Seeing Sean

We have been, and continue to be, blessed to not just interact with but to actually get to know many beings here on The Quarry Farm. We meet lots of people, learning each time how many are interested in the world around them and how we all can be better stewards of that world. Just about every visit, tour and workshop results in one of us responding to a question with, ” I can’t answer that,” prompting us to find out more about something.

People are great. We can exchange ideas pretty freely. But the beings that remind us most how much we have to learn in this life are the animals. They can readily communicate with each other—even the trees and plants talk—but it’s up to them to learn how to deal with humans.

Over the years, the farm animal sanctuary residents have dealt with us. They come and they go with the end of life. Johnny the Canade Goose who taught us how inquisitive and intelligent these birds are. Audrey the red hen that taught us that even a hot wire slice through a chick’s beak and a fall from a truck along I-75 couldn’t stop her from seeking a cuddle. Smart, determined Gertie the pot-bellied pig who taught us that pigs are cleaner than dogs, cats, and most humans (no they don’t like to live in swill.) Mister Bill the giant goat who absolutely did not like to be told ‘no’ but forgave you for saying it as long as you scritched between his horns. I’m going to stop naming these names because the tears are coming.

Some of them have barely tolerated us, forging kind of a love/hate relationship with us because they haven’t had a choice, what with humans being the most ruthless predator (dang those opposable thumbs that can latch a gate and turn a key.) Two residents come immediately to mind: Bernie the Rooster that attacked me and my red windbreaker and the red lawnmower, and Jacques the Canada Goose who could run across four acres before you could put a fence between you and his bony, flightless wings and bill.

I wouldn’t trade the knowing of either of them for the world.

This morning, when Beatrice’s Belly Rub Girl offered Sean the Virginia Opossum his dried cranberries, greens plus a peanut butter sandwich for winter sustenance, Sean didn’t wake up. Just last Friday, Sean met the entire second grade class at Kalida Elementary School. Sean was always great with people. He didn’t hiss or growl or show his 50 teeth like most Virgina Opossums do to defend themselves from the two-legged predators that could very well mean to eat him. He tolerated all of us quite well, so he was one of our go-to wildlife ambassadors for offsite classroom visits.

Sean and Cousin Lily, 2021

The second graders thought Sean was “adorable.” They couldn’t understand how anyone would go out of their way to hurt his kind. They asked if they could see him walk. He was more interested in sitting, even though he was born with no eyes and had every reason to be afraid of squirrely limbs and echoes in the halls of school.

They asked how old he was. “He’s almost three,” I told them. How long would he live, they wanted to know. “Two to three years,” I said. How old is he in people years? “Very, very old.”

So it wasn’t a huge surprise that Sean fell asleep last night and didn’t wake up. He isn’t the first Virginia Opossum to have served The Quarry Farm as an ambassador of his kind to those who might wish him harm, but he was the one who immediately convinced them that Virginia Opossums have every right to live, under our porches and wherever their nomadic ways take them, in peace.

It’s not so much what the Fox says as what she doesn’t

Ylvis is a Norwegian comedy duo consisting of brothers Vegard and Bård Ylvisåker. They are the creators of the viral song and video The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?) that I did listen to after I lost count of how many kids and parents brought it up after meeting Quinn, The Quarry Farm’s rescued fox and educational ambassador for her species.

I can tell you that most foxes do not have blue eyes and I’m not sure what the Ylvisåker Brothers did to have a fox assigned to them as a guardian angel. That is one spirit/bodyguard that is going to melt away into the landscape at the first sign of trouble. But before it takes off, it’s going to pick your pocket, race away with the goods, stash them in a secret location, and urinate on whatever it is to lay everlasting claim. Items that we have found in Quinn’s “secret” hideaway (a litterbox in the basement) include: socks, underwear, dog toys, peanuts, a jar of peanut butter, potholders, dog collars, cat treats, baby carrots, potatoes, Fig Newtons, buttered toast, and whole bags of bread and rolls of toilet paper.

As far as what the fox says, Quinn says a whole lot. I’ve never heard her ring-ding-ding, although she did snatch a bell off the Christmas tree and that rang mightily until it was buried in kitty litter. The Ylvisåkers really didn’t reproduce much of Quinn’s vocalizations in their 2013 earworm, although she did mutter fraka-kaka-kaka when I changed the litter box and a wrapped stick of butter fell out into the garbage bag. And after she grabbed a second stick of butter from the box I hadn’t yet emptied, she screamed a-hee-ahee ha-hee while she ran up the stairs with her reclaimed treasure.

