Walking with Fergus

I asked Fergus—floppy-eared Muppet dog, as Steve calls him—if he wanted to go for a walk this afternoon. He treated the question with great suspicion. He rolled his eyes and curled more tightly into the kennel under the stairs, one with a broken latch that seems to be considered a safe cave for cats, dogs and fox, probably because the door is always open. It was Ferg’s nap space today and the leash in my hand probably said “trip to the vet” instead of fun.

I didn’t realize that Fergus had never been for a walk on the trails. He is one of those dogs with twitchy legs that, if given the opportunity, will run and run on the trail of scent and excitement until he stops…and has no idea where he is. When he does make a trip outside the gate, it usually is for a medical reason. So it took some coaxing to get him to the gate today. There was slight hesitation outside the gate, then he found his feet and nearly took me off mine.

We skied the snowy hill down to Cranberry Run. Then there were three bridges to conquer. Fergus’ legs shook as he stepped over the slats, just like most people do. He paused halfway and watched the water flow below. But adventure in the form of a running fox squirrel were incentive enough cross to the opposite bank. Coburn’s Bottom Trail led us to David’s Turtle Pile of bush honeysuckle brush where a deer and a flock of turkeys flushed and melted back into the trees.

We followed turkey tracks up the hill past Sycamore Point and saw the deer and turkeys in the upland grasses. Then they spotted us and disappeared into the snow, sunlight and stands of black walnut, sugar maples, and honey locusts. A white-breasted nuthatch gave us a good piece of its mind, but we never heard the deer or the turkeys again. I’m sure they knew exactly where we were, and kept themselves hidden an hour later when my mom hiked the same trails to enjoy this Day-After-Christmas snow before it melts away with a new work week.

Later, Fergus curled up in his bed and snored softly. I thought my arms were tired from keeping him in check. Turns out that it is exhausting for a hound dog to pull his human up and down hill, through woodland, grassland and back again.

‘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.

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

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.