This morning at 10 a.m. EST, skies were blue and a west windy breeze made for good running/walking conditions for this year’s Quarry Farm 5K. Participants passed Birder Deb who played the theme from Rocky at the Mallaham Bridge. They navigated through one goodly gust of soybean dust kicked loose from a harvesting crew, turned around at the halfway point where Rita called out split times, then returned to cow bells at the finish line.
FIrst Run Finish, Men: Frank Ordaz First Run Finish, Women: Erin Firch First Walker Finish, Men: Jay Shapiro First Walker Finish, Women: Lois Seitz First Child Finish: Titus Haselman First Team Finish: Lois Felkey, Phyllis Seitz, Susan Seitz
There is rain this afternoon to tamp down the bean dust. Still a few oatmeal/white chocolate/dried apricot cookies, too (but not many). Much thanks to everyone who came out in support of a beautiful day and what we do.
Every now and then someone tells us about the Virginia Opossum that has lived under their porch for years. If there is one thing that we learned while volunteering with Nature’s Nursery Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and during the years following is that these individuals are probably not the same Virginia Opossum. While getting to know educational ambassadors for this fascinating species, we have discovered that they are nomadic creatures, moving from place to place to eat whatever they find in their path and sleeping in the most convenient dry spot when they need to. Combined with the fact that Virginia Opossums only live for two or (maybe, if we’re lucky) three years, the animal that people see around their porch from year to year is actually a parade of several of North America’s only member of the marsupial class of mammals.
Did you notice that I said “if we’re lucky”? There are a lot of reasons that it’s a great thing to have Virginia Opossums around. These free-ranging omnivores consume a varied diet that includes plant material, grasses and leaves, grains, fruits, carrion, snails, slugs, worms, insects, rats, mice, snakes, amphibians, eggs, crayfish, and fish. They are nature’s garbage collectors. We would be up to our eyeballs in offal without these animals coming and going. We would also be dealing with more biting, disease-transmitting ticks. Research on captive Virginia Opossums at Illinois’ Eureka College estimates that they eat, on average, 5,500 larval ticks per week. That’s nearly 95% of ticks that cross their path.
The biggest and best reason that we are lucky to have Virginia Opossums is that we just are…lucky, that is. They have been around for a very long time—at least 70 million years—as one of Earth’s oldest surviving mammals. Because they eat almost everything, they are disease-resistant. In fact, they will do just about anything to avoid direct contact. To appear threatening, a Virginia Opossum will first bare its 50 teeth, snap its jaw, hiss, drool, poo and stand its fur on end to look bigger. If this does not work, the Virginia opossum is noted for feigning death (passing out) in response to extreme fear.
Here on The Quarry Farm, we are so lucky to have known a few non-releasable Virginia Opossums. Sean is the current onsite educational ambassador of his kind. Sean was born without eyes so can’t properly protect himself from predators. He is also agreeable to human contact, which is why we have a State of Ohio education permit that allows us to house him and introduce him to people who want to know more about him and the world around all of us.
About 20 years ago, I planted a ground cover that was all the rage at the time. I decided that glossy, dark-green euonymus fortunei, a native of Asia, would be ideal to fill in prettily around shrubs and to block weeds. As years went by, a patch in Red Fox Garden succumbed to scale, and the euonymus at my house had a rude habit of climbing up the garage siding and suckering in until pulled down. However, its dense cover did block weeds, and I liked the look of it.
So, I was not prepared when Cousin David, who has spent years clearing invasive shrubs and vines from the Quarry Farm nature preserve, reported an unfamiliar branching vine climbing in a cluster of trees deep in the woods, well beyond my house and garden. It was neither poison ivy nor wild grape vine, and its leaves looked a little like myrtle, only larger. I made a discomfiting discovery: The invader was euonymus fortunei, my pretty ground cover gone rogue. Looking it up on the internet, I was shocked to learn that euonymus is now generally considered an invasive species, a landscaping no-no.
Horticultural websites discuss the aggressive nature of euonymus fortunei. One example is this from North Carolina State University Extension: “Some cultivars may be more of a vine and others more of a small shrub, but the vining cultivars and some shrubs can both be invasive… Climbing euonymus readily escapes into native forests and has no trouble dominating medium-sized trees. [It] is listed as invasive in North Carolina and in other states of the southeast and northeast. When used as ground cover for the showy leaves, it tends to climb if given support. . . .When this vine climbs trees it produces aerial rootlets along its branches. [Its small white berries] are eaten by some birds which is how the plant is spread and often how it becomes more invasive.” This is surely how euonymus flew from my garden into the woods of the preserve.