Click on the newsletter at right to download the Winter 2022 newsletter.

5K 2021

This morning at 10 a.m. EST, skies were blue and a west windy breeze made for good running/walking conditions for this year’s Quarry Farm 5K. Participants passed Birder Deb who played the theme from Rocky at the Mallaham Bridge. They navigated through one goodly gust of soybean dust kicked loose from a harvesting crew, turned around at the halfway point where Rita called out split times, then returned to cow bells at the finish line.

FIrst Run Finish, Men: Frank Ordaz
First Run Finish, Women: Erin Firch
First Walker Finish, Men: Jay Shapiro
First Walker Finish, Women: Lois Seitz
First Child Finish: Titus Haselman
First Team Finish: Lois Felkey, Phyllis Seitz, Susan Seitz

There is rain this afternoon to tamp down the bean dust. Still a few oatmeal/white chocolate/dried apricot cookies, too (but not many). Much thanks to everyone who came out in support of a beautiful day and what we do.

A Hard Lesson Learned (Again) about Plant Selection

About 20 years ago, I planted a ground cover that was all the rage at the time. I decided that glossy, dark-green euonymus fortunei, a native of Asia, would be ideal to fill in prettily around shrubs and to block weeds. As years went by, a patch in Red Fox Garden succumbed to scale, and the euonymus at my house had a rude habit of climbing up the garage siding and suckering in until pulled down. However, its dense cover did block weeds, and I liked the look of it.

Download the Fall 2021 Newsletter

So, I was not prepared when Cousin David, who has spent years clearing invasive shrubs and vines from the Quarry Farm nature preserve, reported an unfamiliar branching vine climbing in a cluster of trees deep in the woods, well beyond my house and garden. It was neither poison ivy nor wild grape vine, and its leaves looked a little like myrtle, only larger. I made a discomfiting discovery: The invader was euonymus fortunei, my pretty ground cover gone rogue. Looking it up on the internet, I was shocked to learn that euonymus is now generally considered an invasive species, a landscaping no-no.

Horticultural websites discuss the aggressive nature of euonymus fortunei. One example is this from North Carolina State University Extension: “Some cultivars may be more of a vine and others more of a small shrub, but the vining cultivars and some shrubs can both be invasive… Climbing euonymus readily escapes into native forests and has no trouble dominating medium-sized trees. [It] is listed as invasive in North Carolina and in other states of the southeast and northeast. When used as ground cover for the showy leaves, it tends to climb if given support. . . .When this vine climbs trees it produces aerial rootlets along its branches. [Its small white berries] are eaten by some birds which is how the plant is spread and often how it becomes more invasive.” This is surely how euonymus flew from my garden into the woods of the preserve.

My experience with euonymus fortunei has been another hard lesson learned about plant selection over the years. When perusing catalogs and nurseries, I should try harder to temper my feverish impulses with some cautionary reminders: Choose natives to the area, more likely to settle companionably into the landscape. Don’t make impulsive purchases based solely on glowing descriptions, especially if a plant is an introduction, sometimes even a “new, improved” cultivar. Know soil (sand, loam, and/or clay), moisture and light preferences. Know how a plant propagates and spreads, so it can be contained if it sends out runners or produces thousands of seeds per plant. In general, know how it interacts with other plants and wildlife.

Better knowledge about such issues might have prevented invasions of bush honeysuckle and multiflora rose, and too many others, which were thought decades ago to have beneficial uses as wildlife food and cover and as living fencing, but became scourges to field and forest, including The Quarry Farm.

The Gardener at the Quarry Farm

Colonial-style floor treatment

Saturday, July 31, 2021 was gorgeous: light clouds, a breeze to move them slowly across the sky, and cooler, drier temperatures. If the scheduled “Create a Floor Cloth for Your ‘Cabin'” workshop had happened earlier in the week, the acrylic paint applied by 10 textile artists to rug-worthy canvas would have puddled in the humidity. As it was, it didn’t. And just look at the participants and their work in action in the Seitz Family Pavilion.

