The Quarry

On the quarry

For those who aren’t already aware, we didn’t come by The Quarry Farm name through sheer chance. It wasn’t a challenge presented by an odd acquaintance – “Hey, you know the letter Q’s not used all that much…Think you can come up with a ‘Q’ name?”

No.

The Quarry Farm is what the Seitz clan all called this particular branch of their dairy operation, this specific geographical spot. It was here that the family grazed cattle and Jersey calves, ponies Cookie and Babe, and cultivated hay. And, because they’re not all completely arbitrary in their actions, they had a compelling reason for calling The Quarry Farm “The Quarry Farm.”

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there was a string of quarrying operations throughout the area and along Riley Creek and Cranberry Run. Flagstone and limestone, plentiful in this part of the state, were the primary objectives. One such operation was located here and, though several small springs forced its closure, here it remains.

Raccoon PrintWhile at one time well known for sizable fish, the quarry underwent yet another change when, in the 1950s and again in the 1980s, local governments opted to dredge and straighten Cranberry Run in an effort to abate flooding in Putnam and Allen Counties. The spit of land separating the two bodies of water eroded to the point where the stream steadily deposited silt into the quarry until, nearly three-quarters of a century later, the quarry bears more resemblance to a wetland than to a pond or lake.

Twelve-spotted skimmerAs such, it’s home to a host of animals. There are dragonflies and damselflies in abundance. Water fowl feed and nest here and there is a treasure trove of amphibians, including a thriving community of Blanchard’s cricket frogs. Recently, we’ve discovered salamanders in the area and, this past spring, spotted what we suspect was a river otter in the one area of the quarry that still retains some degree of depth, though it’s failed to make a more recent appearance.

Here it is then, the quarry from which The Quarry Farm earned its name. And, while photos are fine, such as they are, the experience is more satisfying first-hand. So give us a call. We’ll be happy to show you around.

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Third time’s a charm

IMG_0826The Junior Gardeners of Continental were one of the first groups to visit The Quarry Farm after we officially opened to the public three years ago. I distinctly remember the initial telephone conversation with organizer Charlene. She had picked up our newsletter and wanted to bring her charges out for a program. She didn’t sound too sure about the whole idea, but her group arrived and we had a fantastic time. Guess they did, too, because they spent two hours with us on Saturday, this time searching for butterfly host and nectar plants on a scavenger hunt.

IMG_1107Beatrice met up again with her good friend Brandon, the first person she would approach of her own accord after her arrival in 2012 as a very young pot-bellied piglet. Although Brandon had some slick new wheels this year and Beatrice was sleepy in the July humidity, she knew him well. So did Buddy.008

Megan Ramey, Program and Partnerships Manager for the Girl Scouts of Western Ohio, arrived just before the Junior Gardeners to talk with us about the possibility of scouts earning various badges here. Thanks to the joyous enthusiasm of Charlene and her crew, a star of a Virginia opossum and Laura’s coffee and sugar cookie bars, we’re in.

Here’s to more face time with the kids from Continental. Special thanks to Junior Gardener Jazlyn Bishop for sharing your photos and video with us. Keep them coming.

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Small Triumph

Sandhill Cranes, 2014 Garden, Pipevine Swallowtail Larva 023

Why would a gardener be happy, overjoyed even, to discover an army of fat, black, spikey-looking caterpillars with red polka dots pillaging a prized ornamental vine?  Answer:  When the marauders are Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly larva and the vine is Dutchman’s Pipe (aristolochia macrophylla), one of their host plants.

For the ten summers and more since husband Gerald planted two pipe vines in the garden at Red Fox Cabin, we have kept watch on them.* We’ve admired the cute little Dutchman’s pipes they bear and checked the foliage for ragged holes that would give away the presence of larva. We’ve peered at black with blue swallowtails, hoping to spot the distinctive coloration of the Pipevine, inky black forewing and iridescent blue hindwing.  However, sightings have been extremely rare and none have chosen to lay eggs on the beautiful Dutchman’s Pipe. Until this July.

