Today was Spring Family Day on The Quarry Farm. At 1 p.m., the temperature was in the 90s, sending a puddle of honeybees up the side of the north hive to cool…maybe. We are very, very new to beekeeping so I don’t know why they are washboarding backwards and forwards above the hive entrance. But I did learn this week that this inch-by-inch dance is called ”washboarding” and I would do it to cool off outside my hive if I were a honeybee.
So a little before 1 p.m. the first family arrived. The Rita the Greeter’s table and umbrella was up, ice water and cookies were in the pavilion and “staff” appeared as coolly collected as anyone could be during a Midwest heatwave. Dragonflies swanned in and out of blooming Lizard’s Tongue on the quarry wetland. Pearly Crescent Butterflies flickered orange under Buckeye tree leaves. Nemo cooled in her mud bath and Beatrice emerged from her own spa to visit with her piggy admirers.
“It’s all so peaceful,” someone said.
I smiled, making a mental note to take my new plants out of the truck as soon as possible. At 6 a.m. this morning, My Steven saw the donkeys at the front door, Nemo lounging in the flowering herb bed and several goats munching away at the blossoms. I forgot to latch the lower chain on the south gate last night. While Steve sold his bread at the Bluffton Farmer’s Market, I bought new herbs from Ann Boyd’s My Own Backyard.
I think it will always thrill me to overhear someone asking someone else if they have ever been to The Quarry Farm, for people to talk about the animals, birds, gardens and the clarity of the stream. Not everyone will turn over their yard to goats, roosters, and geriatric pigs, but gardens—the riotous kind filled with a variety of native flowering plants—and trees can make birds and clear water more common. This region’s native grasses and trees have long, branching root systems that hold the soil like a strong net. Have you ever pulled English Ivy? This non-native is tenacious and fast-growing but you can remove a large patch with one pull, so shallow-rooted and interwoven is this European transplant. In contrast, ever tried to pull a Common Milkweed in its entirety? Best of luck.
Old Man Sycamore in the north floodplain of the nature preserve has a hollow base that provides shelter to who knows how many creatures each night and during winter’s worst. As shallow-rooted landscapes topple across Northwest Ohio, he and the 300-year oaks withstand wicked flood currents and down-bursts. As the floodwaters recede, the forbs at his feet grasp run-off silt and soil. Within 36 hours, Cranberry Run is clear again.
You hear a lot about native plants these days. Big-box stores as well as local nurseries stock a variety of plants labeled as native. Keep in mind that native doesn’t always mean native to here. Also, ask your green-grower what kind of substrate your plants are potted in. Mass-marketed plants are often potted for long shelf lives, their roots sandwiched in neonicotinoid-laced soils that wreak havoc on bees and other beneficial insects.
Remember that part about riotous gardens? Variety is the spice of life. Some native plants can be invasive without other native plants to keep them in check. The Quarry Farm Gardener finds it necessary to parcel out starts of Coneflower every now any then, as well as Menarda (Bee Balm). Much is made of the benefits of keeping Common Milkweed for the Monarch butterflies. Without Ironweed, Coneflower, Asters, and Common Hackberry trees to watch over them all, who will feed and shelter Comma, Question Mark, swallowtails, and the Hackberry Emporer butterflies? And without Jewelweed and its orange orchid-like flowers nodding on the riverbanks and floodplains, how will I ever be rid of this confounded poison ivy rash?