Global Big Day 2020

Orchard oriole

May 9 is the biggest day in birding this year. As it’s just 9:30 p.m., it still “is” even though the wind tonight is wild and wooly and no self-respecting owl is going to land in the bowed cottonwood outside the window before midnight.

Female cardinal

I don’t know birds. Rather, I have met a few and we got along well. I could pick them out in a crowd. But I don’t recognize many wild birds by call or even by sight unless they are posing neatly at eye level. For the blessed luck and good of all, Deb Weston is a frequent Quarry Farm flyer who helps us see beyond the cardinals, chickadees and house finches at the bird feeders and into the high canopy for warblers, kinglets and other birds who are presently passing through these parts.

Black-throated blue warbler

Not that there is anything less than splendid about the birds we are most familiar with. Deb shared a stunning shot of a fluorescent-beaked female cardinal gathering nesting material from a clutch of honey locust thorns. On the same day, however, she photographed a black-throated blue warbler perched on a rope of grapevine. Along the way, she digitized an orchard oriole singing it’s heart out and a mourning cloak butterfly. Because butterflies are seemingly as confused by climate change as humans are, they are arriving here or emerging from their winter quarters with no food in sight. When Deb shared the butterfly photo, it was a sight for sore eyes.

Mourning cloak butterfly

Just as nature around the world is reveling in the cleaner air and water that’s a result of human lockdown, wild things are going about their business unimpeded here in the Back 40. On Friday night a small group of Girl Scouts spread out along the trails to earn their trailblazing badges. As they climbed out of the Riley Creek floodplain toward the grass prairie, two large fluffy feathered great horned owl fledglings bobbed in a black walnut at eye level. Their parent murmured a short distance away, waiting for us to move along our earthbound way.

Check out eBird for a complete list of bird species identified here on The Quarry Farm.

Giving thanks trailside

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A mossy find

Qarie Marshall offered a sunny weather radio forecast for Thursday—“Turkey Day.” I’m counting on Aunt Paula’s cheesecake and Mom’s mashed red potatoes, with the ruby skins liberally integrated.

Every day is Turkey Day here. Max the Bronze is the current guardian of the farm animal sanctuary flock. Visitors have frequently lost the contents of their pockets to bronze Buttercup. Their wild relatives sway in summer night breeze, perched high in tree tops like giant fruit. They chortle and murmur in the daytime, hidden from predatory eyes in the thickest thickets. A stray feather occasionally makes its way into the Putnam County Master Gardeners’ pollinator patch.

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Cool hat…missing boots

Saturday, we stretched our legs in thanks for a late morning hike. Elisha broke in a new pair of Trespass boots shipped from the UK. His mom Esther shared her lovely Irish accent and details about the clothing line, including the fact that Trespass makes water-resistant onesies.

Type ‘Ohio’ into the company website’s ‘Find a Store’ widget and you get Galway (eh…only 3,426.94 miles away.) Still, the “No Child Left Inside” movement would benefit from a line of puddle-jumping ware.

So, apparently, would my child. Home on holiday, she took off her rubber knee boots (“They’ll get wet, Mom”) to wade in the chilly quarry wetland with a seine in hand. She caught a sample of snails, a beetle and a fingernail clam for us to see. The clam was the size of the second smallest hiker’s pinkie finger. 20181117_112005

The smallest hiker of all slept through the walk, swaddled in his mother’s walking fleece.20181117_105059

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Fungi suspended over autumn leaves

The sun brought out the color in what leaves still hung on the trees. We used honeysuckle walking sticks to traverse downed leaf matter. We gathered a few Osage oranges before the ghosts of mammoths could lay claim to them. I thought I saw a shrike in the back 10 acres. Maybe we’ll see his/her larder—voles impaled on hawthorn spikes—during the 2019 Great Backyard Bird Count.

We saw tracks. They crossed our path in wallows and licks and fur clinging to branches. There were hoof marks, short and long bird toe prints and thin drag lines. The turkeys left the latter two for us to find, surely watching us from a distance that would keep them whole beyond Thursday’s feast.

Bridging confused seasons

This week’s April morning snow reminded me that the mucks will likely occupy a place on the door mat beside the sandals, probably for a double-digit number of days. The garden hose thawed in 80°F last Friday. Resting water froze again on Saturday. There is a groundhog somewhere who predicts eight more weeks of hauling water buckets.

We grouse about layers of sweaters, vests and coats, socks and boots. We never know what to tell visitors to wear, so we just tell them, “Come prepared for the weather. There will be hot chocolate or lemonade.” Pigs Nemo and Carlton have done their winter worst, rooting three acres of soil so that the pastures resemble a mine field. If this didn’t happen every year, we would despair of the unsightly furrowed ground.

