Branching out, under bright lights

20170419_143537You know that tingling excitement you get when you try something on for the first time, especially when it fits and what looks back at you in the mirror looks pretty good? Yeah, you know. That’s kind of what last week felt like.

The week’s events started last fall with an email from Quarry Farm Friend Robyn. The trails here are not new to her or her family. In fact her son Zane is one of our best advisers during programs. Zane is kind of a barometer—if he’s happy with the program’s progression, we go with the flow. Anyway, Robyn is a Findlay teacher who recommended us as a field trip destination. So back at the start of School Year 2016-17, her co-worker Alyson scheduled a spring field trip.

After the ball dropped in January, Ada Girl Scot Leader Cathy called to schedule a three-badge (Hiker, Bugs, and Animal Habitats) for Brownies and Juniors. A month later, I entered Erie Conservation District‘s “2017 Recycled Runway: A Clean Water Cause” on behalf of The Quarry Farm.

None of these things are truly new. We raise our hands all the time. In fact we all but shout, “Pick me! Pick me!” in order to fulfill our mission statement. What was a stretch is that all these things were set to happen in the same week in April 2017.

20170419_142307On Sunday, we fortified ourselves with chocolate and other Easter basket contents. From Monday to Thursday, 218 Findlay preschool students, their teachers, parents and bus drivers made lasting-leaf t-shirts and followed the Cranberry Run Trail to meet the farm animal sanctuary residents before making the bus ride back to Hancock County. The mornings were cool and afternoons exceedingly warm, but Miracle Max the Bronze Turkey was always the gate greeter for every group even if the other animals dove for cover.

Fearless Girl

Fearless Girl from “200 Years…Same Shoes”

Friday night was the big Sandusky runway show. Recycled Runway was a fundraiser to restore Lake Erie’s Big Island Preserve on the eastside shoreline off the Cedar Point Causeway. Since everything done upstream (here) impacts downstream (Lake Erie) the Fabulous Sarah wrapped herself in repurposed pop can tabs, plastic shopping bags, snack bags, mesh fruit bags, plastic bottles, plastic caps, plastic straws, bubble wrap, and feed bags and walked the red carpet in our Regency/Roaring ’20s/2020 Fearless Girl time-warp entry “200 Years…Same Shoes.”

We made the Final Four (whoo Hoo!) and they raised $10,000 towards increased water quality. Check out the media photos.18034077_1524536627558995_2990400833246355312_n20170422_110444

Saturday morning, the Ada scouts reused bush honeysuckle to make hiking sticks, hiked habitats, tasted garlic mustard, and met the animals. Max was red with happiness.

2017-04-23 16.12.32Today we rest. So does Mister Bill. Looking in the mirror, or at the photos and videos on our cells, and through the perspectives captured by others who shared the stage of the day, we’ll still keep raising our hands.

Get off my yawn

IMG_2387

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..

Butterflies beyond the heat islands

20150806_181856-120150805_151615-1There is no better cure for a bad case of the Mondays than a brisk walk in the open air. If your feet take you beyond the water cooler and out of doors to a concrete sidewalk, perhaps this virtual walk in The Quarry Farm butterfly gardens will transport you beyond your August Ohio heat island.

Late summer in Northwest Ohio means sweat that never dries, elephant-eye-high corn, even this year after months of heavy June and July rain, and the golden greens of mature plant leaves, the rich amethysts of ironweed and Joe Pye and the hot reds, oranges and burgundies of lilies, cosmos, Susans, zinnia and echinacea. The Gardener would likely list many more flora, but since she’s otherwise occupied in the gardens themselves, you are stuck with those plants that I can identify around the Seitz Family Pavilion.

Skipper

Silver-spotted skipper butterfly

Monarch under cover

Monarch under cover

Lucky for all of us, she always carries her phone. And because she does, she took photographs of the better-late-than-never butterflies that are moving from flower to flower.

Better still, she took video. So, find a park bench or an open window and take a virtual butterfly walk in the warm August sunshine. There is breeze today to keep the virtual mosquitoes at bay.

 

Our first number is, “The Dance of the Tiger Swallowtails.”

 

 

 

 

 

Tiger swalltowtail

Tiger swalltowtail

And what better image to leave you with, for today, than a giant swallowtail doing its level Lepidopteran best to pollinate every plant in the north bed?

Now go back to work, full in the knowledge that there are still butterflies in the world.

