A big heart that could be

Nemo the Pig has been featured in this space before. She came to us in 2015 as a tiny shoat. She was scraped, bruised and broken from a fall onto I-270 from a transport truck in Columbus. A kind, determined person rescued her, nursed the piglet’s wounds and brought her to us. For a couple of weeks, we socialized little Nemo by carrying her around to programs in a baby sling. She housebroke easily, although she outgrew the house and was unable to turn around in hallways. At six months of age, the age that young pigs are typically “finished” and loaded into a crowded transport to be “processed,” Nemo was spayed at Ohio State University. For the first few years of her life, she was one of the first farm animal sanctuary residents to greet visitors.

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“I’ve never seen a pig that big,” everyone still says when they see her for the first time. There’s a reason that they haven’t.

Nemo excavated a mud wallow that is so deep and wide that the geese and ducks swim in it when rainwater fills it to the brim. She made friends with Carlton the Pot-bellied Pig, a buddy system that continues to this day. They allow the other pot-bellied pigs, the geese, ducks and the occasional chicken to use their mud wallow.

Seven years on, visitors don’t often see Nemo, especially when the sun is high and the air is hot. Children love to see her, but she doesn’t often run to greet them, even when we mention the word “apple.” I did coax her out to see third-grade students from Ottawa Elementary in May. She walked out of her favorite building, stared across the pasture at the kids waving at the fence, then turned and walked away to her muddy spa. “Not today,” she seemed to say. I explained to the students that, while they could shed their coats and put on sunscreen, Nemo can only protect her fair skin and floppy ears with sparse, fair pig bristles, cool mud and shade.

For those lucky enough to visit on a cool day, Nemo allows a soft jowl rub. She sighs the deep, rumbling sigh that one would expect to emanate from a body such as hers, closes her blonde lashes and rolls over for a belly pat.

Making a Way for Pollinators

Over the years we’ve written in this space about the long-term focus on pollinators at The Quarry Farm and ways our related gardening practices have evolved. We’ve talked about selecting butterfly-friendly plants for our garden at Red Fox Cabin and beyond. We’ve talked about conditions that butterflies, bees, bats and hummingbirds need to survive or that threaten their existence, and we’ve shared photos of some of the beauties that have graced our garden.

Our concern for pollinators really began during the 1990s when Gerald Coburn began photographing and studying the butterflies on The Quarry Farm. As his inventory grew (eventually to around 55), we learned about preferred host and food plants and began choosing plants accordingly. Our plantings of popular annuals and “Perennials of the Year” transitioned to mixed beds of plants and flowers known to support butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. We planted pollinator-friendly native grasses like Indian Grass and Big Bluestem. We put up bee blocks where native bees could lay their eggs. When we learned of the deadly impact of pesticides on butterflies and bees, we stopped using Sevin in our large vegetable garden at the time and became organic gardeners.

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As reported in previous issues, an exciting new chapter in our history of gardening for pollinators opened five years ago when, as an educational project, the Putnam County Master Gardeners designed and planted a pollinator habitat garden next to Red Fox Cabin. The dedication and hard work of the Master Gardeners have made the site a model in miniature of what a pollinator habitat garden should be—not rigidly structured, mulched and manicured, but purposefully planned, nevertheless. It’s become a diverse riot of plants that offer food and shelter for a stopover or home for an entire life cycle. It’s fenced in and has a handsome gated entrance, decorative hardscaping and informative signage.

Before the Master Gardeners turned the first shovelful, they studied pollinator issues—who the pollinators are, their vital ecological importance, the features of a pollinator habitat, and devastating environmental challenges to survival, including pesticide use and habitat loss. Because land is increasingly polluted, paved over, robbed of diversity, and otherwise made unsupportive, the distances between food and rest sources may be too great for long-distance migrators—for instance, bats and Monarchs—to survive their journeys.

Some concerned environmentalists have proposed creating pollinator corridors to support migratory pollinators throughout their journeys. The idea is for people living along migratory routes to make a concerted effort to offer habitats with food, water and shelter—even if they’re only a few square feet of garden space—at intervals necessary for life-saving stopovers.

