Nemo the Pig has been featured in this space before. She came to us in 2015 as a tiny shoat. She was scraped, bruised and broken from a fall onto I-270 from a transport truck in Columbus. A kind, determined person rescued her, nursed the piglet’s wounds and brought her to us. For a couple of weeks, we socialized little Nemo by carrying her around to programs in a baby sling. She housebroke easily, although she outgrew the house and was unable to turn around in hallways. At six months of age, the age that young pigs are typically “finished” and loaded into a crowded transport to be “processed,” Nemo was spayed at Ohio State University. For the first few years of her life, she was one of the first farm animal sanctuary residents to greet visitors.
“I’ve never seen a pig that big,” everyone still says when they see her for the first time. There’s a reason that they haven’t.
Nemo excavated a mud wallow that is so deep and wide that the geese and ducks swim in it when rainwater fills it to the brim. She made friends with Carlton the Pot-bellied Pig, a buddy system that continues to this day. They allow the other pot-bellied pigs, the geese, ducks and the occasional chicken to use their mud wallow.
Seven years on, visitors don’t often see Nemo, especially when the sun is high and the air is hot. Children love to see her, but she doesn’t often run to greet them, even when we mention the word “apple.” I did coax her out to see third-grade students from Ottawa Elementary in May. She walked out of her favorite building, stared across the pasture at the kids waving at the fence, then turned and walked away to her muddy spa. “Not today,” she seemed to say. I explained to the students that, while they could shed their coats and put on sunscreen, Nemo can only protect her fair skin and floppy ears with sparse, fair pig bristles, cool mud and shade.
For those lucky enough to visit on a cool day, Nemo allows a soft jowl rub. She sighs the deep, rumbling sigh that one would expect to emanate from a body such as hers, closes her blonde lashes and rolls over for a belly pat.
Today was Spring Family Day on The Quarry Farm. At 1 p.m., the temperature was in the 90s, sending a puddle of honeybees up the side of the north hive to cool…maybe. We are very, very new to beekeeping so I don’t know why they are washboarding backwards and forwards above the hive entrance. But I did learn this week that this inch-by-inch dance is called ”washboarding” and I would do it to cool off outside my hive if I were a honeybee.
So a little before 1 p.m. the first family arrived. The Rita the Greeter’s table and umbrella was up, ice water and cookies were in the pavilion and “staff” appeared as coolly collected as anyone could be during a Midwest heatwave. Dragonflies swanned in and out of blooming Lizard’s Tongue on the quarry wetland. Pearly Crescent Butterflies flickered orange under Buckeye tree leaves. Nemo cooled in her mud bath and Beatrice emerged from her own spa to visit with her piggy admirers.
“It’s all so peaceful,” someone said.
I smiled, making a mental note to take my new plants out of the truck as soon as possible. At 6 a.m. this morning, My Steven saw the donkeys at the front door, Nemo lounging in the flowering herb bed and several goats munching away at the blossoms. I forgot to latch the lower chain on the south gate last night. While Steve sold his bread at the Bluffton Farmer’s Market, I bought new herbs from Ann Boyd’s My Own Backyard.
We have been, and continue to be, blessed to not just interact with but to actually get to know many beings here on The Quarry Farm. We meet lots of people, learning each time how many are interested in the world around them and how we all can be better stewards of that world. Just about every visit, tour and workshop results in one of us responding to a question with, ” I can’t answer that,” prompting us to find out more about something.
People are great. We can exchange ideas pretty freely. But the beings that remind us most how much we have to learn in this life are the animals. They can readily communicate with each other—even the trees and plants talk—but it’s up to them to learn how to deal with humans.
