Colonial-style floor treatment

Saturday, July 31, 2021 was gorgeous: light clouds, a breeze to move them slowly across the sky, and cooler, drier temperatures. If the scheduled “Create a Floor Cloth for Your ‘Cabin'” workshop had happened earlier in the week, the acrylic paint applied by 10 textile artists to rug-worthy canvas would have puddled in the humidity. As it was, it didn’t. And just look at the participants and their work in action in the Seitz Family Pavilion.

While we can’t offer you workshop or supplies (maybe next year?), here’s TQF Board President Laura’s recipe for one of the snacks provided. There were also fresh strawberries and hot coffee, but you’re on your own there.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats [quick oats will work in a pinch]
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (semi-sweet, milk chocolate, or a mixture)
  • [Optional] ½ cup dried cranberries or cherries

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 9 x 13 in. pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl beat together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth and light.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition.  Add the vanilla.
  4. In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients:  salt, baking soda, baking powder, flour, rolled oats, 1 cup chocolate chips, and cranberries, if using.
  5. Add to the butter mixture and stir until combined.
  6. Spread the cookie dough into the prepared pan.  Sprinkle remaining cup of chocolate chips on top.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.  
  8. [Optional] Scatter chocolate or vanilla melting wafers over the surface while the bars are still warm, allow to soften, and spread by criss-crossing a fork lightly through the melted chocolate.
  9. Cool completely before cutting.  Freezes well.

How Clear the Waters Run

I think it will always thrill me to overhear someone asking someone else if they have ever been to The Quarry Farm, for people to talk about the animals, birds, gardens and the clarity of the stream. Not everyone will turn over their yard to goats, roosters, and geriatric pigs, but gardens—the riotous kind filled with a variety of native flowering plants—and trees can make birds and clear water more common. This region’s native grasses and trees have long, branching root systems that hold the soil like a strong net. Have you ever pulled English Ivy? This non-native is tenacious and fast-growing but you can remove a large patch with one pull, so shallow-rooted and interwoven is this European transplant. In contrast, ever tried to pull a Common Milkweed in its entirety? Best of luck.


Old Man Sycamore in the north floodplain of the nature preserve has a hollow base that provides shelter to who knows how many creatures each night and during winter’s worst. As shallow-rooted landscapes topple across Northwest Ohio, he and the 300-year oaks withstand wicked flood currents and down-bursts. As the floodwaters recede, the forbs at his feet grasp run-off silt and soil. Within 36 hours, Cranberry Run is clear again.


You hear a lot about native plants these days. Big-box stores as well as local nurseries stock a variety of plants labeled as native. Keep in mind that native doesn’t always mean native to here. Also, ask your green-grower what kind of substrate your plants are potted in. Mass-marketed plants are often potted for long shelf lives, their roots sandwiched in neonicotinoid-laced soils that wreak havoc on bees and other beneficial insects.


Remember that part about riotous gardens? Variety is the spice of life. Some native plants can be invasive without other native plants to keep them in check. The Quarry Farm Gardener finds it necessary to parcel out starts of Coneflower every now any then, as well as Menarda (Bee Balm). Much is made of the benefits of keeping Common Milkweed for the Monarch butterflies. Without Ironweed, Coneflower, Asters, and Common Hackberry trees to watch over them all, who will feed and shelter Comma, Question Mark, swallowtails, and the Hackberry Emporer butterflies? And without Jewelweed and its orange orchid-like flowers nodding on the riverbanks and floodplains, how will I ever be rid of this confounded poison ivy rash?

Spring Bird Migration Hike 2021

Tracking American Redstarts in the upland forest on May 15, 2021

Mary Poppins had a bird woman who drew birds in with feed. Cartoonist Gary Larson sketched a before-and-after of Screen 1) pigeons swooping in and leaving Screen 2) a pile of empty rags topped with a hat and a few tuppence.

