Today’s Quarry Farm Friday, Starring Sophie

This morning at 10 a.m., the first of this summer’s Quarry Farm Fridays went live. Sophie the Pot-bellied Pig was the featured guest (Steven was there, too). We know that this little pig is a star. Now lots more people do, too.

Most Fridays at 10 a.m. through the summer, you can watch The Quarry Farm Animal of the Week on The Quarry Farm’s Facebook Live. This video will be posted later in the day on both the Bluffton Public Library’s and The Quarry Farm’s Facebook pages and websites. Once the video goes live, there will be themed Animal Book Bundles available for Curbside Pickup at the Bluffton Public Library by request (while they last). Request an Animal Book Bundle using the library’s Curbside Pickup page at blufftonpubliclibrary.org/pickup or by calling the library at 419-358-5016.

Summer 2020 Newsletter

The following is an excerpt from the Summer 2020 Quarry Farm Newsletter. Click on the cover to the left to download your complete copy, including scheduled events and activities for the season.

As it did for everyone, March 2020 threw The Quarry Farm for a loop, upending plans for programs, school group visits and public workshops. But we know this is nothing compared to what others have gone through. Indeed, the nature preserve has been a refuge with ample opportunity for social distancing.

Just before the State of Ohio announced stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of the coronavirus, The Quarry Farm Board of Directors was able to conduct the annual meeting on January 16. A major goal for the new decade is to develop a clearly marked trail system on the nature preserve, complete with directional markers and trailhead signage that includes a map. Board member Paul Nusbaum went to work this spring on a new trail that loops through the north eastern floodplain. This low scrub area is perfect habitat for migratory warblers. Board member Deb Weston, an avid birder, discovered the value of the new trail along with fellow birder David Smith. On one birding venture on the new path, they found themselves spinning in circles to identify all of the different species of birds singing their travelling hearts out. On that May morning, just one of the early-rise walks Deb spent here with her binoculars and eBird app, they identified and recorded 57 avian species.

“That’s the beauty of The Quarry Farm,” she said. “You don’t have to walk 20 miles to be in the different habitats and see the birds that utilize them.” During this “Stay Home” time, The Quarry Farm has provided a place for a lot of people to social distance while volunteering their time and talents to help out here. Just before local schools shuttered doors in March, Miller City-New Cleveland High School student Emma Barlage registered as The Quarry Farm’s Spring intern. From March through May, Emma spent up to 20 hours per week lopping and pulling bush honeysuckle saplings and seedlings. Findlay’s Rich and Nora Park offered to help out, too. With Emma assigned to the northwest hillsides and floodplain, the Parks’ to the uplands east of the old stone quarry, and David Seitz continuing his work in the south (see back page), we are watching native trees and wildflowers emerge along the trails almost overnight.

As noted above, this season has not gone according to plan. However, with social distancing and sanitizer at the ready, we have continued to provide tours and offer programs for individual families and small groups, by appointment. In early May, a Girl Scout troop from Leipsic came here to earn their hiking badges. As they climbed out of the Riley Creek floodplain toward the grass prairie, two large fluffy feathered great horned owl fledglings bobbed in a black walnut at eye level. In June, a Bluffton Boy Scout Troop came to hike. Hike they did, down, up and around almost every trail, including those not traversed by most visiting groups. We looked for the nesting pair of Scarlet Tanagers with no luck, but we did see a male Baltimore Oriole bobbing amongst the aquatic plants on the quarry wetland.

There is a tremendous amount of golf cart traffic in front of the farm animal sanctuary fence. Chablis the Llama sits placidly under the pines at sunset, blinking her long lashes at the onlookers. If you wish to schedule an outdoor visit onsite during Summer 2020, send an email to thequarryfarm@gmail.com.

‘Gotta Get Gund’

The headline of this post is a slogan from some years ago. The toymaker Gund used it to promote sales of their plush animals. It’s borrowed to encourage Easter bunnies to place toy rabbits, chicks and ducklings in baskets this Spring and to discourage everyone from giving live animals as gifts.

Brownie is our resident spotlight in the Spring 2020 Quarry Farm Newsletter which you may download by clicking on the cover to the right. Brownie rules a small flock of Rouen ducks in The Quarry Farm farm animal sanctuary. This expressive lady even took under her gentle (but firm) wing a young Canada Goose placed here for release by Nature’s Nursery. The gosling, creatively known here as “Baby Goose,” is so enamored of Brownie that she sleeps with her in the hen house at night, even though Baby Goose is now fully-feathered and can fly.

Brownie was surrendered to us by someone who acquired her as a duckling. Although Rouens look very much like large Mallards, Rouens are a heavyweight breed of domesticated duck that originated in France sometime before the 19th century. While Mallards are wild, lightweight flyers, Rouens weigh between 9 and 10 pounds and can only fly short distances. Brownie prefers to waddle-march around the sanctuary, sliding nimbly under the paddock gates to attend to whatever piques her considerable interest.

We spotlight Brownie here not only for her charming personality but as a reminder to refrain from purchasing live rabbits, chicks and ducklings as Easter gifts in April. Each year, Easter pets die cruelly from neglect or mistreatment or are surrendered to animal shelters that receive a surge of unwanteds. These animals are given up after owners lose interest or become unable to care for them. Others that are not taken to shelters are “set free” into the wild where they have no knowledge or experience at foraging or evading predators. Death is inevitable. Those that may survive become part of feral colonies of domestic and hybrid birds that cause problems for native wildlife.

Statistics indicate that within the first weeks after the holiday, 30 percent of all Easter pets die, and another 60 percent to 70 percent are abandoned or turned in to shelters. Instead of a Brownie, fill your Easter basket with a fuzzy toy and gelatin-free jelly beans.

