Click on the newsletter cover posted here to download your copy of the Spring 2019 Newsletter. Read about what has happened here on The Quarry Farm this winter as well as the Programs & Events that we have scheduled for the next few months. Watch our Facebook page, too, for announcements, fast facts, and photos.
It took the dregs of July, the last real rain to percolate through the cracked ground, to get us through three weeks of no rain. A mustard haze hovered over the corn field across the road. Any bit of breeze brushed it into the water pans and left a brown coating on grass that was already crispy. Water in the cabin rainbarrel was conserved used sparingly.
In the floodplain, Cranberry Run didn’t run. Darters, minnows, crayfish and blue gill duked it out in pools, the survivors left to feed the great blue herons by day and raccoons by night.A week ago, rain–rain we needed so very much–came and went, leaving fungi of all sorts sprouting and the rainbarrel full. The drought dried up the mosquito swarms, leaving perfect conditions for outdoor art workshops. There’s no better time to paint in watercolors than when water drips from the eaves of the shelterhouse, eh?
On August 20, we dug through the kitchen cupboard, the garden and its edges to pool a palette of natural pigments with which to paint still lifes and landscapes. The Saturday class includes individuals from right here in Putnam County to a Tennessee visitor. Using rich colors derived from paprika, turmeric, blueberries and poke berries (plus black coffee, something that’s part of every workshop here), participants developed pieces lush with late summer color. Store-bought paints were also available and most everyone washed the first layer of a second work.
There were visitors of different species, including an unidentified caterpillar and two haywagons-full of riders shuttled by neighbor Daryl Bridenbaugh. When paints were put away, the creative mood was still fresh. Board President Laura shared a slurry of shredded, soaked paper, mixed in some concrete plus a little dab of this and that so those that could stay onsite could make papercrete containers.
On this last day of August, one pot has traveled home to North Carolina while the others are still drying in Ohio. Instead of yellow dust, there is fog.
And it’s raining.
Last week’s rain really brought out the frogs and fungi. It also made for lovely photos, with many fauna raindrop- and puddle-jumping from path to flora.
Then the sun came out. It was like a shade was raised, drawing life toward the light.
And winter undercoat from Lucy.
It’s raining again today and the clouds, wet and call-for-thunderstorms are not due to clear until Friday, just in time for a visit from the third grade students from Pandora-Gilboa Elementary School. Emma is sure to take photos in between activities. We hope she shares the frames.
Ruddy gold turned gray
Light rain muddled brown with green
Yet filled cars still came
Haikus aside, who needs sunshine when you can turn a garbage bag into a raincoat, there are cookies in the pavilion and a lit fireplace in Red Fox Cabin?
The rain meant that the raptors couldn’t stay. T-shirts weren’t painted since days-ahead of rain would keep them wet. But cars still arrived on Road 7L for today’s Family Day. Thank you to all who helped get the word out. We’ll do this again in June, while the wildflowers still bloom.
Everyone has stuff to do. Some of us are list makers, like Quarry Farm Board President Laura. Others have swirls of snippets of chatter spinning through their brain, like yours truly. Or little notes jotted on the backs of envelopes stuffed in the glove compartment, drawers and/or stacked on the kitchen table (again, fingers pointing right back.) Here on The Quarry Farm, there is always so much to do. Water tubs and buckets to clean and refill, food to prep and food bowls to juggle, hungry potbellies to restrain, hinnying donkeys to brush, and buildings to clean, rinse and repeat. This year, we have buildings to paint. And that’s just in the farm animal sanctuary. In the gardens of Red Fox Cabin, the long wait for nature to prevail over invasives is one which has yet to be won. But Nature is making headway, with a little help from her friends. After years of solarizing beds and hand-picking beetles rather than spraying and dusting, has allowed natural insect predators to get a foothold. The gigantic rainbarrel that collects droplets from the roof of Red Fox Cabin is almost always full for the watering. But those of us who currently ‘mind the store’ rarely have the opportunity to check everything off our wish list. Last Saturday — that golden day — we got to pen a whole host of checkmarks. About a month ago, I received an email from William Schumacher. I first met Bill when an Ohio Department of Natural Resources co-worker suggested that the man, an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency employee, might be willing to lend his expertise as a soil science presenter at a teacher workshop I was planning. It turns out that actually wasn’t the first time that I met Bill. He and his brothers Joe and Dan grew up along the opposite bank of Riley Creek. We rode the same school bus and developed the same love for nature while walking the creeks, pastures and woods. Getting back to that email. Although Bill and his brothers no longer live nearby, they remember. They remember the fish that swam in Riley Creek and the pasture that their dad tended for years. And they’ve seen what happened to the creek when that floodplain pasture was plowed and subsequently eroded. They like the clear waters of Cranberry Run that flow through The Quarry Farm on their way to the Riley, so much so that Bill offered up his helping hand as well of those his wife Carol and their teenaged daughters and sons. Since his brother Joe was flying in from South Dakota and his brother Dan would also be up from the Dayton area, why, they could bring up their tools and pitch in to help us out, too. Boy, did they ever. When Sophie the potbelly pig arrived here last month, she was so overweight that she couldn’t walk, much less be spayed. In less than eight hours, we had a new wooden fence in the quarantine area where Sophie is now dieting. The butterfly gardens were weeded of quack grass, with straw down between the rows. Bill had dug and walled a kidney-shaped raingarden off the north gable of the cabin. Dan had led a crew along the south end of the Cranberry, clearing windfall from the path and cutting a big dent in bush honeysuckle along the way. Words cannot sufficiently express our gratitude to the Schumachers. Instead, I’ll let the impressions of some of our youngest visitors say it for me. These drawings just arrived in the mail, sent to us by the third grade class from Pandora-Gilboa Elementary School following a day spent here on May 8. Those kids are one of the greatest reasons why we do what we do, so that these creeks, pastures and woods, as well as the nonhumans that share it, will mean as much to them as they did to much younger Bill, Joe, Dan and me. Still do.
