Fall 2019 Newsletter

Prior to this summer, Board President Laura had dreamed of establishing an outdoor classroom along the main upland trail. Sam Schroeder, Eagle Scout candidate from Glandorf Troop 229, accepted the challenge. Once the trails dried out enough to transport supplies to the designated site, Sam went to work clearing invasive shrubs and small trees. He is currently constructing benches to seat future students and workshop participants.

Check out the project in person on Saturday, September 14, when you stop by to hear musical artist Russ Gibson in concert right here on Road 7L. Read concert details and what’s been happening on The Quarry Farm this summer as well as what’s coming up this fall; just click on the Fall 2019 Newsletter cover here on this post.

Savoring signs of life

DSC_0748Earlier this month, friend Kathy Doty taught me how to spot the difference between male and female Monarch butterflies. Visually, it’s really not that different than humans. I kept hearing that little girl who was a YouTube sensation several years back, her sing-song show-and-tell voice explaining to her classmates, “Boys have theses, see.” I’ve sat through a lot of PowerPoint presentations about Monarchs. I know the right way to hold them as you apply a tracking tag prior to release. But no one has every told me who has what. Kathy also displayed a young Praying Mantis and a viable Swallowtail chrysalis, anchored in place by one tiny gossamer lasso of swallowtail thread. She spotted both eggs and caterpillars in the Red Fox Cabin gardens. The sightings never cease to thrill.

Several days later, a steady stream of visitors to Summer 2019 Family Day watched monarchs, bumblebees and more dragonflies than I have seen since the June 2012 floor wax discharge decimated the variety of dragonfly nymphs one could sample in Riley Creek. It was hot, hot, hot in the sun. Steady breeze and ice water kept those of us anchored to the ground cool enough to take pleasure in flighted creatures who have the wherewithal to catch thermals.

With double-digit degrees less outside, Deb Weston walked the trails with her Debbie and a camera on Thursday. They spotted an Ebony Jewelwing damselfly, a female Baltimore Oriole, a Painted Lady butterfly, a Monarch, and two Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, birds I haven’t seen since I picked wild raspberries along the cut-off oxbow to sell at Andy’s IGA in Pandora.

I could wax on. How about I share Deb’s photos instead?

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To everything, there is

At the start of the 2000s, after we breached the wave of Y2K and its potential mania, we weathered another onslaught. Well, we did, but not everyone made it through the ride. The farm animal sanctuary was not even a thought and wildlife rehabilitation training was still a phone call away. Instead, we planted 100 trees. Because the trees were small and the ground was traditionally a farmfield, a passerby in his cups mowed all but three of the grassed-in trees down. So we let the turf grow, transplanting native grasses like big bluestem, little bluestem, and switchgrass, all grown and gifted to us by Dennis Seitz. These, as well as wild asters and milkweeds, were slowly outpacing invasives like Canadian thistle. In the meantime, flocks of goldfinches cheered among the purple tops.

The pace wasn’t fast enough. One day, a township trustee arrived with a brushhog. He mowed through the thistle, Steve ran ahead of the blades. Praying mantis, adults and nymphs, clung to his hair, shirt and forearms. He stood in front of the driver, held his mantis-covered-arms aloft, saying, “See this? This is what you are doing.” With one tree still standing, insects and songbirds scattered, the tractor left. One neighbor asked us how this could have happened, here in America. It can and it did and we all lost.

_MG_9249That was 20 years ago. “Drift Zone” signs populate the neighboring fields. Local nurseries carrying various types of milkweed—and people are planting them. Several neighbors grow almost-acres of native grasses, wildflowers and Canada thistles poke their spiky heads up here and there as the natives are allowed to reestablish. Even so, anger still festers in me, 20 years after we were made to stand by and suffer a fool’s errand. Few mantids have turned their mystic heads my way since then and the goldfinches are still shy. IMG_1543

Today, my mother sent me two photos. A garter snake was soaking up rays on a weeping spruce at Red Fox Cabin this morning. It’s safe on its sunny bed, free from hungry chickens at our end and away from the road’s racing vehicles. The other photo is a mantis nymph, its image captured by Beth Scheckelhoff of Ohio State University’s Putnam County Extension. She saw a lot of mantid nymphs in the gardens above Cranberry Run. This makes me happy—even feel forgiving—though I’ll never forget.

Summer 2019 Newsletter

The sun is out today so it seemed a good day to roll out The Quarry Farm Summer 2019 Newsletter. Click on the cover to the left and download a copy.