Over the years, the farm animal sanctuary residents have dealt with us. They come and they go with the end of life. Johnny the Canade Goose who taught us how inquisitive and intelligent these birds are. Audrey the red hen that taught us that even a hot wire slice through a chick’s beak and a fall from a truck along I-75 couldn’t stop her from seeking a cuddle. Smart, determined Gertie the pot-bellied pig who taught us that pigs are cleaner than dogs, cats, and most humans (no they don’t like to live in swill.) Mister Bill the giant goat who absolutely did not like to be told ‘no’ but forgave you for saying it as long as you scritched between his horns. I’m going to stop naming these names because the tears are coming.
Some of them have barely tolerated us, forging kind of a love/hate relationship with us because they haven’t had a choice, what with humans being the most ruthless predator (dang those opposable thumbs that can latch a gate and turn a key.) Two residents come immediately to mind: Bernie the Rooster that attacked me and my red windbreaker and the red lawnmower, and Jacques the Canada Goose who could run across four acres before you could put a fence between you and his bony, flightless wings and bill.
I wouldn’t trade the knowing of either of them for the world.
This morning, when Beatrice’s Belly Rub Girl offered Sean the Virginia Opossum his dried cranberries, greens plus a peanut butter sandwich for winter sustenance, Sean didn’t wake up. Just last Friday, Sean met the entire second grade class at Kalida Elementary School. Sean was always great with people. He didn’t hiss or growl or show his 50 teeth like most Virgina Opossums do to defend themselves from the two-legged predators that could very well mean to eat him. He tolerated all of us quite well, so he was one of our go-to wildlife ambassadors for offsite classroom visits.
The second graders thought Sean was “adorable.” They couldn’t understand how anyone would go out of their way to hurt his kind. They asked if they could see him walk. He was more interested in sitting, even though he was born with no eyes and had every reason to be afraid of squirrely limbs and echoes in the halls of school.
They asked how old he was. “He’s almost three,” I told them. How long would he live, they wanted to know. “Two to three years,” I said. How old is he in people years? “Very, very old.”
So it wasn’t a huge surprise that Sean fell asleep last night and didn’t wake up. He isn’t the first Virginia Opossum to have served The Quarry Farm as an ambassador of his kind to those who might wish him harm, but he was the one who immediately convinced them that Virginia Opossums have every right to live, under our porches and wherever their nomadic ways take them, in peace.
Ylvis is a Norwegian comedy duo consisting of brothers Vegard and Bård Ylvisåker. They are the creators of the viral song and video The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?) that I did listen to after I lost count of how many kids and parents brought it up after meeting Quinn, The Quarry Farm’s rescued fox and educational ambassador for her species.
I can tell you that most foxes do not have blue eyes and I’m not sure what the Ylvisåker Brothers did to have a fox assigned to them as a guardian angel. That is one spirit/bodyguard that is going to melt away into the landscape at the first sign of trouble. But before it takes off, it’s going to pick your pocket, race away with the goods, stash them in a secret location, and urinate on whatever it is to lay everlasting claim. Items that we have found in Quinn’s “secret” hideaway (a litterbox in the basement) include: socks, underwear, dog toys, peanuts, a jar of peanut butter, potholders, dog collars, cat treats, baby carrots, potatoes, Fig Newtons, buttered toast, and whole bags of bread and rolls of toilet paper.
As far as what the fox says, Quinn says a whole lot. I’ve never heard her ring-ding-ding, although she did snatch a bell off the Christmas tree and that rang mightily until it was buried in kitty litter. The Ylvisåkers really didn’t reproduce much of Quinn’s vocalizations in their 2013 earworm, although she did mutter fraka-kaka-kaka when I changed the litter box and a wrapped stick of butter fell out into the garbage bag. And after she grabbed a second stick of butter from the box I hadn’t yet emptied, she screamed a-hee-ahee ha-hee while she ran up the stairs with her reclaimed treasure.
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The final (at least the last scheduled) fall field trips drove away this week. Each offers its own teachable moments. As I stood at along the front fence of the farm animal sanctuary with a preschool group from Dupont, one of the smallest boys stopped and called, ”Soo-wee! Soo-wee!” in hopes of calling forth pigs. I puzzled over that, wondering why he would think they would come.
