The Quarry Farm newsletter for the winter season is at the printer. It’s also available for download—handily click on the cover to ‘receive’ your copy. But budget and conservation of natural resources limits that piece of paper to an 11″ x 17″ piece of paper folded to supply four printed pages. That’s the great thing about this website. We can share more stories and photos in between issues.
This newsletter contains details about engineer David Seitz’s most recent onsite project. This summer and fall, David began to engineer a system that would temper sediment loading from Cranberry Run and help the quarry wetland do its job as a natural water treatment system and wildlife habitat. His daughter Aili has been helping him bring the project to fruition. David is documenting the project via email to Board President Laura. As newsletter space is limited, here’s the rest of the story, so far.
Aili worked a bit across the creek with the string trimmer, going around the quarry. I kept going south on the west side path, with the brush cutter. Cut through about 40 yards of honeysuckle thicket, and the path is now open almost to the property line. But all the brush from the thicket is still on the path, and needs to be cleared from the path. Also a log down across the path at eye level. Can duck under, but it wants cutting with the chain saw. Will work on that on a windy day.
I moved the dead tree which had fallen on the bank, partially blocking the path, and the outlet (gap) of the quarry. Is now much easier to walk south on the east side of the creek, and right on past the quarry. Moved a few rocks up out of the creek bed, and built up the quarry outlet a bit with them. Heavy work. Staggering through the shallow water carrying the rocks is not so good. I think moving them on the red cart would be OK. The creek bottom is mostly flat in that section, with a bit of sand. Saw my favorite invertebrate in the pool…a crawdad! Hadn’t seen one in decades. After I disturbed the sediment, he moved in to look for a snack.
Was planning to stop hauling and shovel some dirt, but I found a really nice rock, biggest of the day, in the creek bed. Couldn’t resist it! Took 20 minutes to get it on the cart, and 20 more minutes to get it to the quarry gap. And then couldn’t lift it. Finally got the cable puller and strap, to keep it from falling back on my feet. With pulling and pushing, got it up on top. For sure, need to start backing the stone wall with some dirt. Will start shoveling dirt onto the quarry side of the rocks next week.
I came by today to work on building up the support for the rock wall. Moved about 2 cubic yards of dirt from the quarry to the bank, behind the rock wall. Basically just kept shoveling till I thought the “south quarry gap” and channel were adequately supported for a small to medium flood. Three and a half hours with the shovel, so I was a bit tired, at the end. Spent an additional half hour carrying some more rocks for the top of the bank. Definitely will help to have more rocks.
Putting the culvert in is the second phase, in my mind, and I will try to start on it next Wednesday. I don’t think the bank is high enough yet at the south quarry gap, but there is enough dirt there now that the priority should shift to getting the fill/drain “culvert” installed in the north quarry gap. To function like a stand pipe for draining, and an inlet pipe during floods. At both times, it will be important to prevent erosion of the banks. Thus a couple feet of dirt above the culvert pipe. Am thinking an 8″ x 20 ft. piece of ABS plastic pipe.
Phase 3: Once the pipe is installed, and buried in the bank with a foot or two of quarry dirt, I can return to the south quarry gap area, and build up the bank another foot or so. And widen the bank, also. I’m hoping the pipe will help to maintain a foot or so more water in the quarry throughout the year.
Laid a piece of 2 x 6 across the mud, where the path should probably go. Not necessary once the mud has time to dry up a bit more. Pretty sticky there today.
Was pleased to get 15 ft. of the culvert pipe well bedded, and level. The dip in the north gap is well filled now. Covered just 10 ft. of the pipe so far, and only a little, but it looks better. Need to get another foot or more of dirt over the pipe, to keep it in place long term. But for now, the bank is 12–14 inches above the pipe inlet/outlet, so there should be much less erosion in the event of a small flood. The more dirt the better, so I’ll keep shoveling.
The “grand canyon” is getting pretty big, but should disappear after the first big rain. Looks a bit of a construction site now. Trees and grass on the bank will be a big help holding it together, and improving the look. There’s a lot of vegetation in the dirt I’m moving. Should green up in the spring. I forgot to bring along my bug spray yesterday, but didn’t have a single bug bite during the day.
Water level was higher, but only up 2 inches from the little bit of rain. Was 19 inches from water to inlet of pipe on Monday. Today it is only 17 inches from the creek water to the bottom of the pipe. If the creek rises by 18 inches from today’s level, we’ll start filling the quarry! And if the creek rises 32″ from today’s level, it will overflow the bank and fill the quarry faster. Let’s hope for a 20″ rise in the creek level, sometime in January, and a slow and steady rise in the quarry level.