An intriguing “what if?” is this: what if people living along interstates, highways, or even country roads like the one that runs past The Quarry Farm were to join in common cause to learn about pollinator issues and then plant habitat gardens, uncontaminated, big or small, along their “corridors.” Several residents on our country road have already established pollinator gardens and larger habitats. What might happen if we organized, gave our cause a name and spread the word?

—The Gardener at Red Fox Cabin

Herman Pollinator Habitat, Road 7L and Road O, Riley Township

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.

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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

‘Gotta Get Gund’

The headline of this post is a slogan from some years ago. The toymaker Gund used it to promote sales of their plush animals. It’s borrowed to encourage Easter bunnies to place toy rabbits, chicks and ducklings in baskets this Spring and to discourage everyone from giving live animals as gifts.

Brownie is our resident spotlight in the Spring 2020 Quarry Farm Newsletter which you may download by clicking on the cover to the right. Brownie rules a small flock of Rouen ducks in The Quarry Farm farm animal sanctuary. This expressive lady even took under her gentle (but firm) wing a young Canada Goose placed here for release by Nature’s Nursery. The gosling, creatively known here as “Baby Goose,” is so enamored of Brownie that she sleeps with her in the hen house at night, even though Baby Goose is now fully-feathered and can fly.

Brownie was surrendered to us by someone who acquired her as a duckling. Although Rouens look very much like large Mallards, Rouens are a heavyweight breed of domesticated duck that originated in France sometime before the 19th century. While Mallards are wild, lightweight flyers, Rouens weigh between 9 and 10 pounds and can only fly short distances. Brownie prefers to waddle-march around the sanctuary, sliding nimbly under the paddock gates to attend to whatever piques her considerable interest.

We spotlight Brownie here not only for her charming personality but as a reminder to refrain from purchasing live rabbits, chicks and ducklings as Easter gifts in April. Each year, Easter pets die cruelly from neglect or mistreatment or are surrendered to animal shelters that receive a surge of unwanteds. These animals are given up after owners lose interest or become unable to care for them. Others that are not taken to shelters are “set free” into the wild where they have no knowledge or experience at foraging or evading predators. Death is inevitable. Those that may survive become part of feral colonies of domestic and hybrid birds that cause problems for native wildlife.

Statistics indicate that within the first weeks after the holiday, 30 percent of all Easter pets die, and another 60 percent to 70 percent are abandoned or turned in to shelters. Instead of a Brownie, fill your Easter basket with a fuzzy toy and gelatin-free jelly beans.

A gift to be read aloud

A Field Trip for Beatrice, the very first book in what we hope will be a library of Quarry Farm stories, is now available for purchase. If you have visited the farm animal sanctuary, you have undoubtedly had the pleasure of making Beatrice’s acquaintance. You may have given her a scritch, an apple slice, and, if so, you know that the resident ‘Queen’ of this peaceable kingdom is a love whose story must be read aloud and treasured, just like Queen Bea herself.

Order yours today. Maybe your friends would like a copy, too.

24 pages, heavy paperback with full-color illustrations.

A Field Trip for Beatrice

While only she knows the exact details of Beatrice’s first six months of life, we do know that she outgrew the welcome at her first home. We also know that she loves a good apple and ‘scritch’, especially when they are delivered by visiting school children. "A Field Trip for Beatrice" is the story of one of those visits, with colorful 3-D watercolor collage illustrations of the day included in the tale.

$12.00

seeking avian life forms

20190216_083800.jpgThis weekend is the 22nd Annual Great Backyard Bird Count, four days when, world-wide, people peer through binoculars and add apps to their phones (speaking from personal habit) to help them identify what birds are at their feeders or watering troughs from February 16-18, 2019. I can hear European starlings above our bathroom ceiling, so we started the count right off with that species. We really need to fix the cover on that vent.

