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..

Sweet heat relief

Two weeks ago, cold wind and rain sent us shivering for hot chocolate.IMG_1244

Today, temperatures hit the upper 80s. Since Nemo is too long for the little pink wading pool that kept Beatrice and Carlton cool last summer, we purchased the next size up yesterday, one with little sharks on the sides (but no slide; that wouldn’t be pretty.)

There’s plenty of room for two, although the molded plastic walls are too high for Sophie. Cold wet, mud will have to do.

Couldn’t catch on the moments when Nemo blew bubbles through her nose in the water. Since it’ll be plenty warm for the rest of the Memorial Day weekend, there may be other opportunities.

Corvid appeal

There were once crows in this place. They would caw across the hollow, scolding at outdoor cats and other predators. Their young would burr in the tallest, most remote hardwoods, then become silent if anyone or anything other than their parent came close.

A decade or so ago, so many raptors disappeared, victims of West Nile virus. The corvids–jays and crows in these parts–died, too. We saw only one dead during that time. It wasn’t inspected by anyone, but we assumed the bird’s death was due to the mosquito-spread plague.

Not much was said then in mainstream media about the effect of West Nile on anyone but humans. While the disease caused harm to people–I’m not denying that–the kestrels, and red-tail hawks that had previously perched from telephone pole to fence post were missing for years. We are only just beginning to see them again.

But the crows never did come back. Last spring, we heard two calling in Coburn’s Bottom, the area of the floodplain north of the old quarry. We were so excited, calling everyone we knew and fairly shouting, “The crows are back!” whether the listener was interested or not. Unfortunately, the pair didn’t stay.

We began to suspect that there is more to the absence of crows hereabouts than West Nile taking its toll. As I said, the bluejays are back, as are the hawks and even bald eagles. But research and observation of crows has determined that crows tell each other stories. Before a flock of crows enter a new area, they send a sentinel in to scope things out. If the report is favorable, the rest will move forward. If something disasterous happens while they are there–for instance, if one or more are poisoned or shot–the crows leave at the first opportunity. And they don’t forget.

That said, there’s strong suspiscion that it was inhumane human behavior that left a big red mark along the Riley and Cranberry Run for crows. Sad, as these birds are thought to be one of the most intelligent creatures that share this planet with people. Crows aren’t a bellwether species, but they are brilliant, secretive, organized and to be allowed to share space with them is an honor.

We’ve had the pleasure of spending time with two crows. Blackie and Jo, however, are here only because they have physical and developmental issues that mean neither can be free to make that choice for themselves.

Crows backlitStained glass artist Martha Erchenbrecher created the gorgeous work of art pictured above. The piece is stained glass mosaic or glass-on-glass mosaic. After trying for a few months, we were able to take a decent photo of it today with the winter afternoon sun shining through. We’ve hung it here for farm animal sanctuary visitors to see. One day, we hope to display it in a nature center here.

Maybe a scouting crow will see it and tell the others that they are welcome, anytime.

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.

Captain John Smith (2014-2015)

The overwhelming downside to establishing relationships is the inevitable loss and grief that accompanies them. Sometimes, when we’re lucky, we can Untitled-1postpone that inevitability for decades. Other times…well, we take what we can get and are simply grateful for it.

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Steve and Captain John at the Columbus Grove branch of the Putnam County District Library

So it is with Captain John Smith and we are, indeed, grateful.

Our friend, Kim Starr, suggested his name, told us of the Englishman’s role in delivering the word opossum, a close approximation of the Powhatan word aposoum, to the English language. We can only hope that the human Smith served as well as Captain John in the role of ambassador. It was with a gentle nature that he turned heads, changed opinions and opened eyes to new understandings.
Captain John Smith, ambassador for Virginia opossums everywhere, made his last public appearance at the Delphos Public Library on Nov. 19.

Captain John Smith, ambassador for Virginia opossums everywhere, made his last public appearance at the Delphos Public Library on Nov. 19.

Given that it’s an extinct language, there’s just a short list of some 550 words/phrases in Powhatan with which linguists are familiar. Goodbye isn’t among them. Thank you, on the other hand, is. So…

Kenagh, Captain John.

We will miss you.

County fair rabbit quartets are not always male

For going on two years, Waldo has kept us guessing.

In 2014, the fourth in a 4-H market rabbit project was delivered to the sanctuary. An attempt to contain the white rabbit, a Californian with a smudge of soot framing its ears and one rosy eye, resulted in a wilting creature. So we turned it out on the eight fenced acres for the day. The day became night into morning, then days as the rabbit did not want to be caught.

Live trapping efforts captured a raccoon and Snoopy the fox terrier (on separate occasions). We decided that the rabbit was on its own.

Rabbit sightings became a game. We named him Waldo, as in “Where’s…” When horrid cold arrived on Oct. 31, 2014 and settled in to stay, we put out food. This was eaten by the goats. Sure that Waldo was no more, it was a bright surprise when, on the first clear warming day, we saw Waldo nibbling on sprouts under the cedars. Waldo became a symbol of hope, for spring as well as the strength of the indomitable spirit. We found bolt holes carved in the hillside, at the bases of several trees, and under every outbuilding, including the port-a-let near Red Fox Cabin.

All fears that Waldo would crossbreed with wild rabbits evaporated as we observed the white rabbit chase Eastern cottontails from the sanctuary and beyond its borders.

A couple of months ago a neighbor asked if we would take in two more Californians. We separated the male from the female and have just found a home for her. Waldo seemed to disregard the male completely until it disappeared one night. Waldo remained king.

WAS king, until Waldo was queen.

bunniesYesterday morning I turned around from filling the water buckets and tubs and saw a white ball of fur bounce from below the south deck. Three more followed.

Apparently, that male rabbit didn’t disappear fast enough.

It’s now Sunday evening. Steve caught up three and they are in the hutch. The fourth has his or her (we will never assume one or the other again) mother’s smarts and is eluding capture. But we’ll (Steve) keep trying. They are free to a good home, preferably one apiece in four good homes. Our purpose does not include allowing the animals who come here to procreate, and we don’t encourage it elsewhere. That’s how so many of them become homeless in the first place.

Waldeen/Waldette will have a little operation of her own before the snow thaws with spring. She will, just as soon as we can catch her.