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.

lions and lambs, donkeys and chickens and geese and goats

In 1826, American folk artist and Society of Friends minister Edward Hicks created “The Peacable Kingdom”. While it’s not in a style that I find particularly appealing, the content of the painting, its message, strikes a chord. In the foreground are a number of different creatures, some of which I can’t identify simply because of the manner in which they were represented, but clearly both predator and prey lying down with one another. There are cherubim and seraphim, as well, and in the background, English settlers meeting with Native Americans.

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I don’t pay attention to the human interaction; so little, in fact, that I’m always surprised when I see it. Suffice it to say that there appears to be some manner of commerce taking place involving blankets and, given how that type of exchange often worked out to the detriment of Native Americans, I apparently choose to ignore it each and every time I view the painting. I simply refuse to see.

But the animals? Now that is an altogether different story. I relish those innocent interactions; revel in the way they coexist. And while it’s unlikely that, in the wild, a lion will lay down with a lamb, interspecies cooperation isn’t a rare event, particularly here on The Quarry Farm. I’ve grown accustomed to seeing the chickens ride Buddy, the resident miniature donkey, or any of the six goats that also live here. I’m not surprised to see Snitch, the neighbor’s cat, padding under Mister Bill, the extravagantly tall Boer goat mix, around a pig or two and sideling on by Johnny, the Canada goose. The goats play with the pigs, the pigs play with the chickens and Buddy whips everybody into a (relatively) friendly frenzy every now and again, especially now that spring is just around the corner. We’ve even seen wild rabbits lying out in the open and nursing little ones old enough to have left the nest, but still willing to nurse.

The Quarry Farm Musicians: Audrey, Buddy and S'More

The Quarry Farm Musicians: Audrey, Buddy and S’More

Even so, and despite all of that, I witnessed something the other morning that made me stop and stare.

Gigi

Gigi

Although we named him something altogether uncharacteristic of his gender, Gigi is a gander, an Emden goose who is, characteristically this time, very protective of the two geese in his flock. He came here several years ago from Van Buren State Park, where he and Louise (the other goose’s name is Henry and yes, yes, we know) were abandoned. Gigi can be so protective, so surly, in fact, that we encourage visitors to give the trio a wide birth. Gigi is the gander your mother always warned you about: quick to hiss and threaten and quicker still to follow through on that threat with a wing beating or a hard pinch with his bright orange bill.

Madmartigan

Madmartigan

Madmartigan is one of three pygmy goats that we adopted from a failing goat herd on the eastern side of Ohio four years ago. While generally good natured, like most goats, he has a fondness for his fodder. When food’s involved, all bets are off and he can, and does, do whatever he feels necessary to secure his own little patch of whatever. Being male, Madmardigan also has a ridiculously impressive set of horns, horns that spire up from the top of his head like twin missiles. And when he’s staking claim to a flake of hay or a patch of grass or an apple or three, he liberally applies those horns to heads and backsides and bodies; whatever he can reach to drive his point home.

Individually, these two are more often than not at the core of any discontent. Together, though, at least earlier this week, the two were quite fond of each other. Gigi would slide his neck along Madmartigan’s back and nibble through the hairs there and up his neck and behind his ears. For his part, Madmartigan would gently nudge him with his horns, prompt him to continue her gentle ministrations.

And so here we are on The Quarry Farm, our own peaceable kingdom.

and then there were four…

A little less than a month ago, we made a relatively short drive north to pick up a potbellied pig that, lost or abandoned (though most likely abandoned), had wandered into our friend June’s yard. Not knowing about us at the time, June called Laura Zitzelberger at Nature’s Nursery, who, in turn, called us.

in the carThe hour-long ride back was interesting; interesting in the sense of the ancient Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” Given to reckless behavior, I had decided to pick him up sans crate, so the little pig — and he is indeed little, weighing in at just a smidge over 30 pounds — was loose in the car. He spent nearly as much time on my shoulders doing his best to climb up on top of my head as he did on the seat. Eventually, though, he did settle in and down, sprawling in the back and resting his head in the palm of my right hand.

getting to know youOn arriving home, his behavior in the house was little different from his initial behavior in the car, that is to say, “hell bent.” He chomped and rooted, prodded and postured, picking fights with any and all comers, even with those more inclined to run away, myself included.