Carlton goes to college and other colorful stories

P1080221 We’re six days and counting with no rain. The morass is drying and the butterflies and other pollinators have landed, flitted, and flown in greater numbers than we have seen in these parts yet this year. Before summer’s end, I may need all 10 fingers to count monarch butterflies. The milkweed keeps sending out its rich fragrance. We can hope.

In between butterfly counts, we loaded a crated Carlton into the car and took him down to the Veterinary Medical Center at Ohio State University. What started out as a solid mass that wrapped under his right foreleg had settled into three abscesses. Fearing a pernicious parasite, we made the trip that IMG_4674we’ve made twice now with Marsh the Nigerian dwarf goat.

I love that place — if not the reason for going, but for the experience. The veterinary students and faculty and are curious, kind and thorough. On Thursday, with a dozen or so students gathered around, Erin “won” the opportunity to lance the most problematic abscess. It was truly spectacular, so productive as to elicit a burst of, “Ah-ohhhhs!” and applause. Dr. MacKay announced, “I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t appreciate a good abscess.” That right there is a bumper sticker in the making.

Continental 3On Friday, more color, of a very different kind, arrived here on The Quarry Farm. The Continental Junior Gardeners visited for the fourth year. There were many new faces this year, although some came into focus as we realized they were the siblings of children who visited in the past. They gathered leaves and arranged them on white t-shirts, then sprayed diluted acrylic paints on the shirts to create one-of-a-kind designs. Leader Charlene Finch said they will wear them in the Continental Fall Festival parade in September. Continental 2

After lemonade and cookies, they walked through the butterfly gardens and visited the farm animal sanctuary. The turkeys claimed the group as their own and gentle giant goat Mr. Bill smiled for several cameras. Before they left us for another year, all but one camera-shy dad posed on the red Fox Cabin front porch for their annual portrait.

ContinentalThe sun continues to shine today. Damselflies and dragonflies are on the move, lessening the hum of mosquitoes bred in the recent floods. With paint left in the spray bottles, I think a few more t-shirts will be made this afternoon. Pick up a t-shirt of your own and come on by around 3 p.m.

Can’t promise there will be any cookies left, but there are butterflies and a much happier pig next door.

 

Pause here for P-G

P-G Third Grade 2015Before we continue along the trail in a search of wildflowers and wild mushrooms, let’s take a moment to highlight a Friday adventure that we shared with the third grade class from Pandora-Gilboa Elementary School.

Although the school is just around a few corners from The Quarry Farm, this is the first time a class has been able to pay us visit in a while. This morning, the sun rose in a clear blue sky, the tortuous winds that we’ve had of late held their breath for the most part, and 41 students descending the bus steps to join us for the morning.

At three different stations, these curious kids learned about herbs alongside the butterfly garden, beneficial insects that spend much of their life in and along Cranberry Run and Riley Creek, and met some of the animals of the sanctuary.Herbs

At Station 1, Laura talked about past and present uses for herbs, and the pollinators that live amongst them in the Red Fox Cabin gardens. The students chose snipped samples of their favorites from a selection of culinary and/or fragrant herbs, zip-lock bagged the cuttings and labeled the bags for the journey home.

Steve brought on the dragonfly nymphs, or at least a bucket of them, at Station 2. He talked about the life cycles and habits of these predators, Macrosas well as others like damselflies and water scorpions. He pulled the old arm-covered-with-leeches trick, asking, “How long will it be before these leeches suck all the blood from my arm?” The answer? Never. The leeches he displayed were fish leeches.

Bronze turkeys Humperdink, Inigo, and Miracle Max were the greeting party at Station 3, the farm animal sanctuary. Johnny the Canada goose joined in, too. Most of the residents were lying low — in outbuildings and under trees — due to warm, sweaty temperatures, but Buddy the donkey came out. Potbelly Carlton and Lucy the donkey made their large group debut as well. Carlton rolled over for a belly scratch and Lucy leaned in for ear whispers.Lucy

Captain John Smith the Virginia opossum was the special guest “speaker” during the lunch hour. Half of the class met the Captain at Christmas time during a classroom reading of Jan Brett’s The Mitten. We thought it only fair he should meet the whole class on his own turf.

Here are a few more images from the day. Thank you to Nikki Beckman for sharing photos, Jessica Arthur and Jill Henry for sharing your class time, and top Paulding Putnam Electric Cooperative and First National Bank of Pandora for supporting this educational program. If anymore photos arrive in the email box, we’ll add them to the show.

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Buddy meets a girl

Lucy

Lucy

The oaks, the last trees to lose their leaves in fall, were down to just a few spots of brittle color when we first learned of Lucy.