While we can’t offer you workshop or supplies (maybe next year?), here’s TQF Board President Laura’s recipe for one of the snacks provided. There were also fresh strawberries and hot coffee, but you’re on your own there.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats [quick oats will work in a pinch]
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (semi-sweet, milk chocolate, or a mixture)
  • [Optional] ½ cup dried cranberries or cherries

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 9 x 13 in. pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl beat together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth and light.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition.  Add the vanilla.
  4. In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients:  salt, baking soda, baking powder, flour, rolled oats, 1 cup chocolate chips, and cranberries, if using.
  5. Add to the butter mixture and stir until combined.
  6. Spread the cookie dough into the prepared pan.  Sprinkle remaining cup of chocolate chips on top.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.  
  8. [Optional] Scatter chocolate or vanilla melting wafers over the surface while the bars are still warm, allow to soften, and spread by criss-crossing a fork lightly through the melted chocolate.
  9. Cool completely before cutting.  Freezes well.

How Clear the Waters Run

I think it will always thrill me to overhear someone asking someone else if they have ever been to The Quarry Farm, for people to talk about the animals, birds, gardens and the clarity of the stream. Not everyone will turn over their yard to goats, roosters, and geriatric pigs, but gardens—the riotous kind filled with a variety of native flowering plants—and trees can make birds and clear water more common. This region’s native grasses and trees have long, branching root systems that hold the soil like a strong net. Have you ever pulled English Ivy? This non-native is tenacious and fast-growing but you can remove a large patch with one pull, so shallow-rooted and interwoven is this European transplant. In contrast, ever tried to pull a Common Milkweed in its entirety? Best of luck.


Old Man Sycamore in the north floodplain of the nature preserve has a hollow base that provides shelter to who knows how many creatures each night and during winter’s worst. As shallow-rooted landscapes topple across Northwest Ohio, he and the 300-year oaks withstand wicked flood currents and down-bursts. As the floodwaters recede, the forbs at his feet grasp run-off silt and soil. Within 36 hours, Cranberry Run is clear again.


You hear a lot about native plants these days. Big-box stores as well as local nurseries stock a variety of plants labeled as native. Keep in mind that native doesn’t always mean native to here. Also, ask your green-grower what kind of substrate your plants are potted in. Mass-marketed plants are often potted for long shelf lives, their roots sandwiched in neonicotinoid-laced soils that wreak havoc on bees and other beneficial insects.


Remember that part about riotous gardens? Variety is the spice of life. Some native plants can be invasive without other native plants to keep them in check. The Quarry Farm Gardener finds it necessary to parcel out starts of Coneflower every now any then, as well as Menarda (Bee Balm). Much is made of the benefits of keeping Common Milkweed for the Monarch butterflies. Without Ironweed, Coneflower, Asters, and Common Hackberry trees to watch over them all, who will feed and shelter Comma, Question Mark, swallowtails, and the Hackberry Emporer butterflies? And without Jewelweed and its orange orchid-like flowers nodding on the riverbanks and floodplains, how will I ever be rid of this confounded poison ivy rash?

Bridging quarantine

“Stay Home” on these 50 acres doesn’t mean channel surfing. Well, maybe there’s a bit of that after sunsets or during thunderstorms like the one we are having right now. Since the first day of #stayathome, several more hands have joined Dave’s wage of war against bush honeysuckle and tree-downing grapevine on the nature preserve. He and his daughter Aili were back at it on sunny Monday, chainsawing and moving mountainous boulders to bridge the southern ford across Cranberry Run.
Dave’s April 6, 2020 message:
“Was a pretty fun day at the QF with Aili, with a bit of work done, too. Her first time to see the quarry full of water. For Aili, having the geese, the turtles, the muskrat, frogs, crawdads, and snakes all come out was a treat.  I’m still amazed!  We also got the stepping stones put in place at the ford, and a couple hours of honeysuckle clearing in the far south end, by the oxbow ponds.”
Spring/Summer intern Emma has jumped right into the fray, lopping invasive shrub limbs and pulling seedlings. Deb and her nephew Kyle erected another blue bird box. There was one flash of blue yesterday, so someone is at home. Bloodroot is popping up and the first spring beauties dot the banks of the old quarry, beautifully framing the first painted turtles to sun themselves in plain sight this season.

Summer 2019 Newsletter

The sun is out today so it seemed a good day to roll out The Quarry Farm Summer 2019 Newsletter. Click on the cover to the left and download a copy.

Included in this season’s news are details about the design and building of a new Cranberry Run footbridge. The previous footbridge, built by Gerald Coburn and Kevin Siefker at the turn of the century and re-engineered by David Seitz, survived floodwater currents longer than any other bridge. This spring, we discovered that the northern-most weight-bearing pole was rotten, Dave went into action with assistance from his daughter Aili. He documented the new bridge-building project via email to Board President Laura. It’s a fascinating read that we share in the printed newsletter. The beauty of the electronic page offers more space for photos, so we’re sharing the report here as well.