Included in this season’s news are details about the design and building of a new Cranberry Run footbridge. The previous footbridge, built by Gerald Coburn and Kevin Siefker at the turn of the century and re-engineered by David Seitz, survived floodwater currents longer than any other bridge. This spring, we discovered that the northern-most weight-bearing pole was rotten, Dave went into action with assistance from his daughter Aili. He documented the new bridge-building project via email to Board President Laura. It’s a fascinating read that we share in the printed newsletter. The beauty of the electronic page offers more space for photos, so we’re sharing the report here as well.

Tuesday, April 16
Some pictures of the bridge, from this afternoon. A good one of the actual break in the north side pole. You can see it drooping below the 2 x 6s, which are holding it together. I’m starting to like the idea of moving the bridge to the south, to the more narrow part of the channel.

Wednesday, May 8
This afternoon I rode up to the QF to see the poles, and tie them off a bit, so they wouldn’t head for Toledo or similar. Both are partly in and partly out of the water. They are beauties: 35 ft. long. One is just 50 meters south of the old bridge. The other is clear down toward the bend. Maybe 150 meters south of the old bridge. Put on my boots, and waded around a bunch. I put strings across the creek, and measured widths, and heights, looking for the best spot. Another point: Since the bridge is now a regular “raft,” I don’t see any sense in burying the poles into the bank. They float up and down these days, often enough. We’ll want chains on the new bridge, like the old. Instead, I’d like to put the poles up on railroad ties. One on each bank would result in the pole top being over a foot taller than the bank. Could put several railroad ties on each bank, for better stability, and to minimize sinking and stress on the banks.

Thursday, May 9
I was worried about the thunderstorms flooding the creek, and losing (the poles). As it turned out, the rain we had was necessary for me to move them to the bridge site. I worked pretty hard with the pry bar on the close one. About an hour to move it 50 meters or so. The creek was too shallow at the rapids. But for the far one, even after the rain and the creek rose 4 inches or so, it still took 2 hours of back work to get it to the bridge site. And just getting it from the bank into the creek was a challenge. Pry bar and blocks were enough, but barely.
The cable puller held together till the end, but was getting iffy on the last pole. With the puller and the recovery straps, it is slow work, but possible.

Tuesday, May 14
Was able to get the first two railroad ties in place, with the poles on top. Will try to get two more ties installed, later in the week. They are heavier than I expected. The one on the west end was about 240 #, and larger than the others. They will keep the poles up off the ground, and stabilize the bridge. Higher the better.

Tuesday, May 21
Worked till dark forced us to stop. The idea was to take off every other board, and transfer them over to the new bridge. That way there would be access to the quarry at all times. Unfortunately, it took us several hours to get the poles “rolled” to the proper position before we started. They both had a sag as received, particularly the north pole. We were able to get the sag rolled 180 degrees up, before the first planks were fastened, so the sag is now an “arch.” But it got dark and we had to stop with about 5 planks short on the new bridge. There are planks all the way over the water, but not enough for a walk across. The current plan is to come up and continue the plank installation tomorrow, weather permitting.
Removing the runner and the screws from the old bridge was indeed a challenge. I brought every kind and size of screw driver I had, and needed them. Some screws were over 4 inches long, and there were multiple types on most of the planks. On the new bridge, I am using new 3 inch zinc coated construction screws, with a torx 25 driver. Two per side. And drilling the pilot holes before screwing them in. Less stress on the poles, and they can be removed when necessary. For a bit of stability while working on the bridge, Aili hung up a yellow stretch of anchor rope at shoulder height above the planks, to give something to hold on to.

Thursday, May 23
Well, we finally got packed and rolling by sunset again. Home just after 10 p.m. Without Aili the planks wouldn’t be done yet. Aili picked through them, and with the 10 new 2 x 6s and “re-purposing” the recently added 2 x 10s that were part of the ramps, felt pretty good about them. And with the spacing, and being flat, it seems quite stable to me. I’ll give them a good inspection, after they’ve been in service some months, and are dried out. They were staying wet all the time on the old bridge.
The last job of the day was to remove the west side anchor chain from the old bridge, and do a temporary anchor job on the west end of the new bridge. I didn’t move the east side chain off the old bridge yet. Will do that one later too when I move the “good” south pole to the proposed ravine bridge site. Also need to anchor the railroad ties. Don’t want them floating away either.

Wednesday, May 29
We had a pleasant day putting up the side ropes, and holders. Re-used the yellow twist anchor rope that we left for the temporary safety rope. It is only half inch diameter, but pretty strong. Totally synthetic, so only worried about UV light wearing it out.
Have chains on both ends now, so should be OK if there is a mega flood. Should go up and back down without taking off for Toledo. Chains are around the poles, and anchored on the railroad ties as well, so we don’t lose them. I’ll make some small changes once I take all the chain off the old bridge. Feel pretty good about it now.

