Giving thanks trailside


A mossy find

Qarie Marshall offered a sunny weather radio forecast for Thursday—“Turkey Day.” I’m counting on Aunt Paula’s cheesecake and Mom’s mashed red potatoes, with the ruby skins liberally integrated.

Every day is Turkey Day here. Max the Bronze is the current guardian of the farm animal sanctuary flock. Visitors have frequently lost the contents of their pockets to bronze Buttercup. Their wild relatives sway in summer night breeze, perched high in tree tops like giant fruit. They chortle and murmur in the daytime, hidden from predatory eyes in the thickest thickets. A stray feather occasionally makes its way into the Putnam County Master Gardeners’ pollinator patch.



Cool hat…missing boots

Saturday, we stretched our legs in thanks for a late morning hike. Elisha broke in a new pair of Trespass boots shipped from the UK. His mom Esther shared her lovely Irish accent and details about the clothing line, including the fact that Trespass makes water-resistant onesies.

Type ‘Ohio’ into the company website’s ‘Find a Store’ widget and you get Galway (eh…only 3,426.94 miles away.) Still, the “No Child Left Inside” movement would benefit from a line of puddle-jumping ware.

So, apparently, would my child. Home on holiday, she took off her rubber knee boots (“They’ll get wet, Mom”) to wade in the chilly quarry wetland with a seine in hand. She caught a sample of snails, a beetle and a fingernail clam for us to see. The clam was the size of the second smallest hiker’s pinkie finger. 20181117_112005

The smallest hiker of all slept through the walk, swaddled in his mother’s walking fleece.20181117_105059


Fungi suspended over autumn leaves

The sun brought out the color in what leaves still hung on the trees. We used honeysuckle walking sticks to traverse downed leaf matter. We gathered a few Osage oranges before the ghosts of mammoths could lay claim to them. I thought I saw a shrike in the back 10 acres. Maybe we’ll see his/her larder—voles impaled on hawthorn spikes—during the 2019 Great Backyard Bird Count.

We saw tracks. They crossed our path in wallows and licks and fur clinging to branches. There were hoof marks, short and long bird toe prints and thin drag lines. The turkeys left the latter two for us to find, surely watching us from a distance that would keep them whole beyond Thursday’s feast.

Summer news is here

20170617_125330Summer CoverWhat’s that all about, you say?

Click on the cover to the right for your very own copy of The Quarry Farm Summer 2017 Newsletter. Read about the busy season that was Spring 2017, mark your calendar for all that’s to come this summer, and register for The Quarry Farm 2017 5K.

Hope to see you on the trails.

at the root of the problem, something wonderful

P1020028As a race, humans have found a lot of ways of saying that no matter what — somewhere, somehow — there’s a little bit of good in every bad situation: it’s an ill wind that blows no good, every dark cloud has a silver lining.

As it turns out, what we found out here at The Quarry Farm, there’s truth to be found there. But first, a little bit about bush honeysuckle.

In the early 1970s, before anybody was paying attention, it was common knowledge that planting honeysuckle was a good thing, particularly if you wanted to attract birds. And while there are honeysuckle species native to North America, more than a few that aren’t were allowed to proliferate. Morrow’s and Amur honeysuckle were particularly popular for their dense foliage and bright red berries and now particularly troublesome as two of the most invasive species of honeysuckle unadvisedly planted. Both can grow as tall as 15 feet and both are monoculture plants; they crowd out everything  around them and nothing grows beneath their spreading branches. There’s even evidence that they engage in chemical warfare, releasing toxins into the soil to kill off any competition until there’s nothing at the base of these plants but bare soil. While they typically don’t do well in shaded environments, preferring to grow at the verges of woodlands, both take advantage of any disturbance in the upper story of a woods to move in and establish a fortified foothold at the first opportunity. And while it’s true that birds love their bright red berries, they offer little in the way of nutrition. Sure, they brighten the feathers of cardinals and the burning breasts of robins, but they’re junk food, the natural equivalent of candy bars and potato chips.

In short, they’re a nightmare for any organization or agency working to develop or maintain native habitat. And they’re here on The Quarry Farm in numbers too vast to count. We’ve adopted a multifold approach to getting a handle on this problem, but the most effective method is to simply pull them up by the roots whenever and wherever it’s possible.

