guess who came in for breakfast…

aphonse coming in This morning, after almost nine months on The Quarry Farm, one of the sanctuary’s potbellied pigs decided to expand his territory, see just what exactly makes the other side of the green door such a big deal. It took some coaxing, about an hour of Anne’s time, three apples, a banana and a handful or two of peanuts to get him all the way into the house, but, eventually, Alphonse took the plunge. Bob Barker, his father (at least, we’re pretty sure Bob’s his father; their similarities in appearance are uncanny), watched him slowly make his way in, while Beatrice (aka Little Pig) peered through the slats in her pen at all the goings-on.

Bob and Alphonse are two of the four pigs rescued from a horrific hoarding situation by representatives of the Humane Society of Allen County and the Allen County Sheriff’s office during the depths of last winter’s freeze. Their story isn’t groundbreaking news — we’ve talked about it repeatedly here — but their recovery is a source of joy for all acquainted with these two. Where Bob settled into a routine relatively quickly, Alphonse has retained near total independence, refusing most advances for even the simplest of interactions. And that’s reflective of what they found during his rescue. While none of the animals had adequate shelter, Alphonse, it seemed, had none at all. He was free of any pen, though the drifting snow had created some measure of confinement. He had worn deep alphonsetrenches in the snow and roamed the area within their confines. Following his rescue, he, Bob and Greta and Grits, the other two potbellies who now live on the top of a hill down in Kentucky, were sheltered at HSoAC. Even there, Alphonse was less interested in companionship than he was in regular meals. After all of the legal issues were dealt with and out of the way, Bob and Alphonse came here. After several months of living exclusively out-of-doors, Bob discovered the pleasures of clean floors, soft blankets and nearly constant access to treats. But Alphonse, not so much. He settled into the outbuilding we’d originally constructed for the turkeys and that’s where he stayed, quite content to keep his distance. Of all of us, Rowan had the best of luck with him, though maybe it’s better said that Alphonse has been much more tolerant of her than of any others. Routinely, she was the one permitted to touch him. So it was something of a shock when we noticed him standing on the front porch about three weeks ago, and this with Rowan off to college.

alphSince then, Anne has worked with him daily. Talking to him, coaxing him closer to the house, to the porch to the door. This morning, all that effort payed off and he stepped inside for the first time, possibly ever, anywhere. To prove to him that he was still autonomous, captain of his own ship, we let him back out almost immediately. After, that is, as many peanuts as he could eat in the space of three minutes. It wasn’t long before he was back at the door, asking to come in. And out again. And back in.

He’s back out, out and running wherever and doing whatever within the confines of the four acres that serve as sanctuary for him and the others…but now he knows.

Alphonse, shortly after arriving.

Alphonse, shortly after arriving.

The door is always open.

Summer is underway, and with it comes a newsletter

2014 Summer Newsletter.indd

Hot off the printer, as well as an upload, is The Quarry Farm 2014 Summer Newsletter. Lots to talk about, like the fact that The Quarry Farm Nature Preserve & Conservation Farm is a 501(c)3 public charity, and plenty of things coming up. Click on the cover at left, open and read away.

Hope you are able to jump in on the calendar and see for yourself.

doors and windows

Change is inevitable. It happens, sometimes precisely as we’ve designed. More often, though, it simply comes about on its own and without invitation. We’re obsessed with it, change, and have been for a very long time. Heraclitus, who died in 480 BC, said, “Nothing endures but change.” Well, what he actually would have said was, “τὰ πάντα ῥεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει,” which, more accurately translated, reads, ”Everything flows and nothing remains still.” But all things change, even quotes from ancient philosophers. So, what it boils down to, then, is how we approach change. There’s an old adage that, particularly recently for us here at The Quarry Farm, defines how we cope with all of that, how we accept this inevitability: when a door closes, a window opens.

Three weeks ago tomorrow, Gertie, the first pig to come and live here, died. She had uterine cancer and, tough as she was, it was time (if you missed her eulogy, such as it is, scroll back a couple of posts and you’ll find it). Three days later, The Quarry Farm received two new admissions: potbellied pigs from the Humane Society of Allen County. And it was only fitting that Bob Barker and Alphonse should come from there, since the HSoAC brought Gertie to us, as well.

Bob and Alphonse were among nearly fifty animals seized from a single site by the HSoAC on the coldest day of this past brutal winter. The conditions in which they were living were minimal at best. The pig we have come to call Alphonse was free of any pen, but still trapped within a maze of three-foot deep gullies he had worn in the accumulated snow. Of the pigs, Bob knew the worst of it. His only shelter was a fifty-gallon blue plastic barrel that was all but drifted shut. Megan McCoy, a friend and key member of the HSoAC staff, estimated that he’d been trapped in the barrel for days without food or water and was mired in his own excrement. He was terrified and starving and rather than force him to leave what little sanctuary he had come to know, deputies of the Allen County Sheriff’s Department and HSoAC staff members pulled Bob free from the drifting snow, barrel and all. It was only later, when they’d managed to transport him back to the HSoAC building, that Megan was able to encourage Bob to leave the barrel and take up temporary residence in one of the organization’s cleaning rooms. Weeks later, once the case had worked its way through the courts and the HSoAC had acquired legal custody of the animals, Bob and Alphonse were moved here.

Alphonse, shortly after arriving.

Alphonse, shortly after arriving.