“We’ll never be able to fix this,” commented Steve on the first spring with multiple pigs in the farm animal sanctuary. We stood on the front porch and despaired over upturned soil, bare of green grass and treacherous for foot traffic. A month later, after the first mow, the grass was green and patches of Grandpa Seitz’s bird’s-foot trefoil bloomed on the hillside. The garden was remarkably free of Japanese beetles. We realized that the pigs had feasted on more grubs than shoots. Now we grin and bear the brown ruts, knowing that there will be more than enough thick grass to cut when shorts-and-T weather settles in.

So…this snow. The sky is clear and the forecast predicts a high of 55°F. The barn and shed roofs are beginning to drip. The chickens and turkeys dodge the drops as they breakfast and the geese revel in widening puddles.

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20180419_072542In the cold shadows of the nature preserve, the colors are still blue, gray and purple. I cross the footbridge, going where a raccoon has recently come. Blue flag shoots and water grasses rise from wetlands, brilliant green contrasts to the white that coats the trees on the high bank and the land bridge between the old stone quarry and Cranberry Run. Thanks to Paul Nusbaum, the land bridge is clear of bush honeysuckle. This will provide a living lab for school groups to discover the differences between wetlands and running streams.

Here comes the sun. I’m off to work, away…and it’s alright.20180419_072730

When the frost is feathered

When the morning window trees are coated with a light sugar frost;

when the clouds are thick enough to blend the early sun into a mass of white from horizon to horizon;frost-on-turkeys-back

when the bird calls are muffled in the treeline below a fog so light that it’s as if someone lightly brushed the color from the top third of the tallest sycamore;

when the turkeys standing on the front porch, each with one eye peering through the halflight, have an icy dusting across their feathered backs;

there’s nothing for it but to take the camera for a run.mullen

Six-foot mullein stands along the roadside, the downy green leaves and yellow flowers freeze-dried by winter just like their tame cousins in the cabin gardens behind. In spring, the stalks with melt away and new plants will grow to feed bees, butterflies and birds. You can find encapsulated mullein on drugstore shelves and in teas as a remedy for diseases of the lung, as an expectorant and for skin problems.

This mullein is rigid husk with a melting white cap. Red cardinals, rosy house and goldfinches will peck at them through the coldish months.

The woods beyond the cabin and the floodplain below are free of frost. The warm breath of the trees still keeps the colder air high. Slate-colored juncos blend in with the gray and brown tree trunks, but you can hear them cheer to one another above the old quarry. The quarry itself holds water again. It had been dry for five months, except for a spring pool in the southeast corner.

The little creek nearby is also full, bubbling and churning its way to Riley Creek a quarter of a mile away. There at its mouth, Cranberry Run, buffered on either side for the latter length of its flow by trees, grasses and wetland sponges,  hits the sediment-laden Riley. Even with this week’s high water, the divide is prominent.silt-line

 

The flood was brief, here and gone. The mush is frozen and the flattened grass is crisp and crunchy with the frost and a layer of surface ice left suspended by receding river. Fresh fungi grow up and down the length of washed up log. It looks like fringe on a sleeve or some kind of elaborate hors d’oeuvres on a bed of straw noodles.shelf-fungi

“Which of these things is not like the other?” The Sesame Street song comes to mind.green-bottle-in-ice

A five-gallon bucket has washed up in the floodplain, too, so I wade through the ice to collect the bottle. Beneath the frosted plates I find cans, bottles, and fruit snacks wrappers. Some of the bottles are big brown plastic specimens that I’ve seen quite a few of late, discarded at least twice a week along the roadside here.

Breakfast of champions.m6-bridge

By the time the bank intersects the historic Mallaham, a rare wrought iron arch truss bridge, the bucket is full. The human condition is one of waste and despair, I think, at least until I look up and see a bald eagle, returned in my lifetime; flip one of the bottles over and see the ‘recycle’ symbol.

Baby steps.

I pick up my bucket and run back home to sort paper, metal and plastic.

Get off my yawn

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Much as I tried, I couldn’t leave this photo to its own devices. Buddy was indeed yawning, not braying the classic “hee haw.” Donkeys don’t, at least the two here, don’t. They “hee-hee-hee” and “ho-o-o-o-nk” and blow raspberries, but declare nothing for Buck and Roy to play along with.

Sunday morning, as I filled the water pans, Buddy followed me to make sure no carrots lurked in my pockets. I saw his lower lip begin to tremble and readied the camera just in case a toothy grin was on its way..