Sandhill Cranes, 2014 Garden, Pipevine Swallowtail Larva 016Last Saturday evening as I was walking my Jack Russel, Lefty, or rather as he was leading me where he wanted to go, he tugged me toward the rear of the log cabin, where one of the pipe vines grows luxuriantly on a porch pillar.  Lefty was intent on the rabbit or cat or whatever that he scented underneath the porch, but I was halted in my tracks by the sight of that vine, no longer luxuriant, but ragged, nearly defoliated, and crawling with the aforementioned fat black caterpillars–at least twenty.  Thrilled by the sight and the realization that our vine had finally been discovered by a passing Pipevine Swallowtail, I rushed home with a disappointed Lefty to grab my camera and my Peterson’s field guide to caterpillars, for confirmation.

Sandhill Cranes, 2014 Garden, Pipevine Swallowtail Larva 012According to the guide, predators avoid Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars because the vine that feeds them is toxic and makes them unpalatable.  Also, when they are ready to pupate they tend to crawl away from their host plant and find other places to attach a greenish chrysalis with a silken thread.  So, the total disappearance of the caterpillars two days later was not as alarming as it might have been.  Photos and a ravaged vine prove they were there.  Quite likely, somewhere on the Quarry Farm later this summer, a Pipevine Swallowtail, or maybe twenty, will emerge from its chrysalis and sail into the butterfly garden to dine, and with luck someone will be there with a camera.  A photo of the shimmering beauty will be a fitting tribute to Gerald, who inspired us with his love of butterflies and planted the Dutchman’s Pipe so many years ago.

*[Pipe vines are native  in some parts of the Northeast but not in Putnam Co., Ohio; ornamental pipe vines were common in Victorian gardens but are less so today. Pipevine Swallowtails can complete their life cycle only if they happen to find a host pipe vine or a Virginia Snakeroot growing wild or deliberately planted.  Adults might stop to nectar in a flower garden but will move on if a host plant is not available.]

They call me Mr. Bill…

Bill

“He’s a big goat,” Sandy explained to Anne over the phone and via email. “People don’t understand how big he really is.”

Sandy was talking about Bill, a Boer goat that she and her husband, Doug, had raised from when he was smaller than a pygmy. And, trust me; she wasn’t kidding (no pun intended). Bill’s bigger than Buddy, the miniature donkey that guards The Quarry Farm: taller, anyway, and he’s the newest member of The Quarry Farm family.

Sandy and Doug drove him up from the Cincinnati area, from the farm that the couple is in the process of leaving. They were successful in placing the other animals that lived on their farm, but because of his size, Bill proved a special case. They’d raised him as a pet and they didn’t want him to go just anywhere, were anxious to see that he went someplace safe. After reviewing their options, they chose here and we’re grateful for that. Bill’s every bit as sweet as he is big.It took him a few days to work out just where he belonged in the loose-knit community of goats that already reside here, all of whom are less than half his size, but he did and the pygmies and Nigerian dwarfs are finding his arrival a real boon.

apple picki BillForget the fact that he scrapes out dust wallows for all his smaller cousins before digging up his own. Never mind that, in a pinch, the pygmies can take shelter from the sun in his shadow (and, yes, they do). What’s really important, what all the goats truly appreciate him for (and the pigs, if we’re being honest), is his reach. Standing on his back legs with his forelegs braced against the trunk of a tree and stretching for all he’s worth, Bill can pretty easily top seven feet. And when the trunk he’s braced against is that of an apple tree, well, let’s just say that Sir Isaac Newton would have received more than one lesson on the effects of gravity. Another way of putting it is to say that, rather than a windfall, the animals here are benefiting from a Billfall. Seriously…who needs a cherry picker with Bill around? Not the wee beasties of The Quarry Farm.

So, welcome home, Bill. Well come, indeed.

