Water words and tiger tales

beetle larvaOver 100 years ago, there was no quarry here on these 50 acres. Cranberry Run was a meandering trickle. When the digs and blasts began, this place’s namesake was one of several in these parts. Over time, most closed or consolidated operation. Springs kept the abandoned holes filled. People and animals fished them. Picnics were eaten on the shores.

Before his body failed him, my dad spent a lot of sticky hot summer time rebuilding a stone wall between our quarry and Cranberry Run. This happened nearly 50 years after human hands and earth movers stretched, straightened, and deepened the natural engineering of the stream to push water through various townships to others downstream. The quarry was opened to heavy sediment loads forced through via the Run. Over the course of 50 years, the quarry depth went from 20 feet at its deepest point to no more than four of water and muck.The Quarry

As soil, grasses, and trees further rooted the wall, the quarry began to change again. Aquatic plants, their seeds held for generations in the floodplain, took root beneath the water’s surface. Some are rare, others not so much, but most are native and blooming to attract pollinators and migrating birds to shelter among the green.

unnamed.jpgTwo weeks ago, heavy rain flooded the quarry. Kayakers paddled through the preserve, weaving through trees well above the Run’s banks. The footbridge floated, held fast by heavy chains, thanks to Engineer Dave Seitz’ design. After the flood wave crested and rolled north toward the Blanchard, I kayaked under it and on to Riley Creek, past the 20170513_141555absent M-6 bridge, Putnam Aggregates and the Riley Creek United Methodist Church. The banks were surprisingly clear of debris, with one exception on the east bank in Riley Township. There, an old car follows a wave of cans and other discards toward a detonated washing machine on the bank below.

About a month ago, the water in the quarry was crystal-clear. You could lean out over the bank and watch spring life move in and out of the sprouting aquatic plants, except for those areas that were wriggling black with toadpoles. You could reach in and pick up handfuls of the fry if you wanted to. Steve used a dip net instead, keeping several in a five-gallon bucket to show to visitors at Lima’s Faurot Park Earth Day celebration.

20170502_201309_LLSThe week before that, Steve came back to the house with a bucket of fairy shrimp in quarry water. I love to watch these tool in healthy circles, especially since their presence tells me that the wetlands are doing such fine work sponging sediment and impurities in the floodplain. The pools did such a great job that the bucket also contained a salamander larva with waving spaniel-ear-gills, and a predaceous diving beetle nymph.

My dad would have been so excited to see the contents of this bucket. His artist’s eye would note the analogous brown and gold patterns of the amphibian skins and the scarlet jaws of the young beetle. The latter is nicknamed “water tiger.” You don’t have to spend much time to understand why. Steve said he started up the path between the quarry and home with 10 toadpoles. At the door, there were seven left.

After lots of people oo-ed and ah-ed over the catch, we released them. Though many were surely washed away, we know that quite a few are still there. Grown frogs and toads sing through the nights. Great blue herons, raccoons, and ducks feast in the shallows while perched raptors wait for their one false move.

 

Avian ‘found art’

I recently spotted a real-standout bird’s nest along my running route. The clever creature had gathered straws, strings and six-pack rings to construct a work of ‘found art.’ The piece was truly spectacular.

Trouble is, that bird and any of its nestlings are at terrible risk of falling prey to the building materials. By now, most people are aware that six-pack rings, fishing line and other plastics should be snipped and discarded properly. But most don’t realize that yarn and any type of string, twine and even human hair can easily become tangled around birds’ legs, wings and neck and cut off circulation, causing serious injury or even death. Many baby songbirds lose limbs (or worse) due to string-like materials in a nest.

If you wish to offer nesting materials in your yard, pre-made nesting material is available for purchase. You can also use the following natural alternatives.

Small Yard Debris: Pine straw, wheat straw, and tiny twigs make good bird nest building materials.

Grass Clippings: One of the most common nesting materials, grass clippings can be gathered into balls or simply left mulched into your lawn.

Animal Hair: If you brush or clip your animals, save the fur! It makes a wonderfully soft lining for bird nests. Here on The Quarry Farm Nature Preserve & Conservation Farm, we find nests snuggly lined with donkey and goat fur, shed by the residents of the farm animal sanctuary. Just don’t use any hair or fur that’s been treated with flea dips or insect repellents.

Plants and Seeds: Fluffy seeds and plants, such as cattails, make good bird nesting materials. Please make sure the seeds are those of plants native to this area.

Cloth Batting: Wool or cotton batting cut into 3”- 6” strips makes good nesting material.

