The Skinny on the Thick of It

“You’ve got to try Facebook,” they said. “It’s fun. Everyone shares pictures.” I did and lots of people did, too. Then we shared ideas. Then we shared opinions as well as other people’s opinions like they were our own. We made “friends” and we lost actual friends because it is so very easy to click without weighing the pros and cons of clicks. I did all of the above, forgetting that social media is a really handy tool and should not be a pastime, even on cold, windy, rainy days like we weathered this week. Yesterday, I found myself getting depressed over the negative back-and-forth in one private group that, over time, has devolved (in my opinion) into an airing of us vs. them and why anywhere is better than here.

I left the group yesterday and went outside to talk with the geese under the clearing sky.

The geese are indeed talking. Nine wild Canada geese landed outside the fence yesterday. The eight geese on this side of the fence noticed. There was about 15 minutes of boisterous conversation. One goose from this side of the fence flew over to join the wild flock, which is exactly what we hope for. The Canada geese here are flighted and banded with identification so their movements can be studied once they become the wild birds that they are meant to be—IF they can shake loose the strong bonds of imprinting on people.

Buddies Tim and Scott

One Canada goose that will not be flying is Tim. He’s been spotlighted in The Quarry Farm newsletter. Last Saturday, he had visitors from his hometown of Parma, Ohio. Scott cared for Tim when the goose’s mate died. He made sure that his “Buddy” had feed and open water when the flock thinned in winter. According to another visitor to the Parma pond, Tim had been hit not once but twice by the same car. And survived. And thrived, thanks to Scott.

Scott and Margaret drove from Parma to say hello to Tim. Another banded Canada goose rode along, a very large bird that is fully flighted but very imprinted on people. Spring being what it is—a season of great twitterpation among all species—the new goose came out of his crate loaded for bear. He rushed Lucy the Donkey. The goose that keeps close to Lucy took umbrage. The new goose took off and visited the neighbors about 1/2-mile south for 24 hours before returning with his feathered tail between his legs. This goose, who is identified as “K”, is minding his Ps and Qs and treating “T”, “U”, “X” and the other geese (and Lucy) with more respect.

In addition to new tall goose tales, there are stories of new bird sightings this Spring. Deb Weston and David Smith have been monitoring migration. Deb added Eastern Whippoorwill to the Hotspot list of 140 avian species documented on these 50 acres. Last week she saw a Blue-headed Vireo and is trying to catch a photo of the cheeky bird. She did get a photo of a White-eyed Vireo (above).

David Seitz continues to trek from Columbus 2-3 times per week to battle invasive shrubs, adding more bush honeysuckle limbs and trunks to the shelter piles. Last month’s flooding floated one of the pillars—two substantial tree trunks that mark the start of the floodplain trail—into the 19th-century quarrying overflow channel. David’s mind-boggling engineering engineered it back into place. By the way, that same mind engineered the whole, ancient and water-logged tree trunk from the bottom of the quarry a few years ago.

Paul and Joyce Bonifas constructed the Cadillac of composting systems in the Red Fox Cabin garden area. Paul designed it and all of the Putnam County Master Gardeners and other volunteers will add to the bins. So will whichever one of us cleans the henhouse next.

Glandorf Cub Scouts were the first group to walk the trails this season. They heard owls, spotted shrews that had been displaced during the flood and watched a bald eagle follow Riley Creek. May, June and July days are packed with school field trips, summer camps, the Summer Tea Tasting in the Gardens (June 17) and the Spring Migration Bird Hike (May 20).

Two weeks ago, a carload of loud music and shouting teens stopped along the Northwest perimeter. My hackles went up, expecting a can to go flying over the fence. Instead, someone shouted, “It’s just beautiful!” This place, the lives that depend on it, the volunteers who care for it and them and the people who want to know more about it and them are why here is a place to be.

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.

Days of flowers and fungi, part 1

GroupTwo weeks ago we wore coats down and up the trails to the northeast homestead to find out if the bloodroot was in bloom. The answer was a frosty “no.”

If the bloodroot blooms did weather the April freezes, they were gone by May 2, when naturalist Tammy Spillis led a walk along greening Quarry Farm trails. Armed with field guides and mnemonic devices like “sedges have edges,” staff and registered attendees started down Red Fox hill in a search for wildflowers and fungi.Violets

Our first find beyond a carpet of wood violets was tall meadow rue. “Anything in the buttercup family is poisonous, but they’re good pollinators,” said Tammy.

A sap test on the next find was done on something in the lettuce family, a plant called lion’s foot. A painted turtle raised his head from Cranberry Run, perhaps at the mention of wild lettuce, then swam upstream and away.

One of the preserve’s many corded grapevines, thick as a bodybuilder’s bicep, hung over the creek. “I never cut grapevines down,” said Tammy. “The larger the root going into the ground, the greater the volume of water. What actually brings down a tree is not because the grapevine is a parasite, but because water is heavy.”

She explained that an upper offshoot of a grapevine such as this one, when tapped with a plastic bag secured over the cut, can yield up to a quart of sweet water in a half-hour’s time. “Always keep a grapevine in your woods, just in case your well goes bad,” our guide advised.

Black mustard grew, hot and spicy, near the vine. Kidney leaf buttercup was a few steps beyond. Way back when, certain plants were thought to be a tonic for the body parts they resembled. “As science advanced and they made explanations into the different folklore, they found many of the plants held true to that,” said Spillis. “But many did not. This is toxic. Don’t eat it.”Spring Beauties

She pointed out a native loosestrife, common name moneywort, good for pollinators, flanked by spring beauties. Spring beauties are related to purslane. So let it grow — purslane is high in Omega 3 oils. That means it’s good for you.

Eric, the brewer in our party, was interested in the wild ginger growing on the old quarry’s edge. We first noticed one or two Gingersplants and their burgundy pipe-like flower in that spot a couple of years ago. The warm green leaves have increased in number since then, and new beds are springing up elsewhere in the flood plain. Tammy told us that ants are making this happen.

“The wild ginger seeds have this oily sugar coating. The ants come back for the seeds and move them to their ant colony. They don’t eat the seeds themselves; all they want is the sugar coating. Wherever the colony is, you’ll get another colony of wild ginger. Isn’t that nice?”

It sure is. More good things to come, further up the hillside.