Click on the newsletter cover to the right to read the highlights of what has happened recently on the nature preserve, gardens and farm animal sanctuary, as well as what is to come.
SAVE THE DATE: On Saturday, May 2, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., rain or shine, walk The Quarry Farm Nature Preserve with naturalist Tamara Spillis and learn more about native mushrooms and wild plants.
– Registration: Open to the first 20 applicants (age 16 and over). Call 419-384-7195 or 419-234-4620 or email firstname.lastname@example.org before April 30 to register.
– Workshop Fee: $15 (includes lunch)
(Optional) Bring a favorite field guide, notebook, pencil, cameras, trail snacks.
• If you are allergic to penicillin, you should not eat morel mushrooms, no matter how delectable. Morels contain a substance also found in penicillin that accumulates in body tissues and can eventually cause anaphylactic shock.
• Oil lamps containing mushroom wicks may have lighted the world for ancient peoples.
• Genghis Khan made gun powder out of charred shelf mushrooms.
These are a few of the fascinating mushroom facts shared by naturalist Tamara Spillis during a recent slide presentation to The Gathering Basket Herb Society.
On Saturday, May 2, Tamara will share her extensive knowledge with 20 lucky people as we walk The Quarry Farm nature trails and prairie. We will have the opportunity to explore with Tammy as she identifies and talks about the mushrooms, flowers, and plants along the way, and if you have brought your camera, you can get some great photos.
Some wildflowers that we know about, like wood violets, blood root, and Jack-in-the-pulpit should be blooming on May 2, but the Quarry Farm staff are excited about the prospect of discovering other species that we haven’t yet identified. When Tamara is finished surveying plant life here, we will have a great educational resource to share with visitors of all ages in the future.
Keep an eye on the weather forecast and come prepared for conditions. No matter what, we will have a great day on the trail.
Tamara works part-time as Master Gardener Coordinator in Henry County (Ohio). In addition, she is a small business owner who manages a naturalist service, working with private landowners and conservation entities to identify and document populations of wildflower and wildlife species.
She also teaches and lectures at museums and colleges on Native American bone and stone tool use. An amateur mycologist, she has published articles on the use of mushrooms by diverse ancient and modern cultures for fire, warfare, and medicine.
Color photos that Tamara has taken in the field showed insects feeding on and pollinating wildflowers, plants in the various stages of their life cycles, easily confused plants with similar flowers — one edible and the other deadly, mutually supportive plant and insect relationships, common wild plants that are edible and others that are toxic, plants that we live alongside of but rarely see in our everyday lives, and many other insights into the natural world of the fields and woods around us.
The oaks, the last trees to lose their leaves in fall, were down to just a few spots of brittle color when we first learned of Lucy.
A family in southwest Indiana sent out a distress signal that life had thrown them a curve, making it necessary for them to rehome a small flock of sheep and their guardian donkey. Bot flies and shearing wool appealed to neither our time nor talents, but the thought of opening our gate to another donkey seemed the ticket for our little Buddy. Six months and a bitter winter later, Lucy and her person made the four-hour journey to Riley Township.
My Steven and I were on the south boundary Saturday replacing old fencing, much to the dismay of two sassy goats whose nimble limbs and twitching noses were turned by the grass on the other side. The job also gave us an excuse to watch for a truck-pulling-trailer with Indiana plates.
I think Buddy knew. As I leaned over to stretch the bottom of the fence, he walked up and laid his head across my shoulder. They always know something’s up, whether it’s a storm or a class trip full of adoring little persons with apple slices and peanuts in their pockets.
Lucy’s wheels rolled up around 1 p.m. The welcoming committee lined up along the fence to meet the driver, except for Buddy. He pressed himself against the fence and stared in the window of the horse trailer. When Lucy was led through the gate and let off the lead, Buddy did an-honest-to-goodness happy dance.
For her part, Lucy was a little stand-offish. Her person Brandi Ireland told us that they lost a donkey to the winter of 2013-14, leaving a sad Lucy to mind the sheep. For the first hour on Ohio soil, she put on a good show of preferring grass and hay over some boy, but she never let that boy get more than a few strides away.
For the rest of the afternoon into evening, Buddy showed Lucy around her new digs, placing himself dutifully between her and the goats. I’m not sure if that was for her safety, theirs, or just Buddy making a statement of ownership.
Through human eyes and sensibilities, it seems that Buddy’s warm brown eyes are brighter and five years lifted from his gait in a few hours’ time. The goats are watching them both to see which donkey will figure out how to open the hay barn doors now that the salad bar next door is off the menu.
That’s not anthropomorphizing; that’s a day in the life with a Buddy boy and his goats, plus one. Better than a Sudoku puzzle to keep any two-legger on their toes.
It’s Monday and snow is falling outside the window. The temperature is low enough that the white stuff of winter is sticking in clumps on trees and on what new grass there is. Two days ago it wasn’t much warmer, but it was still the first full day of spring. And even though the morning blew in on a cold northwest wind, Spring is great cause for celebration after a polar cold winter that began prematurely with snow on October 31.
We planned a March 21 ‘Welcome Spring’ Family Day three months ago by placing the event announcement in our winter newsletter. It was an optimistic move, one which dreamed big of turning over logs to find salamanders and the first bloodroot leaves curling up from the ground around the old homestead well north of the 10-acre grassland.