My experience with euonymus fortunei has been another hard lesson learned about plant selection over the years. When perusing catalogs and nurseries, I should try harder to temper my feverish impulses with some cautionary reminders: Choose natives to the area, more likely to settle companionably into the landscape. Don’t make impulsive purchases based solely on glowing descriptions, especially if a plant is an introduction, sometimes even a “new, improved” cultivar. Know soil (sand, loam, and/or clay), moisture and light preferences. Know how a plant propagates and spreads, so it can be contained if it sends out runners or produces thousands of seeds per plant. In general, know how it interacts with other plants and wildlife.
Better knowledge about such issues might have prevented invasions of bush honeysuckle and multiflora rose, and too many others, which were thought decades ago to have beneficial uses as wildlife food and cover and as living fencing, but became scourges to field and forest, including The Quarry Farm.
Saturday, July 31, 2021 was gorgeous: light clouds, a breeze to move them slowly across the sky, and cooler, drier temperatures. If the scheduled “Create a Floor Cloth for Your ‘Cabin'” workshop had happened earlier in the week, the acrylic paint applied by 10 textile artists to rug-worthy canvas would have puddled in the humidity. As it was, it didn’t. And just look at the participants and their work in action in the Seitz Family Pavilion.
While we can’t offer you workshop or supplies (maybe next year?), here’s TQF Board President Laura’s recipe for one of the snacks provided. There were also fresh strawberries and hot coffee, but you’re on your own there.
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats [quick oats will work in a pinch]
2 cups chocolate chips (semi-sweet, milk chocolate, or a mixture)
[Optional] ½ cup dried cranberries or cherries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 in. pan with cooking spray.
In a large mixing bowl beat together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth and light.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add the vanilla.
In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients: salt, baking soda, baking powder, flour, rolled oats, 1 cup chocolate chips, and cranberries, if using.
Add to the butter mixture and stir until combined.
Spread the cookie dough into the prepared pan. Sprinkle remaining cup of chocolate chips on top.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
[Optional] Scatter chocolate or vanilla melting wafers over the surface while the bars are still warm, allow to soften, and spread by criss-crossing a fork lightly through the melted chocolate.
We haven’t provided a Super Dave update for a while. That doesn’t mean that David Seitz hasn’t been here at least two times a week, clearing invasive plants, combatting poison ivy, engineering and re-engineering bridges and boulder crossings, and mowing paths. Here’s a month’s-worth of catch-up.
Please never give up, David.
Had a pleasant afternoon yesterday, working at the QF. Clearing the euonymus patch. Pushing to the south, opening that area. It is really old honeysuckle, with a mass of new ones coming up, and really thick. Also worked through a couple growing multiflora patches. Trying to save the young trees, while digging the honeysuckle around them, and cutting the grape and poison ivy vines. Am now far enough south that I’m closer to the turtle pile again, and moving the brush to the turtle pile is easier.
Saw the big heron landing, as I was walking to the Jeep, but couldn’t get close enough to get a picture.
Was watching the weather radar, and it looked like the worst of the front would miss the QF, off to the west, so I came on up for an afternoon of digging honeysuckle. Got the first shower just around 1300 hrs, but it didn’t last too long, and was cool enough after that. Less than 1/4 inch. I could wear the rain coat for the day. I ran the chain saw to start, and walked around the work area with it, just east of the turtle pile, trimming branches off the big old honeysuckle. Surprising how the bugs leave the area to get away from the saw. Continued on south and east, doing a band of honeysuckle 10 meters wide, till I got to the open corridor east of the turtle pile. Where you can see out east into the swampy area. Will start moving back north next week, widening the corridor. Visible progress. Was tired by 17:30, and called it a day.
Hauling to just the north side of the turtle pile now, and it is growing. Lot of mass there.
Saw several deer come bounding through, but otherwise it was a quiet day for critters.
Made a visit today. Didn’t have anything else going, so came up and did about 5 hours of honeysuckle, vines, and multiflora, widening the turtle-swamp corridor. Just clearing to the north, back toward the euonymus pile. I kept working till I’d ran out of ice tea. It was hot and with almost no breeze, and the half gallon thermos was needed.
Now from the turtle pile, you can easily see east into the swamp area. Is some heavy thicket there, working north. Big old honeysuckle trunks take a lot of work to dig out.
The rain last night raised the level at the old bridge dam. Hoping for a bit more rain this week, and less heat.
Had a pleasant, cool afternoon at the QF, digging honeysuckle southeast of the euonymus pile. Working the thicket to the north of the turtle-swamp corridor. Widening the opening. Looking much more open now, across the swamp, as I dig into that thick old growth.
