5K 2021

This morning at 10 a.m. EST, skies were blue and a west windy breeze made for good running/walking conditions for this year’s Quarry Farm 5K. Participants passed Birder Deb who played the theme from Rocky at the Mallaham Bridge. They navigated through one goodly gust of soybean dust kicked loose from a harvesting crew, turned around at the halfway point where Rita called out split times, then returned to cow bells at the finish line.

FIrst Run Finish, Men: Frank Ordaz
First Run Finish, Women: Erin Firch
First Walker Finish, Men: Jay Shapiro
First Walker Finish, Women: Lois Seitz
First Child Finish: Titus Haselman
First Team Finish: Lois Felkey, Phyllis Seitz, Susan Seitz

There is rain this afternoon to tamp down the bean dust. Still a few oatmeal/white chocolate/dried apricot cookies, too (but not many). Much thanks to everyone who came out in support of a beautiful day and what we do.

pecking Order

Animals have their own way of doing things. We have ours and they have theirs, “we” being “humans” and “they” being “everything else” that understand each other as we bumble about convinced that we do, too.

The farm animal sanctuary residents eat their breakfast each morning then go about their day. We often go about our day thinking little of what they are doing. If it’s hot, as is ridiculously so now, they find shade. The mammals disappear in the bottom land, under the trees, to graze or to roll on the cool spring-fed earth. The birds chase insects across the yard. But each day, at the same time says Neighbor Casey, they meet under the same white pine in the south pasture. They gather for a half-hour, give or take, then the crowd disperses.

Sometimes there’s a crowd, perhaps enough that the meeting can be called to order with a quorum met.

PANDORA–Important announcements regarding Covid… latest news and precautionary steps when dealing with humans. (April 3, 2020, Casey reporting)

Sometimes it’s the Pecking Order, pecking order.

PANDORA–Agenda discussion: Food distribution and perching assignments. Open discussion and complaints regarding the new turkey referred to as Bruce. (May 17, 2021, Casey reporting)

Another year on and “we” still don’t know what’s really going on. But we can try, and enjoy ourselves in the process. I’m pretty sure that Casey’s right about Bruce being a topic of conversation, anyway.

Blowing 2020 out of the water

“Last year on May 20th we had 56 species and on the 21st we had 57.  Today we chewed those numbers up and spit out an overwhelming 68 species.  A phenomenal 18 warbler species and The QF is now at 134 species which is 2/3 of the species seen in Putnam County.  The Wilson’s Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat and the Canada Warbler are all new just since Saturday.  We saw 2 Wilson’s Warblers on the tree line way back in the prairie area and 2 Green Herons fly from the quarry.  One of the best birding days of my life. The light wasn’t good for photos, but I got a new one of the Wilson’s Warbler, a couple of Blackburnian Warblers and a Blackpoll Warbler.”

A Fanciful Walk on the Plain

Click to Download the Spring 2021 Newsletter

It’s a chilly, breezy spring afternoon, and I’m crossing the Cranberry Run bridge. lugging a flat of purple violets dug up from the garden around Red Fox Cabin. I’m headed for the floodplain to the north between our Quarry-turned-wetland-pond and Riley Creek. As I follow the trail around the northwest corner of the Quarry, bullfrogs erupt noisily from the bank and plop-plop-plop into the water. Out in the shallow depths of the Quarry several beds of flags are pushing up spiky leaves. Their clear blue flowers will come later. On both sides of the path Spring Beauties are blooming, small and delicate.


Farther north on the trail, the Spring Beauties are sparser and the soil looks washed. Floodwaters flow down Cranberry Run from the south to cover this area at least once a year, draining slowly into Riley Creek. It’s here on the floodplain that I’ve come to plant some violets and see what might be starting to grow this spring. That’s of special interest because for years dense, spreading thickets of bush honeysuckle and multiflora rose, as well as wild grapevine tangles have effectively shaded out most vegetation. Until now.


As a result of David Seitz’s hard work this past year, the invasive scrub that had smothered the plain is now the stuff of several enormous brush piles, some given names for fun like the Giant Turtle Pile and North Turtle Pile. These mounds are providing wildlife cover, while sunlight filtering through the branches of hackberries, bitternut hickories, and sycamores will bring dormant seeds to life—for better or worse perhaps, considering what may have settled out of floodwaters and lain in wait for sunshine. The coming months will tell. Today I’m seeing tufts of grass and sedges and wispy sprigs of bed straw that may soon cover the ground like green froth—and twine around ankles.


As I head back down the trail, violets all planted, I imagine a time when they’ll form a purple carpet lifting above tall grasses. I imagine Dutchman’s Breeches, Jack-in-the-Pulpits, Trilliums, Jerusalem Artichokes, Heliopsis, and other native plants migrating to the floodplain. I envision myself transplanting more native plants and flowers to the woods. I picture the native trees that Anne is going to plant soon grown tall and sheltering. Several times, I spot an enemy near the path and stoop to yank a leafy honeysuckle seedling.


—The Quarry Farm Gardener

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

 

‘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