The gang of goats

 

Summer is underway, and with it comes a newsletter

2014 Summer Newsletter.indd

Hot off the printer, as well as an upload, is The Quarry Farm 2014 Summer Newsletter. Lots to talk about, like the fact that The Quarry Farm Nature Preserve & Conservation Farm is a 501(c)3 public charity, and plenty of things coming up. Click on the cover at left, open and read away.

Hope you are able to jump in on the calendar and see for yourself.

Once upon a time…

As children, most of us at one time or another have read, or have had read to us, fairy tales; the kind of story where the hero or heroine has to overcome great adversity in order to win out in the end. Generally, the moral of these stories is something along the lines of, “Be good. Be just. Work hard. Do these things and all will be well.” And just as most of us have heard or read these stories, we’ve experienced that life has a habit of teaching us a different kind of lesson, something a bit more realistic. I mean, life isn’t fair, right? Good guys regularly finish last and, all too often, what you earn from working hard is more hard work. That’s frequently been my experience, at any rate. So, I tend to think of myself as a pragmatist; I hope for the best, but expect something worse. There are those, however, who have described me as a cynic, and while it’s true that I don’t trust the motives of others, I consider that a survival trait, not a character flaw. So you’d probably guess that, from my perspective, there are no such things as fairy tale endings.

Guess again.

Greta, shortly after her rescue.

Greta, shortly after her rescue.

Last February, with the wind screaming and cutting and churning the air down to between 30 and 40 degrees below zero, members of both the Humane Society of Allen County and the Allen County Sheriff’s Office seized nearly 50 animals from a hoarding situation about 20 miles south of The Quarry Farm. And while this isn’t news to those of you who visit this site, the repercussions of the event, the sheer horror of the conditions those rescued were living in deserve telling and retelling.

The trench that Greta and Grits survived.

The trench that Greta and Grits survived.

Shelter, for those animals that had any, were wide-slatted wooden crates open to the sky or with poorly fitted roofs, rough houses slapped together from bits and pieces of waste wood and 50-gallon plastic barrels laid on their sides. Where they had run out of proper fencing, barbed wire was looped on the ground to contain two horses and three ponies. Eight chickens survived, huddled under an abandoned car, ringed by the frozen carcasses of the chickens that weren’t so lucky. The frozen remains of two dogs were found, though only one is believed to have died of exposure; the other, it is suspected, simply starved.

Of the animals that survived, that were rescued, four were potbellied pigs.  Two, Bob Barker and Alphonse, came to live here, at The Quarry Farm. The other Kentucky boundtwo, dubbed Greta and Grits, were spoken for by friends of ours down in Kentucky. This Sunday past, Anne and I picked up the two pigs from their temporary home at the HSoAC, loaded them into Anne’s Toyota Matrix and headed south. Because of the care they’d received and the socialization provided by the staff and volunteers at HSoAC, both pigs were extremely well-behaved, though understandably a bit restless. A whole grain bagel and pieces of both a cinnamon and an orange scone, picked up at a Panera in Troy, went a long way toward easing any nerves and both pigs lay down for the rest of the trip. Some twenty-odd miles over the Ohio border into Kentucky, and we’d arrived.

Greta, scratching.

Greta, scratching.

It was a long climb up a winding asphalt driveway to the top of one of the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. At the top, along with an incredible view of the lowlands below and the Ohio River winding through the mountains, was Beth, standing between two low shelters: one labeled Greta and the other, Grits. Situated inside a newly constructed barn was a large, wood-slatted pen, but it was through the back door of the building that both pigs ran, into a

Grits greets Erin for the first time.

Grits greets Erin for the first time.

paddock that Bruce and Beth and Erin had finished fencing off just the night before. They immediately set to investigating their new digs, sampling grass, scratching themselves on posts and the wire of the fence and rooting into every depression they could find, but still making time for ear scratches and belly rubs enthusiastically administered by all three members of their new-found family.

 

And that’s where we left them, at the top of a hill in their forever home, surrounded by people who will not simply love them, but care and provide for them. From the horror of a trench in the snow to a hilltop house in the sky. Here is where they’ve come, where they’ll live.