Got into some poison ivy liana. Several were so big they looked like trees themselves, except you could see the heavy PI vines and their branches were just off the vine trunks. Chopped the vines, and will let them go for a while. May want to cut the dead trees, to stop them just growing again. So much PI growing in that area, that just clearing the brush means carrying bits of PI is inevitable. Washed up with goop once home, but have the usual small rashes this morning where I got scratches.
At the end of the day, I patched some of the leaks on the old bridge dam, to raise the water level a bit there. The level at the dam was up 2 inches while I worked, and still rising. At 73, still playing in the puddles.
Was a bit warm, and no wind down by the quarry. But I did get in about 3 and a half hours of honeysuckle and vine cutting. Working north still, and piling on the euonymus pile.
At the end of the day, I worked plugging up the old bridge dam some more. Water was 3″ below the “hanging rock” when I started,, and after 45 minutes, it was just at the hanging rock. Not much flow, so changes in level are slower. Hope we get a shower this week.
Had the shovel with me, so walked down to the stepping stones and re-spaced them a bit. Now easier to use. Dragged the tire and rim up on the bank. Next visit I’ll bring it up to the road, and put it next to the truck tire. Is actually a pretty good tire, and holding air.
There was a little (14″) northern water snake in the creek, north of the dam.
Lovely day at the QF. Started by bringing the “spare tire” up to the fence. Holding air fine. Looks like an old Jeep Cherokee rim, with an almost new tire. Don’t know what you want done with it, but you can always roll it down into the creek during the next flood! Worked SE of the euonymus pile, back into the thicket. Is interesting there, as the thicket is now mostly other trees, and the honeysuckle is smaller and only 1/3 of the brush. Looks better every session, but a lot left to clear.
Plenty of PI vines to cut, too. Did that in the last 15 minutes, and then cleaned up my arms when I got to the Jeep.
The old bridge dam pool was 4″ below the hanging rock when I arrived. Decided to patch up some of the bigger leaks with small rocks and gravel. After, the level in the creek rose about 2″, over 45 minutes. Was still rising slowly, when I left. Creek flow was very small. Photos attached.
Saw a 6″ crawdad come down the bank, and play in the edge of the water. But didn’t go fully into it. Just wet itself, and then hid by a rock. Surprised me, again.
Was a pleasant day at the QF, except for the bugs. They are doing well, in the thickets. Used a bunch of permethrin spray on my clothes, then “Skin-so-soft” for the mosquitos, and finally frequent shots of DEET for the flies, as usual. But today they were back at me after just a few minutes.
Working north into the thicket, east of the euonymus pile. Working the eastern side of the thicket, so not much honeysuckle out in the swamp area. But a bunch of multiflora, and poison ivy galore. Nasty. Cut and hauled about 5 hours.
Next visit, I will mow the paths around the quarry with the brush cutter. Just need a trim.
Thanks for the cookies!
Didn’t get to the QF until 1400 hrs, and started right in with your Bolens brush cutter. Spent about 2 and a half hours mowing the paths around the quarry, and down to the stepping stones. Unfortunately, the Bolens lost a screw off the shaft, and I had to stop mowing for the day. Brought it back, and will put new screws in and return it. Small repair.
Spent the last half hour touching up the old bridge dam, where there were a couple larger leaks. Water level was 4″ up on the hanging rock, and climbing, and the quarry was at +2″ on the pipe, and draining out into the creek. Creek water was almost clear, fortunately.
What an incredible morning of artistic demonstration we experience with the 2021 Putnam County Educational Service Center Migrant Education Program students and their teachers. Last night’s storms provided oak, black walnut, silver maple, sycamore, and hackberry leaves. Board Member Rita supplied leaves from her garden and woods. The kids supplied the talent. The sky kept try just long enough for them to put that talent to glorious use.
I think it will always thrill me to overhear someone asking someone else if they have ever been to The Quarry Farm, for people to talk about the animals, birds, gardens and the clarity of the stream. Not everyone will turn over their yard to goats, roosters, and geriatric pigs, but gardens—the riotous kind filled with a variety of native flowering plants—and trees can make birds and clear water more common. This region’s native grasses and trees have long, branching root systems that hold the soil like a strong net. Have you ever pulled English Ivy? This non-native is tenacious and fast-growing but you can remove a large patch with one pull, so shallow-rooted and interwoven is this European transplant. In contrast, ever tried to pull a Common Milkweed in its entirety? Best of luck.
