‘Still representing my roots!’

It’s nice to get mail.

It’s especially good when it’s a shout-out from someone who shares a passion for what is near and dear to the recipient. Jonelle Meyer spent time here while she was a student at Ottawa-Glandorf High School. When she wasn’t in school or serving as a Toledo ZooTeen, she was grooming shaggy Buddy the donkey or helping with visiting groups. Jonelle graduated in 2014 then barely broke stride by receiving her BS in biology in 2017 from Lourdes Universty. She moved to California in May that year and never looks back—except when she does.

Yesterday she did just that. Up popped a message for us, with a photo of Jonelle wearing her Quarry Farm shirt backstage at Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding, CA. As an animal trainer there, she works with rehabilitated wildlife, performs in animal shows and participates in programming. Like so many high-trafficked places this Spring, Turtle Bay is closed to the public. But the behind-the-scenes show goes on, with animals relying on the love, attention and understanding of caretakers like Jonelle.

Winged Perambulation

There are no two ways about it. Saturday’s Great Backyard Bird Count installment on The Quarry Farm was cold; 0 degrees F cold. Beautiful, with thick frost and snow and blue sky for the walk, but the cold filtered through Thinsulate, wool and whatever else each of us could layer over our pasty winter skins. To quote Jean Shepherd’s Randy, I couldn’t move my arms. But I could move my fingers well enough to record the different species of birds that chattered at us as we hiked the main nature preserve trails.

Our first sighting as a group was of a Downy Woodpecker in the great oak south of Red Fox Cabin. It’s feathers were so fluffed that I was sure it was a Hairy Woodpecker, a larger Downy look-alike that forages along trunks and main branches of large trees. Our frequent-flyer birders Deb Weston and Linda Houshower corrected me. Since I had made the first official recording of the morning–a group of European Starlings who shelter each February and March in the vent above our bathroom shower, I licked my frozen ego and left further identification to the experts. After all, that is one of the things we do here: invite people to share their own areas of expertise with everyone who wants to learn more about the natural world from different perspectives.

Down in the floodplain along Cranberry Run, Brown Creepers and White-breasted Nuthatches circled tree trunks and bobbed in and out of habitat piles created by David Seitz’s ongoing bush honeysuckle and grapevine removal. Bright, berry-red Cardinals chirped and sang. Wild Turkey foot and wing drags crossed the upland path. Woodpeckers left freshly-drilled holes in dead trees for us to find. A Red-bellied Woodpecker who flew above the canopy was one possible culprit. I thought I heard the Red-tailed Hawk that Steve had seen earlier that morning. Instead, it was a sassy Blue Jay mimicking that raptor and everything else his or her big bird brain has mastered.

Thursday birding with Deb and David

Our count from Saturday and another done on Monday is now part of the official GBBC 2020 observation list. Deb and her friend David blazed a birding trail of their own on Thursday. They added their findings to the eBird count. Deb and David will lead the Spring Migration Bird Hike here on April 25.

This morning was a balmy 18 degrees F. The exotic peahens who arrived here recently sat high in a hackberry as the slightly less exotic chickens, donkeys, pigs, goats, geese, ducks, and a llama murmured, snuffled and scuttled from food pellet to seed and hay. The two big birds stared down at me as I left food at the base of their tree, not so much waiting for a chance to eat, but for the frost to melt from the window that they preen in front of as the wilder creatures go about their march to spring.

 

