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.

at the root of the problem, something wonderful

P1020028As a race, humans have found a lot of ways of saying that no matter what — somewhere, somehow — there’s a little bit of good in every bad situation: it’s an ill wind that blows no good, every dark cloud has a silver lining.

As it turns out, what we found out here at The Quarry Farm, there’s truth to be found there. But first, a little bit about bush honeysuckle.

In the early 1970s, before anybody was paying attention, it was common knowledge that planting honeysuckle was a good thing, particularly if you wanted to attract birds. And while there are honeysuckle species native to North America, more than a few that aren’t were allowed to proliferate. Morrow’s and Amur honeysuckle were particularly popular for their dense foliage and bright red berries and now particularly troublesome as two of the most invasive species of honeysuckle unadvisedly planted. Both can grow as tall as 15 feet and both are monoculture plants; they crowd out everything  around them and nothing grows beneath their spreading branches. There’s even evidence that they engage in chemical warfare, releasing toxins into the soil to kill off any competition until there’s nothing at the base of these plants but bare soil. While they typically don’t do well in shaded environments, preferring to grow at the verges of woodlands, both take advantage of any disturbance in the upper story of a woods to move in and establish a fortified foothold at the first opportunity. And while it’s true that birds love their bright red berries, they offer little in the way of nutrition. Sure, they brighten the feathers of cardinals and the burning breasts of robins, but they’re junk food, the natural equivalent of candy bars and potato chips.

In short, they’re a nightmare for any organization or agency working to develop or maintain native habitat. And they’re here on The Quarry Farm in numbers too vast to count. We’ve adopted a multifold approach to getting a handle on this problem, but the most effective method is to simply pull them up by the roots whenever and wherever it’s possible.

Recently, we accepted an application from Emma, a first-year student at Antioch College, to assist us in our many efforts. One of her primary responsibilities is to help control bush honeysuckle on The Quarry Farm. Right away, we put her to work, yanking up the pest.

And here comes the silver lining.

P1020031Emma set to work first along the Cut-Off, a man-made wetland created when the county opted to straighten the stream in the 1960s, thereby isolating what was once an oxbow in Cranberry Run. At the end of her third day, while making her way back to her temporary home, she stopped to pull one last medium-sized clump of honeysuckle…and found a salamander nestled beneath its roots.

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To say the least, we’re thrilled. It’s a wonderful start to what we know will be a productive 10 weeks.

Thank you, Emma, and welcome.

Burdock, concrete, and brown butter icing (not all in the same bowl)

Thursday, it rained. Friday, it rained. Saturday, it didn’t rain.

At 10 a.m. on July 11, the clouds were scarce enough that some blue shown through, a good thing for many reasons not the least of which was that 10 people were involved in the annual leaf-making workshop in the Seitz Family Pavilion.

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Tim, Alex, Bob and Marilyn create their own leaves.

Brenda stirs concrete for her leaf.

Brenda stirs concrete for her leaf.

Because they are large with strong vein definition, burdock leaves are nurtured prior to each summer leaf casting. Two buckets held the giant cut leaves. After play sand was mounded to the shape desired by each leaf maker, the sand mold was covered with plastic cling wrap. The selected leaf topped that and concrete was layered on. Some added river stone or beach glass.

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Brenda and Elaine arrange burdock leaves for casting.

Although everyone walks away from these events with a lasting leaf with which to feed and/or water birds and other wildlife, to use as a garden stepper or to display on a coffee table, we on The Quarry Farm love watching the creative process. And on Saturday, we were the grateful recipients of apples and huge bags of peanuts for the farm animal sanctuary residents, as well as a generous check from the Putnam County Master Gardeners.

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The Putnam County Master Gardeners present a check to Board President Laura.

We won’t see the final leaves for a week or so, since the rain picked up again on Sunday and Monday to slow the drying process. But we experience the results of generous support everyday. In fact, I think everyone who shared in Saturday’s experience did as butterflies flitted in and out of the open-air classroom, damselflies and dragonflies nabbed mosquitoes and a little bullfrog sounded off in the full raingarden pond.

Oh, and here’s the recipe for those cookie bars that were on the snack table.

Frosted Butter Pecan Bars
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 pkg. (3.4 oz. each) instant butterscotch pudding mix
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans

FROSTING
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup better, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. salt
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
[Optional:  Use a frosting that doesn’t have to be refrigerated.  I use browned butter frosting.  See below.]

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, whisk flour, pudding mix, sugar, baking powder and salt.  In another bowl, whisk egg, melted butter, oil, water and vanilla until blended; stir into flour mixture.  Stir in pecans.  (Dough will be stiff.)
2.  Press dough into a greased 13 x 9-in. baking pan.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until edges begin to brown.  Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
3.  In a bowl, beat cream cheese, butter vanilla and salt until blended.  Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar.  Spread over top.  Sprinkle with more chopped pecans, if desired.
Cut into bars before serving.  Store in refrigerator.