Old Man Sycamore in the north floodplain of the nature preserve has a hollow base that provides shelter to who knows how many creatures each night and during winter’s worst. As shallow-rooted landscapes topple across Northwest Ohio, he and the 300-year oaks withstand wicked flood currents and down-bursts. As the floodwaters recede, the forbs at his feet grasp run-off silt and soil. Within 36 hours, Cranberry Run is clear again.
You hear a lot about native plants these days. Big-box stores as well as local nurseries stock a variety of plants labeled as native. Keep in mind that native doesn’t always mean native to here. Also, ask your green-grower what kind of substrate your plants are potted in. Mass-marketed plants are often potted for long shelf lives, their roots sandwiched in neonicotinoid-laced soils that wreak havoc on bees and other beneficial insects.
Remember that part about riotous gardens? Variety is the spice of life. Some native plants can be invasive without other native plants to keep them in check. The Quarry Farm Gardener finds it necessary to parcel out starts of Coneflower every now any then, as well as Menarda (Bee Balm). Much is made of the benefits of keeping Common Milkweed for the Monarch butterflies. Without Ironweed, Coneflower, Asters, and Common Hackberry trees to watch over them all, who will feed and shelter Comma, Question Mark, swallowtails, and the Hackberry Emporer butterflies? And without Jewelweed and its orange orchid-like flowers nodding on the riverbanks and floodplains, how will I ever be rid of this confounded poison ivy rash?
Animals have their own way of doing things. We have ours and they have theirs, “we” being “humans” and “they” being “everything else” that understand each other as we bumble about convinced that we do, too.
The farm animal sanctuary residents eat their breakfast each morning then go about their day. We often go about our day thinking little of what they are doing. If it’s hot, as is ridiculously so now, they find shade. The mammals disappear in the bottom land, under the trees, to graze or to roll on the cool spring-fed earth. The birds chase insects across the yard. But each day, at the same time says Neighbor Casey, they meet under the same white pine in the south pasture. They gather for a half-hour, give or take, then the crowd disperses.
PANDORA–Important announcements regarding Covid… latest news and precautionary steps when dealing with humans. (April 3, 2020, Casey reporting)
Sometimes it’s the Pecking Order, pecking order.
PANDORA–Agenda discussion: Food distribution and perching assignments. Open discussion and complaints regarding the new turkey referred to as Bruce. (May 17, 2021, Casey reporting)
Another year on and “we” still don’t know what’s really going on. But we can try, and enjoy ourselves in the process. I’m pretty sure that Casey’s right about Bruce being a topic of conversation, anyway.
“Last year on May 20th we had 56 species and on the 21st we had 57. Today we chewed those numbers up and spit out an overwhelming 68 species. A phenomenal 18 warbler species and The QF is now at 134 species which is 2/3 of the species seen in Putnam County. The Wilson’s Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat and the Canada Warbler are all new just since Saturday. We saw 2 Wilson’s Warblers on the tree line way back in the prairie area and 2 Green Herons fly from the quarry. One of the best birding days of my life. The light wasn’t good for photos, but I got a new one of the Wilson’s Warbler, a couple of Blackburnian Warblers and a Blackpoll Warbler.”
Mary Poppins had a bird woman who drew birds in with feed. Cartoonist Gary Larson sketched a before-and-after of Screen 1) pigeons swooping in and leaving Screen 2) a pile of empty rags topped with a hat and a few tuppence.
The Quarry Farm has a bird woman named Deb. She doesn’t need no stinkin’ feed and l’m pretty sure she doesn’t deal in tuppence. She told me last week that she has plenty of patience and enough Advil to watch and wait for the birds to show themselves. As we stood on the curve of Cranberry Run, I asked her what bird was calling above. It was a Baltimore Oriole. I asked for another audio I.D. a couple of minutes later.
“It’s a Baltimore Oriole,” she replied without so much as a sigh. Apparently Deb has enough Advil to deal with hopeless birders like me, too.
Deb introduced The Quarry Farm to someone who speaks bird even better than she does. When David Smith tunes his ears to birdsong in the floodplain, a thrush becomes not just one thrush but both a Swainson’s Thrush and a Wood Thrush. All the yellowish bird shapes silhouetted against the sky become a variety of migrating warbler species.
Thanks to Deb and David, this year’s Spring bird hike checklist is whole lot longer than those of past years. They looked at their previous records and chose the 2021 date. This morning was clear, floodwaters from earlier in the week had shrunk to a couple of vernal pools, and 14 birders walked the trails to record 44 species. Most of these birds are just passing through, but not before Deb could take their picture.