Scouts honor

Things are greening on The Quarry Farm now. Dutchman’s Breeches have bloomed and gone above the “Cut-off” oxbow, shaded by the oldest trees on the nature preserve. The farm animal sanctuary residents trim new leaves and grass while outside the fences the grass grows and grows. Much of this spring so far has been wet and cool to cold. Arthur the Rooster stands in an alcove of the front porch, glowering at the wall with his spiking wet ruff raised around his feathered ears. On rare sunny days the roosters crow and the pigs stretch out, bellies hitched high for maximum exposure to warmth.

The floodplain has been awash with the merging of Cranberry Creek and Riley Creek as floodwaters ebb and flow, from April now into May. The footbridge, so beautifully engineered by David Seitz, is still with us; the longest-surviving passage from west to east banks over the Cranberry. David watches it rise and fall from internet feeds, using stretched cords to monitor where it settles when the water drops. A new bridge project is underway several meters upstream of the old one. David is at the helm; more news on this to come. But I’ll take this May moment to catch up on April.

Before April showers changed from gentle mist to a series of gully washers, Girl Scout Service Unit 221 from Ada and Kenton spent the better part of April 13 cutting bush honeysuckle. They needed 70 potential hiking staffs to carry home. They tackled the ridge and bottom on the east edge of the stone quarry wetland, lopping their way through one of the densest growths of this confounded invasive woody plant. As well as making way for shagbark hickory and swamp white oak seedlings, they helped us release a woodduck drake who had flown down the Red Fox Cabin chimney.

The following Friday was rainy and windy—just the perfect sort of day for Sophie the Potbelly to go for a car ride. She didn’t think much of the idea; she never does until she is in the back seat and the car is rolling. Sophie, Tyree the Cornsnake and Gerald the Rooster were invited to attend Spring Break Day Camp at the Girl Scout Camp in Lima. Once there, I parked outside Rose Marie Duffy Lodge, leaving the car door open while I carried Tyree and Gerald into the conference room. I heard laughter behind me and turned to see Sophie marching up the Lodge steps, ready to greet her newest fans and to accept accolades as only stars of her caliber receive. She hoovered up the spoils of a snack break while I shared why we do what we do here with those that share this Back 50.

Thanks to Katlin Shuherk for sharing her photos.

Snitch switchery

20190406_193749Tonight’s Golden Snitch Walk was called on account of no snitches. In mid-March the evening air was buzzing with them. As I closed the gate on evening chores, two American Woodcocks–the absolute model for J.K. Rowling’s glittery winged ball, or I’ll eat my Ravenclaw hat–twisted in their funnel-cloud dance not more than 20 feet above me.

Then it got cold; freezy enough for S’more to agree to keep his thermal goat coat strapped on just a little while longer.

Our first scheduled woodcock walk was windy and chilly. We saw deer and Indian hemp, counted birds and tracks. But snitches were nowhere to be seen or heard. That didn’t changeover the next few weeks. I told the April 6 preregistrants that the birds had come and gone for 2019.

20190406_193434.jpg

This dead tree is home to woodpeckers, fungi and all sorts of creatures.

Snitches aside, today was a gorgeous day; the first real spring day that we’ve had since one random warm breath in March. I walked the planned walk route, dipping a net into the quarry. Its waters team with dragonfly and damselfly nymphs, snails and shrimpish scuds. No mosquito larvae dare swim near the predatory odonata; such is the beauty of a healthy wetland.20190406_191719

2019-04-06 22.01.57No frog egg masses string the surface yet. There are frogs and toads clucking, burring and trilling from the quarry’s edge northeast across the vernal pools of Coburn’s Bottom to the property line at Riley Creek. All those Hey-Baby-Baby-Babies mean tadpoles are brewing in the slurry. A toad hops across the trail in front of me, not a snitch but gold all the same from the lowering sun and amphibian afterglow.

Two Canada geese sail in for the night, skidding across the quarry’s still surface. The ripples haven’t yet subsided when a small flock of wood ducks join them. I hurry along the path to bridge Cranberry Run so as not to scare them away. I’ve just climbed the hill and am up and out of the preserve when, behind me, I hear an airborne whistling.

“PE-E-E-ENT!”

I look up to see a winged softball arc over the quarry.

Show-off.20190406_191705

Spring 2019 Newsletter

Spring 2019 Newsletter web coverWe’ve got plans this Spring and hope that you will join us. There will be wildflower and bird sightings, salamander searches, and hopefully a Star Walk, should the sky clear for good viewing.

Click on the newsletter cover posted here to download your copy of the Spring 2019 Newsletter. Read about what has happened here on The Quarry Farm this winter as well as the Programs & Events that we have scheduled for the next few months. Watch our Facebook page, too, for announcements, fast facts, and photos.