Chilled count forecast

Saturday’s scheduled Great Back Yard Bird Count (The Quarry Farm Nature Preserve & Conservation Farm edition) is still on, despite predicted temperatures of 13 in Northwest Ohio. The birds will be sheltering as much as possible, but the feeders will be full and suet stocked to help them weather the weather, and we will document those that do turn up.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has created a strangely soothing animated migration map using millions of bird observations from participants in previous eBird and the Great Backyard Bird Count tallies. The map tracks the annual journeys of 118 bird species from point to point of the Americas. Check it out and get ready to bundle up Saturday to add more birding data from this weekend’s count.

Corvid appeal

There were once crows in this place. They would caw across the hollow, scolding at outdoor cats and other predators. Their young would burr in the tallest, most remote hardwoods, then become silent if anyone or anything other than their parent came close.

A decade or so ago, so many raptors disappeared, victims of West Nile virus. The corvids–jays and crows in these parts–died, too. We saw only one dead during that time. It wasn’t inspected by anyone, but we assumed the bird’s death was due to the mosquito-spread plague.

Not much was said then in mainstream media about the effect of West Nile on anyone but humans. While the disease caused harm to people–I’m not denying that–the kestrels, and red-tail hawks that had previously perched from telephone pole to fence post were missing for years. We are only just beginning to see them again.

But the crows never did come back. Last spring, we heard two calling in Coburn’s Bottom, the area of the floodplain north of the old quarry. We were so excited, calling everyone we knew and fairly shouting, “The crows are back!” whether the listener was interested or not. Unfortunately, the pair didn’t stay.

We began to suspect that there is more to the absence of crows hereabouts than West Nile taking its toll. As I said, the bluejays are back, as are the hawks and even bald eagles. But research and observation of crows has determined that crows tell each other stories. Before a flock of crows enter a new area, they send a sentinel in to scope things out. If the report is favorable, the rest will move forward. If something disasterous happens while they are there–for instance, if one or more are poisoned or shot–the crows leave at the first opportunity. And they don’t forget.

That said, there’s strong suspiscion that it was inhumane human behavior that left a big red mark along the Riley and Cranberry Run for crows. Sad, as these birds are thought to be one of the most intelligent creatures that share this planet with people. Crows aren’t a bellwether species, but they are brilliant, secretive, organized and to be allowed to share space with them is an honor.

We’ve had the pleasure of spending time with two crows. Blackie and Jo, however, are here only because they have physical and developmental issues that mean neither can be free to make that choice for themselves.

Crows backlitStained glass artist Martha Erchenbrecher created the gorgeous work of art pictured above. The piece is stained glass mosaic or glass-on-glass mosaic. After trying for a few months, we were able to take a decent photo of it today with the winter afternoon sun shining through. We’ve hung it here for farm animal sanctuary visitors to see. One day, we hope to display it in a nature center here.

Maybe a scouting crow will see it and tell the others that they are welcome, anytime.

Two sides to everything

This Martin Luther King Day is cold. Yes it’s January, and yes, this is Northwest Ohio. But a predicted high of 9 degrees Fahrenheit (wind chill -4) meant wrangling the goats into their coats last evening and coaxing Lucy the donkey into a new purple insulated number. The latter was much easier than anticipated. I would even venture to say that she liked it, although her girth meant that the length is for horses and the coat will need alteration.

Goats Marsh and S’more, however, do their best to peel back the velcroed straps on their parkas. Marsh rubs up against posts and building corners. S’more just reaches around and pulls his off. By sunrise today, his was laying out in the paddock. Giant goat Mister Bill, while happy to keep his coat on, boxed my left ear during my first attempt to shrug S’more’s coat over his squirrely head. With my ear and head ringing, it just seemed a good idea to throw boots in the closet and crawl back under the comforters.

Instead, Steve and I threw on more layers and drove to Bridenbaughs’ farm to fill the truck bed with hay. Tomorrow isn’t going to get any warmer, and the fires under those quilted coats have to be stoked since, even with arctic cold, all the creatures on the farm animal sanctuary insist on moving from outbuilding to outbuilding. The hay is always greener on the other side of the wall, I suppose.

As we drove back over the M-6 bridge, the UPS truck teetered past. Outside the gate, the driver had left a large, square, flat package. On its face was a note from Sandy, one of Mister Bill’s original caretakers. Along with “Fragile” and “Don’t open with a knife” the markered face said “Hi Billy” and “With love to my friends.”

Dog PaintingLast summer, Sandy and Doug visited Mister Bill here on The Quarry Farm. They brought him treats, delectable items that he unwillingly shared with most of the other goats. While walking the gardens and sharing a human lunch outside Red Fox Cabin, we told Sandy about our intent to hang paintings around the perimeter of the sanctuary. The package that came in the mail was the size and shape of just such a painting.

