This morning, bands of clouds the color of dust stretched from the horizon to the sky. I know that sounds strange: of course the clouds stretched to the sky. What I mean to say is that the clouds didn’t lay horizontally across the heavens. No. Instead they seemed to start at some point on the horizon and launch themselves into space, like rocket trails or streamers of toilet paper. And when I say that they were the color of dust, I don’t mean gray. They were more beige with a little bit of peach thrown in, somewhere between a very light brown and red. And even though they weren’t red, I couldn’t help but think, “Red sky in morning, sailor take warning.”
As it turns out, that was more than a little melodramatic. But even so, the day had its moments. Every little bit a snow squall would blow through with heavy flakes swirling about making it hard to see, or with small, hard, almost-pellets of snow that would sting your face and hands. And it’s been cold, and growing colder as the day progresses. Thankfully, we held our Backyard Bird Count event (and more about that tomorrow) before the worst of it rolled in. Short, hard snowfalls offer interesting opportunities photographically, so we decided to take a few shots of the animals that live close to the house. These, then, also give us the chance to relate an anecdote or two, to introduce you to some of the animals that live here.
So. Here we go.
Gigi and Louise are two of four geese that live here on The Quarry Farm. Anne brought them home from Van Buren State Park near Findlay. She was there to give a presentation on water quality and macroinvertebrates about a year and a half ago when the naturalist who organized the event, Natalie Rossman Miller, conscripted Anne in an effort to trap two geese that were dumped at the park. Suffice it to say that, ultimately, they were successful, and Anne brought them here. Gigi is an Embden goose and, despite the name, entirely male (we’re not great at sexing birds at a distance; we once named a rooster Miss Kitty). Louise is an African goose and very much female.
These two, along with Henry, the other female goose (I know, I know) on the property, serve as our early warning system. On those occasions when the mail carrier has a package to bring to the house, or American Electric Power has come to read the meter, or someone has simply come to visit, these three make enough noise so that, even in the house we know that we have guests. And if we’re being completely honest, they make enough noise so that our neighbors a quarter of a mile away know that we have guests.
While we’re on the subject of geese, here’s Johnny. Johnny is a Canada goose. He was found oiled in Lima, Ohio. A local veterinarian took him on, cleaned him up and treated him for about a month before calling Nature’s Nursery Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation Education. Over the course of that time, Johnny imprinted on humans.
In addition to that setback, Johnny also has a congenital wing defect; his left wrist never developed properly and consequently the end of his wing protrudes at a right angle to the rest of his body, precluding any possibility of flight. In Johnny’s plus column, however, is one of the sweetest dispositions of any animal, anywhere. This bird just doesn’t know the meaning of ill-tempered. When we pull into the drive, he greets us with a honk characteristic of all Canada geese, then rises up and beats his wings.
Nearly a month ago, we were provided with the opportunity to expand our flock of chickens. A local farmer received an unexpected bonus shipment of pullets that increased his flock beyond his capacity to safely maintain. We took on fourteen of the hens, the most the farmer would allow us to acquire. In the overcrowded conditions to which the birds were temporarily subjected, they inflicted no small degree of damage to one another. Feathers were pulled loose until many of the birds were half-plucked. Their skin was raw and sore and, in some cases, infected. Despite our best efforts, four of the hens died. But, being the kind of people who believe that the glass is half full, ten survived and are thriving. One of them, a Rhode Island Red, is particularly friendly. She’s the first to bound out of the coop each morning and will run across the yard to greet us when we arrive back home. We call her Little Red.
Finally, at least for the purposes of this post, there are the boys: Buddy, Marsh and S’more. Marsh and S’more, two Nigerian Dwarf goats, came to us first, arriving in July of 2o11. They came to us from a family in Cincinnati. Although the family loved them their two large dogs didn’t and made life miserable for the brothers. In seeking a home for them, they contacted the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and through them, us. Buddy, a miniature donkey, came from closer to home. A Putnam County couple kept Buddy as a companion for their horse. When it became too difficult for them to continue caring for the horse, they found it a new home. Sadly, the people who took the horse weren’t interested in Buddy. According to his old family, without companionship, Buddy began to waste away. They contacted us and Marsh and S’more became Buddy’s new buddies. And while they get along phenomenally, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have issues. Jonelle Meyer, a young woman who volunteers here at The Quarry Farm, recently told us of one such incident. As she was currying Buddy, the goats kept wandering up looking for attention. Buddy grew increasingly impatient with this until finally, when S’more refused to take the hint, he reached out, took the brush from Jonelle’s hand, smacked S’more in the face with the brush, then returned it to Jonelle so she could get back to what was really important: taking care of him.