The last time students from Ohio Northern University (ONU) spent part of Ada Community Engagement Day, or ACE Day, at The Quarry Farm, COVID-19 wasn’t a household word. The word ‘pandemic’ prompted grainy images of people wearing masks and schools, theaters and businesses shuttered worldwide in 1918 because of Spanish flu.
Super Dave Seitz hadn’t yet taken on invasive bush honeysuckle in the nature preserve. The first incoming ONU freshman who volunteered here as part of the ACE Day tradition lopped and hauled honeysuckle from the western bank of Cranberry Run. Then Dave began his frequent pilgrimages from Columbus and rocketed our invasive-clearing program 10 years ahead of schedule. So when the ONU ACE Day committee asked if we had any projects for participants of their 10th school year—one with a return-to-normal beginning—we jumped at the chance to host a building-painting crew.
Two of the farm animal sanctuary outbuildings are over 100 years old. They are solidly framed structures that were donated to us as long as we moved them from their original sites. In their current function for storage and henhouse, they are subject to lots of perching, head-and-tail scratches, snout rubs, and general body flopping (often with a fresh splash from a mud wallowing.) They both needed a good coat of best paint to prolong their structural integrity and general all-around sightliness.
Ten people came and went to work. The morning was coolish and sunny so the animals were ever-present. Paint cans and brushes were lofted to keep curious bills, beaks and muzzles out. Silkie the Donkey insisted on being a third wheel—rather, a second head atop a shoulder—and had to be encouraged to move along. The Canada geese wrestled with paint can lids and drips. Bruce the Bronze Turkey kept one young man very close company by planting himself directly behind his knees.
“He’s like a shadow or a ghost,” said one person. I explained that Bruce had claimed a new human friend and was making sure that turkeys Edgar and Bernard knew it.
In just an hour and a half, both buildings were covered except for the highest peaks and one big pig-sized full-bodied mud rub and a snout print. One person was surprised that goats weren’t “more involved”. Other than a few shirt-sleeve nibbles, the bovids were interested but unaffected by the whole procedure.
“This was the best site,” commented the ONU faculty who worked alongside the Polar Bear undergrads. “After a long week, ‘Painting with Animals’ was very therapeutic.”
Storm clouds gathered and spilled an hour after the ONU van drove south down 7L. The rain was not quite strong enough to wash Nemo’s nose-and-thigh art from the buildings, but there’s a solid slather of paint beneath to seal the old hardwood for good long time.