The Project, Year 2

Join us Saturday February 8 from 8 to 9 p.m. for the “Full Moon Hike”. See firsthand what The Man/The Myth/The Legend David Seitz has been doing in and around the quarry. The salamanders are going to love it. All we can do is ply Engineer Dave with donuts and chocolate.
David Seitz rode the warm winter waves up US 23 on Monday to battle honeysuckle.
January 30, 2020
Around 1700 hrs, I spent most of the afternoon just cutting and clearing some big old honeysuckles from the area south of the quarry. Also cut up a few downed trunks, and big branches leaning on good trees. The south area is now much more visible, and maybe 95% of the honeysuckle in there is cut.  The small ones take one wack and a pull. The medium ones take 3 or 4 wacks and a bend over. The big old ones have to be “topped” with the chainsaw, and then 10 minutes of chopping out the roots.  Only 1 very big one was just cut off at ground level, because there were so many rocks in the roots I just couldn’t cut it with the mattock. Will look pretty good in that area, in the Spring! Easier to walk through there now.
On Sunday I went hiking at Highbanks Metro Park, up on US 23. Saw the way they were “buffering” stream banks to prevent rapid wash out. Decided to use the honeysuckle the same way, on the high bank south of the quarry. Put a bunch of branches there, on the sand bar below the east side bank.  Then some old logs on top to hold them down. Next trip I’ll add a couple more big logs, and maybe rope them to the huge rock there. Can only help.
Did add a couple new rocks to the new SW bank. The more the better. And also added 4 big buckets of wet gravel to the path, right in the middle, where the path stones are kind of thick. Dirt will wash off the path, but the gravel is much heavier, and shouldn’t wash off much. We’ll see how it works. Good part is that it isn’t so messy. Much better to walk on. There is a good supply of gravel 50 meters south of the quarry, but it is pretty heavy work. Will keep at it, and try to add 4 or 5 big buckets each visit.  Can only help.
The ice on the quarry is 2 – 3 inches thick, just a few feet from the bank, but melts where it touches the banks, all the way around. There was no flow through the culvert at all today.
Thanks for the donuts!
-Dave
February 3, 2020
There is a lot of honeysuckle along the south side path, for sure. Cut for 3 hours, but there is still so much there to do. There are some really large honeysuckle there, too. Have to cut with the chainsaw. And then cut up all the branches, so they can be moved and piled. Slow work, but I’m seeing the change. Will gradually move north and up the east side. Would like to cut some north of the quarry too. Didn’t do any today, but next trip I’ll put some more gravel on the SW bank. Much nicer than the mud, and will resist washing off also.
Really a lovely day today.  Got home just after dark, and it is still 50 degrees F out! Thanks for the chocolate!
-Dave

Winter Project Rain Dance

The scent of raindrops are in the air. Did you know you can watch the nature preserve bridge project from Google Earth? Engineer David does.

We do need rain/snow—maybe not all at once, but it is frighteningly pleasant for January in Northwest Ohio. The National Weather Service reports that we will have it as long as that green band of precipitation doesn’t rapidly shift southeast.

Board President Laura recalled the burnt toast odor that permeated the outdoors during the Summer of 1988. I remember that, as well as the smell of decay. As I ran the trails at Wildwood Metropark in Toledo, a doe walked out of the woodland of dried leaves and cracked soil. She didn’t run but feinted a few steps into the tree line and back out again. I have always regretted not following her. There was little I could do at the time to help, but I could have offered. I think of her every time I try to do so now.

How easily what is happening in Australia could happen to us. Our inland waterways could save us, as long as we save them.

Speaking of which, stellar Friend of The Quarry Farm Dave is forging ahead with his efforts to protect the old stone quarry wetland from sediment overload produced during flood events. The land bridge between Cranberry Run and the quarry provided a great nighttime path for the Girl Scouts last month, with the young explorers spotting fish and all manner of shadows through the thin film of ice over the stream. This spring, participants in water and plant quality studies to contrast the wetland and the Run will now have a flagstone deck. Here’s the latest from our favorite engineer:

“Nice day down by the quarry. Built up the bank a bit, at the north side of the culvert. Just wasn’t wide enough. Shoveled about 2 hours. Wide enough now.

Started putting flat stones on the path, so it was not so muddy. Is better, but needs more flat stones.  Also, they need to settle in, so they don’t wobble. Need to be walked on, I guess.
Last hour I dug up a few honeysuckle, just to the south of the quarry, along the east side of  the creek. One really big one, just for the experience. Mattock is better now that it is sharpened.”
Saturday’s rain will likely put a damper on our scheduled January 11 Full Moon Hike. Look for it to be rescheduled. How cool it will be to see the night sky reflected in riffles over one shoulder and in the still pool of a wetland surface over the other.

