched yowls and sharp, barking yips and growls. We’re researching trail cams, at the moment to help us capture visuals and have acquired some sound equipment with which we hope to record the voices of The Quarry, once I’ve figured out how to effectively use it.

Fox SquirrelIn a tree on the spit of land separating Cranberry Run from the old quarry, a fox squirrel sat on a branch and watched us walk on by. He was fat and sassy and at least one of the reasons for Osage scrapshis good health soon became apparent. Scattered here and there were the remnants of osage oranges, the seed fruit of osage trees. The osage tree (Maclura pomifera), also known as the hedge or hedge-apple tree, is one of the most commonly planted trees in the United States and is used as a field hedge, wind break and to stabilize soils. Unlike apples, pears or cherries, the squirrels tear the tree’s green and yellow fruit apart to get at the seeds, not the flesh. Remnants of their feasts are scattered in oval patches here and there along the stream and back in the woods.

DownySparrowThough there’s little doubt that many simply went unobserved, there seem to be fewer birds about than in past years. We did, however, see various sparrow species, juncos, cardinals, bluejays and several downy woodpeckers flitting from and between the trees.

Tomorrow, if the prognosticators are correct in their prognostications, we’ll probably take the time to do this again.