A family in southwest Indiana sent out a distress signal that life had thrown them a curve, making it necessary for them to rehome a small flock of sheep and their guardian donkey. Bot flies and shearing wool appealed to neither our time nor talents, but the thought of opening our gate to another donkey seemed the ticket for our little Buddy. Six months and a bitter winter later, Lucy and her person made the four-hour journey to Riley Township.

My Steven and I were on the south boundary Saturday replacing old fencing, much to the dismay of two sassy goats whose nimble limbs and twitching noses were turned by the grass on the other side. The job also gave us an excuse to watch for a truck-pulling-trailer with Indiana plates.

I think Buddy knew. As I leaned over to stretch the bottom of the fence, he walked up and laid his head across my shoulder. They always know something’s up, whether it’s a storm or a class trip full of adoring little persons with apple slices and peanuts in their pockets.

Lucy’s wheels rolled up around 1 p.m. The welcoming committee lined up along the fence to meet the driver, except for Buddy. He pressed himself against the fence and stared in the window of the horse trailer. When Lucy was led through the gate and let off the lead, Buddy did an-honest-to-goodness happy dance.

For her part, Lucy was a little stand-offish. Her person Brandi Ireland told us that they lost a donkey to the winter of 2013-14, leaving a sad Lucy to mind the sheep. For the first hour on Ohio soil, she put on a good show of preferring grass and hay over some boy, but she never let that boy get more than a few strides away.

For the rest of the afternoon into evening, Buddy showed Lucy around her new digs, placing himself dutifully between her and the goats. I’m not sure if that was for her safety, theirs, or just Buddy making a statement of ownership.

Through human eyes and sensibilities, it seems that Buddy’s warm brown eyes are brighter and five years lifted from his gait in a few hours’ time. The goats are watching them both to see which donkey will figure out how to open the hay barn doors now that the salad bar next door is off the menu.

That’s not anthropomorphizing; that’s a day in the life with a Buddy boy and his goats, plus one. Better than a Sudoku puzzle to keep any two-legger on their toes.

Spot the frog

Over the past few weeks, we’ve spent a fair amount of time kicking around the wilder areas of The Quarry Farm, traipsing about under an increasingly dense canopy of hardwoods and skirting the edges of the quarry where what appears to be solid ground is, more often than not, more akin to thick, black soup. At this time of the year, the one common element of every off-the-map habitat, whether it’s in the woods back by the Cut-Off or wading through Cranberry Run, are the mosquitoes. They rise in humming clouds so dense that the beating of their wings creates a perceptible breeze. Even so, the very habitats that give rise to this scourge also foster a teeming number of solutions. There are dozens of species of dragonfly and damselfly patrolling the property. During the day, acrobatic swallows and other small songbirds cut the air, while at night, bats chitter a welcome swath of destruction under the stars.

And then there are the frogs.

Northern leopard frog Lithobates pipiens

Northern leopard frog
Lithobates pipiens

American bullfrog Lithobates catesbeianus

American bullfrog
Lithobates catesbeianus

Globally, frogs and other amphibians have suffered dramatic population declines over the past three decades. Even here, on the quarry, we’ve seen specific species numbers, like the American bullfrog, dwindle. Where there were once multiple waves of small bullfrogs racing into the duckweed-covered water of the quarry, now there is a fraction of that number, their individual voices discernible as evening progresses into night. Even so, they are here, though in limited numbers, as are Northern leopard frogs, the Northern green frog, the Northern spring peeper and the gray treefrog. And one more…Blanchard’s cricket frog. Its presence is cause for celebration.

Blanchard's cricket frog Acris crepitans blanchardi

Blanchard’s cricket frog
Acris crepitans blanchardi

Twenty years ago, Blanchard’s cricket frog was so common that it was frequently referred to as “ubiquitous” in reports detailing amphibian populations in North America. Now, the species is considered endangered in Wisconsin, of special concern in Minnesota and Indiana, protected in Michigan and extinct in Canada. Universally, throughout its range, Blanchard’s cricket frog is suffering. Although it fares better in Ohio, even here, radical population declines have been reported. Thankfully, on the quarry, their numbers are not only persisting, but arguably growing. While part of the nighttime chorus for at least the past ten years, the voices of the indigenous population of cricket frogs are becoming dominant.

So, in celebration of this little frog (it’s less than an inch-and-a-half in length) and its very big impact on the mosquito population, it’s time to play Spot the Frog. It’s a simple enough game with just one basic goal. So, without further ado…

                                                                  SPOT the FROG