Caring for Nature’s Kidneys

The Quarry Farm newsletter for the winter season is at the printer. It’s also available for download—handily click on the cover to ‘receive’ your copy. But budget and conservation of natural resources limits that piece of paper to an 11″ x 17″ piece of paper folded to supply four printed pages. That’s the great thing about this website. We can share more stories and photos in between issues.

This newsletter contains details about engineer David Seitz’s most recent onsite project. This summer and fall, David began to engineer a system that would temper sediment loading from Cranberry Run and help the quarry wetland do its job as a natural water treatment system and wildlife habitat. His daughter Aili has been helping him bring the project to fruition. David is documenting the project via email to Board President Laura. As newsletter space is limited, here’s the rest of the story, so far.

August 15

Aili worked a bit across the creek with the string trimmer, going around the quarry. I kept going south on the west side path, with the brush cutter. Cut through about 40 yards of honeysuckle thicket, and the path is now open almost to the property line. But all the brush from the thicket is still on the path, and needs to be cleared from the path. Also a log down across the path at eye level. Can duck under, but it wants cutting with the chain saw. Will work on that on a windy day. 

September 11

I moved the dead tree which had fallen on the bank, partially blocking the path, and the outlet (gap) of the quarry. Is now much easier to walk south on the east side of the creek, and right on past the quarry. Moved a few rocks up out of the creek bed, and built up the quarry outlet a bit with them. Heavy work. Staggering through the shallow water carrying the rocks is not so good. I think moving them on the red cart would be OK. The creek bottom is mostly flat in that section, with a bit of sand. Saw my favorite invertebrate in the pool…a crawdad! Hadn’t seen one in decades. After I disturbed the sediment, he moved in to look for a snack.

September 17

Was planning to stop hauling and shovel some dirt, but I found a really nice rock, biggest of the day, in the creek bed. Couldn’t resist it! Took 20 minutes to get it on the cart, and 20 more minutes to get it to the quarry gap. And then couldn’t lift it. Finally got the cable puller and strap, to keep it from falling back on my feet. With pulling and pushing, got it up on top. For sure, need to start backing the stone wall with some dirt. Will start shoveling dirt onto the quarry side of the rocks next week. 

October 2

I came by today to work on building up the support for the rock wall. Moved about 2 cubic yards of dirt from the quarry to the bank, behind the rock wall. Basically just kept shoveling till I thought the “south quarry gap” and channel were adequately supported for a small to medium flood. Three and a half hours with the shovel, so I was a bit tired, at the end. Spent an additional half hour carrying some more rocks for the top of the bank. Definitely will help to have more rocks. 

Putting the culvert in is the second phase, in my mind, and I will try to start on it next Wednesday. I don’t think the bank is high enough yet at the south quarry gap, but there is enough dirt there now that the priority should shift to getting the fill/drain “culvert” installed in the north quarry gap. To function like a stand pipe for draining, and an inlet pipe during floods. At both times, it will be important to prevent erosion of the banks. Thus a couple feet of dirt above the culvert pipe. Am thinking an 8″ x 20 ft. piece of ABS plastic pipe.

Phase 3: Once the pipe is installed, and buried in the bank with a foot or two of quarry dirt, I can return to the south quarry gap area, and build up the bank another foot or so. And widen the bank, also. I’m hoping the pipe will help to maintain a foot or so more water in the quarry throughout the year. 

Laid a piece of 2 x 6 across the mud, where the path should probably go. Not necessary once the mud has time to dry up a bit more. Pretty sticky there today. 

October 15

Was pleased to get 15 ft. of the culvert pipe well bedded, and level. The dip in the north gap is well filled now. Covered just 10 ft. of the pipe so far, and only a little, but it looks better. Need to get another foot or more of dirt over the pipe, to keep it in place long term. But for now, the bank is 12–14 inches above the pipe inlet/outlet, so there should be much less erosion in the event of a small flood. The more dirt the better, so I’ll keep shoveling. 

The “grand canyon” is getting pretty big, but should disappear after the first big rain. Looks a bit of a construction site now. Trees and grass on the bank will be a big help holding it together, and improving the look. There’s a lot of vegetation in the dirt I’m moving. Should green up in the spring. I forgot to bring along my bug spray yesterday, but didn’t have a single bug bite during the day.

October 18

Water level was higher, but only up 2 inches from the little bit of rain. Was 19 inches from water to inlet of pipe on Monday. Today it is only 17 inches from the creek water to the bottom of the pipe. If the creek rises by 18 inches from today’s level, we’ll start filling the quarry! And if the creek rises 32″ from today’s level, it will overflow the bank and fill the quarry faster. Let’s hope for a 20″ rise in the creek level, sometime in January, and a slow and steady rise in the quarry level. 