The Quarry Farm has a bird woman named Deb. She doesn’t need no stinkin’ feed and l’m pretty sure she doesn’t deal in tuppence. She told me last week that she has plenty of patience and enough Advil to watch and wait for the birds to show themselves. As we stood on the curve of Cranberry Run, I asked her what bird was calling above. It was a Baltimore Oriole. I asked for another audio I.D. a couple of minutes later.

“It’s a Baltimore Oriole,” she replied without so much as a sigh. Apparently Deb has enough Advil to deal with hopeless birders like me, too.

Deb introduced The Quarry Farm to someone who speaks bird even better than she does. When David Smith tunes his ears to birdsong in the floodplain, a thrush becomes not just one thrush but both a Swainson’s Thrush and a Wood Thrush. All the yellowish bird shapes silhouetted against the sky become a variety of migrating warbler species.

Thanks to Deb and David, this year’s Spring bird hike checklist is whole lot longer than those of past years. They looked at their previous records and chose the 2021 date. This morning was clear, floodwaters from earlier in the week had shrunk to a couple of vernal pools, and 14 birders walked the trails to record 44 species. Most of these birds are just passing through, but not before Deb could take their picture.

Poetry in motion

Haiku Hike today (5)

April is National Poetry Month and April 17 is International Haiku Day. It seemed fitting, poetic justice even, to observe both with a weekend Haiku Hike in the nature preserve. Eight humans accepted the challenge.

Red Fox Cabin in
The woods above the quarry
Deserted homestead

Spring itself is a muse that inspires with emerging wildflowers, pale green hints of tree leaves and birds inviting each other to call. With honeysuckle hiking staffs and a memo pad between us, we called out and wrote down words and phrases that described what we were experiencing and used them to create haiku.

One-hour walk turned into two (7)

A sycamore watched us from the opposite bank as we descended into the floodplain. Cranberry Run is showing signs if nutrient overload, with early ropes of algae sounding the alarm. The algae will grow in the low warm water, clogging fish, mollusk, crustacean and insect habitat then decaying to leave them starved for oxygen. Algae was added to our streamside words that included “waterfall”, “nest”, “goose”, “rocks”, “shells”, “cardinal”, “sycamore” and “violet”.

Algae in the stream
Face on the sycamore tree
Saturday hike scenes

We are on a hike
Yellow purple violet
Spring rising from soil

“Shed deer fur” was added to our haiku toolbox. What with David’s land bridge guarded by a nesting goose and a gander in the southeast shallows, we trekked north around the quarry wetland through the mammoth log gateway. David’s honeysuckle-rooting maddock leaned against an old honey locust that he calls the Hand Tree.

Deer sheds in the woods
Goose sitting on land bridge nest
Guarded by her mate

Spring beauties, mayapples, buckeye seedlings and violets in three colors are coming to the light in the floodplain that just last year was overgrown with bush honeysuckle. More deer fur lay at the base of a honeysuckle skinned by rubbing antlers (more power to the whitetails!)

Honeysuckle cleared
Deer fur beside shaggy bark
Birds serenading

Up we walked, past the Settler’s Well and the tall grass prairie. A female bluebird gave us a glance and ducked into a woodpile. Fresh piles of dug soil indicated a activity in the ridge burrows downhill from Nature’s Classroom. As we tiptoed past the mama goose, she raised her head but allowed us to move along without incident. Two black-capped chickadees spun in a quarrel. We hiked up and out, ate donut holes and ambled south to visit the farm animal sanctuary.

Time flies with poets (5)

(Thanks to the creative, hiking poets who wrote the haikus shared in this post.)

It Took a Blizzard

Download Winter 2021 Newsletter

The other day I stopped my car beside a roadside juniper to watch a flock of small birds feeding on frosty blue berries fallen on snow. The scene reminded me of a more somber one of 42 years ago: The blizzard of ’78 had struck with icy fury. The deck where my husband and I kept several feeders drifted so rapidly that soon frantic, hungry birds couldn’t reach their food. Lashing snow drifted high and fast on the sliding doors and froze solid in the near zero-degree temperatures, effectively blocking our attempts to help them. When the blizzard finally quieted, countless birds had starved and frozen to death. Bodies of blue jays and other species littered our deck. Farther out in the countryside, populations of quail and other seed-eaters like the jays were decimated. The quail have never recovered around here (habitat loss hasn’t helped), and it took a long time for jays to come back in any numbers.

