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.

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.

Spring 2019 Newsletter

Spring 2019 Newsletter web coverWe’ve got plans this Spring and hope that you will join us. There will be wildflower and bird sightings, salamander searches, and hopefully a Star Walk, should the sky clear for good viewing.

Click on the newsletter cover posted here to download your copy of the Spring 2019 Newsletter. Read about what has happened here on The Quarry Farm this winter as well as the Programs & Events that we have scheduled for the next few months. Watch our Facebook page, too, for announcements, fast facts, and photos.

Winter 2018-2019 Newsletter

All The Quarry Farm news that is fit to print, or at least all the news that we could fit on an 11″ x 17″ piece of piece of paper printed on both sides, is being printed as we speak. But don’t wait for hard copy. Click on the cover here and the electronic version right now.

One thing we would like to add is to watch for announcement for weekend Star Walks. We try conduct these during a new moon so that we can see a lot of stars. It’s tough to plan these ahead of time because of the weather. Look for announcements a couple of days before on The Quarry Farm Facebook page for Star Walks on:
• Saturday, January 5
• Saturday, February 2
• Saturday, March 3

Fall 2018 Newsletter

Fall 2018 Newsletter coverSchool’s back in session and we are ready for the cooler weather, especially with our annual Jam on September 8 and The Quarry Farm 5K just around the bend. Click on the cover here to read the Fall 2018 Newsletter and join us for the upcoming programs listed, including the new Give Thanks Woodland Hike, or give us a call/email to schedule an outing or program.

Bridging confused seasons

This week’s April morning snow reminded me that the mucks will likely occupy a place on the door mat beside the sandals, probably for a double-digit number of days. The garden hose thawed in 80°F last Friday. Resting water froze again on Saturday. There is a groundhog somewhere who predicts eight more weeks of hauling water buckets.

We grouse about layers of sweaters, vests and coats, socks and boots. We never know what to tell visitors to wear, so we just tell them, “Come prepared for the weather. There will be hot chocolate or lemonade.” Pigs Nemo and Carlton have done their winter worst, rooting three acres of soil so that the pastures resemble a mine field. If this didn’t happen every year, we would despair of the unsightly furrowed ground.

“We’ll never be able to fix this,” commented Steve on the first spring with multiple pigs in the farm animal sanctuary. We stood on the front porch and despaired over upturned soil, bare of green grass and treacherous for foot traffic. A month later, after the first mow, the grass was green and patches of Grandpa Seitz’s bird’s-foot trefoil bloomed on the hillside. The garden was remarkably free of Japanese beetles. We realized that the pigs had feasted on more grubs than shoots. Now we grin and bear the brown ruts, knowing that there will be more than enough thick grass to cut when shorts-and-T weather settles in.

So…this snow. The sky is clear and the forecast predicts a high of 55°F. The barn and shed roofs are beginning to drip. The chickens and turkeys dodge the drops as they breakfast and the geese revel in widening puddles.

20180419_072804
20180419_072542In the cold shadows of the nature preserve, the colors are still blue, gray and purple. I cross the footbridge, going where a raccoon has recently come. Blue flag shoots and water grasses rise from wetlands, brilliant green contrasts to the white that coats the trees on the high bank and the land bridge between the old stone quarry and Cranberry Run. Thanks to Paul Nusbaum, the land bridge is clear of bush honeysuckle. This will provide a living lab for school groups to discover the differences between wetlands and running streams.

Here comes the sun. I’m off to work, away…and it’s alright.20180419_072730

Speaking up for moles

Winter 2018 Newsletter cover

The article below (how appropriate, considering the subject, don’t you think?) appears in the latest issue of The Quarry Farm Newsletter. Download your copy by clicking on the cover to the right.

Not long ago after autumn rains had softened the baked lawn around Red Fox Cabin, little volcano-shaped mounds erupted here and there, heralding the arrival of moles. Moles don’t alarm me because their burrowing hasn’t seemed to cause lasting damage in the garden. However, convinced that the humans on a nature preserve should be knowledgeable about their fellow inhabitants, I went online to learn more about moles.

Members of the family Talpidae, moles are found in most parts of North America, Europe and Asia. Seven species live in the U.S., the Eastern Mole being common in our region. They are 5 to 7 inches long, larger than shrews and voles. Males are called boars; females are sows; and the young are pups. A group is a labor (perhaps because they are so industrious?). They are carnivores, not herbivores. Their diet is primarily earthworms, grubs, and the occasional mouse, but not our garden plants. Once they have eaten the food in one area, they move on.

Moles are amazingly adapted to a subterranean life. They can distinguish light from dark but not colors. Although their eyesight is dim, their hearing and sense of smell are so acute that they can detect prey through many inches of soil. They have large, powerful, outward-pointing front legs and claws for pushing dirt aside as they “swim” through soft, moist earth. They are able to disappear from rare ventures to the surface in 10 seconds flat, to tunnel 1 foot in 3 minutes and to run through established tunnels at about 80 feet per minute. Their short, velvety fur is non-directional, causing little resistance as they move rapidly through tunnels. (Their soft, dense pelts once supported a thriving moleskin industry.) Moles can survive in their low-oxygen environment underground because they can tolerate the high carbon dioxide levels in the exhaled air they reuse. Their saliva paralyzes prey, which they store, still alive, in underground “larders” for future consumption. Moles can detect, capture, and eat their prey faster than the human eye can follow.

Moles make 2 types of tunnels: feeding runways close to the surface where the molehills pop up and permanent tunnels about a foot or more underground, leading to a nest about 2 feet deep. What might look like the work of many moles can be the product of one busy tunneler.

Moles are solitary and highly territorial, coming together only to mate. Breeding season runs from February to May. From 2 to 5 pups are born after a 1-month gestation, and leave the nest 30 to 45 days later in search of their own territories. Although tunnels may overlap, moles avoid each other and will attack and even fight to the death when they meet.

Many online gardening experts write about moles in terms of their being destructive pests that must be eradicated. They suggest many methods of doing so: poisons; traps that choke, spear, slice or confine for removal; buried repellants like broken glass, razor blades, or thorny branches; or natural, more humane repellants like plantings that smell bad to moles (daffodils, alliums, marigolds, castor beans, etc.), castor oil drenches; and reducing lawn watering that could force moles close to the surface.

However, I lean toward a smaller set of gardening experts represented online who believe that moles are more beneficial than destructive. Rather than taking offense at molehills, they point out that moles improve soil by loosening, aerating and fertilizing, and the cones subside quickly. Any soil that has been lifted off roots can be pressed down again with a foot. Moles receive the blame for plant damage caused by chipmunks, mice and voles, and generally receive little credit for destroying lawn grubs. I myself would rather let moles eat pesky soil-dwelling larvae than chase moles out by spreading harmful poisons to kill the grubs. In the view of one expert, Roger Mercer, “Moles aren’t all bad. In fact they’re 99% good.” As a 15th century saying goes: “Do not make a mountain out of a mole hill.”

—The Gardener at The Quarry Farm