Seven months ago, I took an hour and wandered through the wild part of The Quarry Farm taking pictures. It was June then and the temperature beneath the green overhang of the woods was pushing 90 degrees. All manner of birds and insects were buzzing, chirping and flitting about and the sky was clear and blue.
Today was a little different.
While there was blue sky to be seen, it was through ragged patches in the cloud cover. There were birds, as well, but they moved about only as needed, making quick trips from the tall grass below our house to the feeders hanging from the cherry tree off our north deck. The temperature was in the middle teens with a wind chill of negative one.
Like I said, different.
Even so, there was a lot to see. It all started with Anne exclaiming about turkeys. The Ohio Department of Natural Resource’s Division of Wildlife released about half a dozen near here some ten years ago. Over that decade, they’ve flourished. We’ve seen flocks of more than a dozen moving through the brush below our house and on the other side of Cranberry Run. Today, there were four of them as close to the house as I’ve seen them. In all likelihood, they were eating the seed that had fallen from the feeders.
Lolly, an American Bulldog mix that we adopted from the Allen County Humane Society shortly before Christmas, joined me on the trek, ranging ahead of me, then back, sniffing at everything and exploring every nook and cranny that caught her eye. To the east of the quarry, she brought to my attention a former member of the flock of turkeys that had passed through our yard earlier in the day. It had been there for some time and there was no sign of the cause of its fate. There are any number of predators that could have killed the bird: foxes, hawks, eagles, raccoons, the occasional coyote or dog and, of course, us. Humans.
The trees that are filling in the wooded area of the property are mostly sugar maples, though there are plenty of honey locusts, walnuts, sycamores and buckeyes, as well. In the summer, their leaves shade the ground below and, at least psychologically, provide some relief from the heat. In the winter, their branches scrape at the sky, catch at the clouds and capture a weak winter sun. The visuals are stark, these dark branches against the fleeting gaps of blue where the clouds are torn apart by the wind. It’s clear why winter trees, stripped of their softening leaves, are often described as skeletal. Even so, it’s beautiful, this contrast of dark on light, darkest brown on blue.
The big back field, over eleven acres of grass grown rampant and thorny brush, is brown and dry and bitterly cold. There are constant rustlings in the dead undergrowth: possibly the wanderings of mice, voles or field rats. More likely, though, these sounds are the scraping of dried plant against dried plant, pushed together by the wind. Most common in this field of brown are the spiky heads of teasel. They rise up above the dead grass in clusters of two or five or seven or more.
I’ve managed to photograph quite a bit, though possibly more interesting are the things that I’ve failed to capture. Like the pair of bald eagles that rose up out of the southern part of The Quarry Farm and looped over my head while I stood in the back field, hand in pockets against the cold, camera in its bag. By the time I got it out, the camera, they had soared the better part of a mile away to the east. Or the four white-tailed deer that Lolly scared up. All I saw of them were their flashing tails as they bounded leisurely away from Lolly’s spirited chase.
By the time all of this has happened, the wind has found both Lolly and me. My hands and face are numb and slow to respond. Even Lolly’s had enough, leading me back to the path that will take us back to the house. I would say “home”, but we are already there. Even here, in the cold.
After all, every bit of it, every twig and branch and frozen patch of ground, is The Quarry Farm.