BROWNED BUTTER FROSTING
1/4 cup butter
2 and 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3 tablespoons milk

1.  In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until butter turns a caramel-brown color.  Be careful not to burn.  Allow to cool.
2.  Combine all ingredients and beat until creamy.  Add a little milk, if necessary, to reach spreading consistency.

Horseless carriages pony up to Red Fox

Bristch car coupleWe knew they were coming. But at 9:30 a.m. when the Model Ts, Plymouths and at least one Wolseley rolled south on 7L, it was still an unexpected, thrilling sight.

Laura directing trafficNot one of the historic automobiles that were part of the 2015 National 1 & 2 Cylinder Millstream Road Oilers tour came off assembly after 1913, we were told. The 28 horseless carriages and their drivers stopped first at Diane Myers’ Black Swamp Raptor Rehab Center several miles east of here before making their way west to see Red Fox Cabin, the butterfly gardens and the residents of the farm animal sanctuary on their way to Kalida.Walker's Driveway

Because they came from the north instead of south, the drivers had to loop through the neighboring Walker family’s driveway. It was a surprise photo op for the neighbors and for us.

Because the summer is upon us, hot and heavy, Carlton and Beatrice gave a brief ‘hello’ before wagging into the undergrowth for wild raspberries and shade. But Lucy was the gracious hostess for the morning.Red AdmiralLucy and KCS

Because high winds aren’t due for another few hours, a zebra swallowtail, a red-spotted purple, a red admiral butterfly, two saddlebag dragonflies and a flock of pondhawks flitted and zipped through the gardens.

Safe travels, and thank you for the generous donation to help us on our way.Cars

Superheroes swoop in on Saturday (no capes!)

GardenEveryone has stuff to do. Some of us are list makers, like Quarry Farm Board President Laura. Others have swirls of snippets of chatter spinning through their brain, like yours truly. Or little notes jotted on the backs of envelopes stuffed in the glove compartment, drawers and/or stacked on the kitchen table (again, fingers pointing right back.) Betty and BuddyHere on The Quarry Farm, there is always so much to do. Water tubs and buckets to clean and refill, food to prep and food bowls to juggle, hungry potbellies to restrain, hinnying donkeys to brush, and buildings to clean, rinse and repeat. This year, we have buildings to paint. And that’s just in the farm animal sanctuary. In the gardens of Red Fox Cabin, the long wait for nature to prevail over invasives is one which has yet to be won. But Nature is making headway, with a little help from her friends. After years of solarizing beds and hand-picking beetles rather than spraying and dusting, has allowed natural insect predators to get a foothold. The gigantic rainbarrel that collects droplets from the roof of Red Fox Cabin is almost always full for the watering. BillBut those of us who currently ‘mind the store’ rarely have the opportunity to check everything off our wish list. Last Saturday — that golden day — we got to pen a whole host of checkmarks. About a month ago, I received an email from William Schumacher. I first met Bill when an Ohio Department of Natural Resources co-worker suggested that the man, an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency employee, might be willing to lend his expertise as a soil science presenter at a teacher workshop I was planning. It turns out that actually wasn’t the first time that I met Bill. He and his brothers Joe and Dan grew up along the opposite bank of Riley Creek. We rode the same school bus and developed the same love for nature while walking the creeks, pastures and woods. CarolGetting back to that email. Although Bill and his brothers no longer live nearby, they remember. They remember the fish that swam in Riley Creek and the pasture that their dad tended for years. And they’ve seen what happened to the creek when that floodplain pasture was plowed and subsequently eroded. They like the clear waters of Cranberry Run that flow through The Quarry Farm on their way to the Riley, so much so that Bill offered up his helping hand as well of those his wife Carol and their teenaged daughters and sons. Since his brother Joe was flying in from South Dakota and his brother Dan would also be up from the Dayton area, why, they could bring up their tools and pitch in to help us out, too. GardenBoy, did they ever. When Sophie the potbelly pig arrived here last month, she was so overweight that she couldn’t walk, much less be spayed. In less than eight hours, we had a new wooden fence in the quarantine area where Sophie is now dieting. DanThe butterfly gardens were weeded of quack grass, with straw down between the rows. Bill had dug and walled a kidney-shaped raingarden off the north gable of the cabin. Dan had led a crew along the south end of the Cranberry, clearing windfall from the path and cutting a big dent in bush honeysuckle along the way. Yatchi and HWords cannot sufficiently express our gratitude to the Schumachers. Instead, I’ll let the impressions of some of our youngest visitors say it for me. These drawings just arrived in the mail, sent to us by the third grade class from Pandora-Gilboa Elementary School following a day spent here on May 8. Those kids are one of the greatest reasons why we do what we do, so that these creeks, pastures and woods, as well as the nonhumans that share it, will mean as much to them as they did to much younger Bill, Joe, Dan and me. Still do.