Changing of the color guard

Four beautiful bronze turkeys were part of the flock here on the farm. Fezzik, Inigo Montoya, and Humperdink are now part of everything, having lived out their lives on the ridge above Cranberry Run. All three rode down I-75, from various points in Lucas County by way of Nature’s Nursery, in a hatchback.

The fourth, Miracle Max, arrived in similar fashion, and he still walks the grounds. Two weeks ago, Max was greeter as schoolchildren and scouts entered the south gate. Since Humperdink died earlier this spring, Max has been blue. Quite literally, as his skin was a pale blue: the blue of loneliness and the fear and discomfort associated with losing his band of tom-turkeys.

(About that: Turkeys’ heads change color to express their emotions. The blood vessels lying directly under the skin of the wattle (that strange unicorn appendage between their eyes) are surrounded by long bands of collagen. When the turkey gets upset, the blood vessels contract, exposing more of the collagen bands. University of California, Berkeley scientists have actually developed a synthetic toxin sensor based on the turkey’s color-changing technique.)

When the April visitors walked onto his acreage, Max flushed a deep red, puffed his feathers, and thrummed the balloon of his chest. Instead of two-stepping away from anyone who came within arm’s length, as is his habit, he allowed a few of the kids to touch him briefly. And when his guests closed the gate behind them at the west gate, Max glided beside them from the other side of the fence, becoming paler as the kids moved further away. One little scout insisted on going back to console him.

On Saturday, three lovely ladies took up residence here. A family in Michigan raised three Brown Orlopp hens with the intention of serving them on a platter. “But the girls loved them,” the dad said. Indeed, his three young daughters helped load them in our carrier. The eldest skipped and told us about naming them all ‘Waddles.’ Her younger sisters weren’t quite sure of our intentions, I think, judging by their tears as we drove away toward the Ohio line.

So this one is for you three girls to the north, for entrusting the Three Waddles to us further south. It’s also for a very happy, very rosy, Max.

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Branching out, under bright lights

20170419_143537You know that tingling excitement you get when you try something on for the first time, especially when it fits and what looks back at you in the mirror looks pretty good? Yeah, you know. That’s kind of what last week felt like.

The week’s events started last fall with an email from Quarry Farm Friend Robyn. The trails here are not new to her or her family. In fact her son Zane is one of our best advisers during programs. Zane is kind of a barometer—if he’s happy with the program’s progression, we go with the flow. Anyway, Robyn is a Findlay teacher who recommended us as a field trip destination. So back at the start of School Year 2016-17, her co-worker Alyson scheduled a spring field trip.

After the ball dropped in January, Ada Girl Scot Leader Cathy called to schedule a three-badge (Hiker, Bugs, and Animal Habitats) for Brownies and Juniors. A month later, I entered Erie Conservation District‘s “2017 Recycled Runway: A Clean Water Cause” on behalf of The Quarry Farm.

None of these things are truly new. We raise our hands all the time. In fact we all but shout, “Pick me! Pick me!” in order to fulfill our mission statement. What was a stretch is that all these things were set to happen in the same week in April 2017.

20170419_142307On Sunday, we fortified ourselves with chocolate and other Easter basket contents. From Monday to Thursday, 218 Findlay preschool students, their teachers, parents and bus drivers made lasting-leaf t-shirts and followed the Cranberry Run Trail to meet the farm animal sanctuary residents before making the bus ride back to Hancock County. The mornings were cool and afternoons exceedingly warm, but Miracle Max the Bronze Turkey was always the gate greeter for every group even if the other animals dove for cover.

Fearless Girl

Fearless Girl from “200 Years…Same Shoes”

Friday night was the big Sandusky runway show. Recycled Runway was a fundraiser to restore Lake Erie’s Big Island Preserve on the eastside shoreline off the Cedar Point Causeway. Since everything done upstream (here) impacts downstream (Lake Erie) the Fabulous Sarah wrapped herself in repurposed pop can tabs, plastic shopping bags, snack bags, mesh fruit bags, plastic bottles, plastic caps, plastic straws, bubble wrap, and feed bags and walked the red carpet in our Regency/Roaring ’20s/2020 Fearless Girl time-warp entry “200 Years…Same Shoes.”

We made the Final Four (whoo Hoo!) and they raised $10,000 towards increased water quality. Check out the media photos.18034077_1524536627558995_2990400833246355312_n20170422_110444

Saturday morning, the Ada scouts reused bush honeysuckle to make hiking sticks, hiked habitats, tasted garlic mustard, and met the animals. Max was red with happiness.

2017-04-23 16.12.32Today we rest. So does Mister Bill. Looking in the mirror, or at the photos and videos on our cells, and through the perspectives captured by others who shared the stage of the day, we’ll still keep raising our hands.

Listen and you shall hear

20170125_172422Water overflows in lower levels of the floodplain. Cranberry Run bubbles through the preserve, still held within its banks on its way to the Riley. There is a smattering of rain today but strong winds wipe away most of the drops before they make landfall.