The forecast looked promising for Saturday, with sun and predicted temps in the high 50s. As noted two paragraphs ago, what we got was cold wind and gray. Laura switched the refreshment menu from cookies and lemonade to doughnut holes, cookies and a selection of hot beverages which we thought would consumed by those of us who live close by.
Instead, we were joined by three families, all hat-and-coated and ready to hit the trails. Most were return visitors, so they knew that the wind chill would drop once we entered the nature preserve with its tree lines of defense.
Two Canada geese stayed put on the melted quarry surface, at least long enough for us to watch them lift off. We saw plenty of signs of movement, from a variety of tracks to wild turkey feathers. And since this walk was one to greet Spring, this group inaugurated the vernal pool trail for all future guests.
Steve gathered two water samples from the largest pool, an oxbow that was once part of Cranberry Run prior to a brutal 1950s attempt to ditch the natural, wild creek. The oxbow is home to frogs, dragonflies, woods ducks and a variety of turtles. Saturday, most burrowed deep and our enthusiasm sent anything with wings away, but the net did yield scuds, a tiny crustacean akin to shrimp.
We pondered scat in the upland grassland, talked about the sharp hawthorn that sometimes stores a shrike’s lunch and made maple leaf angels on the main hardwoods trail.
Up and out again, and several donuts and hot chocolate cups later, the south Cranberry Run trail led us to the farm animal sanctuary where Buddy, Beatrice, Johnny, Marsh and Mister Bill led the pack in a high-five. Turkeys Inigo and Humperdink paraded their splendid selves about, puffing and drumming as their heads mottled from pink to blue to purple and back again.
It was the first visit with guests for Mister Bill, a very, very, very large Boer goat, and he was tolerant until he’d had enough and wandered away to chew on a spruce. We took the hint at high noon, the scheduled departure time anyway, and were escorted to the gate by turkeys, goats, Buddy and Beatrice.
A warmer spring walk, one fit for wildflowers and light sweaters, is in the works for April.
In 1826, American folk artist and Society of Friends minister Edward Hicks created “The Peacable Kingdom”. While it’s not in a style that I find particularly appealing, the content of the painting, its message, strikes a chord. In the foreground are a number of different creatures, some of which I can’t identify simply because of the manner in which they were represented, but clearly both predator and prey lying down with one another. There are cherubim and seraphim, as well, and in the background, English settlers meeting with Native Americans.
I don’t pay attention to the human interaction; so little, in fact, that I’m always surprised when I see it. Suffice it to say that there appears to be some manner of commerce taking place involving blankets and, given how that type of exchange often worked out to the detriment of Native Americans, I apparently choose to ignore it each and every time I view the painting. I simply refuse to see.
But the animals? Now that is an altogether different story. I relish those innocent interactions; revel in the way they coexist. And while it’s unlikely that, in the wild, a lion will lay down with a lamb, interspecies cooperation isn’t a rare event, particularly here on The Quarry Farm. I’ve grown accustomed to seeing the chickens ride Buddy, the resident miniature donkey, or any of the six goats that also live here. I’m not surprised to see Snitch, the neighbor’s cat, padding under Mister Bill, the extravagantly tall Boer goat mix, around a pig or two and sideling on by Johnny, the Canada goose. The goats play with the pigs, the pigs play with the chickens and Buddy whips everybody into a (relatively) friendly frenzy every now and again, especially now that spring is just around the corner. We’ve even seen wild rabbits lying out in the open and nursing little ones old enough to have left the nest, but still willing to nurse.
Even so, and despite all of that, I witnessed something the other morning that made me stop and stare.
Although we named him something altogether uncharacteristic of his gender, Gigi is a gander, an Emden goose who is, characteristically this time, very protective of the two geese in his flock. He came here several years ago from Van Buren State Park, where he and Louise (the other goose’s name is Henry and yes, yes, we know) were abandoned. Gigi can be so protective, so surly, in fact, that we encourage visitors to give the trio a wide birth. Gigi is the gander your mother always warned you about: quick to hiss and threaten and quicker still to follow through on that threat with a wing beating or a hard pinch with his bright orange bill.
Madmartigan is one of three pygmy goats that we adopted from a failing goat herd on the eastern side of Ohio four years ago. While generally good natured, like most goats, he has a fondness for his fodder. When food’s involved, all bets are off and he can, and does, do whatever he feels necessary to secure his own little patch of whatever. Being male, Madmardigan also has a ridiculously impressive set of horns, horns that spire up from the top of his head like twin missiles. And when he’s staking claim to a flake of hay or a patch of grass or an apple or three, he liberally applies those horns to heads and backsides and bodies; whatever he can reach to drive his point home.
Individually, these two are more often than not at the core of any discontent. Together, though, at least earlier this week, the two were quite fond of each other. Gigi would slide his neck along Madmartigan’s back and nibble through the hairs there and up his neck and behind his ears. For his part, Madmartigan would gently nudge him with his horns, prompt him to continue her gentle ministrations.
And so here we are on The Quarry Farm, our own peaceable kingdom.
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.
The 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.
On 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.
“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.
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.
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.
Now, 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.
With 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.