Feathers: Providing feathers for nesting material is a great way to recycle old down pillows. Better yet, keep backyard chickens.

Moss: Sphagnum or Spanish moss make great bird nesting material (make sure it’s not been chemically treated).

Happy Holidays

Many consider the ideal Christmas morning to be filled with snow and soft lights. I myself would love another three to four feet of snow, as I love winter. We have a few sheets of snow interspersed with cold, sodden earth. Here on the Quarry Farm, we have a rather muddy Christmas.

The pigs started knocking on the door at 6 am. The donkeys brayed when the lights flipped on. The goats burped softly and shuffled around in their coats. The chickens quietly werked in the predawn, nestled in their coop.

img_0059Everyone has been fed and the mid-afternoon snooze is setting in. Lolly and Beretta are curled up in their respective beds, slightly snoring, quiet after I tried to get them to wear bows (I thought Lolly was going to eat it). Even Jimmy is quiet, stretched luxuriously in his hammock, waiting for me to clean his cage.

The wind is coming quietly from the east, and I hope we have a nice winter coming in. Some snow, with mild temperatures would be nice. But for today, we’re all quiet and enjoying a nice holiday.

I plan on eating a nice meal with the family soon. Whatever you wish to celebrate today, if it be just that there is a new day, we all wish you well.

Warning: Harsh reality ahead

Funny story. A man crafted a pretty little flyer that he thumb-tacked to the check-out bulletin board at the neighborhood market. The ad simply stated that he liked to tinker with old lawnmowers and was looking for a new project. The posting included his address and phone number.

He came home from the grocery store and found a half-acre-full of lawnmowers in various conditions on his half-acre of land.

This is why we do not share our address prominently on this website, on Facebook or any other easy-to-locate location.

BobThis is Bob. Bob is happy. Carlton is standing behind him, as are several hens of various histories and ages. They are happy, too. When Bob came here, he was not happy. He was recovering from abandonment, starvation, frostbite and likely a whole other host of horrors. Some of those chickens came with him. They survived because they found shelter from the coldest winter of the decade under the frozen carcasses of their flock. Carlton was abandoned by someone anonymous. We’re betting that they found out piglets–even pot-bellied minis–don’t fit in the palm of your hand forever.

If our address was easy to find, we would have more Bobs, Carltons and chickens that we could care for, no matter how hard we try. By no means whatsoever do I mean to suggest that Bob, Carlton, Beatrice, Lucy, Buddy, Freckles or any of the animals here on the farm animal sanctuary on the same level as a lawnmower. Lawnmowers we can load up, take to recycling and use the recycling funds to pay for food and medical care for the animals. These animals, however, trust us to provide for them for the rest of their lives, lives that we pledge to be existences of peace and contentment. That’s the least we can do to make up for what some of our fellow human beings have put them through.

So…

If you call us and we don’t answer right away, please leave a message. We will return your call as soon as everyone is tucked in or a scheduled program is completed. If you have an animal that you cannot care for, we will refer you to someone who can if we are unable. That is part of our mission.5K logo

Better yet…
Join us on October 1 for the first ever Quarry Farm 5K (registration info is listed under Events) and be part of that mission! You’ll walk, run or bicycle right past the gate.

Kings of the mountain

IMG_1622The mountains of Ohio are some distance from here: the highest point is an hour’s drive near Bellefontaine and the Appalachian foothills two hours more to the southeast. The Quarry Farm does house a valley and blue clay walls rise west above Cranberry Run, but the floodplain levels out east for some distance before it marches back up to the ridge trail and the grassland.

The point is that it’s pretty flat on the edge of the Great Black Swamp, just before land starts to pitch and roll a bit. There aren’t many climbing opportunities apart from trees and playground equipment. There certainly aren’t for goats, and most do love a good climb.

So Rowan brought a climb to them. She research designs and materials. She bookmarked wooden platforms with ramps and towers made of giant cable spools. IMG_1610She frowned a lot when I said that head butting and a large pig would probably bash any kind of platform to bits, but she held her ground. She revised her plans, rounded up tractor tires, dug and chipped free sub-baked soil to fill them and created a goat mountain at the edge of the former paddock. There’s also an arch for head-scratchingIMG_1632

IMG_1623After all the hard work and sweat, no one showed any interest in playing on the new station–not in May or June or into July, until this evening when I pulled through the gate and saw Mister Bill gazing out over the hillside from the highest level. He must have got the ball rolling because Martigan tried it out,too…after Billy left the vicinity.