That wind is gusting and swirling so that it’s difficult to say whether it’s blowing east of west, but the temperature is predicted to fall from the unusual balminess that’s been hereabouts this January. A hike is more of a slog right now and muddy boots and shoes are piled beside the front door. I saw a woman running last weekend, wearing just a sports bra and shorts as she clipped along, a site for July, not midwinter in Northwest Ohio.

The goats went all month without their coats. S’more shucked his after a week, but Mister Bill likes his fluorescent orange vest and kept it on until three days above freezing saw his tossed to the mud, too.

When the weather turns, they are quiet in their disgruntlement. Donkeys Buddy and Lucy are more vocal, hinnying plaintively. If that pitiful sound falls on deaf ears, they bawl and snort until apples are proffered. With mouths full and juice dripping from their chins, they snicker and quiet.

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Queen B holds court

Not so for the pigs. Rather, there is no common vocalization for all of the pigs that live here. Although the conversation usually has something to do with food, we know exactly who is sounding off.

Beatrice is the queen. She is usually very quiet since she doesn’t need to speak in order to be obeyed. She prefers to voice her opinion physically by pushing her way through or smacking on the front door. If that doesn’t get the required response, she bellows an alto “wahhhhhhhhhhhr-huh” until a) the door opens and she gets to come in or b) she is told to go to an outbuilding and she says something that I can’t repeat, even in porcine.

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Bob and Alphonse

Bob Barker barks, or he used to. Since his arrival a few years ago, the toothy boar has mellowed. These days, he humphs softly while being stoked across the bridge of his nose. When irritated, he mutters “MEEeuuurf” with a head shake.

Alphonse arrived at the same time as Bob, from the same horrific circumstance. He shrieked then and he shrieks now, just not as frequently. We believe that the trauma of early abuse left him emotionally unbalanced.

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Carlton

Carlton is a whiner. When he was younger and smaller, he could hop up on any bed in the house. Now his pot-belly is much rounder and closer to the ground. A repetitive “eeeee-rrr hmf hmf hmf” translates “It’s too cold/my feet are wet/she’s/he’s/it’s looking at/touching me.”

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Nemo and her friend Larry

Nemo is big; still a baby, but big. Her gestures are large and much of her communications are physical. For instance, I wear a jacket with an elastic drawstring. She draws back that drawstring with her teeth and releasese it to snap me in the thigh. At first, I thought this was an accident, until it happened every morning that I wore the coat.

Nemo’s voice is big, too. Her gutteral “whaaa” builds to a full-on roar when she’s hungry, which is most of the time. It takes a lot of food to maintain all that beauty. She and Carlton are friends. When Nemo eats, Carlton is usually close by, quietly snuffling up the leftovers. This is one reason why he can no longer jump.

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Sophie

Nemo may be the largest pig, but she is intimidated by the smallest. Sophie is currently petite, but was 40 pounds overweight when she came here. Walking was difficult for her and no veterinarian would spay her until she lost at least 40 pounds. We put her on a diet, one that did not include the daily bag of cookies to which she was accustomed. She never forgot that she once had cookies, though, and whistles a high-pitched soprano that builds to a kind of “hu-EE hu-EEEEE” until her breakfast is served.

Sometimes, everyone gets a cookie, even if they don’t all say “please” in the same way. We are enriched by their teachings. That’s thanks enough.

 

Who’s in this name?

Outside is frozen again.

waterThe morass of Boxing Day mud and not-mud is navigable on the farm animal sanctuary. We need some snow to make it all pretty again, and to keep Cranberry Run flowing. The little creek, reduced to sparse puddles during this dry summer, is on the move enough to water wildlife, but the old quarry is still much drier than it should be, with the wetland reduced to the southeast springs. Without precipitation in some form, bulbs of blue flags, dragon’s tongue and beard will become dormant again.

I know we’ve talked a lot about osage oranges here, and I’m going to again. Yesterday, we noted that the whole fruits are now reduced to trails of Chartreuse and ochre meal, leftovers from the forages of squirrels and other herbivores who are foraging for anything to raise their fat reserves.

For so many reasons, I wish they could eat bush honeysuckle and lots of it. We humans will have to keep chopping away at that…only fair, since our kind brought it here.

Inside artificially heated four walls, we welcome a new resident. Thanks to the Ohio Wildlife Rehabilitation Association and the Stark Parks Wildlife Conservation Center, a Virginia opossum will venture into classrooms and programs as an educational ambassador with The Quarry Farm. Like Captain John Smith, another North American marsupial “he”, this Nature’s garbage collector will help people learn more about the vital role his kind plays in world health and balance.

Here’s the thing. We can continue to call him “he”, “the Virginia opossum”, “OP2” or other nonspecific things. As he is an adult, with a guesstimated age of one year, the short anticipated life expectancy of Virginia opossums means he may not be with us for more than a couple of years, max. But don’t you believe that he deserves more than that, whether he cares or not, as long as we keeps the scrambled eggs, cat and dog food, veggies and fruits coming?