Recently, we accepted an application from Emma, a first-year student at Antioch College, to assist us in our many efforts. One of her primary responsibilities is to help control bush honeysuckle on The Quarry Farm. Right away, we put her to work, yanking up the pest.

And here comes the silver lining.

P1020031Emma set to work first along the Cut-Off, a man-made wetland created when the county opted to straighten the stream in the 1960s, thereby isolating what was once an oxbow in Cranberry Run. At the end of her third day, while making her way back to her temporary home, she stopped to pull one last medium-sized clump of honeysuckle…and found a salamander nestled beneath its roots.


To say the least, we’re thrilled. It’s a wonderful start to what we know will be a productive 10 weeks.

Thank you, Emma, and welcome.

off the lake and (hopefully) out of the bush

A chalk board rendering on the Lake Erie food chain, discovered in a lab at OSU's Stone Lab

A chalk board rendering of the Lake Erie food chain, discovered in a lab at OSU’s Stone Lab

On approach to Stone Lab

On approach to Stone Lab

During what I recalled at the time as a third trip to Stone Laboratory on Lake Erie’s Gibraltar Island (although I think a fourth stop snuck in there somewhere), I was struck by several things:

-Although Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes, it is a force to be reckoned with when the wind is high and the waves are rolling (in fact, I believe it’s one of those rare occasions when it is appropriate to use the word ‘awesome’ as a descriptor).

-Lake Erie water snakes are gorgeous creatures, especially when tangled up in a ball on a sunny dock’

Water snakes in the sun on an old Gibraltar Island dock

Water snakes in the sun on an old Gibraltar Island dock

-The bottom of your sleeping bag, with the top curled securely over your head, can pass as a safe place when you wake up in the middle of the night and realize you are on an island roughly the size of a football field without a boat and no way off until morning.

-Gulls perched on an outcrop at the bottom of a cliff overlooking Lake Erie at sunrise are ever so much more beautiful in real life than in a Pixar film.

-Bush honeysuckle invades even the small freshwater islands off Ohio’s shores.

HAB art: algal samples of all types were collaged and framed in one of the labs on shore at South Bass Island

HAB art: algal samples of all types were collaged and framed in one of the labs on shore at South Bass Island

I was there to learn more about harmful algal bloom and the current state of what humans know about the how and why of the overabundance of cyanobacteria. I came away with 10 lectures and a research vessel outing’s worth of that, as well as a greater determination to help develop a plan to control bush honeysuckle on The Quarry Farm.

Why do we want to control bush honeysuckle? Yes, birds and small mammals eat the berries, but these red edibles are wildlife junk food: cardinal potato chips. The goats of the farm animal sanctuary have helped get a handle on Russian and autumn olives, multiflora rose and even garlic mustard, but bush honeysuckle wreaks havoc on their digestive systems so we must keep it out of their reach.

Silt plumes from a lake bottom sample off Put-in-Bay

Silt plumes from a lake bottom sample grabbed off Put-in-Bay

And the spreading shrub is a monoculture of sorts, growing quickly and shading out all native species as it spreads like wildfire. The 2012 derecho felled some of the preserve’s tallest trees and the invasive jumped right in to fill the void. Without intervention to control bush honeysuckle, which humans introduced to North America in the first place, there will be little left to hold the soil in place and out of waterways, and there will be few nutritional foods for native wildlife.

We are writing a grant proposal for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds to get a major push underway. Thanks to support from Jim Hoorman of Ohio State University Extension, Dr. Ken Krieger of Heidelberg University’s National Center for Water Quality Research , Tim Brugeman of the Blanchard River Watershed Partnership, Dr. Jan Osborn of the Putnam County Educational Resource Center and Brad Brooks of Tawa Tree Service, we’ve got some major stamps of approval for a project that we believe can be implemented well beyond the tree lines here.

Stay tuned.

2015 Summer Newsletter

2015 Summer Newsletter coverThere are three events scheduled for the next three months here on The Quarry Farm, two of which will motivate the creative side of your brain. The third will help get your sillies out while you help us clear an invasive plant to make way for native wildflowers, tree, and grasses

Click on the cover to the left for the full newsletter. And stay tuned to this site as well as “The Quarry Farm” on Facebook for more summer happenings. If the weather permits, there may be a star walk on the calendar.