I arrived at about 12:45, and left around 16:15 hrs. Got the pipe almost covered, and that was all I wanted to accomplish today. Enough dirt over it that it looks better, and hopefully won’t wash away on us. Leveling as I went. Could see that the water in the center of the quarry was slightly larger. And the dirt I’m taking from the “grand canyon” was a little wetter also. This is a stopping point, kind of. Stopping shoveling, anyhow. I need to bring up the cable puller, chains, and recovery straps, and move a few big rocks onto the banks at the south and north quarry gaps and in between. Once I build the banks up a bit more with large rocks, I will go back to shoveling. But I’ve a lot of work coming when I’m moving rocks, in the next session.
Last part of this job is just to raise the banks a foot or two more with dirt from the grand canyon. Will get it done by the end of the year, it it stays this dry! Won’t keep the floods from overflowing the banks, but the culvert pipe should help maintain a water level in the quarry and hopefully reduce some of the erosion. There are clumps of flood grass in the tree branches, 3 feet above the level of the banks at the north and south gaps.
Was quite nice down by the quarry today, shoveling. Bright sun and only a little breeze. I got about 4 hours in, and now have the south and north gaps adequately supported with dirt from the “grand canyon”. Not worried so much about them washing away. Or the culvert. Looks pretty good now.
The creek water was up today, but still about 12″ below the pipe inlet. I looked in the pipe, and it was dry. The grand canyon was full up to the lip, but it didn’t stop me from digging the dirt from there. Sloppy walking though, for sure. Could see that the grand canyon water was more than a foot below the level of the creek water. And the water out in the center of the quarry was 2″ below the grand canyon water.
While I’m happy to have the quarry water level be low at this point, when I’m finished building up the banks (Christmas?) I can set up a siphon and begin raising the water level in the quarry a bit that way. Good to siphon in creek water when the creek is carrying less silt and stuff. A day or two after a big rain would be better. Want to build the banks up a bit more north of the north quarry gap. It is the first point where water will go over the bank now…and the dirt is free. Not fun to move, but good exercise!
I started shoveling dirt up onto the bank at the north gap. Was thinking I’d just build up to the north of the north gap, but have been thinking about the path there. To get it flat and welcoming to someone hiking around the quarry, it should be level, and at least 3 feet wide. So I just built up the bank some more with that goal in mind, higher than the rocks, and relatively flat as the south gap part. I’d say that the condition of the bank is stabilized, but “not complete”. Will keep building the bank up as time allows, to level the path there.
Didn’t quite get the corner filled. Ran out of daylight. Really want to get the path across the top of the bank finished, so it is a pleasant walk all the way around the quarry. Will figure out a rope for a handrail, attached to the trees, as it is an uneven path still, and a drop on both sides, particularly the creek side. I’d like to move a big rock onto the north side of the gaps, to support the dirt better. Have moved the easy ones, so will have to be a little more ambitious about the next rock. I will sleep well tonight.
For the moment, let’s say you’re driving down a two-lane highway at night when, off to the side, your headlights pick up a misshapen bundle. You slow down to get a better look at whatever’s laying there, something that’s almost certainly dead, when, suddenly, part of the bundle shakes itself loose and skitters away into the dark…
Or it could be that there’s this cat that’s been hanging around and it’s pretty obvious that it’s had it more than a little rough. So, because you feel sorry for the poor wee thing, you’ve started leaving food out in a little dish by the back kitchen door. You hear it rustling around and turn on the light to give it a once over, see if there’s any improvement in its condition, only it’s not a cat, nothing like a cat, crunching down kibble. Nothing like a cat at all…
Or maybe it’s the night before garbage pick-up and you’re hauling the last bag out to the curb where you’ve already placed your recyclables and one half-full can. You reach for the lid, but it’s not in place. It’s lying, top-down, in the grass next to the can, and that’s odd because you’re more than kind of certain that you actually did put it in place before heading back to the house for that one last sack of trash. And that’s when you see it, furtive and menacing all at the same time, perched in the ripped-open Hefty bag at the bottom of the garbage can…
Whatever the scenario, what happens next is almost universal: you see those black eyes and all those sharp, glinting teeth in that gaping maw and your flight reflex kicks in. Before you’re even aware of turning, you’re burning rubber down the road, racing up the stairs, or dead-panic, brainless sprinting back to the house. And if your ears weren’t already full of the THUD, THUD, THUD of your own pounding heart, you know – I mean, you just know – that you’d hear it scrabbling along behind you, hissing and growling and keening for blood…
Except we’re not talking about some Jurassic Park raptor here, nor a great white shark or a freakshow hybrid of a government experiment gone awry, either. Nope. It’s an opossum – a Virginia opossum, to be precise – and it poses about as much threat to you as the neighbor’s Pomeranian. (You know, the one that they spritz with stink-pretty every other week after it’s been to the salon? The one that wears the pink Hello Kitty sweater as soon as the temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit? Yeah. That one.) So instead of chasing you down, that opossum’s busy either trying to put as much distance between the two of you as it possibly can, or making itself as small as possible, hoping against hope that you just won’t notice it.