So as with the Captain, we invite you to submit potential names for the new guy. Reasons behind your nomination are welcome. After all, we walked away from the last contest with a wonderful American History link as well as a memorable name for a memorable soul.

img_0088Here’s what we can tell you about this little man. He was found by a Stark Parks visitor. This animal was approachable (not normal), wasn’t thrilled about being picked up (normal) but allowed it (not normal.) The easy catch was probably because he had, sometime in his recent past, suffered from head trauma, likely hit by a car while scavenging on or along a road. Because of the injury, he doesn’t move quickly and has permanent head tilt. He does, however, like his grub and was able to find it long enough to allow him to heal in the wild. Luckily, a kind, potential predator found him before a determined actual predator did. On December 17, we drove to Hartsville, Ohio. He made the journey to Putnam County, Ohio with us that same day.

There’s a Quarry Farm apron or t-shirt (winner’s choice) in it for the winning entrant. Please submit names (and stories; who doesn’t love a good story?) to thequarryfarm@gmail.com by the time the ball drops on Jan. 1, 2017.

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.

Get off my yawn

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Much as I tried, I couldn’t leave this photo to its own devices. Buddy was indeed yawning, not braying the classic “hee haw.” Donkeys don’t, at least the two here, don’t. They “hee-hee-hee” and “ho-o-o-o-nk” and blow raspberries, but declare nothing for Buck and Roy to play along with.

Sunday morning, as I filled the water pans, Buddy followed me to make sure no carrots lurked in my pockets. I saw his lower lip begin to tremble and readied the camera just in case a toothy grin was on its way..

anthroponothing

noun: anthropomorphism
the attribution of human characteristics or behavior to a god, animal, or object

On Thursday, we buried a friend of ours: Marshmallow, a Nigerian dwarf goat whose gentle disposition touched a lot of lives. I’ve already related this, clumsily fumbled my way through a post that was part eulogy, part obituary and completely inadequate in relating the true nature of this incredible being, how important he was to all of us here on The Quarry Farm and to those who had the good fortune to interact with him, however briefly. Something happened, though, while we were burying him, the relating of which I hope will make up for my failure.

Yesterday, I dug a hole. If you follow these posts, then you already know this. I dug the hole, then I drove the seventy-some miles to Marysville to pick up the husk that was Marsh. Marsh’s brother, S’More, was lounging near the gate, watching as I left, and he was still there roughly three hours later when I returned.

I pulled in, closed the gate, then maneuvered my car over to the site we’d chosen to return our dear friend’s biomass to the Earth.

It took me a few moments to jockey the body from the backseat, ease it into the hole and manipulate it into position, muttering apologies the whole time. That Marsh wasn’t there to hear me was apparent. I was simply pouring sound into absence.

As I took up the shovel, scooped the first blade of dirt, I saw S’more come up on my left  between me and the now not entirely empty hole. He was agitated, his tail flicking furiously as he paced the circumference of the pit. Every few steps, he’d stop and lean down toward the shell of his brother. His nostrils would pulse and he’d falter a bit, one foot pawing tentatively at the open air between them.

I waited until he was on the far side of the hole before I threw the first shovelful of dirt, then three more in rapid succession. As I was reaching for the fourth, S’More rounded the corner, stepped up to me and leaned the crown of his head against the handle of the shovel, holding it in place. I rubbed his neck for a moment, easing him away, then threw a fifth, and then a sixth shovelful. Turning for another, I found myself surrounded by all five goats who live here: Willow, Elora and Madmartigan, the three pygmies; Mister Bill, the giant Boer-mix; and S’More.

While the pygmies paced the pit, nostrils flaring, Bill gently hooked me with one horn. This isn’t unusual behavior. Bill loves to rub the side of his face up and down whomever will stand and tolerate it. In the process, his curled horn will lock a body in place, glide up and down a hip or leg or side as he rubs. This time, though, he  simply applied a gradual pressure that pushed me away from the dirt, away from the hole and, by necessity, the body in it.

For a few minutes, I soothed them all: rubbing the spot between Bill’s horns that he most dearly loves rubbed; stroking S’More’s neck and gently scratching his rump; talking quietly to Willow, Elora and Martigan, none of whom are overly fond of physical contact.

When I resumed my task of shifting dirt from mound to cavity, the herd wandered off together and took up observance from the top of a small hill of dirt-filled tractor tires, a form of enrichment that Rowan constructed during her last visit home, some sixty feet away. They stayed there, all five of them, until I’d finished. Then, once I’d climbed the steps to the deck on the west side of our home, they left their perch and moved to surround the grave, staying there for several minutes before moving off to graze on the opposite side of the property.

It’s been suggested that we can’t truly understand the motivations of animals, that in trying to do so we attribute to them emotional responses that they simply don’t have. But it’s not they who are lacking. It’s not they who fail to understand.

In the end, I know what I know.

I know that they are grieving.

I know that they are sharing that grief.