Changing of the color guard

Four beautiful bronze turkeys were part of the flock here on the farm. Fezzik, Inigo Montoya, and Humperdink are now part of everything, having lived out their lives on the ridge above Cranberry Run. All three rode down I-75, from various points in Lucas County by way of Nature’s Nursery, in a hatchback.

The fourth, Miracle Max, arrived in similar fashion, and he still walks the grounds. Two weeks ago, Max was greeter as schoolchildren and scouts entered the south gate. Since Humperdink died earlier this spring, Max has been blue. Quite literally, as his skin was a pale blue: the blue of loneliness and the fear and discomfort associated with losing his band of tom-turkeys.

(About that: Turkeys’ heads change color to express their emotions. The blood vessels lying directly under the skin of the wattle (that strange unicorn appendage between their eyes) are surrounded by long bands of collagen. When the turkey gets upset, the blood vessels contract, exposing more of the collagen bands. University of California, Berkeley scientists have actually developed a synthetic toxin sensor based on the turkey’s color-changing technique.)

When the April visitors walked onto his acreage, Max flushed a deep red, puffed his feathers, and thrummed the balloon of his chest. Instead of two-stepping away from anyone who came within arm’s length, as is his habit, he allowed a few of the kids to touch him briefly. And when his guests closed the gate behind them at the west gate, Max glided beside them from the other side of the fence, becoming paler as the kids moved further away. One little scout insisted on going back to console him.

On Saturday, three lovely ladies took up residence here. A family in Michigan raised three Brown Orlopp hens with the intention of serving them on a platter. “But the girls loved them,” the dad said. Indeed, his three young daughters helped load them in our carrier. The eldest skipped and told us about naming them all ‘Waddles.’ Her younger sisters weren’t quite sure of our intentions, I think, judging by their tears as we drove away toward the Ohio line.

So this one is for you three girls to the north, for entrusting the Three Waddles to us further south. It’s also for a very happy, very rosy, Max.

turkeys

and then there were four…

A little less than a month ago, we made a relatively short drive north to pick up a potbellied pig that, lost or abandoned (though most likely abandoned), had wandered into our friend June’s yard. Not knowing about us at the time, June called Laura Zitzelberger at Nature’s Nursery, who, in turn, called us.

in the carThe hour-long ride back was interesting; interesting in the sense of the ancient Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” Given to reckless behavior, I had decided to pick him up sans crate, so the little pig — and he is indeed little, weighing in at just a smidge over 30 pounds — was loose in the car. He spent nearly as much time on my shoulders doing his best to climb up on top of my head as he did on the seat. Eventually, though, he did settle in and down, sprawling in the back and resting his head in the palm of my right hand.

getting to know youOn arriving home, his behavior in the house was little different from his initial behavior in the car, that is to say, “hell bent.” He chomped and rooted, prodded and postured, picking fights with any and all comers, even with those more inclined to run away, myself included.

I grumbled. I growled. I cursed.

Anne smiled.

“He’ll be fine,” she said. “Don’t you remember Bob?”

Bob is a dear friend of ours, one of four pigs rescued last winter and one of two of the four who now live on The Quarry full time, along with Beatrice, aka Little Pig. At first, his behavior left something to be desired. Now, however, he’s nearly the perfect gentlepig. Despite Anne’s assurances, I had my doubts. And so did Lolly, who maintained a discreet distance.

lolly

As he was still intact, the first order of business was arranging for a quick snip. Though she’d never performed this operation on a pig, our veterinarian, Dr. Jackie Santoro, did the requisite research and the procedure came off — pun intended — without a hitch.

On returning him to The Quarry, there wasn’t any significant change in behavior. He had this truly annoying habit of, when he wanted something, anything, of furiously rooting at any available ankle. With 30 pounds of pig behind it, that nearly vulcanized snout left bruises.

I threatened. I snarled. I swore.

Anne smiled.

