falling sounds

20170910_165648The old stone quarry has changed a lot over 150 years, from not being there at all to a horse-drawn limestone operation, from spring-fed fishing hole to wetland. Black willows and other water-loving trees and plants grow there now. Wood ducks, wild turkeys, owls, squirrels, tree frogs and herons roost high above the banks. They see you before you even know they are there, falling silent or bursting from the branches in a great show of chatter or feathers.

One tree leaned at the northwest shore for as long as I can remember. My Gran said she used to make a blanket nest for Uncle Keith in its roots while the family fished for bluegill. The tree lived its life, watching two- and four-leggers wear a path below.20170910_172736

20170910_170849 (1)Last weekend the dogs and I found the tree in pieces. The path is strangely open now. Stick-tights thrive in the open sunlight, laying waste to another pair of shorts and leaving the future of my t-shirt in doubt as well. Thankfully, jewelweed grows nearby to stop the burr itch. I wonder if the wild ginger will move to shade further along the bank.

The tree’s fall was a long time coming. Not long after the tree died over a decade ago, its bark weathered away. Dad parked his ATV next to the tree to take photographs of the butterflies, dragonflies and other insects that perched on the smooth trunk. Walking the path sent wildlife running in every direction. The putt-putt of the ATV didn’t. From the driver’s seat, Dad filmed an ichneumon wasp, its long ovipositor extended into a woodpecker’s drill work.

We still have the photos, as well as Dad’s drawings of the wasp. The sketch was one of several used on a poster about beneficial insects. The illustrations are a reminder how nature and art are linked. Here on these 50 acres and beyond invisible parcel lines, the native arts must be nurtured as much as the first grasses and plants that secure this watershed.

Click, look and listen.20170909_183949


almost autumn

almost autumn and the sky squeezes blue
through the eye, guilt
from a moment of weeks; two days,
one leaf between a bible

of pages

black and white and velvet brown feet pad
through fallen leaves.
and still another falls to join them
and another still
and another still

Just a week, now, until fall; seven days and yesterday felt every bit the season. We ferried Captain John, the opossum, and Carlton, the potbelly, to Lima for an evening program in the amphitheater at Johnny Appleseed’s Ottawa Metropark. It was cold in the bottomland where the structure sits, the wind constant and insinuating.

But this is less about that than it is about earlier in the day. For the first time in weeks, in months, yesterday afternoon we worked our way to the back field. Certainly because we missed the woods and the field, the stream where it runs past the quarry and the quarry itself, but also as an introduction. And in keeping with this Merlin of a post, where time first marched backward from evening to afternoon, now there’s cause to relate a time two weeks back…two weeks and two days, not to put too fine a point on it.

This is Cady.


Anne named her for Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who, among other things, was an American suffragist. Cady came to us through the Putnam County Dog Shelter. She was abandoned in a Columbus Grove apartment not too very long after she’d birthed pups and almost certainly not for the first time, the birthing or the abandonment. The county’s dog warden, Mike Schroth, let us know about her situation, granted us the opportunity to invite her into our family. So, 72 hours after the county assumed responsibility for her welfare and 48 hours after we introduced her to Mister Bill (who gave her a sniff and then turned his back) and to the chickens (who paid her no heed at all) and to the turkeys (who took an immediate dislike to her and now pester her wherever she goes within the fenced-in area that is the animal sanctuary, unrelentingly reminding me of that Sandra Boynton cartoon), Cady relinquished her given name, Baby, and came to The Quarry Farm, new baptized.

Cady and LollySo, yesterday, 12 days after Baby became Cady, we introduced her to the wilder part of The Quarry Farm, the woods and fields beyond the fence. And again today, yesterday having proven a bounding success. With Lolly, Cady peered into Cranberry Run, braved the bridge, skirted the quarry, tore through the leaves on the main path to the back field, grazed her way across the field, padded along the ridge above Coburn’s Bottom and then back and back and back and back.

On the way, she passed, unremarked, goldenrod goldenrodironweedand ironweed

and a catalpa, alone, in the midst of the goldenrod,

catalpa in back 40

a viceroy


and a dragon.


Who knows what she’ll see next time, Cady, in the fields and along the stream? Or the time after that, for she’s not going anywhere, our Cady.

cady by deadfall_edited-1

Welcome home.

turkeys and some clean, new snow

Turkeys woke us up Monday morning, woke us up to at least a couple of inches of new snow.