I arrived at about 12:45, and left around 16:15 hrs. Got the pipe almost covered, and that was all I wanted to accomplish today. Enough dirt over it that it looks better, and hopefully won’t wash away on us. Leveling as I went. Could see that the water in the center of the quarry was slightly larger. And the dirt I’m taking from the “grand canyon” was a little wetter also. This is a stopping point, kind of. Stopping shoveling, anyhow. I need to bring up the cable puller, chains, and recovery straps, and move a few big rocks onto the banks at the south and north quarry gaps and in between. Once I build the banks up a bit more with large rocks, I will go back to shoveling. But I’ve a lot of work coming when I’m moving rocks, in the next session.

Last part of this job is just to raise the banks a foot or two more with dirt from the grand canyon. Will get it done by the end of the year, it it stays this dry! Won’t keep the floods from overflowing the banks, but the culvert pipe should help maintain a water level in the quarry and hopefully reduce some of the erosion. There are clumps of flood grass in the tree branches, 3 feet above the level of the banks at the north and south gaps.

November 1

Was quite nice down by the quarry today, shoveling. Bright sun and only a little breeze. I got about 4 hours in, and now have the south and north gaps adequately supported with dirt from the “grand canyon”. Not worried so much about them washing away. Or the culvert. Looks pretty good now. 

The creek water was up today, but still about 12″ below the pipe inlet. I looked in the pipe, and it was dry. The grand canyon was full up to the lip, but it didn’t stop me from digging the dirt from there. Sloppy walking though, for sure. Could see that the grand canyon water was more than a foot below the level of the creek water. And the water out in the center of the quarry was 2″ below the grand canyon water. 

While I’m happy to have the quarry water level be low at this point, when I’m finished building up the banks (Christmas?) I can set up a siphon and begin raising the water level in the quarry a bit that way.  Good to siphon in creek water when the creek is carrying less silt and stuff. A day or two after a big rain would be better. Want to build the banks up a bit more north of the north quarry gap. It is the first point where water will go over the bank now…and the dirt is free. Not fun to move, but good exercise!

November 5

I started shoveling dirt up onto the bank at the north gap. Was thinking I’d just build up to the north of the north gap, but have been thinking about the path there. To get it flat and welcoming to someone hiking around the quarry, it should be level, and at least 3 feet wide. So I just built up the bank some more with that goal in mind, higher than the rocks, and relatively flat as the south gap part. I’d say that the condition of the bank is stabilized, but “not complete”. Will keep building the bank up as time allows, to level the path there.

November 9

Didn’t quite get the corner filled. Ran out of daylight. Really want to get the path across the top of the bank finished, so it is a pleasant walk all the way around the quarry. Will figure out a rope for a handrail, attached to the trees, as it is an uneven path still, and a drop on both sides, particularly the creek side. I’d like to move a big rock onto the north side of the gaps, to support the dirt better. Have moved the easy ones, so will have to be a little more ambitious about the next rock. I will sleep well tonight.

 

We go way back

One of the farm animal sanctuary residents is a national celebrity. Her feet are anyway, and that beautiful pair of intricately-scaled legs and feet are seen on a regular basis by visitors to the The American Museum of Natural History in New York City, NY.

In May, we were contacted by an American Museum of Natural History animator who had found Steve’s “yesterday and today” piece about chickens, posted September 10, 2014. This ‘There be dinosaurs here’ essay included a photo of a Quarry Farm hen that the artist wished to use in a virtual reality game about T.rex.

Today, we received permission to share the video now that it has an online home. Check out those gorgeous gams under the “What did the skin of T.rex look like?” video in the T.rex “Senses and Appearance” section. Stay for the credits, too.

https://www.amnh.org/explore/ology/paleontology/ask-a-scientist-about-t.rex

Don’t stop there, though. While you are on the site, you can dress up a T.rex (mine looked great in purple stripes and green feathers), take a quiz, learn what it is like to be a paleontologist, and more about dinosaurs and their closest living descendants.

Happy chickens rule.

Summer 2019 Newsletter

The sun is out today so it seemed a good day to roll out The Quarry Farm Summer 2019 Newsletter. Click on the cover to the left and download a copy.

Included in this season’s news are details about the design and building of a new Cranberry Run footbridge. The previous footbridge, built by Gerald Coburn and Kevin Siefker at the turn of the century and re-engineered by David Seitz, survived floodwater currents longer than any other bridge. This spring, we discovered that the northern-most weight-bearing pole was rotten, Dave went into action with assistance from his daughter Aili. He documented the new bridge-building project via email to Board President Laura. It’s a fascinating read that we share in the printed newsletter. The beauty of the electronic page offers more space for photos, so we’re sharing the report here as well.