CarltonHe hadn’t been back much more than a day, certainly no more than two, when, coming in from outside or up from the basement I heard Anne chirp, “Yes!”

She was standing in the kitchen with the little pig at her feet. In her hands was some manner of treat: grapes or carrots or banana or some such. She would hold out a morsel and watch the pig. When he took a step back, she’d bend at the waist, deliver the treat and exclaim the encouraging, “Yes!” In a single 15-minute session, she permanently broke his annoying, destructive rooting behavior.

Even Lolly was impressed.

Lolly and Carlton

annerNow, he spends his time making his way around the house. I’m not saying that there aren’t still problems. He has a habit of poking his nose into places it doesn’t belong and he and Bob will likely never be fast friends, but we all have our faults, our own clashes of personality. The bottom line is this: he’s a smart, gentle, comforting being and it shows in any number of ways.

So, he’s here to stay. This is home.

We call him Carlton.

c2

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: http://www.hsoac.org/ While you’re visiting, please consider supporting their efforts. The work they do is important, necessary and under-appreciated.

 

The Unbearable Lightness of Turkeys

Rear ViewDon’t let the turkeys get you down. Have you seen this thing? A simple drawing by Sandra Boynton of an elephant driven to its knees by six or seven of the aforementioned birds? It was everywhere for a while a long while ago (and apparently lives on as t-shirts, coffee mugs, posters and greeting cards; but, then, everything that ever was still is somewhere on the internet).

The message was simple: any troubles you have are analogous to turkeys and you shouldn’t let them get you down, those darn turkeys.

Big GuyYeah? Well, bunk. While I suppose that there are some turkeys out there that are a constant headache, that would do everything in their power to make a person’s life absolutely miserable, the turkeys with which I’ve interacted have been a pure joy. Case in point, the two newest residents at The Quarry Farm.

A couple of months ago, Laura Zitzelberger, operations director at Nature’s Nursery Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation Education, contacted us about possibly taking in three bronze turkeys that had been seen wandering in a residential neighborhood in Toledo. And, while three were spotted, once volunteers from the center arrived on-scene, only two were found. Of the two, one was suffering from a variety of injuries (the consequence of getting on the wrong side of a dog). So, after Inigo, Willow and Fezzikrehabbing the bird and determining absolutely that these were indeed domestic and not wild turkeys (bronzes bear a remarkable resemblence to their undomesticated cousins), they contacted us late last week and made arrangements for us to pick them up.

We bundled them into the back of Rowan’s Subaru Forester and made the hour long trek back south to Putnam County where we set them up in the same run as Johnny, the Canada goose, and Andi, the Pekin duck. During the whole of the trip, despite being unceremoniously lifted from the home they had come to know and dragged into a whole new situation, not once did either bird make more than an idle and near-inaudible complaint.

So here they are now, these two birds we’ve dubbed Fezzik and Inigo. And glad we are that they’re here.

Snow Day

This morning, bands of clouds the color of dust stretched from the horizon to the sky. I know that sounds strange: of course the clouds stretched to the sky. What I mean to say is that the clouds didn’t lay horizontally across the heavens. No. Instead they seemed to start at some point on the horizon and launch themselves into space, like rocket trails or streamers of toilet paper. And when I say that they were the color of dust, I don’t mean gray. They were more beige with a little bit of peach thrown in, somewhere between a very light brown and red. And even though they weren’t red, I couldn’t help but think, “Red sky in morning, sailor take warning.”

As it turns out, that was more than a little melodramatic. But even so, the day had its moments. Every little bit a snow squall would blow through with heavy flakes swirling about making it hard to see, or with small, hard, almost-pellets of snow that would sting your face and hands. And it’s been cold, and growing colder as the day progresses. Thankfully, we held our Backyard Bird Count event (and more about that tomorrow) before the worst of it rolled in. Short, hard snowfalls offer interesting opportunities photographically, so we decided to take a few shots of the animals that live close to the house. These, then, also give us the chance to relate an anecdote or two, to introduce you to some of the animals that live here.