InygoNot this turkey. This is Inigo, one of the domestic bronze turkeys who live here in the residential neighborhood of The Quarry Farm. And not the turkeys pictured first. Well, probably not them, at any rate. It could be, I suppose; they’re representative of the wild turkeys that live here, but probably not, as that photograph’s at least two years old, possibly four. While turkeys in the wild are known to live to the ripe old age of 14 years, the average lifespan is only three. So, possible, but not probable.

flying turkeyMore likely, it was this one, though it’s a poor likeness. Him and his friends, no doubt. He made himself known late this evening, pacing back and forth along the fence line that separates the sanctuary from the preserve, the domestic from the wild, chortling to himself or to a hen on the other side of the fence. I crept out with the idea of getting a good photograph. He’d have none of that, though, and took to wing.

But back to yesterday morning.

Outside the house, through the doors and windows, there was a whole lot of white. All that new snow made Lolly twitchy. For her, it was like a clean canvas to a painter, an empty page to a writer; she just had to go out and make her mark.

lollyMonday morning’s walk was very much like Sunday’s, though there weren’t as many tracks readily visible as the day before. The new snow had covered the old and there weren’t nearly enough intrepid explorers out and about before Lolly and I got there. We did see some eastern cottontail rabbit tracks and what we assume are fox tracks; at least, that is how they appear to us. Lolly almost first thing scared up an eastern fox squirrel; scared it right up a series of consecutively larger trees, in fact, until it settled in a big, old sycamore that sits just up and off the path.  Lolly must carry herself with a certain amount of menace, because that squirrel left the better part of its hedge-apple breakfast behind. If that squirrel only knew, it would have blown a raspberry and kept right on breaking its fast. Off we went, then, along the path some more and across the bridge and skirting the edge of the quarry, covered in a blanket of white with hardly a mark on it. Just the tracks of that rabbit I mentioned earlier. We could hear the occasional bird, but they were keeping their heads down; down and tucked under a wing, most likely, out of the snow.

honey locustTree houseThe big back field was as quiet as the quarry and we passed through without seeing much of anything. Rounding back, we took to the path that leads down into what some locals refer to as Coburn’s Bottom. We saw a downy woodpecker or two and signs of them in some still-standing dead trees. The thorns on the honey locust trees (Gleditsia triacanthos) were softened with snow, though you’d sooner want to kiss a porcupine than hug a honey locust; the wild ones, anyway.

Anne, Lolly and Old Man Sycamoresycamore barkA little farther on and we came to a magnificent old gentleman of a tree; a huge and stately American sycamore that Anne calls by the name of Old Man Sycamore. There are any number of American sycamores (Platanas occidentalis) growing within the riparian areas of The Quarry, and we’re pleased to have them. The trunk and branches are of a mottled color, with reddish brown, pale gray, light green and olive shades of bark setting side by side in irregular patches. This is because the bark of the sycamore isn’t as rigid as the bark of other trees and sloughs off in patches, leaving a pattern created by different layers of bark. A hardwood, sycamores have been used for furniture, siding and even the creation of musical instruments. Because they’re so hardy, they do well in urban and suburban settings, and they do grow quite large; four foot in diameter is common and 70 to 100 feet tall isn’t unusual. Their canopies are welcome on hot summer days and even their stripped branches in winter offer a good deal of shelter from the elements.

sycamore canopy

lollly in sycamoreAs for Old Man Sycamore, he’s a good four and a half feet in diameter and fifty feet high. That he’s had to work to get to sunlight is apparent. His trunk has a great bit of a bow to it where he worked his way past a rock, another tree that has long since passed or some other unknown obstacle, and his trunk bears a wide rent in the southern side that opens out into a wide cavity. Lolly just couldn’t keep her nose out of it…then her shoulders. Finally, all but her tail was snug inside.

There’s a nice swale near the Old Man that’s formed by the run-off from the vernal pools down into Cranberry Run and we took advantage of it to walk out onto the stream. Lolly and I followed the Little Cranberry for quite a ways, though every time the ice cracked or popped, Lolly hopped and scurried forward and away. Eventually, though, we made it back to the ford without much incident and out and back up to the house.

And so ended a nice morning walk in the woods, with Lolly curled up on our bed, licking the warmth back into her feet and me easing back with a hot cup of Earl Grey.