“Um, that’s not going to work. They’ve never heard that before. Call them by name. Try calling Nemo, Beatrice, Bob…”
Adults might have been offended. Heck, I probably would have. After all, we are all told that turkeys gobble, donkeys hee-haw, geese honk, and pigs come running when you shout Soo-wee. That little guy never stopped to take a breathe before he called to Nemo and she trotted up and over the hill followed by Beatrice and Carlton. Clive, a much more cautious pot-belly, watched from a distance in the southern area of the pasture.
“What’s his name?” asked the boy.
“Oh, that’s Clive. But he won’t come. He’s very shy about people.”
“CLI-I-IVE!” called the small young voice of optimism. Here came Clive. The boy asked if Clive would eat the mint leaves that the boy had collected in the garden. I said no. But what do I know? Clive took it gently between his tiny front teeth, then allowed the boy and several classmates to pet his tufty fur.
Just when I’m feeling all wise and knowledgable, something raises a metaphysical eyebrow in my direction and suggests eh, maybe not so much.
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.
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.
This photograph popped up on my Facebook feed, a memory to share from February 6, 2011. The term “polar vortex” was a year in the future for most of our vocabularies, but there was knee-deep snow that winter. We had just celebrated what was the last Christmas with my dad. He and Mom left for the Cleveland Clinic and would not leave until after his death.
Dad wasn’t at all well in the Summer of 2010. I found out later that he told my mother that he was pleased with what My Steven and I were doing down the road from their place. We had five years of wildlife rehabilitation training behind us and had just made the decision to open our acres to domestic species in need of a quiet place to live their lives. Chickens and geese had lived with us for a couple of years. Then in 2010, two two-year-old Nigerian Dwarf Goats road home with my child and me, from Cincinnati to Riley Township. We surprised a picnicking family at a rest area near Tipp City when we took Marsh and S’more for a walk there. Cellphones came out when we stopped to fill up in Sidney. The day after the goats began their sanctuary life, Dad drove his ATV here to meet them.
The brothers were a delight from the get-go. Marsh was a sweet, huggy sort who charmed visitors while his more aloof sibling S’more graced everyone with a snippet of presence before moving on. S’more had a strange habit of arching his neck and twisting his nose in a circular motion. Marsh had a number of health issues that took his life a few years ago. The twist was S’more’s only hint of physical weirdness. He lived until this morning, a year longer than the average lifespan for his kind.
It seems like I have been recalling a lot of these memories recently. I told Steven this morning that I feel strange because I don’t cry. “That will come later,” he said. “Right now, we’re busy.” S’more died this morning, just as S’more would, on one of the coldest days of the year when the ground is frozen solid and the forecast is calling for single digits as the week moves ahead. This morning was busy with feeding everyone with high caloric feed, laying in more bedding, readjusting coat straps, hauling water, figuring out what to do with S’more’s body, and calming the living due to the strangeness of his absence.
Dad never got to meet the pot-bellies or their giant cousin Nemo. When we visited him in the Cleveland Clinic, he liked hearing stories about Bernie the rooster who hated the red lawnmower and my red running jacket (even when I was wearing it.) And I am grateful. My father could a put face to a name when we told him the latest antics of a chocolate-and-graham goat who did things his very own way, in his very own time, with a twist.
Elora died today. She is buried on the north slope between the pine groves, under the sky that is as wide open as her expression was.
Elora came here in February 2013, from less than ideal circumstances in the Kent area. She rode here in the back of my Scion xA, a tiny roller skate of a car that had plenty of space to transport Elora and two other Pygmy goats. We wrapped Mardigan’s long horns in a towel to protect the upholstered ceiling. Willow, the eldest, was fairly stoic, despite the fact that she was sharing a hatchback with Mardigan—a smelly, intact male—and Elora, who observed her curious world with much vocalization.