A recap, with goat wrestling

2016-07-01_13.26.20Steve is wrestling with Mister Bill in the cool of the evening. This has become the routine this week after the temperatures fell out of the upper 80s and into the 60s by dusk. Bill scampers up the ramp and down the steps to mock charge. Steve holds the giant goat’s horns–lightly so as not to challenge–and Bill tosses his head and off he goes again on his gangly giraffe legs.

This playtime is to make-up for Bill’s banishment to Sophie’s corral during summer’s Family Day. The big lug likes to hug, but his horns are part of the mighty embrace. If you’re not familiar with his ways, a Mister Bill show of affection can be alarming and uncomfortable.

So one week ago today he watched from a distance as 70 some people came to visit, seeing a long-eared owl, kestrel, red-tailed hawk and turkey vulture from Black Swamp Raptor Rehab, a wild juvenile bald eagle overhead. Laura demonstrated how to make a cement-and-fiber pot. Bush honeysuckle was repurposed as hiking sticks and leaves were made lasting on t-shirts.IMG_5218

Mister Bill did meet a troop of Daisies the next day. The girls made hiking sticks in the pavilion as a brief but heavy rain thundered over its red roof. Lemonade and cookies later, they set forth on a trek along the stream to meet Bill, Buddy and everyone else who decided to come forward after the shower.

On the hike back, they saw a leopard frog along the creek, a tiny toad in the raingarden and three different dragonflies: a widow skimmer, a white tail, and at least two twelve spots in the pollinator garden. IMG_20160626_155257

Winter 2016 newsletter

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Prepping the back field for the Bee Buffer Project is one of the items in the latest issue of The Quarry Farm Newsletter. Click here to read all about it and what’s happening here as the snow flies and the seeds sleep.

Flowing back in time through two townships

Quarry and CreekThere’s a lot of history in and around The Quarry Farm, not to mention up the road.

On the opposite side of the block stands a log home constructed by Tom McCullough. Like our Red Fox Cabin, McCullough’s place isn’t a Putnam County native, but did stand in the United States during the country’s first 100 years. The 2.5-story building started out in Reading, Pennsylvania, was relocated here in 2008 and reconstructed by a professional antique cabin firm and kitted out with local 19th century furniture.

Bridenbaugh OrganistNorth on the same road and across Riley Creek is Bridenbaugh Schoolhouse. Imagine a one-room schoolhouse on every country mile and you will picture the education system as it once was in rural Ohio. In 1997, Dale Bridenbaugh restored the schoolhouse on his farm to what could have been its original 1889 glory.Peggy Bridenbaugh

RC with signCross the Riley on the c. 1876 M-6 bridge, itself listed in the Historic American Engineer Record as an example of “Morrison’s Patent Wrought Iron Arch Truss Bridge,” travel about a mile and a half north on 7L and sit in the stillness and peace of Riley Creek United Methodist Church. The church was founded in 1850 and is still active in one large, lofted room. Sun and moonlight filter through etched and stain-glass windows to pool on handmade wooden pews. The long upright-backed benches glow with the hand polish and years of congregational sitting, but the names of former youth break the smooth surfaces here and there.

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Cabin MomSaturday broke records for December warmth and, although we could use some rain or snow to soften the dry bed of the quarry, the weather was perfect for the first Old Time Riley Creek Christmas Tour. All of the above were stops on the route. All were decorated for the holidays, most as they may have been long ago. Riley and Pleasant Township saw plenty of driving tourists as a result. One of the visitors was Pandora’s Dr. Darrell Garmon. He walked up the path through the Red Fox Cabin gardens and introduced himself as Dr. Garmon and as the person who poses as Sea Captain James Riley.

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Fox StatueNext door, Carlton, Beatrice and the other potbellies, a speckling of chickens and Johnny Goose gathered at the farm animal sanctuary fence corner closest to the hubbub. Lucy’s foghorn bray paused more than one conversation. Two tourists left the cabin and stopped at the gate where the turkeys were on full display. Buddy took issue with the attention the boys were getting, so he grabbed a mouthful of tail feathers, spit them out and smiled. True story – the couple took a photo and promised to share it with us.

For now, the images above will do.

May 2 workshop now open for registration

SAVE THE DATE: On Saturday, May 2, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., rain or shine, walk The Quarry Farm Nature Preserve with naturalist Tamara Spillis and learn more about native mushrooms and wild plants.

– Registration: Open to the first 20 applicants (age 16 and over). Call 419-384-7195 or 419-234-4620 or email thequarryfarm@gmail.com before April 30 to register.