Understand, I’m not saying that opossums can’t seem scary. They have more teeth than any other North American mammal and when their jaws are gaping wide in abject terror (yeah, mate, they’re positively terrified of you) it can be a little intimidating. But here’s the rub. Opossums aren’t predators. They’re scavengers, eaters of the dead and the overripe. See, they’re not interested in taking a bite out of you, unless, of course, you’re dead; in which case you have considerably bigger things to worry about than the chance that a wandering opossum just might stop in for a nibble.
So, no, opossums aren’t predatory, but they are seriously cool. They’re nomadic marsupials, have opposable thumbs on their back feet and they have prehensile tails. They’re the most primitive mammal in North America and, when threatened, “play possum.” The word “play,” though, is more than a bit misleading. It’s not a conscious act, not something that they choose to do. Nope, it’s something that happens to them when they get overexcited. Their hard drives crash and there’s absolutely nothing playful about a crashed hard drive.
Keep all this in mind the next time you scare up an opossum, because “scare,” my friends, is truly a matter of perspective.
Give Us a Hand and We’ll Give You a Shirt
If you’ve been following us for any time at all, you’ll know that, while we focus on assisting domestic animals, we also work with the occasional wild, but native, animal, as well. Most are just passing through, either on their way back to the wild or off to a rehab center. Sometimes, however, as with the two American crows and the Canada goose that live here, this is where they’ll stay from here on out. These native animals aren’t eligible for release, either because they have some physical defect that will prevent them from a successful return, or because they’ve developed a certain affinity for their most significant predator, humans. Such is the case with an opossum that recently came to us from Nature’s Nursery Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation Education.
They told us right up front that he seemed a bit on the friendly side, and he was. Even so, we treated him with the same distance as we treat all such animals we’re tasked with fostering. Several days ago, after nearly six weeks here at The Quarry Farm, we decided it was time to give him the opportunity to go it on his own. Sadly, rather than march off into the woods or even just into the tall grass near the banks of Cranberry Run, he decided to follow us back to the house.
After discussing the situation with the powers that be at Nature’s Nursery, it was decided that responsibility for him should be transferred to The Quarry Farm, where he will live out his days and serve as an ambassador of his kind to the folks who visit us here, on-site, and to those whom we visit in their classrooms.
But, Houston, we have a problem. We can’t seem to come up with a suitable name for him. We’ve labeled him a host of different monikers, but none of them have stuck. So we’re throwing it open and asking for help. The person who comes up with an appropriate name (and, yes, we’re the ones who decide what’s appropriate) will get a Quarry Farm T-shirt.
So, have at it, boys and girls, men and women.
And thanks. Here’s another quick study of the little guy, should that prove inspirational.
There are milestones in all lives: births, deaths, graduations, marriage, love. As much as this statement may sound like the prologue to a soap, these are the events that shape our lives. I’ve experienced all of the above and have to include another: chickens. I’m going to wait a few seconds while you take that in, get whatever comments you feel you have to make out of your system.
Everybody okay? May we move on?
Now I’ll say it again. As much as any other event in my life, chickens have helped to make me who I am, here and now. And, man, did I fight it.
It was Anne’s idea to get chickens, Anne’s and Rowan’s. I had … reservations. Many of them. They smell, right? They’re mean. They’re stupid. They’re noisy. They attract pests. The list was longer, but I’ve forgotten most of it. All of it was true in my head at the time and all of it, as it turns out, was wrong.