Tuesday, April 16
Some pictures of the bridge, from this afternoon. A good one of the actual break in the north side pole. You can see it drooping below the 2 x 6s, which are holding it together. I’m starting to like the idea of moving the bridge to the south, to the more narrow part of the channel.

Wednesday, May 8
This afternoon I rode up to the QF to see the poles, and tie them off a bit, so they wouldn’t head for Toledo or similar. Both are partly in and partly out of the water. They are beauties: 35 ft. long. One is just 50 meters south of the old bridge. The other is clear down toward the bend. Maybe 150 meters south of the old bridge. Put on my boots, and waded around a bunch. I put strings across the creek, and measured widths, and heights, looking for the best spot. Another point: Since the bridge is now a regular “raft,” I don’t see any sense in burying the poles into the bank. They float up and down these days, often enough. We’ll want chains on the new bridge, like the old. Instead, I’d like to put the poles up on railroad ties. One on each bank would result in the pole top being over a foot taller than the bank. Could put several railroad ties on each bank, for better stability, and to minimize sinking and stress on the banks.

Thursday, May 9
I was worried about the thunderstorms flooding the creek, and losing (the poles). As it turned out, the rain we had was necessary for me to move them to the bridge site. I worked pretty hard with the pry bar on the close one. About an hour to move it 50 meters or so. The creek was too shallow at the rapids. But for the far one, even after the rain and the creek rose 4 inches or so, it still took 2 hours of back work to get it to the bridge site. And just getting it from the bank into the creek was a challenge. Pry bar and blocks were enough, but barely.
The cable puller held together till the end, but was getting iffy on the last pole. With the puller and the recovery straps, it is slow work, but possible.

Tuesday, May 14
Was able to get the first two railroad ties in place, with the poles on top. Will try to get two more ties installed, later in the week. They are heavier than I expected. The one on the west end was about 240 #, and larger than the others. They will keep the poles up off the ground, and stabilize the bridge. Higher the better.

Tuesday, May 21
Worked till dark forced us to stop. The idea was to take off every other board, and transfer them over to the new bridge. That way there would be access to the quarry at all times. Unfortunately, it took us several hours to get the poles “rolled” to the proper position before we started. They both had a sag as received, particularly the north pole. We were able to get the sag rolled 180 degrees up, before the first planks were fastened, so the sag is now an “arch.” But it got dark and we had to stop with about 5 planks short on the new bridge. There are planks all the way over the water, but not enough for a walk across. The current plan is to come up and continue the plank installation tomorrow, weather permitting.
Removing the runner and the screws from the old bridge was indeed a challenge. I brought every kind and size of screw driver I had, and needed them. Some screws were over 4 inches long, and there were multiple types on most of the planks. On the new bridge, I am using new 3 inch zinc coated construction screws, with a torx 25 driver. Two per side. And drilling the pilot holes before screwing them in. Less stress on the poles, and they can be removed when necessary. For a bit of stability while working on the bridge, Aili hung up a yellow stretch of anchor rope at shoulder height above the planks, to give something to hold on to.

Thursday, May 23
Well, we finally got packed and rolling by sunset again. Home just after 10 p.m. Without Aili the planks wouldn’t be done yet. Aili picked through them, and with the 10 new 2 x 6s and “re-purposing” the recently added 2 x 10s that were part of the ramps, felt pretty good about them. And with the spacing, and being flat, it seems quite stable to me. I’ll give them a good inspection, after they’ve been in service some months, and are dried out. They were staying wet all the time on the old bridge.
The last job of the day was to remove the west side anchor chain from the old bridge, and do a temporary anchor job on the west end of the new bridge. I didn’t move the east side chain off the old bridge yet. Will do that one later too when I move the “good” south pole to the proposed ravine bridge site. Also need to anchor the railroad ties. Don’t want them floating away either.

Wednesday, May 29
We had a pleasant day putting up the side ropes, and holders. Re-used the yellow twist anchor rope that we left for the temporary safety rope. It is only half inch diameter, but pretty strong. Totally synthetic, so only worried about UV light wearing it out.
Have chains on both ends now, so should be OK if there is a mega flood. Should go up and back down without taking off for Toledo. Chains are around the poles, and anchored on the railroad ties as well, so we don’t lose them. I’ll make some small changes once I take all the chain off the old bridge. Feel pretty good about it now.