Willow and Mardigan died within a months of each other, just last year. Neither death was a great surprise. The veterinarian believed that Willow had suffered bone breaks and a severe lung worm infection in her past life. When I asked if euthanization was the kindest future for her, the doc said, “She’ll keep going until she doesn’t.” And that is what she did. Same with Mardigan. The legacy of his youth were those 12-inch horns that, while magnificent, should have been removed when he was a kid. They grew heavier with age. He whapped them on something one too many times and had a stroke.
But Elora was forever young to me. There wasn’t a brilliant mind below her wonky horns—one short and straight; the other curved down like a slicked side part—but there was such sweetness. She bleated “Hey guys, where are you” when left behind, just out of sight. She was lost without her Willow, even though Willow kept her own counsel most times. There was great joy when Molly and Missy arrived in 2019 and allowed their goaty twosome to be joined by a tiny, round Elora. She raced after after them, bleating pleadingly until Missy stopped to wait for Little Elora to climb the hill.
Yesterday the vet told us that Elora’s third stomach wasn’t processing food as it should. Treatments of steroids and vitamins provided a brief boost. This morning she was down. The goats and donkeys kept their distance. Carlton the potbelly curled up near her. We drove to town. When we came home, Carlton was whining in the doorway.
Tonight the wind is high and no stars shine. It’s the sort of night when a little red fox would rather be curled up on the bed beside me than tossing her toys in the yard. It’s a night when the small bleat of a little black goat with mismatched horns rides the air higher and higher until that voice is never alone again.
Summer 2020 didn’t go according to plan, but then none of this year has been business-as-usual. This very warm season was active, nonetheless, with virtual visits with the Bluffton Public Library, small group outings on the trails, and new volunteers who helped clear invasive bush honeysuckle.
August 7 was the final Facebook Live segment in the “Quarry Farm Fridays with the Bluffton Public Library”. Donkeys Buddy, Lucy and Silkie were the featured stars, although S’more the Nigerian Dwarf Goat and Chablis the Llama made cameo appearances.
The Quarry Farm is currently Putnam County’s #1 birding hotspot on eBird.org, thanks to Deb Weston and David Smith. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology created eBird in 2002 as an online database of bird observations providing scientists, researchers and amateur naturalists with real-time data about bird distribution and abundance. When Deb wasn’t logging spring and summer miles on the trails to document and photograph most of the 201 species of birds currently on our hotspot list, she was leading other avian enthusiasts here. View some of Deb’s bird photos in this newsletter and on our website. You can also join Deb for birding on the trails if you register for the “October Big Day” scheduled for October 17.
Until the latter part of the 19th century, most of Putnam County was part of the Great Black Swamp in what is now the physiographic region known as the Huron-Erie Lake Plains. But the southeast portion of the county was a slightly higher area with drier prairies as well as wetlands. This area, now called the Central Lowland, is where The Quarry Farm is located. While the 50-acres probably included upland and lowland forest, floodplain and wetland, grassland may have been here, too. For this reason, the 10-acre grassland is undergoing substantial maintenance this year, thanks to Brad Brooks. Brad began by brush-hogging the area that had been overrun by invasive grass species. He is currently clearing small trees and shrubs, leaving native oaks, sycamores and ash in certain areas to provide shade and shelter to wildlife.
The August 8 Family Day included a number of stations where groups learned about trees, insects, herbs, and the farm animal sanctuary. Rick Carles, acting president of the Blanchard River Archeology Club, was on hand outside the c.1853 Red Fox Cabin to demonstrate pioneer and Native American skills. The event attracted local media who aired and printed interviews with board members and Family Day visitors.
Although we are not able to offer hands-ons projects this year, we are able to lead small groups on hikes in the nature preserve and tours of the farm animal sanctuary. If you wish to schedule an outdoor visit onsite during Fall 2020, send an email to email@example.com with a details about your group, including number of people, ages, and possible dates and times.