Happily ever after.

Greta and Grits

violet jelly, Mother’s Day and a walk in the woods

Violets We’re always looking for a reason to celebrate, here on The Quarry Farm, teasing out any excuse to pull together with friends and family for food and song and conversation, but particularly food. Today, we didn’t need to look far; Mother’s Day is a perennial favorite. So we set up camp in the Seitz Pavilion, the shelter house on the north end of the cabin grounds, and laid out the spread ‘til the tables groaned. There were cold-cuts and salads and chips and dips and condiments, but for the Seitz family, the meal is what you have to wade through in order to get to dessert. Never was there a single family with so many talented bakers. Today’s menu included strawberry cake and rhubarb, cherry and black raspberry pies. Here, then, was one of the many faces of bliss.

When we were done, Anne and I took a short walk back on the quarry so that Anne could pick violets. For the past several years, we’ve made it a habit to make violet jelly and this year is no exception. I hobbled along behind, determined to work off some of the weight I’d just packed on. And while Anne worked, I played, taking quick photographs of anything I found myself looking at.

Painted TurtlesThe quarry itself is one of my favorite places. It rarely fails to offer up something worth watching, a moment worth recording. Painted turtles, sunning themselves on a log, sat still jFrogust long enough for a single image capture. Ranging along the shore, a solitary sandpiper picked its careful way around the quarry while a pair of wood ducks coursed nervously back and forth. A green frog, or possibly a bullfrog, just barely broke the water’s surface, .

While any body of water is tantalizing, moving water is even more so. Cranberry Run, the stream that courses through the Riffleproperty that makes up The Quarry Farm, is a source of constant fascination. At what we commonly call the ford, a partially burned log was caught up in the rocks that create a riffle there. While we didn’t bother looking, there are undoubtedly any number of aquatic insects and other macroinvertebrates sheltering beneath it and the stones that the Little Cranberry swirls over.

There are paths cut through the woods that make up The Quarry Farm. What was once pasture land for dairy cows has worked Virginia creeperits way through a succession of stages that have brought it to its present state, something that is more and more resembling the temperate, hardwood rain forest it once was. Where there were once scrub trees, shrubs and bushes there are now primarily sugar maple trees and black walnuts. Virginia creeper and poison ivy climbs these trees, using the bark as a lattice and creating a curtain of green and red.

Just slightly off the beaten path is the area we call the Cut Off. Sometime in the 1950s, in an effort to move water more quickly away from agricultural land, area waterways were straightened, or “ditched,” as was more commonly said. What is now the Cut Marsh MarigoldOff was an ox bow in Cranberry Run. The county simply recoursed the stream and blocked off the oxbow, isolating it from the stream. Even so, the Cut Off is an aquatic habitat on its own. The tile from a nearby field empties into the old ox bow and keeps it hydrated for most if not all of the year. Here there are all manner of plants and animals that survive despite the damage done to Cranberry Run. Dutchman’s britches and may apples grow along side ramps. Recently, after a trip north to a nursery that offers only native species, Anne returned with a sampling of marsh marigolds that she planted near the water and in a swale that helps to feed the Cut Off. We were pleased to find them thriving.

Jack In the PulpitWhat we didn’t photograph was at least as exciting: a rufus-sided towhee, a common yellow warbler and a black-throated green warbler. There were dragonflies and turtles and dozens upon dozens of plants, some flowering some not, that are only now gaining a toe-hold here on the quarry, plants that we’ve talked about transplanting here that have, instead, and thankfully, arrived on their own. Plants like wild ginger and dragon’s tongue, jack-in-the-pulpit and bloodroot. The plants and animals that make their homes here are, like the stream that runs through The Quarry Farm and the face of the land itself, constantly changing, Even so, it allows for a familiarity that breeds comfort. For that, we are forever grateful and excited by the new challenges and opportunities that every day presents.

Wood Ducks