The shocking images of those birds losing their battle against insurmountable odds made a lasting impression on my husband and me, causing us to see our pleasant pastime of feeding the birds in a more serious light. Doing a good job that matters to their survival, we understood, takes more than throwing out buckets of birdseed. While not every winter produces a catastrophic blizzard, even in a mild winter, birds face challenges and the more accurately we can meet their food needs, the better their chances. Scientific studies from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and other institutions, observations from the Audubon Society and the legions of birders like Quarry Farm Board member Deb Weston continue to enlighten us about such issues as how to feed the birds with specially adapted feeders (an interesting subject for another time), what foods are most nutritious—and what we shouldn’t feed them. For example, we’ve been told that bread, fresh or dried, offers no nutrition to birds and can be deadly if it contains mold; and table scraps can be sickening.

Thanks to the studies, a lot of sound information is available now about what to feed birds throughout the year. In a recent online search I found several detailed articles about the best foods for the birds we see in our NW Ohio backyards right now, when they especially can use the help. The food considered the best for the most species is black oil sunflower seed. One writer calls it “the hamburger of the bird world.” The shells are thinner than those of striped sunflower seeds, making the nutritious, high-calorie content easier to reach. Another good high-fat bird food is suet, raw from the butcher shop or rendered and formed into blocks containing seed mixes. The blocks tend to last longer than raw suet, which can melt and become rancid more quickly in warmer temperatures.

Small finches love thistle seed (also, nyjer). Something to keep in mind when feeding thistle seed is that it can quickly become moldy and rancid when wet. A sure sign of thistle seed gone bad is that birds stop eating it. Woodpeckers, jays, nuthatches, chickadees and titmice, and to a lesser extent finches and cardinals, like peanuts—shelled, dry-roasted and unsalted. Birds will go for peanut butter (not peanut “spread”), as well, rubbed into bark, packed in pine cones, etc. Many small ground-feeding birds such as juncos, sparrows and doves like the starchy content of white proso millet. Cracked corn appeals to sparrows, blackbirds, jays, doves (and squirrels) and many other birds.

If you feed a seed mix, as I suspect most of us do, read the label to make sure it’s a good one with large amounts of the seeds mentioned here, and very little junky filler. Or you can buy the individual seeds in bulk and mix your own.

There is so much more to know about helping birds survive the extremes of winter and mounting pressures of other kinds. The rewards of making the effort are great for all of us.

—The Quarry Farm Gardener

 

Fall 2020 Newsletter

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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 thequarryfarm@gmail.com with a details about your group, including number of people, ages, and possible dates and times.

Quarry Farm Friday starring Buddy, Lucy, Silky and everyone who heard the crinkle of the peanut bag

Here we are on the final day of Quarry Farm Fridays with the Bluffton Public Library. It’s been fun, educational, and a welcome challenge during a year of uncertainty. Thank you to Tanya, Lauren and all who tuned in and joined in the conversation and introduced themselves to The Quarry Farm. Keep reading!

After a virtual summer with us, pack your mask and join us tomorrow in person for Family Day from 1 to 4 p.m.

Quarry Farm Friday with Tyree the Corn Snake

This morning, a very wiggly Tyree the Corn Snake (also known as a Rat Snake) represented his beautiful reptilian kind during the “Quarry Farm Fridays with the Bluffton Public Library”. As Steve notes in the video, Tyree was bred in captivity and was placed here by someone who wished to find him a new home. Tyree does not look like a corn snake that you might find in the wild as he is what is called a “morph“, but he does eat small rodents just as his wild relatives do, making his kind popular with farmers who want to keep mice and rats out of corn cribs.

Read more about snakes and the wonderful role they play in a healthy environment by contacting the Bluffton Public Library and requesting a Quarry Farm Fridays/Summer Reading book bundle.