I grumbled. I growled. I cursed.

Anne smiled.

“He’ll be fine,” she said. “Don’t you remember Bob?”

Bob is a dear friend of ours, one of four pigs rescued last winter and one of two of the four who now live on The Quarry full time, along with Beatrice, aka Little Pig. At first, his behavior left something to be desired. Now, however, he’s nearly the perfect gentlepig. Despite Anne’s assurances, I had my doubts. And so did Lolly, who maintained a discreet distance.

lolly

As he was still intact, the first order of business was arranging for a quick snip. Though she’d never performed this operation on a pig, our veterinarian, Dr. Jackie Santoro, did the requisite research and the procedure came off — pun intended — without a hitch.

On returning him to The Quarry, there wasn’t any significant change in behavior. He had this truly annoying habit of, when he wanted something, anything, of furiously rooting at any available ankle. With 30 pounds of pig behind it, that nearly vulcanized snout left bruises.

I threatened. I snarled. I swore.

Anne smiled.

CarltonHe hadn’t been back much more than a day, certainly no more than two, when, coming in from outside or up from the basement I heard Anne chirp, “Yes!”

She was standing in the kitchen with the little pig at her feet. In her hands was some manner of treat: grapes or carrots or banana or some such. She would hold out a morsel and watch the pig. When he took a step back, she’d bend at the waist, deliver the treat and exclaim the encouraging, “Yes!” In a single 15-minute session, she permanently broke his annoying, destructive rooting behavior.

Even Lolly was impressed.

Lolly and Carlton

annerNow, he spends his time making his way around the house. I’m not saying that there aren’t still problems. He has a habit of poking his nose into places it doesn’t belong and he and Bob will likely never be fast friends, but we all have our faults, our own clashes of personality. The bottom line is this: he’s a smart, gentle, comforting being and it shows in any number of ways.

So, he’s here to stay. This is home.

We call him Carlton.

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Thank you for the BIG check

quarry farms - laura coburn

We want all of The Quarry Farm friends, family and neighbors, near and far, to know that we received grant funding from the Operation Round Up program as part of the Paulding Putnam Electric Co-op Trust.

Here’s how it happened: Anyone who is a PPE member rounds up their bill to the nearest dollar amount and the funds are pooled. Periodically, organizations are able to apply for community programming. We did, and our educational programming was elected to benefit from the program.

Yesterday, Board President Laura drove over to Paulding to receive the grant check (actual check much smaller than indicated here) so that we could provide more outreach during this year. By the way, take a look at those presentations and workshops that we do offer and give us a call or send us an email at thequarryfarm@gmail.com.

What and impact that just a few cents each month can make on a community.

Third time’s a charm

IMG_0826The Junior Gardeners of Continental were one of the first groups to visit The Quarry Farm after we officially opened to the public three years ago. I distinctly remember the initial telephone conversation with organizer Charlene. She had picked up our newsletter and wanted to bring her charges out for a program. She didn’t sound too sure about the whole idea, but her group arrived and we had a fantastic time. Guess they did, too, because they spent two hours with us on Saturday, this time searching for butterfly host and nectar plants on a scavenger hunt.

IMG_1107Beatrice met up again with her good friend Brandon, the first person she would approach of her own accord after her arrival in 2012 as a very young pot-bellied piglet. Although Brandon had some slick new wheels this year and Beatrice was sleepy in the July humidity, she knew him well. So did Buddy.008

Megan Ramey, Program and Partnerships Manager for the Girl Scouts of Western Ohio, arrived just before the Junior Gardeners to talk with us about the possibility of scouts earning various badges here. Thanks to the joyous enthusiasm of Charlene and her crew, a star of a Virginia opossum and Laura’s coffee and sugar cookie bars, we’re in.