Tuesday, April 16
Some pictures of the bridge, from this afternoon. A good one of the actual break in the north side pole. You can see it drooping below the 2 x 6s, which are holding it together. I’m starting to like the idea of moving the bridge to the south, to the more narrow part of the channel.

Wednesday, May 8
This afternoon I rode up to the QF to see the poles, and tie them off a bit, so they wouldn’t head for Toledo or similar. Both are partly in and partly out of the water. They are beauties: 35 ft. long. One is just 50 meters south of the old bridge. The other is clear down toward the bend. Maybe 150 meters south of the old bridge. Put on my boots, and waded around a bunch. I put strings across the creek, and measured widths, and heights, looking for the best spot. Another point: Since the bridge is now a regular “raft,” I don’t see any sense in burying the poles into the bank. They float up and down these days, often enough. We’ll want chains on the new bridge, like the old. Instead, I’d like to put the poles up on railroad ties. One on each bank would result in the pole top being over a foot taller than the bank. Could put several railroad ties on each bank, for better stability, and to minimize sinking and stress on the banks.

Thursday, May 9
I was worried about the thunderstorms flooding the creek, and losing (the poles). As it turned out, the rain we had was necessary for me to move them to the bridge site. I worked pretty hard with the pry bar on the close one. About an hour to move it 50 meters or so. The creek was too shallow at the rapids. But for the far one, even after the rain and the creek rose 4 inches or so, it still took 2 hours of back work to get it to the bridge site. And just getting it from the bank into the creek was a challenge. Pry bar and blocks were enough, but barely.
The cable puller held together till the end, but was getting iffy on the last pole. With the puller and the recovery straps, it is slow work, but possible.

Tuesday, May 14
Was able to get the first two railroad ties in place, with the poles on top. Will try to get two more ties installed, later in the week. They are heavier than I expected. The one on the west end was about 240 #, and larger than the others. They will keep the poles up off the ground, and stabilize the bridge. Higher the better.

Tuesday, May 21
Worked till dark forced us to stop. The idea was to take off every other board, and transfer them over to the new bridge. That way there would be access to the quarry at all times. Unfortunately, it took us several hours to get the poles “rolled” to the proper position before we started. They both had a sag as received, particularly the north pole. We were able to get the sag rolled 180 degrees up, before the first planks were fastened, so the sag is now an “arch.” But it got dark and we had to stop with about 5 planks short on the new bridge. There are planks all the way over the water, but not enough for a walk across. The current plan is to come up and continue the plank installation tomorrow, weather permitting.
Removing the runner and the screws from the old bridge was indeed a challenge. I brought every kind and size of screw driver I had, and needed them. Some screws were over 4 inches long, and there were multiple types on most of the planks. On the new bridge, I am using new 3 inch zinc coated construction screws, with a torx 25 driver. Two per side. And drilling the pilot holes before screwing them in. Less stress on the poles, and they can be removed when necessary. For a bit of stability while working on the bridge, Aili hung up a yellow stretch of anchor rope at shoulder height above the planks, to give something to hold on to.

Thursday, May 23
Well, we finally got packed and rolling by sunset again. Home just after 10 p.m. Without Aili the planks wouldn’t be done yet. Aili picked through them, and with the 10 new 2 x 6s and “re-purposing” the recently added 2 x 10s that were part of the ramps, felt pretty good about them. And with the spacing, and being flat, it seems quite stable to me. I’ll give them a good inspection, after they’ve been in service some months, and are dried out. They were staying wet all the time on the old bridge.
The last job of the day was to remove the west side anchor chain from the old bridge, and do a temporary anchor job on the west end of the new bridge. I didn’t move the east side chain off the old bridge yet. Will do that one later too when I move the “good” south pole to the proposed ravine bridge site. Also need to anchor the railroad ties. Don’t want them floating away either.

Wednesday, May 29
We had a pleasant day putting up the side ropes, and holders. Re-used the yellow twist anchor rope that we left for the temporary safety rope. It is only half inch diameter, but pretty strong. Totally synthetic, so only worried about UV light wearing it out.
Have chains on both ends now, so should be OK if there is a mega flood. Should go up and back down without taking off for Toledo. Chains are around the poles, and anchored on the railroad ties as well, so we don’t lose them. I’ll make some small changes once I take all the chain off the old bridge. Feel pretty good about it now.