Girls’ night out

What’s more fun than a winter hike? A winter NIGHT hike, naturally.

On the eve of the Winter Solstice, 7 Girl Scouts, their leaders and sibs, earned their Hiking badge in the nature preserve. We set out at 6 p.m., flashlights in mittened and gloved hands. The sky was a little hazy, but we could see Cassiopia and the Big Dipper, with flashlights off, from our seats in the new Nature’s Classroom. Venus, the dazzling evening “star” of December, greeted us on the return hike up the hill south of Red Fox Cabin.

The hike was lively, with the questions and observations that are some of the best things about sharing the trails. We didn’t hear or see wildlife but they undoubtedly saw us. Turkeys had been there first, leaving trails with their wingtips in the snow. Squirrels had crossed the paths, leaving little prints at the top of one hill where its looked like they took a breather before moving on. We saw tiny hoof prints and larger padded paw marks left by a fox or Stitch, the large neighbor cat who stops by when children are onsite.

Thanks to the troop for bringing apples, carrots and potatoes for the residents of the farm animal sanctuary.

On Friday, as we walked the main trail, one of the scouts asked me if I best liked hiking during the day or at night. Come on over and decide for yourself on Saturday, January 11, from 8 to 9 p.m. We will hike under January’s Full Wolf Moon named after howling wolves who are, tragically, no longer here. But we can imagine and celebrate what is and what may be. Please bring a flashlight and dress for the weather. Call 419-384-7195 or email thequarryfarm@gmail.com by Friday, January 10, at 4 p.m. to tell us you are coming.

Fall 2019 Newsletter

Prior to this summer, Board President Laura had dreamed of establishing an outdoor classroom along the main upland trail. Sam Schroeder, Eagle Scout candidate from Glandorf Troop 229, accepted the challenge. Once the trails dried out enough to transport supplies to the designated site, Sam went to work clearing invasive shrubs and small trees. He is currently constructing benches to seat future students and workshop participants.

Check out the project in person on Saturday, September 14, when you stop by to hear musical artist Russ Gibson in concert right here on Road 7L. Read concert details and what’s been happening on The Quarry Farm this summer as well as what’s coming up this fall; just click on the Fall 2019 Newsletter cover here on this post.

Savoring signs of life

DSC_0748Earlier this month, friend Kathy Doty taught me how to spot the difference between male and female Monarch butterflies. Visually, it’s really not that different than humans. I kept hearing that little girl who was a YouTube sensation several years back, her sing-song show-and-tell voice explaining to her classmates, “Boys have theses, see.” I’ve sat through a lot of PowerPoint presentations about Monarchs. I know the right way to hold them as you apply a tracking tag prior to release. But no one has every told me who has what. Kathy also displayed a young Praying Mantis and a viable Swallowtail chrysalis, anchored in place by one tiny gossamer lasso of swallowtail thread. She spotted both eggs and caterpillars in the Red Fox Cabin gardens. The sightings never cease to thrill.

Several days later, a steady stream of visitors to Summer 2019 Family Day watched monarchs, bumblebees and more dragonflies than I have seen since the June 2012 floor wax discharge decimated the variety of dragonfly nymphs one could sample in Riley Creek. It was hot, hot, hot in the sun. Steady breeze and ice water kept those of us anchored to the ground cool enough to take pleasure in flighted creatures who have the wherewithal to catch thermals.

With double-digit degrees less outside, Deb Weston walked the trails with her Debbie and a camera on Thursday. They spotted an Ebony Jewelwing damselfly, a female Baltimore Oriole, a Painted Lady butterfly, a Monarch, and two Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, birds I haven’t seen since I picked wild raspberries along the cut-off oxbow to sell at Andy’s IGA in Pandora.

I could wax on. How about I share Deb’s photos instead?

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seeking avian life forms

20190216_083800.jpgThis weekend is the 22nd Annual Great Backyard Bird Count, four days when, world-wide, people peer through binoculars and add apps to their phones (speaking from personal habit) to help them identify what birds are at their feeders or watering troughs from February 16-18, 2019. I can hear European starlings above our bathroom ceiling, so we started the count right off with that species. We really need to fix the cover on that vent.

20190216_093355Saturday morning, two Debs, one Maya, one Terry and one Mandy joined in The Quarry Farm count. At 8:08 a.m. we headed across the footbridge to listen and look for what birds would venture out with us into the cold. Not many, as it turned out. Red-bellied woodpeckers hammered in the north along Riley Creek. Horned larks chimed in the field. White-breasted nuthatches scolded. We saw or heard a downy woodpecker, two goldfinches, robins, a male cardinal, bluejays and two Canada geese.20190216_093733

The air was heavy with impending snow. We kept out toes moving and warm by exploring for nonfeathered treasures. There were tracks frozen in the floodplain, reminders of floodwaters that covered it earlier in the week. Fungi bracketed trees and downed limbs. Puddles were flash-frozen in rings as waters receded. Mandy spotted a cocoon of some kind that we have yet to identify but is probably this. And Laura was thrilled to see that the Indian hemp, also commonly called dogbane, has spread in the back 10.20190216_100117.jpg

The promised snow falls in icy pellets. A crow flew over this morning, calling as he scouted, his caws echoing in the cold sky. There isn’t much movement otherwise. I sit at the sewing machine, securing goat coat straps in place. S’more ditched his yesterday during an hour or two of warm sun. Now he is piled under straw in Sophie’s barn. From my perch at the sewing machine, I can watch for birds. The winter is frighteningly in need of visitors.

We’ll listen for owls tonight. Until then, the hot chocolate and tea are warm and plentiful for watching whomever flies.20190216_093228