Hiking with goats and lemonade

Saturday was a full Family Day. For a sunlit August 5, it was cool enough to hike from cabin to chickens without breaking a heavy sweat. Even the mosquitoes hatched from recent heavy rains were relatively scarce.

Thanks to all who joined us for the 2017 Family Day on The Quarry Farm. Much bush honeysuckle was repurposed for walking and hiking sticks, birdhouse gourds were polished, shirts were imprinted with unique leaf patterns, Red Fox Cabin was toured and the farm animals were enriched with gentle human interaction (except for Nemo who refused to break her afternoon nap routine.) As was expected, this gentle giant was up at 5 p.m., grazing on the grass so recently imprinted by visiting feet.

Next up: The 4th Annual Quarry Farm Jam

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.

Sophie’s choice

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Sophie meets Jamie Napolski, Assistant Curator of Education & Special Events for Sauder Village.

Yeah, yeah, yeah…I did go there with the title of this post.

But it’s true; Sophie the pot-bellied pig had her first road trip as an educational ambassador for The Quarry Farm, and this happened as a result of a choice she made on Friday.

As testified by the previous post, “Sticky toes and hiking sticks”, an entire third grade class joined us onsite for a Friday filed trip alongside Road 7L. The students and their teachers and chaperones rotated through stations, including a visit to the farm animal sanctuary. As we always tell visitors, once inside the gate, humans will have the opportunity to meet the sanctuary residents, but only those residents who choose to walk down the path for a face-to-face encounter. While it’s almost a guarantee that the bronze turkeys will show up, as well as at least one of the donkeys and a goat, the pigs are a little more unpredictable.

For instance, if the sun is shining and the temperature moderate, Carlton may mosey on down the hill for a belly flop and scratch. Queen Beatrice may sashay through the floodplain. If she could do the royal wristwave, I have no doubt she would, stopping only long enough for a brief pat before moving on for a nap in a warm pool of light.

As for the others, their early years were so harsh at the hands of neglectful humanity that visitors only get a distant glimpse. In Sophie’s case, beatings, poor diet and exposure left scars that have left her much older than what we think are her actual years. So it was a wonderful surprise when she chose to join the second group of students to rotate through. She even stayed close, allowing the third rotation to pet her softly on the forehead.

Because of Sophie’s decision to trust in the kindness of strangers, we took her on an hour-long car ride north for a program at Sauder Village in Archbold. While 19th-century reenactors read “If You Give a Pig a Pancake”, Sophie charmed young visitors and their families outside a log cabin in the Little Pioneer Village. Marshmallow the Nigerian Dwarf goat went along for the ride, too, but he’s an old hand at programs and conducted himself in his usual sweetly-mellow manner.

By the way, don’t give a pig a pancake.

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.

Winter 2015 Newsletter

2015 Winter Newsletter-2With heavy snow in the forecast for Sunday, we’re looking at pretty stellar photo opps on the trails. Since the roads leading to may be impassable, perhaps the upcoming events listed in the newsletter may be more accessible.

Click on the cover to the right and see if one or all fit into your winter schedule.

A New Year’s Day walk below the wind

IMG_2737This new year looks bleak, with harsh, cold wind and an absence of snow. Thursday afternoon, I walked down the lane and had to fight to open the gate against bluster, feeling the cold bite of the latch’s surface through my work gloves. No one followed me to the gate in hopes of treats. I’m sure no apple slices could beat shelter on the sunny side of any outbuilding.

I made it just about 50 yards down the road before ducking down into the lowland along Cranberry Run, where the drop behind Red Fox Cabin blocked the wind. So cold were the trees that they hummed, except for Osage orange trees. These woven, thorny trees make sort of a whirring whine in frigid wind chill (truly exhilarating when one is walking on the trail at night…alone.)

IMG_2736Winter came on so suddenly that many of the Osage fruits are green and whole, their sticky white latex ooze flash-frozen to the ground. The fruit is not poisonous to us mammals, but I hear it’s not much to taste. Further on down the creek, on the east side of the footbridge, I saw something, maybe a fox squirrel, made use of an orange as a food source.

The sun is cold and farther away at the start of the year, a white sun in gray blue sky. Even the bane of the understory, bush honeysuckle, is leafless this year without a snow blanket. No green, other than the Osage fruits, was visible on Jan. 1, 2015. This is a good thing, I know; maybe this will give the maples and oak seedlings a chance to fill in the spaces left where the 2012 derecho took out so many mature trees.

IMG_2739IMG_2734The wind was so high and wild above the creek valley that I saw few birds, not even on the old stone quarry. This winter it is full of water, frozen with reflections of rich, ruddy browns, gold, and sky. There are no breaks in the still quarry’s surface, but Cranberry Run’s riffles keep a brisk pace, leaving open holes here and there, especially below the high blue clay banks at the northwest point of the nature preserve. Two birds, so in shadow that I couldn’t identify the species more than to say they are large songbirds, dipped in the water below a bare root hackberry that has held the top of the bank for as long as I can remember.

IMG_2741The camera, a treasured Rebel of my dad’s, said ‘no more’ to the cold, so I tucked it inside my blanket coat and headed back the way I came. At the top of the hill near The Quarry Farm entrance sign, I tucked my chin closer to the camera, wrapped my scarf around my head and ran for the gate.

With my eyes so adjusted to discerning the different hues of browns, the greeting party under the apple tree was a shock to the senses. Wrapped in new thermal coats, Buddy and the boys were like presents under the tree.

What a happy sight to begin a new year. Rain is promised for Saturday. Luckily, these coats of many colors are waterproof. I think I’ll stay inside and watch.

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They call me Mister Bill…

Bill

“He’s a big goat,” Sandy explained to Anne over the phone and via email. “People don’t understand how big he really is.”

Sandy was talking about Bill, a Boer goat that she and her husband, Doug, had raised from when he was smaller than a pygmy. And, trust me; she wasn’t kidding (no pun intended). Bill’s bigger than Buddy, the miniature donkey that guards The Quarry Farm: taller, anyway, and he’s the newest member of The Quarry Farm family.

Sandy and Doug drove him up from the Cincinnati area, from the farm that the couple is in the process of leaving. They were successful in placing the other animals that lived on their farm, but because of his size, Bill proved a special case. They’d raised him as a pet and they didn’t want him to go just anywhere, were anxious to see that he went someplace safe. After reviewing their options, they chose here and we’re grateful for that. Bill’s every bit as sweet as he is big.It took him a few days to work out just where he belonged in the loose-knit community of goats that already reside here, all of whom are less than half his size, but he did and the pygmies and Nigerian dwarfs are finding his arrival a real boon.

apple picki BillForget the fact that he scrapes out dust wallows for all his smaller cousins before digging up his own. Never mind that, in a pinch, the pygmies can take shelter from the sun in his shadow (and, yes, they do). What’s really important, what all the goats truly appreciate him for (and the pigs, if we’re being honest), is his reach. Standing on his back legs with his forelegs braced against the trunk of a tree and stretching for all he’s worth, Bill can pretty easily top seven feet. And when the trunk he’s braced against is that of an apple tree, well, let’s just say that Sir Isaac Newton would have received more than one lesson on the effects of gravity. Another way of putting it is to say that, rather than a windfall, the animals here are benefiting from a Billfall. Seriously…who needs a cherry picker with Bill around? Not the wee beasties of The Quarry Farm.

So, welcome home, Bill. Well come, indeed.

The gang of goats