Try this at home

I keep getting offers for winter getaways to someplace(s) warm and sunny; blossomy and sun-kissed. I could sail away in a hotel on the water—a hotel of the sea with a chlorinated pool suspended several stories above the ocean’s surface. I could languish on a groomed beach with a drink in each hot little hand.

No thank you. I doubt that any flu shot will stave off the no-see-ums contained within those floating marine petri dishes. And beaches are best wild and untamed.

My feet do miss the feel of warm grass splayed beneath and between their toes. Steve came dancing inside before this morning’s sunrise. He had been gifting Nemo with her morning potato, thinking that his bare feet wouldn’t object too painfully to the inch of snow on the deck. Certainly not for a journey of several giant steps. They did take umbrage. I’m sure we will both do it again before spring because shoes can be such a pain, you know?

A friend who feels oncoming winter with and intense shade of mental gray was lamenting the cold season. “One more winter; I can do this.” Daylight is short and temperatures low. Time is lost to layering clothes and the aforementioned shoes. Flowers and leaves are shriveled to husks that whisper in wind chill.

There are still flowers, tiny blooms of sorts that bud with the cool humidity.

And there are leaves, of sorts, upon lost leaves.

The donkeys and goats, stand with their faces to the sun, eyelids half-mast. Their winter coats are woolly with prisms of guard hair. The turkeys and chickens turn the snow and dried leaves for stray seeds and insects that surface in the insulated layers near to the ground. Their winter feed is higher in protein than in the summer, but they prefer the diverse smorgasborg sustained in leaf matter. The roosters stand guard in their feathered jackets, like sentinels in coats embroidered in jewel-tone threads.

And the sunsets…you just have to be there.

When an illustrated print or pattern is framed as home decor, the accompanying mat is usually selected to highlight s color from the piece or to match the floorcover or curtains. A work of art—now that’s a different story. A work of art is matted in white or black. Black and white are not colors because they do not have specific wavelengths. Instead, white light contains all wavelengths of visible light. Black, on the other hand, is the absence of visible light. A work of art stands alone. Winter is the mat for nature’s art.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I have enough sweaters to frequent this Northwest Ohio gallery. I’m sending you a scarf, Russ.

Snitch switchery

20190406_193749Tonight’s Golden Snitch Walk was called on account of no snitches. In mid-March the evening air was buzzing with them. As I closed the gate on evening chores, two American Woodcocks–the absolute model for J.K. Rowling’s glittery winged ball, or I’ll eat my Ravenclaw hat–twisted in their funnel-cloud dance not more than 20 feet above me.

Then it got cold; freezy enough for S’more to agree to keep his thermal goat coat strapped on just a little while longer.

Our first scheduled woodcock walk was windy and chilly. We saw deer and Indian hemp, counted birds and tracks. But snitches were nowhere to be seen or heard. That didn’t changeover the next few weeks. I told the April 6 preregistrants that the birds had come and gone for 2019.

20190406_193434.jpg

This dead tree is home to woodpeckers, fungi and all sorts of creatures.

Snitches aside, today was a gorgeous day; the first real spring day that we’ve had since one random warm breath in March. I walked the planned walk route, dipping a net into the quarry. Its waters team with dragonfly and damselfly nymphs, snails and shrimpish scuds. No mosquito larvae dare swim near the predatory odonata; such is the beauty of a healthy wetland.20190406_191719

2019-04-06 22.01.57No frog egg masses string the surface yet. There are frogs and toads clucking, burring and trilling from the quarry’s edge northeast across the vernal pools of Coburn’s Bottom to the property line at Riley Creek. All those Hey-Baby-Baby-Babies mean tadpoles are brewing in the slurry. A toad hops across the trail in front of me, not a snitch but gold all the same from the lowering sun and amphibian afterglow.

Two Canada geese sail in for the night, skidding across the quarry’s still surface. The ripples haven’t yet subsided when a small flock of wood ducks join them. I hurry along the path to bridge Cranberry Run so as not to scare them away. I’ve just climbed the hill and am up and out of the preserve when, behind me, I hear an airborne whistling.

“PE-E-E-ENT!”

I look up to see a winged softball arc over the quarry.

Show-off.20190406_191705

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