– Workshop Fee: $15 (includes lunch)

(Optional) Bring a favorite field guide, notebook, pencil, cameras, trail snacks.

-7xo5oaRukMz_q5gaOTNMGByCtLGRcBuUldJ0QIJt0nSt_MM5KSOfXCSPv3XWc6I2T4DW0bPMhJ0DngL1ZgR_pF4bcvMNPaCTCeXwLY7-348F1BfNXFmjF6GWGnuRt4FxWlVY0gIGioYtoX65Us5yZganOVg2DRIuL_zbkOrlhF6GkSkPWkcQV0R4xDONsplaCorlfT0xgWxzf_Yigelk3KFEd3• If you are allergic to penicillin, you should not eat morel mushrooms, no matter how delectable. Morels contain a substance also found in penicillin that accumulates in body tissues and can eventually cause anaphylactic shock.

• Oil lamps containing mushroom wicks may have lighted the world for ancient peoples.

• Genghis Khan made gun powder out of charred shelf mushrooms.

These are a few of the fascinating mushroom facts shared by naturalist Tamara Spillis during a recent slide presentation to The Gathering Basket Herb Society.

On Saturday, May 2, Tamara will share her extensive knowledge with 20 lucky people as we walk The Quarry Farm nature trails and prairie.  We will have the opportunity to explore with Tammy as she identifies and talks about the mushrooms, flowers, and plants along the way, and if you have brought your camera, you can get some great photos.

Some wildflowers that we know about, like wood violets, blood root, and Jack-in-the-pulpit should be blooming on May 2, but the Quarry Farm staff are excited about the prospect of discovering other species that we haven’t yet identified.  When Tamara is finished surveying plant life here, we will have a great educational resource to share with visitors of all ages in the future.

Keep an eye on the weather forecast and come prepared for conditions.  No matter what, we will have a great day on the trail.

tammy spillis Harison Garden Club2-1About Tamara Spillis, Naturalist:

Tamara works part-time as Master Gardener Coordinator in Henry County (Ohio).  In addition, she is a small business owner who manages a naturalist service, working with private landowners and conservation entities to identify and document populations of wildflower and wildlife species.

She also teaches and lectures at museums and colleges on Native American bone and stone tool use.  An amateur mycologist, she has published articles on the use of mushrooms by diverse ancient and modern cultures for fire, warfare, and medicine.

Color photos that Tamara has taken in the field showed insects feeding on and pollinating wildflowers, plants in the various stages of their life cycles, easily confused plants with similar flowers — one edible and the other deadly, mutually supportive plant and insect relationships, common wild plants that are edible and others that are toxic, plants that we live alongside of but rarely see in our everyday lives, and many other insights into the natural world of the fields and woods around us.

a different shade of white

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In 1911, Franz Boas, an anthropologist who spent years living among the Inuit, published The Mind of Primitive Man. Through it, Boas not only revolutionized anthropology, but sparked a debate that has lasted over a century. Boas famously suggested that the Inuit have dozens, if not hundreds, of different names for snow. Linguists argue back and forth the merits of the claim, some saying that added suffixes to root words are simply individual flourishes while others assert that, yes, each new permutation is, indeed, a separate and distinct word.

Which leads me to my question and my subject…Would the Inuit consider a heavy frost snow?

There was fog in the early morning hours on Wednesday; fog and a whole lot of cold. Combined, the two create what I’ve always considered hoar frost, a consideration that is at least mostly accurate.

frosted wild teasel

frosted wild teasel

As it turns out, there are six different recognized types of frost – two of which, rime and black, are subject to debate – one of which is hoar. Well, sort of “one of which”. See, there are actually four different types of hoar frost: air, surface, crevasse and depth. Air hoar is the type of frost we experienced today. Tangentially, hoar is a word of Old English derivation, an adjective meaning “showing signs of old age”; in this case, conceivably, it is the fringe of white that conveys senility.

The world seems to froth with it, this thick confection of frozen air. It shrouds tree limbs, coats fences, cars and outbuildings and accumulates on the individual hairs and feathers of the animals that spend a good deal of their time out of shelter.

In the bottom land below our house, the plants and grasses were still, bowed under their burden of frost. The wild teasel (Dipsacus fullonum), an invasive from North Africa and Eurasia that has been here so long that it seems native, carried its coat with grace.

Later, though it never truly grew warm even for this time of year, the rising sun brushed so much frost from tree limbs that, under the canopy, it fell as thick as snow.

So, can anyone tell me? Does anyone know? Make it official…does frost translate to snow?

Buddy