Here’s to more face time with the kids from Continental. Special thanks to Junior Gardener Jazlyn Bishop for sharing your photos and video with us. Keep them coming.

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Small Triumph

Sandhill Cranes, 2014 Garden, Pipevine Swallowtail Larva 023

Why would a gardener be happy, overjoyed even, to discover an army of fat, black, spikey-looking caterpillars with red polka dots pillaging a prized ornamental vine?  Answer:  When the marauders are Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly larva and the vine is Dutchman’s Pipe (aristolochia macrophylla), one of their host plants.

For the ten summers and more since husband Gerald planted two pipe vines in the garden at Red Fox Cabin, we have kept watch on them.* We’ve admired the cute little Dutchman’s pipes they bear and checked the foliage for ragged holes that would give away the presence of larva. We’ve peered at black with blue swallowtails, hoping to spot the distinctive coloration of the Pipevine, inky black forewing and iridescent blue hindwing.  However, sightings have been extremely rare and none have chosen to lay eggs on the beautiful Dutchman’s Pipe. Until this July.

Sandhill Cranes, 2014 Garden, Pipevine Swallowtail Larva 016Last Saturday evening as I was walking my Jack Russel, Lefty, or rather as he was leading me where he wanted to go, he tugged me toward the rear of the log cabin, where one of the pipe vines grows luxuriantly on a porch pillar.  Lefty was intent on the rabbit or cat or whatever that he scented underneath the porch, but I was halted in my tracks by the sight of that vine, no longer luxuriant, but ragged, nearly defoliated, and crawling with the aforementioned fat black caterpillars–at least twenty.  Thrilled by the sight and the realization that our vine had finally been discovered by a passing Pipevine Swallowtail, I rushed home with a disappointed Lefty to grab my camera and my Peterson’s field guide to caterpillars, for confirmation.

Sandhill Cranes, 2014 Garden, Pipevine Swallowtail Larva 012According to the guide, predators avoid Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars because the vine that feeds them is toxic and makes them unpalatable.  Also, when they are ready to pupate they tend to crawl away from their host plant and find other places to attach a greenish chrysalis with a silken thread.  So, the total disappearance of the caterpillars two days later was not as alarming as it might have been.  Photos and a ravaged vine prove they were there.  Quite likely, somewhere on the Quarry Farm later this summer, a Pipevine Swallowtail, or maybe twenty, will emerge from its chrysalis and sail into the butterfly garden to dine, and with luck someone will be there with a camera.  A photo of the shimmering beauty will be a fitting tribute to Gerald, who inspired us with his love of butterflies and planted the Dutchman’s Pipe so many years ago.

*[Pipe vines are native  in some parts of the Northeast but not in Putnam Co., Ohio; ornamental pipe vines were common in Victorian gardens but are less so today. Pipevine Swallowtails can complete their life cycle only if they happen to find a host pipe vine or a Virginia Snakeroot growing wild or deliberately planted.  Adults might stop to nectar in a flower garden but will move on if a host plant is not available.]

043It’s been nearly eight days since the Autumnal Equinox rolled around and in those intervening eight days, a lot has happened. On Thursday past, some 70 home-schooled1275330_10202302158898800_378213994_o children and their parents/grandparents/guardians visited the Farm. As with other groups that have come and gone, they made herb bundles, learned about the waterways around Ohio, got a peek at what lives down under the rocks and the mud in the creek that runs through the Quarry Farm on its way to the Riley and they met many of our two- and four-legged friends and fellows who live here with us. Beatrice has already worked out how to circumvent the fence, so she spent the morning visiting with the groups over by the cabin. Buddy and the goats stayed closer to home and were treated like royalty, which is as it should be.

047On Saturday, we held what we hope was the first of many acoustic nights. Friends and family met in Seitz Pavilion to listen to friends and family play and sing (and, yes, that’s a lot of friends and family). Thanks particularly to Erin Coburn (and Bruce and Beth, of course), Mark Gallimore, Brian Erchenbrecher and Doug and Merilee of 12-String Relief.

If you missed it, we’re truly sorry for your loss.037