Alphonse is a bit ticklish about company, less inclined to share space. He has his own fenced-in area, along with a shelter house and an igloo, adjacent to The Quarry Farm’s goose pen. The fence is there to keep others out, not Alphonse in; pigs, we have learned, are found of a space they can call their own. In fact, insofar as Alphonse is concerned, the fence may as well not even exist. He comes and goes as he pleases, slipping through a small space in one corner when he has an itch to explore and root and generally run rampant. Then, when it’s time to eat or sleep or simply get away from the other residents here, he reverses course and slips back in.

Bob on his kitchen bed.

Bob on his kitchen bed.

Bob, on the other hand, while still somewhat gruff, prefers his digs a bit cushier. There are several mounds of blankets and pillows within our home that Bob calls his bed: in a hallway, in the sun by our kitchen door and, his favorite, in Rowan’s room. He’s also not shy about borrowing the beds of his housemates, should the mood take him. The one exception to his marauding ways is with anything that belongs to Beatrice. Though we fondly call her Little Pig, she’s anything but, and Bob made the mistake of strutting in and presenting himself as the macho male. While that worked for him initially, Little Pig quickly let him know all about women’s suffrage and the proper way to treat a lady. The two now grudgingly share space, though it’s best if there’s a fence between them.

There we have it, then. Change, best put in this case, though it is still painful to think of it, by: The King is dead, long live the King. Or kings.

Or pigs.

Postscript: The two other pigs seized at the same time as Bob and Alphonse haven’t been abandoned. Friends of The Quarry Farm (and Anne’s cousins), Bruce and Beth and their daughter Erin, have agreed to take them in. The pigs’ names are Greta and Grits and we expect to make a day trip down to their forever home sometime this month. Eight chickens were transferred  here shortly after their rescue. One, a large white rooster, died within a week of his arrival. The other seven are living large as part of the free-ranging Quarry Farm flock. The ducks all found homes on property where they had access to ponds, while the horses and ponies were welcomed in by equestrian families. As for the dogs, they’re all in residence at the HSoAC. For more information, visit their website: While you’re visiting, please consider supporting their efforts. The work they do is important, necessary and under-appreciated.


Thank you, Whale Eyes

Gertie, shortly after arriving at The Quarry Farm.

Gertie, shortly after arriving at The Quarry Farm.

In February of 2012, shortly after Anne and I came to the conclusion that we shouldn’t take on pot-bellied pigs at The Quarry Farm, we took on our first pot-bellied pig. Such is the way of things. “No, never,” has a way of morphing into, “Absolutely. Today? Bring her on over.”

She came to us by way of the Humane Society of Allen County. They, in their turn, came to have her by way of the Lima Police Department, who called the good people at HSoAC when they found Gertie and a number of other animals huddled around the body of the woman with whom they had lived for all of their lives. There was nothing nefarious about her death; she was simply an elderly woman whose passing left a host of animals bereft and homeless.

When she arrived here, Gertie was understandably morose. The only home she had ever known was gone, as were all of her companions, and she was in the company of strangers. We built her a shelter, her own pen, under the stairs that lead between the first and second floors of our home. We lined it with blankets and that is where she insisted on staying, pushing her head out of a cocoon of fabric just long enough to eat and drink. She slept 22 out of 24 hours, ranging out only when we forced her out, hauling her kicking and screaming from her sanctuary, out the front door and down a ramp we had constructed just for her, using a blanket as an improvised sling. While she was housebroken, this was no house she recognized. So, three times a day, this was our routine. Until, that is, the day she stood at the gate to her pen, waiting. She walked out on her own that day, out and through the front door and down the ramp, grumbling the whole way. Pigs are intelligent animals, intelligent and sensitive, and Gertie was a pig’s pig. It took her all of three days to work out her new situation, despite having had her world turned upside down.

001Gertie’s state of mind was only the first in a litany of issues that threatened her well-being. Though it was apparent that Gertie was loved in her first home, there were fundamental areas of care that had long been neglected. She was grossly overweight, weighing in at nearly 200 pounds when she first stepped through our door. And that was the least of her physical problems. Despite their infamous cloven hooves, pigs move about much like horses or donkeys or goats: that is to say, on their toes. Gertie’s toenails, her hooves, had never been trimmed, not once in the estimated seven years she’d been alive. Instead of walking on the tips of her toes, her hooves, extending out over a foot from each toe, forced her to move about on the pads of her feet. It took nearly two years to whittle her hooves back to the point where she could even approximate a normal posture.

001Anne and Gertie made friends fairly quickly, though even Anne had trouble at first; Gertie charged her the first time they met. She was much slower with the rest of us. It took her the better part of six months to accept me and even then usually only when I was in the kitchen, and it was nearly a full year before she came to accept her new place as home. I have no doubt that the introduction of Beatrice, better known as Little Pig, played a role in Gertie’s recovery. A new companion with whom she could see eye to eye finally gave us all the opportunity to meet the being with whom Anne was already familiar.

Gertie and Beatrice

Gertie and Beatrice

I’m stymied now. There are a million anecdotes that I want to share, but the details are gone. What I do remember is her expression. She went from guarded and flat to completely open, no matter her mood. Mostly, she was amused — at us, at what she had just done, at the antics of the other animals in the house — and it showed up in her eyes. Anne referred to them as whales’ eyes: expressive and deep. Though already thin, a few months ago Gertie started losing weight. Ulcers began to bloom on her sides and on the ridges of her spine. Dr. Kathleen Babbitt, Gertie’s doctor, diagnosed uterine cancer. On Tuesday, we took her in for one last visit, then brought her shell home and laid it in her favorite sunning spot.

I’m confident that the stories will come back, but even without them, I’m blessed. I’ll always have her expressions.

Gertie's happy face

Gertie’s happy face