falling sounds

20170910_165648The old stone quarry has changed a lot over 150 years, from not being there at all to a horse-drawn limestone operation, from spring-fed fishing hole to wetland. Black willows and other water-loving trees and plants grow there now. Wood ducks, wild turkeys, owls, squirrels, tree frogs and herons roost high above the banks. They see you before you even know they are there, falling silent or bursting from the branches in a great show of chatter or feathers.

One tree leaned at the northwest shore for as long as I can remember. My Gran said she used to make a blanket nest for Uncle Keith in its roots while the family fished for bluegill. The tree lived its life, watching two- and four-leggers wear a path below.20170910_172736

20170910_170849 (1)Last weekend the dogs and I found the tree in pieces. The path is strangely open now. Stick-tights thrive in the open sunlight, laying waste to another pair of shorts and leaving the future of my t-shirt in doubt as well. Thankfully, jewelweed grows nearby to stop the burr itch. I wonder if the wild ginger will move to shade further along the bank.

The tree’s fall was a long time coming. Not long after the tree died over a decade ago, its bark weathered away. Dad parked his ATV next to the tree to take photographs of the butterflies, dragonflies and other insects that perched on the smooth trunk. Walking the path sent wildlife running in every direction. The putt-putt of the ATV didn’t. From the driver’s seat, Dad filmed an ichneumon wasp, its long ovipositor extended into a woodpecker’s drill work.

We still have the photos, as well as Dad’s drawings of the wasp. The sketch was one of several used on a poster about beneficial insects. The illustrations are a reminder how nature and art are linked. Here on these 50 acres and beyond invisible parcel lines, the native arts must be nurtured as much as the first grasses and plants that secure this watershed.

Click, look and listen.20170909_183949

 

Living from the dead

Four years and six days ago, we watched a wall of white march across the field, a roaring mass that stretched from north to south as it blew southeast. We weathered the June 29, 2012 derecho from a basement window, watched the trees bend and debris fly over their tops.IMG_1532

In the end, several hardwoods fell on the nature preserve. Only a few fell over trails, so the others remained where they fell to provide habitat and host. We lost more pines than anything, their shallow foundations not suited to the soil and winds here. Four years later, the Fourth of July weekend provided the right conditions for us to break up the dried pine and safely burn.IMG_1533IMG_1540

We moved the brush to cleared ground, shaking loose pill bugs, millipedes and a garter snake that is blind as it prepares to shed a worn skin. Old stumps were broken up to make way for school bus parking. A cluster of mottled gray fingers clutched the base of one; a toe pointed skyward against another. I’ve never seen fungi Dead Man’s Fingers in the flesh before today. Makes the delicate jewelweed blooming in the floodplain that much more brilliant in contrast–but what a thing to see.

Looking for White Cat

We’ve been busy here. You’ve been busy there, wherever your ‘there’ may be. So much going on that, like me, you are in danger of missing the gold-tinged greens and amethysts of ebbing August, at least as it is here on the Quarry Farm.

I did almost miss it. We have caught a smattering of the sunsets, the kind that include that frosted-animal-cookie pink. But any noticing has been as we walked past a window or distributed hay to Buddy, Marsh and S’more or put the hens to bed. Then one of us left a door unhinged enough that Beatrice opened the front door and let the cat out.

Although we do have several cats, it was White Cat that slipped out. White Cat is deaf as are many white male cats. While there are plenty of dashing, flying and sparkly sorts of things in the outside to entertain a house cat, there are even more along Cranberry Run and in a 50-acre woods that will feast on feline. One that can’t hear a predator approach is especially vulnerable. So we looked high and low for White Cat. And as we did, we caught late summer.

Wild plums ripen

The wild plums are ripening on the nature preserve. Some hang at eye level beside the rich yellow Jerusalem artichokes and purple ironweed on the stream bank. Most plums are rose gold, but some are beginning to flush to mauve. For the first time, Steve will be able to make wild plum preserves to sell at the Quarry Farm table at the Farmer’s Market. (Warning: shameless plug for funding ahead.) Reserve your jar now through the Gift Shop!

Jewelweed, nature’s cure for the maddening itch imposed by poison ivy, is in bloom in the floodplain. The algae growth that plagues Cranberry Run, as well as most of Northwest Ohio’s waterways, is camouflaged by shimmers of sunlight that ignite the riffles. Higher up, the sun itself glows through the tired summer leaves, although the sunlight is cooling from the white hot of June and July. Better and better.

Bushel gourd on the vine

Down low, bushel gourds swell under huge vine leaves. Recent rains have brought on a good crop. The leaves have already been used this summer in a stepping stone workshop. More will be made before the vines wither in frost. The chickens and Johnny the Canada goose find this ground-level search fascinating, especially since disturbed vines yield fat, juicy crickets.

Wounded White Cat and Birdy nose

Even lower, under Buddy’s barn, White Cat is found. The roosters knew he was there; it just took the obtuse humans two days to figure it out. He has earned himself a gash under one eye and a limp, injuries probably inflicted by Buddy. Back in the house, White Cat is thoroughly sniffed before he settles himself in for a good grooming. Outside, the finches and field mice can peacefully ready themselves for the cold months. We will remember to notice.

Happy Trails

Carrying tussie mussies

Although the air is hot and dry and the fields are gasping, this same daytime heat and cool nights kept the mosquitoes at bay long enough for Ottawa Elementary third grade to spend some time on The Quarry Farm before summer vacation begins. Teachers Kelly Nienberg and Vicki Otto blazed the trail for what we hope will be many field visits by local schools.

We only had this group for an hour and a half, but while they were here they made fresh, fragrant tussie mussies of mints, lavender, rose and oregano. Also called nosegays or posies, tussie mussies are small bunches of flowers or aromatic herbs that have been given as gifts since Medieval times. ‘Nosegay’ is probably the best label, because they likely gave the recipient something to bury their nose in to hide the fact that the giver (and themselves) didn’t bathe very often.

Posing on the porch of Red Fox Cabin

After tussie mussies were stored for the bus ride back to school, kids, teachers and chaperones walked down the hill and up the hill along floodplain streambank, meeting Nigerian dwarf goats Marsh and S’more and Buddy the donkey along the path as the trio worked their day jobs eating invasive plant species. They watched and heard bullfrogs, leopard frogs and Blanchard’s cricket frogs (unless the frogs saw them first) and sampled wild strawberries.

Mama Woodduck

Some caught a glimpse of a mother woodduck as she fled the scene. They saw the difference between poison ivy and Virginia creeper. They learned that nature provides a cure for many of its thorns, like sowing anti-itch, astringent jewelweed right next to poison ivy.

Cookies and lemonade cooled all hikers as they gathered off the porch of Red Fox Cabin. Some bundled fresh garlic from the cabin gardens to take home. Someone even snacked on a garlic bulb (we know because we found it, bite out and all.) Before boarding their bus, the students presented a donation to help support The Quarry Farm. We hope they come back and see what comes of their good works.