Kings of the mountain

IMG_1622The mountains of Ohio are some distance from here: the highest point is an hour’s drive near Bellefontaine and the Appalachian foothills two hours more to the southeast. The Quarry Farm does house a valley and blue clay walls rise west above Cranberry Run, but the floodplain levels out east for some distance before it marches back up to the ridge trail and the grassland.

The point is that it’s pretty flat on the edge of the Great Black Swamp, just before land starts to pitch and roll a bit. There aren’t many climbing opportunities apart from trees and playground equipment. There certainly aren’t for goats, and most do love a good climb.

So Rowan brought a climb to them. She research designs and materials. She bookmarked wooden platforms with ramps and towers made of giant cable spools. IMG_1610She frowned a lot when I said that head butting and a large pig would probably bash any kind of platform to bits, but she held her ground. She revised her plans, rounded up tractor tires, dug and chipped free sub-baked soil to fill them and created a goat mountain at the edge of the former paddock. There’s also an arch for head-scratchingIMG_1632

IMG_1623After all the hard work and sweat, no one showed any interest in playing on the new station–not in May or June or into July, until this evening when I pulled through the gate and saw Mister Bill gazing out over the hillside from the highest level. He must have got the ball rolling because Martigan tried it out,too…after Billy left the vicinity.

Steamed heat

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If you look very closely, in the middle and toward the top of this photo, you’ll see a Canada goose cutting a ‘v’ through a temperate rainforest river. That’s our Johnny, and her river cruise was the second in one month that she and the other three Quarry Farm geese took before the river receded into the banks of Cranberry Run, beyond the fence.

Late June and July heat baked the slick coating of flood silt to the ironweed, wild roses, sedges, and other floodplain plants. Now the hens and geese chase insects born from the ooze, at least until the latest downpour fills the lowland again. Probably will happen this evening.

Until then, here’s Carlton, cooling his jets.

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And speaking of cooling off, I had one of those conversations yesterday. A colleague has a theory that canals will solve the nitrate problems which, combined with phosphate-loaded runoff, are contributing to harmful algal bloom in Ohio waterways, the Great Lakes, and pretty much everywhere else within driving distance.

“You know, the canal systems that Ohio had? That was some of the greatest engineering, and it was only just getting started when they fell into disrepair. A good series of canals could just carry those nitrates on out to the deep sea where the phytoplankton could eat them.”

Me: What?

“Yes, they drained the swamps because you couldn’t get through and those canals took the erosion away [or something like that] and canals take nitrates away. When the canals were abandoned, we started having all those nitrate issues.”

Me: (sputtering) Do you know what else used to be here, before they were cut down to make canals? Trees. Ohio was covered with trees.

“There were not. This was swamp. Trees don’t grow in that kind of soil.”

Me: I want you to read this book called The Trees by Conrad Richter. It’s part of a trilogy. The next book is called The Fields, after they cut the trees down. Then there’s The Town, which is what we have now. It’s fiction — you’ll like it.

Then there are these:

http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/pubs/rmap/rmap_nrs4.pdf

http://forestry.ohiodnr.gov/history

11665775_10207215345292838_2227007993138597814_nThe scary part is that this person has a college degree.

Deep breath.

Here’s Beatrice. She makes sense.