They came in a little box, delivered via USPS by our local mail carrier, Dorothy. There were sixteen of them. We had ordered fifteen, but somebody counted wrong or it’s the practice of the hatchery we ordered them from to throw in an extra. At any rate, there were sixteen Hubbard Golden Comet chicks in a little container that was half the size of a shoebox. We set them up in a storage tub in the house, dedicating a room to their safekeeping. They were tiny and yellow and fuzzy and cute and busy in their dedication to growing. I found myself fascinated and spent hours watching them, holding them, talking to them. We called them all Priscilla, each and every last one of them, and, yes, there’s a story there, but not one for the telling here, now. I discovered that all of the preconceived notions I had about chickens were, for the most part, wrong. Do chickens smell? Only because their living quarters aren’t properly maintained. If you keep their coop clean, smell isn’t an issue. Are they mean? They give what they get. If you treat them like property, like machines, and take, but never give, then yes, probably. I wouldn’t know for sure. The chickens here are friendly. Are they stupid? Well, they’re not going to be doing calculus any time soon, but, then, neither am I.
They presented us with no problems, no surprises, and eventually we moved them outside to a coop. I was still fascinated, spending hours with them, watching them live their lives. I discovered that, for me, they were more than fascinating, more than simply interesting observable phenomena. They brought me a degree of peace I’ve rarely experienced. They calmed me down. They made me think. They inspired me.
And now there are even more than there were to begin with. Big Girl, an Ameraucana, came to us through Nature’s Nursery. So did Audrey and Miss Kitty. Barbara, Karen, Nancy, Jeff, Ralph, Bernie and Sid all came to us from people looking to find a new home for birds they found they couldn’t handle. Most of these birds are still with us, ranging across the property and perching in the trees. Others haven’t fared as well.
Audrey was found wandering along Interstate 75 somewhere south of Toledo. She was so docile when I picked her up from the people that had found her that I honestly believe she’d have been content sitting in my lap for the hour-long drive home (she didn’t; I transported her in a dog kennel). She’d been debeaked. Most hatcheries offer this “service.” A hot wire is used to slice a chicken’s beak from its head. This is done while they are chicks. The idea is that irritable chickens that have been debeaked will do less damage to other nearby chickens and, I suspect, to the hands that feed them. On the downside, this practice can also lead to feeding difficulties and respiratory issues. Even so, Audrey was one of the most benign animals it has ever been my good fortune to meet. She was nearly always the first one to greet us in the morning and would come and sit in our laps. She established a relationship with Buddy, a miniature donkey that lives here, and would spend a part of her day riding around on his back. She lived with us for just over a year before she died.
Miss Kitty died yesterday, much to our sorrow. He (and, yes, Miss Kitty was a rooster, though we didn’t know that when we named him) was, we assume, a meat production bird. Initially we believed that he was a Catalana hen (hence Miss Kitty). It wasn’t until he started crowing that we suspected the truth. He grew extremely large extremely fast and, as a consequence, developed a host of physical issues. He was less than a year old when his body simply and finally failed. Over the last few days of his life, all of the hens cared for him. He was never alone, one of the girls was always nearby. They were warm days and dry, and he spent his time lying in the shade of a crabapple tree or under the branches of an elderberry.
And then there are the successes. Big Girl came from a pretty rough neighborhood near downtown Toledo. How she got there is anybody’s guess, but we know how she came to be here. She was rescued by an elderly man who drove off a group boys. They were menacing her with sticks and stones. He called Nature’s Nursery and Nature’s Nursery called us. She was nervous, at first, and maintained her distance. If you took a step toward her, she took a step away. She stayed that way for months. Now she’ll shift out of the way if it pleases her, otherwise we have to step around.
Bernie and Barbara and Karen were part of a flock that kept dwindling, their coop mates the victims of an undetermined predator. Ralph and Jeff were abandoned (Jeff because he crows twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and Ralph, I suspect, because he’s cock of the walk and not afraid to let you know it). While these two do lock horns, so to speak, they spend the bulk of their time pointedly ignoring one another. Sid was simply unwanted.
I suspect that our flock will grow again this year. I sincerely hope so, at any rate. I look forward to it. I gain far more from them than I give.
And I’m not just talking about eggs.
Sue Kreidler Frey shared these images that she captured on May 12 during the spring Photo Shoot and Sketch Walk. “My sister and I attended the PhotoShoot at The Quarry Farm today. We had a great time, and thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon. The Farm is a beautiful area – I loved all the farm animals too. I can’t wait to come back to take more pictures, and help pull the dreaded garlic mustard.”
