An Eighth Direction

Preparing shelter house pad

The shelter house project at Red Fox Cabin is underway. A crew from Hovest Construction broke ground on Tuesday, clearing and leveling ground between the posts of the compass garden for 24’ x 24’ concrete pad. The crew finished and sealed the pad on Wednesday and cleaned and leveled the work site this morning. By August, this pad should support a 20’ x 20’ shelter house, the site of many future meetings, presentations and gatherings of all sorts on the Quarry Farm.

For anyone helping to raise the shelter house, there will be food. That includes observers.

Dooryard Garden Club at Red Fox Cabin’s zelkova

Members of the Putnam County Dooryard Garden Club visited right after Hovest Construction packed up their Bobcat. The group inspected the new project before touring the cabin, walking the Cranberry Run Trail, and meeting Educational Ambassadors Buddy the miniature donkey and Beatrice the pygmy potbellied pig.


Back up! What is a compass garden?

As the official name states, the Quarry Farm includes a nature preserve and a conservation farm. Red Fox Cabin and the gardens that surround it are part of both designations. One of the original gardens developed by Gerald and Laura Coburn was the compass garden. This garden is engineered according to the European navigational instrument that measures directions in a frame of reference that is stationary relative to the surface of the earth. However, the Red Fox Cabin compass garden was also designed in homage to the Coburn clan’s Native American heritage, primarily with traceable roots to the Cherokee Nation.

The Cherokee honor seven sacred directions to encompass a fully-dimensional world rather than one of singular dimension. In addition to the four singular dimension directions (east, north, west and south), there are: up (above), down (below) and center (which is where you are). Each direction is also associated with a season and a color:

  • NORTH is the keeper of winter, the season of survival and waiting. The North is associated with the color blue and the path of quiet.
  • SOUTH is the keeper of summer, the season of warmth. The South is associated with the color white, representing peace, happiness, and serenity.
  • EAST is the keeper of spring, the re-awakening of Mother Earth after a long sleep. The East is associated with the color red and represents victory, power, and war.
  • WEST is the keeper of autumn, the season of death and where it is hidden. The West is associated with the color black.
  • ABOVE is associated with the color yellow and represents peace.
  • CENTER is associated with the color green and represents the here and now.
  • BELOW is associated with orange/brown which represents the chaos and turmoil of the ever-changing Earth.

Note that I speak of the compass garden in the past tense. Invasive plants overran most of the directional plantings. Recently, the Quarry Farm board decided a permanent structure was needed to shelter visiting groups requiring seated onsite presentations since Red Fox Cabin can only hold a limited number of people at a time. The compass garden ground was deemed the most convenient location for such a shelter. The spot also sits just above the old stone quarry-turned-wetland, offering cool summer breezes and good views of butterflies, migratory birds and native trees.

So maybe some of the visual symbols of the old compass garden are missing, but the fully-directional world of the Quarry Farm is still growing. The house wren that is nesting in the apple gourd even stood her ground next to the construction site. She was back at her post this morning, scolding all visitors from her high tower in the zelkova tree.

Find out more about the Cherokee Nation, past, present and future, folklore and tradition, at

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