20190216_093355Saturday morning, two Debs, one Maya, one Terry and one Mandy joined in The Quarry Farm count. At 8:08 a.m. we headed across the footbridge to listen and look for what birds would venture out with us into the cold. Not many, as it turned out. Red-bellied woodpeckers hammered in the north along Riley Creek. Horned larks chimed in the field. White-breasted nuthatches scolded. We saw or heard a downy woodpecker, two goldfinches, robins, a male cardinal, bluejays and two Canada geese.20190216_093733

The air was heavy with impending snow. We kept out toes moving and warm by exploring for nonfeathered treasures. There were tracks frozen in the floodplain, reminders of floodwaters that covered it earlier in the week. Fungi bracketed trees and downed limbs. Puddles were flash-frozen in rings as waters receded. Mandy spotted a cocoon of some kind that we have yet to identify but is probably this. And Laura was thrilled to see that the Indian hemp, also commonly called dogbane, has spread in the back 10.20190216_100117.jpg

The promised snow falls in icy pellets. A crow flew over this morning, calling as he scouted, his caws echoing in the cold sky. There isn’t much movement otherwise. I sit at the sewing machine, securing goat coat straps in place. S’more ditched his yesterday during an hour or two of warm sun. Now he is piled under straw in Sophie’s barn. From my perch at the sewing machine, I can watch for birds. The winter is frighteningly in need of visitors.

We’ll listen for owls tonight. Until then, the hot chocolate and tea are warm and plentiful for watching whomever flies.20190216_093228

Winter 2018-2019 Newsletter

All The Quarry Farm news that is fit to print, or at least all the news that we could fit on an 11″ x 17″ piece of piece of paper printed on both sides, is being printed as we speak. But don’t wait for hard copy. Click on the cover here and the electronic version right now.

One thing we would like to add is to watch for announcement for weekend Star Walks. We try conduct these during a new moon so that we can see a lot of stars. It’s tough to plan these ahead of time because of the weather. Look for announcements a couple of days before on The Quarry Farm Facebook page for Star Walks on:
• Saturday, January 5
• Saturday, February 2
• Saturday, March 3

when the trees are sobbing faintly

There was a chair in my grandparents’ house. It was a nondescript stool with a square burgundy seat mounted on four iron legs. It was the kind that you could spin in circles. You could push off with your feet or lay face down across it and turn, walking the circle with fingertips to the floor.

I spent a lot of childhood in that house. One warm summer evening, while Grandpa was in the milkhouse and Gran was making Jersey milkshakes for after chores, I sat on that stool and watched Silent Running, a 1972 environmentally-themed American post-apocalyptic science fiction film starring Bruce Dern. I sobbed as Earth’s last forest traveled out of reach.

As a teen, I sat in Gran’s kitchen and bit my nails while she talked with a caller at the back door. The visitor wanted to buy the property located a mile east of the farm, the 50 acres of woods and stream where Grandpa pastured senior calves in summer. I knew they could use the funds from a sale. I was so afraid that this last forest would be gone.

“No thank you. We don’t wish to sell it,” she said to this offer and to many others.

Carl and Joyce Seitz were my grandparents. My grandfather was a dreamer; a handsome rake who was a lover of books. He was a college graduate, but the farm fell to him while the country was dealing with depression and world war. He would drive a tractor and whistle. My grandmother, a college grad, too, was a stylish beauty who became a farmer’s wife. They raised eight children in that farmhouse. In the warm months, the family sometimes picnicked along the creek that flowed through that 50 acres to the east. In winter, they skated on the old flooded stone quarry there.

For as long as I can remember, that place has been called “The Quarry Farm.”

We lost Grandpa 25 years ago. Today, we lost Gran. Because they both valued the black walnut, maple and oak trees that grow here, the dogtooth violets, mayapples, bloodroot and spring beauties on the ridge and in the floodplain–because they were educators and dreamers–The Quarry Farm is still here.

11845208_10207924019201794_3438920111096809137_oDuring a trip home from university, one of my uncles looked out the kitchen window in time to see Gran hand-feeding a skunk. Two weeks ago, I took Sebastian the Skunk to visit her. Gran would have celebrated 101 years in November, but she was sharp as a tack and delighted in ‘Bastian as well as what we do here.

Chryssy the Cat climbs on my lap now. She shared that farmhouse, the one where we all climbed trees, made mud pies, collected fireflies in a jar, photographed migrating monarchs in the trees, and where our Gran worked art in her kitchen while teaching us to reach for the whole world outside.

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