Rita’s Garlic Mustard Pesto
• 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 2 garlic cloves
• 2 Tbl pine nuts (we use walnut pieces)
• 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, about 1 ounce
• 4 cups of garlic mustard leaves
Instructions: Place all of the ingredients except for the garlic mustard in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth, then add the garlic mustard a handful at a time, blending until all of the greens are incorporated and the pesto is smooth.
Two weeks ago, we received a call from an acquaintance on the east side of Findlay, Ohio. He’d found a female opossum at the side of the road near his home and she was still nursing a litter of babies. When we arrived, he led us to his old horse barn where he’d stashed mother and babies. The mother appeared to have been rolled by a car; she bore a series of scrapes and small lacerations and was favoring her right front leg. The little ones had their eyes open and were covered in a fuzz of short hair. We bundled her into a carrier and brought her home, called Nature’s Nursery Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation Education to let them know we’d picked up the family and set them up in a hutch just off our north deck.
Over the ensuing two weeks, we fed her a combination of dried cat food, soft cat food, apples, peaches, corn and duck eggs. Lots and lots of duck eggs. Once she began restlessly moving around the hutch, we decided it was time to cut her loose. Last night, we opened the hutch door and walked away, went about the business of entertaining ourselves on a Friday evening. Before calling it a night, we checked to see if they had indeed left, or if the amenities of the hutch were too much to take for granted. I was more than a little suprised to find the mother opossum gone, but her little ones still huddled in a corner of the hutch on the blanket we’d provided as bedding. We caught a glimpse of the adult as she moved away and into the tall grass in the bottomland below our house.
I was shocked. While the young opossums had grown considerably during their time here, they were still nowhere near ready to go it on their own. We waited by the door and watched to see if she’d return. She didn’t. Finally, too tired to maintain a vigil any longer, we shut the hutch door, locking the nine babies inside, and went to bed, disappointed and confused and more than a little heartsick.
This morning, a quick glance out the door showed the babies scrambling over the wire mesh of the hutch door. On the deck just outside the hutch and trying to figure out how to open the door was the mother. She barely reacted when I stepped onto the deck and still didn’t as I walked to the hutch, reached over her and pulled the pin that keeps the hutch door closed. The little ones scrambled out and found perches on their mother, who, after all of her little ones had climbed aboard, turned and, lumbering under their weight, climbed down off the deck and away.
I can only guess at what drove her off to begin with; there’s no shortage of nocturnal predators here. But I can say with certainty what brought her back. Call it instinct, if it suits you. “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
From The Quarry Farm to all mothers, thank you for your love, sacrifice and determination. Happy Mothers Day.
While this space (I’m having a very hard time using the word “blog”; it seems alien to me, like something out of a ’60s sci-fi novel) is designed primarily as a venue to talk about The Quarry Farm and its inhabitants, activities and progress, I want it to behave interactively, need input from elsewhere. Part of what I perceive The Quarry Farm to be is community. Not community in the it-takes-a-village sense, so much. But community in the reality that without interaction, there is no progress.
Because of the nature of things, perhaps the nurture of things, open access is out of the question. By that I mean that just a very few will have the ability to blog, do you grok? However, please, please feel free to comment and comment at length. Feel free to express yourself in whatever fashion seems appropriate. Having said that, and again because of the nature/nurture of things, there are RULES, albeit, very few. No strong language (and by that I mean anything your grandmother would deem inappropriate). And no hate speak. Not only is it unappreciated, it isn’t tolerated. One of the many cool things about the service through which this site is enabled is the ability to blacklist certain words and phrases. They simply won’t appear. We’ve kept the list small; very small. I don’t like censorship. If you feel the need to test it, feel free. But enough about this. I don’t want to dwell on the negative. Talk to me. Talk to us. But, please, be civil. And, again, enough.
Finally, be patient. I’m new at this. More, and hopefully more interesting, tomorrow.
For those of you unfamiliar with The Quarry Farm, we’re a small, nonprofit conservation farm and nature preserve located in Riley Township, Putnam County, Ohio, just about halfway between the villages of Ottawa and Pandora. It’s a family operation, as are most undertakings in this little corner of the state. Taking this whole adventure one step further, we’ve decided to start blogging; it seemed the likeliest avenue down which we should optimistically skip. In theory, at least. In fact? Well, that remains to be seen.
As this whole concept ultimately gelled, for me at least, around a small flock of reddish chickens … this, then, and I’ll bow out (for the moment):
red and purple sky
horned owls stir in cottonwoods
in the coop, silence