And it was.

We talked about treating it, how to properly display the piece, etc., and flipped the board to check mounting possibilities.

On the back is this.Fox Painting

Words fail. So I leave you today with Miracle Max in all his purples, blues and rosey reds.

Miracle Max

Nine more words: Thank you, Sandy for the winter reminder of loveliness.

 

 

 

Winter 2016 newsletter

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Prepping the back field for the Bee Buffer Project is one of the items in the latest issue of The Quarry Farm Newsletter. Click here to read all about it and what’s happening here as the snow flies and the seeds sleep.

The rain rain rain falls down down down

Today is rainy, cold and a hot cuppa sits in front of me. The floor has been mopped and mopped and mopped again to keep the muddy footprints at bay. Steven just suggested that we build a raised walkway so travelers can leap from stone to stone to make their way to the house in the event of such soup as surrounds us now.

I toyed with the idea of taking a photo of the preserve tree line, but the light is so dim that I’ll just tell you the trees are quiet and dripping grays and browns. The donkeys and goats are hunkered down in the paddock building in nests of straw, while the chickens do the same in their coop. The geese, however, are bubbling happy murmurs in the puddles that are fast joining into one big sea of waterlogged mud and winter grass.702974_10208387964407583_1535727157_n

Potbellies Carlton and Beatrice are trying very hard to be small, their legs crossed just in case the humans might get it in their heads that the pigs probably need to go outside to relieve themselves. Nemo was in her crate for a stretch, having thrown a large piglet tantrum because we couldn’t stop the downpour during her favorite hour of rooting. Now she is out and sprawled across her increasingly small dog bed.

David Seitz has worked steadily in the last month to ready the back grassland for wildflower seeds. The seeds were supplied by the Pollinator Partnership, as part of its U.S. Bee Buffer Project. The nature preserve was selected as a bee buffer research site as it borders neighboring farm fields at the south east corner. David and his daughter Ily spent much of Christmas Eve here working on the three acres that will be devoted to the effort. I hoped to take photos of the spot today.

Instead, I’ll keep my feet warm under a pink pig and plan on another walk on a dry day–maybe New Year’s Day–at least until it’s time to tuck the birds in for the night.

 

 

Flowing back in time through two townships

Quarry and CreekThere’s a lot of history in and around The Quarry Farm, not to mention up the road.

McCullough oustideOn the opposite side of the block stands a log home constructed by Tom McCullough. Like our Red Fox Cabin, McCullough’s place isn’t a Putnam County native, but did stand in the United States during the country’s first 100 years. The 2.5-story building started out in Reading, Pennsylvania, was relocated here in 2008 and reconstructed by a professional antique cabin firm and kitted out with local 19th century furniture.

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Bridenbaugh OrganistNorth on the same road and across Riley Creek is Bridenbaugh Schoolhouse. Imagine a one-room schoolhouse on every country mile and you will picture the education system as it once was in rural Ohio. In 1997, Dale Bridenbaugh restored the schoolhouse on his farm to what could have been its original 1889 glory.Peggy Bridenbaugh

RC with signCross the Riley on the c. 1876 M-6 bridge, itself listed in the Historic American Engineer Record as an example of “Morrison’s Patent Wrought Iron Arch Truss Bridge,” travel about a mile and a half north on 7L and sit in the stillness and peace of Riley Creek United Methodist Church. The church was founded in 1850 and is still active in one large, lofted room. Sun and moonlight filter through etched and stain-glass windows to pool on handmade wooden pews. The long upright-backed benches glow with the hand polish and years of congregational sitting, but the names of former youth break the smooth surfaces here and there.

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Cabin MomSaturday broke records for December warmth and, although we could use some rain or snow to soften the dry bed of the quarry, the weather was perfect for the first Old Time Riley Creek Christmas Tour. All of the above were stops on the route. All were decorated for the holidays, most as they may have been long ago. Riley and Pleasant Township saw plenty of driving tourists as a result. One of the visitors was Pandora’s Dr. Darrell Garmon. He walked up the path through the Red Fox Cabin gardens and introduced himself as Dr. Garmon and as the person who poses as Sea Captain James Riley.

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Fox StatueNext door, Carlton, Beatrice and the other potbellies, a speckling of chickens and Johnny Goose gathered at the farm animal sanctuary fence corner closest to the hubbub. Lucy’s foghorn bray paused more than one conversation. Two tourists left the cabin and stopped at the gate where the turkeys were on full display. Buddy took issue with the attention the boys were getting, so he grabbed a mouthful of tail feathers, spit them out and smiled. True story – the couple took a photo and promised to share it with us.

For now, the images above will do.