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

cookies with Jam

In 363 days, the 2017 Quarry Farm Jam is happening under the red roof of the Seitz Pavilion. Two days after the 2016 musical gathering, my toes are still tapping and I wonder at the videos and photos that keep popping up on Facebook, including this compilation from Dave Frick:

A few years back, Steve brought up the idea of inviting musicians to this place, this “whole different world” as Betty Wannemacher says. No program, said Steve, just ask people to come on over and play their favorite musical instrument…or not. Listeners could pack a lawn chair. We’d supply the cookies, per tradition.

Four years ago, the first Quarry Farm Acoustic Night included guitar players and kazoos. The next year, fiddles and a saxophone showed up, too. The third year, scheduled for late October, was renamed a Jam as the pavilion was wired with electric outlets and lights. The weather didn’t care, however, as the Jam was snowed out (yes, snow.) The next day, we circled the second Saturday in 2016 as the fourth music night, plugged or unplugged.dsc_0046dsc_0044

Saturday’s instruments included guitars of various scale, a ukulele, autoharps, fiddles, harmonicas, and I believe that a mandolin made an appearance, too. There was a good gathering of music lovers to listen alongside and in the peaceable kingdom next door.

Oh so many thanks to Doug, Mike, Ralph, Gus, Dondi, Lynn, Bob, David and Michelle. And Erin, who has joined us every time with her roadie/soundman dad Bruce and musician mom Beth. Did you notice that great blue heron skimming low over the cabin on its way to sunset? That was your great-grandpa, Erin, and boy, is he proud.

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meanwhile, across the run

IMG_2440In between cookie batches for Saturday’s annual music Jam, the call of the nature preserve was answered. So were Lolly and Cady, both of whom stared out toward the tree line, rolling their big brown eyes soulfully and wagging their tails each time someone with opposable thumbs walked in the direction of the front door.

Sunday, the door was opened. Summer drought and temperatures in the upper 80s laid mosquitoes to rest; no repellent was pocketed along the way.

IMG_2442I always forget what late summer does to the natives. Minnows, small bass and other fishes circle in the pools that are Cranberry Run during much of the year. This year there are clots of decaying algae to suck the oxygen from their gills. The bed has been dry for so long that purple ironweed grows below the waterline. The old quarry is diminished to a green duckweed center.

IMG_2444I pulled a muskrat trap from the bed of the stream. Its wire frame lifted with a strong coating of fertilized creekbed. Neither traps nor fertilizer are welcome in this waterway. One is easily removed, though, and went the way of garbage pick-up.IMG_2435

Leaves hang dull green and brown-edged from the trees. Twigs–whole limbs, sometimes–drop with the hot wind that puffs down the bluff into the floodplain. A willow that, even though it died some years back still hosted ichneumon wasps and other helpful predators, leaned its last before our arrival. A chunk of trunk crumbles over the path. A new bracket grows on what still stands.IMG_2431

The back field is golden under heated air open to sunshine but little current. Few insects sift through the artichokes and bullthistles. There should be so many this time of year. Their absence is sobering. It’s a relief to see a bumblebee and sulphur butterfly. I tried to take the bees photo, but all but his back legs and a bit of yellow fluff are caught in the frame to the left of a cluster of yellow flowers.

Flattened grasses indicate that somethings do rest and feed here. We get a whiff of proof when both dogs roll in scat and carry it with them back through the upper woods toward home and baths.IMG_2417

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..

Return of the Finch’s

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Brenda Fawcett mixes papercrete

Despite the heat, only one paint mixer drill bit and mosquitos aside, three programs happened onsite this past week. Monday, Putnam County Master Gardener Brenda Fawcett led a make-and-take wherein participants created planters out of papercrete (a sort of papier mache combination of Portland cement and paper strips.) Tuesday saw the return of the Hardin County Herb Society.

On Saturday, “the hottest day of the year” according to local weather forecasters, Charlene Finch and the 2016 Continental Jr. Gardeners made the group’s annual trek from the northwest corner of Putnam County. If you scroll back through this blog, you’ll see that Finch’s crew have been here just about this time every summer for several years. After partaking in a scavenger hunt for pollinators, the young green thumbs posed on the front porch of Red Fox Cabin for their annual portrait (thanks to Miranda for sharing this snap.) They also visited with the farm animal sanctuary residents, helping to cheer up S’more as he’s been pretty withdrawn due to the loss of his brother this week.

That pollinator search led to quite a list of creatures. The team of Nathan and his mom Lindsay won the scavenger hunt with a list of 21, as follows:

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Nathan, Pollinator ID Champion

1. baby green grasshopper
2. people
3. wasps
4. cabbage moth
5. dragonfly
6. wood bee
7.big brown beetle
8. fly
9. bumblebee
10. flying ant
11. mosquito
12.ash bugs
13. sweat bee
14. black cricket
15. honey bee
16.black wasp
17. Japanese beetle
18. black beetle
19. big brown camo moth
20. gnat
21. red lightning bug with reddish brown black spots

Teams didn’t have to be specific with names as long as they could describe their finds. As a group, we corrected some names and identified others as described. For instance, #19 was a skipper butterfly.

You’ll also note that not all on the list are technically pollinators: hummingbirds, bats, bees, beetles, butterflies, and flies that carry pollen from one plant to another as they collect nectar. However, all of Saturday’s finds carry pollen, not to mention seeds and other insects, in their journey from place to place. That includes humans, whether we intend to or not.

You may also see that the notorious, voracious invader Japanese beetle made the list. They may spread pollen around as it clings to their scarab-like bodies, but they more than make up for this by decimating green goods. But there’s hope from the skies, control provided by a European transplant that’s been here so long that the New World is as much theirs as it is ours.

Eat up, European starlings. There’s ketchup in the shelterhouse.

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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

Better than chocolate bunny ears

c4670934-429a-4ad5-a309-5e643be723edOn Saturday, my old frayed running shoes picked up another layer of camouflage.

Easter Eve started out chilly, with thick frost and a skim of ice on the goats’ and donkeys’ water pans.f04836dd-60e0-4c6f-904b-068631678062 On the quarry, wood duck and mallard couples made come-hither eyes at each other until we spoiled the fun. Wood ducks skittered over the east bank and a mallard duck “wank, wank, wanked” toward Riley Creek, her emerald-headed, testosterone-addled suitor in pursuit. 22a018ab-350c-442f-bdfd-262d00d61d72
The turtles were more confident, waiting until we had our cameras out before they slid below water surfaces. Steve found one crossing between Cranberry Run and the oxbow “cut-off”, a wetland left when Allen County engineers tried to tame the little creek’s meanderings half a century ago.

c61571af-e857-498b-8471-737a025bbcdeWe saw bloodroot leaves uncurling from the ground. Native Americans used the red extract from this wildflower’s roots as a natural dye, most notably for basket weaving. Above ground and growing wild in the sunlit clearing around the old homesteads well north of the tallgrass meadow, the bloodroot flowers bloom.

a50e38b0-ea6a-4d59-bcca-040f7f0940caA few spring beauties and ramps dot the southeast ridge as it rises east of the cut-off. In the warmer air and spongy soil in the U of the oxbow, three toadshade trilliums fan over moss f4cb27d4-c57e-4d8b-8dfd-5a3ef1c4e172and decaying stumps crawling with industrious crustaceans.

Steve counted four species of butterfly, including two red admirals duking it out with anglewings–commas or question marks?–a camera-shy mourning cloak and a spring azure doing some sort of strange contortions in the back field.

We also picked up several bottles and cans, one with the smaller V from an old pull tab. These are the ‘blooms’ that are best picked. Never planted is even better.