There’s a story that makes the rounds every autumn on farms and in fields, and especially here on The Quarry Farm, about the generosity and beneficence of The Great Pumpkin, who rises from the pumpkin patch some time during the month of October and gifts all the good chickens and ducks and donkeys, turkeys and geese and goats and pigs with succulent orange orbs packed full of seeds and strings and goo. And while it’s rumored that the legend of The Great Pumpkin is born of humans, that particular mindset gains little acceptance on the farm, for it’s as the goats say, Humans spend most of their brainpower just maintaining their balance. And for the few that still might think otherwise, the donkey’s argument always prevails, one which he delivers in the most solemn of voices: Schulz, or no Schulz, Peanuts are for eating.
This year, as in years past, the residents here all waited anxiously as the month wore on, staring to the south for a sign of His (though some say Her) coming. Baskets of apples were delivered and pears by the bucketful and truckloads of zucchini and they were greatly appreciated, certainly, and swallowed down to the very last seed. But of The Great Pumpkin, there was no sign. October came and went and…
It’s just as we thought, the geese cried. Great Pumpkin, piffle. Great Poppycock is more like it. To which comment there was general agreement, particularly among the fowl (birds of a feather, you know). The goats made do, browsing the trees and bushes. Buddy, the donkey, cropped grass and chewed hay and if, occasionally, he seemed a bit tearful, nobody said a word. Little Pig, though, kept her own counsel and spent a good bit of each day off alone, walking along the southern fence line, eyes on the horizon, waiting.
And so it was that Little Pig was the first to see him: The Great Pumpkin, sitting in the cab of his red and silver pickup truck and towing along behind him a veritable mountain of pumpkins. A whole week late, he was, the first full week of November having past, but those that live here on The Quarry Farm are quick to understand simple truths: Time is fluid and Better late than not at all, not to mention All that matters is what matters in the end, especially when it’s pumpkins in the end.
The Great Pumpkin pulled in through the gate and up the stone drive before stopping and hopping down from his perch. To either side of the squash-laden wagon he threw the great round balls of sheer joy. The pumpkins bounced and broke and spilled their treasure of seeds and strings and slippery orange goo.
Heaven! Little Pig shouted. Slippery orange heaven!
The pumpkins flew and flew and still they flew and, finally, when the ducks and chickens and turkeys and geese and goats and donkey and pigs were certain that he had finished, when the blue and gray sky was no longer streaked with orange, what they heard him say made them all stop and stare.
How ‘bout if I just leave the wagon, The Great Pumpkin said. I won’t need it again ‘til spring.
They all looked to the wagon and it was heaped with pumpkins, mounded with pumpkins, buried in pumpkins as if not a single one had ever soared and fallen and broken and exploded in great gouts of seeds and strings and (heavenly) slippery orange goo.
The Great Pumpkin fiddled about a bit at the front of the wagon and then hopped into his red and silver truck.
Give a shout when you’re through, they all heard him say. No hurry, though.
The Great Pumpkin waved as he pulled away and through the gate, moving south until he’d disappeared from sight. Every duck and chicken, goose and turkey, donkey and goat and pig thanked him a big thanks before tucking into their chosen pumpkin. And if Little Pig was a bit greedy, if she pushed aside a goose or three to suckle at the slippery orange goo, nudged out of her way a chicken or a turkey or a duck, well, then, maybe she could find forgiveness in the eyes of those who keep the faith, in the hearts of those who believe.
Special thanks to Dave and Jane Hilty, who are this year’s Great Pumpkins at The Quarry Farm.
Things here at the Quarry Farm are as they are everywhere else it seems. We’re cold, we’re trying to keep warm, and we’re trying to keep everyone else warm. The drifts at the start of the drive are at least four feet deep and the wind persists in howling. The auxiliary heat in the house has kicked up and we humans, when not caring for the animals, are glued to our books and Netflix, covered in layers of dogs and cats and they in turn are covered in blankets and pillows.
Outside, the turkeys are in with Johnny and Andy (Canada goose and duck), the chickens reside in their henhouse, the pygmy goats are staying in their shed, and Buddy and the goats are huddled together beneath their own roof. So far, we have kept everyone alive.
This cold is dangerous, as the weathermen and sheriff departments keep telling us. The pigs almost flat-out refuse to go outside—bellowing and pushing backward until we’re able to shove them out the door. Lolly, our bulldog mix, has so little fur to cover her skin, and so it makes the cold that much worse for her. On her first outing she ran out and right back in, but on her second go, she went around to the side of the house, became too cold, and huddled crying beneath the hutch off the side deck. She had to be carried back in the house.
It is Buddy, however, that has made us worry. He made it through the night, which we worried about, but he is still here. However, as you can see, he is sporting a new look. Quite fetching, I believe.
Our neighbors across the road just plowed out our drive. We saw them start to, but were on a mission to look after another house with animals, so a quick thank you by waving was all that was conveyed. I shouted a thank you across the road when we returned home, but they had already retreated to the warmth. So we shall have to thank them properly later. When it is warmer.
To all: I hope your days in the snow storm have been at least slightly comfortable. Good luck for the rest of the duration!