Smelling spring with new fingers

20180509_095537This land that we two-leggers call The Quarry Farm has been in family hands for a long time. I remember walking up the trail toward what we still call ‘The Cut-Off.’ My Uncle Carl led the way. He was a teenager and I was pretty sure he would get us home. This wetland, an oxbow severed by 1950s-era engineers from the free-flow of Cranberry Run, was the outer reaches for me. I had faith that teenage Carl, a grown-up to grade-school me, would know the way back.

20180509_100344Around the time that Carl and I took that walk, I decided that my mission was to preserve this 50-acre island. I know how lucky I am to have this memory. After adult years of looking for my purpose in life, I realized that my small self was right.  I came to my senses in time for my child to create her own memories among the native flowers, trees and cricket frogs that sing of wild spring here. Luckily, My Steven agreed.

There are lots of reasons why we do what we do here. In my mind, the best thing we can do is give people of all ages the opportunity to connect with the natural world of Northwest Ohio as we do every day. If you’ve seen a baby dragonfly with your own eyes, touched its budding wings as an emerald-winged adult snatches a whining mosquito from the air around you, you’ll remember that and want to see it again and again, here and in your own backyard.

20180509_094706Last week, we introduced The Quarry Farm to children, teachers and parents from Patrick Henry Preschool. On May 9 and 10, they made lasting leaf shirts from the foliage of blooming buckeye trees. They took a “Smelling Hike” of Red Fox Cabin gardens to enjoy the scents of mint, costmary, and viburnum. They saw the inhabitants of Cranberry Run and were greeted at the farm animal sanctuary gate by pigs Nemo, Carlton and Beatrice.

Before they did any of these things, the visitors met Tyree the Cornsnake. Small fingers brushed his smooth skin, described as “ripply” by one boy. Never would have thought of that myself, but that young man is spot-on. Teacher Cheryl, a self-professed ophiophobia, stretched out her own hand and touched the snake’s red-orange scales. She’d never touched a snake before.

That’s what we’re talking about.20180510_091636

Really big thank you

Board President Laura accepted this very big check last week from Paulding Putnam Electric Cooperative. Earlier this spring, Hancock-Wood Electric Cooperative also granted The Quarry Farm Nature Preserve & Conservation Farm with generous funding.

The funds were granted through a program called Operation Round Up. The program “rounds up” an energy cooperative member’s bill to the nearest dollar and that amount (which is completely tax deductible) is donated to local charities in their service area.

Thank you to all these wonderful cooperative members. Because of your support, we will continue to provide educational programs and experiences onsite and in educational settings in Paulding, Putnam, Hancock, Wood, Allen, and other Northwest Ohio counties in both cooperatives’ regions.

Sophie’s choice

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Sophie meets Jamie Napolski, Assistant Curator of Education & Special Events for Sauder Village.

Yeah, yeah, yeah…I did go there with the title of this post.

But it’s true; Sophie the pot-bellied pig had her first road trip as an educational ambassador for The Quarry Farm, and this happened as a result of a choice she made on Friday.

As testified by the previous post, “Sticky toes and hiking sticks”, an entire third grade class joined us onsite for a Friday filed trip alongside Road 7L. The students and their teachers and chaperones rotated through stations, including a visit to the farm animal sanctuary. As we always tell visitors, once inside the gate, humans will have the opportunity to meet the sanctuary residents, but only those residents who choose to walk down the path for a face-to-face encounter. While it’s almost a guarantee that the bronze turkeys will show up, as well as at least one of the donkeys and a goat, the pigs are a little more unpredictable.

For instance, if the sun is shining and the temperature moderate, Carlton may mosey on down the hill for a belly flop and scratch. Queen Beatrice may sashay through the floodplain. If she could do the royal wristwave, I have no doubt she would, stopping only long enough for a brief pat before moving on for a nap in a warm pool of light.

As for the others, their early years were so harsh at the hands of neglectful humanity that visitors only get a distant glimpse. In Sophie’s case, beatings, poor diet and exposure left scars that have left her much older than what we think are her actual years. So it was a wonderful surprise when she chose to join the second group of students to rotate through. She even stayed close, allowing the third rotation to pet her softly on the forehead.

Because of Sophie’s decision to trust in the kindness of strangers, we took her on an hour-long car ride north for a program at Sauder Village in Archbold. While 19th-century reenactors read “If You Give a Pig a Pancake”, Sophie charmed young visitors and their families outside a log cabin in the Little Pioneer Village. Marshmallow the Nigerian Dwarf goat went along for the ride, too, but he’s an old hand at programs and conducted himself in his usual sweetly-mellow manner.

By the way, don’t give a pig a pancake.