So. Here we go.

Gigi

Gigi

Gigi and Louise are two of four geese that live here on The Quarry Farm. Anne brought them home from Van Buren State Park near Findlay. She was there to give a presentation on water quality and macroinvertebrates about a year and a half ago when the naturalist who organized the event, Natalie Rossman Miller, conscripted Anne in an effort to trap two geese that were dumped at the park. Suffice it to say that, ultimately, they were successful, and Anne brought them here. Gigi is an Embden goose and, despite the name, entirely male (we’re not great at sexing birds at a distance; we once named a rooster Miss Kitty). Louise is an African goose and very much female.

Louise

Louise

These two, along with Henry, the other female goose (I know, I know) on the property, serve as our early warning system. On those occasions when the mail carrier has a package to bring to the house, or American Electric Power has come to read the meter, or someone has simply come to visit, these three make enough noise so that, even in the house we know that we have guests. And if we’re being completely honest, they make enough noise so that our neighbors a quarter of a mile away know that we have guests.

While we’re on the subject of geese, here’s Johnny. Johnny is a Canada goose. He was found oiled in Lima, Ohio. A local veterinarian took him on, cleaned him up and treated him for about a month before calling Nature’s Nursery Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation Education. Over the course of that time, Johnny imprinted on humans.

Johnny

Johnny

In addition to that setback, Johnny also has a congenital wing defect; his left wrist never developed properly and consequently the end of his wing protrudes at a right angle to the rest of his body, precluding any possibility of flight. In Johnny’s plus column, however, is one of the sweetest dispositions of any animal, anywhere. This bird just doesn’t know the meaning of ill-tempered. When we pull into the drive, he greets us with a honk characteristic of all Canada geese, then rises up and beats his wings.

Little Red

Little Red

Nearly a month ago, we were provided with the opportunity to expand our flock of chickens.  A local farmer received an unexpected bonus shipment of pullets that increased his flock beyond his capacity to safely maintain. We took on fourteen of the hens, the most the farmer would allow us to acquire. In the overcrowded conditions to which the birds were temporarily subjected, they inflicted no small degree of damage to one another. Feathers were pulled loose until many of the birds were half-plucked. Their skin was raw and sore and, in some cases, infected. Despite our best efforts, four of the hens died. But, being the kind of people who believe that the glass is half full, ten survived and are thriving. One of them, a Rhode Island Red, is particularly friendly. She’s the first to bound out of the coop each morning and will run across the yard to greet us when we arrive back home. We call her Little Red.

(from left) Buddy, Marsh and S'more

(from left) Buddy, Marsh and S’more

Finally, at least for the purposes of this post, there are the boys: Buddy, Marsh and S’more. Marsh and S’more, two Nigerian Dwarf goats, came to us first, arriving in July of 2o11. They came to us from a family in Cincinnati. Although the family loved them their two large dogs didn’t and made life miserable for the brothers. In seeking a home for them, they contacted the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and through them, us. Buddy, a miniature donkey, came from closer to home. A Putnam County couple kept Buddy as a companion for their horse. When it became too difficult for them to continue caring for the horse, they found it a new home. Sadly, the people who took the horse weren’t interested in Buddy. According to his old family, without companionship, Buddy began to waste away. They contacted us and Marsh and S’more became Buddy’s new buddies. And while they get along phenomenally, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have issues. Jonelle Meyer, a young woman who volunteers here at The Quarry Farm, recently told us of one such incident. As she was currying Buddy, the goats kept wandering up looking for attention. Buddy grew increasingly impatient with this until finally, when S’more refused to take the hint, he reached out, took the brush from Jonelle’s hand, smacked S’more in the face with the brush, then returned it to Jonelle so she could get back to what was really important: taking care of him.